That Horse Trailer Full of T-Shirts

On my way home from work, yesterday, I passed a man selling eclipse T-shirts. He must have had a lot of them, judging from the horse trailer he’d dragged them in in, and I’ve seen him around town before. I stopped to talk, mostly because I was passing within ten feet of him anyway,  and he was looking straight at me. He pointed to the other guy, and said that he had designed the t-shirts and had a bunch made up.

So, yes, that’s more or less how it goes. They made eclipse T-shirts, and then plonked themselves down on the corner of Livestock Equipment and Big Box Store (Also Selling T-shirts) and hoped for the best.

Now, I’m really not sure where you’d go to sell t-shirts in my town, and maybe business will pick up, once the eclipse crowd gets here… any minute now…. any… minute…

But I do think you should have a pretty good idea before you buy a horse trailer full of shirts.

These are… well, they’re shirts. They’re blue, and say “Eclipse 2017” or some such, and have the Homestead National Monument printed on the back. (It’s a hideous picture of a hideous building.)

picture of homestead monument

Told You So. (Courtesy of the Parks Service.)

But there has been a lot of speculation surrounding the Eclipse, and that ranges from people letting out rooms in their house, to people trying to sell eclipse glasses on Amazon (From Utah!)… to people buying a horse trailer full of T-shirts.

And I don’t know how you sell a horse trailer full of T-shirts.

I don’t know how you sell eclipse glasses long-distance, after Amazon bans you for not having enough customer feedback for the number of sales on your new account. I don’t even know how you sell them, when it turns out that the local fast food places are giving them away with meals.

And the bed & breakfast thing? Well, I might just wait til closer, to see if you can get a look at the people in real life. It’s damn hard to get a drunken astronomer out of your waterbed. Especially after he gets out the snorkel.

There has to be more of a plan than just “I’m going over there and I’m going to sell (product).”

As of right now, I have seen more vendors than tourists.

Torture by Cat

I can’t figure out why, but the Cat of Despair has suddenly decided that he would like to sleep on my bed. With me in it. For… well, probably about fifteen minute intervals (each beginning with a pounce) all night long.

That’s new, and I’m exhausted.

I don’t know why he’s decided to be affectionate right now. Thoughts of that nursing home cat who could predict peoples’ death—but that’s silly.

I couldn’t possibly have a death cat.

Could I?

Sometimes, You Just Break The Lock

The news story that’s hitting me hard this morning is from San Antonio Texas where eight people were found dead in the back of a tractor trailer. Since it’s been 104 here, and I live in a place that’s generally considered cooler than San Antonio, I’m going to go out on a limb and say the cause of death was probably hyperthermia.

And for those of you who don’t have my vast and encyclopedic medical knowledge, yup… that’s just a fancy word for “human trafficking.”

So, the police were called after someone inside the trailer asked a passerby for a glass of water.

Could you please do a wellness check on this trailer, which is parked in front of my big box store?

The passerby comes back with the glass of water.

Talk about bringing a knife to a gunfight. Can you imagine? Standing there in the hundred degree heat, in front of an 18 wheeler filled with dying people, and holding one Styrofoam cup?

And then, you wait for the police.

I’m not saying the passerby did anything wrong. It’s not the kind of situation you prepare for, and it’s hard to process something like that, in the moment.

The thing is… if someone’s asking you for water from inside a truck, you already know damn good and well that things are not okay.

So, you turn around, walk into the store, and get a bolt cutter. (big box stores sell that kind of thing) You break the locks, and let people out of the truck.

You break the glass on the car.

The whatever it is that is getting hotter by the minute.

That’s not legal advice. It’s moral advice.

And let’s be honest… did you think the guy who has a trailer full of human beings is actually going to stick around to sue you over a lock? No. He’ll be busy telling the cops he has no idea who owns the trailer, and how did that get there? Assuming he doesn’t run fast enough.

The extra five minutes for the cops to get there?

That’s a lot of degrees.

When every second counts… just ask yourself whose bolt cutter is closest.

Unlearning What They Done Learned Me in School

One of my (many) leftover hangups from grade school is a terror of red ink. Something about those pencils they used to give us. A shuffle of papers later, and you’re grading somebody else’s work and hoping against hope that you don’t have to flunk anyone, and that you didn’t do anything too humiliating, yourself.

So, I don’t edit in red ink. I’ve actually heard that teachers have taken up correcting papers in non-red colors, because it’s less traumatic. (No, sweetie. They’re not traumatized by red ink, itself. They’re traumatized by you.)

I also write in pencil or colored ink or… ya’know… my own blood… because I’ve been trained to take those things a lot less seriously than blue or black ink. Blue or black ink is the domain of very, very carefully re-copying your work so that it will be perfect when you turn it in.

