A Case of Mistaken Identity

Veteran’s Day was a holiday for Tara but I had to work. It had snowed the evening before and our high never made it above 12º, so the roads were a mess. Tara offered to let me drive her pickup and I jumped at the chance, since it’s got 4WD. Everything went well until it was time to go home and I could not get into the truck. I hit the remote button to unlock the door, and…nothing happened.

Tried again. Nothing. And again. Still nothing.

At least I’ll never be accused of having a lack of persistence (though some might, and do, call it stubbornness. Whatever. I own my Taurus-ness!).

I was flummoxed at that point, afraid the battery had died. Even more afraid of calling Tara and asking her to come get me, knowing she probably wouldn’t be too keen to leave the cozy, warm confines of our home. When I couldn’t disable the alarm, I at least figured I could unlock the door with the key, but even that didn’t work. By now I was totally confused, wondering what kind of strange sorcery would cause a dead battery to prevent a key from working. I tried several times but to no avail. “What the hell?!” I said out loud…

…and then realized, woopsie, I was trying to break into somebody else’s truck.

Gah. But in my defense, what are the odds that there would be two red pickup trucks parked next to one another?! And okay, fine, maybe the one I was trying to drive away in was a Toyota and not a Nissan like my wife’s, but hey, in the overall scheme of things that is an easily-overlooked detail.

I’d even been nice enough to knock off some of the ice that had accumulated over the wheel well of this stranger’s pickup. I hope he appreciated that.

When I got home and told Tara, she laughed about it for days. In fact, she’s still laughing. I’d be annoyed, but she’s making pumpkin pancakes and bacon, and the house is filled with those heavenly aromas.

Besides, it was a pretty funny case of mistaken identity.


I was finally able to add fish to my new aquarium yesterday.

Actually, I’m not sure I even mentioned the fact that I bought a new aquarium. (Spoiler alert: I bought a new aquarium.) I have long been a tropical fish aficionado. Call me an a-fish-ionado! Bought my first tank when I was 15, and my first job was working in a tropical fish store. I graduated from a 10-gallon glass tank to a 55-gallon plexiglass  and even ventured into saltwater for a while, though the maintenance and expense proved daunting. When we were downsizing back in 2014 after I sold my townhouse, I reluctantly got rid of the fish tank. But I missed having an aquarium, and with my freelance income allowing me some luxuries these days, I decided to reignite my hobby. Bought a 50-gallon acrylic tank and got that all set up at the end of September, but then I had to let the aquarium cycle. It’s complicated to explain, but essentially you have to let harmful ammonia and nitrite levels build up and then drop before it’s safe to add fish. The process can take up to two months.

I’d been diligently testing the water for weeks, and it was finally good to go on Thursday. So I made a PetSmart run yesterday and bought some fish. Tiger barbs (always my faves), a couple of rainbow sharks and a pair of algae eaters. Provided they do well this week, I’ll add more next weekend. The general rule of thumb is, you can have one inch of fish for every gallon of water in your aquarium. So, I have room for plenty more.

MVIMG_20191117_102419.jpg

I just love having tropical fish and didn’t realize how much I’d missed them until I added them to the tank yesterday. They are just so peaceful and fun to watch. Good stress-relievers, too. The aquarium is set up in the basement, so we’ll have to make it a point to hang out there more often. Which is easy to do when you have such an awesome basement!

Last evening, we went to the movies. This used to be a favorite pastime of mine; back when I was unemployed for a long stretch, I went nearly every Tuesday to take advantage of $5 flicks. But we’ve really fallen out of the habit lately. This was only our third or fourth movie since moving to Rapid City. A new, luxury theater opened in town, and we wanted to check it out, so I bought us tickets for “Doctor Sleep.” Funny thing: I did not care for the novel all that much, but I’m a huge fan of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, and Mike Flanagan did an admirable job combining aspects of Stephen King’s book with Kubrick’s movie, which the author famously hated. I think it was very well done and a real nostalgia trip. Tara and I both enjoyed it.

