My Travel Memories: 1988, an Introduction

My whole life, I wanted to see New York City. I wanted to visit Central Park and Grand Central Station, and go to the tops of the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty. My folks had gone to the 1964 World’s Fair in Queens and my mom had hated New York City. Every time we went to the northeast and I suggested New York City, she rejected it out of hand.

Now for some personal history. In the early 1970s, my mom became friends with another lady who had three kids — boys Tyler and Thomas and a girl, let’s call her Sue. Sue was just a baby and Tyler and Thomas were a few years younger than I was, but Tyler had a very high vocabulary and was extremely talkative, so he and I became friends. Friendly? Well, we’re friends now, so let’s just go with friends.

Thomas didn’t speak much during those years. That didn’t come until the mid 80s when I graduated from high school. My mom told me that Tyler and Thomas’s families watched Doctor Who, as I also did, and so Thomas and I had a long conversation on the subject. I wondered why he’d been so quiet all those years, because I found him very pleasant to talk to.

A few years later, Tyler and Thomas graduated from high school and my mom and I went to their high school graduation party. Thomas was even more charming than he’d been a few years earlier and I found him very attractive.

I started going out with Tyler and Thomas and some of their friends occasionally, but I didn’t know if Thomas found me as attractive as I found him.

A few months later, a friend wanted me to meet her new boyfriend (who is now her husband), and knowing that the friend tends to get wrapped up in her boyfriends, I knew I’d need someone to keep me company and so I decided that this might be my chance to find out if Thomas found me attractive. I called him up and asked if my friend and I could work it out to meet for dinner or something, would he like to go with me? He said he would.

We never met up with my friend, but Thomas and I started spending more time together, and in February of 1988, we started dating. When my folks were planning our 1988 trip, my mom said that since I was grown up and would be going out on my own someday, I could pick the destination, I chose New York City.

My mom had a friend who’d just come back from Philadelphia, where they’d had a wonderful time. My dad had also recently found out that his father had trained for the Navy on the USS Constellation, which was built in 1854 (my paternal grandfather was born a long, long time ago). The Constellation was then, and is now, in Baltimore.

And that’s how we ended up going on a trip to New York City, Philadelphia, and Baltimore in 1988. And, yes, that Thomas is my Thomas, my ex-husband. We got married in 1991. More on that whenever I get to 1991.

Gratuitous Amazon Link time. The folks at one of the places I hang out on line had a ongoing thing about a comic book heroine called Squirrel Girl. It had been a long time since I read comic books, but when I decided to get back into them, Squirrel Girl was one of the ones I tried. And I loved them. So today I bring you the first compilation volume of the series, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 1: Squirrel Power, by Ryan North, Steve Ditko, Will Murray, and Erica Henderson.

About To Hither and Yon

November 28, 2020 2 of 8

At the beginning of November I said that I wanted to write one perfect introductory blog post that I could pay Facebook to promote and see if I could grow my audience.

This is that post. Or the first draft of it, at any rate.

My “name” is Olivia (not my real name, but I hate my real name, so why not take a pseudonym, right?). Olivia actually in some way relates to my real name, but . . . anyway.

The original plan for this blog was to blog about travel. Places I’d been, places I wanted to go, places I was when I wrote specific posts. I’d post my favorite pictures from each location and then monetize it with a goal of making my hobby of travel self-perpetuating. Travel -> post -> cash check -> do more travel.

It has never quite gotten to that point. At first, I didn’t want this blog to look like a *total* cash grab, so I held off on attempting to monetize it. Then, I began posting Amazon Associates links (if I can’t find a book germane to the topic, I refer to it as a “Gratuitous Amazon Link”). By the time I felt comfortable enough to think about putting ads on the pages, Google had canceled my ads account from lack of activity.

So now I just have the Amazon Links, which are not exactly making the dough roll in.

Since I haven’t been able to use this to do the travel I needed to make content for the blog, my focus has broadened. First, I added book blogging, which seemed to be a good fit with the attempted monetization through Amazon. Then I began talking about a project I’m starting where I will be working my way through my cookbooks. That is still book related, but also cooking-related, so there’s that.

And, occasionally, I post about my life and what’s going on in it. I spent November doing what’s called National Novel Writing Month, where you attempt to write 50,000 words in 30 days. I’ve done better this year than in any year before, but I’m not likely to actually reach 50,000. In order to hit that point, I’ve started talking about medical topics and also Internet content creators that I enjoy (kind of like book blogging, but with YouTube). I don’t know if those will stick around after November.

So, since I’ve talked about the Gratuitous Amazon Link in the text above, here’s one so you can see how it works. I guess that since this is not in the regular continuity of the blog, I will go outside the continuity of my Gratuitous Amazon Links for ideas. What book have I given the highest rating to on my Goodreads page and that I absolutely love? Hm. Let’s go with No Normal, by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona, the first compilation of the adventures of Kamala Khan as Ms. Marvel. I’ve loved comics since 1974 and this series is especially wonderful.

I’m Going to Be Keeping Busy for A While

November 28, 2020 1 of 8

So. Alex is moving out in a few days. I’m totally not ready for this. I mean, he’s 21 and that’s a perfectly appropriate age to leave the nest.

