Sunday, May 31, 2009

Even Cowgirls Get the Blues

For someone who claims not to particularly love Tom Robbins, I've managed to read a few of his novels. Each time, I am attracted by the clever titles, the intelligent (and at times hilarious) rambling prose, the offbeat characters, and the general coolness attached to his name. And each time, I find myself a bit disappointed in the end. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues was no different - some memorable characters, some funny scenes, but not really enough plot to warrant 400 pages of novel.

The protagonist is Sissy Hankshaw, an otherwise perfect-looking tall blonde with enormous thumbs. Her love, and other people's disdain, for these outsized digits instilled in her an uber-talent for hitchhiking, and the accompanying wanderlust that has taken her across this fine country numerous times without the urge to settle down.

Sissy's primary source of income is modelling for a feminine hygene spray, the manufacturer of which is owned by The Countess, a flamboyant homosexual with castanets for teeth. The Countess also owns the Rubber Rose, the largest all-cowgirl ranch in the west. A lake near the Rubber Rose happens to be one of the primary stop-overs for the last remaining migrating flock of whooping cranes, and the Countess arranges for a Disney crew to film their mating dances, with Sissy to accompany them and report back on the ranch's goings-on.

Sissy stays for a while when she gets sucked in by the drama on the ranch, as well as by her feelings for Jelly, and for the pecker-waving, yam-loving, old Japanese dude named the Chink. The cowgirls embark on a mission of man-independence by the visions from the whip-yielding, peyote eating forwoman Delores Del Ruby. Tom Robbins himself makes an appearance as a mustachioed wine-hound shrink. And the ultimate showdown at the Rubber Rose Ranch does not yield happy endings for all.

Most people either love or hate this book, but I find myself more lukewarm on it. At his best, Robbins is funny and clever and creates characters that are quirky and unique, but the plot tying it all together is just too thin. Perhaps the novel isn't the right medium for Robbins at all, and he should just turn his talents to becoming the world's best Twitterer.

Up next: highly acclaimed graphic novel Watchmen, which I'm really looking forward to reading!

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Bolder-Boulder

Along with my husband and parents, I did in fact run the Bolder-Boulder on Monday. My pace was a bit off of what I'd been training at here on the east coast (just over :20 per mile slower), but given the altitude I felt great about it.

A few notes on the race... The course is fast and flat, the streets are really wide, and it's beautiful. The race is incredibly well organized - 54,000 participants, and I was able to run freely right from the start. They have sanctioned bands along the entire course, and plenty of other people set up amps and play their own instruments in their yards. Boulderites line the course and cheer... as well as hand out anything from tequila shots to burritos to freezer pops. One lawn hosted a slip 'n' slide. You finish by running around the inside of Folsom Field, and the packed stadium sounds like it's cheering just for you. I cannot wait to run it again!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Bug is Two!

Anyone who's looking for a sure-fire best second birthday party should plan a visit to my parents' farm. Granted they're her grandparents and all, but Mima and Boppie totally threw down the best party in the history of second birthdays, with the farm tour as an unbeatable event cornerstone.

After playing with my parents' cats (Snus, Napoleon, Coner) and dog Mac (re-christened "Max" by the Bug), we visited baby lambs with their mothers. Lizzie was a particularly tame one who had been raised on the bottle, and she came up to us to nose around for snacks and affection. The Bug even got to pet a couple of the smallest little bottle lambs. And in the barn with them, a bonus surprise: three tiny kittens about three weeks old, which we also got to pet. We saw a three-day-old calf (named Angus, or Brownie, or Clovis, or Mostly White, depending on who you ask), which I thought was tiny and the Bug thought was kinda big and scary. Boppie then let the Bug drive the big tractor, which she absolutely loved (though I thought she'd find it kinda big and scary). We visited with the horses (also scary) and got to pet some baby chickens along the way. It was all topped off with some serious playing in the biggest mud puddle of all time.

Happy Birthday, little Bug! Time, she flies.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Ah, high school. If only I'd known then what I know now, I could have ruled the joint. But alas! It wasn't until just this week that I learned the true key to popularity: a fish tank.

This weekend, I inherited Joker's old 35-gallon aquarium for my office. We brought it down on Sunday, and it's currently bubbling and filtering away. Despite the fact that there will be no living inhabitants until next week, I have never had so many passers by stop in. People absolutely love it! From the mail guy to the President, everyone totally digs it. My office went from kinda lame to total feng shui in one fell swoop. I may even be able to rent out my office couch by the half hour, thus turning it into a profit center. Imagine the possibilities when I actually have fish in there!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Bug's mind

Watching the Bug's little mind evolve has been absolutely fascinating. She is at an incredible stage right now, where information is processed as fast as we can put it into her head. The night before last, she called me "Mommy" - as opposed to "Mama" - for the first time. Yesterday morning she tried it out a few times (along with "Daddy"), and this morning she was clearly proud of her big-girl pronunciation: "Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!"

We went to the zoo on Sunday, which is always fun, but both her experience retention and her situation comprehension have taken off. At the zoo, she understood that the tiger is a cat, like Sirius at home, and both of them like to take naps. Two days later, the Bug saw Sirius napping on the couch and observed that he was like the tiger at the zoo.

