Saturday, November 15, 2014

Faking Winter

Ever since my recent trip to Denver, I've been obsessed with snow. Not that I'm ungrateful for the consistently beautiful weather in Las Vegas; to the contrary, it makes motivating oneself to go outside and do things much easier. However, when one is trying to write a dark, creepy novel, constant sunshine can be something of a nuisance--especially when the portion of the dark, creepy novel one is currently writing takes place in the middle of winter in Chicago. Therefore, I have developed a few techniques to fake winter, which I will now elaborate for your edification.

1) Half-close the blinds. The sun doesn't seem nearly so shiny when filtered through off-white slats. 

2) Listen to a winter soundscape. If you think you can't experience the sounds of winter while living in the Western United States, think again. The internet is your friend, and provides all the resources you could ever need to place yourself--audibly, at least--back in the snowy Midwest. "Winter Walk" from myNoise is an excellent example. For the bleakest possible sensation, I recommend turning up Winds A & B, turning up Footsteps B, turning up the Crows, turning down the Birds, turning down the Stream, turning up the Thaw, and turning down Rains A & B.

3) Listen to ominous music. When you're not in the mood for nature noises, quiet and eerie music will do the trick. I suggest DM Stith, Marissa Nadler, and Timber Timbre, and others of their ilk. I will share my "This is Halloween" Spotify playlist with you upon request.

4) Stay warm. This may seem counterintuitive, but the wintry feeling will be more convincing if you behave as you would during the winter. Wear a sweatshirt. Huddle beneath the covers. Drink lots of hot tea.

5) Consume other cold-weather media. For instance, last night I fell asleep watching David Fincher's 2011 feature The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Yes, that is a somewhat traumatic film to watch before bed, but it certainly helps to put you in wintry state of mind! For reading, try one of my all-time favorite novels, Donna Tartt's The Secret History. There's a long winter scene in the middle of that book where the narrator almost freezes to death.

Can you think of any other tips? Let's swap. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


I think I need to take vacations more often. The past several times I've come back to Vegas from somewhere else--from Los Angeles, for instance, or from Chicago after winter break last school year--I was more than excited to return. However, I was a little sad to leave Denver, where I spent a relaxing (and simultaneously productive!) five days. I was also a little sad to leave Leta, but then, I am always sad to leave Leta because it's not often you find someone with whom you share a smear of brain at the bottom of a bucket.

My adventures began Friday the 7th, when Leta met me at the airport. It was a balmy 60-something degrees, and after jumping around and hugging and squealing for a few minutes, we made the harrowing two-bus journey from the airport to her apartment with Nick and Jennifer in Aurora. Did we stay in the apartment, sit on the couch, catch up? No! There were things to do and places to go and people to see, of course. We took another two buses to beautiful downtown Denver, where we met a certain Shaun Leonard for late lunch and drinks at Wynkoop Brewery. On our walk to the restaurant, Leta and I had noticed a mysterious establishment called "Upstairs Circus." Intrigued, we headed there after our meal. To our surprise and delight, Upstairs Circus turned out to be a crafting bar. That is to say, you can order a drink AND you can order a craft project to do, complete with supplies, instructions, and time/difficulty estimates. We were there during happy hour, so we all took them up on their $15 free-paint special and got to work on our respective masterpieces. 


Leta with "Bonewish: Destroyer of Worlds"

Shaun with "Reflections on Spider-Man"

Me with lots of colors

Shaun's friend Katie met us after she was done with work, and we proceeded to wander the city streets. We stopped for crepes and hot chocolate (eating was a big theme on this trip), we saw Denver's beautiful performing arts complex. We went to The Celtic Tavern--Shaun had to take a picture with the Galway sign, naturally--and who joined us there but one of my favorite Brits, Sacha! For our last stop of the evening we went to Double Daughters, an Edward-Gorey-esque, pseudo-steampunk bar that served fancy cocktails with twisted names. I had "Gregory's Peck." In keeping with the spirit of the place (no pun intended), we invented cocktails for each other. Mine sounded pretty delicious. I'll have to make it sometime.

Nick came to pick us up, and guess what? It was raining. Like, a whole lot. I've been living in the desert too long. I forgot what weather was like. I was far more excited about getting soaked than I should have been.

The next day we took the bus down Colfax to one of my all-time favorite Denver destinations, The Tattered Cover. The Colfax location of this impressive independent bookstore is housed in a gutted-out theater; they left some of the seats in so you can relax and read. There we sat and wrote for hours, as pretentious hipster types like us are wont to do.

