unicorn quest

Creative writing, bicycling, wild west living, volunteer work, crafts, literature, religion and philosophy, all delivered to you by a 40 year old aspiring writer with Rosanna-Rosannadanna hair and glasses!

Friday, July 30, 2004

My Big Fat Ethnic Wedding

Folksy Folkdancers Posted by Hello

I just saw My Big Fat Greek Wedding for the first time on cable tv last night. My favorite scene was the one in which the fiancee is baptized in a blow up child's wading pool. I probably laughed louder than the average theater-goer because I had just last weekend asked a visiting priest how the Orthodox perform adult baptisms. He said, "for my mother, they got a horse trough." So the movie is only barely exaggerating! Why, you may ask, don't they just sprinkle some water on the person's forehead, like normal people? They do a full dunking because it symbolizes death and rebirth.

The Greek family reminded me a lot of my Italian relatives, minus the singing and dancing. The pinching of cheeks and constant eating, the nagging and guilt, all that rang true.

The movie was welcome relief from the unrelenting presence of the Democratic convention. Markus and I were far more interested in the clips from past conventions on C Span. We caught glimpses of Ike, JFK, and even Jimmy Carter's 1976 acceptance of the nomination speech, which last I'd watched as a 12 year old.

It's funny how all the candidates claim to be men of the people, yet they're all filthy rich. Where's My Big Fat Humble Poor Candidate?

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Outsourcing Comes Home to Roost

I just finished reading an article in the July 5th issue of the New Yorker about outsourcing.  In the article people in India do all kinds of office and phone gruntwork for huge corporations in America.  (Good news for people in India who need jobs; bad news for Americans who are now losing their jobs.)  The Indians get paid about a tenth of what the Americans would be paid, so naturally the corporations are thrilled with the deal.

Well, eerily enough, when I called Earthlink's customer service 800 number today, I got a young woman with a thick Indian accent!  I began to think about it, and remembered that when I first set up the service, and each time I called with questions, a person with an Indian accent got the call started.   When they'd transfer me to some other department to do something more intricate, like resolving a billing issue, I'd suddenly be talking to someone with an American accent.   Obviously I'm starting to wonder if Earthlink could also be guilty of the dreaded outsourcing.

Well, I guess being replaced by people in India is better than being replaced by the Pod People!

Monday, July 26, 2004

The Folkdancers have Landed!

Folkdancers! Posted by Hello

These folkdancers jumped up and down in their layered costumes in the hot sun; I call that dedication.  A sweet older Serbian lady informed me that in the old days, you could tell what county someone came from just by their costume.

During the dancers' evening performance, a little baby in a high chair clapped her hands and rocked back and forth furiously.  I told her mom that she might have a future folkdancer there, and the mom said, "Well, when the choir was singing, my baby was conducting."

The Bishop

The Bishop gives communion Posted by Hello

This weekend I attended the Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox church's 100th anniversary.  In this picture, Bishop Longin, the bishop for all the western states, gives communion.  There were a total of three bishops present, including one from Alaska.  As I remarked to my honey, I was a Catholic for the first 11 years of my life, and never once saw a bishop. . .

I spent a lot of the weekend in the kitchen, chopping things.  Things that sting, like onions and lemons, and also more benign things like parsley.  The women in the kitchen were hilarious.  They had me taste a baklava-like pastry which was loaded with poppy seeds and then warned "you'd better not try to pass a drug test after that."

The lady who was lord and mistress of the kitchen was 82, had been cooking there for 60 years, and swore like Popeye the sailor's father.  My friend and I were shocked to hear her mutter "Jesus Christ!"  Or "What the hell???"  This lady is an excellent cook, and great at quality control.  If we, her busy assistants, didn't do something just right, she'd go back and do it over.

At one point two of the ladies and I got to eat  fancy shrimp cocktail and catfish that were meant for the bishops because their planes were hours late and they didn't want the food to go to waste! 

Surrealistic Wedding Cake

I loved this wedding cake! Posted by Hello

As my friend commented, the flowers look like cartoon flowers.  They also look like they'd be very much at home at a 60s love-in.  One of the high points of the reception, in my opinion, was when everyone, children and adults, danced the hoky-poky.  When the music asked for everyone to "circle to the left" the circle got kind of bunched up, but hey, that's part of the fun.  It was also funny seeing the bride, groom, and elderly ladies doing the "YMCA", complete with arm actions.

