Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Last night I slept at the KOA near mile marker 70. My enthusiasm for this drive south ran out about three hundred miles ago, but since I had come this far I might as well finish the trip south and see the place where Hemingway lived with over fifty cats. Visit the website and see if you think this cat is Ragamuffin. (I don't think so.)
It continued to blow all night, hard enough to rock my Jeep. It was a good night for sailing--moon is nearing full and wind ripping across the gulf. I spend the night curled up in my sleeping bag and slept okay, but woke with a stiff back that I wasn’t able to work out all day. For the $77 dollars it certainly was the most expensive campground I have ever stayed at. No telling how much a night in an RV costs. I got up and headed south to the end of the road–Key West
and the southernmost point in the Continental USA. I have also been to the southernmost point in the USA, South Point, Hawaii. (I have no desire to go to the northernmost spot.)
Ninety miles away across the milky green waters lies Cuba. Sixteen hundred miles back to New York. I’ll need another oil change by the time I get back to Saratoga Springs. 310586 miles on my Jeep.
Key West is the Last Resort, eclectic and wild, except when the cruise ship comes in. Then the town turns a shade of gray and settles for gawking mild.
I spent $16.00 to park for four hours as I meandered about the streets and shops. After a while one junky tee-shirt-souvenir shop looked like the next and looked like the ones found everywhere else in Florida except the ticky-tacky items for sale all said Key West. Come to think of it they looked like the same stuff found in shops from North Carolina and California.
“And then, there were the reefs. Long established trade routes came close to the Florida coast and the reefs just seven miles offshore of Key West. Stormy weather, or a captain's inexperience with this treacherous area, could easily cause ships with valuable cargoes to founder just off shore. As a result, wrecking and salvaging soon became the island's primary business and its citizenry became wealthy on the proceeds.
Storehouses and chandleries abounded, and people came from all over to bid on the valuable salvaged items. Between 1828 and the 1850s, Key West was considered the richest city, per capita, in the United States.”
For more History visit www.floridakeys.com.
I found the Keys a bit shabby, devoid of tropical color and way over-priced. Probably lots of mosquitoes too when the wind stops blowing.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
What about the heart? Doesn’t that influence the outcome?
The Keys did not start looking like my 1948 Key Largo image of the Keys until I reached Long Key. And like the movie, a storm is coming. It is blowing a good one. A cold front sweeping down. It is like I had one tied to my Jeep’s bumper and I dragged it all the way down from New York. In South Florida, it could go as low as the upper forties. A good night to keep your Indians on the front porch.
There is a windblock for my campsite, but there is no doubt that the winds are strong and kicking up white caps on the Gulf. Once I parked my jeep, immediately I appreciated the living offered by the RV. No refrigerator to plug in, radio to tune in, no stove to cook a bowl of soup and no lights after sundown. No heater. No cat to keep me warm. I just brought the tent, sleeping bag and pad with me. I won’t pitch the tent, but sleep in the back of the jeep. Warmer, I think.
Florida verses Hawaii. For the most part, it is warmer in Hawaii.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Tomorrow, I’ll slip down through Chattanooga and into Atlanta. From there, I’ll travel down to Tampa, then Sarasota, Ft. Meyers and down into the Keys. Warmth, at least for a couple of days.
Saturday, January 20, 2007
I thought I might do a little site seeing around the city. It had been a warm January day when I made plans to visit and attend StricklySail at the Philadelphia Convention Center. But true winter dropped in fast. The Jeep was still covered in ice when I reached the city—a five hour drive from Saratoga Springs. It was 6 above with a "feels like" temperature of minus 10. The back hatch to the Jeep froze shut, requiring an ice pick and hair dryer to free the hatch. After loading the Jeep, I went back inside to warm up with a cup of tea. By the time I shoved off, I had to thaw the latch again. Dad told me to take the hair dryer.
It was warmer (not by much, but warmer) in Pennsylvania, but I could not bring myself to go see the Liberty Bell. The aquarium sounded interesting until I realized it was in Camden, NJ and unlike George Washington I really did not have a burning desire to cross the Delaware River.
So my taste of Philly occurred at The Market on Market Street, specifically on the corner where Tommy DiNics, John Yi Fish Market, Martin’s quality meats and sausages and Mezze Mediterranean bring together a collection of regulars and locals mixed with tourist and conventioneers in a fusion of food and conversation.