Pretentious hipster types

We also drank lots of spicy bhakti chai. (Why can I never find spicy bhakti chai outside of Colorado?! It's a travesty.) After we got home, we spent the evening cuddling and eating popcorn and watching Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. ("The thoroughbred of sin?")

On Sunday Leta and Nick had all their friends over for a Board Game Brunch. I still maintain that it was actually Board Game Breakfast, as we started at 9:30 a.m. But I digress. I finally got to meet Hillary and Hondo, Mike and Vanessa, Brad, and Eric. Shaun and Katie were able to join us as well, along with Sacha and Dan. There was food. So much food. Way too much food. I'm going to pretend that none of it had calories. I have to pretend, or else suffer shame for the rest of my days. (Damn you, chocolate donuts!) There were board games. So many board games. Flux, Geek Out (is Ender's Game a bloodsport?), Carcassonne, Bananagrams, Battlestar Galactica, Telestrations, Cards Against Humanity.

We played board games from 9:30 in the morning to 7:00 at night. This is what dedication looks like, people.

Monday morning Nick had to drive to his job in Boulder, so Leta and I traveled with him. I'd been to Boulder once before, but only briefly and a long time ago. It's a charming little town, filled with little shops with local artists' goods and little cafes and little bookstores. Hippies, too, but the wealthy kind.

And it was snowing!

I'm talking fairytale snow, here. It was coming down heavily, but not so heavily that you couldn't comfortably see and walk around. I hardly ever wanted to go inside, as I was afraid it would stop, but it stayed that way all day.

Snowflakes in my hair

Besties in the snow

After strolling around the Pearl Street Mall for a while, popping into stores and grabbing lunch, we wandered along Boulder Creek and then uphill to see University of Colorado Boulder. The campus is beautiful, filled with old, European-style buildings, and in the snow it looked all the more wondrous (read: "like Hogwarts"). The walk there was long, so we snuck into one of the buildings and listened to their orchestra practice from the back row.

We found Boulder Creek!

Old Main on the CU Boulder campus

Band practice

We sat there for a while and warmed up, then we walked back to town. We seated ourselves in another small cafe with some oolong tea (me) and some ginger beer (Leta), and we wrote wrote wrote. I wrote 30 pages during my trip! Admittedly they're tiny notebook pages--I prefer tiny notebooks so I can carry them in my purse--but it's an achievement nonetheless.

Honing my craft

Kicking NaNoWriMo's ass

After dinner we picked Nick up and drove back to Denver. More popcorn. More movies. More cuddles.

On Tuesday, my final day in town, we stayed inside. The temperature had dropped to 14 degrees, so we made a pot of minestrone soup--or, rather, Leta and Nick made a pot of minestrone soup because I'm a terrible adult. They drove me back to the airport, but my adventures did not end there. For who was flying back to visit London that day but the lovely Sacha! And from the same terminal, no less. We grabbed drinks and discussed literature and the state of education today, like the international jet-setters we are. 

Airport lighting is flattering for no one

All in all it was a fantastic vacation, and I miss Leta already. I keep thinking of places I might like to move after I graduate from the program, and I must confess that Denver is high up on the list. Although the last time I visited Chicago I had a group of people surrounding me and chanting "MOVE BACK! MOVE BACK!," so I suppose I have to take that into consideration.

Things are already hectic again back here in Vegas, but it isn't all bad. I met with Don today to show him some of my poems and to discuss summer study abroad options, and thanks to his suggestions I have a few fun ideas in the works. Let the planning commence...

Thursday, November 6, 2014


Readers, it is a happy day, for tomorrow I am flying to Denver to visit the one and only Leta Keane. 


Hilariously, my favorite Irish poet Shaun Leonard planned a trip to Denver at exactly the same time. You know what they say about great minds. I am certain that fun will ensue.

Aside from the fact that my back and neck muscles have decided to rebel against me, I've had a rather lovely week. My students are taking CAAP exams, so I don't have to teach them. Instead I've been writing. Crazy, I know. 

I think my Halloween costume creeped people out more than I had anticipated. I thought it was cute bordering on uncanny, but perhaps I was wrong. You can judge for yourself.

Marianne was my puppeteer. 

And now I must continue packing. I will fill you in on all the details of Denver after they have occurred.