June 30

Day 29: Soft and Day 30: Friend

 

I know it’s cheating to put two days together, but I am getting weary of this challenge and am ready to put it away. I missed the photo-a-day blog, but am finding few of these subject challenges interesting or relevant in the long run.

So here is my last entry in the pre-manufactured photo-a-day challenge. The subject is a cat Beanie Baby named Sheraton that Keith gave to me on my 35th birthday when we had just started dating. She’s become my traveling companion, and has seen most of the countryside from a side strap on my bike which has resulted in getting very faded and losing all of her white whisker yarn.

She’s gone just about everywhere with me, including Quebec (top left), the Grand Canyon (top right with Keith’s companion, the penguin), Newfoundland (bottom left) and Uluru in the middle of Australia (bottom right.

June 27

Day 27: Bathroom

There is no photo for today for two reasons.

One – I think I’ve taken enough pictures of my toes emerging from bubbles.

Two (most importantly) – I didn’t feel like it. I helped with an 8 hour HTML/CSS training session followed by getting across the city during rush hour (yay) so I can skate/sweat/fall in derby practice.

And on that note, I am shuffling off to bed. Literally shuffling. Like an arthritic grandma in fuzzy slipper shuffling. This getting-into-shape-by roller-skating thing might just kill me.

June 26

Day 26: Where you shop

 

Where do I shop? In order of preference:

  1. Online
  2. Local small businesses
  3. Canadian chains
  4. American chains or malls. But only if I really REALLY have to. Malls are evil. I know people who go to malls for recreation. What concept…consumerism as recreation. I don’t get it. I cannot grok the concept of wandering around spending my cash on shit I don’t need and that will not make me happy.

June 24-25

Day 24: on my mind

This was a landmark moment for me…the first time in a while that I was able to finish a 3-hour derby practice without having to sit out the last bit due to an injury.
What had been on my mind, was the niggling suspicion that yes, I was in fact too old for this shit.
It’s possible. Jury is still out.

 

Day 25: something cute

I don’t really do cute. This is the closest I can get without breaking out in hives.
When I was a kid, I wanted a sock monkey. My Aunt Lillian had made one for my cousin Tracey, and I coveted it with every fibre of my being. Something in my upbringing made it impossible to come right out and ask her to make me one, but I sure hinted like hell. I never got a sock monkey; apparently, I am not that good at hinting.
Fast forward a decade, and I found a pair of red heel socks in my local thrift store, so I made my own.
His name is Rosebutt.

 

June 22-23

Day 22: From a high angle

Looking down from my window on the 21st floor to a view of the driveway and small visitor parking lot. I don’t often see it as I have to actually lean out of the window. This plays havoc with my vertigo and height anxiety at the moment, although it is getting much better thanks to CBT.

 

Day 23: Movement

The school went to an indoor trampoline park for the end of the year trip. I was seriously thinking about jumping around myself until I saw a grade 10 student with an ice-pack on her knee.
Getting old blows…my desire to jump in and try new things is being tempered by experience and maturity whispering in my ear.

 

June 21

Day 21: Where you slept.

Yeah. Like I’m going to show a picture of my messy bedroom.

 

June 20

Day 20 – Fave photo I’ve ever taken

this is my all time favourite photograph. Everytime I look at it, I remember how tired and sweaty I felt, how hot I was. But most importantly, I remember the night we stayed at the Canyonlands Motel.

**********

Baby Boo and the Canyonlands Motel

You can always tell the people who have never really “ridden off into the sunset”. They’re the ones who still think it’s romantic.

The reality is anything but romantic. The sun is blazing into your eyes, and no matter how you squint, you can’t really see what’s up ahead. You can feel the mother of all headaches begin to take up residence between your temples. You’re hot. You’re tired, and tired of being on the road. You’re hoping that a decent motel will magiclly appear over the horizon, one with air conditioning and a mini bar. And you discover that hell is an empty, westward highway that never ends.