I spent so much time doing this (because I never got to perfect) that one day in Junior High someone told me to make copies, and I sat down and copied the paper–by hand–five or six times so everyone could have a copy.

The response was horror. I meant… make copies in the office. On the Copying Machine.

That thought certainly never occurred to me.

To this day, I pick up a pen, and that same old perfectionism kicks in. Hello, inner editor.

The list goes on. Yellow or pink legal pads. Something with color to it. Blue. Green. Whatever. Never proper loose leaf paper. Still has to be college ruled, though, because the wide ruled reminds me of remedial classes, and makes me doubt myself. (No, really. It’s very simple. The less space between the lines on your paper, the smarter you are. That’s the rule, and it’s in my head.)

Lets just call them “quirks.”

What about you? Any school-based peccadilloes?

Pet Ownership and Other Crafts

Recently, I took up cat grooming as a hobby. The long-haired cat I inherited from my sister was starting to get that dirty hippie look, and besides the expense of taking the animal to a professional groomer, the local groomer is a little heavy-handed with the sedatives. He came home with the strung out on bennies look, and then progressed to the had a stroke look, and finally the oh, I don’t think that eye was quite that weepy before look.

We are not going back.

Still, something has to be done–at least for hygienic reasons–so I got myself a pair of clippers and hoped for the best.

You can take time with your own pet, and I did.

One cat. Four days.

I’m not doing the legs or tendon-y bits. Those are above my skill grade.

But very slowly and carefully, and with lots and lots of breaks and encouragement in between… I hit my cleanliness goal, and my cat with a haircut goal.

And not only is the animal still on speaking terms with me, he hears the clippers and comes running.

I’m grateful for his enthusiasm.

(Yes. He has been bribed. I don’t see your point.)

Reclaiming Normal

Today, we have rain. Dreary, half-hearted rain, straight down and gray. It’s the kind of rain that makes the day seem dark, and I feel like I’m still waiting for sunrise.

I’m working on that pesky chapter. You know, the one. It’s the one I was working on just before all the stuff happened, and I wound up shifting to a large-scale structural revision.

There are serious mental blocks with this one.

It’s partly because this is a chapter I’ve worked on and walked away from and failed with more times than I want to think about.

And it’s partly because this is the place where things go back to normal, and I’m not quite ready for things to be normal.

I don’t talk about my writing with most of my family because I already know the response. Go get a real job. Or, if the person is being a little more diplomatic, What does that pay? You’d be surprised how many of the family stories I used to hear involved the phrase, “And they lived happily ever after, as soon as he gave up that silly dream and got a real job.” (In one notable version, the prince also promised to get the children’s ears pinned back.)

We’re a family of ex-creatives. The talented photographer who morphed into a doctor, or the painter who turned into an accountant. People who accept that their creative goals are just as unreachable as that childhood dream where they were going to be an astronaut.

I didn’t talk to my sister about this, either. Plenty of reasons, there. Do you really want to tell one of those nervous types “Hey, I’m writing a thriller where the homicidal maniac tracks his victims through their cell phones.” “Yes, you can do that.” “Yes, it’s even legal.”?

I didn’t. I think she knew I wrote in the past, and maybe she suspected that I was still writing.

Shameful little hobby.

And now–with a lot of the fat cut away–I’m back to working my way through. Front to back.

Back to normal.

Backward Word Sprints

I started running backward word sprints a while ago. I’m not sure what else to call it. I set a timer, and focus, and then, when my attention wanders, I hit the timer, and write down how long I’ve been at it. The timer goes up instead of down, and the goal is minutes of focus instead of words. (I’m revising, so words would be a little tough.)

I wound up with 32 minutes and 52 seconds over my lunch hour, which is as coherent a chunk of time as I’ve ever managed to come up with.

It also leaves me with the feeling that I’m getting something done.

Trackable, concrete progress.

Something to write down in my notebook to prove I’m not just sitting around breathing air.

A lot of the time, I do feel like I’m just lollygagging around. I write–but is there progress? Am I any closer to where I want to be than I was, when I sat down?

When I’m writing, I have words to log. Yes, moving toward a finished draft. But revising? I’ve never really gotten the hang of that. I have a process, of course. It’s a good process. (I bought it off a stranger on the internet, and it’s turned out to be one of the best purchases I ever made.) But that new-words feeling? Well, that’s just for new words.

One of my characters did something really out there, today. I don’t know what corner of my subconscious that came from, but he wound up punching another character. One I had considered sacrosanct. Guess not.

