A is for Alcohol (cider, actually)

Like all good adventures, this one begins with alcohol.

Last March, I hunkered down with everyone else, eschewing human contact, living hand to mouth surviving on the contents of my pantry (decades old rice cakes, expired cream of mushroom soup, rancid-ish rice, freezer burned chicken, ancient frozen fish). That was all fine, but when I ran out of cider, that was a bridge too far.

What to do? Naturally, I started ordering elderberry cider by the case from Lost Giants Cider Co. At first I told myself it was to keep them from going out of business. They had to survive the pandemic, I reasoned. One day we’d again sit inside and mingle with other cider lovers. And for a couple of months, that too, was good enough company for me. A can of cider, a jigsaw puzzle. Eventually I dragged out the old Wii. I spent those first weeks  Zooming with friends, watching a lot of Netflix, writing. I could do this, I thought, sipping my cider and ordering another puzzle from Amazon. It’s not so bad. A few weeks of staying home and it’ll all be fine.

But by the time July rolled around and we were STILL stuck at home, I had grown tired of sitting on my front porch and waving at the neighbors for fun. I needed more. So, though I initially felt jilted and abandoned when my two (straight female) BFFs started online dating, after a couple of ciders and some peeking at a couple of dating sites, I joined them. Why not? I hadn’t dated in 20 years, but I had met my ex-wife in one of the very first online dating sites back in 1999 or 2000. That wasn’t all bad. Said the fifth case of elderberry cider.

By mid-July, I’d started corresponding with a likely candidate. She seemed intelligent and intriguing in all the right ways. We agreed on an appropriately socially-distanced kayaking first date. Always the prepared boy scout, I packed a mini-lunch to share: 2 ciders, some almonds, some string cheese, dried mango.

I knew my first date was doomed when she refused my offer of a cider after our paddle. We did not paddle again. My second (different) date, however, welcomed my cider offer midway through our paddle a couple of weeks later. After that auspicious beginning, we dated long enough to enjoy many ciders together, discovering an affinity for peppered ciders, jalapeno pineapple, habanero pineapple. We kicked it up to spicy town. For six months.

That’s more than my two BFFs can say. They’re still wading through sites full of pictures of half-naked men wielding fish as if that’s what attracts women . . .

The A-to-Z Challenge, a brief introduction. And a theme: My Adventures in Online Dating During a Global Pandemic, from Alcohol to Zoom.

Welcome Back! We’re just in time for the A-to-Z Challenge. It’s been a few years since I’ve participated in this adventure, but I’m up for it, I think.

This year, as odd as it has been, deserves some special treatment, so I’ve decided to go with a theme: Adventures in Online Dating During a Global Pandemic, from Alcohol to Zoom.

Buckle up buttercups. Let’s see what I’ve learned.

When Writing Buddies Become Water Buddies

img_1979My friend Linda swims nearly every day. Her devotion to swimming her mile in Lake Whatcom is as sacred as my devotion to running laps around Lake Padden. We often meet up to write together after we’ve completed our individual exercise routines, and at some point we started talking about her swimming across the lake instead of along the shore.

“How far is it from your beach to the other side of the lake?” I asked. “Could you swim it?”

“Probably a half mile,” Linda answered. “Of course I could swim it, and I have, but I need an escort so I don’t get run over by a speedboat.”

“I could paddle along in my kayak,” I said. “Let’s do it!”

That was last summer, and somehow the sunny warm days ended without us ever having made the crossing.

Recently, as we had a little bit of a heat wave and a string of decent days, I’ve been jumping in the lake to cool off after my runs and then hopping in my kayak to soak up some rays. Which reminded me that Linda and I had yet to conquer the cross-lake challenge. So I brought it up, as summer seemed to be coming to a rather quick and blustery end.

sunrise_kayak-swim-day
Red sky in the morning. Photo credit Linda Lambert

“Still up for a cross lake swim?” I texted her.

“Sure! When?” She texted back.

“Friday? Weather still looks good. I’ll be done with school for the quarter.”

“Let’s do it,” she wrote.

Last Friday morning dawned gloriously pink. “Uh oh,” I thought to myself as I let the cat in for his morning feeding. “Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning.” I texted Linda. “Wanna go a little earlier?”

“Sure,” she wrote back.

img_1961
Kayak in the back instead of on top is much easier!

I shooed the cat out the door and hurried to get dressed. Then I loaded the kayak in the back of my truck (so much easier than heaving it up onto the fancy and expensive Thule rack I own) and headed out to Sudden Valley to be the support boat for my friend’s great swim.

I lugged the kayak down to the shore, through the bushes and garden bark, across the vast green lawn dotted with deer poop, which I deftly dodged (you can read more on how I love deer here). I tied a rope around the little carry handle on the end of the kayak and lowered it down the high bank into the water. So far, so good, I thought.

