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Tag Archives: Vacation

A Peek Inside (Fort Bragg Edition)

[I hate it when I think I hit the Publish button only to find out much later that some how I didn’t.  This should have showed up hereabouts yesterday.]

I’ve been in Fort Bragg since Wednesday.


I’ll be headed home tomorrow.  To say that I want nothing to do with the return would be an understatement to end all understatements.  For the past few days, I’ve been able to slow down and live a life of leisure.  Back in the real world, I feel like I never stop moving and hurrying.  Not enjoying the moment because I have to get to the next “must do.”  My need to constantly rush drives my wife crazy, I know this.  It drives me crazy as well.  But there is so much that always needs to get done.  It’s how I’ve lived my life for the past couple of decades, but it’s one of the many things that isn’t a part of the real me.  For the last few days, I’ve had the opportunity to be me.

Hunting for lighthouses…




Vast beauty…


Waves crashing …



I’ve written a bit here and a bit there.   Made pizza in a new and different way.  Met some talented writers and made friends with a few of them.

But there are things I set out to do that I never got to.  Paint and explore some of this area in a deeper way.  Never quite got there.  Because, yes, there is still a bit of a hurry.  There are still so many things to do.  It’s back to life tomorrow.  But, that’s not right.  What’s back there isn’t actually life.  It’s grinding through the “must do’s” to get to the point where the time for “wanna do’s” finally opens up.

Some other random things from this week.

The workshop was great, but it wasn’t.  Three days sitting and talking about writing, hearing other writers’ perspectives on stories, is always interesting and inspiring.  I’m motivated to move forward on the things that have been holding me back.  But, for three days, it also felt like work.  I had to be up and somewhere by 8:00 and then spent the entire day there, while there were all of these other things I wanted to do.  Places to go, pictures to paint, words to write.  So, there was that.  I’m not sure I’ll do a formal workshop again.  Maybe I’ll come up with my informal King Midget workshop for future trips.  More flexible, more open, more free-wheeling.  You in?

I left for this trip with four books to pick from for my reading.  Revolutionary Road, by Richard Yates, recommended by a friend, and then by Peter Orner who led the morning workshop I was in.  Joyland, by Stephen King.  Yes, I have written that I’m swearing off of Mr. King forever.  But a friend assured me this was not typical King.  We’ll see.  The Housekeeper and The Professor, by Yoko Ogawa, and recommended by a co-worker.  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, not just recommended by a friend but purchased by her specifically for me to read.  I also brought my Kindle, which has who knows how many books and shorts stories on it that I haven’t read yet.  So, I was fully loaded with reading material.

Which explains why I only got through Revolutionary Road and am only now starting on Joyland.  And also why I added more books to my reading list while here.  First I had to buy two more books by Peter Orner.  Had to.  It was a must.  Then I had to buy a book that includes three novels by Henry Green, the author that Peter insisted is an author like no other.  The collection consists of Loving, Living and Party Going.  What it doesn’t include is Doting, a novel Green wrote that consists entirely of dialogue.  I must read that.

I also wandered through a used bookstore and added a Faulkner collection to the stack.  So, game on.  I’m going to have to be a reading fool in the weeks ahead.

I’d like to go back to Revolutionary Road and just say this.  If you haven’t read it, you should.  It’s one of those books that just produces a WOW from me.  It is so good on so many different levels.

I think that’s it.  My little time away has been more than I thought it could be while being less than I had hoped.  But, ultimately, it was 100 times better than the alternative.


A Dangerous Vacation

I embarked today on a six day journey to a land I haven’t been to since was a wee tadpole of the lad.  Truth be told, I don’t know when the last time I was here.  All I know is that once upon a time, when I was a child, my family went on the Skunk Train — a touristy little train that could, that traverses a stretch of mountains from Willits to Fort Bragg.  And that was the last time I was in Fort Bragg, California — not to be confused with Ft. Bragg, North Carolina — know for its army base.

Other than a couple of work related trips made by plane to the far reaches of the Northern California Coast (Eureka and Crescent City — and, yes, those are damn fine trips made in airplanes where they have to balance the weight of the passengers and the luggage), I’ve somehow managed to miss most of the coast from San Francisco to the Oregon border.

You see, just about eight years ago, the Midget family went on this wonderful vacation.  Among other things, for five days, we slowly made our way up the Oregon Coast.  It was and remains the most dangerous vacation I ever took.  The entire vacation lasted ten days.  I remember coming back and talking with a co-worker about how much I enjoyed it.  His response was something along the lines of “that’s the danger of vacations.”

Ever since then, I have thought I need to end up there, more or less permanently at some point.  The Oregon Coast.  A little town.  Here or there.  Makes no difference.  Just so long as I can live in a little shack that provides me with a view of that dynamic ocean, that provides me with the opportunity to sniff that air, to feel that breeze.  That’s the only thing that mattered.  Some point.  In my future.  I was there.

