Fascinating courtly intrigue and bloody power games set on a generation ship full of secrets―Medusa Uploaded is an imaginative, intense mystery about family dramas and ancient technologies whose influence reverberates across the stars. Disturbing, exciting, and frankly kind of mind-blowing.” ―Annalee Newitz, author of Autonomous

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Road Trip 2022: Issaquah, Mon Amor

I sent Michael a link to the first two installments about our road trip odyssey, and he sent back this report:

 

“I’m heading out tomorrow for the northwest again and will cover much of the same real estate the three of us traversed on the way out to Issaquah [WA], where Joah and I will be staying during next week’s event near Seattle.

 

“The trips have become near and dear to me, and my mind busies itself in anticipation of the ongoing adventure and where it next leads. Be sure to point out that while our travels are itinerary possessed, they are heavily influenced by roadside attractions both of natural wonder and of man-made curiosities. The only real place we are supposed to be at any given moment is where we are in that moment. I like to think of us not so much as “easily distracted” (which, to be truthful, surely we are) but, thankfully, as easily entertained.”

 

Ernie just posted his second report about how easily entertained we are (he’s much more concise than I am), and his account has inspired me to add my Part 3. It started with coffee and a mishap. 

 

Michael always drives on these trips. He’s the one who knows those roads the best, and besides, it’s his car. This suits me fine, because it gives me a chance to send my impromptu photos to relatives and to friends on Facebook and Twitter. I document the trip as we go along, and it has the added incentive of taking the place of a boring slide presentation that no one wants to watch. If I can regale people with my witty observations as we go along, they’re less likely to get sick of me and tune me out (or so the theory goes). The ideal place for me to work these shenanigans is in the front-passenger seat. But that’s not fair to Ernie, who would be relegated to the back seat for the entire trip. I value my relationship with him, so we take turns: one day Em is up front, the next day Ernie. On this day, Ernie was in back, which worked out fine until we got coffees to go. We were stopping so much to look at wacky stuff and take pictures, Ernie accidentally knocked over a full 16-oz cup when he got back in the car.

 

Can a car un-christened by coffee truly be called a Road Trip Chariot? We voted no. But the mess had still to be properly dealt with (Ernie felt quite cheated, by the way). We solved one of those problems when Michael spotted a yard sale, and lo, the ladies had paper towels. We floundered several moments when our Spanish-speaking rescuers misunderstood what Michael was trying to buy from them, paper towels rather than pan dulce. We ended up buying both, and finally, somewhat tidier, we resumed our adventure.

 

Baker City is populated by a host of sentry animals who must surely protect the shops from evil-doers. Who would shop-lift a shirt if they might get eaten by a crocodile? Or chased down the street by a tortoise?


Plenty of creatures protect the sidewalks, too. But they seem a lot friendlier.


When we’re not visiting natural areas for hiking and sightseeing, we love to poke around in thrift shops, antique stores, and any other shop that catches our fancy. I especially like to look for used clothing. This place in La Grande turned out to be just my kinda thing.

 

This time around we spent a lot of time in ice cream parlors.

 

Window shopping is also fun. I could do a whole blog just about posters. 


And any tableau that includes a jack o' lantern is at the top of my list.



We found a music shop that had a table piano. I had seen pictures of these square instruments but had never seen one in person. The shopkeeper told us people could use the piano as a supper table. Conceivably someone at the table could provide dinner music. It wasn’t in good tune, but maybe that wouldn’t matter to the right collector. (It would matter to me.)


For the record, some places sell coffee, ice cream, AND sandwiches. Such places also have sharks with feet and pink bows. Now you know what to look for.



By the time we got to Yakima, a new thing presented itself to our astonished eyes – Fruit/Antique stores. This was a thing? 

 


Sure enough, once inside we found both fruit and antiques, but no antique fruit. 



This business model makes sense to me. Diversifying your goods makes it easier to sell more stuff. That was true at the bookstore where I used to work (at the Heard Museum) and it’s true at my current job (Barnes & Noble, where we also sell toys and coffee). 



