Snow is My Pizza

If anybody is looking for an idea for a Christmas gift for me, I’m a size large snowblower.

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Our driveway, post-blizzard. Yes, we had to shovel all that snow.

The National Weather Service was predicting 8-12″ of snow for Rapid City on Saturday. There’s no way we’re going to get that much, I thought. Well, I was right.

We ended up with 17″ of snow.

And that, my friends, was a record for the biggest daily snowfall in November in Rapid City history. Way to overachieve! We ended up with 26″ for the month, which makes it the snowiest November on record.

Sure was pretty when it was coming down…

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But once those winds started gusting to 60 mph, the snow started piling up into waist-high drifts. Which Tara and I had to tackle with shovels, while everybody else in the neighborhood had snowblowers.

This was our street, before the plow came through Sunday afternoon. Hard to believe there’s a road there!

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Later on, after a few vehicles with AWD were able to navigate down the hill:

I have long been a snow lover. All my friends know this. The climate in Rapid City was actually one of the key motivating factors in moving here. After the blizzard, my friend Heidi asked, “Still loving the snow?” This is similar to comments I receive every time I post photos of snowstorms. People tend to think that I am suddenly sick and tired of snow and ready to move back to Portland.

Here’s the deal. Let’s say you love pizza, and one day, go out to dinner at an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet. You end up consuming 17″ worth of pizza. Are you going to be “over” pizza forever afterward because you ate too much?

Of course not.

Snow is my pizza, only minus the pepperoni.

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Is it a pain in the ass to shovel? Yes. Are the roads treacherous to drive on for days afterward? You betcha. Is my car still struggling to get up the hill leading to my house, three days after the blizzard, even when it’s sunny and pushing 50 degrees? Yep.

But there’s just something about it that I love. Maybe I’m a little nuts. But I figure, it’s nothing that a snowblower and an AWD vehicle can’t handle. Both of which are very much in my future.

And I know for a fact that my blogging friend Ron can relate.

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My neighborhood is beautiful in the winter!

So, let it snow!

White Knuckles

I was bitching this morning about having to go to work on Black Friday, but alas, I have ended up working from home. Which still isn’t not working, but at least it’s working in the comfort of sweats. One of those split-the-difference scenarios, I guess.

For the record, I tried to go to work, but we have had freezing drizzle since mid-day yesterday and as a result, the streets are a sheet of ice. I didn’t think conditions were going to be all that bad, but Tara and I left at the same time, and I watched in horror as her truck slid sideways down our hill. My brakes were equally ineffective. I almost turned around right then and there but I soldiered on, slipping and sliding, and finally decided going into the office just wasn’t worth chancing, especially since I had my laptop with me anyway. Making matters worse, there’s a 1/2″ glaze of ice on the ground and every step is super treacherous. So I turned around and headed back. If I’d stayed, I would have worried the whole time about getting back home anyway; we have a Blizzard Warning beginning at 6 p.m. and lasting until Sunday morning, so the weather is only going to get worse. That freezing drizzle is going to turn to snow, the snow is going to get heavy, and the winds are going to really pick up. Nobody needs to be out in weather like that.

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The drive back wasn’t much better. Even going 5 mph through the neighborhood I was fishtailing and struggled to get up the hill. Hardest of all was making it back up our driveway; my wheels were spinning helplessly, so I really had to gun it and then hope I didn’t go careening into the side of the house. We just had our sewer line repaired; the last thing we need is exterior damage to our house! Talk about a white-knuckle drive. Apparently Tara slid into a curb in the parking lot of her work, so I will breathe easier once she gets home this evening. I’m hoping they’ll let her go early.

I had planned on taking advantage of a one-day Black Friday sale on a snowblower at Lowe’s on my lunch hour today, but I’m not going to chance those roads again. Too bad. It hasn’t taken us long to realize shoveling our large driveway and sidewalks is a real chore, one that a snowblower will really help with.

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So, about our storm: it’s looking to be a doozy. They are predicting heavy snow (8-12″) on top of that glaze of ice, and winds gusting to 65 mph. Sadly, Rapid City’s holiday winter market, downtown tree lighting ceremony, and festival of lights parade are all scheduled for tomorrow, plus it’s Small Business Saturday. It looks like Pennington County may issue a no-travel advisory, so all those events are likely to be cancelled. We were looking forward to them, but what can you do? I’m just hoping our power doesn’t go out now that we have a new aquarium full of tropical fish. We have plenty of food and plan to work on putting up Christmas decorations, so we don’t have to go anywhere.

On a brighter note, our first Thanksgiving in our new house was just about perfect. We always enjoyed hosting family for the holiday, but I’m not gonna lie, being able to kick back and do our own thing is pretty nice. Other than a last-minute trip to Family Fare for a can of evaporated milk, and having to spread rock salt and shovel the driveway and front stairs, it was a pretty leisurely day. We drank wine, listened to music, and ate delicious food. After, we retired to the basement, where we started a blazing fire and watched “Planes, Trains & Automobiles.” Really couldn’t have asked for a better day!

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Great first Thanksgiving in our new home.

Now, let the hunkering down commence.

We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Bobcat

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve seen the giant hole that used to be my front yard.

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It all began with a flooded utility room last weekend…

Actually, that room flooded once before, at the end of July. It just so happened to occur the one, and only, time we used the shower in the master bathroom, so we sort of figured (hoped) it had something to do with that.

No such luck.

In fact, we weren’t able to flush toilets or use the shower initially, making for a dicey 24 hours—but we eventually figured out that, as long as we were careful, the water would drain as it should. We called a plumber first thing Monday morning but were placed on a waiting list; when they finally made it out midday Tuesday, they ran a sewer scope and gave us the bad news: our entire main line needed replacing. The roots from our lilac bush had busted through the clay pipe to the point where it was crushed in places and there was dirt in the line. I guess Doris had dealt with problems in the past, because the pipe had been snaked so many times, it was basically destroyed, so there was no option to repair or reinforce it. The work would involve digging a giant trench through the front yard and tearing up our sidewalk and landscaping. Our reward? A nice, fat bill for $12,000, give or take a few pennies.

So now, we are dealing with a huge, unsightly mess. We can’t get out the front door but are at least able to go through the garage. The hole they had to dig to reach the existing sewer pipe is much deeper than anticipated; it’s at least 15′ deep, thanks to the fact that we live on a hill. I mean, we can’t even see the bottom from our front porch! It’s a little unnerving, kind of like peering into the depths of hell, minus the fire and brimstone. It’s so deep, in fact, that the first Bobcat they used couldn’t reach the bottom to scoop out all the dirt, so they had to go get a bigger one. What a pain! Our only saving grace is the sewer addendum we wisely added to our homeowner’s policy at the urging of our realtor. They’ll cover up to $10K, but are naturally making us jump through hoops to justify the work. It’ll cost more than that anyway, and we have a $1K deductible, so we may have to get creative in figuring out how to pay for this.

The situation is not completely without humor. My sister-in-law, Esther, asked if they had discovered anything interesting while digging, like an arrowhead or an old toy or maybe a dead body.

They’ve been working on it for two days and estimated the project would take four, so it should be finished by Tuesday. Fingers crossed; Rapid City’s asphalt plant closes for the season on Wednesday, so if they don’t finish up by then we will be stuck with some kind of temporary patch on the street until spring.

We’ll be giving thanks for a nice, new pipe on Thursday, I guess.

Speaking of Turkey Day, it’ll be just the three of us this year (if you count the cat). Of course it would be great to have family around, but after hosting for so many years, it’s nice to have a more relaxed, laid-back holiday. I wish I had Friday off, but we both have to work, so at least I won’t be jealous that Tara’s home while I’m not. Half the office was smart enough to take the day off, but I need to bank more PTO as we have a couple of trips lined up.

Our temperatures have been running 15-20 degrees above average for a change. Yesterday was a balmy 61º and today will be about the same. Then winter’s coming back this week. Thanksgiving looks to be cloudy and in the upper 30s. There’s talk of a potent winter storm somewhere on the Plains next weekend, but it’s too far out to know how or if that will affect us. Rapid City’s tree lighting ceremony and parade of lights are Saturday, so that probably means we’ll get a foot of snow.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Me and the work crew.

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