Monthly Archives: May 2013
Buddy T. is WATCHING US.
By the way…Downton Abbey is back January 5th.
I just did a brave thing. Had my DirectTV service suspended for a month starting today. Save $75. A good thing. I will be gone the entire time EXCEPT FOR THE NEXT THREE DAYS. Okay so in these three days I would only have watched a couple of hours of news and the smarter-than-average Friday evening programming on PBS. Okay okay, I know I can find it on-line…but it is not the same as plopping down on the couch and mindlessly pressing ‘on’ and channels change. Okay okay okay I whine about no time to read or write. How work interferes with my real life. But part of the blame is TV isn’t it? Honestly? Now for a month NO TV. UNTIL JUNE 2ND WHEN THE KILLING RETURNS and I am in a Minneapolis hotel room with AMC.
When I came home from work I checked to see if the TV was still in service. It was. Piers Morgan was interviewing Donald Rumsfeld. Rachel Maddow told a story about how the US, Russia and Iran all agreed on something today–a wrestling-related thing. And on PBS a zebra stallion killed a baby in his herd that was not fathered by him. WHY IN THE HELL AM I SO ADDICTED TO SOMETHING THAT GIVES ME THOSE KINDS OF CHOICES?
Remember the Lonely Planet’s Shoestring series, including USA and Canada on a Shoestring, and Europe on $25 a Day (Arthur Frommer/1985). That was then, this is now.
I am budgeting for the coming month-long road trip with my best travel buddy…The Lace. Almost every day driving and staying in motels. Almost every day eating gas station food with McDonalds for the good times. Please let me assure you that we intend to find country kitchens full of tasty nutritious food (or more likely hotel/motel “dining” rooms) … but in the daylight there’s always a fish sandwich and apple turnover wherever you go, whenever you desire, however you’re attired, whomever you’re with……..
Here’s how it breaks out: Gas $75-150 per day; hotel average (with luck) $100; evening meal with wine! $50-60; daytime food $30+; souvenirs (everyone should have a Mt. Rushmore or Sturgis biker or North Dakota oil well t-shirts) $50; park entrance fees $0-50. How much a day was that again? A low of about $300 up to about $440.
But out on the road. Trying to decide the route from Mount Rushmore to Winnipeg. I think it will be almost all of the way on US 85 to the Canadian border. We will go through Teddy Roosevelt State Park which is one of my favorite parks—it is so easy to imagine Teddy galloping about and shooting pretty much everything that moves but he loved this country. It was where he regained his strength after the many sorrows in his life. . Cross the wide Missouri, one of my favorite rivers—because anywhere you cross it is indeed impressively wide (as in ♪Across the Wide Missouri♫) and you know Lewis and Clark sailed this way past the very spot at which you gaze. Hear the buffalo and the Mandan warriors in pursuit. Always stop your car and just sit there with the windows down. It is as still as it was when the explorers floated by. I’m sure you cannot say this about every pullover along this big meaningful American river but in North and South Dakota it is true.
US 85 runs 1,479 miles from El Paso, Texas to Fortuna, North Dakota. It will actually be the main route of our northward trek. Unfortunately in New Mexico it is mostly subsumed by 1-25 and we are NOT freeway travelers. In Colorado, to stay on the west side of the Rockies we miss most of 85 I think but once we are in Wyoming we are US 85 followers until close to the Canadian border. So through Wyoming, South Dakota and North Dakota it is OURS. Blogs named US 85: Interesting things will be plentiful!
Tomorrow I will tell you about Williston, North Dakota which is where we will eventually spend the night…across the wide Missouri. I love to say that.
The final NCIS’s for this year are on soon. Must leave the road for now…the imaginary road…for a few more days. The big issue of the moment for me is this: The Killing comes back on June 2nd. Teresa and I will be in Minneapolis. It is imperative that we find a hotel with AMC obviously. Travel stress springs from many sources.
No particular reason for this post. Just going through some papers and found these old IDs. I look youngish and prettyish. And it’s my blog after all.