I love antique stores, probably a lot more than I love fruit stores, but I’ve bought stuff in both sorts of places. And lord knows I’ve bought plenty of coffee drinks, which they also sold here.



We had some gorgeous scenery to drive through, including Snoqualmie Pass, still topped with snow in the heart of summer. I tried in vain to take good pictures from the moving car, especially the many tiny waterfalls that cascaded down the side of the mountains, but it could not be done, at least by me and my humble phone camera.



We checked into a hotel in Issaquah, Washington, for the night. Michael wanted me to book our passage on the ferry in the morning, across the sound from Seattle to Bainbridge. This filled me with trepidation. For what time should I book our passage? What if we were late? But it turned out you don’t have to reserve a particular time. The ferries come and go regularly, and you just buy your ticket and get on. The website was a little glitchy, but I got it done.

 

Or so I thought . . .

 

To be continued . . . (okay, it actually worked out, but there were minor complications. What’s a trip without complications?)




Sunday, July 24, 2022

Road Trip 2022: Tangled Highways and Blue-Eyed Rocks

 


My brother Michael spends a lot of time on the road every year, driving to every corner of the contiguous United States. He’s been doing that for forty years, driving to art fairs to sell his drums or buying wood to make them. He lives in Flagstaff, AZ, but also in Las Vegas, NV, so he’s often traveling between his two homes. And then there are these road trips he takes with us.

 


We’ve got the division of labor down. Michael drives, I post our trip photos online and email them to family in as much real time as I can, and Ernie googles stuff, like hotel locations, restaurants, and coffee joints. We are the Wrecking Crew of road trips.

 


The third morning of our trip, we located coffee the old-fashioned way, finding a Dutch Bros by the side of the highway. We knew we would need the morning jolt – we had ambitions. We needed to take the 40 into a complicated tangle of highways around Salt Lake City and manage to hook up with the 84 without going through the city. Michael handled that like a pro, but we were headed somewhere none of us had been before, Castle Rocks State Park and City of Rocks National Reserve in Idaho. It took a combination of googling and eyeballing the Idaho Road Atlas I had brought along (I brought five atlases on this trip and would have brought eight if I owned the ones for Washington, Oregon, and Nevada). 

 


We figured it out, making our way first to Castle Rocks. The park didn’t look that impressive from the parking area, but we figured we should at least venture a short way in. We could snap a few pictures and then head off to City of Rocks, but soon we realized we had found someplace special. We hiked around one massive sprawl of granite, then over and around the other side of it. We had been so sure we were just going to take a quick peek, we had left our water in the car. But it was worth it. We guzzled water as we drove farther down the road to City of Rocks.

 


That place takes a bit longer to impress you, mostly because it’s so big. You have to drive farther into it before the scale begins to make an impression. We took a lot of roadside pictures, but we didn’t see the best part of the Reserve until we got out to hike up to Window Rock (not to be confused with the one in Arizona).



That trail led us into an amphitheater of giants. It was one of the grandest, most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.

 


We felt a little bewildered about how to get out of the park again, but Michael felt pretty sure if we just kept driving on the main dirt track, it would lead us back to one of the paved arteries that eventually end at I-84. He was right about that. It took a long time to get there, but the drive was worth it.

 


We had driven and hiked so long, the sun was down by the time we got onto 84 and headed west toward Ontario, Oregon. I was delighted to discover that I-84 got good reception for my phone, and I was able to post and email photos of our day’s adventures. This struck me as the height of civilization. 

 


The next day we would be hitting thrift stores, spilling coffee, and discovering antique stores that were also fruit stands. We were barely getting started.




