1/2 Italian is better than none

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Childhood hero right here

I could have SWORN I had a photo of myself as a little kid rocking my “1/2 Italian is Better Than None” t-shirt, but I couldn’t find it, so you get Madonna instead. Close enough.

I’m only half Italian, and I’m third generation, and I was raised in Southern California instead of Back East, which means I make a really good lasagna but would be totally laughed out of the room if I tried to relate to real Italian-Americans. For one thing, I don’t speak Italian. For another thing, did I mention SoCal? Because Goodfellas did not take place at the beach, brah.

(I can make jokes about Goodfellas because my mom grew up around there.)

Alas, my poor children will only have a meager quarter of Mediterranean DNA, which means they’ll probably tan even worse than I do and nobody will mistakenly assume they’re white Mexican. The near-black hair and hints of future cuddly nonna face are the only things I’ve got going for me.

Here are some of the tiny scraps of culture you absorb when you’re basically a white kid but you have lots of distant relatives with names like Antonello and you went to Catholic school through kindergarten.

You get the food, thank God. Most cultures revolve heavily around their food but Italians revolve heavily around their food. There’s a reason that when you google “Italian chef” you get this regrettable sea of pizza and mustaches:

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*kisses fingertips* It’sa me, eetaliahn stereo-type!

But you guys, there’s so much more than pizza dough. You get cannoli and cassatini, you get calzones and chicken cacciatore. You don’t really understand why somebody would put butter on their pasta when olive oil clearly exists, and when you say you’re making cookies at Christmastime you MAKE SOME SERIOUS MOTHER-EFFEN COOKIES AT CHRISTMASTIME. Even though you don’t know the language, you know enough to curl your lip and yell, “Skeevatz!” when you bite into a lasagna and get a mouthful of hamburger meat. You get to drink wine at holidays when you’re a young teen, and you force it down even though it tastes gross because 1) heehee you’re drinking alcohol, and 2) your nonna will make fun of you otherwise.

In addition to skeevatz you know a confusing mishmash of words that are sometimes Italian and sometimes just slang from New York (and you’re never certain which are which), but in any case bruta and stunad regularly creep into family conversations, and when something is giving you agita you’re tempted to sigh, Ah Jesu.

Oh, and you’re not superstitious, but it doesn’t hurt to make the sign of the cross or the sign of the horns once in a while… just in case.

You know that what happens in the family stays in the family. You know that your siblings will always have your back and you’ll always have theirs, because you all have to be there for each other when your mother is dead. It is super confusing and sad to you when people genuinely don’t like their siblings, so you welcome them into the fold. Seriously, you barely know your friends’ families growing up, but they know every one of your relatives by name and might even hang out at your house without you.

You weren’t even raised Catholic but you somehow absorbed that Catholic guilt anyway. The vaguest promise is practically a blood oath, and once you have kids… hoo boy, you’re basically never going out again.

And finally, it takes a lot to get on your bad side, but once somebody is there… man, you can hold a grudge for life. You’re not proud of this. In fact, you could even say it fills you with guilt. But what are you supposed to do? THEY DISRESPECTED YOU!! Or worse… your mother. D:

rerun: are you afraid of the dark

I’m in the middle of a party-filled Memorial Day weekend (Belated Annual Book Club Croquet! Nonna’s birthday party! Sister-in-law’s birthday party! There isn’t even an actual Memorial Day party!), and it’s wedged in between my last two exhausting work weeks as I frantically try to wrap up everything I’ve ever done before officially Leaving the Work Force.

So you get a re-run. 

This blorg was originally posted in January 2015. I woke up at 4:30 again this morning, so it seemed appropriate.

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2014-04-14 lunar eclipse, captured decently by my crummy little camera

I’ve been awake since 4:30 a.m., not for the first time this week. The standard waking time for many day workers, but not for me! It seems I can’t sleep through the night anymore. Tension, excitement, nervousness, overthinking– shake it all up in a bag and then smash it like a piñata, because I couldn’t tell you.

It occurs to me (as it occurs to me every year or so, this isn’t a very original ponder) that I don’t remember when I stopped being afraid of the dark. There isn’t even one clear transition period, because I have distinct memories of time periods in which I alternated loving and hating it.

Toddlerhood

I’m informed I was one of those charming babies prone to night terrors. Sorry mom and dad!