IMG_20191116_163033.jpg

Now, THIS is how to enjoy a movie!

And the theater? Man, it just oozes luxury. The seats are the best I’ve ever experienced at the movies. Power leather recliners. It’s one of those theaters where you can order food and they deliver it right to your seat. We tried the fried pickle spears and they were really good. Kinda reminded us of Shanahan’s in Vancouver, WA. Well played, Golden Ticket.

The movie was a 4:30 showing but ran 2.5 hours, so it was after 7:00 by the time we left. We grabbed dinner at a Mexican restaurant we’d heard good things about but hadn’t tried yet. The food was good, and the margaritas were very unusual. Our server informed us that they make theirs with agave wine instead of tequila. I’d never heard of such a thing, but if he hadn’t warned us, I’d never have known there wasn’t tequila in there. They were smooth and tasty.

Today is football and blogs. The weather warmed up after last Monday and has mainly been in the 50s, so at least I won’t try to steal somebody’s truck this week.

Shivering Like Egyptians

I opened the front door this morning to grab the newspaper, and saw six deer trotting across the middle of our snow-dusted street in a formation so perfect, I half-expected to find them pulling a sleigh driven by a fat man in a red suit. Then I realized, ha-ha, that’s ridiculous, if they really did belong to Santa, there would be eight of ‘em. Maybe a couple were off lollygagging somewhere. My money’s on the two who seem the least invested in Christmas: Dancer (who clearly prefers hoofing on Broadway) and Cupid (I’m guessing Valentine’s Day is more his speed).

Surreal sight. You get the point.

Deer_Traffic.jpg

The snow did not let up; in fact, it intensified, and continued most of the day. It wasn’t a lot by South Dakota standards; about 2” in most spots, but the temperature was in the teens, and when I went home on my lunch, my Mazda struggled to get up the hill leading to my neighborhood. The traction warning light came on, I slid a little bit, and the wheels spun while attempting to find purchase on the too-slick street. Those were a few tense moments, but eventually I made it to the safety of my driveway.

This does not bode well for the remainder of the winter, namely because winter is still six weeks away, but that’s merely a technicality around these parts. That hill isn’t going to get any less steep, but the snow will fall harder and pile up deeper. I am revisiting the idea of buying a vehicle with AWD. A Hyundai Kona SEL Plus, preferably orange, with  a power tilting/sliding sunroof, shark fin antenna, optional mudguards, and all-weather floor mats.

Let’s just say I’ve done my research.

All things considered, I’d rather not spend the money, but if I’m going to spend the money, I’d rather spend the money when I’ve got the money to spend.

I hope that made sense.

Armadillo_Snow3.jpg

Apparently, ice cream sales take a nosedive when it’s below freezing.

By the way, it’s going to be 62º on Saturday and 31º on Sunday. I know that doesn’t make sense. Tara said today, “Thank god I won’t have to go out into the brutal cold on Monday!”, knowing full well that I will have to, because some of us aren’t lucky enough to have Veteran’s Day off. Small price to pay for the privilege of a dream job, I s’pose.

Speaking of, last week I got paid to walk like an Egyptian around the streets of downtown Rapid City. My company has a friendly little lip sync competition with another downtown business every year to raise money for a local charity. This year’s theme was ‘80s music, and we chose The Bangles’ “Manic Monday.”

Yeah, kidding. We chose “Walk Like an Egyptian.” Duh.

egyptians

Because The Bangles are an all-female band, only the women in the office did the actual lip-syncing. And they did a great job, all four of them; I was impressed with how committed they were to embodying the spirit of the ‘80s, right down to the big hair. Our staff photographer shot it like a music video and it turned out really good. The guys in the office only had to walk like Egyptians, so we had it easy in comparison…except the day we did it was super cold and windy. It was more a case of shivering like Egyptians.

If you follow me on Facebook, I linked to the video on my page there. If not, you’ll just have to trust me. We nailed it.

Ay oh whey oh, ay oh whey oh.

Take Me to Your Leader

Close Encounters of the Weird Kind

Recently, there was construction taking place outside the office. Guess what? Jackhammers and productivity do not mix.

