I’ve been wracking my brain about why I was so desperate to visit New York City, but was never equally desperate to visit Los Angeles. At first, I thought that maybe it was because Los Angeles spends so much time pretending to be someplace it isn’t and that there were no really iconic places in Los Angeles to compete with Central Park, Grand Central Terminal, the Statue of Liberty, and so forth. But Los Angeles has the La Brea Tar Pits, Santa Monica Pier (which, by the way, I still haven’t visited), Universal and Warner Brothers Studios (I always heard wonderful things about the Universal tour, but nowadays the Universal tour is an amusement park, which loses something), Griffith Park, Malibu, and so on (the first time we passed the Sherman Oaks Galleria, I actually said, “We have to go there,” not because I’m so into shopping malls, but because it’s, well, famous).

So iconic locations wasn’t it. Maybe it’s because the people who make the movies and television shows seem less enthusiastic about showing us the beauty of Southern California (except insofar as that beauty is wearing a bikini) than the people who make movies and television shows are about New York. And that may be part of it. Television and movies made a big deal out of gang violence, smog, and that period in the early 1990s when freeway shootings became big news (played, rather peculiarly, for laughs in the 1991 Steve Martin movie L.A. Story (warning: Amazon,com link)). And that may be part of it, because on some level, you get the feeling that maybe it’s not such a great place to visit (or to live in).

But, upon further reflection, my lack of burning desire to visit Los Angeles may be attributable to one specific thing.  Let me tell you a story about a man named Jed. A poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed. And no, that’s not a tangent. Jed is central to this epiphany. During Thomas and my second trip to Los Angeles, we were there with a group of friends. And one night, about half of our group piled into a car and drove off to see the house that they used as the outside of the Clampett house on The Beverly Hillbillies (warning: another Amazon.com link). And I had to pause for a moment, because the Clampett House was in California and . . . well, California isn’t a place that actually, you know, exists. When it comes right down to it, that might explain it all. I knew the names of place in California, but I also can name places in Narnia and Middle Earth, but that doesn’t put them very high on my very real list of very real places that I want to visit.

Coming up in Part 2, how Thomas and I ended up in this mythical world and what we thought about it once we got there.

I hit my third hundred dollars the other day and I’m thinking of putting this one on the stock market. I’ve considered buying a share of Disney stock, maybe, or perhaps putting the money into some kind of mutual fund (most of the money I’ve invested in the stock market is in electronically traded funds and they’re doing pretty good). Maybe I’ll just put this one into a CD as well and buy myself another three or so months before I have to make any decisions.

At any rate, getting that degree in modern languages that I want will cost me about $16,000 and so I only have $15,700 to go. And by that time I may not actually need the degree. I’ll still get it, though, because I’m into collecting pieces of paper with my name on it issued by colleges and universities (I’ve got four already).

Next up is a bit on my history with going to California — how I went there for the first time, my impressions both before and after that trip, etc. I’ve got a bit of a headcold, though, so I may need some time to recover from that before tackling this.

Now, I want to make money from my travel writing somehow. I’ve actually made a tiny bit ($15 or so, I think) from writing on different for-pay sites over the years, but I really want to get somewhere with this. So I’ve got some ideas:

  1. I’m actually breaking ground on a travel book. I really need a public-domain map that I can modify for this purpose, though. What I want to do is break the city up into manageable slices and do something a little more than a pamphlet but a little less than a book on each and then eventually join them up into larger regional guides (like having a downtown guide, a Missions-area guide, etc.) and then, if I ever finish the whole city, have one larger guide for everything. I have pictures taken of two of these sections of downtown and (as I write this on August 31) hope to get downtown to take pictures for the third soon. I’m planning to hit my friends up for personal experiences in/near/with these places to include. My dream is to include nearby towns like Boerne, New Braunfels, etc. in this guide eventually.
  2. Kinda/sorta sell photographs. My idea isn’t to actually sell them, like setting up a booth or anything, but to take requests for photos to post in my blogs. If someone, for example, wants to see if the Alamo is really in the middle of downtown (it is, but it’s not really downtown as someone from, like, Chicago or New York would understand the term), they could pay me a relatively small amount and I’d go downtown when things aren’t so crowded (an early Sunday morning in January, say) and take a panoramic shot, which I then would post in my blog for the requester and anyone else who cares to look at it. There would be a sort of mileage scale to this, so 0 to 20 miles from downtown would be X and 20.1 to 40 miles from downtown would be 2X, and so on. And I would reserve the right to reject offers that I consider to be trespassing, like you can’t take photos inside the Alamo, and so a request for a picture inside the Alamo would be trespassing and I would refuse. I like this plan, and may make this an actual thing down the line. And if there’s a fee to take professional photographs in an area, and getting paid $X counts as “professional” for the owner of that area’s purposes, then the requester of the photograph should probably foot the bill for that fee.*
  3. Start a Patreon. This is what all the cool kids are doing and I’d like to get into this, but I don’t have enough traffic to make it worthwhile and even if I did, I’m not sure how to give bonuses for people who subscribe. Maybe I could modify point 2 above to be $X into the Patreon will get you a picture posted on the blog, $X+Y will give you a photograph emailed to you a week before posting on the blog, $X+Y+Z gets you a photograph that no one but you will ever see? I’ll have to mull that over for a while.

*The fee for the Cibolo Nature Center is $20 and the Cibolo Nature Center is 31 miles from downtown, so assuming that the Cibolo Nature Center people consider getting paid $2X for the picture counts as “professional,” I’d ask the requester to pay $2X+20.

Well, ultimately, Corpus Christi got off easy. Houston, Port Arthur, and Beaumont, on the other hand, not so much. A lot of charities are collecting stuff for refugees and my pharmacy has filled a bunch of emergency prescriptions for patients who left their medications behind (in a lot of cases, the scripts were ready in the now-flooded area of Texas but hadn’t been picked up yet). We have a “floater” pharmacist on many Thursdays and every Friday and our floater today was amazed at how many emergency prescriptions we’d filled.

Today’s panic was about gasoline supplies. Apparently the trucks with the gasoline for San Antonio are delayed by the flooding. We’ve been assured that there is gas available, it just will take about a week to get here. So now everyone needs gas right now and so the stores that had gas are sold out. Personally, I have about a month’s supply in my tank right now (I don’t drive much — in fact, I mostly end up needing new tires because the rubber degrades from lack of use), and if it takes much longer than a week, I can always take the bus to work on days when I start or end early enough (it’ll add about an hour to my commute time total on a daily basis, but it’ll save gasoline).

I’ve got Alex working on finding old clothes of his that we can donate to the cause. One of my coworkers was collecting clothing and things, but we couldn’t find the clothing in time. I hope that he’ll find it tomorrow and I can take it out on Saturday. Maybe I’ll ask my coworker where to drop them off in her name. . . .

I’m pretty sure I’ve posted about my project where I’m paying myself to study foreign languages. My goal is to get good enough at one of them (I’m really pulling for that to be Chinese) that I can go right to graduate school in the language once I’ve paid myself the thousands of dollars that I would need to pay the tuition and fees. By then I’ll probably be a retiree, but it’s something to shoot for. For reference, so far, including interest (which will go up tomorrow), I’ve paid myself $289.57 in 289 days. So we’re looking at just a titch over $1 per day. The, oh, $16,000 or so it’ll take me to pay for an MA in Chinese will take me about 43 years. I may have to step it up a bit.

Of course, by the time I can afford the degree I may not actually need the degree, except as a piece of paper to prove that I really do know how to do what I’ll probably have been able to do for 20-some years by then. Or maybe even longer if, you know, I step it up a bit.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got Chinese to study.

Author’s note: I started working on this post late on August 25 and while working on it, it became August 26. As a result, read all of the “tonight”s as “last night”s, all of the “tomorrow”s as “today”s and so forth.