With that in mind, I’m back in Fort Bragg tonight.  For the next three days, I’ll be filling the hours with the Mendocino Coast Writer’s Conference.  I’m pretty sure it will be an incredible opportunity.  As I drove today, I was reminded of various posts Olivia has written over the time I’ve followed her blog.  I may not get this exactly right, but the sense is that there is something that happens when one journeys from home to a vacation spot.  It’s a mind-altering experience, very possibly like no other.

I left Sacramento at 9:30 this morning.  There’s this stretch of road, about 50 miles, that is two lanes and over the coastal range.  Twisty, turny.  Absolutely a joy to drive.  Except when there is slow traffic in front of you.  Which happened all too often.  And, as is my custom, I got pissed.

Then there was this moment after Hwy 128 merged with Hwy 1, which spends much of its length swiveling right along the edge of the ocean, twisting along cliffs and curves.  Once I broke out onto Hwy 1, I no longer cared.  I relaxed and enjoyed the scenery, more content to take my time and look at the ocean and the trees and … well, everything.


It’s the thing that Olivia talks about … how there’s a point at which where you are and what you’re doing transitions you from the you that is you … back there … to the you that is … you.

I breathed deeply.  I got to the cabin where I’m staying.  It’s a 1/4 mile walk across dunes to the ocean.  It’s in this incredible little location that … well, here …


After dinner at the North Coast Brewery, I returned and journeyed across that gargantuan 1/4 mile and waited.  I wanted a picture of the sunset.  While I waited, I spun around.  I took a series of pictures that covered the entire 360 degrees of what I saw in that spot.  (They aren’t that good from a photographic perspective, so I’ll spare you.)

But, I had a moment there.  I shed a tear.  This is where I should be.  Where I need to be.  A place like this.  I could smell the salt and brine of the ocean.  I was surrounded by the green of lush trees, the browns of dunes that stretch for miles, and the blue that is an ocean that stretches for thousands of miles.

A little town.  Not a metropolis of a couple million people.  A slower pace.  Yes, vacations are dangerous things.  In that moment, I thought, I cannot go back.  I must find a way to stay here.  To live here.

I perched on a dune and waited for the sun to set…

ft bragg sunset #2

I snapped a few pictures.  Not incredibly happy with any of them.  The dynamic nature of an incredible sunset was missing.  Something about the fog bank that lay out there at the horizon seemed to make an incredible picture impossible.  I began to walk back to my cabin.  I looked back at one point and realized this.  The sunset got better.  There was more there.  I had not waited long enough.

Patience.  That’s what I learned in that moment.  Patience.  There is a time for everything.

I’m just ready for the time to be now.



Day #2: Most significant 2012 expenditure

What was your most significant expenditure in 2012?

It doesn’t have to be necessarily the biggest expenditure, just the one with the most impact.

What difference has it made to your life?

I needed to think a little about this.  For the most part, 2012 has not been a year of spending money on “things.”  Yes, I bought a Kindle Fire and I mostly like it, but it comes with negatives as well — providing more distractions than I need.

Beyond that, I really can’t think of any other material object I’ve spent money on this year.  Then, it came to me …

This summer, I spent about $1,000 on me.  I went to Caples Lake.







For four days and three nights, I did my thing.  I wrote a draft of The Marfa Lights screenplay.  I worked on a story.  I painted and tried to sketch.  I kayaked the lake.  Had a great conversation with another writer and her photographer husband at the Kirkwood Inn.  I made the absolute best tacos ever.

What I learned was that I was OK being by myself and while I was I made more of a point to have conversations with strangers — the couple at the restaurant, the guys who worked at the cabins where I stayed — than I might otherwise.  This is one of the things I believe I need to do — seek people out, find out what their stories are instead of staying safely in my bubble.


The Cost of Food (or What I Do When I Get Home From Vacation)

A week of vacation.  A week of eating and paying for food prepared by others.  It always happens.  By the time I get home I don’t want to see the inside of a restaurant for a hell of a long time.

We spent a ridiculous amount of money on food on this trip.  It was the dinners that killed us.  For three days in a row, we left the theme park and ate at one of the Downtown Disneyland restaurants for a break from the crowds.  Yes, we could have stayed in the park and saved a lot of money compared to those restaurants, but there’s only so much amusement park food one can take.

For five people, three of whom were non-drinking minors, we spent over $150 every night on dinner.  I’m still baffled by that.  The first night we ate at a Mexican restaurant, the name of which I’ve forgotten.  My oldest asked for a recommendation between the carne asada and another plate.  The server suggested the carne asada.  I asked if I should have the carne asada or the chili relleno and tamale combo plate.  She replied that the carne asada was her absolute favorite on the menu.  So, we had two orders of carne asada at $20 a plate.  Let’s just say this … if you’re ever in Downtown Disneyland and go to the Mexican restaurant (just remembered the name – Tortilla Jo’s) don’t get the carne asada.  The kid and I have taken to ordering this at just about every Mexican restaurant we go to, and we go to a lot.  This was the worst I’ve ever had and it was easily twice as expensive as it should have been.

