Can’t Get Through The Portal

Hi there!  Today, a friend asked me what I had read lately and suggested blogging about that, but then I realized that I haven’t read anything since late November.  Not even manga.  It was actually a strange revelation.  I haven’t read anything since I started getting disgusted with the whole writing/feedback process.  The more I think about it, the more I notice a strange correlation between my writing productivity and how much I read (when one goes up, so does the other).  Is this a common thing?  Do reading slumps exist?  Apparently they do, so allow me to ramble for a bit.

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It’s kind of like that.

Don’t get me wrong… I’ve tried reading things off and on, especially when I wasn’t writing anything, but no matter how excited I was for a book, a few pages in and I was ready to quit.  It was like watching a movie or a tv show (both of which can be great), instead of stepping through a portal and living in another world (what reading usually does for me).  In other words, I’m seeing what’s happening, but I just can’t bring myself to care or participate.  And I can’t even blame the books.  It’s not like when I was an undergrad and had to slog my way through the “classics.”  These are books by my favorite authors, things I’ve been looking forward to.  I find it really weird.

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Pick a portal, any portal.

Part of me wonders if maybe it’s some crazy delayed post-MFA depression or something.  You know, the kind everyone warns you not to slip into?  The kind where you stop writing and reading and doing all the things you planned on doing because what’s the point without having that community to help you along?  I avoided it for about a year.  I wrote steadily and read regularly.  Is it even possible that it’s kicking in this far out from graduation?  Maybe it is.  But it needs to stop.  I’m done with wallowing.  Really.  I swear.

Was I convincing?  Didn’t think so.  I am, however, getting slowly back on the writing horse.  I admit that I’m not back to my usual schedule yet, but I’m getting there.  Hopefully this means that I’ll be able to step through a portal into a good book soon.  I haven’t had any trouble getting into the stories I’ve been critiquing, which I’m taking as another good sign.  I don’t know what else to do except to keep trying until I find that book capable of yanking me inside.

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It’s a portal… of books.  Get it?

 

What about you?   Have you ever hit a reading slump?  What book was the one that finally pulled you out of it?  If it wasn’t a book, then what helped you?  I’d love to hear your harrowing stories of breaking through the blocked portal!  Also, if you have any recommendations for books that I should be reading, please feel free to send some titles or author names my way.

A Look Inside the Mansion Restaurant

Hello, hello!  As many of you know, my birthday was on the 12th (dirty thirty).  Dad encouraged me to pick somewhere extravagant, so I took it to heart and chose the Mansion on Turtle Creek.  We were celebrating mine and a friend’s birthdays.  I wasn’t planning on doing a blog post about it, so I didn’t get pictures of everything, but Lew Andrada insisted on hearing more about the place.  So, here it is.

First, a reminder of my rating system:

MMMMM = Everything is magnificent!
MMMM = Great, but something is off.
MMM = Pretty good, but a couple of things could be better.
MM = The bad’s starting to outweigh the good.
M = Definitely more cons than pros.
… = I couldn’t find anything nice to say.

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Stolen from Google.

 

As usual, first and foremost is accessibility.  It’s not really accessible, but they try.  Parking is valet, so as soon as I was unloaded, someone led the way up the (heated) walkway into the foyer, which was where things got less than wheelchair friendly.  There were two steps up going into the dining area, so they brought out this three foot portable ramp and set it up.  The incline was so steep that my wheelie bars hung and I lost traction for a second.  But with the help of Dad and some of the staff, I made it up (and back down) safely.  Other than that, the tables were perfect.  Just let them know ahead of time that you need something accessible.  Also, request a table in the library if possible.  That has nothing to do with accessibility, it’s just a really beautiful room.

Next up is service.  The entire wait staff (from the bread person to the one who keeps your water filled to the waiter himself) was wonderful. Everyone was attentive and knowledgeable.  They didn’t act like I was invisible.  We got to hear all about the Mansion’s history and they gave us a mini tour after we were done eating (since we were pretty much the only people left).  I have zero complaints about the people there.

Food… this is where things get iffy.  The taste of everything ranged from really good to superb, so don’t worry about that, but the portions were super tiny.  They were the perfect size for me, but don’t go in expecting tons of food.  For instance, I got the shigoku oysters to start. There were half a dozen small oysters with some kind of foam and other fancy toppings.  They fell on the really good end of the yum spectrum.  Dad got quail (like a quarter of the bird came out on a huge plate).  That was delicious.  My friends who went with us are vegan, so they got a kale dish and beet gazpacho (it didn’t even look like soup, but they said everything was great).

Entrees were taking a while, so the chef sent out a taster of head cheese for Dad and I, and quinoa for my friends.  It was so tiny and cute that we had to laugh.  Dinner itself included tea smoked pheasant for Dad (about half a breast with a side of potato foam… yes, foam).  Maple leaf duck for me (three slices with some kind of blackberry sauce and citrus confit).  My friends were going to share something called textures of onion, but the waiter said the chef would prefer them to order two portions otherwise they would still be hungry when they left.  Again, everything was phenomenal, just really tiny.  Luckily, bread was being passed around the whole time.

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Cake!  It’s not the best picture.  Oh well.

 

After dinner, they brought out a palate cleanser of apple sorbet (I’m allergic to apples, but I ate it anyway).  It was so small it was adorable.  Then came time for dessert.  Dad ordered a special red velvet cake layered with raspberry creme brulee.  It was out of this world.  Best.  Cake.  Ever.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t vegan, so my friends got bowls of fruit.  Dessert was the biggest and best part of the whole meal.  Definitely.