Good thing I have noise-cancelling headphones and Spotify Premium.

At one point, the jackhammers were replaced by a deep, metallic, droning sound that lasted for about five seconds at a time. Really creepy-sounding, and it kept repeating; kind of like an ominous foghorn that I found eerie and familiar. I knew I’d heard that sound before, but couldn’t quite place it.

tripodFinally, I realized it was identical to the sound the Tripods made in Steven Spielberg’s 2005 adaptation of War of the Worlds. I played it out loud, and everybody in the office agreed—the resemblance was uncanny.

This reminded me of the time I was convinced I’d been abducted by aliens.

Cue flashback music…

It was January 2007, and my life was in flux. I was newly-divorced and living in a brand-new townhouse of my very own. One evening, I was parked in front of the computer in my bedroom, chatting with a female. (Newly divorced, remember?) Suddenly, three events occurred in rapid succession:

  • A dog began barking urgently outside.
  • The lights dimmed. They didn’t flicker, as will sometimes occur when it’s windy; they just got real low for a few seconds.
  • I heard a mysterious sound. In my blog post dated 1/24/2007, I compared it to “an electronic sort of humming, followed by what sounded like clashing cymbals.”

This was well nigh disturbing, to say the least. (Also, I have been blogging forever…)

I mentioned these strange occurrences to my chat companion, who joked, “Sounds like the Mother Ship just landed.”

I didn’t think much more about it until the following morning, when electronic devices began conking out anytime I drew near. Seriously: my fully-charged cellphone wouldn’t let me make a call, but instead emitted “a series of weird electronic beeps and clicks.” That same day, I was in Best Buy on my lunch hour, buying a CD (because it was early 2007), when the sales clerk’s cash register froze. She could not get it to work and was forced to do a hard reboot. “That was odd,” she said. “It’s never happened to me before.” Weird things like that happened, off and on, the rest of the week, before things finally returned to normal.

Suddenly, those jokes about the Mother Ship weren’t so funny to me. I wondered whether I had been abducted by aliens and had my memory erased, the side effects of which were an ability to disrupt the electro-magnetic field. Sure, we scoff now, but it seemed at the time to be the only logical explanation to my weird ability to unwittingly kill all electronics around me.

To this day I can’t explain what was going on, though later events in the townhouse make me feel that I had a bigger problem with ghosts than aliens.

I’m Here for the Boos

Between carving pumpkins for the first time in years and actually passing out candy to kids, Halloween was a novelty this year. I hadn’t had a trick-or-treater come to my front door in 14 years. Not because I didn’t have a front door (turns out those are a pretty standard feature in most dwellings, minus tipis and igloos), but rather, kids avoid apartment and townhouse complexes on Halloween, so we always ended up with a couple of unopened bags of candy. We figured things would be different now that we’re in a house, and sure enough, we saw maybe 40-50 costumed kiddos over a three-hour period. It was actually a lot of fun, even though I didn’t discover until plugging it in that evening that my fog machine was broken. It emitted a few half-hearted wisps of fog before sputtering out, the last futile gasps of breath from a dying soul. I wasn’t too surprised though; the thing had been boxed up since 2006. I’ll be sure to buy a new one for 2020 so I can really set a festive tone.

Attach20813_20191103_151427.jpg

Glutton for Punishment?

The weather has been its usual mixed bag of late, alternating between cold, a little less cold, snowy, a little less snowy, windy, and a little less windy. It looks to be the same for the foreseeable future.

You will notice, by the way, that I did not in fact post anything on the first two days of the month, which means I’m bagging my idea of blogging every day in November. You can breathe easily, Betsy. We’re gearing up for the winter issue of our parenting magazine at work and I’m still freelance blogging like a madman, so I figured I was overextended enough already. Can you believe I’m averaging 75 freelance articles a month?! It’s a wonder I have any brain cells left. I’m passing the torch and handing over 90 percent of the work to a former colleague at the end of the year, so at least there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Hopefully not a weird, flickering light accompanied by strange sounds and dying electronics…

Octember, Anyone?

