Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Visit to the Nail Salon

My gut situation has improved but isn't a hundred percent yet. I thought I'd go down to the pharmacy and get some meds, but then I read how in Mexico you need a prescription for antibiotics. Then I saw some signs--seems some pharmacies have doctors keep office hours, and you stroll in, tell the doctor your symptoms, and they write a prescription.

Hmmmm. I might give that a try if I'm not feeling better within the week, but I strongly feel that I need an English-speaking doctor if I don't want to try to mime my symptoms. Though that might be amusing for anyone watching.

At some point, I decided my innards were feeling safe enough to make an excursion to the nail salon. In San Miguel, a lot of the top nail techs come to your house to "do" your nails. Well, that just sounds unpleasant to me. I don't want people in my house pampering me. It seems awkward to me. I'd rather go to them.

I'd spotted a nail salon at the dinky mall by the Soriana supermarket, so I took the bus up the hill to check it out.

The salon looked every bit the upscale, traditional nail salon, and the prices were typical of the area (meaning more than NYC but not more than most other places in the US), so I bit the loss of paying extra for being outside New York and went on in.

The pedicure woman turned out to be great, precise and thorough, but crikey, two hours? The manicure woman, meanwhile, made a mess. She seemed to be in training. Eventually, I made her take the pink globs off and just leave my hands au natural. I was kind of pissed off—you don't spend money to have someone make a big globby mess. But that's all right, I just won't go back. Pedicures last for weeks, so I'll get my next one at Colorful Nails on 8th Street and Sixth Avenue, behind the old Barnes and Noble, and I'll get a manicure somewhere in San Miguel in a week.

One fun thing about the nail salon is the random conversations you get into with other customers. Today, a woman sat on either side of me. To my left was a heavily made-up woman with false eyelashes who lives half-time in Santa Fe and had bought a house here in the country.

She was a little dippy, and when the nail tech asked in Spanish if I wanted my cuticles cut, she jumped in to "interpret," telling me the question was "round or square."

 I firmly told her it obviously wasn't—the tech was waving the cutters at me and using words new to me.

 On the other side was a more relaxed Austinite who'd lived here more than a decade. She speaks fluent Spanish and interrupted to corroborate my interpretation. She then said she had to go home for a while and this was her last chance at a pedicure for weeks or months since she didn't know how long she'd be in the hospital.

 "Oh no," I said. She nodded. "They just found out I have MS. That doesn't bother me--I've been in and out of hospitals for a decade over a spine problem already. What bothers me is the tumor they found in my brain. That's going to take a while to sort out. I need to get my legs waxed too. We drive up on Friday, so I need to hurry up."

She's tough. Been through so much medical care she knows to get her legs waxed now. After all, it lasts for weeks.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

This Could Be Improved

The ATM line here is a bit much. On the plus side, it's fee-free for me since it's owned by Citibank.

They still get me on the nonsensical "foreign fee," though. Ludicrous, but they like to pretend there's more work involved in me accessing a giant database from their own ATM.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Adventures in Intestinal Fun

"Six in the morning on a Sunday," I thought, "seems like a perfectly reasonable time to set off fireworks."

These went on all day long, and well into the night. Then, around three in the morning, I woke up to fireworks of a different kind.

The kind in my gut.

Oh, yippie, I though as I sat flopped down on the tile of the bathroom floor in the middle of the night.

I spend the next day unpleasantly prone or in the bathroom. My lunch had been contaminated. Had the cook used the same uncleaned hands for lettuce and avocado as he'd just used on a raw chicken? Or was it the hand I'd shaken of the guy whose MacBook I'd kept an eye on while he went into the men's room? Or the cut fruit I'd gotten at the market? Bacteria are easy to come by in a world of money and excrement and microbes. Which is everywhere.

On the bright side, this is nothing—NOTHING—like the time I was dramatically ill in Uganda. This is about a 5 on a scale of 1-10 in gut distress.

So I guess I'll live.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Morning After

Back "home" in San Miguel the morning after my trip to Mexico City, I had no food for breakfast. I headed up the road to the organic grocery.

And ended up with this.