Pre-4th grade

Still pretty terrified, mostly due to the horrors of Pet Sematary and Child’s Play, the latter of which traumatized me and my siblings for years. Our closet had no door! It was just a gaping black pit! And dear lord, the gap under the bed! My brother and sister (all crammed in one full-size bed with me because who could sleep alone??) made me turn off the light each night, at which point I would athletically LEAP into bed to keep my feet from the gap. This is the first and last time I’ll refer to myself as athletic.

You know what, mom, you deserved my night terrors– for the future crime of letting us watch Child’s Play. For years I had it fixed in my head that it was a mistake, and we thought it was for children because of the title. But my adult brain has caught on! You knew damn well it was a horror movie! Fool me once, shame on you. Let me watch Child’s Play 2 and 3, shame on both of us.

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YOU KNEW!!!!

Around 5th grade?

Suddenly I loved the night. I don’t know how the switch happened, I just know I was around 10 or 11 years old because I remember we were in our new house and I was still friends with the neighbor’s kids. Before they gave me lice.

I would sneak outside after sunset and either walk around our cul-de-sac, or sit quietly on the curb, and think. I really enjoyed quiet time to think, and it was exhilarating to sit outside in the dark by myself. This is also the time period in which I switched to reading adult books, and my kid mind was blown away, my brain firing like crazy absorbing complex ideas and words. I have very clear memories of philosophizing about darkness and wondering why I hadn’t enjoyed it before.

So I suspect the change was reading-related. I was growing into my big kid brain, not very sophisticated yet, but transitioning from passive absorption of external stimuli to active absorption followed by some kind of clumsy regurgitation of ideas. AKA the time period when you first believe you can write poetry.

Sadly, you cannot.

High School

Every time I walked down the street, it was with the conviction that I would be hit by a car and die. I was reading nothing but ghoulish true crime, murder mysteries, biopics of serial killers– but oh no, that didn’t even phase me. Getting hit by a car? WORST FATE IMAGINABLE. And it was definitely going to happen when I was on my way to school to take a very important test. Because then I might survive, but totally fail my class! Did I mention I’m Hermione Granger?

I don’t remember how I felt about the dark, though. Probably okay as long I wasn’t near an intersection.

College

Aaaahhh! Fuck the dark, I’m gonna be murdered!!

All of a sudden, the serial killer literature that did not bother me in high school came back to haunt me, and I had nightmares for the first time since toddlerhood. Somebody was definitely going to climb through my window and strangle me in bed. Why oh why did I read Perverse Crimes in History?

Props to dad, he gave me a weird look when I asked for this book, but he bought it anyway

Props to dad, he gave me a weird look when I asked for this book, but he bought it anyway

I’m well aware that this was some psychological manifestation of my fears about leaving home. Safety net: GONE. I went from a bustling household of perpetual motion to long periods of isolation. Once again I was leaping into bed to avoid the boogeyman (now a serial killer waiting to grab me by the ankle, natch). Sophomore year, when I first moved off campus to my own apartment, was certifiably the worst. Just frozen in bed, desperately needing to pee, unable to get across the hall to the bathroom.

Modern Day

And now… I’m fine. I can once again totter around my home without turning any lights on, or walk outside by myself, and it won’t even occur to me to be spooked. I know this switch happened sometime around 2009, because again I have snippets of memory of walking around at night and realizing it didn’t bother me anymore. In fact, I’m once again in the phase where pre-dawn stillness is cause for reflection and not an immediate grab for the light switch.

I can’t help feeling suspicious about the timing. Like my age-10 reading revolution, this was a significant year for me psychologically. My adult self finished cocooning in 2009 and emerged with a self-confidence that I had not experienced since high school. So much changed in my life in the course of a few months that it was dizzying, and my meek depressed self of early 2009 seemed like an entirely different person. I’m still working out the many ramifications of that rapid change, and I suspect that losing my fear of the dark was one of them.

The Future

Oh man I really hope night terrors skips a generation and my baby isn’t a screamer. :O

Update, May 2017: My baby is a bit of a screamer.

80s/90s kids knew how to get done up

I was born in the mid-80s, which really makes me more of a 90s kids in terms of pop culture, industrial rock, and action figures based on R-rated movie franchises. It also means I grew up in a glorious stew of transitional 80s to 90s children’s clothing, hollaaa. I can only hope my own children’s baby pictures will be as fantastic in twenty years as my own. If they aren’t, then I haven’t done my job right.

I’ve got a mediocre scanner and a pile of old photos, LET’S DO THIS.

