Five Star Observations

I’ve always enjoyed reading travel guides, and over the past few days, I’ve had a lot of time to explore online versions of Frommer’s and Fodor’s among others, but when I think of travel books, really, my brain first goes to a series of mystery novels written by the man who invented Paddington Bear.

The novels, written by Michael Bond, are a series of gastronomic mysteries featuring restaurant critic Monsieur Pamplemousse and his faithful bloodhound Pommes Frites.

These are comic mysteries, and always involve mishaps that occur while Mssr. P. is on a mission, trying a new restaurant to see if it deserves to be included, or have it’s stockpots (their rating system) increased, in Le Guide.

Somehow, in my travels, I’ve never seen anything as absurd as a man being koshed on the head by his own baguette, or being locked in a pay toilet.

I have, however, often paused to observe young lovers, arguing couples, and parents with children, and been as amused watching those interactions, than I ever was with the fictional detective and his pooch.

Time Travel?

After two weeks in Hong Kong building out a new client’s data farm and stringing miles and miles of CAT5e cable in fashion colors, my husband is finally on the first leg of his journey back home.

Actually, he’s been on it for about 90 minutes, and he texted me before take-off that it was, “…a crappy old 747-400 without updated power or an entertainment system…” Poor guy. 14 hours in the air with literally NOTHING to do. I hope he remembered to buy a book. Oh, well, it’s an overnight flight – he can sleep for a lot of it.

You have to love traveling across the international date line, though. In Hong Kong, it was 2 PM Monday afternoon when he boarded the plane, and when he gets to his stopover in San Francisco, it will be 11:30 Monday morning.

I wonder if there’s a time paradox in arriving before you actually left?

There’s no business

I don’t know what the best anti wrinkle cream might be, but judging from the Tony’s tonight, Patti LuPone does. That woman has not aged in decades; if anything, she looks younger.

Liza Minelli, on the other hand, still scares me.

Watching the Tony’s is always a bit weird for me. There was a time in the mid-nineties when I watched them to see if any of my former classmates were winning anything (they often did), but before and since, I’ve watched them because the beginning of a musical’s overture is still a dose of magic for me. I like movies, but I LOVE theatre.

The problem is, now I want to write a musical instead of finishing my book.

Note to self: ONE project at a time.

Restful Weekend and the Spoken Word

I’ve spent the weekend in a sort of “radio silence” mode – the mental equivalent of a colon cleanse – writing and sleeping and listening to short stories on NPR (yesterday) and breaking during meals to watch things like the Tony Award Nomination Concert tonight.

I’ve got TiVo set to record the Tony’s as I’m feeling very tired just now, and want to rest. They are the only award show I have any interest in. Live performance has some magic that no other medium can provide. It doesn’t matter if it’s a fully produced Broadway musical or a mother reading a book to her child and doing all the voices but the spoken word connects us.

Madeleine L’Engle reminded us that even the Judao-Christian view of God is bound in Story, but I don’t have the energy for philosophical discourse just now.

Words written and spoken, stories told, songs sung, dreams taking flight.
This is my world right now.

WOW: The Invisible Picket Fence

Becca, who I count among those “friends as yet unmet in person” is hosting a summer writing roundtable called “Write on Wednesday.” Today is Saturday, but she assures me it’s not a problem, and her first question has been tumbling around my head for a few days.

She asks: “Why in the world do you come to the page?”

At first my answer was flippant and terse: Because I have to.

But it’s a question that deserves more than a four-word answer.

I write to explore, to create, to still the buzzing of ideas in my head, to give other ideas new life. I write because sometimes a conversation overheard on line in the grocery store or in a cafe is just enough to spark a story. I can’t follow a stranger home to observe the next part of their life, but I can imagine what might follow.

Did the mother of the five teenagers like whatever chocolate they chose at Tom Thumb while their harried father gave advice, at nine PM on the Thursday before Mother’s Day? Did the kids get stuff THEY wanted after all? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I do know that there was something about this poor man surrounded by gangly young people trying to make sure his wife had a present from every child without blowing their budget that touched me. He had a story, and I wanted to know more.

Or what about the poet I used to chat with when I was 19 and working at a bookstore/cafe in San Jose? He let me read some of his work, asked me advice on word choice and comma placement, and never guessed that almost twenty years later I’d be thinking of him in his ratty fisherman’s sweater and jeans, scribbling in what I now know was a Moleskine notebook, and sipping slowly on latte after latte, as I worked on my novel. I don’t remember his name, but I remember the angular script he used, and the soft grey of the pencil strokes on the unruled paper.

In one of my favorite books ever, Outside Lies Magic, the author, John Stilgoe, mentions that if you’re riding a bike along-side a picket fence, and manage to find just the right speed, the fence becomes essentially invisible. The rational part of me knows that it’s just an optical illusion, that the fence is as solid as ever, and that the right speed simply synchronizes our active vision with the gaps between the slats, so we’re never looking at solid boards.