Medieval Splendor

Inside the Serbian Orthodox church Posted by Hello

Last weekend I attended a wedding at the Serbian Orthodox church.  It was hard to take good pictures, because it was kind of dark inside, but at least you can get a feel for the Medieval splendor of the icons and frescoes.  An interesting part of the ceremony was when the bride and groom were crowned, in this case with a wreath of flowers.

Hollywood comes to Montana

Filming of Jessica Lang and Sam Shepard movie Posted by Hello

German director Wim Wenders is currently directing his new movie, "Don't Come Knocking," in my town in Montana!  As you can see in the picture, it had just rained, and so the cameras are swathed in plastic and tarps, and they moved the filming inside.  They have spent the past week filming inside the fabulous, 110 year old M&M cafe.  Prior to this year, it was closed only once, for 24 hours, during Prohibition!  I applied to be an extra in the movie; so far they have not called me.  Maybe the movie's title is prophetic. . . 

Friday, July 23, 2004


John Berger (author of Little Big Man) wrote a darkly comic book called Neighbors about the worst neighbors in the world.  There was also a movie version starring John Belushi.  With that intro, guess what I'm going to talk about: the new neighbors! 

I've been having trouble sleeping due to the extreme heat anyway, so the other night only added fuel to the fire.  I woke tossing and turning several times during the night, groggily unsure of what was causing this, only to realize exactly what the problem was--a giant party going on somewhere in the near vicinity!

I took a glance at the clock and saw that it was 3:30 am.  I threw on some clothes and stepped out to investigate.  The noise was coming from next door.  I saw trucks and cars parked all over, young guys sitting on the steps of the next door building.  I marched over and informed them I was considering calling the cops.  One of them replied, "Oh, well, I'll tell him," pointing to the house.

I knocked on the door and a young guys' head peered out confusedly.  I explained that I couldn't sleep and had to go to work in the morning, and was thinking of calling the cops.  "We didn't realize you could hear anything," he said groggily.  He'd cracked the door to talk to me, and music as loud as a disco dance floor came surging out like a slap in the face with a wet towel.  Then he thanked me for coming over and shook hands and introduced himself.

I turned to go, and one of his friends on the doorstep held out his glass to me.  "Want a drink?  Uhhh. . ."  His hand turned to jello and in slow motion the glass sagged and the drink spilled on the sidewalk in a big plop, like a water balloon shattering.

Let me tell you, this is normally a VERY quiet neighborhood. 

It's all working people, grandmas with grandkids visiting. . .usually the only sound during the day is lawnmowers humming and kids playing.  At night it is completely silent.

We have some interesting neighbors of long standing (as opposed to these brand-new, Animal House kids. . .)

In the cream brick house beside us we have S, an organic gardening, composting Lesbian who lives with her partner and big cuddly dog.  Her yard is a festival of wildflowers on one side, tomatos and veggies on the other.  She never smiles, talks in three word sentences, like some kind of laconic hippie cowboy, but she shovels half the neighborhood's walks early in the morning in winter.

Behind and kitty corner to us we have B, a divorced dad who gets weeklong custody visits with his two grade school age boys.  When we first moved in here a year ago, we used to watch him stand in his kitchen in his bathrobe, opening and closing his refrigerator, leaving, coming back, and doing this again, usually late at night.   We wondered.  Insomnia?   We found out he works as a nurse at a rest home, and that is why he goes to work at 4 am, and stands around in his kitchen in his robe at 3 am.

Across the street we have L, who decorates elaborately for every holiday, and has her grandkids over visiting every afternoon during the school year, and all day during the summer.  There's always a tent made of tarps draped over chairs on the front lawn, or a giant blow up kiddie pool, or little ramps for trick riding with bicycles.  We sit on our porch and watch the action.