Concepts like "big and little" or colors - we take them for granted, but they are impossible to explain - she understands. Her jammies have one big striped heart on them, and two little blue ones. The flowers on that tree are pink; the ones on the ground are yellow and red. The mommy bunny is big and the baby bunnies are little.

Lucky for me, Mommy's kisses still make boo-boos better. I'm not quite ready for her to be all grown up.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Your what did what?

Last night I was at book club and Joker was home alone with the Bug. The following anecdote was thus relayed to me second-hand, but it was so funny I'm sharing it anyway.

So the Bug was in a delightful mood all evening, particularly during bath time. She did not want to get out. At all. So Joker drained the tub figuring that would cause it to lose some of the allure. Not so much. The Bug sat there laughing and kicking her feet on the rubber sticky mat. The mat shifted a little and let out a funny squeaky sound which startled the Bug. She looked up at Joker, down at the mat, and came to her conclusion. "Dada, my vagina burped!"

Thursday, May 7, 2009

New Moon

New Moon, Stephenie Meyer's follow-up to Twilight was a bit weaker over-all, but still delivered the same mix of goofy romance and pseudo-suspense that keeps the tweens and cougars coming back for more. Darling Edward wasn't as ubiquitous, as he and his family decided to skip town in an effort to keep Bella out of the imminent danger generally brought on by living in close proximity with a pack of vampires, but in this book we really got to know Bella's childhood friend Jacob Black.

After several months of intense moping (which thankfully were not actually described and were noted only by empty chapters), Bella attempts to pull herself out of her funk by spending more time with Jacob, who lives on the nearby Quileute reservation. Jacob is (of course) in love with Bella, and she becomes completely attached to him, too, but only in the love-you-like-a-brother way. All seems to be going well when out of the blue, Bella is hunted by some non-vegan vampires and Jacob turns into a werewolf.

Our happy lovers are ultimately reunited, but not before a big misunderstanding sends Edward on a suicide mission to Italy. That vampires and werewolves are mortal enemies in this mythology means Jacob is left a bit out in the cold at the end of it all, but there are two more books during which I'm sure this can all get happily resolved for everyone.

Next up: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by acclaimed Japanese author Haruki Murakami. My reading diversity meme showed a gap in Asian lit, and this has been sitting unread on my shelf for too long already. Plus, I cannot stomach another romance just yet... the rest of the Twilight series will have to wait a while!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

"I Can Jump"

We're all quite impressed with the book that the Bug's five-year-old cousin Frankie made for her yesterday:

The fourth page might be a bit of a departure from the other pages, but I'm sure there's some larger meaning that will emerge upon further study.

Driving in the rain

Nearly four hours in the car. Rain most of the time. Gray and dreary. Bad radio. Hair bands and country were my high school years. I still remember all the words to Garth's "Rodeo", but only most to Sabbath's "Paranoid". I zone out a lot. Memories like a collage, images without context.

The kitchen of one party I went to, don't know where or with whom, but I remember the kitchen. Last day of school one year, driving around listening to Girls, Girls, Girls and passing around a bottle of peach schnapps. Country songs I've never heard before make me wish someone would have broken out a guitar at the gravel pits.

How it felt to have a crush, to find out it was mutual, to think it was important, to learn it was not. You faded, but that feeling, it was memorable. No nostalgia for those days. No, that's not quite right. Nostalgia for the edited versions, where my small high school was quaint and friends were dear and teachers cared and everyone had dreams.

I had dreams. I am so glad I had those dreams, those ambitions. I didn't go where I thought I would, but trying to get there brought me to here.

Pull into the garage. Back to my life. Who I love, what I love, where I want to be.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Wise Blood

Flannery O'Connor's first novel, Wise Blood, is considered by many to be a masterpiece of the Southern Gothic tradition. Well, I've loved quite a few books in this category, and found Wise Blood to be the least interesting I've read. The back jacket of my copy says that the book "gives us one of the most riveting characters in American fiction," which confounds me since I can't even imagine which of the novel's uncompelling characters this quote refers to. Reviewers call it "hilarious," "memorable," "astonishing" and "haunting." I found it to be none of those things.

Wise Blood is about the spiritual and physical journey taken by 22-year-old Hazel Motes upon his discharge from the Army. He returns to Tennessee and immediately makes his way to the fictional town of Taulkingham, to which he had no prior connection. After a run-in with "blind" preacher Asa Hawks, Asa's illegitimate 15-year-old daughter Sabbath Lily Hawks, and local lad Enoch Emory, Motes decides to stay in town start sidewalk preaching for his own Church Without Christ. Each deeply flawed and eccentric character fixates to some degree on religion, yet none is able to fully reconcile it with his or her reality.

The book purports to be an exploration of faith and redemption. I found it to be a hodgepodge of sequential anecdotes that taken together don't quite comprise a narrative. The uneven writing from section to section contributes to its unenjoyability, though Wise Blood is not entirely without merit. Certain of the scenes are very vivid, and at least one is even amusing. My understanding is that many of the book's sections were initially individual short stories, which were later merged into a novel. Perhaps they should have remained separate.

I'll be reading two of O'Connor's short stories for Thursday's book club meeting, so will have an opinion by that time of whether she was a more effective short story writer. I'm sincerely hoping this will be the case.

Next up: Stephenie Meyer's New Moon, sequel to Twilight. Yeah, I'm hooked. Who knew?!