Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Very Vegas Thanksgiving

It's Thanksgiving in Vegas! And you know what that means: a marathon of Thanksgivings-away-from-home. Lulu and I spent way too much on groceries last night, so I'll mostly be eating her delicious cooking--but then I'll be hopping to a few other places to celebrate with more friends.

Actually, I lied when I said I'd be mostly eating Lulu's delicious cooking. It is true that her cooking is delicious, and I will certainly be gobbling up the turkey. But unfortunately, I cannot eat most of her delicious cooking; I'm still on that doctor-recommended low-FODMAP diet. Nevertheless, I'm not letting it ruin Thanksgiving. I bought my own instant mashed potatoes to make with fake butter, I found a low-FODMAP stuffing recipe with quinoa and parsnip and walnuts and blue cheese and cranberries and sage and parsley, and I bought lactose-free ice cream and a dairy-free dark chocolate syrup for dessert. Take that, potential-food-allergies-I'm-not-even-sure-I-actually-have! I will stuff my face like a real American regardless!

Leftovers won't be the only joy that Friday brings--Friday is also bringing miss Ashley to visit, all the way from Cupertino! No set plans yet, but there are many possibilities being bandied about for how we'll spend our time together. As she's never been here before, she has to see the strip, obviously. But what's the point of knowing a Vegas local if the strip is all you see?

Anyway, it should be a good weekend. Today and tomorrow I think I'm going to finish getting my materials together for a few of those creative writing fellowships, so wish me luck with that.

Today I'm thankful for you, family and friends who read this blog! And even if you're not family or friends, I'm thankful for you, too.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Fallcation II: The Centennial State

I returned from my trip to Denver on Tuesday, and what a wonderful trip it turned out to be. I've been so stressed out lately, and visiting Leta gave me just the excuse I needed to relax.

The trip didn't start out in a particularly relaxing manner. I arrived Friday morning, and Leta was working, so I took the bus to Tattered Cover to attend to some work of my own. I was continuing with my French translation, and when I took a break to check my phone, I read about the horrible attacks in Paris. It was bizarre, having been there so recently, and I couldn't stop checking Twitter for updates, even though I was feeling physically ill reading about it. I was glad when Leets finally showed up, as her presence was profoundly comforting--not that my emotional well-being was really the important thing that day. 

The rest of the weekend was calmer. I didn't get as much writing done as I thought I would, but I did revamp my resume, and I wrote a statement of purpose for one of the fellowships to which I'm applying. We toured some of Denver's finest cafes--The Denver Bicycle Cafe and St. Mark's Coffeehouse, to be specific. Turns out chai tea is not low-FODMAP friendly. (Remember that unfortunate diet I'm on?) Whoops. Living dangerously, I guess. I'd trade a stomachache for a spicy bhakti chai any day, though. Totally worth it.

On Sunday, Leta, Nick, and I met up with a bunch of their friends at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science to tour the new Sherlock Holmes exhibit! In case you weren't aware, I'm something of a Holmes fanatic. Yes, yes, I watch Sherlock (though I still prefer Jeremy Brett to Benedict Cumberbatch), but my true love is the canon itself, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's original mysteries. I own the entire collection in two paperbacks, and they have quite literally traveled around the world with me--I even brought them to China when I studied there. I've read them more times than I can count.

So I was pretty psyched about this exhibit. It begins with information about Conan Doyle's life, and London during the time that he wrote. They had lots of first editions of the stories, and letters that Conan Doyle wrote to various friends and colleagues--he had such neat handwriting! After that, things get interactive. Holmes needs you to solve a case, of course! The game's afoot! (You can tell how excited I was by my increasing exclamation points.) There's a full-on crime scene for you to carefully examine, and every visitor receives a special notepad so they can record the clues. You have to go to the slaughterhouse to compare blood spatter patterns, the greenhouse to identify the seedpod found near the bodies, and so on. It was a little silly, perhaps, but lots of fun. I just wanted the tiny children to get out of the way so I could investigate in peace. Adults want to participate fully in interactive museum exhibits too, okay? Nerdy adults with unhealthy literary obsessions, anyway.

What else did we do? Talked and talked and talked. Alienated poor Nick with our consistently girly movie selections--Ever After, Mean Girls, and 9 to 5. It was actually the first time I'd ever seen 9 to 5, and I'm not sure how I made it this far without this film in my life. It is basically a film made to appeal specifically to me, because I too wish to destroy men with slapsticky subterfuge. I mean, what? #notallmen. Whatever. Dolly Parton's adorable. 

