Adventures of the Kindle Cowboy
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
I've told y'all before how I like to lie to strangers, trying on different identities.
Because I wear a cowboy hat, jeans and brown work boots those lies often involve made-up vocations of a rural nature.
Yesterday, while waiting for the aircraft door to open:
Flight attendant: Is this home?
FA: Where's your ranch?"
Me: Colorado. I commute between here and there.
FA: What do you have?
FA: How big of an operation?
Me: Uhmmmm, not too big. 200 acres maybe.
FA: No. How many head? And what kind?
FA: What kind?
FA: Red angus, black angus, hereford. What kind?
Me: A good mix.
FA: Uh-huh. What's your favorite breed?
FA: I don't like those black angus. They're so aggressive, don't you think so?
Me: Uhmmmm. I don't really run the ranch. You see, it's my dad's, and he's not good with numbers, and I'm a CPA so I'm out there trying to help him.
Now I ask you .... what are the chances of running into a flight attendant who was raised on a cattle ranch in Wisconsin? Hmm?
Besides, they're not complete lies. As in most fiction, there are elements of reality in this made-up stuff: I did grow up in a ranch-and-farm town in Colorado, and a lot of my friends wore hats and boots and worked the land and herds. True, I was a townie; not a cowboy. It wasn't until age 45 when I started wearing cowboy hats, shortly after my doctor excavated the first scary mole from my bald head.
Signs that you are an eccentric: #855W2
Monday, March 28, 2011
My Atlanta friend -- we'll call her Madame X to protect her identity and dignity (wink,wink) -- recently visited us for the weekend. I couldn't help but snap a few photos of her casual around-the-home attire:
Top photo: 2-toed socks and hot-pepper flannel jammies.
Bottom photo. Tim Burton jammies and striped socks with actual stuffed kitty heads on them.
And, no, she is not 8. She is 55. Don't you want to be her friend?
Cuttin' up during the photo shoot
Friday, March 25, 2011
Strangeness in North Dakota
Sunday, March 20, 2011
From the memoir in progress:
... I broke free from Carol and our friends before sunrise. Driving in the soft, pink-yellow light of early dawn, I finally descended the last of the boringly spectacular glaciers and spilled out onto the endless plain.
I drove. And drove. And drove. And drove. The further east I got the more the traffic thinned out, and after about six hours I was passing one car every five to ten minutes. The landscape was Lake Superior-flat and so devoid of humanity that at one point I felt compelled to pull over and get out to experience the extreme, lonely silence, hearing nothing but the ticking of my engine as it cooled and the wind as it rustled through fields of crispy ripe wheat. No birds. You need trees to have birds.
Somewhere near the Montana-North Dakota border, just after passing a farm whose owner had created a huge Raggedy Ann doll out of hay bales and spray paint, I was pleased to encounter a distraction: a sunburned man with a goatee and reflective orange vest flagged me down. His white utility truck (an F250 4-by-4 with aluminum tool box. Mud flaps, too, which are unusual on a truck that size) was parked in the middle of the highway, broadside, acting as a barricade.
I rolled down my window, and he walked up to me.
"Road's closed for awhile," he said.
"How long?" I asked.
"Not sure about that. It's a government project."
"Are they working on the road?"
"Can't say. It's a government project."
I'd seen no road-work signs for 200 miles. I thought of the old Cold War missile silos that I'd heard about in the Dakotas, each filled with multiple warheads aimed at the former Soviet Union, and I couldn't help but wonder if Homeland Security was up to something on the prairie once again. If I were a hawkish president, and I wanted to develop some controversial weaponry without public scrutiny (Bush was in office at this time), I could think of no better place to do it than right here.
"A secret government project?" I asked.
"Oh, just a government project. You know. Government."
"Should I turn around and find another route?”
The man shrugged his shoulders and walked back to his truck, where he sat, leafing through but not reading a magazine. To pass the time, I opened my atlas on the hood of my car and began perusing this fine, rectangular state. Had I made a mistake in choosing Grand Forks over Fargo, home of the Roger Maris Museum in the West Acres Shopping Mall? … Should I swing south and hit the Teddy Roosevelt National Forest? … Would I regret overlooking Bismark while I was here? Carol had told me that visiting North Dakota was like visiting Australia; it's so remote and out-of-the-way that you'll most likely never return in this lifetime, so you'd best see as much as you can if you ever make it there.
