Down the Rabbit Hole

I like to research things on the internet. I also get distracted a lot. It seems that I am not able to watch a whole movie all the way through or enjoy a book without coming across things throughout that I just have to research. Some might say these are obsessive compulsive tendencies but I can’t wait till the show or the book is finished. I need to know right now.

I’ll give you an example. I’d just finished both seasons of Designated Survivor on Netflix and was scrolling for something new to watch. I came across a 2011 documentary called Magic Trip on Amazon Prime. This one hour and 47 minute documentary is an edited version of the hours and hours of filming the Merry Pranksters shot while taking that famous Ken Kesey-led bus trip across the USA. The documentary took me two days, maybe three, to complete because I kept wanting to know more about people and ideas that were referenced throughout.

This epic, although rather haphazard, journey took place just a year before the Beatle’s movie Help came out. And although I do remember seeing the Beatles, I certainly do not remember Ken Kesey or his bad of merry men (and women). So, once again, my friend, Google, satisfied my curiosity.

I had seen the movie One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest but had never read this book or anything else written by Ken Kesey. I googled Ken Kesey so I could see what else he’s done. I virtually borrowed “Sometimes a Great Notion” from the free Internet library (Archive.org) but then I didn’t want to read it until I knew what it was about. I don’t like surprises. My other friend, Wikipedia, told me it was about a logging family in Oregon so I passed on reading it. Not really my cup of tea.

Of course, Jack Kerouac was mentioned during Magic Trip, as well as Alan Ginsberg. Yes, I know who they are. No, I’ve never read their work. Another distraction from the documentary because I felt like I might not “get” it as well if I wasn’t versed in what the Beatniks, who were a huge influence on Ken Kesey, had to say. Back to the internet archives to do some reading. I got to about page twenty in “On The Road” and through the first section on “Howl.” Again, couldn’t get into either enough to make me want to read more.

Watched some more of the documentary. Tried to remember if I’d seen it before because it seemed like the kind of thing I would have watched. Also, I hate not knowing what’s going to happen. About three-quarters through the movie, when the Merry Pranksters have returned back to the left coast, Kesey goes into his philosophy, such as it was, and raison d’ĂȘtre for their next venture, the Acid Test Parties. Not five minutes into this section of the documentary and I was once again Googling. Turns out that Tom Wolfe, who I’d heard of, had written a book called the “Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,” which is a new journalism take on this whole San Francisco experience.

Borrowed said book from Internet archives. Started reading. I must admit Wolfe is a genius with description. He made the Haight and skid row more real than I could ever have with words and I was there in the mid 70s. Again, though, I only got through about ten or eleven pages and gave up. I do feel like I embrace new journalism, I spent a good portion of my high school years writing music reviews, but maybe Tom Wolfe was a little too “new” for me.

So now you know. When I watch a movie or read an article or hear a reference, I spend just as much time learning about it as just experiencing it. What in the world did we do before the Internet?

A New Long Term Project

I want to introduce something I began working on this week and that I hope will occupy my time for at least the next six months. This project is a series of personal essays and I will be publishing excerpts here on this blog, hopefully on a regular basis.

I am envisioning the end result to be about one hundred personal essays of about 1200 words each. I do have a title in mind already but I’m going to hold off on publicizing that. I am still working on my cozy mystery novels so will actually have two projects going at the same time. It’s nice to be able to breakaway from memory-dumping and self-actualization to some good old-fashioned light-hearted murder mystery shenanigans.

I won’t be posting any of the really raw stuff here. You’ll have to buy the book to get the real dirt. But I will try to make the bits and pieces I do post here of the highest quality. When one decides to take pieces of a writing project and publish on a blog, it becomes real really fast. You can’t change your mind or continue editing. Well, you can but you know what I mean.

I tried to start a memoir almost two years ago but just couldn’t get through more than a couple chapters. I still had some emotional stuff to work out and I didn’t have a real direction. With the personal essay format, I’m hoping that things will come together with more cohesion than previously. I think this will be more in tune with my ADHD tendencies and my writing style, which is more pantster than planner.

And just for fun, this week I started a free online course at Coursera called Writing a Personal Essay from Wesleyan University. Join me! The first assignment isn’t due until November 30.

Projects

Projects are no excuse for not writing. But there are times in one’s life when the “to-do” list just can’t be ignored. I’ve been quite busy since moving to my new state and my new home this month and though I’ve still been able to get a little writing done, writing is not at the forefront of my expended energy.

When you are writing for pleasure and have no accountability other than self-imposed deadlines, finishing up the chores on the daily list are sometimes an easy out. It takes not just a lot of discipline to sit at a typewriter or laptop all day but it can be mentally exhausting as well.

I remember when I was working on my Master’s Thesis through online courses at National University. I was taking care of a house and animals single-handedly and working full time. There were always things that needed to be done, whether inside or outside. And when those were completed, I was usually too exhausted to do anything as mentally challenging as working on a research paper. I fell into a routine of doing most of my writing on Saturday mornings, whilst still in my pajamas and before the rest of the day got in my way.

I was wondering the other day why I felt so busy all the time considering I retired more than two years ago. The list I came up with gave a clue.

  • walk dog 4x a day
  • feed pets 2x a day
  • cook meals and feed myself 3x a day
  • do dishes 2x a day
  • clean cat box 1x a day
  • make bed 1x a day
  • vacuum kitty litter and anything else that needs vacuuming 1x a day (sometimes 2)
  • laundry sorting or putting away (the w/d does the rest by itself) 2x a week
  • clean bathroom and kitchen sinks, counters, etc. 3x a week
  • go to town for groceries and any other shopping 1x a week

And I’m sure there are a whole host of other things I do on a regular basis.