The more fanciful part of me – the observer, the writer – that part of me accepts that sometimes you can find magic in ordinary things.

For me, those things are words.

I write so I can see – and share – what’s behind the invisible picket fence.


I’m primarily a reader of books but there are times when a magazine is the best thing ever, and other times when there is no other reading material available.

I like all kinds of magazines, but am especially partial to literary zines filled with short stories, and home decor / lifestyle publications like Real Simple and Mary Englebreitt’s Home Companion, and sometimes, I confess, I do read good old Martha, even if the fact that her hair is always in her eyes constantly annoys me.

At the salon, I indulge in my guilty pleasure: fashion magazines filled with everything from diet pill reviews to runway fashion shoots, and dishy celebrity gossip. These are the magazines I refuse to actually buy, but enjoy in small doses.

At home, we accept delivery of only three or four magazines: The Writer, Writer’s Digest, Discover and National Geographic.

Everything else, we only pick up as the mood suits.

Your turn: What magazines do you read? Which ones do you avoid at all costs?

Do You Remember…?

I have a long memory that is at some times vague and at others very specific.

My earliest specific memory is from when I was two or younger, and involves my grandmother’s back door, with the gauzy translucent curtain that veiled (but did not completely obstruct) the view through the heavy glass of the door, and their black dog, Misty. There are no details, beyond the presence of the dog, the fact that the door was closed. I think she may have wanted to go out, but I was far too little to even reach the doorknob.

It is somehow appropriate that I remember this dog in soft focus, as she was to fade from life before I really had memories of interaction before.

I wonder if I was born a “dog person” or made one, later. I’ve always responded more to canine pets, even before cats began to make me sneeze.

The Fiction Fund

This is a solicitation.

Writers, by and large, do not have cushy offices or corporate benefits like paid vacations or medical benefits. While I’m fortunate enough to be married to a man who is supportive of my aspirations (and gives me access to his employee health plan), taking a week off to attend a writers conference/workshop in San Francisco means I don’t work for a week, and that impacts my income.

I’ve got generous parents who gifted me with the price of the conference itself, because they believe in my talent and my dream, but San Francisco is not an inexpensive city, and I’m a little bit stressed about expenses, because I still have to offset airfare, hotel bills, and food while I’m there.

That’s why I’m asking you, my friends and readers, to help out, by donating to The Fiction Fund. This isn’t a charity. Your donation is not tax deductible. I had to do a lot of soul-searching to even ask, but if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Here’s how it works:
– I’ve got a PayPal “donation” button in my sidebar.
– If you donate anything between $1 and $5, I’ll write a 100-word “verbal snapshot” or “distilled moment” based on a keyword you provide (keep it clean, please). At the bottom of the post there will be a line reading, “This post inspired by YourName.”
– If you donate more than $5, the attribution line at the bottom of your post will include a link to your website or blog.
– If you’d prefer to be an anonymous donor, that’s fine with me.

Posts will appear at:
Itinerant Imagination dot Com

Please don’t:
– tell me this is tacky
– offer criticism that isn’t constructive

Please do:
– Offer supportive notes, even if you can’t contribute cash.
– Tell me your favorite places in San Francisco
– Wish me lots of luck. My goal is not to come home without an agent.

Writing Vacation

While there’s still a big part of me yearning for time and money to indulge in one of those cushy Hilton Head rental houses, I’m even more excited about my upcoming visit to San Francisco.

Today, I’ve narrowed my hotel choices down to two. One of them, the Halcyon, is really inexpensive, but funky and interesting, if not quite in the neighborhood I wanted. The other is reasonably priced, though more expensive, and in a better neighborhood, closer to my conference site, and also comes with a complimentary gourmet breakfast, discounts at the day spa next door, and an English Pub with beer and games.

The first would mean buying breakfast, and a longer travel time. I’m cool with MUNI, of course, but the other is in a much more upscale locale, and as a woman traveling alone, would probably be the smarter bet.

If you’re reading this, please tell me, when you choose a hotel, do you go for price, location, amenities, or a bit of everything?

Blood Noir Not So Squicky, After All

It didn’t quite require the donning of tactical gear, but a couple of days ago I ventured into the latest Anita Blake book from Laurell K. Hamilton with more than a little trepidation. After all, her last few books in this series were so packed full of monster-sex that, while I wasn’t exactly squicked, I did feel as if a shower was in order, and not for healthy reasons, but because I felt unclean.

Books shouldn’t make you feel that way.

Happily, however, after about the first fifty pages, Blood Noir had an actual plot, actual character development, setup for a really really big upcoming big-bad, and, oh yes, a sex scene that took place off-camera.

I’ll be doing a real review of it over on later this week.

No, really.

Of course, even with a plot it’s still monster-porn.