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Hurricane Harvey made landfall not that long ago down in Corpus Christi. I’m really fond of Corpus and it looks like Alex and I may be visiting there again to see what it looks like after the storm sometime in the not-too-distant future.

Until then, though, here I sit in San Antonio, looking at the Weather.com map of my city and noticing that my neighborhood is pretty much surrounded by rain.

They’re expecting some flooding for San Antonio and at some point the electricity is going to go out. I got home from work a bit late, as we spent some time covering electronics with plastic bags and things, just in case the roof caves in or something. Then I got to work using electricity while I have it. Alex and I cooked some turkey bacon, I did a load of laundry (and probably will do another one while I settle down for bed), I’m running the dishwasher, and I’m charging pretty much everything that needs to be charged (I’m almost done charging my phone-charging batteries and am about to start on the bluetooth speaker that we bought for the Nebraska trip).

I’m probably going to do a lot of reading tomorrow (particularly if the electricity goes out), since the wind will probably stop me from really going anywhere. I may take a hike down to the creek, which is usually dry, to watch the water flow past (which will make a dent in the 6,700 steps I need to make to get caught up with my goal). And maybe I’ll start to make a dent in my next National Geographic post and, maybe even work on the post that will be the preface to our California trip, which will explain how Thomas and I ended up going to California for the very first time, in the mid-1990s.

Or maybe I’ll just stay in bed all day. That’s a possibility, as well.

I have an elderly dog and an elderly cat and now they’re cutting hours at work (my boss is doing a great job giving me as many hours as he can, but my paycheck has still gone down by multiple tens of dollars per pay period), so I’m not sure how much traveling I can do in 2018. I still have a fair amount of my backlogged travel savings, but I don’t think it’ll pay for us to fly to Seattle, rent a car, and pay for a hotel room.

This might end up being the year we finally do the Wild Earth Llama Adventures overnight llama trip. Alex and I heard about it a couple of years ago and have wanted to go ever since. It’s in New Mexico, so we could drive there, and we could make Capulin Volcano National Monument our biennial volcano. The original plan was for our biennial volcano to be Mt. Hood or Mt. Rainier. But all three places will probably still be there in 2019 or 2020.

Also, apparently Capulin Volcano is pretty close to Taos, as well, so that’s good.

Since we’ve been taking shorter trips in August, we could continue that tradition and go to Louisiana for a long weekend. We could drive to Baton Rouge, stay overnight there for one night, then go on to New Orleans for another night or two, then drive back in one shot. We probably should go to New Orleans in one shot, then drive to Baton Rouge and back to San Antonio, but I think we should do the more exciting destination last.

Back in the 1990s, Thomas* and I drove to Louisiana just to get out of Texas for a while. We drove to near Lake Charles and then drove south from there. We then took a ferry across a bayou and drove back up. I made several failed attempts to photograph an alligator (if I recall correctly, we saw about eight of them that day), but I cannot find the pictures at all from that trip or from our stop in New Orleans when we went there on the way back from my mom’s funeral ten years ago. So this would give me a chance to take new pictures.

I’m going to start acting as though this is the plan, and then hope that I can get more work hours (or a new job (or that I can find a way to monetize this to earn some travel money)). Then, of course, once I can go back to the plan to go to Seattle, I’ll be disappointed that I cannot take the New Mexico trip. Maybe in that case, I’ll bump New Mexico up to long weekend trip.

*Notice my now-ex’s new pseudonym. I set up a spreadsheet to choose a random number between 1 and 100 and then chose the name from his birth year that had that rank. So Thomas it is.

The eclipse was awesome. The part of Nebraska where we were going was overcast and so Alex and I drove as far as we could to the northwest while still staying in the zone of totality. We got Google Maps to plot a line from Lincoln to North Platte and stayed close to that line. We could see clear sky in the distance but never quite made it. The sky wasn’t too thickly clouded over where we ended up, so we at least could see the sun. By the time we stopped, it was nothing but gravel roads.

