Fool’s Gold

georgetownlake

We weren’t supposed to ride our bikes out to the reservoir. Certainly, we weren’t supposed to play on its rocky shore, but it was 1977 or 78 and we were innocent – the world was innocent – or at least, it seemed that way.

And so we rode our bikes along the frontage rode of the highway, mine still bearing the red, white and blue streamers from the 4th of July bike parade, and we parked them on reasonably level ground. Then we took old beach towels, purloined snacks, and cans of soda from our baskets and set up a sort of picnic area, before we went close to the water.

We were imaginative seven- and eight- year olds. Jeff decided that the big chunks of dried mud from where the water had receded over the summer were actually fossilized dinosaur turds. “Boys are so gross,” Monica and I said to each other behind his back. But out loud we asked, “What kind of dinosaur?”

“It’s from the Megapod,” Jeff insisted. “It’s Megapodtastic!”

“More like mega-disgusting,” I said. But it was Georgetown, Colorado. We’d all been to the natural history museum in Denver on school trips. We knew that dinosaurs had lived here once, just like we were certain the cannibalistic Goat-Man still haunted the woods outside town. It could have been ancient dino-dung, or at least, our child-brains didn’t immediately reject the idea.

We continued to enjoy the afternoon. A lonely kayaker appeared on the far side of the reservoir at one point. We hadn’t seen him arrive, and we never saw him leave, he just ghosted across our field of vision the same way a shark will sometimes swim near you without actually bothering you. You don’t see it, but you know you’re not alone.

“Maybe he’s searching for dinosaur bones,” I suggested, mostly kidding.

Maybe he’s fishing for the lake monster,” Jeff responded. “Hey, is it true you and Gil are going together?”

Gil was the older man in my life. A fourth-grader, to my second, and he’d asked me to go with him after the mandatory school square dance recital. Of course, in elementary school, going together didn’t mean much. We never touched, except in dance class, we never spent much time together. I think we sort of sat near each other at lunch. Whatever.

“Here,” Jeff opened a can of Mr. Pibb and handed it to me. It was still slightly cool. “See, it didn’t even explode. Told ya.”

I took a sip, just as Monica, who’d taken her shoes off and was dancing in and out of the water – even in the hottest part of summer, that reservoir was cold – shouted for us to join her. “Guys! Come here!! Look what I found!”

I took my soda with me as Jeff and I went to join her, looking down into the water, where she was pointing at gold sparkles on the rocks.

“What the-what the hey?” Jeff squatted down and pulled out a handful of the rocks. “It’s gold!” He said. “We’re gonna be rich!”

We immediately gathered as many of the glittery-gold rocks as our young hands could carry, stuffing our pockets and the baskets of our bikes. We ended up sharing my Mr. Pibb – all three of this – as we stared at our collection.

“Now what?” Monica asked.

“We go to the rock shop, and have Sidney tell us how much it’s worth. He sells gold nuggets. I bet he buys them, too,” Jeff said.

The ride back to town was longer and slower with our collection of rocks, but we didn’t mind. Jeff said he would use the money to hire a running coach – his older brother was a track star, and he wanted to be even better. Monica said she wanted the Barbie dreamhouse she’d been wishing for. Me? I didn’t know what to say. Admitting that all I wanted was books and games seemed wrong somehow.

But when we got to the rock shop, Sidney had bad news for us. Oh, he made a show of looking at each rock very carefully, but then he sat us at the table in the middle of his store, the one where the rock polisher was usually grumbling and burbling. “Bad news, kids. What you have isn’t gold. It’s mica?”

“Mica?” I asked.

“Some people call it ‘Fool’s Gold.’

“So, it’s not worth anything?” I asked. Well, one of us had to get all the information.

“‘Fraid not,” Sidney said. “But don’t feel bad. I have grown-ups bring this stuff in all the time. Why don’t you each choose a polished rock before you go, to remind you to keep exploring.”

We were disappointed, of course. I mean, we’d been millionaires for a whole hour and suddenly we were just normal kids again. Still, a free polished rock could not be turned down. “Thanks Sid,” Jeff said. “Thank you,” Monica added. “Thank you, Sidney,” I wrapped up.

