Yet Another Journal

Nostalgia, DVDs, old movies, television, OTR, fandom, good news and bad, picks, pans,
cute budgie stories, cute terrier stories, and anything else I can think of.


 Contact me at yetanotherjournal (at) mindspring (dot) com

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» Tuesday, September 19, 2017
How We Spent Our [Sudden] Summer Vacation

Wait, didn't you once say you didn't take vacations in the summer anymore? Yep. Let's say it wasn't much of a vacation, either.

So the day we got back from DragonCon James went to see his cardiologist, who took an EKG and said it all looked good and to come back in six months. On the 15th he saw his GP, who renewed his prescriptions and gave him a flu shot.

Friday morning the 16th he forgot to take his pills with him. I was a bit ticked off because he's done this once before and he will get chest pains if he doesn't take them. I was going to take them to him at noon, but he called me saying he didn't feel good, would I bring them immediately. So I did, he went back to work, but came home after lunch not feeling well. He confessed he was having chest pressure. He took a nitroglycerin and the pain went away, he got a violent headache, and then the headache was gone and the pain was back.

He had changed clothes, so we got him back into trousers and shoes. While I was making a pit stop, I looked mutely up to heaven and asked "What do I do? Give me a sign, please!" The books sitting in the little shelving unit on the stool promptly fell over. Well, that was clear enough.

Wellstar was the nearest emergency room, so there we went, taking encouragement in the fact that they didn't bring us to the back right away. Well, this was an oversight. The EKG was showing an irregularity and the blood they drew was showing enzyme markers that weren't good. So we sat there in the little cubicle in the back expecting to do the usual wrangling with Kaiser, and eventually to have an ambulance to ship James off to Northside.

They didn't do it. [Insert mind-boggled sound effect here.]

We were told to stay at Wellstar (unless James needed actual surgery) and that is where we have been since Friday afternoon. Because it was the weekend, they didn't do much Saturday and Sunday except keep him on blood thinners, watch for pain (it pretty much disappeared after his first dose of blood thinners), get his medicine straight, and keep consulting Kaiser. I went home at night and slept (no sleeper chairs in the rooms, just a hard recliner) and then came back in the morning after breakfast. Finally Sunday Kaiser told them to do the catherization here at Wellstar as well, and to put in any stents needed. (We were still shocked; Kaiser's never done that before. Always it's been the ambulance ride to Northside, usually at the worst traffic hour of the day.) At midnight on Sunday (Monday morning) he got put on nothing by mouth (except for sips of water and water needed with his meds) and we spent a nerve-wracking Monday first because they said he would go downstairs before noon, and then it crept to one, and two—James growing ravenous as the minutes ticked on. An emergency case came in and that person had to go first. Finally they took him downstairs about 3:00 with me trotting behind, and then he went back to the cath lab at 3:45.

Now it was my turn to wait. At first this was fine; they warned me it would take "about an hour." So when 4:30 ticked by, I noted it and kept reading my book. At 5:10 I started checking my watch. By 5:30 I was starting to get a tad upset. I asked a person in the waiting room to let them know I was in the bathroom as I retreated to use the facilities. But still no word when I got back. Finally at 6:10 someone came and got me. The cath lab was slammed, she said, and she was sorry, but he was okay; the procedure had just taken a little longer than they planned. James was lying on a gurney at the end of what looked like the longest telescoping hall in the world.

The doctor explained that they had had to put two other stents in another main artery, although the actual pain from the heart attack was caused by a little capillary that had actually closed down. There was still a tiny capillary that was blocked, but they weren't able to see it clearly and it was minor. The only problem was that they had been in longer than they planned and there was a good chance there might be a kidney reaction because of having to use more dye for a longer period. James was blinking sleepily at me with his blue eyes and the utter relief that he was still here and all the medical information was too much to process. I started to cry and then to hyperventilate and someone had to get a chair for me because I could not quit gasping (although there was a teeny corner of my mind shouting furiously in my brain "What are you doing? You can still breathe!"—it was surreal). So both  of us got a ride upstairs and I wrapped myself in the scarf blanket and watched the nurses plug in his oxygen and set up his IVs. Once he was settled I rose on very wobbly legs and was able to help him order some supper and then rush downstairs before the cafeteria closed since I hadn't eaten anything since a bowl of cereal at noon.

He had pain sometime longer this time than last time, presumably because of the length of time they were poking around in there. Luckily they went through his wrist this time instead of his femoral artery, so he did not need to have people keep pressure on the spot for a half hour or to lie flat for six hours. I was actually able to feed him some broth and sherbet and he could eat a turkey sandwich. They gave him a small dose of morphine and the pain subsided and so far has not returned. Anyway, it was a bit of a rough evening for him, although by eleven he was pretty much back to normal. I managed to sleep in the awful recliner for two nights with the help of a duvet cover and two pillows and the scarf blanket. The worst part was when they came in to check him and had to turn on the overhead light. Very bright. Pain.

