Thursday, November 5, 2009

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View of Adelphi Hotel, Saratoga Springs, NY

Thursday, November 5, 2009
Waning Moon
Neptune DIRECT
Uranus Retrograde
Cloudy and cold

I’ve got a detailed piece up on the SDR blog about how I use anthology calls as inspiration, breaking down the process. You might find it interesting. I wrote it as I worked on the stories mentioned over the course of the last few weeks — and forgot to schedule it to post while I was away yesterday. Ooops.

So, the Yankees won a World Series on their first year in the stadium. Good for them, fans are happy, I don’t follow baseball, so I can enjoy as a disinterested observer.

Not happy at all with the local election results. The town is moving back towards the petty small-mindedness that caused me to leave in the first place, years ago. Some elections were pretty galvanized, but around here — when you live in a town of somewhere between 15-20,000 and less than 4000 people vote, it’s a problem. So now I have to look at my overall life plan and switch a few things around, and then, as of tomorrow, put my head down and get back to some serious work.

I take away a few things about overall election results. First of all, these were local elections, and people dealt with the issues that affect their overall, every day lives Second, when you look at how many incumbents got a boot up the ass, people made it clear, “You had a chance. You didn’t listen. Buh-bye.” Which is the way it should be. It’s usually pretty hard to remove incumbents, and this time, it wasn’t. Whether I personally agree or disagree with an election result (unless it’s the one that affects my daily life), I do think it’s good that people are removing those they feel do not represent them. That’s why we have a voting process in place. I also have zero respect for people who can’t be bothered to vote. It takes five minutes.

I really don’t feel only two parties can represent the variety of viewpoints we have across the country. We truly need five or six legitimate parties, as they do in Britain and in other countries, so people aren’t forced to accept package deals and can really put individuals in place with more focused positions. You can’t please everyone and you shouldn’t. But voters shouldn’t be limited by having to pick from one or two individuals who have to bundle policy positions to try to fit a wide range.

On to other things. Yesterday, we were out of the house by 6 AM. The drive up to Saratoga was nice — great, crisp autumn weather. We hit Mrs. London’s a little after 9 for a snack. We went to the bookstore and picked up a few things, walked around a bit, and I dealt with some business. We drove past the college — Skidmore is a beautiful campus, and I use it and the town of Saratoga as the inspiration for the location in the Casherick Drualtys stories (SHALLID, et al). We stopped to pick up a few things at the store, and then headed west out of town to a small town called Galway, which isn’t too far away.

An artist friend of mine had an exhibit up in the Town Hall there, where she photographed people in town and asked them who they were — not just surface, but who they really ARE. Fascinating piece. She originally had artwork in MOONTRIBE TALES — The International Women’s Day Project that I co-created and co-produced several years ago, and we’ve kept in touch. I’m so thrilled that I was able to see her exhibit. Because she’s such a warm individual, people open up to her easily, and she’s got such a great eye and knows how to capture, in a photograph, more than just what’s on the surface.

Got back on the road heading South, turned East at Albany, and took I-90 into MA, and then up to Lenox. We had lunch at The Haven, which was great, as always, walked around a bit, I got some business done, picked up a great bottle of Burgundy, got invited to a party on Saturday (I am so tempted to drive back up for it), and headed back.

I was in bed ridiculously early.

I’ve got to get out the assignment for Confidential Job #1 and finish up a short story, but other than that, I’m giving myself the day off to reassess and reconfigure a few things.

Then, it’s back to work tomorrow with a vengeance.

And I mean “vengeance.”

Devon

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

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Upstate NY in Autumn

Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Waxing Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Rainy and cool

I have SUCH a headache today. Where’s the Excedrin? 😉

Monday was great fun, as I mentioned yesterday, and where I was, the foliage was at its peak.

I was out of the house yesterday by 6 AM, a little later than I wanted, because I was having trouble — again — with MobileMe. I’m really starting to think it was a huge waste of money. It does not do what it’s advertised to do. I can’t even get what I need on the iDisk, much less access it from anywhere. Unless Apple fixes it, I’m dropping it when the year is up. The computer’s working well again, but the MobileMe isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, so to hell with it.