Let’s start real mild, with Sam’s first hints of cosplay. I should also make note that this is the most Italian I ever looked, and why did growing up lose me the ability to retain a minor tan?

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I really only included this because of the tan.

It was a time… of matching mottled hot pink dresses.

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Chub rub is real and it begins at an early age.

It was a time…of asymmetrical patterns, puffy sleeves, and the color turquoise.

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To be honest I still want everything in turquoise.

It was a time of random shapes! Track suits! Head bands!

[Shout out to my big sister, I left a message asking if I could put up pictures of you and you never answered, now it’s too late.]

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We’re smiling because we don’t know any better.

Birthday parties still meant dressing up, of course. But, what’s this? BIRTHDAY SWEATS? SUSPENDERS? SOME KIND OF FADED CAT DECAL? I kid you not, this is me dressed up to party when I turned 3.

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And I look really excited about it.

But hey, birthday meant My Little Pony cake, Barbie and Ken, Raggedy Ann and Andy, and whatever gizmo Fisher Price was pushing at the time!

[In fact…all of that is true again other than Raggedy Ann and Andy. So expect them to make a comeback at any moment.]

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Give it up for hot pink 80s dining room.

Easter is always a time for big floral dresses and white stockings, but back then it was really a time for BIG FLORAL DRESSES AND WHITE STOCKINGS.

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“I’m on to your bullshit, Mom. What is this.”

The 90s crept in with their shorter hair styles and smaller floral prints, but they didn’t get rid of puffy shoulders. Not yet.

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Did I mention the mary janes and white socks?

Picture day at school is a big deal. Like, you are going to be memorialized in this outfit for all time. I’m going to spare you the horror of my middle school years till another post, because the world isn’t ready to look back on that yet. Instead, enjoy more floral, chunky jewelry, and big bows.

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I know it’s plastic and I don’t care, I wish I still had this necklace, look at those gems.

You REALLY want to look good, though? Braid your hair the night before so it gets kinky except at the bottom where the braid tied! PUT THAT SHIT IN A SIDE PONYTAIL. PAINT YOUR NAILS, BUT DEF DO IT YOURSELF.

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You know what? I stole this necklace from my mom, and I *do* still have it, and it’s the BEST.

So, from the first 3 siblings in my 6-sibling family to yours, I say this:

Pull up those jeans. Higher. Turquoise and purple will always go together. Your floral prints can be large or small, but they must always be paired with a competing pattern. And if you don’t want to hold your sweater, just tie it around your waist. Yes, even if you’re wearing a dress.

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change in the house of books

In exactly four weeks, I’m leaving my day job.

Gahhhh, it’s official! Well, blog-official. It’s been work-official for a month and a half because I always give excessive notice, and it’s been life-official for more months than that because I am the queen of agonizing over change. In the end, if you’re lucky enough for life to present you with options, you’ve got to pick something and stick to it. Time to move forward… the samtastic way!

This decision came with a lot more agonizing than usual. I love being an archivist. I love organizing old documents, learning useless local history trivia, and helping researchers find answers. Every day is full of little mysteries! I’ve made people cry with joy! I’ve been spontaneously hugged! (Sidenote: don’t spontaneously hug your archivist.) And I only ever made it into one book acknowledgement page, dangit.

But, barring financial emergency, the archivist career is going on hold for a few years and I’ll be focusing on the home front. The hubby’s been working the night shift for about eighteen months and will now be moving to a day shift, so hey, I might even see him once in a while! And though childcare is far more intensive than my day job ever was, I’m going to eagerly embrace the chunks of free time I do get to focus on the writing career. And, you know, enjoy my babies.

Since I’m a hopeless workaholic, you know I’ve got a battle plan, not least of all the recently mentioned Plan of Agent Attack. (Note to agents: not really an attack.)

To Do List:

  • Finalize the Grand Agent Submission Spreadsheet
  • Finish polishing Book Submission #1, a.k.a. my western/fantasy mashup full of cowboys and mermaids and a living earth that chucks people loose if it doesn’t like them, generously peppered with observations about cultural identity and commitment.
  • Put it on submission!
  • While that’s on submission, polish up Book Submission #2, a.k.a. my more conventional fantasy full of winged warriors, a working class rebellion, and the difficult process of overcoming a long-term manipulative relationship.
  • If Submission #1 fizzles out, go back to the top of that spreadsheet with Submission #2.
  • Start working on the next book!