At DiNic’s conversations across the cream and maroon ceramic tile bar exchanged opinions on the weather and local news, gossip about friends and no-good sons of bitches, and ailments maligning mothers and lazy cousins. Customers dressed in white shirts and ties conversed with those dressed in khaki and topsiders. Behind the counter Tommy served up advice while his staff donned in maroon aprons prepared the house specialties of roast pork, roast beef, Italian sausage and scallopne, a thin cutlet pounded and floured.
It was all business at the sparkling clean glass case displaying John Yi’s scallops, squid and mountain trout. The neon sign “Eat Fish Live Longer” gleamed above on the glass curvature that separated the fillet and flounder from customers, but allowed passer-bys to inspect the neatly presented fish.
Enter a train of preschoolers decked out in toboggans and jackets. With little mittens dangling from their sleeves each ran their hands against the cool smooth glass surface as they trooped pass the case. “Who needs to go to the bathroom?” A chorus of little voices raised up, “I do.” As they paraded off, one little munchkin pointed toward a bronze casting and announced, “A cow.” Spotting the statue the teacher corrected, “That’s a pig.”
When in Philly, eat local. I ordered a steak and cheese with onion rings from Rick’s.
It’s all about sailing. You want it, need it, see it, touch it, smell it, got to have or dream it. It is here.
Quit dreaming and do it.
Photo: by Eric J. Gana. To purchase visit Philly Pictures
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
By 1:30 PM I was starving and ready for a bowl of cabbage soup. The main road, between Glens Falls and Saratoga was clear, but heavy with traffic diverted from the Northway were trees heavy with ice splintered and fell across the interstate bringing the southbound traffic to a stand still. Dad and I had ventured out into the crystallized landscape to buy gas for the generator. We hooked it up after the power went out mid-morning when the half inch coating of ice began to bring down tree limbs and power lines. We had lights, the furnace, refrigerator and water pump. The only ting we couldn’t run was the stove and range, but heck, when you got a microwave…
I was ten in 1963 when upstate New York fell into a deep freeze that gripped many communities for days if not weeks. Without power we relocated our sleeping quarters to the living room where the fireplace became the focal point of family life much like in the days when French and English settlers were still convincing the Indians to take sides with unknown foreign nations.
We stoked the fire with wood gathered from the surrounding woods or donated from the Skidmore College’s camp located about a half mile down the road. Borrowing a neighbor’s toboggan, Mike, Robin and I dragged the loaded sled over a road still covered with snow and ice. We melted snow for water so we could cook, drink and flush the toilet. To this day the bathroom floor in my parent’s house remains cold regardless of the time of year—haunted by the cold that seeped into the house during those days without power.
We survived playing games; scrabble, monopoly and domino brought the family together at the card table where candles provided a dim light. We told stories, shared experiences of the day or listened to Mom read to us. We didn’t miss TV, as we did not have one. And we went to bed safely, securely each night wondering when the power would come back on. I never remembered being cold except when I went to the bathroom.
Other families in the neighborhood were not so lucky. One evening while Mom and Dad were out shopping, a red glow lit the sky to the north. Robin and I knelt on the couch and gazed out the picture window at the eerie light shimmering on the night sky, knowing it was a fire, but not knowing what was burning. Mike left the house to investigate and came back to report that the Helenek’s house was on fire.
Mom told me to write about these experience, but I never did.
Monday, January 15, 2007
It had been a while since I last looked at the numbers. Last week, I checked them and discovered I broke the Million Mark—994 thousand and change. I was impressed, but since I have yet to see a royalty check I wasn’t too excited. I checked today I had reached less than half a million. Some one is buying my book. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
I was curious to see what kind of internet coverage I had, so I did a search on Metacrawler. (I don’t use Google unless I am looking for aerial photos of al-Qaeda terrorist training camps.) The usual suspects came up(my website, yahoo, authors den, blogging authors, author zone, gloucestertimes, etc..). Then I found a listing for Latitude38, a prominent west coast sail magazine.
I discovered back in December they had a list of suggested gifts for that “hard to buy for” sailor on your Christmas list (everyone has one—a sailor that is, not a Christmas list). Low and behold there was my book with the website www.valerieperez.com.