Saturday, July 23, 2022

Road Trip 2022: Hotel Cats and Dinosaurs

 


Ernest Hogan has posted his account of our road trip through eight Western states on Mondo Ernesto, and that has prodded me into linking my blog with his and telling my own version of the tale. Road-tripping is America’s favorite pastime, especially post-COVID, but it’s an odd landscape we’re all driving though these days, with high gas prices and wildfires throwing obstacles in our paths. We solved half that problem by picking up my brother Michael’s hybrid Prius in Flagstaff (it gets 50 mpg), but we quickly discovered that our plan to take AZ 89a north to hook up with the 160, which would then take us to the 191, was not gonna fly. Monster fires on either side of 89a forced ADOT to close that highway to everything but emergency vehicles. In honor of that semi-apocalypse, it seems only fitting that I post a photo of the ponderosa outside Michael’s house in Flagstaff, which survived a fire about 20 years ago.

 


Michael had been expressing wonder for weeks that gas prices in Phoenix were so much higher than he had seen them anywhere else (except for California). The Shell station on the corner near our house had the price of unleaded at $5.99 per gallon at one point, but it had settled down to $5.69 by the time Ernie and I started our trip (as of this writing it’s at $4.59, and I’m harboring fond hopes that it will drop below $4 by the end of the summer). Our spirits were high, but we could tell there were some political tensions brewing over the world in general and the U.S. in particular, what with the hearing about Jan 6 being held in D.C., the war in Ukraine, and the Supreme Court getting ready to hand down a decision that looks like it might change the usual course of elections in the midterms. I was happy to be taking a step back from all that, though I couldn’t escape the wildfires up north. We decided to drive east on I-40, then take 191 north all the way up through AZ and Utah. It turned out to be a wonderful (if somewhat confusing) route. We needed to consult our Arizona Road Atlas when 191 fragmented near the northern border of AZ, seeming to go left when we needed to go right. We sorted it out and headed for Blanding, Utah, where we thought we would get the best Navajo Tacos in the world for late lunch/early supper.

 


Alas, we were thwarted in that ambition. Twin Rocks CafĂ© was closed for the day, due to staffing issues. The lady there recommended the Cottonwood Steak House, where this Jackalope resides. 

 


Our ambition was to get to Grand Junction, Colorado, by 9:00 p.m., and we made it just about on the nose. Michael had already checked into the room – our intrepid driver was on board, and we were ready to take the road by storm, lattes and fast-food chicken sandwiches in hand. It was odd to have so much sunlight left in the sky at 9:00 p.m., but it turned out to be handy on this trip. We often did so much shopping, driving, and sight-seeing, we needed that extra light as we motored into each stop at the end of our day.

 


On the morning of our second day, we met a hotel cat. We snagged some Einstein Bros Bagels and coffee, and drove north to Dinosaur, Colorado, named after Dinosaur National Monument, which is technically in both Colorado and Utah. The part that people visit is in Utah. 



Considering how hot it is this summer in so many parts of the world, this ice-cream-eating dino must be a popular guy.

 


The formations out of which the dino bones have been excavated were sand bars that formed after a mega-flood, sweeping up the poor, giant creatures and burying them in a mass, prehistoric grave. I’m assuming that eventually the bones in the topmost section began to stick out when the sandstone around them eroded away, and people recognized what they were seeing. 



It was the jackpot, because several intact skeletons were in there. The visitor’s center features some bronze reproductions of some of the dinosaurs that were removed.

 


There’s a hike not far from the old dig site (which has its own museum), and of course we had to trek that way, snapping pictures as we went. 



Michael had his ideas about what we should photograph (he’s a director, not a cinematographer), and once we were done with the dig site, we also had to find the petroglyphs and hike up to them, as well. They were worth the effort. 



We captured ancient spirits in our infernal phones.

 


When we drove to nearby Vernal, there were plenty of things in town that also needed to be documented.



We stayed at the Dinosaur Inn (this was de rigueur) and ate supper at what the clerk assured us was the best Mexican restaurant in town, Raza Mexican. It was kind of a huge meal, and we should have probably split a plate, but it was good.


 

We would be off to Idaho and the City of Rocks the next day. Things were just getting started . . .

 


I admire the hanging baskets you can see on city streets in Northern Utah and in Idaho. We could never get away with those shenanigans in Arizona.