We left his store with mostly empty pockets, and stood on the sidewalk, where our bikes were waiting, and the light was waning. “It’s getting late,” Monica said. “I should go.”

“Yeah, me, too,” I said. “Mom might let me put price-tags on stuff for extra money. You guys want to do something tomorrow?”

“We could go to the little park,” Jeff said. “I heard all the levels – ” He meant terraces but hadn’t yet learned that word – “are there to hide the fact that it’s an Indian burial ground.”

“Sure,” I said. “Maybe we’ll meet a ghost.”

Monica didn’t look thrilled by our idea. “I think I have to do stuff at home tomorrow,” she said. “I’ll let you know.”

But we knew she wouldn’t.

The three of us went in different directions. Jeff went down the dirt road that led to the neighborhood tucked into the edge of the woods. I’d ridden my bike down that road after twilight once and had been convinced the Headless Horseman was chasing me the whole way. Never mind that the Headless Horseman lived in New York, and not Colorado.

Monica went up the hill. Her family lived in a big old house, but it was creaky and leaning in places. I think the idea of hunting for ghosts didn’t appeal to her, because she lived with so many.  Visits to her house were hard because all they had to play with were half-complete board games, none of which were meant for only two people.

And I went back down the block, around the main square, and across the street to the building where my mother owned a store, and we lived in the apartment above it, but I knew better than to bring my bike in through the front. I locked it under the back stars behind the building, climbed up to the back entrance of our apartment, and walked through it, down the front stairs, and into the store.

Mom was finishing with a customer, but when they’d gone, she smiled at me. “You look tired and dirty,” she said. “What have you been up to today.”

“Out with Jeff and Monica,” I said. “We were seriously wandering and talking about stuff.”

Mom smiled. If she knew where our wanderings had taken us, she would not have been so pleasant.

“Go upstairs and clean up,” she said. “We’re driving to Idaho Springs tonight.”

“Idaho Springs? Why?”

“Because Floyd has the projector fixed and is doing the first weekend of Mad Movie Mayhem.”

“And we’re going? Really?”

“We’re going,” Mom said. “Really.”

I didn’t answer her. I just turned around and ran back upstairs to change. My dog greeted me at the door, and I brought her into my room with me. “Sorry we didn’t spend much time together today,” I told her as I ran my fingers through her curly white fur. The little park was within walking distance and had soft grass that was perfect for poodle paws. “But tomorrow is another day, and with any luck, you’ll get to come out with me then.”

Thoughts from the Bath

My usual Saturday evening ritual, at least in cool weather, is to soak in the tub while listening to Selected Shorts on NPR. (I know. I live a wild life.) I use the time to just relax, away from smartphones and computer screens. Sometimes one of the dogs will join me in the bathroom, splashed on the floor like a puddle of breathing fur, but most of the time the current pack all congregates on my bed, as if they’re guarding me from whatever might come through the bedroom and into my bathroom.

So far, their vigilance has paid off, and only my husband has ever come into the room. I’m sure they feel very smug about their track record.

Sometimes in the bath, I plot out the stories I’m working on.

Often, I read.

Last night, however, as I soaked in lavender-scented water and formed castles out of the mounds of bubbles, I let my mind wander and ended up with a stream-of-consciousness that was part life commentary and part idle musing.

It went something like this:

I really need a pedicure. It’s been over a month since I had my toenails done, and hey, this purple polish has pretty good staying power, but really, purple in December? I want to make that chocolate gingerbread again, the one we put the peppermint schnapps frosting on, and I can’t remember where I put the recipe. I just realized; it’s almost Christmas and I haven’t yet used my Christmas mugs. This weird warm weather is freaking me out. I’m so tired of mosquitoes. I promised Deb I’d shoot a picture of her book somewhere in my house. Is that a thing now? I didn’t ask any of my friends to take pictures with my book. Should I have done that. Oh, hey, that quantum relationship thing I wrote for Medium needs to be in the next book; everyone seemed to really like it. What day is tomorrow in MusicAdvent? Oh, right, it began on the first so tomorrow’s the 20th. What letter are we on? Oh, right T. We’re on T. T-t-t-t-t-t-t-t. Oh! that scene in Easy A just popped into my brain.