Now, I adore the organic grocery here. It's got all kinds of veggies, soups, juices, and breads, but this is clearly not what I should be eating. I feel kind of sickly just thinking about all the various fried products on offer around town. Even gourmet fried eggs are still fried eggs.

I do eat a lot of fruit and yogurt, but that's not enough. I have to start making fresh food at home, or buying salads. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

La Mole in Mexico City

Here are some shots from La Mole Comic Con in Mexico City. Richard took the shot of me.

I dropped by his table and hung out for several hours, catching up as it's been a while and I missed San Diego Comic Con this year and he had missed the New York Con.

Eventually, it was time to walk back to Hotel New York to pick up my tiny overnight bag (well, grocery bag, really) and head to the bus station. I caught the last express bus back to San Miguel. This was less comfy than the outgoing bus had been as the bus was full and the guy next to me was obtrusive.

I got in too late for the local buses to still be running in San Miguel de Allende, so after standing cluelessly at the bus stop for a minute, I hailed a taxi.

"Hidalgo y Insugentes, por favor."

He dropped me at the taco stand.

La Puerta del Tren es Peligrosa

They mean business on the Xochimilco tren ligero.

Heading to the Island of the Dolls, Part Two

I got off the pokey light rail, or tren ligero, at the last stop along with most everyone else. Here I was in Xochimilco, embarkation point for the Isla de las Muñecas on the outskirts of Mexico City. The Island of the Dolls. Most specifically, of the decaying, broken dolls. Which sounded both hideous and fascinating, and I wanted to give myself nightmares, so here I was.

A sign outside the station pointed the way to the dock, or embarcadero. I followed it. After walking a few blocks, I came to a big arch leading to a dock area around a lagoon full of colorful party punts. This wasn't the embarcadero mentioned in Lonely Planet, or even one of the two mentioned on the websites I'd been poring over.

A big sign announced, clearly, the official government rate of 350 pesos (USD 27) an hour. How many hours would this take? Reports varied from two to four.

This isn't going to work, I thought. I could see that already. But here I was, so I started asking around.

"Cuánto es...una persona..." I pointed to myself. "Isla de las Muñecas y retorno?"

"Retorno" probably isn't the right word here. The boat pilot pointed to the official government rate sign.

"Tiempo?" I asked.

Heading to the Island of the Dolls, Part One

I hadn't gotten a lot of sleep when the sound of a typewriter woke me up before seven. I'm out of practice at sleeping in tired old budget hotels. You have to do it for several nights running before you stop wondering about how many people have slept on the old pillow or if there are bedbugs. When you're tired enough and been doing it long enough, you don't care. If there are bedbugs, you'll know soon enough.


What the hell? How long had it been since I'd heard a typewriter used in the wild? (Burma, actually, in December.) They must need it for filling in some form with printed "Fill in here" blanks. My room was near the lobby and the hotel office.

I tried sleeping a while longer, but even when the typewriter went silent, I couldn't. I got up. I had to get out of the room early today. I was going to attempt to visit the Island of the Dolls.

I'd spotted a blurb about Isla de las Muñecas in Lonely Planet, but it had said something about being hard to get to, so I'd quickly scrolled past it when I'd been browsing the Mexico City section of my guidebook. But then I'd been in the San Miguel town photography center early last week and had met a woman named Jo Brenzo who'd created a book on her photos of this little island. She was running a photo trip to the island in September, but I'd be gone by then.

Later that day, I'd read about the island and was intrigued. An island of decaying old dolls! That sounded nightmarish. Positively creepy. And also, like a total pain in the ass to get there. You had to take the metro to the light rail to a short walk to a boat dock, where you had to then negotiate a pleasure boat pilot into taking you to this island rather than on a mariachi-serenaded jaunt around the scenic canals.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Running Errands in D.F.

"I belong in the city," I thought as I navigated the metro in Mexico City. I enjoy the anonymity of metropolitan areas, but mostly I like the seamless ease of melting onto a subway with just a look at a map.

I'd been in Mexico City in 1992, but that didn't mean I remembered anything much about it. I had to pause as I left the Norte bus terminal. "Donde es la metro, por favor," I asked a guard.

