Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Just Another Day in Carriage driving Paradise...

Nothing terribly exciting has happened lately while carriage driving, well, at least to me, that's why I haven't updated the blog. However, several things have occured worth noting:

Harley the barn dog, who has managed to sneak an entire pizza box out from beneath the drivers seat of a carriage which is no small feat, came up missing last week. Ro came to work on Monday and Harley was nowhere to be found. Marky-Mark and The Fabulous Todd thought they might have seen him on Saturday evening in the company of some teens but were not sure. So while Em was online scouring the "Found" ads I was placing the "Lost" ads and Ro went to the SLC Animal shelter. Then I printed up some "Missing" posters and placed them in strategic locations, along with giving some to our local panhandlers. They walk everywhere downtown and I figured they would be interested in the $50 reward, too.

So Harley wasn't in the shelter on Monday but when Ro went on Wednesday he was there. In fact she said he saw her before she saw him and he started "talking" to her, telling her his sad soulful story while she went and got the dog warden. The people there said that there was no mistaking that he was her dog. Except he's not, he's the barn's dog, but Harley is really all of ours dog, if that makes sense to you. He holds a piece of all of our hearts, except maybe Marky-Marks; after all is was his pizza that Harley stole from under the seat on his carriage. So instead of a piece of Marky's heart Harley's got a piece of Marky's pizza.

Harley probably prefers that anyway.

So during the course of that week I went to Wal-Mart and had an instant tag made for Harley. I used my debit card. So then Ro asked me the other day how much she owed me for the tag and I said "I don't know. I never got a receipt from the machine." and I've looked online at my account and can't find a charge for it.

So, I hope that all those folks who have made tags since last week have not been getting them for "free". Because if I do finally get a bill I hope it isn't $1,478.90 because my debit card has been paying for all of them. But it would be just my luck the way things have been going.

So last week Ralphie managed to rub his headstall off while Em was waiting at the West Temple/North temple light to go in for the night. For you straights that means no steering. No, not no power steering, no freaking steering at all!!! The handlebars on your bike? GONE. Now, in a car you can step on the brake and you stop. Our vehicles have their own brain, so Ralphie decided to go sightseeing. Pulling on the lines to get Ralphie to brake does nothing, because his headstall and bit to which the lines are attached are hanging useless on his chest.

First he made a left onto North Temple, which was okay except he was heading west in the eastbound lanes. And that too wasn't a huge problem because it was 11 pm so there wasn't a lot of traffic. The driver who was out with Em is not the sharpest tool, so Ro dispatched Dennis to head Em and Ralphie off, but Dennis was at the Hilton, which is a good 4 blocks away.

Now, Ralphie wasn't panicked, he was just be-bopping around, taking advantage of his freedom and having a good look at stuff. He made a left onto 200 West, and Em was able to get the attention of a large man walking down the sidewalk. Large man is good, as Ralphie is a Clydesdale who, when standing, has legs longer than I am tall. His legbone ties into his hip about 3 inches above my head. Somewhere I have a picture. Anyway, large man is good, so Em got him to step in front of Ralphie and she said "Grab the red thing!" and motioned with her hands that he was to grab Ralphie's halter. So he grabbed with one hand and Ralphie lifted him off his feet and kept walking, dragging large man right along with, when finally large man got both hands on the halter and ground Ralphie to a halt.

Em jumped down, secured Ralphie with a lead line, and hugged large man, offering him a carriage gift certificate for his heroism.

He had never seen a real horse before. He hasn't come by to collect his free ride yet, either.

Go figure.

And finally I worked with MBA on Monday night and as we were going in she asked me if I had ever experienced the "Carrot Sniper."


Apparently it's a man who runs up to your horse and shoves a carrot in his mouth and runs away, which sounds a little like Bill but he'd stay and chat for a while so I know it's not him. I just get drunken horse whisperers who try to make out with your horse and want you to watch.

Well, I've never experienced this person, so she tells me that earlier, in a manner similar to the carrot sniper, a man ran up to her and started applying acupressure to her neck and shoulders.


She said he told her he's an acupressureist who drives a shuttle bus part time and she looked like she was tense and needed some acupressure.

I think he just wanted to grope her. And if he'd tried that on me he's be driving a shuttle bus lefty for a while, because he's be wearing his right arm as a hat. Acupressure? Meet violent contortion. Have you ever seen someone tie your arm in a square knot… don't mind that noise, it's just snaps of joy.

