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!

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Coffee Tasting and Espresso Pouring Contest

Pictures Below--story follows

Coffee Tasting Posted by Hello

Artful Cappucino by Glen Posted by Hello

Jessica pouring espresso Posted by Hello

carmel macchiato Posted by Hello

Venus Rising/Arts Center Posted by Hello

Glen Bodish of Arts Center Posted by Hello

Espresso Pouring Contest

I’ll bet you didn’t know that espresso pouring can be a spectator sport. Today at noon at the Venus Rising Coffeehouse barristas, coffee drinkers, and the press gathered to watch how the pros do it.

The Venus Rising and Silverbow Arts Center, reopened November of ‘03 after a devastating fire, hosts many cultural events, such as the monthly open mic night, and art and creative writing workshops, but this was the first coffee tasting and espresso pouring contest.

Glen Bodish, one of the driving forces behind Butte’s arts revival and head of the Silverbow Arts Center and Art Chateau Museum, was the first to pour.

The result was a cappuccino which was beautiful to look at, and pronounced delicious by the judges.

The challenger was Jessica of local chain Java Junction, who brought a contingent of supporters and fellow Java Junction barristas with her.

She produced a lovely carmel macchiato, which your humble reporter drank and vastly enjoyed. It tasted like ice cream all the way down until I reached the bottom–a pool of espresso.

The Blue Venus Coffeehouse is open every day and located at 124 S Main St, Butte, MT. Call 406-723-7600 for information on future events.

Open Mic nights are the first Friday of every month.

During the espresso contest an impromptu jam broke out, using the open mic equipment.

Until next time, coffee lovers, ciao!

Friday, February 25, 2005

Portrait of Gertie kitty Posted by Hello

Goodbye Posted by Hello

Everyday Traumas

This has been a week of several traumatic experiences, on a small scale. Several Twilight Zone- level nightmares. Here’s one of them:

I got invited to a friend’s mom’s wake. At first I wasn’t going to go. Now, there are many people who go to these things all the time, but I hadn’t set foot in a funeral parlor since I was 18 years old. That time it was the funeral of my high school boyfriend, David.

Why did I think it over and end up deciding to do it this time? I think because I’d been hearing about Catherine’s illness for much of the two years I’ve been here in Butte. I’m very fond of Judy, her daughter, who was one of the main sufferers during Catherine’s decline. “My life is in Washington,” Judy would say, “but I’m here for mom.” The whole family had come together to take care of her.

And I was fond of Catherine herself. She’d come in her wheelchair to every big Bingo we put on at the Eagles lodge, escorted by her son James. She was notorious for swearing like a sailor at every player sitting near her who was doing better than she. “That #$@ stole my bingo! Cheater!”

Markus and I had attended one of her last birthday parties. The whole family, from her contemporaries to tiny babies, were there. Her favorite presents were not the fancy bath and body sets (bathing for her, as for most invalids, was accomplished via bathing chairs, sponge baths, hose downs.) No, her favorite presents were simple ones, like the one we gave: candy.

This year, early as it is in ‘05, seems to be one of facing fears for me. I feared the funeral home smell of paint, flowers, weird chemicals used to preserve the body. I feared the wax-figure look of the body in an open casket. But I went anyway.

My friend Jackie and I signed the book, walked in the doorway, and I stepped back abruptly. It was open casket. And she did look like a wax figure, heavy and immobile. Jackie stepped right up to it and kneeled at the casket. I sat down in a fancy white padded folding chair, shaken.

Then Shawn, one of the grandsons, movie-star handsome, came over to shake hands with us. I relaxed and began to look around.

This is a Cree Indian family. Pow-wow music, complete with chanting and drums, was streaming softly through the speakers. Big framed sets of photos were displayed on easels. On her casket was draped a beautiful handmade starburst quilt in orange and red. A feather shield hung beside her.

Jackie sniffed the air. “What’s that smell.”

“A smudge stick,” Shawn told her. It’s sage, to purify, to get rid of any evil spirits.

I smiled. No horrible body-preservative smell here!

As it turned out Judy was at home resting, and arrived at the funeral parlor just after we left, but we were able to leave cards, visit with some of the other relatives, and say goodbye to a feisty, brave lady.

And I don’t feel like a frightened, traumatized teen anymore.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Here I am! Posted by Hello

Single and Available

I’m single and available for the first time in 6 years and I can’t say I’m real happy about it.

I’ve never been into “the dating scene.” First dates are interesting in the sense that you get to learn a lot about new people–something I as a writer enjoy. (Fuel for those future novels and short stories!)

But I have to admit it is hard trying to steel myself for all the rejection, disappointment, evening and weekend lonely blues.

There is a cute actor in town who I am slightly acquainted with, and who has acted kind of friendly in the past. Well, last night I dropped into his place of work and overheard this conversation with his co-workers:

Co-worker: So are you guys going out?

Him: I don’t know what we’re doing. She’s attractive, but I’m not attracted to her. I tried to break it off, but then last night she came over and we– (smothered talk, whispers, giggles and yelps from him and co-worker.)