The next night we went to The Rainforest Cafe.  Another $150+ down the tubes.  But, I found my dream occupation.  I want to be one of the elephants at The Rainforest Cafe.

The final night we ate at Naples, an Italian restaurant that served very good pizza, but it’s pizza and we still spent over $150 for just five of us.

We got home Friday at 5:30.  I was tempted to get some fast food or Chinese or something to skip the need to cook, but I didn’t.  I haven’t stopped cooking since.  That night, it was white trash tacos.

Last night, it was well …

At Naples, we ordered a margherita pizza.  It was excellent.  They seemed to use fresh mozzarella on all of their pizzas.  I was inspired to try a margherita pizza at home again.  I made the mozzarella.  Made the sauce you’re supposed to use for a margherita.  Made the pizza and put basil from my garden on in the last minute or two of baking.  There’s something wrong with my mozzarella.  It just doesn’t melt the way cheese is supposed to on a pizza.  It stays kind of clumpy.  I’ll have to keep working on it.

Getting back to a more traditional kind of American pie…

This morning it was bacon and homemade chocolate pancakes.  For years, I used Krusteaz.  Than a few years ago, I decided I needed to make homemade pancakes and used the Better Homes recipe, but was never very thrilled with the outcome.  The pancakes were too thin.  So, I went in search of a fluffy pancake recipe.  Apparently, it’s all in use of buttermilk.

Here’s the recipe:

3/4 cup buttermilk (or 3/4 cup milk with 2 TBSP of white vinegar)

1 cup flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

2 TBSP sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 egg

2 TBSP melted butter.

Combine the dry ingredients.  Mix the wet ingredients (milk, egg, and butter) and then whisk into the dry ingredients.  Do not whisk until smooth, the batter should be thick and lumpy.  Add in mini-chocolate chips.  How much?  That’s entirely up to you.

Find a buttered griddle and you’ve got some very good fluffy pancakes.


Tonight, we’ll be enjoying steak on the barbecue and baked macaroni and cheese.

Overcoming Fear

In my post 100 Things About Me there is a theme that lurks not so quietly throughout the piece.  It is fear and how fear has ruled my life — both motivating me and holding me back.

It’s interesting that the people around me don’t know this about me.  I asked my mother last night if she knew just how fearful I was as a child.  I asked her if she knew how afraid I was to fall asleep at night because of the witch outside my window, the man laying under my bed ready to snatch my hand if I hung it over the side of my bed, of the ogre in the closet, of the snakes at the end of the bed, of the intruder who would break in and kill us all, of the fire that would leave our house in ashes.  She didn’t have a clue.  I guess I hid my fears well.

In recent years, I’ve started to overcome what fears I can.  I held a snake last year.  Not once, but twice. I dove headfirst into a pool for the first time a few years ago and manage to do it every now and then ever since.

When I was a kid we went to Fairy Tale Town and Funderland frequently.  Funderland is a little amusement park in Land Park in Sacramento.  Little kid rides.  I don’t know how old I was, but one day I went with my siblings on the roller coaster there.  Yes, it achieves a maximum speed of 8 miles per hour and has a massive 8 foot drop.  And, they had to stop it early so I could get off.  Since that day, I never went on another roller coaster and have stayed away from all of those midway rides that spin you around in circles and go sideways and upside down.  When I was twelve or thirteen and my family went to Great America in Santa Clara County, I spent the day riding the old-fashioned cars, while everybody else played loosely with their lives.  I was fine with that.  Nobody ever died on the cars.  Fear is a powerful thing.

I’ve been to Disneyland four times in my life.  Never been on any of the roller coasters there.  Oh sure, it’s because the line is too long.  Right.  Right?

This week was my fifth trip to the Happiest Place on Earth.  I did not want to go.  We have a visitor from Illinois.  I wanted to take her to Yosemite.  Or Santa Cruz.  Or Lake Tahoe.  We went to Disneyland instead.  We spent two days at Disneyland and one day at California Adventure.  I thought it was going to be horrible.  It’s June.  School is out.  There were going to be masses of people there, the lines would be horrible.

An odd thing happened on my way to misery.  It wasn’t so bad.  The longest line I had to wait in was 45 minutes.  We only used fast passes twice.  One for the new ride in Cars Land.  And, one for Splash Mountain.

Yes, that’s me in the tie-dye shirt, having an incredible time.  But, first a few introductions.  The first person is the oldest Princely Midget.  The second is our visitor, screaming in terror.  The third is the younger Princely Midget, pretending to sleep through the fall.  And, then there’s me.

This week I overcame another fear.  By the end of the three days, I had ridden Splash Mountain, Indiana Jones, Thunder Mountain, and the Matterhorn.  I lived to tell the tale and had a great time doing it.

No, I did not go on California Screamin’, although by the end of the third day, I was ready to do it.  Just didn’t get back to California Adventure.  And, no, I did not go on Tower of Terror.  I have to hold on to some fears, don’t I?  For instance, that night-time fear stays with me still.  Don’t know how to overcome that one.  There’s still a witch outside the window and a man under the bed.

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