Perfect Script

It gets dark so early this time of year, it’s barely 3:00 and the shadows are already lengthening. Especially on overcast days like today, when there are no shadows. It’s almost time to turn the lights on! Or, better yet, plug in the Christmas tree.IMG_20181126_174901_751.jpg

Gotta love the holiday season!

And it’s definitely beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. Friday I hauled our harvest decorations to the storage unit, swapping them out for our Christmas bins; Saturday morning, we decorated the apartment. Right about the time we got the tree all decked out, it began snowing. Big, fat flakes that quickly covered the ground. The snow did not let up until after dark, which made the tree lighting ceremony and Festival of Lights Parade in downtown Rapid City especially festive. Between the ice skaters, Santa Claus, holiday lights, and falling snow, it looked like a scene straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting. We couldn’t have scripted things any better.

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It was a tad cold, especially with a brisk wind blowing, but we spent a lot of time warm and cozy inside Firehouse Brewing and, later, the Wobbly Bobby Tap Room. There’s nothing like hot artichoke dip to take off the chill. That, and a few Manhattan cocktails.

The parade was pretty impressive, I might add. There were about 90 floats, and it took a solid hour for them all to roll on by.

By the time the snow finally tapered off we had a couple of inches on the ground. Not a huge amount, but it’s stuck around for several days thanks to below-freezing daytime highs. Today is the exception; it managed to get up to 54 degrees. But the weather is turning colder again this weekend, and there’s a potent winter storm system that is going to hit somewhere on the Plains. The track is still uncertain at this point. We could potentially see a lot of snow, so we’re keeping an eye on the forecast because we are planning a weekend getaway to Pierre, the state capital, to see this. A little snow wouldn’t be too big of a deal – my only concern is a lot of snow (and wind). There are 191 miles of freeway between Rapid City and Pierre, and navigating that stretch during a blizzard would not be fun. We have until tomorrow to cancel our reservation without losing the deposit, so hopefully we’ll have a better idea of what’s going to happen by then. If not, well, I guess we’ll go – and be prepared for an adventure.

 

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In other news, we have really been getting our money’s worth out of Netflix lately. We have a very basic cable package in order to save $$$, and I was mourning the loss of a bunch of favorite shows because we don’t get AMC, Discovery Channel, A&E, Bravo, Food Network, truTV, etc. But we have offset those losses with “Ozark” and “The Haunting of Hill House” and “The Ranch” and “The Final Table.” Add in Hulu, and campy-but-good classic sitcom fare like “Perfect Strangers” and “Blossom,” and we haven’t been lacking in things to watch.

Gotta run – darkness is descending. Wish us luck this weekend!

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Galileo, Galileo

We were driving home on Sunday after running an errand and I nearly swerved off the Interstate. I blame it on the sky.

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I mean, look at that! How am I supposed to concentrate on silly little things like staying between the lines when the whole freakin’ sky is lighting up like that?! Tara was kind enough to grab my phone and snap a few pics, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t gawking.

There’s just something about these South Dakota skies. They seem more impressive than elsewhere. Not that we didn’t have some great sunrises/sunsets in the Pacific Northwest, of course. I’ve taken some pretty stunning photos there, as well. But they just seem to be on an entirely different scale out here. Maybe it’s the wide open spaces and vastness of the virgin prairie stretching nearly to infinity, or the thinner atmosphere or lack of pollution or different types of clouds (hello, cumulonimbus!) that make the difference. I dunno, but something is different about our skies.

The errand we were running, by the way, involved picking up a new artificial Christmas tree. Unfortunately, our old tree was a casualty of our last-minute desperation purge in which we were trying to cram 28′ worth of stuff into a 24′ U-Haul hours before we hit the road for our big move. (Spoiler alert: it didn’t work.) At least the tree only cost Tara less than $20 and lasted many years, so I don’t feel too badly about that. This new one looks pretty nice (or at least the display model did). It’s a 7.5′ pre-lit lightly flocked spruce with 600 clear miniature lights. We’d have just gone with a real tree this year, but our complex doesn’t allow them due to the potential fire hazard. FINE. And never mind the fact that we’ll probably have around a half dozen candles burning every night for the rest of the year, but whatevs.

We ran out to Menard’s to pick up the tree during halftime of the Broncos-Chargers game. We didn’t actually expect our team to win, given Denver’s middling-at-best season and the opponent’s stellar record, but lo and behold they pulled off what can only be described as a pretty remarkable comeback victory in the waning seconds of the game as time expired from the clock. THAT is why I love football! A spectacular sunset and a thrilling victory made for a pretty decent Sunday!