Co-worker: Well why don’t you just, you know, go with the flow and–

Him: I can’t do that kind of thing anymore. I’m not your age.

***Of course my heart sank a little upon hearing all this, both because it spelled out to me that he is not interested, not available, and apparently has more on his plate than he can deal with anyway!

Whatever problems I had with my now ex, one thing I never had to worry about was his loyalty. He’d never even dream of doing anything behind my back, thought me very attractive and sexy, and was a wonderful intellectual companion.

Believe me, that wasn’t always the case with past relationships. There had been a lot of cheating, a lot of “why don’t you lose weight, why not straighten or dye your hair, get contact lenses, learn to drive, wear some makeup,” and the list goes on.

Here I am, 41, suddenly single again after six years, never married, never had a kid, and frankly wishing for both. Older, wiser, a little sadder, and definitely not about to put up with any bull!

It sure was wonderful not having to try to put on a front, to lounge around in my sweats on a weekend, not having taken a shower for a couple of days, and still be told I was sexy. Not to have to make small talk, not to have to try to figure out if someone was available or not.

That had backfired in the past too: a couple of times guys told me they were single and it turned out they had just broken up with someone, sort of, but were sort of still together, or in one case, had a girlfriend living at home the whole time they were dating me!

Yes, my bull detector is set on full blast. All I want is someone who’s honest, who knows who he is, and doesn’t mind letting me be me.

Friday, February 18, 2005

My fowl friends Posted by Hello

Enjoying Unemployment

While being unemployed is worrisome, it’s also kind of fun.

Take yesterday for example. I set out to collect applications from several places that were not hiring at the moment, but were rumored to be hiring soon. The first was Wetona’s, a café with a good reputation around town that I hadn’t visited yet, in my almost 2 years in Butte.

I was very pleased. They have wonderful dark coffee, unlimited refills, and friendly staff. I got my application and settled in with my journal to write. The walls are covered with quilt blocks and quilts of all sizes, some with the traditional old stars and patterns, some more modern, covered with hearts or rainbows of color. I asked the counter lady about the sign above the cash register, which read “rowdy quilters”.

“That’s a whole story in and of itself,” she said. “A woman in town was trying to turn her house into a quilter’s retreat, where they could get together for long weekends and quilt, drink tea, have a kind of spa and quilting vacation away from husbands, kids and tv. Well, the city wanted to deny her the permits for the business because she wanted a few extra parking spaces. They claimed all those people together in a residential district would make too much noise! Well, they ran an article in the paper, and of course there was a big furor, and a few days later she got her permits. But that’s how we got the sign ‘rowdy quilters.’ Thanks for noticing!”

I settled in to write, thinking “this would be a great place to hold a writer’s group,” when who walked in but two of my best buddies
from church, Leanne and Lisa K. It turned out they were meeting there to celebrate Lisa’s birthday (really her 32nd, but she’s sworn not to get any older than 27 forever), and also to celebrate her new job. She’s begun working as a “drug runner,” she tells everyone with a big grin. She’s actually running medical supplies and legal drugs to hospitals and pharmacies in small towns.

We had a great conversation, and I was thinking, hey, isn’t this great to live in a small town where you can actually run into people you know?

I went on from there to the walking path,
the stream, and the ducks. My stale bread had a date with these hungry waterfowl. The stream was partly frozen, and the ducks were walking on the frozen parts as if they were wooden docks. At first they ignored me, and then when they realized I was throwing bread, something they mostly enjoy in the summer, they all came swimming over.

Then a knot of 5 geese came over, squeaking like rusty hinges, trumpeting like elephants, and furling and coiling their necks like water hoses. Three of them were white with orange bills and big orange bumps on their noses, and two were white with soft mouse brown bodies and stripes on their necks and heads. Only one was brave enough to eat out of my hand.

There were a few walkers, bundled up, with mittens and hats, walking briskly and purposefully. In this weather, with snow and ice on the ground, even the dogs are wearing sweaters.

I collected a few more applications and went to the park, to stare at the playground equipment all covered with snow, and the kids riding their bikes, slipping and sliding on the ice. A few weekends ago I watched kids play “baseball” in the snow with a few sticks for bats and a pinecone for a ball, and it actually worked.

Being unemployed isn’t all bad.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Hi Mom Posted by Hello

My Mom's Birthday

Today would have been my mom’s 65th birthday. She died in 1975 at age 35. I was 11 and my sister was 9. I am now 41, six years older than she ever got to be, and it feels funny.

She was born in Germany around the beginning of WWII, and there are Nazi seals on her birth certificate. As you can imagine, life for her growing up, and for her parents trying to provide for a family of ten kids in these times, was not easy.

When she came to America she found out that her birthday fell on Lincoln’s birthday, a holiday they didn’t celebrate in Germany. She thought that was a neat surprise. It made it easy for people in America to remember her birthday, and she admired Lincoln.

