- Fizzy Thoughts: April 2008

on the road again

Monday, April 28, 2008

It's Monday morning and I'm at work. Which probably sounds normal to most people, but for me is akin to being placed on a rack and tortured with thumb screws. Not that I know what that feels like, but you get the picture.

See, normally I flex (in other words, I work 7-5:30, Tuesday through Friday), and Mondays are my day to do whatever I feel like. Sleep in, read, go shopping...whatever. And by the time I come to work on Tuesday, most people have gotten the normal Monday grumpies out of their system, and I've avoided the grumpies altogether.

Except today I'm here. Because I have to go to Sacramento/Davis for a couple of trainings. And usually I'm like, "Cool, I get to go somewhere. Woo-hoo! Let's hit the road." But it feels like I just got home and settled back in to a routine, and you know, I kinda like hanging out with Hamburger in the evening. So not only am I grumpy about working on a Monday, I'm also a little whiny about going out of town, even if I will only be gone until Wednesday night.

Aren't you glad you're not at work with me this morning?

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Tales of a Female Nomad

Tales of a Female Nomad
Rita Golden Gelman
2002
320 pages

Publisher Comments:
"I move throughout the world without a plan, guided by instinct, connecting through trust, and constantly watching for serendipitous opportunities." — From the Preface

Tales of a Female Nomad is the story of Rita Golden Gelman, an ordinary woman who is living an extraordinary existence. At the age of forty-eight, on the verge of a divorce, Rita left an elegant life in L.A. to follow her dream of connecting with people in cultures all over the world. In 1986 she sold her possessions and became a nomad, living in a Zapotec village in Mexico, sleeping with sea lions on the Galapagos Islands, and residing everywhere from thatched huts to regal palaces. She has observed orangutans in the rain forest of Borneo, visited trance healers and dens of black magic, and cooked with women on fires all over the world. Rita's example encourages us all to dust off our dreams and rediscover the joy, the exuberance, and the hidden spirit that so many of us bury when we become adults.

I prefer Alice Steinberg's Without Reservations. While Gelman travels to some exotic places and has interesting stories to tell, she's just too hard-core for me. I'll admit, I like a little comfort with my travel...I don't want to be on an anthropological expedition, which is what Gelman's travels seem like, nor do I want to be made to feel like she who dies with the least toys wins. Gelman takes pride in getting by with the absolute bare minimum, and I'm sorry, but I'm just not into that.

So, an interesting book, but just not my cuppa tea.

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And the winner is...

Friday, April 25, 2008

Drum roll, please.

It is time to announce the winner and next reader of Keeper and Kid. I used the random number generator, and you're just going to have to trust me on this, because I'm too lazy to do a true screen shot. Here are the results...

True Random Number Service
Random Integer Generator
Here are your random numbers:6
Timestamp: 2008-04-26 02:56:12 UTC

6 comments (yes, Anne, I entered you, despite the Canadian address...I have no problem shipping to Canada, so please keep that in mind if I ever do this again), 6 numbers, and the magical number 6 won.

Congratulations Palma!!

That Palma won is too perfect, considering her comment:

"What a cheap trick to get comments on
your blog! I LOVE it! So, I obviously should win because I just read two lousy
books in a row and need a good one! Lisa's review sparked my
interest."

Does this mean we should be on the lookout for a contest on your blog, Palma??

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Springing (or not)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

First, a reminder that if you would like a chance to win a copy of Keeper and Kid, go check out this post before noon tomorrow!

Do your reading habits change in the Spring? Do you read gardening books? Even if you don’t have a garden? More light fiction than during the Winter? Less? Travel books? Light paperbacks you can stick in a knapsack?

Or do you pretty much read the same kinds of things in the Spring as you do the rest of the year?

Nope, I'm definitely not a seasonal reader. I just read whatever I feel like whenever I feel like it. Although I do read more travel books when I'm planning a trip.