But I feel that there’s a whole bunch of unfinished stuff. We started an audiobook series for our road trips, and now we’ll probably never take a road trip again. I bought a bunch of food for dinners that we’ll never have.

I’m, quite frankly, mourning.

And as a result, I’m going to be doing a lot of introspection into my own life. What do I want? What do I need? How can I make a new, Alex-less, life for myself?

I mean, I’ll hear from him a couple of times a year. I still have his college fund. But will he go with me when I can face scattering Phobos’s ashes? What about our annual national park trip? I’d decided on four close by ones that I wanted to do with him (Big Bend, Carlsbad, Hot Springs, Jean Lafitte). Additionally, those four would take care of our next four audiobooks.

When I was mourning the end of my marriage, I used the anger part of it to get a bunch of work done around here, including painting my bedroom. Can I use the anger part to end my current inertia and either find an audience for this blog or find another alternative source of income that will actually pay me income?

Can I use it to get the things together that I need to do to make the career changes I need?

Can I use it to finally pick a foreign language and get the stuff I wanted to do to prepare for that degree (getting familiar with a *lot* of classic literature in my target language)?

Can I intentionally spend most of my time in “anger” and “acceptance” and ward off “denial” and “depression” entirely? What should I do about “bargaining”? Can I somehow bring that into play? Like when Thomas and I split up, I didn’t really do much bargaining. I made the offer to try counseling and when he turned me down, I washed my hands of him.

Depression hit really hard, though. I went to see a counselor on my own, and I was so scattered that I required a standing appointment. The counselor said that the only other time a patient had needed that, the patient was in end-stage dementia. So. Yeah.

Alex keeps telling me that if I text him, he’ll keep in touch. But I know myself. I have. Er. Had a really good friend whom I’ll call Catherine. We saw each other every two weeks or so for about four years. Then she started dating a guy that she really liked, married him, and they had a baby. She disappeared from my life after the wedding. Suddenly it was all about her in-laws. They had so much stuff going on that she didn’t have time to call me, or text me, or meet me for dinner or anything. I got tired of trying to find a way for us to see each other, and so I just let her go.

Basically, I feel forgettable. Once people aren’t looking directly at me, I feel like I might as well never have been part of their life. I’ve always assumed that friendship is not perfectly, but almost like that game where you have two strings and each string has a handle on both ends. Threaded on the string is a ball. and the game is that the players each spread out their arms by turns, which sends the ball to the other player. I don’t expect it to be perfectly my turn-their turn-my turn, but I do expect to have the ball come back my direction occasionally. And if the ball doesn’t, well, eventually, I figure that the other player has stopped playing and I’ll put my handles down and walk away.

And that’s what happened with Catherine. And it’s what I’m terrified will happen with Alex.

Longhorn Cavern State Park, Burnet, Texas

November 9, 2020 6 of 8

I think this is my 6th post for today. Maybe it’s my 5th. I was, like, well, I can always look at the place where I paste all of my posts for the month for NaNoWriMo counting purposes, then I realized that I don’t copy that part of the post over because I feel that would artificially inflate my word count. I’m not even that sure if my Gratuitous Amazon Links should count.

Agh. Never mind. Longhorn Cavern.

These are the stairs down to the caverns. My first picture showed more of the top of the stairs, but I was afraid that part would be too overexposed (and I was right — I mean, just look at the top of this picture) so I slid over to the right and took this one, which I also think is more interesting.

First, a warning. Since I had Mila with me, I couldn’t go in to buy a ticket for the tour, so I haven’t taken the tour yet. I do intend to sometime. Whenever I have the time and energy to go all the way to Burnet again.

I wouldn’t’ve been able to take her on the cavern tour anyhow (I just double-checked that with the tour website), so I definitely didn’t take the tour.

There are three things that make the park interesting. The first is kind of standard if you’ve been around here very long — the hiking trails. It was pretty warm, and while I’m getting Mila used to strangers, she was a little tense with strangers, since she was so far from home (I’ll bet that Burnet smells different from San Antonio to a dog). I’m hoping that she’ll get better about that, since I want to be able to use her as a travel buddy. As a result, we didn’t get to see all of the trails. We did the trail near the cavern entrance, and the Backbone Ridge Nature Trail. The Backbone Ridge Nature Trail connects the second interesting point:

There are a number of Civilian Conservation Corps (“CCC”) structures in the park. I believe that I’ve gone through this before, but given the nonlinear nature of this blog, I’ll do it here. The CCC was one of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, and it may have been the one that was most popular with the general population. The men who worked for the CCC were housed in camps and given food, work uniforms, medical care, and an income that works out to less than $3 per hour in today’s money, quite a lot of which were sent to the men’s families.

The CCC was employed in building flood-prevention structures, reforestry, and also in building structure to improve public lands, including parklands. There are three CCC structures at Longhorn Cavern State Park. One, the administration center, is next to the visitor center at the park. This building has a deck that is reachable without going into the building, so Mila and I went up there. There is a cabin, and an observation tower. The cabin is used for storage and the observation tower had this metal spiral staircase that I didn’t like the looks of, so we didn’t go up there.