You get the idea.

Holidailies 2015

 

Buy this Book: The Bathtub Mermaid: Tales From The (Holiday) Tub

The Bathtub Mermaid: Tales from the (Holiday) Tub

File this under shameless self promotion.

I haven’t posted an entry here in two days, because I’ve been busy editing my book.

MY BOOK

I’ve been part of Holidailies for over a decade now (this is my eleventh year), and I’ve amassed quite a lot of holiday-related content, many of which were designated ‘best of…’ in their years of publication.

You could cull through all of my archives (a decade of archives) to find the best ones, but why, when you can buy my book?

Just in time for Christmas (or Hanukkah, Yule, Kwanzaa, whatever – it’s kind of Christmassy though, because that’s my winter holiday of choice) comes The Bathtub Mermaid: Tales From the (Holiday) Tub, and it’s available from Amazon either in paperback or for your kindle.

Here, have a very brief excerpt.

I used to walk my dog, a poodle mix named Taffy, through the packed powder in Georgetown, CO, and then flagrantly disobey my mother’s rules (and common sense), by taking her down near the frigid waters of Clear Creek, to the place behind the post office where the bank was climbable and the sandbars that were islands in the summer became mini-glaciers in the winter.

It was in the curve of that creek that my friends and I would spend hours pretending to be arctic explorers, while Taffy played the alternate parts of either a sled dog or a polar bear.

Afterwards, we’d trudge home (because trudging is really the only way you walk through snow), and I’d de-mat her paws, and we’d cuddle by the fire, while I drank cocoa with tiny marshmallows.

(Somewhat ironically, while people can get the paperback by Monday with Prime shipping, I won’t receive my author copies til after Christmas.)

Holidailies 2015

Never Let Your Bath Water Get Too Cold

Mermaid in Tub Every Saturday night, once the days are cool enough and the sky gets dark early enough, I have an appointment with my bathtub.

I light candles, use scented bubbles, bring a glass of tea, or wine, or just cool water and a book, and I soak for about forty minutes. A self-described bathtub mermaid, I feel like my entire spirit is quenched by my ritual bubble baths. (In summer, I’m in the pool almost every day.)

I don’t exactly bathe alone.

I have  standing date, you see, with NPR’s show Selected Shorts, in which actors from stage and screen read short stories. Because I prefer fiction to non-fiction, I actually like Selected Shorts better than The Moth, even though I’ve always kind of wanted to be part of a storytelling group.

My bath habit is more than just something I enjoy. It’s a form of meditation for me. It’s a way for me to recharge my creative juices at the same time that I’m letting a clay masque rejuvenate my skin. It’s the one place where I feel like time can stop and my brain, which is constantly spinning, can rest.

I’m really bad at sleeping, but I’m great at taking baths.

I’ve missed my Saturday date for two weeks in a row now. Thanksgiving weekend, we had a guest-puppy with explosive poo issues, and his crate was in my bathroom. Then we had ants for a week, a result of a lot of rain, and over this weekend I was ill (I’m still dealing with this stupid cold/sinus thing) and too miserable to even consider soaking in the tub.

I’ve resolved that this coming Saturday, I’m having my bubble bath no matter who is in my house or what is going on in the world.

After all, even bathtub mermaids their limits.

Holidailies 2015

Audio: The Bathtub Mermaid on Crayons

I climbed the stairs to my studio to record lines for an audio drama, and ended up working on a podcast as well.
Actually, first I recorded new opening and closing bits for my podcast so I finally have a general template for easy, easy production.
Then I riffed on crayons in a personal essay. I’m not sure what the exact schedule of the podcast is going to be, but probably around the first and fifteenth of every month. It works for me, I think to do it regularly, but not to the point of it being a stressful project.

Listen to On Crayons: http://www.bathtubmermaid.com/2015/09/tbm-1509-16-on-crayons/

It’s that time…

Mermaid Lounge It’s that time again. That time of year when I join the insanity known as The Dog Days of Podcasting, and commit to doing a podcast a day for thirty consecutive days.