What kind of person was she? None of my friends or boyfriends over the years got to meet her, so I always end up telling stories. The only person who knew her was Heidi, who’s been our friend since she was 5 and I was 9 and my sister Val was 7.

Well, she was the kind of mom who would take in any kid in the neighborhood, any time, for any reason. If they wanted a snack or some kool-aid, needed a knee bandaged, or wanted to talk about why none of the other kids didn’t like them, or why they didn’t get along with their parents, she was there, as much for them as for us. I was proud of her and thought she was the coolest.

She taught us to like and understand everybody, to value everybody, and to respect everybody, not only by words, but by example. I ended up usually sticking up for the one person in class who was being bullied by the rest. It wasn’t easy, but I always had my mom to go home to and talk things over.

She was a serious person, but not all the time. She wasn’t above kids’ games, such as chasing us down the sidewalk or breaking into a spontaneous game of hide and seek.

The scariest dream I ever had as a kid,
which I have always remembered, involved this chasing and hiding game, and at one point I was separated from mom and Val, and was calling and calling for them, and then a train came around the corner at me, and then froze, like a freeze frame in a movie, and I woke up, heart pounding.

Losing her was the hardest thing ever, worse than any breakup from a boyfriend, because she was the first person I loved, the one I knew I could always count on, and my main teacher.

I’m lighting a big beeswax candle in church today, and saying Hi mom! I miss you, but I know I will be seeing you sometime.

I had a dream maybe eight years ago in which I was a small child with my mom, looking down out of a window at oceans of gorgeous blue water, such a pure, untainted blue, like nothing I’ve ever seen. When I woke up I told my friend Greg about it, and he had a funny look on his face and said, “It was probably Heaven.”

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Quest for the Grail! Posted by Hello

The Holy Grail

Finishing my novel, which I first conceived at age 12, feels like the quest for the Holy Grail.

I had a very childish version of it when I was in High School. I laid it aside for many years, and really started to formulate a more adult version right before I left L.A, around 1992.

I began the actual first draft when I was in Portland Oregon. While doing lots of research on Medieval and Renaissance life, new characters began to present themselves. I was learning the nitty gritty–what did people eat for breakfast? How did they do their laundry? What about toilets? Of course, this is a fantasy novel set in an imaginary Renaissance, so it will not be completely historically accurate, but the research helped me ground it, so that it wouldn’t take place in some airy-fairy improbable world where everyone waves a magic wand to get from point a to point b.

I stumbled my way along to about page 150. I joined a writer’s group. The group consisted of guys in their 50s, none of whom had ever read (or really wanted to read) fantasy. We met at a wonderful Chinese restaurant, hashed over each other’s manuscripts late into the night, and I received a lot of irrelevant criticism, such as “maybe there should be a fight here–it’s kinda slow–maybe some action would help.” I also received some helpful criticism, like which parts were intriguing, which questions about the characters and situations I hadn’t answered.

How did I finally complete the first draft? My friend Greg basically dared/shamed me into it. “Do you want to still be toiling away on this when you’re old?” I burst into tears. Then I made myself a firm schedule and stuck to it for a year. I wrote for a few hours each morning, before I even got dressed. Then I ate lunch and went to work (at my “real “ job). I turned down invitations to go out for coffee, to go to the movies, to go for a walk in the park.

It was hard. I felt as if I were in college again
, with “homework” hanging over my head. At least there weren’t any finals to study for.

I sped through the last part, resolving everything the best I could, and finally typed “the end.” Then I celebrated.

What happened next?

I got into a relationship.

I did rewrite the entire beginning of the novel, with a completely different slant, starting several weeks earlier in the timeline than the original manuscript.

I went on a bicycle trip across the country and started a book about that experience.

But. . .what about your novel, that book you’ve been working on and cherishing for so long?

Mind you, since I really seriously got started on it in ‘92, and typed “the end” around November of ‘98, and wrote the whole new beginning for it, the Harry Potter books have come out, the Lord of the Rings movies have come to the screen and since gone to video.

So I ask all of you–why is finishing that first novel (or Master’s Thesis, Doctoral Dissertation, plug in whatever it is that means the world to you and you haven’t finished yet)–like finding the Holy Grail?

Is it that so many hopes and fears are encompassed in that project? “This could make or break me?”

The idea of all that work? That it has to be “perfect” before it can go out into the world?

Or maybe the idea that that’s just the beginning–if you finish your book and get it published, you are now a writer and will be doing it again! If you finish that Thesis you will be a teacher, lawyer, or whatever you are studying to be.

Well. . .I know that I got all the way through that first draft, so obviously I can polish it, rewrite, and send it to the publisher.

I also know that like many of you out there, I am the arch procrastinator. In school I was up in the middle of the night typing papers every time, napping on the couch, getting up to type some more.

I think what I need to do is make a schedule with deadlines, mark number of pages completed on the calendar, and basically treat it like any other job that has to be done. I do well under pressure, so maybe I should create some for myself.

And when that one’s done, there are several other half completed ones waiting in the wings.

What long-term projects do you have, and how do you get yourself to complete them?