That is where I was late one August day. We’d been riding since the morning, through a desert heat that we were not used to. We were both dehydrated and tired. Monument Valley was visually dramatic in the late afternoon sunshine, but the view was not enough to stop me from wishing I’d forced a stop in Mexican Hat a half hour before. We hadn’t seen another vehicle on the road and I figured we were about halfway between Mexican Hat and Kayenta, quite literally in the middle of nowhere.

I looked in my rear view mirror and saw a view I had to photograph. Keith was ahead of me and I knew he wouldn’t be happy about a delay, but I pulled over anyway. I watched him ride off, taking the camera gear with him. While I waited for him to notice I wasn’t there anymore, I took the water bottle out of my pack and took a long swig of the tepid water that did nothing to wash away the bright metallic taste of the heat and the dust.

The look on Keith’s face as he pulled off his helmet matched the tone of his voice as he said, “What now?”. I gestured back the way that we had came, at what I had seen in the mirror.

“I need to take a photo.”

He looked the view, really looked at the vivid red desert bisected by new blacktop so straight that it seemed like it went through the distant red cliff rather than curve around it. He saw the same thing I did, and handed me the camera. He smiled and said, “Good eye. I’d have missed that one.”

He gave me some hints on composition, and we talked sporadically while I aimed the camera at the scenes around me.

“I’m about done”, he said as I sat in the middle of the road, focusing on the distant hills. I pressed the shutter button twice before I answered.

“Yeah, me too. Where do suppose we are?”

Keith helped me up and took the camera to take some shots of the dusty bikes in that golden sunshine.

“Middle. Of. Nowhere.”

“Literally. What do you figure, we’re about halfway to the next town?””

“The question now, ” he said as he put the camera away, “is do we go on? Or do we go back?”

I remembered the two-story hotel I had seen beside the river in Mexican Hat, the one with the all-important air-conditioning grills under each of the windows that overlooked the San Juan River. I mentioned it to Keith and added, “Plus, we’ll have the sun at our backs for the half hour, rather than it glaring in our eyes”.

“Sold. Let’s go.”The ride back seemed quicker, as it always does when you know that the end is in sight. We pulled into the hotel’s courtyard and smiled at each other in relief as we walked into the office. An older woman with long white hair, wearing a white tshirt over an ankle length red peasant skirt, smiled at us and gently explained that there was no vacancy, hadn’t we seen the sign?

I know I blinked in surprise. No vacancy? WTF does that mean? It took me a second to remember that it meant no room at the inn. In all of our travels over the previous years, we had never encountered No Vacancy in any of the budget or mom and pop motels wh had ever stopped in. There was always room and we had grown complacent.

The wind had been knocked out of my sails, but Keith still had the presence of mind to ask her if she could recommend another hotel in town, someplace clean and cheap.

“Go to the Canyonlands Motel. It’s up the hill on the left, beside the gas station. Don’t even bother with the other ones, they’re crap.”

Off we went, up the hill and turned left into an uneven gravel parking lot. The Canyonlands Motel looked pretty dismal, with cracked stucco around each door and a broken neon sign that now only said “Budget Rat s”.

“Well, this is special.” I muttered to Keith as we headed to the office after making sure that the NO part of NO VACANCY was unlit on both sides of the sign.

“At least it will be cheap,” he replied. He really is a most frugal man.

We opened the door, and I worked to keep my face blank. I’m sure it was a tidy place once, but now it had the look of a place that had slipped quietly by inches. It wasn’t dirty, just messy as hell. People had put stuff just anywhere rather than put it away. Folded linens were piled high on the end of the counter in a tower that had a decided lean to it. A large dented industrial vacuum squatted in the corner in front of red vinyl chairs that had been new a few decades before. One of the chairs had a dirty white plastic bucket on it, filled with cleaning supplies with a pair of used yellow rubber gloves tossed over them. A box of cheap garbage bags sat on the other chair. Magazines and rolls of hotel toilet paper and boxes of thin motel soap were set down anywhere with no attempt at organization.

A teenage girl sat at a computer on the other side of the counter, sitting back in an old office chair with her feet up on the counter. She slowly put her feet down when we asked her if they had any rooms available.