It has been freakin’ cold here lately. So cold, my words froze in midair this morning; I had to thaw them out in a frying pan before Tara could hear what I said. We ended up taking everything out of the freezer and huddling inside to keep warm. Three pints of ice cream are now serving as handy footstools in the living room, guys.

It’s so cold the local politicians have their hands in their own pockets for a change.

Think I’m kidding?

Screenshot_20191030-073117.png

This weather isn’t unusual for Rapid City, but it is unusual for Rapid City in October. Our high on Tuesday was 10º colder than our normal low for the date. If this is a harbinger of what’s to come this winter, we’re in for a brutal one. And the local weather guys are saying it just may be

It’s supposed to warm up for Halloween. This means upper 40s, which is still cold for the date, but at least it’s above freezing!

And yes, Ron, we had more snow.

This storm rolled in Monday evening, just as we were finishing up carving pumpkins. We only got 2” out of it, so not a lot, but again…October. I think we’re going to have to rename the month Octember, because it definitely feels more like Christmas than Halloween.

Speaking of jack-o-lanterns, I hadn’t carved a pumpkin in…hmm…maybe 10 years? The last time was with the kids, before Tara and I even got together. She hadn’t carved one since 1995! So, it was a fun (and novel) experience for us both. I have no idea how many trick-or-treaters we will get, being new to the ‘hood. I spoke to a neighbor recently and she said it varies; some years there will be a lot, and last year there were…two or three? I’ll be happy to see even one! It’s been a long time since I’ve passed out candy.

Plus, I really want an excuse to fire up the fog machine. Although the fog might freeze and force us to break it off in chunks in order to dispose of it.

Life on the great plains, I tell you!

2020 Visions

I’ve been reading posts about NaNoWriMo the last couple of days, and they have brought back memories. Back in 2016, I participated in National Novel Writing Month for the first (and only) time in my life. It was a heady experience.

By “heady,” I mean, tough as hell.

50,000 words in 30 days is no small feat. And while I “won” the challenge, I didn’t magically write an entire novel in one month. I didn’t finish “Dream Sailors” until the following February (it ended up being closer to 80,000 words) and, I’m embarrassed to admit, I still haven’t finished editing it. Only one person has ever read it, and her name is not Tara (hi, Chris!). I’ll blame life’s general business. After finishing the novel, I uprooted my entire life and moved 1,250 miles across the country in 2018, and bought a house/started a new job in 2019. I have excuses, dammit!

But those excuses are beginning to wear thin. We’re settled in now. I have money in the bank. I really need to finish editing that novel and get it published. Tell you what: I’m making that an official New Year’s resolution for 2020. Next year, you’ll see my name in print again. It’s happening.

I also think I’d like to do NaNoWriMo again, but that’ll be next year. Yes, it was a lot of hard work. But I also think back fondly on that sense of accomplishment I felt. My favorite part was the two days I spent holed up in a vintage trailer in Ocean Shores, WA. Writing by candlelight, with wine and music and the gentle pattering of rain on the roof. I will always treasure that experience.

Because I’m a sucker for punishment apparently, I also took it upon myself to blog every single day that month. If nothing else, I was a freakin’ beast in November, 2016. I’m tempted to do that again this year, but when you work 40 hours a week as a writer, and much of your free time (mornings and weekends) as a freelance writer, the last thing in the world you feel like doing in your very limited free time is writing some more. Then again, we’re finally all settled into our house and winter is FAST APPROACHING (we had a little snow last weekend, and there’s more in the forecast), so what the hell else do I have going on?

Besides five more seasons of Mad Men, of course.

Work is still bomb dot com. Last Friday, I interviewed the GM of the Hotel Alex Johnson for a story about ghosts. That’ll go live on Monday. Talk about a topic right up my alley! I was regaling my coworkers afterward with stories of my own paranormal experiences. Oddly enough, here we are, living in a house where a woman died in February, and we haven’t had a single odd experience. Back in my old townhouse in Vancouver, Washington, my bathroom couldn’t have been more haunted. Go figure.