He rattled something off—the problem with asking in Spanish is getting answered in Spanish—and pointed me to the center of the terminal. Ah, there is was. The stairs into the ground, right in front of the center of the building.

I descended, bought five tickets from the booth clerk at the phenomenal bargain rate of three pesos each, and slipped through the turnstiles. I nearly stopped, surprised at the signage around me. So much hand lettering! All so old and probably the same as what was painted here during my 1992 trip.

A long darkened hallway gave me pause as I remembered Mexico City had a reputation for petty crime, but it was just an exhibit of constellations. I walked through, suddenly feeling like I was in the United terminal in Chicago, with the tunnel and flashing lights.

Field Trip

When I scrolled past the day's posts on Facebook on Monday night, I spotted this on my feed, posted by my old comic book pal Richard Starkings:

Comic con is over I would like to sleep for a week... Oh? I'm going to Mexico City on Thursday?

Wha--? Hang on a minute. I asked him what was up...turned out there's a comic book convention in Mexico City and he was a guest this year.

I asked a few questions, then went to the Primera Plus site and booked myself a roundtrip ticket, and snagged a free night off my bank account loyalty account.

Then I realized I had forgotten to pack a collapsible spare bag or even a daypack. My overnight luggage ended up being pretty ghetto.

But no matter. I wasn't going to Mexico City to impress people with my overnight bag.

I had a hard time getting to sleep at nine o'clock the night before. But somehow, I got out of bed at 4:30 AM and managed to get out of the house a little over an hour later.

The streets of San Miguel are eerily silent at that time of the morning. A taxi drove past me slowly. I was heading down to the bus stop, but after wondering for a minute what time the local buses started running, I hailed him.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Walking Tour of San Miguel de Allende

I just uploaded photos of the July 19th walking tour I took of San Miguel's history center.

You can find the album here. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Local Treat

A sign in my local market. I'm told this is a nice treat, but the thought of this combination makes me feel a little queasy. 

Tuesday Market

Yesterday, I'd tried to buy fresas (strawberries), but could find none in town.

There were so many a few days ago, all smallish and local. I'd bought a bunch for 10 pesos. But now, I spotted none in the market or in the greengrocer's shop.

"No fresas?" I tried asking.

"No. Jueves," said the fruit-seller I'd bought them from last time.

So we'll have strawberries on Thursday, apparently. Or maybe they thought I was asking for eggs. My Spanish accent isn't exactly accurate.

Last night, I'd wondered if I'd have to add "The windows leak and create a small flood" to my vocabulary. I'd grabbed towels and soaked up the water on the kitchen floor after a dramatic thunderstorm with high winds had suddenly soaked my toes. But I think it was just the wind and the angle. This happened once at my place at home, and the leak hasn't happened since.

Today, I found my fresas, along with every dollar-store item I might ever want. Not sure I'll go back to the Tuesday Market, but it was fun. A lot like similar markets all over the world.

Or the dollar store.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Mission Bus Station

Today I did some reconnaissance, and walked to the bus station to figure out how to get to other places in Mexico.

There are first-class busses to Mexico City for $27, second-class for $21 (the difference is a half-hour minimum in the schedule), and super-fancy buses for a bit more.

I caught the local bus back to town, so I have that part down now. Tomorrow I'm off to the big weekly flea market (hoping to avoid getting fleas).

Cafe Contento

Mmmm, nice way to spend an afternoon.

More Adventures in San Miguel

Things I've learned in my first week:

-Flip-flops really do suck for navigating cobblestones, but when you have a bruised little toe, they're the only shoe that really works.

-Hairdressers here are either outrageously priced, booked for months, operate from apartments, or look too suspect to risk here. I found the one everyone likes, but she didn't have an appointment until September. By then, I'll be home. I'm thinking about going to the cheap one, but I really don't need a bright blond strip across my hair, so I'll probably go to a Redken salon in Mexico City or Queretaro instead. My colorist uses Goldwell, but she used to use Redken and they have lots of locations in Mexico.