The sun was rising over the mountain across the lake, glistening golden against the clouds. The water, for now, was calm, inviting. And warm. I stuck my toe in. Hmm. I could swim in that. But I had to be in my kayak to fend off bigger boats and wayward jet skis in order to protect my friend. Plus, I don’t really like swimming.

Linda walked down to the water’s edge in her black swimsuit, pink bathing cap, and teal blue flippers. She held two pairs of swim goggles in one hand and a black neoprene swim cap in the other. Her wife Amory trailed behind her, phone at the ready to document this momentous event. But first things first. A goose had left a large, uhm, gift on the bottom step and as I was about to brush it off into the water with my paddle Linda stopped me.

“NO! Don’t put that in the water,” she admonished. “Amory, would you go get a paper towel?”

“Oh, like there’s no other goose poop in the lake,” I said from my kayak cockpit. I suppose if I were getting into the water, I might feel the same way. “I guess you have a point,” I conceded.

“Just so you know,” Linda said, pointing at me, “I count as I swim, so don’t interrupt.”

“Roger that,” I saluted, a little disappointed as I had envisioned a leisurely paddle-swim in which we conversed. Guess it was going to be a quiet journey instead.

We're off! Photo credit Amory Peck
We’re off! Photo credit Amory Peck

Once the goose droppings had been dealt with, Linda descended the five steps and dove in, splashing me, and we were off. I waved to Amory standing on the bank and pointed my kayak toward the distant shore. I knew immediately I had more of a challenge on my hands than I had anticipated, as Linda veered off in the wrong direction, and by wrong I mean instead of heading across the lake, she appeared to be swimming parallel to the shore. I tried to herd her into going the right direction, but she could neither see nor hear me. I sighed and stayed close, assuming she would figure it out eventually.

We zig-zagged across the lake, making it to the other side in about a half hour. I took a picture and sent it to Amory. “We made it!” I wrote. Linda and I chatted for awhile, took a few pics of img_1986each other, and then headed back.

For some reason, she swam in a straighter line going the other direction. I didn’t have to herd her nearly as much, though when we were about ¾ of the way across, she suddenly veered to the south. By the time I got her attention, she’d swum a few hundred yards. We would have been back to her beach if she had been going the right direction.

She laughed when I finally got her rerouted and adjusted accordingly. “I didn’t want to tell you how challenging this would be,” Linda said. “I didn’t want you to change your mind. You should have seen me swimming across the St. Clair River (in Michigan, at Amory’s brother’s house, over Labor Day weekend), dodging speed boats and freighters. I almost ended up in Detroit!”

I was very glad that I hadn’t been the support boat for that adventure. This quiet lake swim was

We made it! Photo credit Amory Peck.
We made it! Photo credit Amory Peck.

proving to be more complicated than I had anticipated. And we’d only seen one jet ski and three boats, one of which was oar-driven. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t have been able to keep her safe in a busier body of water.

 

 

Ragnar Wrap Up (and a Few Haiku for Kicks)

July has been a slow haiku month. I had many other things going on—writing answers to all of the comments on the same sex marriage blog, for one thing. I just finished that up last night—and wow, was I blown away by the outpouring of understanding and support. I don’t think I had one seriously negative comment, not one that made me cringe or wince or get self-righteous and defensive. Two I deleted because they were rants from bible thumpers telling me how I was an abomination and going to hell, but that’s neither news nor unexpected. I decided they didn’t need any airtime.

So, thank you Dear Readers for reading and responding. I don’t have anything else nearly as deep or profound to say at this moment—I’ve been running and writing, so here is a Ragnar Wrap Up and a handful of haiku I’ve written in the past 30 days or so.

jeep
Bad ass sticker on my Jeep window

Ragnar Rocked. I seriously pondered dropping out just a week before the big race, but I couldn’t leave my teammates in a lurch, and am I ever glad I sucked up my fears and followed through. My doubt was daunting as I had no idea how I would fare riding for 36 hours in a van with six women (and one man), most of whom I did not know well at all. I didn’t know if I would even be able to run after hours in the van or at odd hours. At home, I’ve become a well-oiled machine, and my pre-running routine is down to a science. Coffee. Fiber. Rest . . . Go. You know what I’m talking about. But could I take it on the road?