So, as you can see, nothing new or exciting to report. Just the same old routine

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Always expect the unexpected

June 20, 2008
Camping, day 1

I fried my coffee pot out this morning by getting it all ready so all I’d have to do is push the “on” button. Coffee, filter, washed out the pot… Oh, yeah, I forgot to add water to the machine the night before. So this morning, when I got up, expecting a nice steaming fragrant pot of java, it was dead. Go figure. “Folgers Instant Singles” simply does not cut it for me.

We made it into Yellowstone and our campsite around 6:30 pm. We did make one extended stop, at Hells Half Acre in Idaho to view the lava fields. I have seen them once before on our last trip to Yellowstone and wanted to check them out again. I took a lot of video, and The Husband took a lot of photographs. Upon our arrival we set up camp, got organized and decided to go to the Ranger program at the amphitheater behind us the next night because we were tired and wanted to relax. They have them every night at 9:30 and we had 3 days in the park. The temperature dropped around 8:30 to the point that we needed jackets, but the rain that had been threatening never arrived. YAY!

Camping, day 2

The freakin birds work me up around 5 am. I took the dogs out for a pee and Cowboy, old and getting a little dodgy, managed to piss all over my left ankle, pajama bottoms, and hiking boot. I was not amused. After waking the family around six we started with breakfast and I heated some water to wash our dishes and our faces. I heard a man telling his young daughter that it was 32 degrees. I don’t know what the temperature was but there was frost on everything and the cold went right through me.

“Freezing?” I said to The Husband. “Next time we do Yellowstone I’m thinking ‘Lodge Accommodations.’”

Because of some advice a tour bus driver gave me we went to see “The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone” and along our way stopped at the Mud Volcano and the thermal features surrounding it. It was early yet, and since dogs are not allowed anywhere near the thermal features (apparently they’ve had some “Boiled Pet” incidents) we left Sammie and Cowboy in the truck with the windows partially down and a battery operated fan running. I returned to the truck first (video taping takes less time then photography, and I was way ahead of my tribe) and heard a young girl laughing about my Pom. Sammie sits in her dog bed on the armrest between the front seats. Being so small it allows her a good view out the windshield, and when she tires of the scenery she sleeps. She also had the fan blowing right on her. Pampered? I guess, but so what. I only have one kid and my maternal instincts are about on par with dog ownership anyway. It’s amazing my child turned out so well. I do, by the way, have very good dogs.

After the Mud Volcano we continued on to The Canyon, but stopped along the road to observe “something.” If you want to view wildlife here your best bet is to watch the people, because someone with sharper eyes than yours will find it for you and then you get to jump out and take pictures. It’s a little like wildlife paparazzi. On this day the traffic jam was due to a Grizzly bear on the other side of a stream about a half-mile from the road. I walked part of the way through the sage covered meadow, then returned to the truck to write my observations. I found the woman traversing the field in a sari the most interesting. I’ve worn a sari, and believe me it was no easy trick for her to slog across the uneven ground, dodging the sage brush and buffalo pies ahead of her. And besides, I’ve seen bears before.

We finally left and made it to the lower falls of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. It was indeed beautiful, and the bus driver had told me that if we saw nothing else, we must go and see that.

On our last trip we managed to see Old Faithful (boring) and The Paint Pots (very cool) but that had been a quick fly by on a business trip for The Husband and being early May the East and South gates to the park were still closed for winter.

We chatted with an older couple from Baltimore, on their way via Salt Lake City to San Francisco where they were taking a cruise. The woman was a lecturer. She gets gigs on cruise ships, lecturing on sea days about bridge. Her husband tags along and they get to travel very cheaply. He said that they would be on the ship for 12 days, 3 of which are at sea. I sold them a Grove ride, told them to mention my name for a 10% discount and suggested that they eat at the Rodizio Grill Churrascaria while they were in Salt Lake.

Hey, they found out we lived in Salt Lake and asked me for entertainment tips. I sent Ro a text. I think she was appalled.

We took a lot of pictures, hiked up a steep path to get better photos of the falls, and were returning to the truck when The Husband checked his voice mail. We were unable to get cellular service in the campground, and other parts of the park are spotty.

The message was from his sisters. He was to call them. Immediately. It was urgent.

Now, we don’t get “urgent” messages. We were not expecting “urgent” messages. We have, for the most part, lived a charmed life. When we left our house in Salt Lake the status quo was at DEFCON 1. No buzzards circling, no bony guy in a black shroud holding a scythe pacing the sidewalk in front of our home, not even a nasty letter from the IRS thumb tacked to the corkboard in the office.