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Girls in Trucks

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Girls in Trucks

Katie Crouch
2008
256 pages

Sarah Walters is a Southern debutante who escapes tradition-bound Charleston for college and career in the North. However, what she finds in the North is simply a life full of booze, drugs, and bad relationships. After years of bad decisions, Sarah returns home to discover that maybe the best things really are at home.

Each chapter almost reads like a short story. The author changes her style often, and sometimes repeats information. It's a little jarring, although come to think of it, so are the actions of the characters. Sarah's bad decisions get a little old after awhile, but in the end she has a few epiphanies. Eloise's character, though, has some loose ends. We never do find out what happens in her first marriage, although I can posit a few educated guesses. Still, I felt like her character got dropped.

In brief, I'd say this is one of those books that was just okay...I'm not expecting it to stick with me.

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Daughter of Fortune

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Daughter of Fortune

Isabel Allende
2001
396 pages

I have finally managed to finish a book by Isabel Allende, and I'm thinking it'll be the one and only book by Allende I ever finish. I read Daughter of Fortune (okay, I skimmed parts), and while I didn't find it as excruciating as Ines of My Soul, it didn't knock my socks off, either. I find her style (or maybe it's the translations?) to be long-winded and tedious.

Daughter of Fortune follows Eliza Sommers, who was abandoned on the doorstep of a wealthy English family living in Valparaiso, Chile. Adopted into the family, Eliza is raised in privilege, yet always remains aware of her murky beginning. As a teenager, she falls in love with a young Chilean. After he leaves to find his fortune in the goldfields of California, Eliza decides to follow him. Eliza's story is interspersed with the tales of other people in her life, including the Sommers family and others who she meets as a child and a young woman in California.

This is my final book for the Expanding Horizons Challenge. I had to make a few substitutions (due to Ines and Istanbul not working out), so here's the final round-up:

Pomegranate Soup is hands down my favorite. Things Fall Apart and From Heaven Lake were also good, although I wouldn't recommend them for everyone.

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Second Chance Giveaway

Monday, April 21, 2008

Last month Lisa at Books on the Brain posted a review and giveaway for Keeper and Kid. And guess who was the lucky duck? Yep, me. Which was way cool, because I had read about this book and really wanted to read it.

So the book was waiting for me when I got home from my vacation. Thank you Lisa!! And I read it this week. And I liked it. And I would review it, but Lisa did such a bang-up job, and I agree with her assessment of the book, so you can just go over to her blog and read all about it.

Then, if you want a chance to win this book, come back here and leave a comment. Or, if you entered Lisa's contest and lost (to me! hah!), here's your second chance.

The contest is open until noon my time (that would be Pacific whatever the heck time) on Friday, which I'm pretty sure is 4/25/08. After that I'll use some highly scientific way to figure out the winner. Unless of course no one enters, then I'll just crawl into the corner and cry.

And yes, I know there are more exciting giveaways out there...I'm just trying to pass along a good book.

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Signs

Sunday, April 20, 2008

I took a lot of pictures of signs on this last trip. Picturesque, weird, depressing (the sign for cheap gas) and optimistic...it seemed there was always a sign that caught my eye.










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The Secret of Lost Things

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Secret of Lost Things
Sheridan Hay
2007
349 pages

This book had a very melancholy feel to it. Maybe that has to do with where I read it (alone in a cottage in Savannah), but it did affect my overall feeling about the book. Which would be eh.