The next book has been on my backburner for two years. It had a pretty solid outline from the get-go, but it was narrowly edged out by the winged warrior tome last year and now I’m impatient to get back to it. This one is a weird portal fantasy about the forest where lost things go, full of bow women and taxidermy and all the different ways that people process grief. But don’t worry, it still has some laughs!

I’ve got a couple other projects bubbling in the pre-outline stage, i.e. loads of unorganized notes that are rapidly taking on the shape of plot. One is an epic fantasy involving an army of golems versus an army of the dead, and mothers who will do whatever it takes to make sure their kids are the ones who survive. The other one is a Mad Max-ish dystopia taking place on an Earth that’s been partially terraformed by aliens, following an unlikely duo who’ve been cast into the wild and are trying to break into a human colony to obtain desperately needed healthcare. (That second one has suddenly become…too real.)

Even less well-developed, but no less niggling at my brain, is a knight-in-shining armor fantasy based on medieval French romances, which lemme tell you, were full of cross-dressing and social commentary and magicians being dicks, all of which is sadly left out of the average Arthurian screen adaptation.

And that’s not all!!

Gah, why can’t I just abandon sleep entirely and work an additional eight hours per day? I WANT TO WRITE ALL THE THINGS. SPECIFICALLY, ALL THE VARIOUS SORTS OF FANTASY THINGS.

Anyway. That’s what I’m going to be up to for the next few years. What’s on your docket?

The Art of Bad

I love bad movies. I love them so much. And I don’t mean bad. I mean bad. There’s bad like an Adam Sandler Netflix movie, soulless and unfunny but technically sound, and then there’s bad like Birdemic, a movie that is a production disaster in every respect but the creator absolutely put his heart and soul into it.

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HEART AND SOUL

That’s the difference for me. I want low budget bad. I want we tried so hard but it was so bad bad. There’s a charm to an enthusiastically made bad movie than can’t be engineered. Studios try once in a while. Somebody watched a handful of SyFy monster movies and decided, “Let’s do that, but with Sam Jackson and a bigger budget,” and we ended up with Snakes on a Plane. It had a few good Sam Jackson moments, but in no way did it hold a candle to a genuine B movie. If I’m going to watch a churned out SyFy flick, I’ll stick with SyFy. At least they have Sharknado.

But I’m not even talking SyFy. I grew up on Mystery Science Theater 3000 (mostly the Mike years, but I appreciate a good Joel). I didn’t get any of the jokes about current events or politics but I cackled through all the rest. Every Saturday morning there would be a re-run on the Scifi Channel and I’d call my best friend to make him wake up and watch simultaneously from his house. Time Chasers! Space Mutiny! The Final Sacrifice!

This was also the glorious heyday of movie rental stores. My mom let us walk the store end-to-end and pick things out by their glorious titles and cover art. That’s how we ended up discovering gems like Delta Delta Die (a cannibalistic sorority that ate everything but penis) and Anklebiters (that’s right, vampire dwarfs). SO MUCH GOLD.

I all-too-briefly blogged for the film (now pop culture) website, Cinema Spartan. Sam’s Phenomenal Cosmic Movie Column was a whole lot of fun, and I was given free reign to do what I pleased (thanks, Rob!). That meant anything from bitching about action heroes getting kids in the sequels, to listing my favorite vampire movies, to making Arnold Schwarzenegger Christmas cards.

It also meant B-movie reviews! All from my private collection, of course. There you’ll find breakdowns of…

FuturekickTerminator meets Robo Cop meets every shitty kickboxing movie the 80s could offer! There’s a lot of kicking and a lot of increasingly relevant corporate fascism!

Fabio: A Time For Romance! The world’s first (and last?) “VideoRomance novel.” A romance writer gets writer’s block and imagines three different book premises…each starring Fabio, of course. But there’s a TWIST!

Rock N Roll Nightmare! The most enthusiastic Canadian horror film about a hair band jamming in an old farmhouse possessed by Satan that you’ll ever see, I guarantee it. All you need to know is that it stars Jon Mikl Thor, the Legendary Rock Warrior. And Satan.

Starcrash! A mind-boggling Star Wars rip-off starring David Hasselhoff and Christopher Plummer!! I can’t even convey how batshit off the rails this thing goes, but I was absolutely thrilled this week to discover that Starcrash is one of the movies in the new season of MST3K that just dropped on Netflix. You better believe I’m queuing that up.