Van One for Team Miles of Smiles
Van One for Team Miles of Smiles

Turns out, I can! I had a great three legs. For the uninitiated, Ragnar NWP is a 200ish mile relay race that begins at Peace Arch Park in Blaine, WA (at the Canadian Border) and ends at the Langley Fairgrounds on South Whidbey Island. Six- or 12- person teams start staggered by overall predicted time (the slower the team, the earlier the start time on Friday morning). Our leg one runner left at 6:45 (I think) or maybe 7:15. Anyway our team of 12 started EARLY. Since I ran legs 5, 17, and 29, I was in Van 1 with those who ran Legs 1-6 (and our driver, the lovely and patient Ryan Valentine).

Without boring you with the mile-by-mile details, I’ll just leave it at this: I would do it again tomorrow with all the same people (if they will still have me). I can’t remember a more exciting two days, honestly. Intense and amazing. The camaraderie, the can-do attitudes (especially from Van 2 which had all the super shitty middle of the night and dead of the afternoon hot legs).

Team Miles of Smiles crossing the finish line
Team Miles of Smiles crossing the finish line

We did great.  We all crossed the finish line together, led by the indefatigable Cami Ostman . We got our bad-ass medals and the sticker for the back of the car. That’s pretty much the entire reason I signed up for this gig.

And now, here are just a few haiku. Enjoy!

Long, languid, lacy–
Your tendrils wrap ’round my spine.
Sweet strangulation.

Electrified, I
Vibrate with this current. I
Am your conduit

Bring a map–my heart’s
Geography runs rough through
Difficult terrain.

This angel has holes
In her wings; tattered, lacy
Gossamer. Flightless.

Relentless, teeming
Sucking bucket of need, I
Tug your sleeve. See me.

Our silence stretches
Beyond reason. This stubborn
Void reverberates.

Drown me. Hold my head
Under your water, gasping,
Breathless. So alive.

Irrefutable–
Same love, same protections, same.
Immutable rights

Tonight I bathed in
That potent elixir of
Regret, shame, and guilt

O is for . . . Yeah That! Oh My.

I’m a pretty modest gal. Just ask The Little Woman. I’m a prude. I don’t sleep naked. I don’t wander the house in my all togethers. I close the door when I am doing anything in the bathroom. I don’t even like her to watch me .  .  . oh, never mind. I can’t even write that. Suffice it to say, I think the details of sex, however loud or kinky it may get, should stay between the people involved. No sharing. No PDA. No bragging, for god’s sake.

However, back when I signed up for this A to Z blog challenge, I wrote that I was going to devote the letter O to this phenomenon, Orgasmic Meditation, that was sweeping the Intertubes—or had at least had made an appearance on some of the Interweb news sites I subscribe to. I don’t have anything in particular to say about Orgasms (that I want to share), except that I think it’s pretty Odd to have One in such a dispassionate manner. In front of Other people, no less. This whole practice violates my modest sensibilities.

Orgasmic Meditation, or OM, according to the Salon.com article accompanying the, er, revealing video, says that the practice releases a, uhm, flood of Oxytocin, the hormone that leads to Orgasm. But, the proponents of OM, insist that the big O isn’t the point of OM. The point, they say, is the journey, not the destination. The point is the experiences along the way, the experiences the woman (and it is only women) has while her meditation partner strokes her clitoris in a non-sexual manner (italics mine).

I dunno about you, but having my parts stroked screams sexual, though I suppose the fact that the whole affair Occurs in a room full of Other people might put a damper on my libido. As I read the article and the reviews from satisfied customers I really tried to keep an Open mind. After all, the founder of OneTaste, the company Offering OM classes, appeared on a TED Talk and the practice was featured on Deepak Chopra’s YouTube channel, so how crazy could it be?

Let’s just say I don’t think I’ll be forking over $15K anytime soon for a Mastery OM class. Read the article. Watch the video, if you dare. Call me a prude. I don’t care.

Scary Ass Hotel

So, please forgive me in advance for what may be a shitty post but I’m without a wifi connection and am desperate to remain committed to my daily blog post. So I’m doing it from my iPhone.

The Little Woman and I traveled to Port Townsend today in order to cheer on our friend Tele who read tonight as part of She Tells Sea Tales, a fundraiser for The Girls Boatbuilding Project. We thought we would work a little romantic getaway into the weekend since the last ferry leaves Port Townsend at 830 and we would therefore have to spend the night. TLW got on the internets at home last night and booked us a hotel room–she found one that wasn’t too pricey in the heart of downtown PT for about $80. She made ferry reservations as well–we figured we would catch an early afternoon sailing and spend the day wandering the shops and uhm having a romantic afternoon in our centrally located hotel room.

Imagine our surprise then when we arrived to find this: image

And this:
image

We basically dropped our bags and left the room to wander in the rain. Any shop would do thank you so long as we didn’t have to spend any time in this room. The carpets may have been lovely in 1957 but today the are nasty and smell. The hotel may have been grand in say 1878 but today not so much.