-The best food prices are at the fruit and vegetable market, which is an amazing bargain. The best supermarket is not in town—you take a bus to Soriana. It's really quite easy, just grab the 7-8-9 bus from Mesones at Colegio. It's only 5 pesos and you'll see Soriana at a large roundabout on the right-hand side after a few miles. In town, if you don't want to trek out to Soriana, there's a great little grocery called Bonanza at Mesones 43A.

-Movistar is the cheapest prepaid SIM for unlocked mobiles, and you can buy it so it comes with unlimited social networking and e-mail for 30 days. Finding someone who sells that SIM is another story. I finally bought mine at a shoestore at Insurgentes 43 after asking at phone stores for a week.

-Bajiogo has a great airport shuttle to Queretaro, the closest airport. I'm sure it cost too much to fly into Queretaro regularly, but if you use miles, it's a low-demand route.

-Street food here looks a lot more greasy, fried, and disgusting to me than the Taco Truck at home. I remember getting some great street food in Chihuahua and El Fuerte years ago, but here I have yet to see any that doesn't make my heart hurt just from looking.

-The retirees who come into the coffee shop and practice pleasantries with the barista are so cute, and trying a lot harder than I am. And they don't butcher it or slip in French like I do. I will try harder.

-This seems to be a retiree activist community. These people have a real community going and all seem to be involved in arts and projects. By projects, I mean raising money for local charities. It's pretty sweet, not at all what I expected.

-For buying coffee to use at home, there's a fantastic place called Cafe Ventana. Yum.

-The walking tour here is excellent. Here are some photos.

-The little tinny electronic song you hear played at least once a day, sort of like the ice cream man but possibly even more annoying? It's the gas man. He'll sell you bottled gas.

-Here are a few great places to eat, and some of them have lunch menus of the day: La Mesa Grande, Vivoli, Cafe Contento, Via Organica, El Pegaso, and of course, I've only been here a week so I'm sure I'll find plenty more.

I still haven't sorted out the hairdresser part, and I haven't tried to do laundry yet. There are plenty of drop-off washing places, but I only saw one self-service on the way to Soriana, and that seems overkill to take my laundry on the bus when there's a drop-off place on the corner. I so have letting other people do my laundry though. There's always the risk of shrinkage.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Winding Down A Long Day

I dropped off my groceries at "home," but I still had to get dinner. I wandered back out and was a little shocked at the local prices. I don't know what I expected...but this wasn't it. Not that things are so expensive. They just aren't that cheap.

I picked a random restaurant and went up their stairs to order the menu del dia...which was all right, but nothing special. The help decided I was Polish and sent over a Polish woman to talk to me.

Just as I paid my bill, the rain started.

And what a rain it was.

Día Uno

I had a lot of late-ish work to get through on my first morning in San Miguel de Allende, but I also needed to check out my surroundings, get lunch, and get my bearings. I didn't even know which way the center of town was. I'd been in a daze at 1:30 last night when the shuttle from Queretaro Airport has wound into town, slowing down for the many speed bumps.

I unpacked quickly, so if the housekeeper stopped by, she wouldn't find a wreck on the floor of my new apartment. I took a look at the map and googled some lunch spots. I planned to aim for the closest. There. Cafe Buen Dia. That looked just fine.

I headed down the cobblestone street between two rows of colorful colonial buildings. Burnt siennas, amarillos, burnt oranges, and reddish-brown squares with ornate iron bars and large carved doors. Lovely. 

Right at the end of the block was the main tourist crafts market. That was nice, but next to it was also the fruit and vegetable market—great!—and some lunch stalls. I kept walking for now, headed via the crafts stalls to the next street, then the next.

My lunch was buen as promised, and then I didn't want to go home yet. I wanted to investigate. So I walked more, until I got to the main square, the zocalo, here called the jardin. On the far side was a huge brick-red church. Wow, what a facade. I veered over to Tourist Information.

"Hola, habla Ingles?" 

Of course he spoke English. He was in Tourist Information. "Yes."

I needed some basic stuff, and I was too spaced-out to sightsee, so I asked him how to get to the big supermarket. He told me to catch the bus on Mesones for five pesos. I did, zooming up the hill to a supermarket, where I got yogurt and milk and granola and a few other things. I'd have to find coffee in town in a few days. I'd brought enough with me to get started, and didn't want to get the local equivalent of Maxwell House.