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That’s a “laser sword.”

I’ve been thinking of bringing B-movie reviews to Samtastic Books. I stopped because they are surprisingly time-consuming to watch, screencap, and write up, but they are SO MUCH FUN. So maybe I’ll incorporate a monthly movie night. I still have a pile of fabulous flicks that never made it into the Cosmic column, including KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park (yes, the band) and Robo Vampire (indescribable).

Believe it or not, there’s a lesson here for people in all creative pursuits, and that lesson is: enthusiasm trumps technical skill. I’m doing all I can to improve my writing and conquer the tools necessary to convey the stories I want to convey. BUT. A perfectly polished manuscript with solid structure and capable prose isn’t enough. That gets you “good but forgettable.” What gets you past “good but forgettable” is enthusiasm, and a willingness to go wild even though you risk falling on your face. Am I there yet? I dunno. But I’m going to try.

returned from the pit: spreadsheet madness

Whoops, I didn’t realize quite how long I’d ignored the blog. I’ve been busy, busy, busy in work and life and writing aspirations, though a great big scheduling toss-up is coming soon that’ll change the equation.

You guys. I’ve entered a new phase of Sam’s Grand Writing Plan. I’ve entered… agent research hell! Next comes query hell. Then comes the great unknown (probably still closely related to hell). I’m excited, but also a little nervous. 16-year-old Sam is aghast that it’s taken me this long to reach this step. 31-year-old Sam is older and slightly wiser and knows this step could take anywhere from a couple months to ETERNITY OF FAILURE.

(Before any helpful suggestions are made: I do not, at this point in my life, have the skills, knowledge, or money necessary for effective self-publishing. I’m going to exhaust the traditional route first before reconsidering.)

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been scouring reputable agent listings and cross-referencing them against industry sites to generate a list of legitimate professionals with recent sales in my genre. I’ve also been doing scavenger hunts for names in books I like, and next I’ll take a broader look at recent and upcoming releases by publishers I like.

Woooo spreadsheets.

No, really, spreadsheets are my jam! My years of cataloging and organizing information have come to personal fruition. I’m going to scour the print and web worlds until I have a list of 75-100 suitable agents. Then I’m going to agonize over my query package. And then it’s go time! AKA hours and hours of prioritizing lists and tailoring the query to a bunch of different specifications and updating my spreadsheets with the results.

I figure if I get rejected 75-100 times, then that project is simply not meant to be (yet), and I’ll start back at the top of the list with the next book. I’ve got two books I think are suitable for shopping around, and I’ll be working on the next one during the long months of waiting for rejection. (Or, dare I say it… not rejection!?) My hopes and dreams aren’t ever pinned on just one thing.

I’ve already spent many hours at work on the Great Agent Spreadsheet. It’s been a royal pain in the ass to compile, but it will save me a lot of headache later.

And… that’s what I’ve been up to lately. Thank you for joining me on this self-pep-talk of a post. This is my way of marking the writing timeline on my blog and also telling myself: oh wow, I’m not just reading endless industry blogs for fun anymore, I’m honest-to-goodness ready to embark on this ride.

!!!!

Mr. and Mrs. Cat v. the State of Washington

It’s been two and a half years since Mr. and Mrs. Cat last left Southern California. They were itching for adventure, but nervous at the prospect of traveling with a toddler for the first time. In the end, they were right to be nervous. Not entirely because of the toddler! It turned out the Cat family had a secret enemy all of these years. A secret enemy that only now chose to reveal itself.

The entire state of Washington!

Let me backtrack.

The traveling party consisted of myself, my husband, my younger sister, and my toddler. It was a one week trip with two days in Seattle, two days in the mountain town Leavenworth, and two days staying with friends just outside Seattle, bouncing in and around town.

The positives:

  • It was nice to get out of town for a week!
  • It was very nice to see my friends!
  • The Museum of Pop Culture rocks!
  • Snowwww!
  • Murder bear!
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Snowwww

The negatives:

  • Bad timing,
  • Or perhaps it was a witch’s curse,
  • Or some wrong committed in a past life in the greater Washington area,
  • Or perhaps it was murder bear all along.

I should have known when we arrived at the airport and the diaper bag promptly split apart that we were in for a stretch of bad luck, but we ignored the omen and kept going. We arrived safely in Seattle–and thank goodness the toddler absolutely LOVED flying, so it wasn’t a nightmare plane trip. That afternoon we did a bit of pottering through Pike’s Place fish market and stopped at a Safeway to stock up on diapers and toddler snacks.