And then there's us.  The neighborhood kids came in a body and welcomed us to the neighborhood the first week we moved in.  That was heartwarming.  Markus, being a grandpa himself at only 49, spoils all kids with candy, popsicles, toys, and anything fun we might have lying around.  I think we confused people at first.  Six year old Zack asked if we had a job, I answered no (at the time I didn't) and he asked, "Don't you like to work?"  I explained we were trying to get a business going on the computer.  He seemed confused.  He thought work meant getting dressed and leaving the house.  The kids were also puzzled by our lack of a car.  Six year old Ellie (Zack's best friend) postulated maybe we didn't have enough money for a car.  We explained we simply didn't like cars, and told them about our cross-country bicycle trip.  At that they giggled, and couldn't stop giggling.

I think overall the neighbors have accepted us.  L, the grandma, told us we are much nicer than the family that used to live across the street.  "They were like the Adams family.  Kind of lurking in there.  A little frightening." 

There's no form of flattery sweeter than being told you are better to have around than the Adams family. . . 

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Me on computer. Posted by Hello

Richard Brautigan, blogs, and memoir

This entry is dedicated to VQ, one of the world's biggest Brautigan fans

How is Richard Brautigan's book the Abortion like a blog?  Well, let me tell you.  In the Abortion, the title character is a librarian at a very strange library that is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  People of every age come in with books they have written themselves on every topic, from how to grow plants to "my new toy truck" by a small child.  Some are in crayon, some typed, and one is even a set of blank pages.  The librarian lovingly catalogues and shelves each book.   Is this starting to sound familiar?

I've finally gotten my hands on a copy of You Can't Catch Death by Brautigan's daughter Ianthe.  Three years ago I saw her give a talk on her then brand-new book.  This was in Portland, Oregon, where I was still living at the time.  I was struck right away by how much she looks like her dad.  And of course anyone who has read his works in their older editions has seen many, many pictures of him.  She told some great stories, including one about her dad standing in the kitchen in his robe and cowboy boots one morning spontaneously breaking into a tap dance.

I'm just in the early chapters of her book, but am really enjoying her child's-eye description of her dad's San Francisco apartment in the 60s, Digger Dollars, mink covered Bible and all.

Just a few weeks ago I saw Hjortsberg read here in Montana, and he promised his Brautigan biography, which he's been working on for over 10 years, will be done soon.  Hjortsberg knew Brautigan for 10 years, and seems a good choice for biographer, being one of B's peers and not a critic or professor from the ivory tower.

I first read Brautigan's books from the alien environment of Los Angeles, and now, having lived in Oregon for 10 years, and currently Montana, I'll be re-reading them with a fresh eye.  So many of his books take place in the Pacific Northwest.

Ianthe Brautigan reveals in her book that Richard's ranch, which was where he committed suicide,  was close to Bozeman Montana.  Having ridden my bicycle in that area, I can safely agree with her that Montana probably kept him alive a bit longer.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Sunshine Saturday

We went to Saturday Market for veggies and fruits and again encountered the aggressive sales tactics of the Hutterites.  I get the impression they are similar to the Amish--they wear clothes more suited to the 19th century, live on a farm/colony a few hundred miles away, yet freely use 20th century salesmanship.  "How about some homemade sauerkraut.  Cauliflower?  Broccoli?  We've got some great rolls here. . ." 
Speaking of anomolies. . . at the restaurant yesterday we had a whole little league team, their parents, and their coach, filling every booth, and they left us a $2 tip! And this after we gave the boys free candy and cookies!  While a mother and her two daughters who were killing time before their haircut, having a light lunch and some ice cream, left us $7!  Crazy!
Well, the wedding is tonight, and if I can get the picture posting working, hopefully you'll be greeted soon with a visual feast! 
Have fun all and stay cool!

Friday, July 16, 2004

In Honor of Martha

In honor of her highness Martha, toppled from her high throne,
sentenced to 5 months in the clink, let me offer these yummy, lo-cal summer treats:
  • salted apple slices--easy to make, good for you, surprisingly delicious.  When my sister and I were little kids, our across-the-street-friend's grandma used to give us these all the time.
  • homemade frozen yoghurt--simply take one of those little plastic containers of yoghurt and put it in the freezer overnight. 
  • sugar free popsicles--add your favorite no cal sweetener to Kool-Aid, freeze it in an ice cube tray with toothpicks, and voila.