Now we are in bed and I am refusing to turn out the light. I can hear the people on the street below as if there are no walls or windows between us. TLW has in her earplugs and is wearing her eye shades and has drifted off to sleep while I peck out this blog on my iPhone and wait for something to crawl out of the large hole in the ceiling above my side of the bed.

If something untoward happens in the middle of the night, at least I will have kept my commitment to this blog. At least I have submitted my haiku for today and gone for a run. I have heard my good friend and writing buddy read for a good cause.

If we make it out the other side., I will never again let TLW book our accommodations.

Thanks for reading and if there are strange phrases or words in this post it’s because I did the whole damn thing on my phone. Because I’m dedicated. Because I don’t want to close my eyes in this scary ass hotel room.

Goodnight. Gulp.

On the Road to AROHO, Day 4: Chimney Rock, Riff Raff Brewery, and Camping in the Rain

While I had a glorious day in Arches National Park yesterday, I stayed in a less than optimal campsite last night. I mean, yes, it had showers and laundry, but it was crowded and noisy, dusty and hot. I had an ideal camping experience in mind when I set out on this trip and thus far it has been elusive: babbling brook, shade tree, quiet, running water. I don’t even mind a pit toilet.

Ironically, the quietest site so far was the one last night—even among all those people, I got the best sleep of the trip. Might have been the beer and the ear plugs, but people actually quieted down at ten. No one played loud music. No babies screamed as they did at the Utah Lake State Park on Thursday night. No one cooked goat at 1 a.m. or spoke Arabic in the middle of the night like in Idaho. I woke up at 5:30, amazed and refreshed, but still wanting something more idyllic.
Today I set out early, leaving Moab before 7, so I would have plenty of time to scout sites. I put 200 miles in before noon, and that’s when I remembered: it’s the journey, not the destination, so after bypassing a few tourist spots and stopping at Mesa National Park for a mere 10 minutes (long enough to get a picture),  I vowed to stop at the next roadside attraction whether it was a park or the world’s tallest miner. Luckily, it happened to be Chimney Rock National Monument. I’d seen the rock rising stark above the verdant Colorado forest, so I didn’t hesitate to turn when the sign for the monument popped up.

When I stopped to check in, the volunteer said I’d have to join a tour to go to the top and I almost declined, not being much into group outings, but I paid my $12 and drove up the mountain to the meeting spot. I’m glad I did since I got to put the Jeep in 4-wheel drive AND I had the top down. Quintessential Jeep Moment.
 I put on my hiking Chacos and grabbed the camera, afraid I was late, and not wanting to keep the group waiting. But I had time, so I went back to the car for a pre-hike snack and that’s when crabby volunteer lady told me there was no eating allowed. Really? No eating? Outside? In a park? I finished my granola bar and looked at her while I licked the melted chocolate off my fingers.
I learned some stuff on that hike up to Chimney Rock—first off, the Chaco Indians lived there (I was wearing Chacos) and up at the rock, they built a huge great house out of tons of stones that they carted up the mountainside. The first archeologists to visit the site weren’t so industrious and when they ran out of firewood, they burned up the original wooden beams from the great house (not too bright).

Also, every 18.6 years, the moon appears between Chimney and Companion Rock, so the place held significance for the tribe. They could also see directly across the valley to a large mesa, some 60 miles away, and evidence around the site indicates they communicated via smoke signal to their compatriots there.   
Happy to have stopped, found some amazing scenery, and learned some stuff too, I set off again toward Abiquiu. But then, in Pagosa Springs, I spotted a brewery called Riff Raff (like I could resist that!) and since it was lunch time, I stopped. Again, it’s the journey, right? I had a lovely black cherry porter and a delicious hamburger and then I tried their Kolsh. Also very good. Lest you worry, dear reader, that I drank and drove, I stretched that meal out over two hours before setting off again, to find the ideal camp site.
I thought I’d found it. Babbling brook. Trees. Grass. Fairly quiet (after I told that one little girl she was being too loud, too close to my campsite). And WiFi, flush toilets, and showers. This was it, dear reader. I pitched my tent, put the roof on the Jeep, and settled into my camp chair with my book.  And things were great, for about a half hour.
That’s when the sky darkened and the thunder clapped. Then the lightning. And now, the torrential downpour. My tent is still out there in the downpour, and the guy (there’s always a guy) just came into the common area (where I sit typing) and announced that the rain apparently is here for the whole night. As is more lightning and thunder.

So, here’s my plan: to hell with the tent (and thank god I didn’t put my sleeping bag in it yet), I’m sleeping in the jeep tonight—I’m cuddling up to the cooler that holds a growler of that beer and calling it a night. Really glad I had that burger earlier, too.