Attending Marvels, Parenting, Smoke, Fire, Flying in the Age of Covid-19 and Stupid Stuff.

The fires in California and the Covid-19 Pandemic continue to rage on. 

This morning #45, a man with a name I shall not mention because I will go into an angry rage, was in town to tell us what we are doing wrong, spreading ignorance and generally making a horrible situation even worse.

Before he arrived I was lucky enough to catch a plane going 500 miles south of my hometown. 

I usually don’t comment on politics but after raising my children in a time when school shootings was a common occurrence I feel I can say whatever I want. Anyway his is MY blog.

Between Sacramento and Long Beach there was nothing but smoke. I looked out the window of the plane for an hour. I can usually see farmlands, mountains, cities, small towns, and even Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Today I saw nothing but smoke until we were just a few minutes from the Long Beach airport.

Since I’m visiting my children, and since I’m the mom I was tasked with bringing a few items with me. One was coffee. Apparently nobody in Southern California has coffee as good as Sacramento’s own Chocolate Fish Coffee. Another was roller skates. The average pair of competition custom dance skates with wheels weighs about 378 pounds. At least it feels like that trying to haul them around an airport and get them through security. Now you know why skaters have such great legs. Those skates are heavy.

Due to the pandemic the plane was only half way full. All middle seats were empty. I was the only one in my section. 

As I pulled out my tote bag I discovered I’d left my book at the airport. It was a well worn copy of one of my favorite books of all time: Attending Marvels: A Patagonian Journal by George Gaylord Simpson. The book is a journal about finding dinosaur bones in early 1930’s Patagonia. It isn’t just about the bones. Simpson brilliantly introduces the reader to the wide variety of people he meets (exotic and not so exotic) and most of all introduces us to the fantastic and almost unreal Patagonian landscape. I love this book above almost all others. It had such an influence on me. I can’t explain it because I usually don’t dig for bones. On the other hand I’m always up for adventure. If you can check the book out at the library or you can get a cheap copy on eBay. 

Luckily I’m one of those people who can sit on a plane for an hour and a half and do things in my head. I looked at the tops of the heads of the other passengers. I listened. There wasn’t as much talking at all – not like before the days of Covid-19. But up front I noticed there were two Vampires sitting together speaking quietly in a mixture of the old Vampire language and English. One had honey blonde hair and the other a dark auburn. I didn’t know them or introduce myself. It was just an observation. I didn’t feel like meeting anyone new today or invading their space.

I’m down here for a week with my children. They’re busy but getting weary of the smoke, the pandemic, the feelings of unresolved social injustice, and the environmental mess ignored and left up to them to fix. 

One is spending her senior year of college and working online. The other just received a gradate degree and is working online and trying to start a business with his best buddy from childhood.

Sure they’re Vampires, as are most of their closest friends, but the same things weigh heavy on them that weigh heavy on all young people these days.

When I return home I’ll replace the windshield wipers on my car that have been ruined from the ashes and grit that has rained from the sky. I’m thankful that it is somewhat clear here. It is still smoky but I can see real sunlight. 

While I’m home I’ll savor my time with my children and try to forget everything except us. I’m here, as always, to give them support, and love, and to make them smile.

I’ll have more on our adventures as the week progresses.

Stay safe, wear a mask, turn off the news, be kind to others and yourself. And if you get a chance kiss a Vampire.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

2019 Summer Reading: Escape into Reality – Nonfiction Adventures

2019 Summer Reading: Escape into Reality With Four Nonfiction Adventures

 

Today I’m featuring a quartet of absolutely wonderful books that will suck you into adventure, mystery, and places you’ve never imagined you’d be. You’ll meet a colorful, dangerous, interesting, lovely, and witty characters. Best of all it is all true.

Good nonfiction is a wonderful thing. I think about some of my favorites that I could read again and again and again. Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness is an autobiographical work by Edward Abbey is one book that should be on every book list and every book shelf. Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez moved my soul. A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson made me think and also made me laugh almost unlike any book I’ve ever read.

Copies of these books, even those now out of print, can be found in libraries, on Amazon, B&N, eBay, your local used book store, and other online outlets. If you’re having trouble finding any of them let me know and I’ll help you look.

 

Attending Marvels – A Patagonian Journal

By George Gaylord Simpson

In 1930 George Taylor Simpson traveled to Argentina, was shot at, had a few exciting adventures, finally made his way to Patagonia, and dug for dinosaur bones.

This is on my list of top ten favorite books ever. Simpson will charm you, enlighten you, and inspire you. Attending Marvels is a marvel of a book. Look it up. Find a copy. Read it. It isn’t a long book so it is perfect for summer reading.

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The Lost City of the Monkey God

By Douglas Preston

Years ago I read a book called Relic by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. Then I read Reliquary. THEN I read one of my favorite books by the pair, and favorite books by anyone – The Cabinet of Curiosities. Like many I was hooked on the adventures of Agent Pendergast and the many other characters Preston and Child created. I can’t wait to read their next book which involved the Donner Party.

A few years ago I read The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston. It was about American student Amanda Knox who had been accused of murder in Italy. This was my first test of nonfiction by Douglas Preston.

I was so excited when The Lost City of the Monkey God came out. Unfortunately half way through the book I lost The Lost City of the Monkey God. Fast forward to this year and I found it. I will finish it next week while I’m on a road trip.

But what is this book about?

In 2012 Preston joined a team of scientists to find The Lost City of the Monkey God, The White City, in the Amazon jungle. The story covers stories of explorers, interesting characters, snakes (this will scare the jeebers out of you), rain, rain, rain, amazing discoveries, bugs, and a mysterious illness. Oh, I forgot, TECHNOLOGY. Finding a lost city in a jungle is no small task. Take my word for it. This is a fun book.

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Eldorado – Adventures in the Path of Empire

By Bayard Taylor

I love this book.

In 1849 a young reporter (and poet) named Bayard Taylor left New York, traveled to California by the way of Panama (pre-canal), and wrote about it. He wasn’t looking for gold. Taylor was looking for stories. With brutal honesty, detail, humor, and an eye for detail he covers everything from the journey to California, to life in the mining camps, the new and growing cities of San Francisco and Sacramento, Volcanos, Rain, Society in California, robbers, a trip to Mexico, and more.

This is a brilliant first hand account of the California Gold Rush unlike anything you thought you knew about one of the most amazing events in the history of the world.

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Empire Express – Building the First Transcontinental Railroad

By David Howard Bain

This year is the 150th Anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad. Empire Express was recommended by a docent at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento, CA. Believe me, that if a docent from the California State Railroad Museum recommends a book it will be good.

Empire Express is over seven hundred pages and covers a lot of territory. I haven’t read it yet, but what I’ve seen (thumbing through it) looks great. I know this book will be as exciting as the big personalities it covers. It is an adventure, a social history, a story about dreams, heartbreak, triumph, and how the United States was forever changed.

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No matter what you’re interested in, or what you like to read, I encourage everyone to try something new, go out of your comfort zones, take a chance, and seek out new adventures through books.

I’ll be back next Monday with more 2019 Summer Reading.

If you have any suggestions for non-fiction books please leave them in the comments. Please share!

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman.