My brother recently sent my sister and I a picture of his new baby. There’s not much you can say about a new baby, except to acknowledge the fact that it’s cute.
And let’s be honest—most new babies aren’t cute. Most new babies look like something out of a science fiction movie—the part when things first start going wrong, and all the scientists realize they got way more than they bargained for when they parked their space ship on the creepy planet with way too much wind and the horrifying little pink screaming creatures.
That said, my brother’s baby is actually pretty cute (which is good, because I never lie about babies being cute—you show me an ugly baby, I’m going to cringe and pat you on the shoulder, maybe offer some words of condolence, such as, “Don’t worry—maybe it’ll look better once it stretches out some and isn’t so scrunchy.”). So that’s what I texted back: “Cute.”
I didn’t feel like I was pulling my weight, conversationally speaking, though, and I decided to send him a picture back.
I don’t have a baby of my own, so I sent the next best thing: a picture of the dinosaur note-holder I keep on my desk.
Since then, I have decided that Dinosaur quote of the day should be a daily thing. I also decided that I should share some of them on this blog, because I’m always looking for an easy way to keep content fresh, and I don’t always feel like writing long, rambling posts about nonsense.
So that’s what I did.
I was looking for a date-night activity this past week, when I remembered the newsletter from the Chamber of Commerce. In case you haven’t seen it, it has a printable map for a driving tour of Canadian (you can find the newsletter here).
Because I was curious to see what it encompassed, and because I didn’t have any other ideas for date night, we decided to hop in the car and enjoy a drive around picturesque, historic Canadian, Texas.
I printed out the map (which I believe can also be picked up at the Chamber office; but call first, because I am not fact-checking this post, not one little bit), and then rolled it up like a treasure map, because if something can be a little more piratey, I’m all for it.
My girlfriend read as I drove, and although it wasn’t as interesting as, say, knife-fighting a gang of wild squirrels, it was an enjoyable way to spend some time, and much safer than knife-fighting a gang of wild squirrels.
While touring the town, I realized how much personal history I had with several of the spots marked on the map. It’s hard not to have memories of most places when you’ve grown up here, especially if you’re the kind of kids my friends and I were: biking around town during summer break, exploring spots we probably shouldn’t have, and blatantly trespassing the way only a socially-dimwitted child can.
Halfway through the tour, I began adding my own input, and by the end, I had decided that I might as well write it down, as I’ve been catching heat lately for not posting on Tumblr.
So join me, friends, on the historic driving tour of Canadian, Texas, as documented by Ray. Feel free to print a map (again, that can be found here), and follow along.
1. Santa Fe Depot Area – I’ll be honest: I really got nothin’ here. When I was a kid, my mom worked at City Hall, so it wasn’t the ideal place to play, especially if you were doing dangerous bike tricks or throwing rocks at each other.
2. City Hall and Auditorium – As mentioned in the above paragraph, this is where my mom worked when I was growing up. Many a time, my brother and I would venture down to beg for snack money before heading to the swimming pool, and even many-er were the times we’d call this place to have my mom settle petty disputes (for example, who was supposed to take out the trash).
3. Moody Building – This is where I always imagined I’d station myself when I finally became a super hero. Not a lot surrounding it for use with a spider web or batarang, but when I was a kid, this building seemed huge, and I was sure that I’d be able to see any crimes, if I ever figured a way on to the roof. Also, there used to be a coffee shop, and I remember that’s where I ate my first chicken salad sandwich. I don’t know why that’s the kind of information that’s lodged in my brains, these days, but there you have it.
4. Canadian Visitors’ Center – This is another one that I don’t have much for. In my defense, it didn’t exist in my childhood. It’s very pretty, though, and I like to look at it when I walk to Allsup’s to get a breakfast burrito on some mornings.
5. Hemphill County Courthouse – You can’t grow up in Canadian and not think first thing of the 4th of July Parade when you think of the courthouse. Unless you were a juvenile delinquent, I suppose. In which case, your memories probably aren’t nearly as pleasant as mine. Despite that I’m technically a grown up, one of the highlights of my year is seeing what toys they have for sale at the Courthouse during the parade.