Today has been quiet. I went home this morning to walk Tucker (Aubrey Spivey was "a brick!" as they say in Victorian children's novels and did reveille and bedcheck yesterday) and shower and bring back some clothes. It's been quiet today. His creatitine level is still high (it went up even before the cath, the result of not getting to drink properly for fourteen hours), but if it doesn't spike they say he can go home tomorrow. So, we'll see.

Except for yesterday, it's been a much more positive experience than last year at Piedmont. The staff know their business at Piedmont, but it's like a big factory farm. Here at Wellstar we have seen a doctor (both cardiologist and nephrologist, not to mention the house physician) every single day. At Piedmont we were lucky if the Kaiser doctor wandered in every two days. No one told us anything. Even the techs here tell you everything, and they are all lovely. When we call the nurses or the "care partner," they respond, even yesterday when we realized that Saturday and Sunday were just quiet days here and on Monday bedlam breaks loose. They bring ice, they bring water, they close doors, they even moved the bed once. Someone comes in—over the weekend it was a lovely man named Jean and now we have had Candace—every day to sweep and clean the room and they are friendly, unlike Piedmont, where the cleaning staff was surly and left a "biological spatter" in the bathroom from the time it happened till James checked out, a period of over a week. James has a nice menu to choose from, just counting his carbs to keep  them in range, and his food has looked and tasted good (okay, he didn't enjoy the curry chicken all that much, but he said the turkey melt was outstanding). Hell, the cafeteria is good! They not only have had edible (and not overly salted) meats and veggies every day (including teriyaki wings, beef brisket, barbecue ribs were just some of the main meats), but you can get a meat or panini or burgers from the grill, there's a salad bar, three kinds of soup (although they seem not to know what chicken soup is), a "freestyle" soda machine, a yogurt machine and toppings, a bakery case, a juice case, pre-made sandwiches, chips, hummus and dips, cereal cups and chips, candy (if that's your bag), and also stuff like pancakes, sausages, two kinds of bacon, yogurt, etc. for breakfast. The only thing they don't have is bread. You can't get toast or a bun or a biscuit, only bread with the pre-made sandwiches or if you get a burger from the grill. The cashiers, the cooks, and the staff are friendly.

If you have to get stuck in a hospital and use up your vacation days, certainly better off here!

Sadly, we missed going to Taste of Smyrna—no drunken pork for us—and the Beatles Tribute concert on Saturday with the band "The Return." Juanita was able to find homes for our tickets (all the while juggling fraud on her credit card) and they had a lovely time; she dedicated a song to her husband and Aubrey was able to capture the set on her phone, so we could at least be part of that event. I need to do laundry badly (am running out of underwear), but on the way home to wake up the fids this morning I did stop at Publix to grab milk and some twofers. Saw another Christmas magazine!—a welcome sign since the weather since Irma cleared has gone back to hot. And Alice and Ken came to visit tonight, which was sweet, and we have been "lifted up" by messages of love and prayers from friends and family on Facebook.

We shall see what tomorrow brings. Please God that it is something hopeful.

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Flourish

» Tuesday, September 12, 2017
The Simple Woman's Daybook

FOR TODAY, SEPTEMBER 12, 2017

Outside my window...
...it is grey and rainy-looking, but not the lowered-cloud darkness of yesterday. Irma passed through here in a gentle fashion, just lots of rain (which depressed the dog) sometimes driven down the street by the wind, and a few tossing branches. A couple of power flickers, nothing went out, and we were safe and cozy teleworking inside. I see dry spots appearing on the street already. I have put the chairs and table back on the porch and put out the fall banner, wreath, and basket, and our "guard sheep," Ivy, is back in her place under the table.

I am thinking...
...of a nap! Really, I have not been sleeping because of anxiety and this rash I have. This means back to the doctor.

I am thankful...
...for little damage after the beating Hurricane Irma gave some of those Caribbean islands and Key West. All my friends in Florida are safe, and I think of friends and family in Georgia the only thing that happened is that some lost power.

In the kitchen...
...James just warmed himself up some turkey for lunch. I'm ravenous now.

I am wearing...
...a black sweatshirt which says "Bibliovore" and cheap sky blue scrub pants.

I am creating...
...or just finished creating, a little "Country Pick'ns" vignette I picked up at the Yellow Daisy Festival on Sunday. Photo is below.

I am going...
...crazy being itchy. Stupid rash. I can't even do housework because even a hint of perspiration makes it worse.

I am wondering...
...if there is anything, anything else I can do to keep from going to the doctor, but I've tried everything already. Bother.