While we were shopping, somebody smashed in the window of our rental car and stole my husband’s bag. Thanks for scattering glass all over a toddler carseat, jackhole! Hope you enjoy two power cords and reading somebody else’s travel diary!

What proceeded was a trip in which there were no major disasters…but everything was tinged with slight bad luck, bad timing, misconception, illness. Washington was determined to slightly dissatisfy–but unbeknownst to the state, it was doing battle against folks with STEEL-LINED SENSES OF HUMOR. Once we realized what was going on, the fact that we were under the vaguest and mildest of curses became an ongoing joke and every subsequent inconvenience just added to the hilarity.

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At least there was cherry pie.

My husband injured one wrist carrying our son, injured the other one falling in snow, banged up his shin, and had his bag stolen. My sister was nearly deaf for the first two days after the flight. I had gotten sick overworking myself before the trip, and promptly gave my cold to the toddler. He didn’t sleep for two days in Leavenworth and gave us hell the entire 3 hour ride back to the Seattle area, and as a result for the second half of the trip we could only go out for a few hours each afternoon in order to give him ample rest.

Our timing was consistently bad. It was rainy the day we went up the Space Needle, then sunny the morning after. We were in the mountains during the off season, so the pastry shop had almost no pastries, the sausage shop had no sausage, the beer garden my husband wanted to go to was closed for renovations. The AirBnB we rented had a busted DVD player and we weren’t allowed to raise the temperature over 55. We had to drive an additional half hour to find the last place in the region still offering any kind of snow activity–though to be fair, it was a gorgeous sleigh ride through fresh snow with a nice driver, one of the trip highlights! But honestly, the way our luck was going, I’m shocked we didn’t get snowed into the mountains or run off the road.

We spent 90 seconds at Snoqualmie Falls because it was raining again, and likewise spent most of a Harbor cruise belowdecks to keep the sick toddler bundled up. He was actually WAY ENTHUSED to go on adventures each day despite being sick, and was delighted by new sights, restaurant food, all the cool stuff at the Museum of Pop Culture, playing in snow, and so on. On the last day he finally lost his cool and was bored on an underground tour, so the one thing in my purview (history trivia!) I only half-heard in between lassoing a Totally Done With This Toddler.

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Water above, water below

When we bought tickets to the underground tour it said “get a discount on food in the restaurant/bar upstairs!” so we arranged the day assuming we’d eat dinner there–and so of course, since we were under a mild curse the bartender informed us, “No we’re not serving food right now.” We ran across the street to scarf down some Subway instead, where a total scumbag looking slacker wandered in and stole some soda and looked like he’d murder us if we objected–and the very hangdog employee told us he usually comes in and steals chips. We left him a tip.

And then…we said our goodbyes and came home, with only a minor catastrophe at the airport when TSA banged up my husband’s brand new Nintendo Switch.

The End!

Or…. was it?

It took me a week and a half to write this blog post, because the Mild Curse of Washington followed us home. The toddler had a rough transition back to his usual routine. During my first attempt to write this post, my laptop was knocked off the couch and my USB flash drive destroyed by the impact. The laptop limped on for another couple of days, and then died a tragic death in another couch-knocking incident. I forgot my paperwork for some routine lab work because I forgot I’d taken it all out of my purse before the trip, making me late for work despite getting up an hour early.

But it was all worth it. One, for the endless jokes. Two, because despite everything I’ve just said it was nice to get out of town for a week and visit friends, and I can have fun doing anything when I’m with funny people. My sister and I even made a gallery of increasingly shitty selfies consisting of our faces at bad angles and the barest hint of a landmark behind us. I think they adequately convey the feeling: “we were here, but barely.”

Finally, perhaps most importantly: this trip gave us murder bear.

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Murder bear.

This fine looking fellow was heavily chained to a bench outside a chocolate shop in Leavenworth. Some might say he was chained up to prevent theft, but WE say he was chained up because he’s a murder bear who comes alive at night and stalks the countryside, dragging his murder bench behind him. He was clearly responsible for everything that went wrong on our trip. Murder bear smashed our car window and broke our DVD player. Murder bear ate all the food in the shops. Murder bear knocked the Switch off the security conveyor belt. Murder bear put on a human suit and steals soda and chips from local Subways in broad daylight. You get the idea.
Happy travels!
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