About ten minutes later, a second car finally came down the highway, this one with Rhode Island plates and two young women. It took the driver of this car about five minutes before she, too, got out and asked the man what was going on.
"Government project," he said, now leaning on a rake that appeared to have no purpose other than providing comfort.
Fifteen minutes later, a third car joined us. Out stepped a skinny man, jittery in that over-caffeinated way, with a mullet haircut and cut-off jeans shorts and black boots.
"Government project," the highway worker said. "Road's closed for awhile."
The man gave the highway worker a pained, mystified look, as if he couldn't understand a word he'd said. He then turned, looked at the girls in their car, shook his head, spit on the ground, got back into his car, completed a hasty three-point turn, and headed back in the direction from which he came, his tires spinning and kicking back gravel.
"Crystal meth," the highway worker explained. "'You see how all his teeth were bad?"
Thirty-five minutes later, the man received a call on his two-way radio. Without saying a word to us, he tossed the rake into the back of his truck, got into the cab and drove away, eastward.
I looked at the Rhode Island women and shrugged my shoulders. We waited a good five minutes more, and, with no sign of our guide returning, I got back into my Malibu and continued eastward. I scanned the horizon over the next fifty miles for any sign of road construction but found no crews, no barricades, no new striping on the highway or freshly filled potholes – and no sign of our highway-department friend.
Kitchen Bitch (and lovin' it)
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Yesterday we said goodbye to our daughter and her two good friends who had spent the past week with us for their spring break. A great bunch of girls, all of them. They spent most of their time at the beach and sunning on water's edge in our backyard ... and eating.
Wow ... do college girls have appetites. I cooked up a storm all week long:
Fish tacos. Mine are fried in a beer-batter crust, served in corn tortillas. And then I make a special sauce from buttermilk, mayo, lime, garlic, pepper and cumin. Serve these with chopped tomatoes, avocado, cilantro, feta cheese and shredded green cabbage.
A chicken curry with smoked paprika and coconut milk.
Ad Pasta, which basically means a mix of roasted meats and veggies, tossed with pasta, basil, capers, kalamata olives, a hard cheese such as romano. (Some of you might remember this as "Linc Pasta" from the protagonist in my Househusband novels, Linc Menner.)
A French-style vegetable soup that is enlivened by a big dollop of pistou, which is basically a pesto that includes tomatoes ground into the cheese and basil mixture.
My daughter's favorite dish, pasta carbonara.
Instead of soft drinks the girls drank up different concoctions of infused water. We started with one that included ground ginger, lemon, cucumber and fresh mint. Then we moved to an apple-cardamom-pod and cinnamon infusion. Our favorite, however, was water infused with sliced strawberries and fresh basil. Very refreshing and perfect for the 80-degree days we've been having.
I don't get to cook that often in my now-empty nest. It felt good nourishing thankful diners again.
But for the next week or so: Takeout food and pizza delivered to the house!
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Not sure what this means.
Yep. No fortune in the fortune cookie.
Definite food for thought.
Good memoirs leave the bullshitting behind
Friday, March 11, 2011
As I make make the transition from writing novels to memoirs (at least for the foreseeable future), and toil away on my own story of surviving the shock of the empty nest, I've been devouring as many memoirs as possible to help me learn.
There are a lot of bad memoirs out there.
And some good ones, too.
Among my favorites so far:
Lit by Mary Karr: An honest look at how alcohol shaped a mother's relationship with her son.
Lauretta Hannon's Cracker Queen: A tale of growing up poor in Warner Robbins, Georgia. I liked its mix of humor that occasionally turned on a dime, 180 degrees, into sadness.
Also: At Least in the City Someone can Hear You Scream, by Wade Rouse. The newest of the gay-boy memoirists. Funny like Sedaris but with a more youthful energy and sarcasm, which appeals to the junior-high boy in me.
And, finally, one I could not put down: The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls ... a story of kids raised by brilliant, gifted parents who taught their kids philosophy and physics but couldn't even put food on the table. In the words of my friend, who also read the book: This is another good example of showing, not telling. Without the violins. The facts themselves are so outrageous and compelling. She just needs to tell the story.