I sent the following email to their editors.
I wish to thank you for mentioning my book, The Last Voyage of the Cosmic Muffin, on your “All I Want for Christmas” wish list (December 4). I appreciate the mention. It must be why my book has rocketed to 430, 981 on Amazon’s book ranking. Took a long time to break the million mark. Maybe best sellers like You: On A Diet: The Owner's Manual for Waist Management by Mehmet C. Oz, Michael F. Roizen can inspire only so many dreams, while the Last Voyage of the Cosmic Muffin can inspire a few more.
Keep up the good work and have a great sailing year.
The Last Voyage of the Cosmic Muffin
Now don’t go rushing out to buy my book on Amazon.com. Okay, go ahead, but be aware that The Last Voyage of the Cosmic Muffin is available on my website for $25.00 which includes tax and shipping. Yes, it is cheaper to get it at Amazon, but you can only get a personalized autographed copy from me. Hell, I’ll even toss in a good looking bookmarker!
Saturday, January 13, 2007
Last night I sat on the bed holding an old photo of Mom and her two sisters. I don't know how old she was in the studio photo. It captured her youth, her dreams, her promised future...an innocent time for the three young girls captured in black and white.
Photos never reveal what is ahead. They hold moments paused as a memory. In the photo of Mom and her sisters I will never know what memories mom had of that time. In the photo of Mom with her daughter, I know she had a lot of faith and confidence in my summer's adventure.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
I got so irritated at a Al Roney, a local talk radio host on WGY for going on and on about man caves, the place to where a man can retreat, to gather his three thoughts and be female-free to scratch his ass, belch in peace and hang with his buds.
Geez. Isn’t this a term found in John Gray's book Men are from Mars, Women are for Venus? I haven’t got a copy readily available so I can’t check that, but man cave is hardly a new term or concept. Does the term "den" ring a bell?
A week ago Al talked about this subject and today he spent nearly his entire three-hour show fielding suggestions from the audience for a term that could be used mano a mano (okay that isn’t exactly the correct usage of the term, but Al's search came up with some lame terms such as Man-atorium and I felt compeled to follow suit) in public. Al's dilemma was that if he saw a man buying a mini-size refrigerator how could he ask if the refrigerator was for the man cave, and not get clobbered. I say mind your own business. The mini-refrigerator could be for his daughter’s dorm room.
I wrote Al two emails. My first one suggested the Man Hole. In my second email I wrote...
Good Lord, you are still talking about it? I have had breakfast, took a shower, read the paper, checked my email, did the crossword, organized my taxes and you are still talking about the man cave. Okay, I analyzed why this irked me so much and have a confession.
I had a boyfriend whose man cave was his 40 foot sailboat. He sailed blue water and made the huge mistake of asking me to sail with him from Hawaii to California. Thirty days trapped in his man space, I tried to create my own space within his man cave. A woman cave inside the man cave. Well, I got off the boat in California, was congratulated by his family for surviving the ordeal and went back to Hawaii. That was the end of the relationship. Still gives me the shivers.
PS- I wrote a book about it.
The Last Voyage of the Cosmic Muffin
Al wrote back: That's a great story! Well to hear - not experience. I'm just as surprised to be talking about it as you are.
He mentioned my email on the air. This afternoon I got a book order from one of his listeners. Click on http://www.wgy.com/pages/onair_roney.html if you want to see the whole list, add your own suggestion and vote on a universal, safe name for the man cave.
Well, at least he was not talking politics.
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
I am not glum about this. It was totally anticipated and expected. One now might say that was a self-fulfilling prophesy. My response to this is that I had a very realistic picture of the book business and knew what to expect—writing and publishing is easy; selling is hard. I tell any who asks what I do for a living that I am an unknown author.
I have managed to put all the receipts on the table but can’t muster the enthusiasm for sorting and adding all the expenses or even tallying the actual number of books sold and given away.
Instead, I tackled the business of Kenai Properties, my apartment building where I house four tenants who faithfully pay rent for the privilege of residing in one of my units. After a kitchen remodel, new porch roof and repairs, and other miscellaneous upkeep including grass seed for a lawn that died in June when for five weeks I couldn’t get it to rain after I fixed the roof this enterprise too shows a loss. I usually don’t tell people I am a landlord. It is not as cool as being an author, but is more lucrative.