Anyway, yesterday was kind of a gray and drizzly day. I’m curious why the NY metro area weather folk are NEVER right, when the Boston area weather folk are ALWAYS right. The NY weather folk promised it wouldn’t start to rain until late afternoon. At 6 AM, it was raining. Later in the day, as I had the Boston station on (which comes in clearly in VT, although you can’t get it in the MA Berkshires), they were spot on. Same with traffic. The NY traffic reports are always wrong, while the Boston/South Shore/Cape are always right.

We travelled up I-87. It was early enough to be fine. We hit Saratoga a little after 9 AM and, of course, headed immediately to Mrs. London’s for coffee and an almond croissant. Which was just fabulous.

And inappropriate customer requests never cease to amaze me. A woman of certain age, obviously wealthy, and her it’s-easier-for-me-if-I-never-argue-with-her husband entered. She asked if they served breakfast. The woman behind the counter said they don’t have eggs or anything like that, but there’s a variety of pastries and croissants and things that people eat for breakfast. The woman re-iterated that she wanted eggs. The woman behind the counter apologized and re-iterated that they didn’t have them. The woman said, “I don’t think you understand me. I want EGGS.” It took a minute for all of us to realize that she expected the woman behind the counter to go out to some other restaurant and bring back her order so she could eat it at one of the tables in this particular restaurant, rather than actually going to the restaurant that served what she wanted.

Uh, no.

After our snack, we walked up and down Broadway. I stopped at the Adelphi Hotel to take some photos. It’s closed for the winter, but I want to set a piece in a place inspired by the Adelphi, so I photographed some of the architectural outer detail and tried to photograph some of the interior through the glass. It looked very lonely, all closed up, and I wished I was a multi-millionaire so I could buy it, winterize it, and bring it back to its glory.

We stopped at Borders to pick up a couple of things — I love the fact that it was packed before even 10 AM on a weekday.

Back in the car, we headed up past the track (some horses are still training there, but racing’s done until next summer) and to the public gardens at Yaddo.

Yaddo is one of the premier artist colonies in the world. I hadn’t realized it backed up to the racetrack on one side — and I-87 on another. Several people whose work I respect swear by them with an almost obsessive fealty. I’d had a couple of negative experiences with their administrative staff about a dozen years ago, and scratched them off my list, but I’d always been curious about the facility. I hadn’t realized that the gardens were open to the public until recently, so I figured, why not take a look?
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The gardens were being put to bed for the winter, and those working there were quite lovely and welcoming. I bet the gardens are stunning in the summer. And there are some lovely places tucked away that seem quite inspirational.

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The main house, as you can see by the photo, is rather imposing. Lovely, but imposing. And there are signs and gates everywhere to keep the public away from the artists. Or is it the other way around? 😉 On the one hand, I appreciate that — you don’t want people tromping around peering in your windows or knocking in your door while you’re working. That’s not the point of a residency there. On the other hand, all those signs gave off a rather zoo-like vibe: “Don’t feed the artists. They’re more dangerous than they look.”

So that was really, really interesting. And the grounds are great. I took a lot of photos I can use in my work — there’s stagnant water with stuff sticking through it and downed trees and rushing streams and cairn-like creations — really fascinating. I’m glad I was there. I’ve never heard anyone complain about the noise from the track or the highway, so I guess the studios are well-insulated. Seeing the property, I understand the place in a different way. Funnily enough, it makes me not want to apply there. I think I have too much of a life, in a way, built on my time with various projects over the years, and it would be hard to stay in my studio and work — I’d feel like I wanted to go here and there doing all the things I usually do in Saratoga that make the place so special to me. There would be just as many distractions for me as I have at home, which cancels out the purpose of having a residency. I think it’s a great place for artists to work if they’re from somewhere else — it would not necessarily be the right place for me to work, because I’d be so tempted to be out and about instead of inside working.

I had hoped to see a friend’s exhibit that was outside of Saratoga — and I couldn’t find the turnoff. I felt like a total moron. I had the directions — I just couldn’t find the place. Fortunately, because I had no idea if I was actually coming up until that day, I hadn’t promised to get up there at any particular time. Maybe I can make another trip up just to see it.