6. W.C.T.U Building – The library, man! I spent so much of my childhood in this place (back before it was all fancied up). It was one of the only places I’d been that had an elevator, and we took it every time, no matter that it took six times longer than just jogging up the steps. Right in line with true childhood imagination, I remember being terrified that the cable would snap and we’d plunge to our deaths. You know, plummeting down that entire one story of elevator shaft. I loved the library so much, you can’t even imagine. It was the go-to place on slow summer days, as well as where I went most days after school.
7. Ed Brainard Home – This is another one that I didn’t have many dealings with. So I’m just gonna say, um…vampires. This is where I fought vampires as a child. I won.
8. Eddie Meek Home – A friend of mine lived here, so I spent a fair amount of time goofing around in the pool. Also, I was once hired to sand down and strip every one of the stairs. Whatever chemicals the stripper had in it smelled like orange. Wishing for that bit about the vampires right about now, aren’t you?
9. Ed Culver Home – Everyone knows about Ed Culver’s illegal dragon farm and training grounds, right? Or is this just another case of me having no personal history with the place, and making things up because I don’t want to feel inadequate? You’ll just have to decide for yourself.
10. Dell Krehbiel Home – This was pretty close to my house, growing up, and although I didn’t care much for local history, I did appreciate the relatively smooth sidewalk and driveway of this house—you could catch some pretty good air, if you ramped your bike just right, and there wasn’t much traffic, so you didn’t have to worry too much about wiping out and then getting run over.
11. Old Hospital – A friend of mine lived here, so I spent countless hours downstairs, playing G.I. Joe and Star Wars. We also fancied ourselves inventors, so we’d cruise the neighborhood on our bikes, picking up random garbage from in and around trashcans, and taking it back to his house to spread out on the floor. I’m sure his mom appreciated that.
12. Dr. and Mrs. Tony Cook Home – Again, this was a great place to ride a bike. The gutters were deep, which meant you’d either get a pretty good jump, or just wipe out completely, annihilating your knees, elbows, and palms. Kind of a funny twist of fate that it belongs to a doctor.
13. Catholic Church Belltower – I always really liked the tower, as a kid. It was another one of those things that made you feel like you were living in a city from the comic books or the movies, you know? When I was in fifth grade, a friend of mine used to sit in the little courtyard and talk to his girlfriend. I went with him one time, because she was bringing a friend of hers. At one point, I thought there might be smooching involved. Then they started talking about how she had a tendency to go number two in the lake. After that, I had no interest in smooching.
14. Kennith Thrasher Home – The entire house is carved from the bones of giants. Or I am lying, because I am again without a personal connection. It’s hard to say.
15. Mark and Amanda Poe Home – When I was little, it was a big deal to talk about how there were bats in this house. I have absolutely no idea if it was true or not, but that was what my friends and I always talked about when we walked by on our way home from the pool, like the bats would just fly out and get you. I don’t know, kids are odd.
16. Y.M.C.A. – Another place I spent a lot of hours. They had arcade games, did you know that? And a bumper pool table. Oh, the bumper pool table, I loved you so much. I’m not here to either promote or confess to gambling, but a certain someone may or may not have won a cassette tape of the La Bamba movie soundtrack over that bumper pool table.
17. Carol Reid Home – I remember going to this place on Halloween one year, and I don’t know if it was even decorated exceptionally scary or not, but I couldn’t make it up the stairs. I panicked, and ran back to the street, even though they were giving out some pretty great candy. Yes, this is the same kid who was determined he’d be fighting crime from the roof of the Moody Building someday. Maybe if the crime wasn’t happening in the dark?