He made the call. His mother had died.

We went to the Canyon Lodge to regroup. Changes were in the wind and we needed to hammer out our options.

Besides being the only vacation we have taken as a family in the last 2 years (my carriage driver field trips don’t count) the last leg of our expedition was to be Jackson, Wyoming, where I would attend the Jackson Hole Writers Conference (Okay, you gotta start somewhere, and besides the conference was a Christmas present.) The plan was that the rest of the clan would be off making merry while I sat in workshops, absorbing info, trying not to look like an imposter or, as usual, an idiot.

One option was to break camp immediately and return to Salt Lake where I would repack, put The Husband and The Kid on a plane, find a kennel to stick the dogs in and drive back up to Jackson just for the conference. Unfortunately everything on the trip had been reserved and paid for in advance.

Oh, the joys of anal retentiveness.

After finding out from a Ranger that Jackson has an airport with big planes that go many places I ask my travel agent (otherwise known as “Mom”) to get them booked on a flight out. We then called the RV Park that was to be our next destination and managed to get in 2 days early (after arriving here I now know why they are not booked solid) broke camp and left Yellowstone, forfeiting the next two nights I’d paid for in, you guessed it advance and cash.

On the way out of the park we saw Elk, a Coyote, and almost ran over a Marmot or something. It wasn’t a squirrel, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a beaver either. Some kids decided to get a closer look at it and scared it into the road. Which brings me to two Yellowstone stories I was told by tour bus drivers.

At South Gate we stage at the carriage stand. Right behind us is tour bus parking. Since most of my time at work is spent standing around trying to sell rides I have a lot of opportunities to chat with them. Several years ago a bus driver and I were discussing Oriental tourists. Many of them walk by the carriages and ask “Is that a real horse?”

Apparently, at Yellowstone, a lot of tourists complain that they only get to see the “tame” park buffalo, not the real “wild” ones. I have a friend who works by a state park in Illinois. People are always calling the park employees to advise them that their deer are “out”. “You know, your deer are out in the road, you might want to come over and put them back in the park.”

Many people just don’t get it.

A bus driver told me that one time on a run to Yellowstone he was parked in front of the Lodge at Old Faithful, and a buffalo was lying on the grass in front of the Lodge. Now, I’ve been there and have seen that, but we kept our distance. Why? Because I know that it’s a real buffalo. But what happened next was a Korean gentleman approached the buffalo, put his son on it’s back, and stepped away to take his picture.

Oh my God, you have got to be shitting me.

Luckily the buffalo jumped up and head butted the man into the air, which, frankly, he deserved because he’s stupid. I’m all for stupid people Darwin Awarding themselves out of the gene pool. The child was okay. I guess the father was okay too. No word on if the buffalo gave him a horn vasectomy though. I really hope he did. One less idiot out in the world, breeding.

The other Yellowstone story involved a buffalo the Rangers named “Old Charlie.” Charlie was a fixture around the same lodge, never bothering the tourists, smiling for the camera, and generally just lollygagging around, watching the scenery. One day a French tourist, unhappy with Old Charlie just laying around, slacking at his buffalo super model job, approached him and with vigorous waves of his arms attempted to get Charlie to stand up for a more realistic pose.

Well, in a Naomie Campbell inspired move, Charlie stood and using one of his honking big horns opened the Frenchman up from groin to neck. Vivisection at its finest.

Guess what? Old Charlie was a real buffalo. A wild one, not someone’s pet left tied outside a Starbucks while their owner goes in for a double mocha vendi verdi vichy expresso manolo blahnik frappachino. The park has a policy that when an animal kills a human the animal has to be destroyed. In Charlie’s case that sucked. Frankly, if the Rangers could have a video of that play on a continuous loop it would cut down the incidents of stupidity exponentially.

At least one would hope.

Anyway, the sudden braking of our vehicle for the marmot, gerbil, or whatever caused my poor little dog to temporarily become one with the dashboard.

Sammie was okay, but she became a very defensive passenger for a while. Tacking with every turn, clenching with every stop. She’ll probably need therapy when this quest is over.

So, we were able to get to our next destination, the Grand Tetons Park RV (that’s the name, not making it up, and I have photographic proof) two days early due to the RV park sucking much, but I had booked a site with water and electric (ya know, that’s how I’m typing this blog right now) and at least there we had cell phone reception, so not a complete loss. We chose to go there early because it was only 30 minutes to the airport in Jackson and the tribe would have to get up very early the next day to make their flight.
The Husband’s had an issue with me continuing with my journey sans backup. I said “Look, this trip essentially involves driving and camping. I know how to drive, and I know how to camp. End of discussion. It’s your mother. Go to her funeral. I’ll be okay.”