I caught the return bus across the street, and we hit traffic on the outskirts of the centro. Was this a funeral? There was a coffin in the procession. But there were also dancers and musicians. Baffled, I followed the lead of the locals and got out and walked the rest of the way.

Don't Flush the Paper

There's a sign by the toilet in my apartment.

It's similar to signs I've seen all over the world, and also explains the foul wastebaskets in the ladies room near baggage claim in Miami airport, a gateway from this part of the world.

These things totally make me roll my eyes. Have you ever had a plumbing disaster and seen how fast toilet paper decomposes?

If not you could try an experiment. Try putting out two buckets of water. Put some soft supermarket-style TP in one. Put a balled up chunk of old newspaper in the other.

Which do you think will disintegrate quickly?

So in my opinion, using more biodegradable goods eliminate the problem. But that's not going to happen in most of the world, so they avoid stuffing up their septic tanks with what eventually turns into a kind of paper mache clog by throwing the paper into a wastebasket.


Of course, we have similar problems at home with things marked "flushable," which yes, technically, you can flush, but you know, you can flush just about anything. You can flush a Star Wars action figure from 1979. That doesn't mean you SHOULD. Ditto for feminine hygiene products and Wet Ones and those "flushable" diaper wipes. If it can't biodegrade in a few minutes, it has no business stuffing up your pipes.

Anyway, I'm of the unscientifically proven opinion that you can flush paper down the toilet if you are using the right paper, and this whole "It will stuff up the septic" is meant for lousy paper.

Which is what you get in much of the world. So I guess go ahead and use the stinky basket in the corner. Just be glad you don't have to empty it when you're traveling. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Good Morning, San Miguel

I woke up dazed my first morning in San Miguel.

"Coffee," I thought.

But I didn't want to navigate town trying to sort out where to buy coffee until I was a bit more awake. I'd brought some along, and I'm carrying my little coffee press, but then I had another thought.


This one I was less successful with. I was carrying some packets of instant oatmeal in my bag, leftover from my Burma trip in December-January. (Breakfast had been decent everywhere I stayed there and I hadn't used them.)

Not exactly the breakfast of champions, but I was ready now to unpack and figure out which way would lead me to the center of town. 

Arriving in San Miguel

The little plane I was on at DFW was delayed. We sat on the runway for a couple of hours. Was there really no team able to come push us back and retract the runway? Or maybe I have that in reverse-order.

Two guys in the aisle behind me carried on a long chat about their jobs, and one of them was super-loud. Little bits of ice kept falling on me from the vents above.

Finally, we flew—only a few hours—to Queretaro, Mexico. This is a new airport, and we were the only flight coming in this time of night. It still took a while to process us, though we couldn't have totaled more than fifty people including the crew. I hit the little random button and got the red light—my bags were searched. Which was mildly inconvenient, but given I hadn't overpacked and things were not stuffed into my bag, no big deal.

I found my shuttle bus driver outside Immigration, and together we waited for the other shuttle passenger, who must have been sitting near the back of the plane. The three of us piled into the shuttle van, and we were off to San Miguel.

The other passenger promptly fell asleep. I could see why. The drive seemed to take forever, though the distance is short. We had to keep slowing down for all the speed bumps along the way.

"Animas, right? Or Privada de Animas?"

I told the driver "Animas" with great certainty. I had no idea what Privada de Animas was (it turned out to be a little street off of regular Animas), and started to wonder if I was right. But then he pulled up in front of a reddish-brown squat plaster-y colonial row house with a sign on it.

"What does the sign say?" I asked. I couldn't see it in the dark.

"Vacation Rentals With Personality," said the driver, with a laugh.

"This is it."

I thanked him, pulled my luggage out of the van and to the door, and as the van pulled away, I found myself staring at the bells and wondering which to push. Nothing said "Office" or the name of the company. There were just four generic bells, for four generic apartments at 1:30 AM.

So I knocked, assuming the man-with-the-key would be in the lobby.

I knocked louder, and looked again at the bells. Which apartments had people in them? If I pushed the bottom left one, would people hear? Would I be waking up a honeymooning couple in their charming apartment?