And I’ve reached the point that I’m rejoicing over words cut. Hey, that means I have space for my characters to punch each other in. (Yes, I’m down to the dangerous end of too many words.)


Penguin March Goals

I’m thinking about goals a lot right now. I have goals coming out my ears with this Fitbit tracker, and some of them are goals I didn’t even know I had. (Yup. I just won my Penguin March badge–no, not kidding–for matching the distance of the great penguin migration.) And in writing related news, I’m trying a goals-oriented thing where you write down three goals the night before, and that’s your activity for the day, and gold star for anything above and beyond that.

The problem I’m having is knowing what a reasonable goal actually is.

If Fitbit informs me that 17,000 steps is about average (without trying) for a day when I’m working, and I’m lucky to get 8,000 without trying on my days off… where do I set the goal?

And where does writing fit into that swing? It’s a big jump between what I can theoretically get done in addition to work, and what I could get done when I’m mostly free.

I set three goals for yesterday. And as it turns out, I hit most of one of them. Whole lot of typing done. I still have to go through some notebooks and weed out the useless things, and type up the rest, but at least there was serious work on it.

I’m evenly divided between thinking this means I should set fewer goals, and thinking I should buckle down and focus. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

Or maybe the right answer is a set number of weekly goals, instead.

Honestly, I’m Not a Bag Lady

One of the great things about the internet age is the ability to sit on your sofa, and shop for all the things it ever crossed your mind that you might need. I’m not crazy about real-life stores. Something about having someone interrupt you just as you’re making a decision, the smells, the people… I mean, come on! Malls are for power walking, not for shopping, right?

The internet also enables you to buy the kinds of things your neighbors won’t. (And that’s important. I’ve lived in towns where the best bookstore was the remainders bin at Pamida.)

I’m not a natural shopper. For me, it’s usually What the hell am I wearing to that event? or “Damn it! there’s a hole in my favorite jeans.” Right now, I’ve hit the point that the best (newest, most hole-free) clothes in my wardrobe are work clothes that I really wouldn’t wear anyplace else, and the casual, lounge around clothes are getting pretty shabby.

And events… well, they’re getting pretty few and far between.

I’m boosting the casual, right now. Jeans and t-shirts, and a couple of fitness-kick related items. I probably needed a water bottle, and I definitely needed a sports bra.

They’re on the way, along with grooming tools for Depravi-Cat. I did not have to stop at a separate store to find the cat things.

I also did not have to stop at a separate shop for my semi-voyeuristic peek through lingerie that is a little further out on the kinky spectrum than I am, or for the writer-specific t-shirts that probably aren’t in stock anywhere near me.

Anyway, the good news is that in a few days, I’ll have go-out in public clothing that reflects “personality” more than “indigent” and a cat that doesn’t look like a stray. What more could I want?




The Exercise Thing Gets Expensive

As a part of my tech-assisted health and fitness kick, I’m spending a good chunk of time wandering around places I wouldn’t ordinarily go. Do I have my hourly 250 steps in? No? What about now?

So, I went to an antiques mall. You know… one of those chain places that rents booths to anyone and everyone. I don’t, usually. There’s usually nothing to see that you couldn’t dig out of your Aunt Thelma’s attic. I went for the steps, and not for the antiques.

And I found human remains.

One booth in the whole place is selling some old medical school skeleton parts. They’re pieces that are about two hundred years old. (As usual, there wasn’t anyone to ask about them.) The first of the pieces was an articulated female pelvis. Once upon a time, it had been painted to show the various bones. Okay. Maybe if I were running an obstetrician’s office, or something.

Then, again… maybe not. Pregnant women probably don’t like the death aspect of the thing. We’d hate to see someone go into labor. (That could be why I’m not running a doctor’s office.)

There was a bundle of ribs… I’m not sure how many, or how matching. It was all behind glass.

And then, there was the skull.

I am not in the market for a skull. I am not in the market for a skull. I am not in the market for a skull.

But if I were…

He was about two hundred years old (according to the notice in the case, but I think it’s close), and missing his calvarium, and some of his teeth. He’d been articulated old-school style, with the little springs connecting the mandible.

I thought he was charming, but out of my price range… you know… since I am NOT in the market for a skull, at all. And exactly how would I store him, if I did buy him? He doesn’t want to be shoved in a drawer somewhere.

Okay. So, I’m thinking about it.

He’d be a splurge and a half. Easily the most money I’ve ever spent on a man I just met, and that’s before I figure out exactly how to store him. (That sounds expensive, too.) Of course, I don’t think all that many people who go through antiques malls are really looking for skulls, so he might go down in price, if I wait.

Or, I might come to my senses, and buy something sensible.