18. Baker School – I went to school here, so obviously I have a ton of memories of the place. Oddly, I think the memory that stands out the most is when we were all about to go out to recess, and this kid asked the teacher if he could go back to the classroom for a minute. She gave him this lecture about how she told us to get all of our things before we left, and she asked him what was so important. And he goes, in this real quiet voice, “I wanted to get my toy.” The weird thing is, I remember sitting there thinking, “We’re just little kids.” For some reason, his answer struck a chord, and made me realize how small we all were. Anyway, she let him go get it. I think it was a Transformer.
19. Abraham Homeplace – I lived in this neighborhood when we first moved to Canadian, and it was the first time I’d ever really had to make friends. I had a map I had cut off the back of a box of Cap’n Crunch cereal, and it made me something of a legend. None of us could read all that well, so I’d just lead everyone around, pretending I was following the map. Most times, we ended up in the courtyard of the Abraham Homeplace (remember that blatant trespassing I referred to earlier?)
20. Edward Abraham Memorial Home – I was a plumber’s helper at one point, and we were replacing a line inside. We had to jackhammer up the floor and dig this crazy deep hole. We strung up bright orange webbing and yellow tape and cones and all that, wanting to make sure nobody fell in. At one point, while I was in the hole, a woman with a walker made straight for the hole. It was too deep for me to quickly climb out, so all I could do was shout as she came at me. She looked determined, man, and I was sure she was going to end up down in that hole with me. Fortunately, my boss heard my cries of fear, and intercepted her.
21. This Is A New Area Of Town – Indeed it is, historical map. Indeed it is.
22. Hemphill County Hospital – That fountain used to work (Does it still? I don’t know—and like I said: absolutely zero fact checking for this). As a child, I thought it was one of the most beautiful things in town. Again, it was one of those things that made it feel like you were someplace else, someplace different and exotic.
23. Canadian Middle School – Haunted. No, this isn’t me making stuff up because I don’t have personal history. When I was a kid, all of my classmates swore that this place was haunted by the ghost of Mary B. Isaacs. You could even see her ghost, if you stood just right and looked in the side door (spoiler alert: it was the reflection of a trash can). Another bit of trivia: it got hit by lightning when I was in sixth grade, and it turned the sky the weirdest pink color you’ve ever seen.
24. The Citadelle Art Foundation – My eighth grade English teacher took us over to see the statue, when it was pretty new. We were studying Ozymandias, and she thought it would fit in with the theme, as well as culture us up, some. I remember her sternly informing us that the genitals were visible, and if anyone made any jokes, we’d be writing an extra paper.
25. Hoover Home – There was this dog, it’d stay super quiet until right when it got to the fence, and then it’d go nuts, and it didn’t matter how many times you walked by the place, it would scare the daylights out of you every time. I think this was that house. We’ll say that it is, just to move things along.
26. Terry Brown Home – Terry Brown lived here. Yeah, that’s all I got. Don’t worry, we’re almost to the end of the tour.
27. Pat Crouch Home – Vampires again. There are way too many vampires in this town.
28. Presbyterian Church – I used to walk by here on my way to the library, and when they started doing sidewalk construction, there were all these piles of bricks. We would generally just walk around them, but once I decided to jump over them. I didn’t make it, and ended up with a huge gash from my wrist to my elbow. I freaked out, and ran to the library, bawling and bloody. They got me settled some, and called my mom. God bless librarians.
29. Hill Crest –The sidewalk had all the names of the Abraham Cup winners. I read them every time I walked down that sidewalk. Every time. I was sort of a weird kid.
And that concludes our tour, ladies and gentlemen. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.
I’d like to talk to you a bit about helium beans.
I know there are a lot of people who saw that first sentence, realized this was going to be another one of my rambling, nonsensical posts, and closed the window or hit the back button. For those of you who didn’t, you’re in for a real treat.
And by “real treat,” I mean, “rambling, nonsensical post.”
One of the most amazing things to me about the time we live in is that if you want to know something, you probably can.
I was talking to my girlfriend last night as we drove home from Wheeler. We were discussing potential photo shoots, and she mentioned something about balloons. As far as props for photo shoots go, I didn’t think balloons would be a difficult thing to get our hands on, and I mentioned this to her.