The rest of the weekend was fairly low-key. That might have been due to the fact that our high on Saturday was only 19, and it had snowed overnight. We ran a few errands and went to the movies to see “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which we both really enjoyed. I found it very entertaining and Rami Malek was a dead ringer for Freddie Mercury. Clever camera angles hid the fact that he’s significantly shorter than FM was. Could the film have delved more deeply into Freddie’s personal life? Sure. But all was forgiven when we saw the labor of love that went into hitting those high “Galileo, Galileo!” notes in Queen’s classic anthem “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and especially the step-by-step recreation of their seminal Live Aid performance in 1985. Queen was a favorite growing up; I have a fond memory of “Another One Bites The Dust” blasting over the cafeteria speakers of my elementary school one lunch hour and everybody singing along. Back when rock ‘n roll was cool, huh?

Correction: rock ‘n roll will always be cool.

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The resemblance is uncanny! Give the guy on the right an Oscar already.

I currently have a pot roast cooking in the crockpot and it has just reached the point where the smell is starting to drive me a little crazy and make my stomach growl. Practice for Thanksgiving, I suppose! Speaking of, with the lone exception of 2016 – when my parents were in the midst of a cruise to New Zealand over the holiday – this is the first year we have not hosted T-Day for as long as I can remember. That’s just always been our thing! I’ve gotta admit though, the idea of not having to cook and clean up for an army of people sounds pretty appealing. We’ll miss ’em, but I think we’ll get along just fine. There will be wine to drink and football to watch and a 10-lb. turkey to eat. Not all in one sitting, of course. I’m sure there will be days’ worth of leftovers still.

Which is kind of the point.

 

Devilishly Good Day

Saturday was pretty much the perfect day. We zipped over to Wyoming (and by the way, how cool is it that we can actually zip over to Wyoming whenever the mood strikes) to check out Devils Tower. Tara had never been and it had been over 30 years since my last visit. Fun-but-annoying fact: there is no apostrophe in the name due to a clerical error when the proclamation declaring Devils Tower a National Monument was signed. Drives the grammarian in me a little nutty. I don’t know which I despise more: missing apostrophes or unnecessary one’s.

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Heading northeast the clouds thickened and it was snowing lightly by the time the monument loomed into sight, prompting fears that we might not even be able to see it. Fortunately this was not an issue as the visitor’s center is right there. Despite the cold and snow, we hiked around the base of the mountain, a short but scenic 1.3-mile stroll that afforded us great views of the Tower from every possible angle, not to mention the Wyoming countryside – prairie and hills and Ponderosa pine forests, all blanketed in an early-season layer of snow.

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Afterward we made a loop through some pretty rural towns, each of them with successively smaller populations, culminating in Aladdin, WY. Population: 15. The whole town, it turns out, is for sale. For $850,000, all this can be yours:

  • 30 acres (zoned commercial)
  • House & storage shed
  • Trailer park
  • Post office, general store, & gas station
  • Liquor license

The general store was awfully cute and charming. I was thinking somebody should make a television show, a fish-out-of-water sitcom about a big city couple who buys a quaint rural property and has wacky interactions with the colorful locals, but then I remembered this had already been done with “Newhart.” Oh, well.

Back in South Dakota, we took the scenic route through Spearfish Canyon, where the snow picked up a bit. It sure was beautiful; all the colorful autumn leaves from a month ago are gone, but we were treated to dramatic frozen waterfalls and pretty much had the entire canyon to ourselves. More kudos for the offseason! By 4:00 we were hungry and it was already growing dark, so we stopped for an early dinner at Cheyenne Crossing, a cafe and former stagecoach stop along the Cheyenne to Deadwood route in 1878. Tara got an Indian taco and Bud Light, I ordered a buffalo burger and glass of Malbec, and we watched the snow through the window as twilight deepened. It was falling pretty thickly driving through Lead and Deadwood, but petered out by the time we reached I-90. When we got home we watched “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” as an homage to Devils Tower.

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Today will be much less exciting. Unless you consider trips to Target fun, in which case, it’s going to be a blast! Tara’s making homemade clam chowder, which will be the perfect antidote for our cold weather (and possible snow this evening). It actually got down to zero on Friday! Well technically, it was half a degree. Our high was 21. This is how crazy the weather in South Dakota is: it’s going to reach 31 on Monday, 64 on Wednesday, and 42 on Friday.

At least it’s never boring.

Tara’s got tomorrow off for Veteran’s Day but alas, the work of a freelancer is never done. At least as long as the projects roll in, so I’m not complaining! I’ll either work a few hours in a coffee shop in the morning or, if the weather is bad, hole up in the office upstairs.