The narrator, Rosemary, loses her mom on her 18th birthday. Adrift, her friend Chaps buys her a one way ticket to New York. In New York, Rosemary soon finds work at the Arcade, a used bookstore. The bookstore is staffed with weird and creepy characters:
  • Mr. Pike - the owner, who is paranoid about theft
  • Walter Geist - his assistant, an albino who creeps most everyone out
  • Albert - in charge of the art section, which is convenient as he likes to entertain himself with pictures of nude men
  • Oscar - Rosemary's unrequited crush, who likes to research and keep track of things in his notebooks
  • Mr. Mitchell - Rosemary's father figure
  • Pearl - currently a man, but soon to have a sex change operation
  • and Lillian - Lillian doesn't work at the Arcade, but at Martha Washington, the hotel Rosemary first stayed at.
The Arcade is full of petty jealousies and in-fighting. When a rumor surfaces that there is a lost Herman Melville manuscript available, everyone's greed surfaces and things fall apart at the Arcade.

Normally, I'm all over books about books. But I found this one to be a bit slow moving. And, as previously mentioned, melancholy. Maybe it's the characters...I like quirky, but these people were more off than quirky, if you know what I mean. So, not a bad read, but certainly not a favorite. I left it behind in Savannah for someone else to find and read.

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Boom!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Who can resist a sign like this?

My last day in Savannah I visited Fort Pulaski, an old brick fortress style bunker thing that saw some action during the Civil War. Despite the fact that I was a history major, and briefly a history teacher, I'm not feeling up to a full history lesson. Let's just say that there was a battle, and there were lots of cannons involved. Cannons like this:
However, the Union had better guns and the Fort suffered some damage, and the boys in grey surrendered. I was never really into the Civil War, obviously. That reminds me, I took a military history class (it was the only history class I could get one quarter) that bored me to tears. The ROTC guys were waaaay too into, though. Okay, that really has nothing to do with Fort Pulaski, but now that I think about it, I'm surprised I even visited.

Anyways...I found it weirdly uncomfortable to walking around in the Fort's gift shops and seeing Confederate pins and patches and toy soldiers for sale. Not to mention seeing the Confederate Stars and Bars flag flying.
And guys in grey uniforms.

But, I did get to see a cannon fire.

And an alligator in the moat. That alone was worth the 3 bucks it cost to get in.

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Vocabulary

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I’ve always wondered what other people do when they come across a word/phrase that they’ve never heard before. I mean, do they jot it down on paper so they can look it up later, or do they stop reading to look it up on the dictionary/google it or do they just continue reading and forget about the word?

I'm a skipper, because, like Trish, I can usually figure the word out in context. If it totally stumps me, like widdershins did awhile back, I'll usually google it, because I'm just too lazy to actually get up and go find the dictionary.

And to answer Trish's addition to this question...Are you a good speller?

Yes, but I used to be much better. I blame it on the fact that as my brain fills up with other stuff, I forget how words are spelled. And because I no longer have weekly vocabulary tests. Of course, there are a few words that are the bane of my existence...definitely and separately.

And now, here's my addition...How's your grammar?

Because, you know mine sucks. I frequently point out how sucky it is...and I'm sure you all notice atrocious grammar faux pas that I'm totally oblivious to. And I'm afraid no amount of reading is ever gonna improve my grammar.

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Go ahead, make my day

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Sandi, a fellow Slow Traveler who (or is it whom? have I mentioned I suck at grammar?) I was lucky enough to meet in person while I was in Savannah, recently bestowed upon me (and my fellow March Madness bloggers) this wonderful award:

Wasn't that sweet of her? You should go check out her blog...her southern speech always puts a smile on my face. Thank you Sandi!

So, because Sandi made my day (actually, she made my day a few days ago, I'm just a little slow in the response), I feel the need to pass along the love. Trish and Lisa, you make my day every time I discover we have yet one more thing in common...this whole twins/triplets separated at birth conversation that pops up every once in awhile continues to crack me up.

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Delta don't impress me much

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

I can't say that I'm that impressed with Delta. On the way to Savannah, my flight from LA to Atlanta was delayed. Luckily, my Savannah flight was also delayed, so I didn't miss my last flight. And while the flight attendants weren't bad, they weren't exactly making the skies friendly, either. Not that I expect perky flight attendants, but a slight upturn of the lips would be nice. Oh, and don't make me ask for the snack, either. If you say we get cookies, you damn well better give me the cookies.