Reading The Presidents Club and visiting Mount Rushmore next week juxtaposes nicely. The presidents covered in the book include Hoover, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush 1, Clinton, Bush 2, Obama. They are so… well…human. Can’t imagine any of them worthy of giant sculptures of their faces looming over forests and valleys. Although all of them had their strengths and frailties. More about that later—when I figure out how to download the photo I want to include.
George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson on Mount Rushmore. Now THEY deserve granite and respect!
However…I have read just enough presidential history to know they were as flawed as the rest of them/us. But maybe their accomplishments were on a grander scale then the more recent list above. Different world, different times. Was it easier to be great?
Still it will be good to see them in all their glory. This leg of the journey will be from Fort Collins by way of CO 14 E to Ault; US 85 N TO Cheyenne WY; US 85 on to Newcastle; US 16 to Mount Rushmore National Memorial. A short day at about 336 miles leaving plenty of afternoon time for the park. Then next morning we can finish Mount Rushmore if we haven’t already and move on to Crazy Horse. Here’s a blog about the unfinished but quite grand monument to the Chief (crazyhorsechief.blogspot.com).
That’s the story from my very frustrated self after spending much of the afternoon trying to deal with photo sites where supposedly one can download millions of images for free or at low-cost. Turns out the only one that’s easy is the National Park Service who invites us to use their photos. Thank you kind people.
The holy men (fundamentalists) of the Bible (Christian and Hebrew), the Koran, the book of Mormon and other “sacred” texts of religions large and small have never been and are not now holy. How can I best, most succinctly express my opinion of them and the belief systems they made up and perpetuate? What a bunch of baloney comes to mind.
What has raised my female ire this morning is an article in today’s Times, “Standoff at Western Wall Over Praying by Women.” It’s the ultra Orthodox Jews in this case. But it could be the Taliban killing females, young and old as they try to learn. Or the fundamentalist Mormons raping their thirteen-year-old “wives.” It could be one of our Bible-belt Senators trying his damndest to eliminate Planned Parenthood funding or support violent men keeping their guns for the next attempt on the life of the disobedient female in their lives.
It is all about fear—fear of women, fear of the ‘other’, fear of not having something to dominate. Fear of the unknown led men to create mythological saviors to feel safe—to keep the unknown outside the cave door. And who is less known by men than women? Boys…you must stop being so afraid. Learn to live in the real world. Learn to read something besides the books other fearful males wrote. Learn to do something useful instead of wasting all of this energy on keeping women in their place—that place where they can’t tempt you because you have no self control; where they can’t talk back because then who would you dominate; where they can’t have lives outside the limited extent of your knowledge. STOP IT.
Disclaimer! Obviously this isn’t aimed at all of the reasonable intelligent courageous men in the world—of which there are many. Including all of my acquaintances (almost).
How far is Roseau MN from my house? 1,491 miles. Going behind and through mountain ranges on two-lane highways, avoiding freeways at all costs and reaching my cousin’s house by way of Winnipeg, Canada will add many miles which is why I’m mapping everything road by backroad. Also there’s the fact that pouring over maps is one of life’s ten best pastimes.
My mapping-to-avoid-all-freeways project stalled a few weeks ago at Fort Collins CO. It was time to prepare dinners for friends and the house for visitors and work for work and finding time to map and write has been complicated. Soon I’ll be on the road writing all of the time. For now this is it.
Too tired. Not enough sleep. I love sleep. And maps.
Families are strange entities aren’t they? In most families we let the dogs on the couches (Buddy T). We bake exotic birthday cakes (Sara will be 14 tomorrow but her dad reminded me she doesn’t like cake—and I feel like baking a first-time-ever strange and wonderful concoction—so I’ll bake her dad Steven a cake because his birthday is soon.) Besides, Sara would rather shop. We try to remember not to make too much fun of the weird habits some family members have…like buying houses and then deciding you didn’t want to live there after all (Robert and Marsha).
Doesn’t all that sound like a lot of meaningful photo ops? So that’s what I’ll do for the next few days. I was going to try to write a murder mystery scene/passage/chapter but my family keeps interrupting with meals, talk, ideas, and angel food cake and red raspberries and blueberries.