We set up camp, ate dinner, shuffled luggage around so The Husband and The Kid had the two largest bags, and went to bed.

Oh, did I tell you? Our site is under a big honkin light, like the one we had on the farm. Bright as day. Right over our tent. Super big happy fun time.

Camping, day 3

So the mother ship jettisoned the escape pod. I got the crew to the Jackson airport, where they had enough time to eat breakfast before catching their flight, and went back to base camp. Cowboy, who is getting a little cranky in his golden years, refused to get out of the truck once we’d made it back from the airport.

He. Was. Done.

I tried bribing, cajoling, idle threats, I even told him “There’s kitties outside! Go get the kitties!” which usually sends him speeding into the backyard to defend our property from vicious killer kitties.

No such luck.

I finally coerced him into going from the back seat to the front seat to the floor and out. He has a hard time with the in and out business, the riding in the truck he enjoys, but this has been a rough trip for him and by the way he acts probably his last. He’s old.

I spent the rest of the day condensing a 3 person/2 dog camp into a 1 person/2 dog camp, packing everything I did not need into the truck. I’m anal like that. Plus I made myself a nice little spot in the back seat of the truck in case of thunderstorms (the tent leaks) or bears (I’d leak).

I made a hamburger for dinner, talked on the phone to numerous people, assured everyone that I would be fine, watched The Simpson’s Movie, and fell asleep.

Camping, day 4

Today I decided that we would be tourists. The dogs and I got up, gassed up, and hit the road, my goal being the big loop around The Grand Tetons, including Jenny Lake and Signal Mountain. We left around 9:30 and stopped at every single historic point and turn out until we got to Moose Junction and the Visitors center. I left the dogs in the truck long enough to go in, get a map, pee, and video the information and education center and it’s exhibits. Then we hit the road again, looking at beautiful vistas, stopping at most of the turnouts to take pictures. I figure if my peeps cannot be here I will document the trip enough to make Ken Burns weep with joy.

My favorite part was the drive up to the top of Signal Mountain. A narrow, winding road leads to the summit 800 feet above Jackson Hole. The view of the valley and Snake River below is fantastic. Sammie and I had a picnic lunch. Cowboy sulked in the truck.

We completed our journey around 3:00, returning to our home away from home. It only took me one hour to get Cowboy out of the truck this time, so I’m making progress.

I took a shower and decided to explore the pool and hot tub. It was very windy, and the pool was chilly. The hot tub was infested with children, who were using it as a pool. I decided to opt out of that idea and returned to camp, mostly just putzing around and reading The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green by Joshua Braff. Then I painted my toenails. Very exciting stuff. I had steak and baked potato for dinner, watched on of my all time favorite stupid-funny movies, Rat Race (it has three academy award-winning actors in it: Whoopie Goldberg, Kathy Bates and Cuba Gooding Jr., plus John Cleese, who I adore) and went to bed.

Oh, yeah, Sammie’s in heat. I have a cranky old dog and a little bitch princess on the rag. I’m such a lucky duck.

Camping, Day 5

So far I have no real plans for the day. I’ve made coffee and fed the dogs. I might even make breakfast for myself (someone has to eat all this food. I have enough for 3 people for 9 days.) I might drive into Jackson when it gets hot this afternoon and look around. The truck is air-conditioned and the tent is not, I called on Monday and tried to get into the Pony Express Motel a day early for the conference but was unable to. With a bit of luck I can find some shit hole motel to squat in for one night.

On the way into town there was a traffic jam. Four buffalo were grazing just on the east side of post and rail fence along the highway. There was a group of gawkers who walked the two hundred yards separating the road from the fence to get photographs. I stopped at the turn out to take pictures of the idiots who were taking pictures of the buffalo to prove a point, I’ll do it by turning this into a math problem:

X weighs 2000 pounds. A Hummer 3 weighs 8000 pounds. X can reach speeds of 30 miles per hour. A Hummer can reach speeds of 30 miles per hour. X can easily plow through a crappy old rotted post and rail wooden fence. A Hummer 3 can easily plow through a crappy old rotted post and rail fence. X is a wild animal who has the potential to get very pissed off. The Hummer 3 is an inanimate object powered by a person who has parked his vehicle in a buffalo grazing area. Y and Z are standing on one side of the crappy old rotted post and rail fence, and four X’s and a Hummer 3 are on the other side of the fence. If Y and Z antagonize the four X’s and the Hummer 3, what is the most likely outcome?