Then there was the journey home. It all started in Atlanta, when they announced that there was a mechanical problem with the plane. Okay, that's fine. But then they felt the need to explain that the mechanics were on board. And the mechanics had their books open. Then they updated us with the news there was a problem with some oil thingie (my word, not theirs, although at the rate they were going, had they tossed out thingie, it wouldn't have surprised me) and they were going to start by replacing the indicator, because that was quicker. If that didn't work, then they would replace some other thingamajig.

Now, I don't know about you, but I prefer to live in airplane ignorance. All they needed to throw out as an explanation for the delay was the word maintenance. I'm not really comforted by the fact that the mechanics were trying to find the problem in their books.

And then, in the midst of this waiting, the airport emergency lights flashed, a warning siren went off, and they announced there was an emergency. That was it, though. Nothing happened, and there were no further announcements. I got more info than I ever wanted about my plane, but no clue what was going on in the airport.

Our flight left shortly thereafter. Unfortunately, it arrived in LA just as my flight to San Luis Obispo was leaving. I didn't even get a seat on a later flight...but I did get a hotel voucher and a ticket for a 6:30 am flight the next morning. Right at the time that Hamburger called to say he was home from Indonesia. Waaahhhh!!!! At that point, I really, really, really wanted to just go home. Instead, I went to go wait (and wait, and wait) for my luggage, that they said I could pick up, only to discover that no, it was sent somewhere else to wait for tomorrow's flight. So I headed to the Marriott with my little complimentary case with a toothbrush and a t-shirt. Only to get back up at an ungodly hour to go back to the airport to get in line for my real ticket and then in line to go back through security and then get singled out for the special security pat down and then eat breakfast at McDonald's (which I never do, but hello, I was starving, and it's the only thing open in the airport at 5 frickin' am...and by the way, their coffee sucks). And I had finished my book and magazine the day before, so I had nothing to read. Which is the real horror of this entire saga.

So, long story short, I'm home. Although my luggage isn't. Gee, what a surprise. And I have a vicious case of jet lag/travel hangover/Delta pissed-offedness.

Back to the regularly scheduled cheerfulness in a few days. Because I've got more Savannah stories and pictures to share. And books to review. Although if my suitcase doesn't show up soon, there might be stories and pictures of rolling heads.

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Here's the church, here's the steeple...

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Here in the south it seems you can't go a block without passing a church. Or a billboard extolling the virtues of reading the bible. The road to Charleston even has this exact road sign (although there are no shoulders to pull off on, so I had to swipe this photo from Google images). For some reason, the fact that there is a sign alerting drivers to an upcoming church cracks me up. Why didn't the 50 previous churches rate a sign?

Anyways, I'm sure y'all have figured out by now that I'm not exactly the most religious of persons. But for some reason I love taking pictures of churches. Go figure.

The spires of the Mickve Israel Synagogue, Savannah

The ruins of The Chapel of Ease, Lady's Island

St Michael's, Charleston

The Circular Congregational Church, Charleston

The ruins of Sheldon Church, burned by Sherman

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Middleton Place

Friday, April 11, 2008

I visited Middleton Place today. That's an old plantation along the Ashley River, just outside of Charleston. And yes, that's in South Carolina. I get around.

That's not the original house...that one burned during the Civil War, and then what was left fell down after the earthquake in the late 1800s. The gardens were restored (do you restore gardens?) in the early 1900s. The original gardens were the first planned gardens in the US. Colonies. Whatever.



Middleton Place is bee-you-ti-ful. Everywhere you look there is another stunning view. I took gobs of photos. Including lots of flowers and animals, because the sheep were darn cute.

So you think you want to live there? One itty-bitty detail I forgot to mention. There are alligators. And they like to sun themselves on the grass. I had the camera on the way-way-way zoomed setting for this shot.