“Well,” she said, “I know it was tough to get helium, because of the shortage.”
“We can’t be running out of helium,” I told her. “Can we?”
“That’s what I heard.”
Obviously, she has better informants at her disposal than I do, despite the fact that I work at a newspaper.
“How does that even happen?” I asked.
“I don’t know. I don’t know how we get helium.”
“I don’t either. But I’m going to find out. Tomorrow. I’m adding it to my list of things to do instead of actual work.”
The other things on my list included getting in before everyone else and performing a rehearsed dance to the Footloose soundtrack (check), looking at pictures of kittens on the internet (check), and going to buy a bottle of bubbles from Alco (still pending, as of this writing).
my dance routine getting settled in, I fired up the old internet and commenced to read about helium.
Did you know that Amarillo is home to the Federal Helium Reserve? Did you know that the Texas Panhandle is considered the helium capital of the United States?
Because I didn’t know this. And I’m a little offended that nobody told me.
As I tend to do when I learn something new and/or get offended by my ignorance, I strode out to the main offices of The Record and addressed nobody in particular.
“Did you know that the Texas Panhandle is considered the helium capital of the nation?” I demanded.
“I did know that,” Cathy said. Honestly, this kind of thing doesn’t even surprise me, anymore. There was a time when I was baffled by Cathy’s knowledge of pretty much everything, but at this point, I’ve accepted that she’s basically Wikipedia incarnate, at least where local news is concerned. Or anything that has ever been mentioned on NPR.
“Why didn’t you tell me, then? That’s something you should have realized would be important for me to know.”
“It was in the news a lot when they were talking about closing the plant. It was a pretty big deal.”
I am not the most informed person in the world, I admit it. If it isn’t a cartoon or an internet meme, there’s a 90% chance I don’t know about it.
“They have a monument outside the Don Harrington Center,” Cathy said.
“Please tell me it’s something awesome.”
“It’s a helium molecule.”
“So weak,” I said, more irritated with this fact than I was about being ignorant of living in the Helium Capital Of The Nation.
“Well what would you have done?” Laurie asked from the front of the office.
“Off the top of my head? Like maybe an elephant being carried by balloons. Something that shows the wondrous things that can be done with helium.”
“Or maybe someone sucking in a bag of helium,” Mary said, totally missing the point of fine art and statuary. “Why are we talking about helium, anyway?”
“There is a helium shortage, apparently. I didn’t know this, so I decided to come in and read up on it.”
“Where does helium even come from?”
I didn’t want to admit that I hadn’t gotten that far into my reading, yet, so I went with my gut.
“It grows on trees,” I told her. “You pick the beans, crush them up, stuff them into balloons. It’s science.”
After reading up on helium, I have come to realize that this isn’t exactly true.
I returned to my office and received an email from Laurie shortly thereafter.
“If I don’t see a Tumblr post soon about either Helium beans, the overall oddity of a Thursday morning conversation at The Record office, or whatever else floats your boat, I am going to be very disappointed.”
Because I’m such an overachiever, I wrote about all three. Although, with helium depletion going on as it is, it probably won’t be floating my boat for much longer.
And that concludes my public service announcement about helium conservation.
Monday Mornings are not the best. I don’t hate them as much as Garfield does, but I’m not too fond of them. I feel like I spend the first thirty minutes or so just trying to remember where I left off on Friday, and once I do that, I spend another ten or fifteen minutes chastising myself for leaving everything in such disarray.
Anyway, I hope you have a good week, everybody.
To help you out with that, here are some pictures of Oscar as a ninja:
For some people, this means the beginning of the holiday season: buying gifts, making travel arrangements, preparing to spend time with friends and loved ones.
Then, there are other people—the kind of people who look forward to November for an entirely different reason. For them, November means basically ignoring friends and family members, putting thoughts of holidays on the back burner, and locking themselves away for the month.
In case you didn’t know, November, for some people, means National Novel Writing Month: 50,000 words in 30 days.