Last Wednesday, Tara’s company was offering employees tickets for the Rapid City Rush hockey game. Neither of us had ever seen live hockey before, so we decided to take advantage. The Rush are the closest thing Rapid City’s got to a professional sports franchise. They play in the ECHL, a minor league with teams scattered across the U.S. and Canada. They have no NHL affiliation this season and play their home games in the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. IMG_20181107_192147_220.jpg

Despite a lack of knowledge regarding hockey rules – I’m still not sure what constitutes “icing” unless we’re referring to a cake – we had so much fun! And our seats were great: third row next to one of the goals. Those players were bouncing off the plexiglass just a few feet in front of us, which was both exhilarating and a little frightening. Before long we were stomping our feet and chanting “Let’s go, Rush!” with the cowbell-ringing crowd. We even bought Rush gear and within minutes felt pride for our home team even though we had never paid much attention to them before. We’re already looking forward to going back for more games. The season lasts until early April, so we’ll have plenty of opportunities.

In other news, we already have our turkey for Thanksgiving. Which is next week. Yikes!

Celestial Jackpot

I rarely get so sucked into a book I can’t stop reading it, but I’ve been forcing myself to turn off the lights every night and put down “Dark Matter” for fear I’ll never go to bed and it will suddenly be morning. Which wouldn’t be a terrible thing, but I do like my sleep!

The novel is described as “a story about a scientist who chooses love and family over scientific immortality and major awards—only to run headlong into versions of himself who made different choices” and is “cleverly imagined, dizzyingly plotted, thrillingly told.” YES. It is all those things, which is why I can’t put the damn thing down! I guess Blake Crouch is known for his “Wayward Pines” trilogy. I’m going to have to check that out soon.

Anyway. “Dark Matter” is heavy on quantum mechanics, exploring far-flung ideas such as the Multiverse, the “many worlds” theory, and parallel lives. Concepts that all found their way into my current novel, “Dream Sailors.” I eat this stuff up. I find the science absolutely fascinating and mind-blowing. The idea that a new universe is spawned for every choice we ever make in life hurts my head in the best way possible. It excites me and leads to frenzied discussions with my patient wife, who listened to me babble on and on Friday night over drinks and dinner at Firehouse Brewing about how there might be a parallel universe in which I’d chosen the Reuben over the buffalo burger instead of vice-versa (I was seriously torn, guys!), and how that Mark’s life would unspool very differently from this Mark’s – err, my – life.schrodingers cat

She’s lucky I didn’t bring up Schrödinger’s cat.

So, is the idea of parallel dimensions pseudo-science, wishful thinking, or something else entirely? As far-fetched as it all sounds, it’s theoretically possible, and many esteemed scientists – such as Stephen Hawking and Neil deGrasse Tyson – were/are proponents. Even now, I find myself wanting to talk about how we live in a universe with an expansion rate that’s neither too fast nor too slow, an electron that’s not too big, a proton that has the exact opposite charge but the same mass as a neutron, and a four-dimensional space in which we can live. Consider this: if the electron or proton were just 0.2 percent larger, they would be so unstable they would break apart into smaller particles, atoms could never form, and we would not exist. I mean, what are the odds?! Some would say that’s strong evidence of a divine being, but for atheists a Multiverse makes equally perfect sense. With an infinite number of universes, once in a great while you’ll find one with the exact right conditions to support life as we know it. The very fact of our existence kind of feels like we played the lottery hit the celestial jackpot. Take that, billion-dollar Mega Millions winner!

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I could go on and on with this stuff. And I’d love to, but I don’t want to bore you with any more theoretical physics talk. Feel free to chime in with your opinion, though!


Halloween happened. Or so I’m told. It never actually felt like it, as we didn’t get a single trick-or-treater. It’s actually been 13 years since I’ve opened the door to somebody in costume. I’ve drawn two conclusions from this: kids avoid apartment and condominium complexes on Halloween, and nobody has once sent me a singing telegram.

Because I never left the apartment after 2:30 p.m., I didn’t even see anybody dressed up. At least Tara drove by a couple of kids on her way home. Last year we all wore costumes to work and there was the Boo Bash in downtown Camas, so I at least got a sense of the holiday. This time around, nada. At least we made sure the few bags of candy we purchased just in case were ones we liked! But because I’m so stingy with my sugar intake, I’m limiting myself to a single “fun size” Baby Ruth or Snickers bar per day, so we’ll probably be working on them until Christmas.

By the way, is one inch really a fun size??


It’s been a pretty quiet weekend. After a stretch of mild weather, it’s turned colder, which means it’s not conducive to going hiking (though I actually did go for a hike on Friday morning). We ran a bunch of errands yesterday and will be watching the Broncos game this afternoon. I’m cooking a pork/beef stew. There’s a Netflix movie queued up for later.

Oh! Speaking of Netflix, are you watching “Making a Murderer Part 2”? It has totally changed my mind about Steven Avery. After the initial series I figured, well, there are some questionable things, but the guy probably did it. Now I AM COMPLETELY CONVINCED HE IS INNOCENT. I’ve moved way beyond reasonable doubt. His attorney, Kathleen Zellner, is a beast. Mad props to her. And Brendan Dassey has always been an unwitting pawn. His conviction should have been overturned years ago.

In a parallel universe, they’re both free men…