A. Y and Z will both be dead because there are four X’s, each with independent steering and it’s own agenda who, combined, are the same weight and can achieve the same speed of the Hummer 3.

B. At least two of the X’s will ram the Hummer 3 because some asshole parked it in their meadow, and the other two X’s will do a tap dance on Y and Z because it’s fun and they are tired of fools getting up close and personal to take their pictures.

C. Either Y or Z will outrun the other, leaving their alphabet friend to die a horribly painful death, lose their very expensive camera while running for their life, and have to explain to the Darwin Awards committee how, exactly, their friend died.

Any answer you choose, it doesn’t matter. After all, there is a reason the fence is two hundred yards from the road, and it’s not just because the Presidents Committee on Physical Fitness thinks you are a fatty and need the exercise. Besides, the fence is only the illusion of safety. It’s wood, not steel, dummy.

Anyway, where the hell was I?

Oh, yes, the dogs and I made it to Jackson without a hitch, and let me tell you, Park City during The Sundance Film Festival looks like a ghost town compared to J.H. Cluster Fuck aroonie! I managed to find a small, empty park on the edge of town where I could look over my Jackson town map (thank you Mr. Tour bus driver who gave it to me one night last week! You are a lifesaver!) and planned my route to my motel. Turns out it’s not quite as close to the Center for the Arts as I thought, certainly not within walking distance. Well, maybe it is for normal people, I’m a little on the lazy side.

So I got there and talked to Larry, the little old man at the desk, and he was able to move Mr. King and family into another room so I could check in on Wednesday. First problem solved! Then he informed me that even though I had crates for the dogs, and I assured him that they are not barkers, I could not leave them in the room in their crates unattended while I was at the conference.

Great, now I have an entire new set of problems. The God of Writing is smiting me at every turn!

Larry told me that there was a kennel down the block, so I went there hoping to engage their services. No such luck. The young man began listening to my story, but suddenly, after nodding and making sympathetic noises he cut to the chase.

“I’m sorry, we’re full. Here is the number to another place, you might have better luck there.”

So I drove down the road to the other place, Rally’s Pet Garage, where C.J. listened to my tale of woe. After realizing that she was not going to be able to accommodate me, she got out her listing of other kennels and started making calls. Right around call number three she managed to find The Jackson Hole Veterinary Clinic, which was only two miles down the road. Telling the girls there my sad story, she made arrangements for me to go and talk to them. But first she told me their sad story.

Doctor Gwilliam, the vet who owned and operated the clinic, was a respected member of the community. He had seven daughters. One day he went to a stable to perform a necropsy on a horse. Although by all accounts he was a cautious man, at some time during the surgery he sliced the femoral artery, and bled to death. He was alone in the stall. So now his family, the seven girls, are trying to hold the business together using a rotation of local vets to fill the shoes of their father.

I was so grateful to C.J. for going out of her way to help me. She wasn’t going to quit until my problem was solved. I thanked her profusely, and gave her a $20.00 tip, which she was hesitant to take. I insisted. I’m usually the one who takes care of other people, and it’s not often I need to rely on the kindness of strangers. I was touched by the generous gift of her time to help someone when she could have said “I’m sorry, we’re full. Here’s the number to another place, you might have better luck there.”

This is why I don’t ever mind helping out my fellow carriage drivers, or customers I meet along the road of life. Karma, it’s out there, believe me.

I went in and talked to them about boarding the two dogs. I haven’t got any of their papers or proof of vaccinations with me. I started to say that I would have to look up the number for my Vet in Utah and get their records faxed, when one of the girls said “You know, we can take care of that for you.”

And if I end up leaving Jackson on Sunday they are willing to meet me at the clinic so I can collect my dogs and go home, even thought they are closed.

Karma, it’s out there.

So now I’m back at base camp, feeling a little more relieved about the whole shebang, knowing that my stress level is lowering, and I’m covered on the things that are important. Now maybe I can learn something at the conference and not spend my time fretting about the dogs. The cost of my piece of mind? $30.00 a day for five days, on top of the extra overlapping night at the RV park and the extra night at the motel. But hell, it’s only money, right?

I have the feeling that I will be doing a lot of carriage driving when I return home.