Ok, are we having too much fun here or what?

I think everyone ought to celebrate the weekend with a water balloon fight, a dive into a blow up kiddie pool, or a garden hose fight.

And Yes, Martha, that is a good thing.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Freebies for All! and Creative Slacking

I think everyone loves freebies.  Back in the early 70s when I was a kid my dad got this book (free) from his bank.  It was called 1001 freebies.  All that was required was that you send away for them.  Unfortunately, my dad was so cheap he wouldn't spring for the stamp. 
Well, these days anyone with computer access can get totally free freebies.  How, you ask?  Easy.  Just type the word freebies and press go.    Some extra cool things I have gotten free this past year:
  • Magazine subscriptions.  You can get free subscriptions to Travel America, American Baby, and the wonderful new magazine Budget Living, which is all about how to be a hip cheapskate, not a miserly scrooge.
  • Posters.  I got some posters with lovely quotes in calligraphy and cute deer and mice illustrations.
  • Free samples of all kinds.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg.  My only warning to you--don't go for freebies with strings attached.  There are plenty of no-strings freebies!

Another great freebie:  Why, this blog.  If you find you'd like to follow the example of thousands of others around the world and share your thoughts instantly, dive in!  This blog is absolutely free.  Remember the olden days (about 10 years ago) when everyone was xeroxing and stapling zines, poetry chapbooks, friendship books, and all kinds of other creative writings?

Well, the days of waiting a few months for your friend's zine to get done and mailed out are over.  I decided I wanted a blog, and 10 minutes later I had one.

I'm still reeling from the experience of submitting one of my short stories to a literary magazine electronically--it was so quick and easy!  (Of course that made it quick and easy for them to reject me too, via auto-responder email, but hey. . .)

And speaking of writing:

My new boss threw me for a loop today.  He told me that he thinks wanting to get your book published is like moving to Hollywood and waiting to be discovered.  Apparently he knows a lot of bad writers or people who lack persistence.  I, on the other hand, know several people who started out unknown and became famous writers.  Two of them I knew when they were just getting started.  Somehow this makes me feel that it is attainable--these are perfectly normal people, not superhuman in any way.

This leads me into my personal Most Frequently Asked Questions:

  • Why aren't you married yet?
  • Why don't you get contact lenses?
  • Why don't you shave your legs or wear a bra?
  • Why aren't you working?

And the biggie,

  • Why isn't your novel done yet?

Most of these are as unanswerable as all great questions, like What is the Meaning of Life, but I will make an attempt to explain why my novel isn't done yet.

I suspect any person's first huge, important work, whether it be a graduate thesis, a novel, a play, or whatever, tends to induce a certain malaise.  Let's call it "first workitis."  I thought I was the only one, until I talked to another writer who'd first had the idea for her novel when she was a teenager, got well underway on it in her late 20s and early 30s, and couldn't seem to quit playing around with it, like a kid worrying at a Rubik's cube.  I've talked to people whose graduate degrees hung in limbo while they pecked away at their theses over 10-year periods.

I think finishing that first work and sending it off, submitting it to the thesis committe, or whatever, breaks the ice, and the second work becomes much easier.  Of course I could be wrong. . .

For all you writers out there, the icebreaker that enabled me to finish my first complete draft of my 550 page novel was a good friend haranging me, telling me 20 years might go by and I still wouldn't be done with the first draft.  I got angry, resolved to put myself on a schedule, and did, writing every day for a year, and producing the final 300 pp.  It was hard.  I was writing for several hours each morning, going to work, coming home and going to bed.  I was refusing invitations to go do fun stuff on the weekends.  I felt like I was back in college again!

And that's what I'm going to have to do to finish the final edit, most likely.  Take on the urgent, deadline-oriented mentality again. 

I'm looking to this blog to be a warmup that gets me juiced up for editing, and also part of the cross-fertilization process.  A friend once told me, if you get stuck on one project, try working on another, such as a poem, letter, or article.  It does help.

Well, it's after midnight, so I'll be signing off.  Have a fabulous friday all! 




A Blog by any other Name. . .