We also played Bananagrams until almost 2 a.m. As you do. It snowed my last night there, and the next day the ground was all white and the sky was all grey--except for right above the mountains, where there was a thin strip of powder blue. It was beautiful

Can I just take a moment to remind everyone how Leta is basically the best human on the planet? She is relentlessly caring and supportive, and she's also extraordinarily perceptive, to the point where she understands things about me that I don't understand about myself, and can therefore give me the best advice. I have no idea where I'd be without her. I'd probably be dead. Well, maybe not dead. But I would certainly be significantly less well-adjusted than I am now. 

Cue the jokes about me not being well-adjusted at all.

Anyway, it was a great trip, but now I'm back to the grind. Sort of. I think the end of the semester should actually be fairly mellow. My translation's in a good place, and I don't have any more papers to grade until early December. I have to apply for some of those fellowships, but the applications aren't very rigorous, all things considered. Hopefully I can just write a lot. Which is still the whole point of me being in Vegas, even if some of these blog posts would suggest otherwise. 

I will leave you with two facts:

1) Visiting Leta brings my 2015 flight total to 23. My trip back to Chicago on December 15th will make it 24--an average of two flights per month!

2) David Bowie released a new music video today, and it is glorious.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Trading in the Spring Mountains for the Rockies

I've earned a little vacation, don't you think?

Good thing I'm heading to Denver this weekend to visit miss Leta! Last year's ColoRADo vacation was so delightful that I couldn't help but demand a sequel. It looks like it probably won't snow while I'm there, which is a shame. But Leets and I have lots of exciting plans in the works. I won't go into too much detail here, as I want to have something to blog about when I get back. But I will say that much of our time will likely be spent at the Tattered Cover, drinking bhakti chai and writing.

Writing vacations are the best vacations.

What else? I'm thinking of applying for some creative writing fellowships, but the application fees are so expensive. I'm sure it's to help weed out less serious candidates, as ridiculous amounts of people apply each year. For instance, The Stegner's website says that they received 1,700 applications last year for 10 fellowships. But I'm sure they're weeding out the wrong people this way. It's hard enough for a grad student like me to scrounge up the money for this ($75 for the Stegner, $50 for most others), and I'm a privileged brat who'll probably (hopefully) make up the loss in Christmas cash. But what about all the people who are significantly less privileged and yet would like to pursue their writing more seriously? It's troubling to me that these fellowships don't view their fees as prohibitive, especially considering that all the people working at these places probably believe themselves to be as liberal as can be.

At any rate, if I do apply for these fellowships, I certainly won't be applying for many.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Roller Coaster

I was doing so well, Internet. I was writing every day, I was full of energy, I was in all aspects on top of my game.

Then my body had to freak out. Horrible stomach pains, back pains, no appetite, exhaustion. And a whopping dose of anxiety on top of that--this is me we're talking about. I did manage to read some fiction at Neon Lit dressed as David Bowie in the middle of all this because I am a consummate badass. Nevertheless, it was not fun.

Fortunately(?), the gastroenterology appointment I had scheduled weeks and weeks ago was on Thursday, so he recommended I go on a low-FODMAP diet. This basically means that I have to cut out all potential allergy-inducing foods for a month and then add them back in one at a time to see which one might be bothering me. I have to ditch some of the foods you'd expect--dairy, gluten--but also some odd and, quite frankly, devastating foods, like avocado. (I miss you already, avocado!) For the past few days I've been surviving mostly on fresh fruits, raw veggies, and Cheerios. This is not the easiest thing to tackle when you hate cooking.

I can handle it, though. What's really getting to me is the exhaustion, which has not abated. It feels like I haven't been sleeping, even though I've been getting roughly 7-9 hours a night. I'm a little afraid to drive, honestly. I've been exercising, but probably not enough--I hardly want to get out of my bed. And it's hard to concentrate on anything, which is a big problem when you're supposed to be writing a novel and grading papers. Went to the Student Health Center on Friday and had blood drawn to test for a wide spectrum of things, so hopefully if it's something obvious they'll catch it.

Or maybe it's just a terrible reaction to Daylight Savings Time. Why do we even have that anymore? Nobody wants the sun to set this early.