Meanwhile, back at he ranch…

So two families have parked their campers next to my tent, and believe me, they’re loud ones. At least the family that pulled in last night in the pop-up camper have been gone all day. I tell you, I get weird looks from people, just me and the dogs in our puny little tent. I haven’t bothered to set up my “camp kitchen” or break out the deluxe 2 burner stove since I’m cooking for one. I have a single burner stove that sits atop a propane bottle and my mini Weber Grill. I hadn’t eaten all day and ended up grabbing McDonalds about 2:00 pm on my way out of Jackson. And, as usual, it was gross.

So now I need to make dinner and decide which movie to watch. I can take my time breaking camp in the morning since I’m paid up through Thursday at 11:00. Of course, I’ll wake up around 6, and you can’t make noise until 7. But things will get better once I’ve gotten to town. My peeps are coming all the way back to Jackson, instead of bagging off in Salt Lake, and we will be spending a couple of extra days here, if I can find us a place to stay.

I watched “Little Miss Sunshine” which is a road trip move where everything that can go wrong does but the family becomes a stronger unit because of it, and half of “Be Cool” because it’s smart and makes fun of itself.

Camping, day 6

Okay, I’m not really camping anymore. Well, I was when I got us this morning. I packed up everything, managed to cram it in the truck, looking a lot like the Beverly Hillbillies when I was finished. I made my way to The Jackson Home Veterinary Clinic where I put the dog in jail a very nice kennel, then stopped by the Pony Express Motel to make sure Larry wasn’t yanking my chain about giving me the room a day early.

Sammie Two Chews had to go to Dog Jail. :(

Nope, everything is squared away, but my room wasn’t ready yet so I went to eat at Village Inn. I know, “Writer lacks imagination when it comes to having lunch.” Hey, it was close and I was famished. It was 1:00pm and I hadn’t eaten a thing all morning.

Finally I checked into my room, and you know what? It’s surprisingly nice! It has a BED!!! And a television, air conditioner, and a full kitchenette. I emptied out the cooler and filled the fridge and freezer with the 75 pounds of food I had left. Called to check on the dogs, and chilled.

Ahhh, civilization! Yay!

Tonight I’m going to attend a public reading by Alexandra Fuller at the arts center, which is where the writers conference is being held. So I get to shower and wear make up and clean clothes just like a grown up. Wow.

Tomorrow registration is between 12-3, so I have the morning to kill. Then the next 2 days are long full ones. Especially since the motel is a mile away from the arts center, and parking here is a bitch. I’ve met another woman, Dana, who is attending the conference also, and Jen, the desk clerk, says that Vicky in room 10 is also an attendee. Dana and I went to the Alexandra Fuller presentation last night together. I’ve figured out the shuttle bus system so at least I wont have to drive, or worse, park. That will come in handy after the cocktail party. Jackson at night is calmer than it was during the day.

Conference, day 1, camping, day 7

I’m up and showered and had good tasting coffee this morning, getting my backpack stocked up with what I think I might need during the day, ready to head off and be a tourist this morning, then go register and sign up for the stuff I want to do.

I have to keep reminding myself to breathe.

Always expect the unexpected Part 2

I walked around downtown, getting there about 10:30 because I missed the shuttle by one minute. I did a little Christmas shopping, looked at stuff I wanted to buy but didn’t want to have to carry around in a backpack, bought raffle tickets for some pottery by students at the Jackson Hole Center for the Arts to benefit Homes for Humanities, and took a ride on the “Town Stage” coach with Tim. We discussed the trade. We both agreed that many people are idiots. He said he made about $200.00 a day in tips. The ride cost $6.00 and lasted ten minutes, I tipped him $3.00. It was fun.

So today I went in and registered for the conference, I got a huge cheesy bag that says “Jackson Hole Writers Conference” that’s big enough to put at least two heads in, three if you shove them in. In it were some papers with blah blah instructions, schedules and stuff like that plus a pen and a water bottle.

Then I went back out and slogged around town until my eyeballs bled, returning at 3:00 to attend “The Welcome”, another intro, and a panel with Bob Mayer, Gail Tsukiyama, and Jane Hamilton. The panel was interesting. I hooked a ride back to my Motel with Dana, then went back with her in time to attend the cocktail party. I introduced myself to Michael Perry, asked about his Guinea hens, and also introduced myself to Bob Mayer. It was fun. Then Michael Perry spoke for about an hour and he is as funny in person as his books are. A great storyteller, which gives me hope. I’m a good storyteller, in person. I just need to practice my “on paper” stuff.