My latest projects that are interfering with the writing are painting a little she shed casita on my property, supervising a deck building project and then getting ready to stain it. Finally, the little casita will have to have all the carpet ripped out and eventually replaced. Sure I could hire someone but a lot of it is work I can do myself. I really don’t mind hiring someone competent to do the work but I’d like to have someone that can do it quickly and professionally and that seems hard to find out here where I ended up.

I have two writing projects right now that I’m going back and forth on. One of them is not creative but is labor intensive, involving scanning, formatting, and typing. The other is creative but I don’t have enough knowledge of the subject to delve too deeply into it until I’ve spent more time here in my new state.

I don’t have to rely on my writing to earn a living and I really do have all the time in the world. For those of you who have deadlines that aren’t self-imposed, I wish you all the luck in the world and hope your day-to-day doesn’t interfere.

Tributes are Hard

Earlier this week, I ordered a Shutterfly photo book of 31 pages full of photos of the 13 years I had with Poppy. I wasn’t ready before this. She passed away on June 8, 2020. It took me awhile to process the loss to the point that I didn’t even want to talk about it with anyone for the first three days. I’ve lost pets before but Poppy and I had a special relationship.

Poppy and littermate before I adopted her.

I actually first met Poppy the day she was born. I lived next door and so was able to see her and her litter mates with their cute fuzzy roly poly bodies play and grow. I volunteered to take over their care when they were about five or six weeks old and ready for solid food because Momma dog wasn’t letting them eat. They were all cute but there was this one puppy that wasn’t as fuzzy as the others and was black and tan instead of merle. She was actually adopted out but came back the next day because one of the family members had allergies. That’s when I decided I would keep this one.

At training for Canine Good Citizen.

How did a 60 pound Aussie/Husky mix get the name Poppy? Well, when she was a cute little puppy, with a mom that was only about 32 pounds, I had no idea how big she would turn out. I named her after the California state flower. When she was just a few years old, I decided I had to know her lineage, even though I knew her momma dog, and I got her DNA done from Wisdom Panel. She was 49% Australian Shepherd and the rest was a combination made up mostly of Siberian Husky and undetermined. I used to tease and tell people she was a “Hussy,” ie, husky and Aussie. It always took a few minutes and then the laughter would start.

Halloween 2012.

When Poppy was three years old, I bought my own house after renting for many years. She had a huge backyard that she got to share with her pack mate, a stray shih tzu I had adopted the year before. They were soon joined by another rescue dog, a miniature poodle mix. This pack of three had a large back yard with a doggie door into the garage from the dining room. They had no complaints.

At the beach.

She loved the water and so we took many day trips to lakes and rivers in the area. There was even an aquatic center that would open for dogs for one day before closing for the season in October. She attended those events for a number of years. Anytime we were at a lake that allowed dogs, she would be in there swimming and playing. I couldn’t keep her out. Once, I left the other dogs with a babysitter and took Poppy just for the weekend to Dillon’s Beach, a dog-friendly beach in Northern California, for her birthday. We played at the beach all day and then stayed in a nearby motel before returning home.

Carmel dog-friendly beach.

When I discovered that Motel 6s take dogs with no extra fee, we tried to vacation as often as we could. We took a trip to Fort Bragg, a trip to Lake Tahoe, a trip to Monterey Bay, and a coastal trip all the way down Highway One to Pismo Beach. One of our highlights was a 3-hour whale watching tour on the bay, allowing dogs to attend free with a paying customer.

Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens — dog friendly.

I began taking them all camping, first with a tent and then with my covered pick up truck. It was kind of funny with a 60 pound hairy dog and two little ankle biters but we had some great times. During those years, Poppy loved hiking. The shih tzu would often be in a back pack or stroller but good ole’ Poppy never slowed down. Until she did.

Lake of the Springs campground.

When she was about 7, she was diagnosed with a bad vertebrae that I was told would get progressively worse. Over the years, as her discomfort became more noticeable, she went through many treatments. These included pain meds, acupuncture, laser treatments, CBD oil, and the like. We continued our camping trips, eventually evolving into full time motorhoming after losing the shih tzu to old age and selling the house in 2018. She still loved to hike in the woods but those hikes got shorter and shorter.

Caprock Canyon State Park.

Then she became incontinent and still, I tried to do what I could for her. We found a nice country vet in Texas that prescribed a new pain med and that worked for awhile. But eventually, life just got too hard for her. Every day was a struggle just to get up, allow me to change diapers, get a harness on to take a walk. She would still occasionally play ball for a minute or two at the dog park, giving me hope, but the moments she would smile at me and could walk without pain were getting shorter and shorter.

Her last little hike, Lake Livingston State Park.

It was a very tough decision to set her free and I don’t wish this upon anybody I know. You will always second guess yourself and wonder if you might have been able to do more. And the pain of loss never really goes away completely. I know because I still hurt when I think about my pets from years ago. I try not to think about Poppy too much right now because it’s too new and raw.

She started slowing down.

I like to think she had a good life. I remember my doctor telling me in 2006 that I needed to get a dog because I wasn’t getting enough exercise and I was having trouble getting out of bed except for work. Then I got Poppy and all that changed. She saved my life in so many ways. Rest In Peace, my dear girl.