We stopped at Lowe’s because they have one in Saratoga and we don’t, picked up some stuff, and headed to Vermont. The drive was very pretty, the rain held off, and the temperature dropped. There are many things I would have liked to photograph, but didn’t get the chance. Oh, well.

We drove across what’s basically a pass in the Green Mountains, past Bromley Ski Area and with the turn off to Stratton — and it smelled like snow. Technically, it was too warm to snow, but it still smelled like it.

We arrived in Weston later than we planned because we’d lost so much time looking for the exhibit we never found and were starving. We ate at a place called Bryant’s House Restaurant — I’m assuming a guy named Bryant owned it at some point. It’s an old farmhouse converted into a restaurant. The food was excellent – really good chicken pie with excellent biscuits.

We meandered through the Vermont Country Store after lunch. The store was the reason we’d factored in the side trip to Vermont today — we’d seen a few things in the catalog that looked interesting, but the shipping is so exorbitant it was actually cheaper to drive to Vermont and pick it up in person.

The store was really disappointing. To me, it came across more as a mass-produced version of a cliche of an image of Vermont lifestyle, rather than actual Vermont-based arts, crafts, and foodstuffs. When you look around at the overhead for the place, you realize why things are so expensive. We decided to try one of their stollen — stollen is a “must have” in our holiday season. But, other than that, there was nothing we really wanted.

Very disappointing.

But I got some ideas for AMENDS, of all things, while driving through the Green Mountains.

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Maple tree in Lenox

Back in the car, back across the mountains, down Rt. 7 through Vermont and down through Massachusetts. By the time we hit Lenox, it was starting to get dark, The Haven had closed (so no curried chicken sandwich for me) and we were tired. If it had been an option, I would have booked into a motel right then and there. But we needed to get home.

So we did. It was raining by now, and dark, and the new headlamps in cars are angled so they hit oncoming drivers (me) right in the eyes. It was not a fun trip.

We stopped to pick up a pizza on the way home, and were back after being on the road for 13 hours.

Ate, watched stupid TV, and went to bed early, after playing with the cats.

I’ve got a headache this morning and am weary, but I have to pull it together to finish the NYFA applications and one short story. I also have to go out and pick up a cake — tomorrow is my mom’s birthday.

Hopefully, I can squeeze in a nap sometime this afternoon. I’m beat.

Devon

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thursday, August 27, 2009
Waxing Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Sunny and pleasant

That was an intense two days. Hopefully, I’ll be able to post photos soon.

I was out of the house before 6 AM on Tuesday, and on the road. It was nice to cross the Tappan Zee Bridge as the sky just barely lightened — although the bridge is past its expiration date, and construction crews are desperately trying to keep it safe, considering how many thousands of people use it every day.

Traffic was heavy and steady all the way up I-87. Most of the Mobil stations are now Sunoco stations, and my gas card is a Mobil card, so I would up paying cash at one point to get in a few extra gallons, and then stopping at the next Mobil station I found to fill the tank. Still, gas is 20 cents per gallon cheaper upstate than down here. (And 30 cents cheaper around Lenox, MA).

The traffic going south on I-87, the other side, was just a total nightmare. It was a parking lot, barely crawling along at 15 mph from the bridge all the way up past Albany. So I decided I would not be returning that way.

I got into Saratoga early, so , of course, I hit Mrs. London’s for an almond croissant and a cup of coffee. I got a table by the window so I could watch the world go by — it’s completely different in the summer, with the tourists and the racegoers, than it is the rest of the year. The difference in vibe, and the tensions it causes is one of the things I want to explore in DEAD MAN’S STALL.

It’s a little different this year, due to the economy. The “playas” — guys who wear too much jewelry and too much cologne, chain smoke, have Botoxed bottle blondes in skimpy clothes hanging off their arms, throw money around, act like they’re big time horse better (but their choices rarely win), and generally behave badly, aren’t out in force this year. The economy’s kept them away.

There was a lot less tension around without them.