This year’s project began on Tuesday (which, coincidentally, was my last day of The 100 Day Project), and continues through September 4th, and you can find my stuff at The Bathtub Mermaid, but I’m also in iTunes. (There should be an itunes link in the collection of social media icons in my sidebar.)

In previous years I’ve had oodles of essays and flash fiction to share, but I’ve been busy on other projects this year, so I’m mixing it up with interviews, creative non-fiction pieces written earlier this summer, and pieces inspired by the 100 notecards currently adorning the front and sides of my refrigerator.

The things is, my creativity always wanes in July, but my birthday is in August, and as soon as the calendar page flipped, I was inspired again.

So watch out – and listen to my Tales from the Tub – you might be pleasantly surprised.

Welcome Autumn

autumn coffee

Autumn has always been my favorite season, and even though it doesn’t technically begin until tomorrow night, I wrote about it for Sunday Brunch over at All Things Girl this week. You can read it THERE or you can listen to it on my podcast HERE.

I’ve been a bit off-kilter this last week, staying up too late writing, waiting for updates from my parents who live in La Paz, BCS, Mexico and weathered Hurricane Odile last weekend (they still don’t have power, but Los Cabos is nearly flattened, so it’s all relative).

I pre-ordered the new iPhone 6 plus and it arrived on Friday, and I’m already in love, but I spent a good chunk of yesterday downgrading my iPad Air away from iOS 8 because iOS 8 breaks Audiobus, which means that podcasting apps don’t work.

I have lines to record for two different projects, but my voice is icky. Tomorrow is my studio day. Someone hold me to it.

It’s hard to believe September has just zoomed by and we’re almost into October.

I love fall.

Also? I’m ready for the mosquitoes to die.

DDoP: Fairy Dust

Originally Written: June, 2008
Inspiration Word: fairy dust (I think)
Inspired By: Becca Rowan

She stopped in the village square, intrigued by the array of market stalls, all offering things never seen for sale in her own home town.

“Inspiration, just five dollars!” one of the peddlers called, holding up a glass bottle adorned with vines and flowers.

She was tempted, but was fairly certain that it was just an empty jar, however beautiful.

Booths offering warm nuts brushed shoulders with other booths offering half measures of imagination and ambition.

At the booth where fairy dust was sold, she could not resist, and traded $20 for a heavy cut-velvet bag.

Deep inside, possibilities glittered.

Listen: Bathtub Mermaid: Fairy Dust

DDoP: Pictophone

Originally written: June, 2008
Inspiration word: Pictophone
Inspired by: Clay Robeson

Random sentences inspiring even more random drawings, which lead to other sentences, or just the connection between word and image in the slideshow of our own brains? Which is more real? More creative?

The answer? Both. And neither. To see a picture and be inspired is magic whether you share the results or not. To find a poem in a photograph, a novel in a portrait, a scandalous love story in the naturally occurring vignette of two people in the park…this is what the creative spark provides.

Whether with verbal pointillism or a game of pictophone, we connect the dots.

Listen: Bathtub Mermaid: Pictophone

Her Name is Jane

Jane Honda

The Dog Days of Podcasting challenge began on Thursday. This is the text of my first episode, which you can hear at The BathtubMermaid

Her Name is Jane

We took her home on Tuesday evening, after a morning of testing, a discussion over a lunch of comfort food, and even using our “phone a friend’ option.

I said, “We should flip a coin.”

He said, “You know if we did that I’d insist that we flip it several times in a row, and then graph the responses.”

I said, “Three times is enough.”

We called our regular mechanic.

The manager said, “I like Subarus; they run forever. Get the 2015 Forester.”

The lead technician said, “I like Hondas; they run forever. Get the 2014 CR-V.”

After we hung up, he admitted that the manager’s first response was actually, “Buy whichever car the missus likes better.”
Smart man, that garage manager.

We called the dealer of the car we’d chosen, only to find that someone else was doing paperwork on it. “We have another one that meets all your specs,” he said, “but it’s got a navigational system, which means it’s $1,400 more expensive.”

He’d already tried to get us to consider a less expensive model than what we were considering, after listening to our needs and wants.
We bought the more expensive version.

Her name is Jane.

Jane Honda.