“Sure,” she said, giving us a wide smile through snaggle teeth. It was my turn to get the accommodations so I chatted with her as I filled out the card. She was friendly, if a bit odd. Her hair had been dyed black, but a while ago and her roots were coming in a mousy blond. Frankly, it looked like it had been cut by a lawn mower, choppy and spikey in the most peculiar way. She wore black eyeshadow which only served to highlight how small and porcine her eyes were in that round white face, and the scarlet lipstick had been applied outside the lip line giving her a clownish look. She stood up as I finished filling in the our information, and I saw that her glitter nailpolish had been picked off and chipped halfway down each bitten nail.

The crowning glory of her look had to be her tshirt. It had to be at least 2 sizes too small and covered her ample form like a sausage casing ready to split. A black and red banner design had been airbrushed on it and the words Baby Boo was written in a bilious purple script that warped and distorted as the tshirt stretched over her chest.

“If ya need anythin, just call. I’m ______ and I’ll be happy to help ya.”

We both forgot her name immediately. To us, she would always be just Baby Boo.

A green rental car pulled into the parking lot as we walked out of the office, disgorging two couples that spoke in German to each other. The men talked to each other in that way that said what a great adventure this is and sauntered to the office. The women stayed by the car with slightly shell-shocked expressions and looked silently at the motel buildings. One caught my eye and we exchanged a smile and a slight shrug, silently commiserating with each other that we had ended up here in this dismal spot.

Keith started to unpack his bike while I wrestled with an aged sliding glass door, trying to get into the room. Finally he had to come and help. So much gravel and dust had settled in the tracks that the whole exercise took far longer than it should have, and nothing we did could get them closed again. Frankly that was just as well; the room was stuffy and hot after being closed up all afternoon and the faint breeze was more important than security right then.

The room held no surprises. It was as dejected as the rest of the place. A brown and beige shag carpet filled the room and was matted with more gravel and dust from years of travellers coming in from the parking lot. Both double beds slumped noticeably in the middle and the cheap nylon comforters had pulls and snags distorting the shiny satin-like surface. Everything seemed clean though and the scent of bleach overlaid the smell of heat and dust. I won’t touch anything but the sheets, I thought. AndNO WAY am I walking on that floor in bare feet.

While Keith fiddled with the TV and looked for the air conditioning controls I checked out the bathroom. Clean but dingy pretty much sums it up. While the porcelain and tiles were clean, everything was just a little chipped and shabby. I wondered how I would ever get dry with towels as threadbare as the ones hanging on a pitted chrome rail.

“You’re not gonna believe this,” Keith called from the other room.

“Only one channel?”

“Worse. No air conditioning.”

“Are you fucking kidding me?!?”

“There’s this space up near the ceiling, but I don’t know if that’s it.”

I sighed. “Well, let’s go ask on our way to get some food.”

“You going to shower first?”

“No, let’s just go. I’ll just get all sweaty and dusty again. I’ll shower before bed.”

Baby Boo was still in the office, and looked genuinely puzzled when Keith explained that there was no air conditioner in the room.

“Oh there totally is. There’s one in every room. It’s just a little different that what most people are used to.”

That was our introduction to swamp coolers, also known as evaporative coolers. It is not, as Baby Boo claimed, an air conditioner. It is a fan that blows air over water, and cools by adding humidity into the room. She told Keith how to turn it on, and I waited by the road while he went back to the room to get it started.

“You’re not going to like it,” he said to me when he came back.

“Like what?”

We started walking down the road to find a restaurant.

“The room is getting damp, but not cool. I think separate beds tonight”

I sighed. I didn’t like it very much, but we’d learned that a night spent trying not to roll into the dip in the middle of an old bed didn’t make for a good night’s rest.

We passed another hotel as we walked, and we tried to peer into the dim lobby as we passed it.

“How bad does this place have to be, if it’s worse than the Canyonlands?” I asked Keith.

“Maybe the woman at the San Juan Inn gets a kick back.”

“Just how much of a kick back can one expect from a $60 a night room?” I wondered.