Here's what all these books have in common: absolute honesty. I've determined that the best memoirs ring true. Writing the truth is hard. For months, I was trying to hide behind humor while writing my own memoir, and my agent pushed me and pushed me to look beyond the humor, at the truth. It's been a grueling process, but I think I'm well on the way to creating something wonderful.
Because we have so much information available to us these days, we as a culture have developed a heightened ability to detect bullshit. It's definitely made the memoirist's job even harder.
Uhh...I'll just have a glass of water, please
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
This is a staged food photo that a downtown Nashville restaurant actually used for PROMOTIONAL purposes. I suggest they hire a new food stylist.
Imagine the waiter's pitch for this one: "It's a delicious-if-not-undercooked loin of pork atop a mound of baby poop and pureed peat moss. Topped with sliced peaches and fried pork rinds, of course."
Lordy, I'd hate to see what their cream-chipped-beef looks like.
Dear Southwest Airlines: Wow. All I can say is WOW.
Monday, March 7, 2011
We hear a lot of complaints about air travel these days, and, sadly, most of them are valid.
But I had an uplifting experience on Southwest Airlines today that deserves mention.
We were scheduled to leave Nashville, flying direct to Fort Myers, at 8 a.m. today. At 7:45 the captain came out and told us the engine was acting up, and he wanted it tested. Flat out honest with us. He said, "Hey, I'm going up there with you; I don't want to be on a plane with a bad engine."
For the next 15 minutes we listened to him rev the engine up and down, testing it as a mechanic worked on it. Then he came back on and said he wasn't satisfied, and that he'd called for a new plane.
Now, if this were Delta, they would have kept us on there for hours, but we left the plane immediately and returned to the terminal. Time: About 8:20.
Now ... get this: It took less than 30 minutes for a substitute plane to arrive for us. From where? I have no idea. But it appeared, magically, and we boarded. Since this was Southwest and we'd already given up our boarding passes on the original plane, they asked us to use the honor system and sit exactly where we had sat on the first plane. And because everyone was so happy that this problem had been handled so well, they all obeyed. With smiles. Despite having to switch planes, despite being late, everyone was smiling and laughing because the plane's crew was forthright and friendly, and we didn't feel like we were being lied to or treated badly.
In the end, we were just over one hour late arriving into Fort Myers. Incredible. On Delta, this would have taken all day long. I speak from experience: I fly them almost weekly.
Everything about Southwest is efficient. The gate agents get to the doors upon arrival faster than any other airline. Seriously, that aircraft door is open usually within 60 seconds. On other carriers: Sometimes up to 5 minutes. And, Southwest pilots taxi faster than any other pilots. They zip those 737s in and out of those gates as if they were VW Bugs.
And the bag handlers? They were already unloading our bags from the broken plane even before we were let off.
No one at Southwest waits for anything. Except, of course, if something's wrong with a plane engine -- and thank God for that.
Today I married Southwest Airlines.
Hudler Household Snapshot: #38r55T
Friday, March 4, 2011
We are crazy cat people. As a family who has never had cable TV, we spend way too much time watching our two cats, Thomas and Mitchell, for entertainment. (Here's a pic and the lowdown on Thomas, made famous in my novel Househusband).
My mom has always said there are two kinds of people in the world: Cat lovers and assholes.
I wouldn't go that far, but I do respect their sense of independence and you-can-go-to-hell attitude.
New art in the Hudler house:
We bought these three paintings from a street artist in New Orleans, when we went to watch our daughter compete in Moot Court nationals. That's a beignet in the left kitty's paws, a donut in the center, and an oyster on the right.
If I wasn't a writer ...
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
... I think I'd like to be a civil engineer or architect ... because I have great respect for projects that succeed in both form and function. Like this:
This is the bridge at the northern entrance to the Natchez Trace Parkway, just south of Nashville. Gorgeous, isn't it?
For those who don't know about it, the Trace stretches about 500 miles, from Nashville to Jackson, Mississippi. A snake-shaped national park, it is a natural path that's been followed by humans for thousands of years. I'm not sure why it's a path, but it is, and it was on this path where Meriwether Lewis died en route to Washington to deliver his journals from the famous expedition. How he died isn't known for sure. In fact, his family is trying to get the body exhumed so they can finally determine whether he was murdered by himself or someone else.
I'll bet he would have stopped to sketch this beautiful bridge, though.