I'd like to hint at my aspirations for this blog. Believe it or not, the Blog, which recently was the xeroxed Zine, containing lists, journal entries, and poems, is a very old form. Back in Medieval Japan they called it a Pillow Book, because they would keep it by their pillow, ready to scribble down any interesting thoughts that popped into their heads. If you haven't read it yet, check out the Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon. She, like us, has lists, humorous observations, poems, and even a rant about how the noise and fuss of her lover getting his clothes on and his stuff together in the morning kind of spoils the romance. Yes, believe it or not, people in Medieval Japan were blogging, minus the technology.

Ok, so much for the Blog Manifesto.

In the world of Bicycling, Levi Leipheimer has jumped ahead a few places in the Tour de France, and this, his hometown, is rejoicing. There is also talk that Levi may replace Lance Armstrong on the Olympic team, as Lance wants to take time off to spend with his family.

A personal note: I just bought a yellow, silicon Livestrong bracelet for a buck at the bike store. This supports Lance Armstrong's cancer foundation, which can be reached at www.laf.org. I also just recently read Lance's It's Not About the Bike, which was a super book. My favorite part was when he got the cancer and was so ill with kemo but was still riding a bike for half an hour with his friends, even though he could hardly stay on it. I got a little misty-eyed, because one of my oldest friends got breast cancer at age 30. She has been in remission for almost 10 years now, and has two darling pre-school age boys. But I can remember that scary year when she was going through the treatments, and it seemed completely unreal that someone that age would get sick like that. Lance was 25 when he got it.

Ok, as to my day yesterday, it was around 90 degrees, and things were hopping at my new job that I have had for a week and a half now (yay!) It is a cute little sub sandwich and hamburgers and shakes joint, with a real Herbie the Lovebug car with a booth inside it. I and my co-waitress were on the run all day making shakes and putting lemons on the ice tea glasses. Let me tell you about the shake machine--we are not talking the McDufuss pour out a squirt of powder mixed with water junk! Noooo! This is the real deal--a Hamilton Beach, from the 50s milkshake machine with the big tin cups. I have to scoop the ice cream, add the milk, syrup, malt powder, and then stick the cup under a metal lip and push, and then hand rotate the cup. The big metal cup starts to frost over on the outside, and your hand starts to turn numb like you are making snowballs! Plus, this is really an antique machine--in mid-shake the metal lip often falls off from the vibration, plunk, right into the person's shake, and I then have to clean it off and screw it back into the machine, hoping the customer has not noticed! But the shakes turn out delish, served up in a parfait glass with whipped cream and a cherry on top.

I spent the evening volunteering at a charity bingo thrown by the 100 year old lodge I belong to. See if you can guess the name of it--some of its big accomplishments were instituting Mother's Day, and helping institute Social Security. I wish I could say that whoever guesses my hometown and my lodge gets a prize, but this is purely for fun. No cheating, those of you who actually know me!!!
Ok, so let me tell you a little about charity bingos and the lodge. First of all, the glory days of this lodge were more like the 30s through the 50s. . .like all lodges, membership has been declining due to tv, general busyness of modern life, etc. When my sweetie and I joined about a year ago, the local lodge was having hard times. Many of its members were extremely elderly, in the rest home, or just plain dead. As my one friends says, "some of them are older than dirt, and some of them are older than God!" They were worried they might have to close their doors in a couple of years. Well, we and some other younger people who joined have helped turn things around in short order, I'm happy to say.

But back to last night's bingo--the charities we were raising money for were ones like Home on the Range, a local home for runaway and abused girls. Everyone searched their homes for nice things for prizes for the bingo. Others went around to local shops and asked for gift certificates. Some that we got were for free haircuts, for chicken dinners from the local restaurant, etc.
So there I am, the bingo runner, collecting people's money and bringing out the prizes. I hammed it up a little, acted like the girls on the Price is Right, petting the prizes.
Now, why was I a good candidate for runner? Simply because I am in good health. We have several women who are on oxygen--and STILL SMOKING!!! A truly crazy situation. There's J, a lady very overweight, diabetic, with huge swollen, blue legs, who can hardly get up on her walker to use the restroom. I am not kidding, one time during a meeting there was a panic when three of us tried to help lift her onto her walker as she moaned "I have to go right now, I'm not going to make it!"
Lest this sound too grim, let me add there are, thankfully, young and healthy people, like the Canadian couple in their twenties. She is studying at the Tech college up on the hill. Yes, in this town even young people adore bingo, especially for prizes. To me, bingo is like having bamboo pushed up your fingernails for a few hours, but hey, different strokes for different folks.