And, of course, the third thing is the cavern itself. Mila and I walked down to the entrance of the cavern, which has stairs and arches and things that I think are also by the CCC.

The cavern was formed by water filtering through cracks in the ground during what’s known as the “Llano Uplift,” which I don’t really understand and will have to research. I eavesdropped on one of the tour guides and he said that there are relatively few caverns formed this way, and even fewer (I think he said four?) are open to the public.

Now for the Gratuitous Amazon Link. I really need to catch up on my nonfiction reading, to give this section a little more variety. Alas, this is another kidlit book. The Secrets of Solace is the middle book in a trilogy by Jaleigh Johnson set on the planet of Solace. Interestingly it looks like the three books of the trilogy are independent stories. The first two certainly are.

Back from My State Park Trip and Boy Are My Arms Tired

November 8, 2020 1 of 8

Yeah, that title pretty much says it. I’m so tired I’m getting a little punchy.

I left the house at 8:30 this morning and picked up Mila at 9. Then we started on Blanco Road, which is a smaller street that’s less congested than US 281 closer in to the city.

We got to 281 and headed north to Burnet, where we tried to get into Inks Lake State Park. I say “tried to get into” because they were waiving entry fees today in honor of Veteran’s Day. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department website recommends reservations for day use, but reservations were effectively required. So that eliminated Inks Lake State Park and Pedernales Falls State Park. I didn’t even bother trying Guadalupe River State Park.

I also tried to sign up for a state park pass and accidentally made what I intended to make my password into my username. I have no idea what my password id. My mobile data connection was spotty that far out, so maybe I accidentally typed the wrong thing into the wrong field.

Um. Actually. I just checked my email and there is an email with the username I wanted to use and that has my info and the password I wanted to use is attached to that username. I’m so confused.

Okay, so I went and got my credit card and tried again. So I now have a state parks pass. I’ll have it in my hands in a couple of weeks. And if I want to go to a state park before then, I can always have the look up my pass number.

Not that that would have done me any good today, you understand. But it’s good to have in the future.

Originally I was going to do my annual national park this weekend, but it looks like that’s not going to happen. I wonder if Alex is off on the 12th, 13th, or 14th? I’m off all three and we’ve long had plans to go back to Waco to finish Cameron Park. We could hit Waco Mammoth while we’re there. He’s probably already busy then, but I can ask, right?

They’ve Gotten Rid of Google Play Music!

November 7, 2020 1 of 8

I’m going on a road trip tomorrow. I’m taking Mila and driving up US 281 to probably Burnet and then back down, hitting all of the state parks on the way. So I’ll have some state park posts later.

Preparing for this, I’m downloading music, a Pimsleur lesson, and audiobooks onto my podcast phone (a Samsung S5 from 2014). And just setting this up is more of an adventure than I though it would be.

Until October, when I started focusing on Pimsleur, I primarily listened to ChinesePod in the car. And I used Google Play Music to play the lessons.

And now Google Play Music is gone. They say I have to use YouTube Music to play things from now on. Will I be able to use YouTube Music on my podcast phone (a Samsung Galaxy 5 that I got in 2014)? Will I be able to find my ChinesePod lessons on YouTube Music if I *can* use YouTube Music on my podcast phone?

Okay, so I downloaded YouTube Music (I was totally expecting Google Play to laugh at me for even trying it), and moved my next ChinesePod lessons into Google Drive. Then I opened Google Drive on my podcast phone and downloaded the files to my phone.

Where are the files in YouTube Music? I found them under Albums -> Device Files.

Welp, I ended up downloading most of them twice, so I have nine podcasts in that directory. Better than zero, I guess.

Great. I closed the app and now I can’t find Albums anymore. Ah-ha! Library -> Albums -> Device Files.

And the files play! And if I delete the extra copies from My Files, it gets rid of the extras. Yay!

Now, let’s get El Ladrón del Rayo sorted out. I need to download the book completely, because my podcast phone doesn’t have an internet connection; I have to use wifi.

Yay! It’s working!

Okay, so I have my Pimsleur lesson (half an hour), five ChinesePod lessons (another two-ish hours), and El Ladrón del Rayo (10.75 hours). Yeah. That should get me through the day. I’m only planning to go as far as Burnet, which is two hours to the north, but there will be some driving around in the state parks that I visit.

I also picked up my travel snacks — “wasabi” peas (they’re actually flavored with horseradish), almonds, Golden Grahams S’Mores bars, Skittles, pop, and water. Also, I’m going to bring dog food and two kinds of dog treats for Mila. I’m going to stop on the way for a Subway with veggies (spinach, green peppers, cucumber, tomato, black olives, and provolone cheese — yum!) Mila will want to eat my snacks, but she can’t have any of my snacks, except for the water. I’m trying to train her out of begging, but it’s going to be a long road.

Gratuitous Amazon Link time! For this one, it’ll be The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe by Ryan North and Erica Henderson. This one was awesome. I love The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. And she really is unbeatable. She wins by befriending the villains. This is a skill that more of us need. This is a skill that *I* need.