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Writing Challenge

Thursday, April 10, 2008

  • Pick up the nearest book. (I’m sure you must have one nearby.)
  • Turn to page 123.
  • What is the first sentence on the page?
  • The last sentence on the page?
  • Now . . . connect them together….(And no, you may not transcribe the entire page of the book–that’s cheating!)
I'm currently reading The Geographer's Library, by Jon Fasman. And since I'm only on page 111, I have no idea what is supposed to be going on in page 123. Actually, the book is very complicated, and I'm not really sure wht has been going on in pages 1 through 111. So here's my interpretation, heavily influenced by recent bug bites. (Not really sure where the roller derby came from.) The original sentences are in bold type.

"Why Lincoln and not New Haven?" asked the roller derby recruiter.

Hmmm, Softdrink pondered. Why not Savannah? It is, after all, the city she is presently in. Although, come to think of it, Charleston is always an option. She was there this afternoon. The streets are awfully narrow, though. But not as many bugs. Savannah is lovely, but why would anyone ever build a city in a swamp? Oh wait, they're expecting an answer...

Softdrink needed a little more information before she could commit to Lincoln. "Do they have bugs that snack on people in Lincoln? What about New Haven?"

"Only in Lincoln. Here in New Haven we're bug free."

Well, if that's the case, thought Softdrink, screw Lincoln. "Ummm, yeah," she said, "I don't do bugs."

"Ah, well then, you must play with us."

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the scoop on Savannah...so far

Saturday, April 05, 2008

First of all, let me just share that I have approximately 20 bug bites, and they are currently driving me crazy. Although I'm not quite “flakier than a biscuit,” a new phrase I learned yesterday. Savannah is still lovely, but damn, it’s a swampy place. My left leg is covered in bites, and I wore pants all day yesterday. I just don’t get it.

Today is my fourth full day here, and now we are well into the Slow Travel festivities. For all you non-Slow Travel peeps, there is a Slow Travel gathering this weekend here in Savannah with about 100 people. So even though I'm here by myself for two weeks, this weekend gives me a chance to hang out with fun people and do some activities with groups.

Let’s back up to my first day here. I walked. And walked. And walked. As Brenda once said, Savannah is the walkingest city. It’s fun just to stroll along the streets, because everywhere you look there are beautiful houses, gorgeous churches (and one synagogue), statues lurking in squares…and the squares. Oh my, the squares. They are wonderful, and there are 22 of them. I’ve been to almost all of them, and I love them all. Although Troup Square is particularly lovely. And Whitfield has a cute gazebo.


The houses are amazing, too. The first day I went inside Mercer House and the Owens-Thomas House, but it’s fun just to check out the outsides, too. This is one of my favorites:

I like the side balconies. And the chimneys, but you can't see them in this picture.

There are also lots of gardens and interesting fences to peek through as you walk along.
And cemeteries. I ate lunch in Colonial Park Cemetery on that first day.

And let’s not forget the trees. Trees with flowers, and trees draped with Spanish moss. It’s all just so southern.


So that was my first day…walking and getting the lay of the land. And sweating, because did I mention the humidity??

The second day (that would have been Thursday) it was threatening to rain in the morning, so I drove out to Wormsloe to look around. Wormsloe is the site of the ruins of one of the original settlers of the colony, Noble Jones. It also has one the most spectacular driveways around:

After checking out the ruins and walking the nature trails, I drove back into town and cruised down Broughton St in the car. I hadn’t quite made it this far on my walk on Wednesday…most of the places I had walked were quiet and residential, with a few shops thrown in. Broughton is the shopping street, full of cars and people. And the Savannah Tea Room, which is where I wanted to have lunch. So I drove back to the cottage, parked the car, and set back out on foot. It only takes about 20 minutes to walk the length of the historical district, a fact I failed to realize on Wednesday, since I was zigzagging all over the place.