I spent a few minutes wondering what differences my life would contain had I accepted the acceptance to Skidmore College and studied in Saratoga, rather than going to Florida State for a year, where I made my commitment to theatre, and then transferring to NYU for film production. Would I have wound up on Broadway? Would I have gone into dance administration? Would I have started writing full-time earlier? Writing would always have been a part of it, but I’m curious about this particular road not taken.

I stopped to sigh over the amazing Adelphi Hotel. I love this place — I wish I owned it. It’s a stunningly beautiful Victorian Inn.

Magic Moon was closed so early in the morning, so I couldn’t go there. And the newsstand seems to be gone — so I went to Stewart’s to get the papers. Drove to Lowe’s, down on the other end of town. We don’t have a Lowe’s around here, and I love it. I had a list of stuff that one can’t get in Home Depot that one can get in Lowe’s, so I stocked up.

Then I headed over to the park. My first stop was the National Museum of Dance. They were having computer problems and didn’t want to handwrite a receipt, but I made them do it anyway. They are required by law to provide a receipt, whether they feel like writing one out or not.

The Museum itself is quite lovely. There’s a big Broadway section, which was interesting because most of the focus was on dancers with whom I’ve worked. I thought it was well done. There was also the Hall of Fame, very well done, and a section on things like the Ziegfeld Follies, the Ballet Russes, etc. I took a lot of photographs of the costumes. And, because it’s dance, the focus is on the feet — tables and tables and tables of shoes. I also photographed the label in one of Peter Martins’s costumes, because it’s made by the same shop which does a lot of the work for the Broadway shows I’ve done.

After the museum, I headed up to the Gideon Putnam Hotel to help set up for the Gala. I was pleased to see a lot more volunteers there than in previous years – and this batch actually got to work. They weren’t spoiled girlfriends and spouses of money people, they were actually interested in the event and its purpose. It was a pretty merry group, and we had a good time setting up.

The friend who’s the head of it and I headed back to her place after, to work on the computer. I wish I’d brought up MacGeorge — even limping, he’d have been quicker to set everything up on than the PC. My friend’s getting tired of the PC rearranging files all the time and not telling her where they are. Typical PC.

Anyway, we coaxed it into doing what we needed, we did some event scripting for the evening (a friend who attended texted me last night and said, “You wrote what X said, didn’t you? I could tell. He wouldn’t have been able to speak in complete sentences otherwise, and no one around here writes with both grammatical correctness AND a personal tone.”)

I had a chance to attend the Bruce Springsteen concert, and, much as I adore Bruce, I wasn’t about to cancel out on my friends.

I tossed my dress on and slipped into the cute shoes and drove back over to Union Street, where two of my friends just happen to be living in the same building — one friend bought an apartment there, the other is renting for the duration of the race meet. It’s a lovely historical landmark from 1886, with a graceful front porch, where we all met.

We went to an English pub on the other side of town called The Local, where we had some excellent food and drink and great conversation. I didn’t go with anything English — I had fish tacos, which were excellent. Then we went over to Congress Park, where there was an outdoor concert — good musicians, but they were playing what I call “70’s Lounge Music.” It was pretty funny. There were lots of dogs in attendance, so I got to make new canine friends.

I was also bitten my mosquitos, and the bites started giving me trouble. We passed one of the many natural sulfur springs, for which Saratoga became famous in the 19th Century. They’re disgusting to drink, but I splashed some of the water on the bites. It felt strange, but in about ten minutes, the redness and the itch stopped.

Good to know.

We wandered up the street to Uncommon Grounds for gelato and coffee, sitting outside, watching the Saratoga night life pass us by. More bikers than usual are in town this summer, but they were really funny and interesting.

Wandered back past Magic Moon — which was closed for the night. And headed back home. I stayed with one of my friends, one her sofa bed. It’s a lovely little apartment. It was so quiet that I had a hard time getting to sleep, but I finally did.