Preview: this weekend I will be attending a wedding at an Orthodox Christian church--my first. What is Ortho Christianity you ask? The short I-have-to-get-ready-for-work-soon answer: the original church, unchanged since the catecombs and Medieval times! And with that teaser, I promise details and hopefully pictures. Let me make you salivate by telling you the inside of an ortho christian church looks like a medieval palace, and during the ceremony the bride and groom are crowned!

Stay tuned--and be careful out there!

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

A Blog is Born

It's been one of those hot weeks when I can't get to sleep at night, even with two fans whirring, and I wake up much too early, so what better to do with this extra awake time than start this blog!
Let me introduce myself. I am a 40 year old aspiring writer living in a wild western state with my web-designing fiance.
I'm working on a novel I first got the idea for when I was 12 years old. It involves unicorns, princes and a peasant girl in an alternate Renaissance. My biggest influences are the Three Musketeers and the Lais of Marie de France. These lais are medieval fairy tales for adults--one woman's lover turns into a falcon and flies away from her angry, elderly husband.
Besides writing and web-designing, my fiance and I have also become big bicycling enthusiasts, due to a spontaneous year-long bike trip across the country. You can read all about that at our bicycling website.
Right now I am chipping away at my first big edit of my novel, working as a waitress at a little burger, malts and sub sandwiches restaurant, bike riding over hill and dale, and volunteering for a 100 year old lodge filled with characters. . .
I'm to wake my fiance early this morning (for him anything earlier than noon is early) so he can call the local tv station to publicize a children's club and bicycle giveaway our lodge is starting. Meanwhile, I'm helping at a charity bingo tonight (but not playing--ohhh noo--bingo is not my thing at all.)
Since we have moved to this small (to me, having grown up in LA) town, we have met so many characters. There's the ex-miner, rancher, and current sweet, grandfatherly do-gooder, never seen without his cowboy hat, string tie, and smile. He volunteers with our lodge and also with an organization that helps handicapped kids ride horses. There's the town pet, a guy with a bulging forehead who runs and busses around town so quickly he seems to be everywhere at once, like one of those episodes of the Twilight Zone. He rushes headlong like those guys dodging bulls in Pamplona. He seems not quite all there when you talk to them, but he's harmless, and the whole town (all 30,000 of them) sticks up for him.
And there's the local writer, seen in every pub with his tweed irishman's cap, sitting quietly in a corner, telling a new person how he interviewed Hemingway back when he was a cub reporter. This man has 3 books out on the town's oddball history, all self-published and selling nicely.
More on all this later! I'm trying to foreshadow--hook you--reel you into my world.
Oh, and did I mention a major Hollywood movie will begin shooting here this week, starring Jessica Lang and Sam Shepard. I put in my application to be an extra and am crossing my fingers! It will be shooting at the cafe that had been open for 110 years, 24 hours a day. The only time it closed was for one day, during a Prohibition raid. Yes, this town is a little like New Orleans in that everything is old, old and with many stories to tell.
Later this month we are going to have Evil Kneivel back visiting in this, his hometown, for a big biker rally and stunt show (Evil on the sidelines--he retired 20 years ago.)
And Tour de France contender Levi Leipheimer was born and raised here too. Every night his brother broadcasts his latest adventures on the local news, and the local paper is running his Tour diary. I buy my bike spokes at the only bike shop in town, owned by Levi Leipheimer's brother.
Stay tuned! Have you guessed the name of my town yet?
I used to be a technophobe, a luddite, with my Brother electric typewriter I'd had since grad school, but my fiance changed all that. After my first good web surf, about 5 years ago, I was hooked!
So, don't be afraid out there--read and respond, and start your own blog! This is the biggest revolution in publishing since Gutenberg! Get Creative!