The Puffin Murders is coming up next week though—for sure. My first—and very likely last—murder mystery short story. It just could not have been written this week because this is one of those times that truth really is stranger than fiction. Also a reminder that all families aren’t as pleasantly boring as ours, some are downright deadly. When I think about writing a murder mystery, the Cleveland story pops up with one more lurid detail. A little insignificant brutal stupid man—a terrorist in his own right—sex slaves in chains. Or the Boston brothers…disillusioned and arrogant young guys with a crazy belief system right there to egg on every nutty idea. And then there’s that very very very murderous Jody Arias. Wow. What possible fictional account can top any of those main characters or crime scenes?
I think I’ll stick with family topics a couple more days. We are not so very exciting but not so very dangerous either.
Robert is four years younger than me. We spent most of our lives fighting. First just on general principles. Big sister who can boss around the littler kid–age old story I think. Then we eventually started fighting about real stuff. He liked to hunt, I practically memorized Bambi. The “gun battle” went on forever. But now we’re old and kind…and realize nobody else in the world has those memories–those sibling memories that once parents are gone–no one else can share.
We look forward to spending time together. Mostly agree on everything, even politics although he may be a bit more tolerant. He lives on the Redneck Riviera and I am here in somewhat more tolerant Albuquerque so he has to be.
I’ve cleaned the house, changed the sheets, been to the grocery store for goodies. Just waiting for the bro. And Marsha who is like my sister pretty much. Maybe they’ll move here…but they always say that. Then they get here and decide they still like Florida better…bugs and all.
Here we are awhile ago.
My friends. One died two days ago. One is getting a divorce after many years of marriage. One has moved to another country. A granddaughter will go to Texas to college. A granddaughter will start her first job in LA.
Meanwhile regular life goes on. My brother and sister-in-law are on their way here for about 10 days before we all head north. ROAD TRIP ROAD TRIP ROAD TRIP.
Bon Voyage my friends who have moved on. Good luck to my other friends and grandchildren and people everywhere! Except Republicans.
Here’s a transition! Me as a kid, (in the revealing plaid bathing suit–plaid, really?). Island Lake or Blackduck (Beltrami?) Lake. The bloodsuckers are probably already sucking on my toes. Then the bro and me a couple of years ago. On the porch of our old broken house where we grew up. We’re gradually decaying along with the house…guess that’s a transition.
The only two things most people know about me is that I’m very proud of my Scandinavian heritage and I hate guns. Perhaps then, I am a biased judge of crime fiction of the European North where murder has to be carried out more imaginatively since they do not share our national passion for guns. Not that plenty of fictional Scandinavian crime doesn’t involve shooting—after all there’s only so much you can do with knives and poison!
Since last post’s overview of worldwide crime I’ve decided to proceed by region/country for awhile, moving through Scandinavia, southern Africa and the UK before returning to explore other less literarily murderous locations.
Scandinavia is usually defined as Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland—an outline which I will follow. However there are enough differences between them to note along the way plus the interesting situation of Greenland, a gigantic island closer to America than Europe, primarily inhabited by the Inuit people, and still governed by Denmark.
I do love being Scandinavian. Norwegian to be exact. When I look at my history wall crowded with photos of big solid serious immigrant ancestors on their South Dakota farms and in their Minnesota lumber camps I am proud. I wish I had more of a photographic history of “the old country” and their lives there. The good news is…I can and have traveled there…and seen and heard the people and met the relatives and eaten the food and understood that I was home in a very special way. The downside of my expanding knowledge of family history is that there appear to be no serious villains or even dashing ne’er-do-wells about whom I could fashion a mystery or two.
Since, off and on, this blog will take a murderous turn—right now in a Scandinavian direction, it seemed right to describe my travels in the north over the last few years as crime scenes—how if I were a crime fiction writer I could use these locations to set or solve the bloody deed. And how my favorite crime-solvers in each country have handled the place.
So now my inner mystery writer will take over for a few paragraphs—always on the lookout for just the right place to discover the body or the perpetrator.