 


There’s a lot more to this trip. Follow if you dare.




Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Michael Levy Music: Orpheus Tamed the Animals



Michael Levy has a new album available! Read his announcement below and click on the links . . .

I am pleased to announce that my new album has just beed released across all the usual major digital music stores today! 

"Orpheus Tamed the Animals: Mythological Music for Ancient Greek Lyre" features meditative, mythologically inspired original compositions for replica ancient Greek lyres & kithara. Here is the link to the album on Spotify:

https://open.spotify.com/album/4aAvpWSabYWqF7rQEJBsqY?si=ahn7Tv_bSm-QTiKphxqxCg

The album is also available from a whole host of other digital music stores such as Apple Music, iTunes, Amazon, TIDAL, YouTube Music, Facebook Music, Pandora etc - do please take your pick! 

For CD quality audio, lossless WAV can also be ordered from Bandcamp:

https://michaellevy.bandcamp.com/album/orpheus-tamed-the-animals-mythological-music-for-ancient-greek-lyre


Just for you, please find attached a free download of track 1, "Hymn to Persephone (Ancient Greek Goddess of the Spring)"

If you like the new tracks, any new album reviews on somewhere like iTunes, Amazon, Bandcamp, or indeed, any form of online blog or social media share about the album, would be invaluable towards my efforts of 'continuing where the ancients left off'. in continuing to create new music for the recreated ancient lyres of the ancient world - thanks once more, for your continued support in my ongoing musical mission!

Friday, February 19, 2021

Evil Vestigial Organs I Have Known


Here's what happened late in January. Ernie and I went on a lovely hike (as you can tell from my dusty pants in the photo), and I felt great physically. However, by the time we were driving home, I experienced the first symptoms of what would turn into a life or death situation: a tummy ache. I've had a lot of tummy aches in the past 10 years or so, and I have to wonder if my appendix was acting up this whole time, not to the level of crisis, but enough to make me think I had food poisoning or some intestinal bug. The incidents increased in the last 5 years or so, and I thought it was just part of getting old.

 

By 8:00 p.m., the pain had become so uncomfortable, I knew I was going to be in for a rough night. By 10:00 p.m. I was barfing. There was quite a lot of that, but it brought no relief, and the pain just got worse. I lost track of time after that, and thoughts of getting Ernie to call 911 started to present themselves. I have no insurance, so I thought twice about that. But at one unbearable point, I remembered the symptoms for appendicitis, and I pressed on my lower right abdomen to see if the pain was worse there. It was, and I realized what I was dealing with, so damn the torpedoes, call 911, and it's off to the hospital in an ambulance.

 

In fact, I was off to 2 hospitals in 2 ambulances, because the first place confirmed my diagnosis, but they don't do surgery there. Fortunately they did do antibiotics, morphine, and anti-nausea medication. It was a much more cheerful Em who arrived at the second hospital. The money situation will be difficult, but I can't complain about the care I got. From ambulance to check-out, I got top-notch care. I was never afraid, and I knew my problem was going to get fixed. It probably helped that the whole thing went down between midnight and 9:00 a.m. (Tuesday morning), because traffic in those hospitals was light.

 

The surgery was laparoscopic, so it was minimally invasive. I'm taking it easy for a couple of days, and then I'm allowed to gradually resume my old routines. 

 

The finance lady came to talk to me once I was close to check-out, because they knew I didn't have insurance. I didn't qualify for the state version of Medicaid, but they signed me up for their budget version of billing. A fabby offered to set up a Go Fund Me for my bills (many thanks to Jeff Edwards), and I said yes. Here’s the link.


I'm really grateful for social media at times like this. Your fabbies can commiserate with you and offer help and advice. I think this was part of the reason I didn't feel alone at the hospital. I could post a pic of my feet in the hospital bed and tell everyone what was going on. 

 

One last thing – there was something new at both hospitals, something I had never seen before: heated blankets. OH MY GAWD. 

 

The pinnacle of Western Civilization.