Mexican Hat is not a big place, one of those blink-and-you-miss-it towns, so we soon found a sign for the Swingin’ Steakhouse. The smell of barbeque was too good for us to look for another restaurant. We walked around a fence to find ourselves on a partially covered patio. There was a bar at one end, and about 10 old-style melamine tables with mismatched chrome chairs. The flag stones were uneven, and everything wobbled no matter how we shifted our chairs or propped up a table leg with a folded napkin. We turned our chairs so we could see the other end of the patio.

Here was a large firepit, maybe one meter by three meters with a grill hanging from chains suspended over the glowing charcoal fire. It was attended by a young man in a dark cowboy hat with black jeans and tshirt, who drank from a steady supply of long-neck Budweiser bottles as he tended to the orders on the grill and kept it swinging steadily over the flame

“You want chicken or beef,” asked the heavily tanned blond who could have been 30, could have been 50. “There’s nothin’ else.”

We both settled on the beef, and I added a Bud to my order. Keith wondered idly what vegetarians would order.

“There’s salad and beans and bread that comes with,” said our waitress helpfully.

“Guess this isn’t the place to be a vegetarian,” Keith remarked after she left.

“Umm…no,” I said, laughing as I looked at the big slabs of steak on the grill

We sat on the patio and watched the stars come out in a perfectly clear sky as we enjoyed what is possibly the best steak dinner we have ever had. I splurged and followed it up with a piece of home made apple crumble a la mode (“that means it comes with ice cream, ya know”), that was so good it made me sleepy with contentment.

We walked back to the motel hand-in-hand, pleased with the dinner at the Swingin’ Steak. and the night in general. While I waited for the eight daddy-long-leg spiders that had been lingering in the tub to wash down the drain before I stepped in for my shower, I thought about what had been a good day’s ride followed by a good dinner with good company. And as Keith later remarked, even though it wasn’t the best of accommodations, Baby Boo and the Canyonlands Motel made for a good story.

**********

The next morning, we rode along the same route. It turned out that where we stopped so I could take the photo had actually been much closer to Kayenta than Mexican Hat. If we had carried on another 15 minutes, we would have been in the kind of town you find where two highways intersect, with chain hotels, Denny’s and MacDonalds. Air conditioning a-plenty, but no good stories.

 

June 16 – 19

Day 16: out and about

Road trips are awesome; you never know where you’re going to end up. Like on this Saturday, we rode up through the Kawarthas in search of curvey roads we haven’t been on yet and stopped in a little town called Coboconk. They were having their Freshwater Festival, so we watched trick waterskiiers and bought burgers from the the ladies at the Kinsmen trailer. We walked around an exhibit by a company called Zoo To You where I gravitated toward a woman with a huge yellow snake around her neck.

You cannot imagine the grin on my face when she asked if I wanted to hold it. I quite like snakes; I like how they move, curving and coiling around objects in sinuous ways that humans can’t.

Day 17: in your bag

iPad. iPhone. Wallet. Cat-shaped pillbox. POW changepurse. Kangaroo case with iphone camera lenses. Shure case with earbuds. Gum. Anti-inflammatory pills for elbow. Minted rose lip balm. L’Occitane cocoa flower hand cream. Extra glasses. Sunglass clip-ons. And everything somehow manages to fit in my Roots flat pack bag.

 

Day 18: Something you don’t know about me

It was 1975. I was 13. What can I say. And yes, I still have this on vinyl. And yes, I still know the words. And no, I don’t listen to them anymore except by accident.

Day 19: Imperfect

I found that I’d made a mistake on the back panel of this sweater about 3 rows after I did it, but decided to leave it in rather than go back and fix it for reasons that I fail to express properly.

June 11 – 15

Day 11: Door

The view down my hallway to the door at the end.

Day 12: Low angle

Last year’s reeds against a blue sky. Love this shot.

Day 13: Art

This is part of a mural on Queen East that always made me smile. It’s since been graffiti-e with a muddy brown tag over most of it; now it just makes me angry.

 

Day 14: Time

It’s the last day of students, the graduation ceremony is over. That makes it time for a drink!

 

Day 15: Yellow

Daisies are my favourite flower.