Saturday, I took advantage of decent weather to rake up a yard full of leaves, but underestimated the complexity of the project. I did not anticipate that it would take me a solid four hours and I’d end up filling fourteen yard waste bags (and a compost bin) full of leaves. Or that my arms and back would be throbbing with pain after. Tara suggested I take a hot bath and that sounded like a great idea, but we had a game night planned with people from her work and I just ran out of time.

IMG_20191019_113337.jpg

IMG_20191019_123440.jpg

I talked to my parents that evening, and my mom asked if we had a grass catcher attached to our lawn mower. Yes, I said. Yes, we do. Why? “You could have just ‘cut the grass’ and then emptied all the leaves into those bags rather than kill yourself raking,” she replied.

Wow. Talk about a lightbulb moment. Moms really do know best!

So, should I shoot for 30 posts in 30 days next month, or what?

 

Objects in the Mirror

I had a traumatic incident today as I was headed home for lunch. It’s a warm day, so I had my car windows open. A wasp viewed this as an invitation to fly inside. While I was driving.

Oh, hell no.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to keep your eyes on the road while simultaneously staring into the rearview mirror, tracking every movement of an insect with a sharp stinger flying around the back seat?! The damn thing looked like it was hovering near the back passenger window, but then I remembered that objects in the mirror may be closer than they appear and freaked out all over again.

I’m pretty sure the only reason I didn’t end up in a ditch on the side of the road is because I was driving through downtown, where there’s nary a ditch to be found. Amazingly, I managed to keep my wits about me (meaning I didn’t scream like a little girl). Instead, I calmly slid open the power moonroof and started singing “Born Free” to encourage the wasp to exit my vehicle. Either that or I yelled, “Get the f!ck out of here!” To be honest, it’s all kind of a blur.

I hate it when you spot a bug in close proximity and then lose sight of it. One is never more aware of one’s own skin until one believes a bug is crawling over said skin. I swear I felt it land on me half a dozen times over the course of two miles, but I’m sure this was nothing more than my imagination.

Damn you, imagination! ‘Cause that was the longest eight-minute drive of my life.

By the time I pulled into the driveway, the wasp was gone. Either that, or hiding so it could torment me on the way back to the office.

So, yeah. It’s warm today. Pushing-80-degrees warm. You’d never know we had 6” of snow one week ago.

IMG_20191010_175146_018.jpg

Our tree lost all its leaves in 18 hours.

Naturally, the storm blew in right around the time I was playing staff photographer and doing a photoshoot for a groundbreaking ceremony downtown. It was cold and windy and spitting snow, and even though the event took place inside a tent, it felt like that might blow away at any moment. Fortunately, it didn’t, and my pictures turned out pretty good. My favorite part was hearing one of the city council members reading my executive proclamation out loud to the crowd. Pretty sure I had goosebumps the size of Cadillacs on my arms. Not that I could feel them ‘cause I was numb from the cold.

Fortunately, the worst of the storm held off until nighttime. The next morning, we awoke to a winter wonderland. On October 10. What can I say? Fall is the shortest season of all around these parts. I bounced up and down excitedly like a kid in a candy store…

…until I remembered that I actually had to shovel the stuff now.

That took a solid 45 minutes because we have a pretty good-sized driveway and decent stretch of sidewalk. I mentioned to Tara months ago that we might want to invest in a snowblower, and now I’m more convinced than ever that would be money well spent.

In any case, the snow’s all gone now, other than a few slushy piles in parking lots. I’m happy to report that autumn is back.

IMG_20191016_135620_027.jpg

Fall foliage at Horse Thief Lake.

But probably not for long.