Conference, day 2, camping, day 8

We started the day bright and early with Jane Hamilton at 8:30. Then Elizabeth George at 9:30, and editors Sam Douglas and David Cashion at 10:30. The editors were very enlightening. We broke for lunch, high-tailing it to Mountain High Pizza Pie for the pizza’s we pre-ordered last night. My Pony Express Motel and fellow conference buddy, Dana, used the bathroom at the pizza place. She said it was a very “Jackson Hole” experience. First, it was unisex. That’s not a big deal. Also looking around for a way to lock the door she found two large rocks on the floor. Apparently, instead of a conventional lock, hook and eye or barrel slide, you shove the rocks up against the door when it’s occupied.

Very low tech. Nice!

Then it was back to the Center for the Arts and Gail Tsukiyama until 2:10 then I attended Bob Mayer’s workshop.

Now, here is the thing that sucked: Bob was “on” at the same time as Mike Perry, who was the initial reason I was drawn to the workshop to begin with. But while Mike writes creative non-fiction, which is what my blogs are, Bob works on your fiction, which is what my novel is.

The novel is what I want published. The blogs are just for funzies.

I had a great time and learned a lot. My hip hurt most of the time so I did spend a lot of it shifting from cheek to cheek. Camp cots, it turns out, are not very comfortable to sleep on.

Finally, it was time for my first critique (dun dun dun duuuuuu!) with Tiffany DeBartolo. She was very nice, and was very positive about my manuscript (they only get the first 15 pages, so the rest is kind of a mystery to them) she gave me some very helpful advice, and my doom and gloom insecurity-is-my-middle-name what the hell do I think I’m doing here evaporated. A little.

Elated that I was not mocked into committing suicide-by-paper-cuts I continued on to my next critique with editor Doug Stewart.

I told him my name, he looked confused. Checking through his notes he could not find me. Shuffling through the small pile of submissions, he did find me.

Except he hadn’t read my submission. At all. So, after arranging to meet with me tomorrow he promised to read it tonight, plus my “Wedding Crashers” blog (BONUS READING!!!) and I grabbed a shuttle home (Pony Express Motel) to wine, beef jerky, carrots, and cheese. Dinner. YUM!

Returning later to an intense workshop with Katherine Sands, a New York literary agent, we stayed long enough to hear why we needed an agent to get published and how to write a query letter. The room we were in was so hot I was getting nauseous. So we bagged after about an hour and went home. To tell you the truth I was exhausted, my hip hurt and my feet were sore. We hammered out our game plan for Saturday and I went to bed. My peeps are arriving back in town tomorrow night, so I’m excited abut that. I miss them, and the dogs.

Stay tuned for the rest of the blog. And sorry about no pictures so far, we used a camera with actual film in it so it’ll take a few days for some of them…


Conference, day 3, camping, day 9

Today promises to be a fun one, and it started off later then usual because the first two speakers were talking about stuff that has no interest to me. Third on the agenda were literary agents Joelle Delbourgo and Doug Stewart. Doug is the man I was supposed to have my critique with yesterday. The workshop was interesting . Then Dana and I went to a Thai restaurant for lunch, missing Alexandra Fuller, then split up to attend the fiction workshop (me) and the young adult workshop (Dana).

Let me tell you what happens in the workshop. An Author (I’m a writer; I turn words out like I’m manning the Play-Dough Fun Factory, squeezing them through the funky shaped tube and cutting them into useless crap. An Author does much the same, except they’ve had their stuff published. So then the Play-Dough becomes art. It’s like the distinction between a garage sale and an estate sale. Writers are garage, Authors are estate. It’s all the same used shit, but has more value when it comes from an estate.)

Okay, where the hell was I? Oh yes, an Author spends a few minutes telling you about themselves, how they were inspired to write, how they got published, and then tells what not to do. And what to do. And what they did but you should not do unless…

It is very interesting, and I was engaged, inspired, motivated and challenged. My first 15 pages, which is what you get to submit for a critique, sucks, in my opinion. The 3 folks who critiqued it made some very good suggestions and were very positive. So now I know what I need to work on. There is a “roundup” this September for the League of Utah Writers, so I hope to have most of my “Bugs” worked out in time to sit with an agent then and give my pitch.