Murder #1: Morticia in Reykjavik: In the mid-80s I first landed on Scandinavian soil. Iceland. My friend Sue and I were visiting England and France and Icelandic Air, with a 24 hour layover in Reykjavik, was the cheapest way to go. The overnight flight from NYC had been uncomfortably cramped which was only partially made up for by the best flaky white non-fishy fish I, a non-fish eater at the time, had ever eaten. It was my first trip to Europe and everything, from arriving at the big, busy and confusing NY airport to finding that the third person in our seating row appeared to be an evil countess from some exotic eastern European country of which we had never heard, was exiting. Our seatmate looked very much like Morticia Adams, was terribly haughty and made us feel…well, like ‘hicks abroad.’
Eventually we arrived, tired and eager, on foreign soil. Our hotel, near the airport, was Scandinavian modern and comfortable enough. We slept, then ventured out into the intriguing but somewhat foreboding world of Iceland on a dark, dreary and very chilly evening. Walking, walking, up a small hill to an anguished metal viking, back down a side street to the cozy restaurant discovered in “Europe on $25 dollars a Day.” (Honestly, I did not make that up!) By this time it was 10pm but daylight was still turned on. Inside however, maybe in deference to visitors’ body clocks, it was so very dark. Back in the day, in Dallas and Albuquerque, we NEVER ate after six and NEVER in small dark very expensive restaurants so we were in a state of tourist wonderland.
We ordered whatever the book said we should. I am sure it was well prepared but honestly the only thing I remember is the skyr (tart Icelandic yogurt) and the effect the wine had on our weary selves. We were seated in a corner and, even though the place was small, it was dark enough not to see who came and went very well. So, imagine my surprise when, slightly drunk by now, I visit the bathroom and upon, opening the stall door find our non-friend Morticia on the toilet seat, black tights down around her ankles, black sweatered torso slumped back against the tank, head flopped forward, black hair partially covering her face. What made me scream, even through my white wine fog was nearly impenetrable—was what looked like an antique wooden handle with silver inlays—sticking out through the mane of hair falling over her chest. There were no splatters or pools of gruesomeness yet—it had obviously just happened but the front of her already black outfit was further darkening and the gore seemed to be oozing, down through and under the wrinkled front of her pulled up skirt onto the toilet seat and into the toilet bowl. Blood red, the color of zinnias. The stall was so tiny she could not have fallen over without getting wedged between stool and wall but there she sat, relatively upright, thoroughly dead. I was back at the restroom door by then, gasping and uttering sounds more than actually saying anything—I think the waitress thought I was having a heart attack until I opened the door wider and pointed…then she screamed, a scream worth of victim-discovery in any language.
The rest of the night is a blur; it’s almost 30 years ago, wine, jet lag, etc.. Of course the police came and I was as helpful as possible, and we boarded our plane for London in the morning exhausted but, I must admit, feeling like true adventurers. And though later we tried calling the Icelandic embassy in the U.S. to find out who Morticia was and why she’d been murdered this was pre-internet…and without Google there is nothing to know. But I am sure, for the rest of my life, the image of Morticia murdered in a toilet will flash across my mind’s eye ever so swiftly when I enter any deserted bathroom and reach to pull open the stall door.
I can make up these little vignettes for everywhere I’ve been around the world, then if I can attract the attention of the right publisher they’ll contract me to revisit the sites of the imaginary murders and conduct further imaginary investigations from my imaginary Cold Case file and write imaginative stories about each and every one. They will pay me in imaginary money and therein lies the problem.
I’ve never tried to describe a murder scene before so maybe this is enough for one day. This kind of writing is probably not my cup of tea since I’ve never worked as a journalist, crime reporter, medical professional or been part of M16. I must have read hundreds of descriptions of crime scenes over the years though and watched enough NCIS and Law and Order to have absorbed a dictionary of details.
There you have it…Murder site #1 on the Scandinavian crime fiction tour. I cannot remember enough to make it very atmospheric. So moving right along to my next visit to Iceland in 2012 (and next body!) will enable me to fill that void.
But not today. Matthew finally had his second car crash at about 12:30 this morning and I’m too tired for more disaster.