Then someone answered the door and let me in. But it wasn't the man-with-the-key, it was another client.

"My mother lives across the street, but she's overcrowded now, so I'm staying here."

No one with a key was wandering around inside, so I went to my room to see if there was a key in the door. Nothing. I looked at the roof to see if there was a sofa to sleep on until morning. Nothing. Also, there was no sofa in the common area or I'd have crawled onto it on the spot.

The other client brought out his room's landline and I called the "Call in case of emergency" number. Me having no idea how to get into my room seemed close to an emergency.

"Hello?" A sleepy woman answered.

"Hello, I came in late, and no one is here with the key."

"Why didn't you call?"

"What, from the plane?" I laughed. She didn't. She gave me a lecture on calling when you're late.

I took a breath. Surely I wasn't the first tourist to come in on a late plane. She'd expected me at midnight. I'd assumed the people who worked here would have the same access to online arrival times I had from my phone or laptop. That's why I'd repeatedly sent my arrival information. Not because it's fun. If someone in the tourist business doesn't know how to find out when a flight arrives by this time in their lives, I can't really help them.

"I was on the plane. You can't call from the plane. And my SIM doesn't work here. Should I go to a hotel tonight?"

There, I trumped her. Go on and lecture me. I'm here. Send me the damn key.

"No. Just wait."

A minute later, a rumpled man came out of one of the guest rooms. Fairly predictable, aside from not knowing which room he'd fallen asleep in and which bell to ring. Surely he could have put up a "Ring this bell" for which apartment he'd decided to sleep in. Or maybe he was sleeping by the window so he could hear me, and just hadn't.

He carried my luggage up a ridiculously steep spiral staircase to a small studio apartment in the sky. I thanked him (I hope he wasn't waiting on a tip because I had not small local currency yet) and fell fast asleep.

Monday, July 15, 2013

In Motion Again

I finally got the toilet permanently fixed at six AM the morning I was leaving town. I had to do that -- my friend Yancey, who owns my apartment, is there with his family for the whole time I'm gone. He probably expects a working toilet.

I'd fixed it the night before too, as Denise sat on a step-stool and chatted. That was our social engagement for the evening. I triumphantly finished, rolled up off the floor, and declared I didn't see any leaks from the tank. 

Then it leaked.

I couldn't bear to take apart the toilet again. I'd gone through four wax rings on the base -- two the first time, and two after I realized I'd sawed the bolts off too short to add the snap-on bolt covers and had to re-do it. Then I'd gone through two sets of fabric washers on the tank-to-bolt set-up. I'd overtightened the first time and torn some of the washers. I rushed off to Home Depot and started over. 

"I need to clean," I said, putting down my channel locks and picking up my Swiffer. Denise took up the sweeping responsibilities before she had to leave an hour later. 

At 2:30 AM, I had cleaned the whole place and made piles of clothing to maybe take to Mexico. I'd pulled down my luggage and dragged the contents of my desktop computer to a small hard drive. I decided it might be okay to sleep a little.

I dragged myself out of bed at five and fixed the toilet, for real this time. I did laundry and took out the trash, then threw boxes and bags into my car, which I parked in my garage. I pulled my luggage out and limped to the PATH train, where I proceeded to miss every possible connection on my way to Newark.

Fortunately, the BoltBus out of Newark to DC leaves a few minutes late, so I made it. I was heading to my mother's for a few days before flying to Mexico.

And once I got on the bus, another passenger stepped right on my busted toe. I'd stubbed it mightily on a powered-down vacuum cleaner on Wednesday night and had been trying hard to ignore it. But I couldn't wear normal shoes or sandals, and was traveling in dollar-store flip-flops that let my toe hang out. There was a giant bruise on my foot.

My mother and I bought gauze and tape and now I have a taped up toe using the next toe as a splint, and I'm in Dallas-Fort Worth Airport en route to Mexico.

And I bought fancier flip-flops. So now I'm all class.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Walking Well Before Midnight

I totally forgot to mention that while I was at my mom's, she and her husband and I went to the Patsy Cline historic house in Winchester, Virginia.