The other big event last week was my company’s Raw Couture fashion show. It’s an annual event in which models wear edgy costumes made from raw materials that reflect the businesses sponsoring them, as well as the theme. This was our third year putting it on, and it’s growing more popular every time. The theme was “Forgotten Toys,” so we had a lot of really cool and slightly creepy costumes.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, since this was my first go-round; my job as “runner” sounded fairly generic. In the end, I was tasked with corralling the models, making sure they had their photos taken, lined up where they were supposed to, etc. It may sound glamorous, but…

Yeah. Not gonna lie. It actually was pretty fun. And revealing, in more ways than one. My only regret is that I remained backstage the whole time, so I didn’t actually get to see the show. But Tara was in the audience and enjoyed it very much.

rc_egm

Me and the work crew.

Maybe next year I’ll get to do something where I can actually watch it myself.

 

I’m a Little Teapot $hort and $tout

When we were unpacking boxes that had been in storage for years this past summer, we came across a few items we’d forgotten all about. It was kind of like Christmas in July! One of these was an unassuming silver teapot that had once belonged to my grandmother. We already had a teapot—something cheap we’d picked up from Target years earlier—so I almost put the hand-me-down in our Goodwill donation pile. There was a card that accompanied it though, so I looked it up out of curiosity…and discovered we were the proud owners of an Alessi Michael Graves Kettle with Bird Whistle with a suggested list price of $190.

Umm…’scuse me?!

It’s a teapot. It boils water. Doesn’t get much more low-tech than that. I don’t think I’ve ever paid more than $20 for one (and I probably complained about that). And yet, it’s pretty much the most expensive kitchen item we own. I’m almost afraid to use it for fear that I’ll somehow break it. But the weather turned colder last weekend, so we did in fact try it out. The tea was amazing; there were hints of orange peel, lemongrass, licorice root, and affluence. I now know how Jeff Bezos feels when he’s sipping tea in his lakefront mansion while deciding whether to buy a Bugatti, Rolls Royce, or Lamborghini.

Thanks, grandma!


We are currently entertaining my parents this weekend. They decided to come out for one more visit before the snow begins flying (and might have made it up just in the nick of time…more on that in a sec).

Yesterday, we took them to Deadwood for Oktoberfest. That was kind of a disappointment…it wasn’t much of a festival, as far as German beer festivals go…but the day wasn’t a total bust because we drove through Spearfish Canyon after, and the fall foliage was absolutely stunning—at its peak this weekend, as a matter of fact.

IMG_20191005_155633.jpg

IMG_20191005_182911_703.jpg

 

Sure do love that place.

After leaf peeping, we stopped for pizza at Dough Trader in Spearfish. Their claim to fame is sourdough crust. It’s pretty much our favorite pizza joint in the Black Hills.

Today, we went out for lunch at Prairie Berry Winery and stopped by Horse Thief Lake on the way back. Beautiful day, but a little chilly with the breeze blowing.

DSC_0012fullsizeoutput_edDSC_0027

They leave tomorrow afternoon, and that will officially mark the end of two months’ worth of visitors.

One of my goals this weekend was to practice my photography skills. Our staff photographer at work is on vacation this week, and asked if I would step in and do a photoshoot for a groundbreaking ceremony in downtown Rapid on Wednesday. A local business development corporation is building a new campus and the mayor and city council will be there. In fact, they’ll be reading a proclamation declaring October 9 “Innovation Day” in Rapid City. It’s kind of a big deal. I think I have a pretty good eye for photography, but am lacking in technical skills. Jesse (our photographer) gave me a crash course in shooting in RAW format and editing with Photoshop, so I was super excited to get out and shoot in Spearfish Canyon yesterday…

…but when we got there, I realized I’d forgotten my camera at home.

&*#$%

At least I was able to make up for that today with the trip to Horse Thief Lake and a detour past good ol’ George.

By the way, guess who wrote the Innovation Day proclamation for the city??

Yeah. I have the best job ever.

The only downside might be the weather. Tuesday is going to be sunny and 72º but because this is South Dakota, they’re predicting rain turning to snow on Wednesday and possibly heavy snow overnight. Our high on Thursday is forecast to be 29º. This about sums it up:

FB_IMG_1570380513382.jpg

Hope you’re enjoying nice fall weather and colors in your neck of the woods!