So just how do I afford my life-style—the vagabond lifestyle where I live out of a box and carry my toiletries in a bucket, don’t own a home, or a twelve-place setting of fine china, but instead own free and clear a seventeen year old Jeep with 308,000 miles, keep a 20 by 20 storage unit containing a sixteen foot sea kayak, ice-climbing boots, all the camping gear needed for an expedition to just about any place in the world (warm or cold) and an antique pharmacy ice-box? Thank God for the stock market, plant closings and debt-free living. If I could figure out a way to get my health, auto and property insurance paid for…
Sunday, January 07, 2007
Myth or not, I was running the other day and almost stepped on a woolly bear as it made its way across the road. I stopped to ask the little guy where he was going. After all, it is January. This time of the year they should be tucked away under bark and leaves patiently waiting for spring when they emerge to spin a cocoon.
I picked the little guy up and put him in the leaves along the side of the road, taking note of the very wide band around his body.
Yesterday it reached 71 degrees in Albany.
Saturday, January 06, 2007
When the temperatures are above freezing the time it takes to find the perfect tree diminishes considerably. In need of some exercise and knowing that unless we made a thorough search of the spread of trees planted between moss covered rock walls and outcroppings we wouldn't do justice to any tree we found, we covered the upper and lower fields reminiscing about previous ventures to The Rocks. No story tops the minus fifty-seven degrees, with strong winds riding over the hill crests that carried us long faster than either of us wished. Robin accused me of pushing her and I charged her of running away from me. We still laugh about that, and got one of the most beautiful trees ever.
On Christmas Day we did not open presents until late that evening-after dinner, after dessert and after dishes. We might have been avoiding an empty joy of exchanging gifts without mom, but we had done the same thing the year before.
We got up late, had breakfast and while Dad and Darryl went off to see the remains of the Man in the Mountain Jennifer, Robin and I went for a walk. Along the way I collected three dollars worth of returnable beer cans. The cloud cover lifted and gave us a spectacular view of Mount Washington, covered with snow gleaming in the sunlight. It looked out of place behind the lower darker foot hills. How warm was it? Jennifer found a four leaf clover. On Christmas Day! That has to mean something.
When we returned to the cabin sitting above Otter Pond, Darryl and Dad were still out. The three of us opened our stockings, each missing Mom, yet determined to share the day as if she was still with us. In the past Mom had always been Santa Claus. Our stocking might be as old as we are, but we still hang them anticipating a special magic to come in the night to fill them.
Last year “Santa” forgot the shopping bag of presents—a small collection of Avon products, chocolate coins covered in gold foil, oranges and one dollar bills—left behind in New York, the bag never made it into the sleigh. The elf error never fazed Mom. Foraging into her purse she came up with band aids, safety pins, used tubes of hand lotion and other notions to put into our stockings. After all, we were not bad.
This was when I missed Mom most. The stockings were her signature. But during the night her daughters put those things their mother would have into the empty stockings—the oranges, the chocolate coins, the Avon creams and lotions. Some gifts still had their price tags; it was a habit Santa had. Mom was with us.
Robin’s venison racks were fantastic—moist, tender and without a gamey taste expected of wild deer. Cooked to a medium if not medium rare, it melted under a knife and certainly did so in the mouth. There wasn’t any apple pie, but Jennifer baked enough cookies to serve a division of soldiers so Darryl trooped out for vanilla ice cream and found a quart at an opened gas station. After we finished munchin' we opened our gifts.
Jennifer wrote the family a beautiful little poem that touched us all, leaving Dad in tears. We all missed her, each in our own way, yet we celebrated Christmas as she would have wanted us to do and as we all wanted to.
Before leaving the house on Tuesday, I crawled behind the couch, searched under the baseboard registers and peeked under the bed in a last ditch attempt to find my missing $1800 watch. It remains lost. Could it be in the back seat of Mike’s car?
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
The t-shirt was extra large and this doesn’t break a New Year’s resolution.
Monday, January 01, 2007
Under Consideration but Waffling on the Commitment
- Get a job
On the last evening of 2006, instead of partying and ringing in the New Year under a sea of confetti, which I never do anyway, I was surfing the internet researching life in Hong Kong and updating my resume. Geez. Now I should REALLY be depressed.