This house has been in Winchester all along, since before my mother was born, but it was only recently turned into a site. Patsy Cline was looked down on in Winchester for many years. She was the child of a single mother in a time when that was not considered appropriate, and she wanted to be a singer. So she wasn't genteel, and the town wanted nothing to do with her back in her own generation.

Ed Ward pointed out to me this excellent article about Patsy Cline's childhood home and relationship with Winchester.

Many years ago, I'd thought about going to Winchester to find Patsy Cline's house, but I never had. Now I'm glad I waited, since it's been restored and opened to the public.

The tour itself is kind of tough. There's a lot of standing and listening to the lecture. I would mix it up a bit more if I were in charge, moving the visitors a bit faster and then maybe circling back to the entry room. The standing in one place for so long bit was trying. Plus I developed some kind of drastic reaction to some cleaning product and nearly had to flee.

I'm glad we went, but next time, we need to check the Museum of the Shenandoah too. And maybe we can go back to Dinosaurland, which never gets old, though it's older than I am.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Dog Art

While I was at my mom's, she pulled out some stuff from when I was a kid. This included this painting I did of Spotsy (short for Spotsylvania), which we've actually seen before here on this blog, but also, she showed me this fine bit of work about three dogs, Psi, Spotsy, and Douglas.

I have no idea what Little Marie was thinking, putting dogs on giant plants.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Ninja Express Redux

I got an e-mail from Travelers Tales the other day. They're featuring one of my stories on two sites.

Of course, I'm sure you already read this on, right? 

This Just In

Stuart just spotted this online, so now I can tell you what I'm doing next. Woo-hoo!

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Finished at Last

Okay, not totally finished. I have to saw off the top of the bolts and pop the caps onto the toilet, give the floor a once-over with a cheesecloth, wait a few days, spray on sealer, wait a day or so, and caulk. And there's a Home Depot plumbing section with my name on it. I just bought a new Fluidmaster 400 after the water company tore up my street, turned off the water, sent me sludge when they turned it back on, and gummed up the works. But that didn't survive my annoyed toilet removal for this project, when I couldn't get the bolt off.

It's wonderful to have indoor plumbing back, even if I have to flush with a bucket for the moment. The people at the gym were probably wondering why I was suddenly attending so devoutly.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Tiled But Not Grouted

So. I never need to do that again. My knees are red (and yes, I was wearing knee pads), my manicure is hopeless, and everything aches. And when all this was done, after I drank all my orange juice right from the carton in one long go, I still had to haul the old floor in two contractor bags downstairs for garbage night.

Bonus: According to the gym scale, where I showered this morning but didn't work out, because who needs it when you're doing manual labor, I've lost five pounds during this project.

Maybe in a few years I can tackle installing wainscoting.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

The Floor

Here's today's adventures in flooring.

Phew. I'm beat. Manual labor is for the young. 

I ran into a few problems. There are two slightly raised spots. One I think I managed to gloss over, but the one on the lower right could an issue. I'm going to try screwing it down more tomorrow, or maybe I can get a smooth hill over the tape. The other problem is I can't quite get the screws flush, so I might try hitting them with a sledge hammer. I bought concrete backer board screws rather than the branded HardieBacker ones, which might have been a mistake. 

I will try tiling in the morning. The gym opens at 7, and I can head over there for a shower and there's also a toilet at the coffee shop on the corner, but I really don't want to make this a habit. I can go to the gym without being forced to use their facilities all the time. I can just go to, you know, exercise. 

Monday, July 01, 2013

The Update

Here's the current state of the bathroom floor.

I've cut the HardieBacker to fit all but the last patch under the toilet (which will also need a hole cut in it). I placed the marble threshold and it's held up by a chisel at the moment. Today, I spent the morning prying and tugging out wedged-in chunks of mortar.

Tomorrow I have to master getting that strip of caulk-y guck off the bathtub so I can make it look clean and new after it's tiled. And I need to learn how to cut the tile around the toilet flange.

Then I get to pull up the toilet and put down the backer board and threshold. Always something new to learn, another step I'd overlooked. How to cut tile in a circle? I have no idea. I will find a way, probably on YouTube.