The odd thing is that it didn’t seem to be that dark. I wondered if we had left the zone of totality. Then I looked at the photos I took later and realized that it actually had been quite dark.

It was incredibly crowded on the way back. I read an estimate that only about 100,000 people were going to be in Nebraska, and that most of them were going to the western part of the state. But we came back quite a long way by a US Route and the road was solid. There also were crowds at all of the rest areas we passed on our way down. We finally used the bathroom at a Walmart (we had to stop for batteries and cheese sticks anyhow).

So now we’re home and all we have left to do is pay off my credit card.

We’re almost out the door. I just have to get dressed and we need to put our suitcases and provisions in the car (we’ll be driving for about 14 straight hours, so we’ll need to be able to eat on the run) and we’re out of here.

So one last thing before I go. Our eldest furbaby, Alex’s diabetic cat with IBD, may very well now be Alex’s cat with IBD. When we were in California, his glucose was normal all week, despite not being given any insulin. And then, for the weeks since, we also didn’t give him any insulin. For those playing at home, that means that as of today he’s gone exactly one month without insulin.

black domestic medium hair cat with burgundy knitting on couch

Alex’s baby, circa 2003, with some of my knitting. I need to get back to knitting someday.

They tested his glucose today, and it was picture perfect. We’ll need to test his glucose again in another month and then every two or three months for a while, but it sure looks like he may no longer be diabetic.

My now-ex and I used to hate driving up Interstate 35 during the daytime. Even back in the days when we were on 35 fairly regularly (visiting family in Chicago or friends in Austin or Dallas), which would be nearly 10 years ago now, Interstate 35 was awfully congested. So on occasions when we were leaving Texas, we started the drive up 35 at night. This generally meant that we’d see Dallas in our rear-view mirror by sunrise. Since Omaha is pretty much a straight shot up Interstate 35, Alex and I are going to continue the tradition by leaving at 10:00 p.m. today.

So once I get my shower done, we’re going to do our last-minute errands. We need to board our senior cat (16 years old with inflammatory bowel disease and diabetes) and then pick up some Sugru to reinforce the ends of my phone’s charging cable. Then we’ll run up to Walmart to pick up a few other non-edible items, then to HEB for refrigeratable food (they have big containers of sliced Gala apples that Alex and I have basically been inhaling for the last couple of months). I’m pretty sure that’s going to be it errand-wise for today.

Then we have to clean. I need to vacuum my bedroom floor and we need to clean the bathroom. I failed to clean the bathroom once before I went out of town, and what I came home to was not pleasant. Then we’ll take a nap so that we’re fresh for our 14-hour drive (which will probably take 16 hours, what with bathroom stops and things).

I’m pretty much done packing. I’ve got five shirts and five sets of underwear (I always bring one extra, just in case, and I have actually needed it) and have packed Alex’s and my medications and our soap. I just need to pack my deodorant and shampoo and I’m done with that.

So here’s a short post, just to keep my hand in.

I think that my next language is going to be Russian. I have two friends who speak Russian and one might be forgiven for thinking, “She has built-in conversation partners if she goes with Russian,” but that’s not the actual reason.

Also, Russian is the eighth-most-spoken language in the world, so Russian would give me the ability to converse with, or read books written by, another 160 million people (on top of the 1.9 billion that I already have covered with my first five languages). But that’s not the reason, either, really.

I really would love to go to St. Petersburg someday. The chocolate Lenins are supposedly really good. But that’s not it, either.

My maternal great-grandmother spoke five languages, one of which was Russian. And having that in common with her would be kind of cool, but I already speak two of her five languages — English and German.

Nope. I want to learn to speak Russian because I have only two official languages of the United Nations to go, and I really don’t feel up to tackling Arabic yet. I know there’s technically one more, but  I’m putting French off for my very, very last language; the first two times I attempted it, tragedy followed, so I figure I’ll leave it for a point where I’ve achieved everything else I want in my life.