After the workshop I went to my next two critiques, in between I got to hang with my new friend Monte. Monte is the production coordinator for the Center for the Arts, and an all around cool dude. And although the first night he wouldn’t let me into Tim Sandlin’s office so I could TP the place, he did show me his collection of Ying-Yang graphics after seeing my tattoo. He’s supposed to send me a copy of two horse heads very similar to mine. We share a dislike of other peoples children and other peoples poetry, although I have read some of Monte’s poetry on his myspace page, and I kinda like it. Still not changing my opinions about other people’s children, though. And you can’t make me.

Saturday night was the Bar-B-Q. On a bread and circuses scale, the food sucked, the circus was fun. Dana and I hung out with James and Harvey, both from Park City. We sat in the corner at the kiddies table and talked about random shit which included my story about the stud horse in Missouri who I saw trying to fornicate with the life size fiberglass statue of himself.

Ah, good times.

Dana took me home and my peeps arrived fresh from the airport! We swapped stories until I passed out, which was early for me. I’d had a lot of wine.

Conference, day 4, camping, day 10

Alarm going off way to freakin early for me, since I was a little hammered last night, and then I had to drag myself to a “Breakfast with an Author” thing I signed up for.

Now, anyone who knows anything about me knows that I’m all about breakfast, or any other meal for that matter. I am, after all, not supermodel size and it’s not by accident. In this case it was the experience, not the meal which was the highlight. It began by the waitress knocking a glass of water into my lap. This, I advised her, is par for the course. The water in the lap is just a metaphor for the entire trip. Luckily it wasn’t coffee. She apologized profusely, I told her to forget it, I’d just tell people I wet my pants. It’s a plausible explanation, especially knowing me.

I had the pleasure of meeting Tina Welling and a., who, by the way, is different then ~A~. I like to use peoples alias in my blogs, it gives them an international feeling of mystery…There was also creepy weird guy there, and whenever he talked we silently paid attention, wide eyed and nodding. I, personally, was looking for any indication that he might pull a weapon and eliminate any writers who might be competing with him for that coveted spot at the front of Barnes & Noble’s stores. He was uber-weird. After breakfast, which was terrible, Harvey and I walked back to the Center of the Arts together. Harvey is fun. And very tall.

We got to see Bob Mayer again. I’ve read his Writers Toolkit book, along with a bunch of his fiction, and was in the workshop the day before, so I knew what to expect. Some of the folks I had talked to were a little put out by an off hand comment he had made the day before about being the closing keynote speaker, but kind of knowing what he is like I’m sure he did not mean to offend anyone. And if he did, then too bad, people are too fucking sensitive these days and need to get a grip. Guess what? We’re not all winners, we’re not all special, and we’re not all getting a prize. Deal. With. It.

The we sat through an entertaining program by Tim Cahill from Outdoor magazine, who according to a critic is “unappealing to the opposite sex”, and then it was shopping time. Okay, when I say shopping time what I really mean is book signing by guest and faculty. Bob’s comment had something to do with this. Anyway, I purchased books by the two writers who critiqued my manuscript (Deborah Turrell Atkinson; Fire Prayer, Tiffanie DeBartolo: How to Kill a Rock Star), one by the woman I had breakfast with (Tina Welling: Crybaby Ranch) and a book by Bob Mayer that I neither owned or have read yet (Dragon Sim 13) and may I just say that the person who conceived of the cover art for that book should be taken out and bitch slapped. Repeatedly.

So I spent my $79.00, which I’m sure is not a lot by other people’s standards but my $1500.00 vacation had early on turned into a $4500.00 vacation (you would not believe how expensive it is to fly out of Jackson, WY on less than 24 hours notice) so I was now on a budget. But I got books by authors I had never read before, so I was happy with that.

Heather Thomas, an actress who was in the TV show “The Fall Guy” with Lee Majors, which I never watched, had a book titled Trophies and was supposed to be there signing copies but I left before she got there, and mostly, I don’t care. The only book by an actor I have read that I thoroughly enjoyed is Get a Life by William Shatner. He’s a fuckin riot.

So I bummed around town while The Husband and the Kid were cruising The Grand Tetons, then hopped the shuttle bus back to the motel and took a nap while waiting for their arrival. Then we all bummed around town, had dinner at The Merry Piglet, then went home because The Kid was feeling kind of punky. And, we were all exhausted. So we bagged it for the day, knowing that we would be getting up extra early on the morrow to go on a trail ride in The Grand Tetons at Jackson Lake.

Yes, the vacation part of the trip was resuming. Yay!

Okay, The rest of the Blog is coming, just not right now…we interrupt this program for a brief commercial message…