I woke up without the alarm around 5 AM, and met my other friend on the porch just before 6:30 (did my yoga and everything)! Packed the car, and we walked up Union Street to the track. He signed me in for a guest pass for the day, and we headed to the Oklahoma training track first for the works, then, at the break, over to the main track, where we met up with some of the Thorofan leaders. They are a new group, started by fans of the sport, who want to improve the overall sport. They have chapters all over the country, under a national umbrella, and are affiliating with tracks. Several of their members were among those volunteering for the gala. I was very impressed with everyone I met — genuine love for the sport and interested in both making the sport better and safer and drawing in more fans to keep the industry healthy. I’m going to do an article on them for FEMMEFAN.

Headed back up to the Gideon Putnam to help set up and arrange the items for the auction. The space looked lovely and cheerful and fun — a nice change from a lot of the more serious, formal fundraisers in town.

Put in a few hours there. I didn’t feel so guilty leaving, because plenty of volunteers came in. I knew it would be great this year.

I stopped by another friend’s house, but she wasn’t home, and I wasn’t able to arrange to see two other friends, so I hit the road. I took Route 50 down to Ballston Spa. It’s a cute town, but nothing particularly compelled me to stop, and I wasn’t in the mood to visit The National Bottle Museum today, so I kept going. I enjoyed the farms in Malta, and got back on I-87 going south — not fun.

At Albany, I picked up I-90 headed east, which shortly becomes the Mass Turnpike. As soon as I got on it, I relaxed. There was hardly any traffic, the day was gorgeous, low humidity, and about ten degrees cooler than New York.

I got off the first exit from the Pike and headed north through Lee to Lenox. Found a parking spot right away, bought the papers, went around the corner to The Haven, and that’s where I had lunch (curried chicken sandwich), and a meeting with a potential client up there. I’d really like to do more work in that area. It’s so laid back, friendly, and literate.

Stopped at the wine store and found a bottle of outstanding Argentinean Malbec on sale, so I bought it.

Hit the road again, taking 20 down to 8 down to the Merritt — only took me two and a half hours to get home. And, until Waterbury, there were only about a dozen cars on the road. From Waterbury down, there was a lot of traffic, but it moved well. So much more delightful than taking I-87 down!

I took a quick peek at 14 acres of land for sale on Laurel Lake — the same lake Edith Wharton’s property overlooks. I’d rather have a house already built, though, even if it needs work. But it’s awfully tempting to purchase the land so it can’t be developed.

Very tired when I got home. The cats were glad to see me. I didn’t unpack much. Ate, and went to bed early. Slept for 11 hours.

I had trouble getting going this morning. I skipped the morning yoga, which I know I will regret. I’ve got thank you notes to write, photos to download, follow-ups to do, email to catch up on. I have some client work to get to, and a follow-up on yesterday’s meeting. I need to do some more work on an article, and send questions to some other sources, and the formulate the interview questions for the Thorofan interview.

I have plenty of stuff percolating for both DEAD MAN’S STILL and the revision of SHALLID. I am eager to get back to AMENDS. I hope to talk to Apple today — I’ve finally got MacGeorge running the way I want it to, and I’m wondering if I should stick to the devil I know.

It’s hard to get back to “reality”, so I need to take another look at everything and see how I can move my reality — which is still better than most people’s, since I don’t work in an office on someone else’s schedule — to align it even more with the best of the past few days.

I am deeply saddened by Senator Edward Kennedy’s death. His work had an enormous and direct impact on my life. I’m mildly acquainted with the next generation of Kennedys, via various work-related encounters. Some of his actions angered me enormously — no matter how much good he’s done, it can’t erase Chappaquiddick. But he was passionate about social justice (most of the current politicians are far more interested in corporate welfare than the good of individual citizens or they wouldn’t allow the banks to continue their daily acts of economic violence against the citizens) and he was completely unique. He was a true Yankee individualist. I am tempted to go to Boston, where he will lie in State today and tomorrow — if I didn’t have to worry about Hurricane Danny, I probably would attempt it. But, much as I respected Senator Kennedy, getting caught in a hurricane is too much of a risk right now. I don’t want to be on the road in weather like that. So I will light a candle to his memory and honor him in my own way.

Back to work. There’s a lot to think about.

Devon