At the Tea Room I had a good lunch and the best pot of tea ever. Empress Bride. Mmmmmmmmm. And I ran into Brenda, the fearless leader of our Slow Travel book group. Brenda and I chatted for quite a while, then when we were leaving we ran into more Slow Travelers, so we stayed in the Tea Room for a mighty long time. And before we left, Brenda and I made reservations for the full afternoon tea on Saturday. There will be tea. And goodies. And champagne.

We walked along Broughton and slowly made our way back east to Washington Square. The planning committee for this weekend’s Slow Travel events was hosting a wine and cheese party. There are lots of people here from the Slow Bowl events I’ve been to, so lots of familiar faces. There’s Palma, and Jerry, and Kim, and Shannon. And also Marcia and David, and Sharon, and Joan and Fred. And lots of new faces, including many Californians. We are well represented here in Savannah! Anyways…I met lots of people, and as usual, everyone was so fun to talk to, and excited to be here in Savannah.

Afterwards, I went to dinner with some of the California group (and Kim…she’s from New Jersey, but we don’t hold that against her). We went to The Pirate’s House, where despite the cheesy pirate theme, and the cheesy Johnny Depp wannabe, we had some good food. Then everyone piled into Marcia and David’s rental car and they drove me home, which was very kind, because there’s no way in hell I’m walking these streets in the dark. And everyone came in and checked out my cute little cottage and proclaimed it a good find.

Yesterday, I walked to the river for the first time. I waved (okay not really) to the Waving Girl.

And I walked along River St, which is incredibly touristy. I also discovered they generously hand out free samples of warm pralines at the candy stores, and considering a little praline goes a long way, a free sample is all I need. Boy, they’re good. But I have a vicious sweet tooth, and they’re sweet even for me. Now if there was chocolate involved, that would be a whole ‘nother story.

I returned to The Pirates House for lunch. Brenda had arranged for a couple of locals to have lunch with us. So after a very southern buffet (fried chicken, mashed potatoes, squash casserole, green beans, macaroni and cheese, biscuits, sweet potatoes, and the butter beans and collard greens that I avoided), we were regaled with Savannah stories. Jean Soderlind is an admitted damn Yankee (that means she bought a house and stayed) and Jeff Hall was born and raised here. They both work in theater and as guides, and they told fun stories about Jim Williams and Lady Chablis (Jeff was her stage manager) and other people form “The Book,” as well as tales of haunted cottages and what Savannah was like 30 years ago when Jean arrived. It was so much fun to be able to have lunch with a couple of locals who were so very gracious about sharing their city with us.

After lunch I did more wandering, along River St and then back south to the cottage. I ran into Brenda again, then later I also saw Jerry and Paul. It’s fun to be thousands of miles from home and run into people you know, to stop and chat for a minute or two.

At 6:00 the Slow Travel gang met at the Gingerbread House for more food and talk. I walked there, thinking the breeze would be nice. Which it was, but after walking about a mile and a half, I needed more than the breeze. Luckily, there was air conditioning! I hung out around the vents for a good half hour. We ate delicious food (crab cakes, chicken, little potato thingies, grilled veggies), drank prosecco (and anything else you wanted from the bar), ate dessert (the lemon bars were sooooo good), and talked and talked and talked. And once again, some very kind people gave me a ride home so I didn’t have to call a taxi. Pat and Margaret are staying right around the corner from me, so they deposited me safely on my doorstep. Thanks guys!

And here are at Saturday morning. Wendy gave some of us a Pilate's class this morning, which was really interesting, as I had never experienced Pilates before. Now you're all caught up on what I've been up to and I'm off to get ready for our tea this afternoon. And tonight is the big event, a low country boil at Fort Jackson, followed by a trolley tour of the haunted sites in Savannah. I'll let you know if I see any ghosts.

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In a real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. ~S.I. Hayakawa

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
~St. Augustine

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
~Mark Twain

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