In case you didn’t know, I fit in with this second group of people.
When I mention National Novel Writing Month, the inevitable first question is, “What do you win?” And the answer, boiled down, is this: pretty much nothing.
You’re writing a novel to write a novel.
There are mixed feelings about NaNoWriMo—a lot of people think it’s stupid to shoot for a word count, if what you’re writing is garbage.
And to some extent, I agree. But I also think it’s a great time to force myself to sit and write, no matter what other things are going on in my life. If I wait for the right time to take on something as huge as writing a novel, it will never happen. This event allows me to put my writing first, it gives me a goal, and it gives me the motivation to complete that goal.
And while I think writing a good story is more important than just writing a lot of words, there’s something to be said for writing, even if it’s not great stuff. Maybe you have a bad day, and your story isn’t going well, and if you didn’t have that daily word count, you’d throw in the towel. NaNoWriMo keeps you writing, and it’s surprising how quickly the flow of garbage can turn into something nice.
I have participated in this event four years in a row. It started out as more of an answer to a question, rather than any real desire to write a novel.
Could I write a novel in a month?
I’m more of a short story type of guy—I like to get in there, drop the story, and get out. No reason I need to tell you why Brad and Janet were fighting; all you need to know is that they were, there was an accident, and now Brad’s on the run. I don’t have to tell you where he’s going to go, or how he’ll get money for food. It’s a short story, that’s how they work.
A novel is a different beast. All of the sudden, it’s your job to talk about Brad and Janet as children, how they met, how their relationship began to stagnate, why they fought, and then where Brad went, how he got money for food, and what eventually happened when the cops caught up with him.
It’s a pretty big deal, and I was curious to see if I could do it.
I was able to, but I wasn’t proud of what I ended up with.
There was a lot of word filler: unimportant descriptions, details that didn’t matter, story lines that didn’t go anywhere. A lot of stuff that contributed to the word count, but not the story. And although I reached the word count, I didn’t end up with a complete novel. Still, though, it was a win, and it was a cool experience.
I decided to do it again.
The next year, I focused more on character development and story than on word count, and I ended up with a pretty good piece—as well as a high word count—but still not what I’d call a complete novel.
Last year was my third attempt at National Novel Writing Month, and I was pretty pleased with the results. I ended up with a complete story, some pretty good writing, and 80,000 words. When I finally got back to reading over it, it felt rushed, and there were gaping plot holes, but I was still satisfied with what I had created.
So I will be giving it another try this year.
If you’re at all interested, you should look at the National Novel Writing Month website: nanowrimo.org/ .
There’s an entire community of writers who encourage each other and help each other through tough spots. There are forums that cover everything from help with naming characters to soundtracks for writing, as well as just offering support for other authors.
Full disclosure: I have never posted anything on the forums, and the only time I even look at them is when I get curious to see what other people are doing—usually once on day one, and then maybe again when I finish my novel. I don’t like community—if I did, I wouldn’t be a shut-in, would-be writer in the first place. I’d be out having fun with other people.
That said, I do have a small group of people I correspond with over the course of the month: on the website, they’re called “Writing Buddies.” Just a few people I know who also write; we send each other encouraging emails, or check to see why someone has stalled out on word count, or just whatever. I’m not always so great at being a “buddy,” because a lot of the time, I’m doing my best just to get my writing done, but if you’re interested in taking this challenge, and want to add me, feel free (Ray_W).
And remember earlier when I said you don’t really win anything? Not entirely true. Over the years, the NaNoWriMo team has gathered a pretty impressive list of sponsors, so if you complete the challenge, you can get a free print of your novel, or discounts on writing software, or all kinds of other good stuff (for a complete list, check the sponsor offer page). It’s nothing too crazy, but it is a bit of material possession that will make your hard work feel a little more justified at the end of the month.
So anyway, that’s what I’ll be doing this month. If you’re even marginally inclined to write a novel, or if you’re just curious to see if you can do it, I strongly suggest you give it a try.