Alas, we must mention price.  It’s the Mansion.  You don’t go there for a cheap meal.  You go for the ambiance and the ability to say “I’ve been there!”  That being said, we were expecting a five-six hundred dollar bill, but it was only around three hundred (plus the cake and the tip).  So, expensive but not as bad as we were expecting.

Final rating:
MMMM

Totally worth the experience.  See you next week!

Snail Mail: A Forgotten Art

Hello all!  Today, I’d like to talk a little about the forgotten art of letter writing.  Most of the year, I don’t really think about it, but around Christmas and family birthdays, the lack of snail mail becomes quite noticeable.  Each year we receive fewer Christmas cards.  For instance, this year we sent out about three times as many as we got.  We used to get just as many as we sent.  I’m not complaining, it’s just an observation.  It got me thinking about the yearly lack of letters (not that I can say much since I don’t send many either), so I thought I’d ramble a bit about it.

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I’m actually one of the lucky few.  I receive letters pretty regularly (granted, they’re from my sister in prison, so they usually say basically the same thing, but a letter’s a letter).  It’s a subject I talk about with my friends a lot, and we all agree that we should start writing to each other more often, but we never do.  Why?  When did writing a quick note, stuffing it in an envelope, and putting it in the mail become such a hassle?  People blame the Internet for making us lazy, but is that really it?  I mean, it takes just as much effort to send an email or PM or whatever as it does to write a letter, it’s simply a different kind of effort.  Don’t believe me?  Then you’ve obviously never taught someone how to text or anything.

In a lot of ways, social media makes keeping in touch easier, but it’s really superficial.  Don’t get me wrong, since most of my friends live far away from me, I love that social media keeps me up-to-date with them.  I’m just saying that it also gives me the option of stalking these friends without actually interacting with them, like “oh hey!  He posted something today.  He’s alive.  I’ll check in with him later.”  But later never comes because it’s an endless cycle.  You can’t do that with letters.  In letters and cards, people often choose to let you deeper into their lives than “here’s a picture of my dinner!” or “look at my feet in this weird beach pic!” or whatever.  Letters are personal.

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Letters and cards also show that people are thinking about you.  They require forethought, especially for events like birthdays and holidays.  I love all of the birthday messages I get on Facebook (from the “happy birthday!” messages to the more personalized ones), but I always wonder what would happen if I turned off the notification.  How many people would actually remember without Facebook telling them?  A birthday card in the mail means someone put me in their calendar.  It’s just really sweet.

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Plus, it gives you an excuse to buy pretty pens.

 

Like I said, I can’t say much since I’m not very good about writing letters and sending cards and all that, but I do recognize that it’s a dying art form.  I think it would be neat to get back into it, especially with friends.  So, go out there and show someone you’re thinking about them outside of cyberspace.  Write a note.  If you don’t want to spend money on a stamp and they live close enough, slip it under their door or put it somewhere they’ll find it.  Bring back the letter in all its glory!  Or don’t.  Whatever floats your boat.

Irrational Fears

Hello, hello!  Happy New Year!  Is it everything you were hoping for thus far?  Mine’s been pretty peaceful, which is why I’m not entirely sure why I’m being plagued by irrational fears.  You know, when you get that weight right in the center of your chest?  That trembly feeling that invades every waking moment?  At least until the cause passes, then you’re fine?  Yeah, it’s been like that for the past few days.  I just don’t know the reason this time.

fear
Seems legit.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of odd fears, but I usually know what triggers them.  I’m not fond of things suspended in the air (bridges, elevators, and the like).  That’s probably because of recurring nightmares of driving off a bridge into the river below.  I also fear being around grabby people (I blame doctors and nurses who don’t ask before they attempt to move my arms and legs, which results in pain or worse).  Needles.  Large dogs (another recurring nightmare).  Storms.  The doorbell or someone knocking on the door (no idea why on this one).  The list goes on.

I even get a minor case of the terrors when we’re going somewhere where I’m not familiar with the roads.  Bumpy roads are a pain (literally), so of course my mind fills with visions of potholes and speed bumps and unkempt dirt roads the whole way to our destination (and that’s not including the surprise jolts of adrenalin brought about by Texas drivers).  That’s just the way my mind works.  Thankfully, however, Google street view has helped with this particular fear a lot.

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I guess “drive friendly” means try your damnedest to get your car to kiss another one in the most violent way possible.

 

But none of that explains the weight and trembles I’ve felt the last few days.  The only things I can think of in the near future are a trip to the DMV (I’ve already looked at the roads), my birthday (they’ve never bothered me before), and an event at a hospital (I’ve been there before).  Who knows?  Maybe I’m just freaking out because I’m feeling a little lost.  Maybe it’s something I’m just not thinking of.  Maybe I’ll never know what it is and it’ll fade away as mysteriously as it came on.  Fear can be a funny beast that way.

fear
Still haven’t seen this, but he seemed appropriate.

 

Anyway, this has been a glimpse into my paranoid mind.  I suppose it’s good practice, looking at some of the minor fears that can weigh on people.  They’re potential character traits.  Someone who faints every time the doorbell rings?  I could write that.  How about you?  Any fears that you feel silly for having?  What about the ones that terrify you?  Feel free to share some here or on Facebook or Twitter or G+.

I’m not sure what to post about next week, so feel free to send me some ideas or questions.  Have a wonderful week!