I am reading...
...Pioneer Girl Perspectives, which are essays written about Laura Ingalls Wilder's original memoir Pioneer Girl, which was finally published with copious footnotes awhile back. Subjects include how Laura made her little house years sound so safe and warm without touching on the more frightening parts of frontier living—like almost being assaulted by an alcoholic neighbor whose wife she was helping to care for—and how the "Little House" books are so anti-Government even though the Ingalls family accepted government assistance.

I am hoping...
...there will at least be a breeze Saturday when we go to Taste of Smyrna.

I am looking forward to...
...Taste of Smyrna! More drunken pork! And Thai chicken. And maybe barbecue.

I am learning...
...to be more self-sufficient, since there are so many things James can't do anymore. But...scary...what happens if I can't do them?

Around the house...
...it's a mess. As I said, the rash gets worse if I perspire, so I can't do anything useful, like wash the floors or vacuum; that's what set this off last week, as I did both last Tuesday.

I am pondering...
...a nap. It would be so nice right now.

A favorite quote for today...
"By all these lovely tokens,
September days are here,
With summer's best of weather,
And autumn's best of cheer."
 . . . . Helen Hunt Jackson

One of my favorite things...
...the spaghetti sauce I made last week, which we'll have part of for supper tonight. Comfort food.

A few plans for the rest of the week:
We are planning to attend Taste of Smyrna and also see a Beatles tribute band with friends. I don't particularly like the Beatles, but it's with friends and I hope it will cheer James up.

A peek into my day...

If you'd like to participate, check out The Simple Woman's Daybook.

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Flourish

» Sunday, September 10, 2017
Storm Watch, Part 3

And then I woke up at 4:40 a.m. and never really got back to sleep! So tired of this, figuratively and literally. I know I did get back to sleep for a tiny bit, because I was dreaming, but not nearly long enough. And here I thought we would get to sleep to 7:30, when we had to get up and head for Stone Mountain.

Last night I had bought the Early Bird tickets so that we didn't have to wait until ten o'clock to get in. It's highway robbery, but half the profit goes to a mobility charity, so I'm not kicking much. At least it was a beautiful day for the Yellow Daisy Festival; when we arrived in the parking lot it was still only about 60°F. We had had to wear long sleeves on the ride over, but took them off before entering the park. (James regretted this. Under the trees it was still cool, even before we left at 1 p.m., and he was cold to the touch.) It never got above about 72, and was comfortable to walk.

So we roamed the paths as always. I stopped at Country Pick'ns per usual; I don't really have any more themes I want to do, but I bought a little star-shaped shadow "box," and a tiny Nativity to put on the little shelf (made of wood molding), and a "Christmas is from the heart" and a plaque about angels to trim it. I also bought a black cat and a ghost to add to the fall shadowbox for Hallowe'en (if I don't forget to put them out as I've done the last few), and just two tiny arrangements (a Santa and gifts and a tree, and a gingerbread boy dancing near a lightpost) to tuck somewhere. I showed the proprietress a picture of my Thanksgiving shadowbox that I made with her things. The lady behind me had a tray full of gardening and outdoor items; she showed us a photo of the fairy garden in a bowl she made from the things she bought last year. She was going to use the new stuff to make another. It was so cute!

We stocked up on the basic "Smack Yo Mama" barbecue sauces; bought another jug of maple barbecue sauce; picked up a couple of new flavors of dip mixes; got James some more "1st Sergeant" salsa (it has no salt or sugar added and the profits go to servicemen); picked up the first of our two fudge desserts for the year; bought small gifts for Juanita, David, Ron, Lin, and James' mom and sister; and bought Tucker some home-made dog treats. James, who is still struggling with back and neck pain, bought a heat up back wrap and a heat up shoulder wrap with flax inside. You heat them in the microwave and apply to the afflicted place. Didn't see any new Christmas CDs, and the Native American artist I used to like does not show up any longer. And at the final woodworking booth on the way out, I picked up a small, cute whatnot shelf for the wall for only $5.

On the way out we saw a beautiful blue-grey 1949 Pontiac in the parking lot near us; I couldn't resist taking pictures so I could show it to my cousin Carol. My Uncle Ralph sold Pontiacs all his life.

We didn't eat there because the corn was so bad last time, but just came home and warmed up our soup from Sprouts when we got really hungry. Before James pulled the truck in, I removed all the small cow and sheep decorations from the front porch, took the wreath in, and the banner, and even took down the handmade autumn leaves that hang on the brickwork, since the forecast still looks pretty bad. They are all dirty with pine pollen anyway; hopefully I can clean them off when I feel better and James will put them back up with masonry hooks rather than stuck up with Scotch outdoor tape like they've been. They are one-of-a-kind since the dealer doesn't come to Yellow Daisy anymore, and I would hate to lose them. Then I put the two porch chairs (just small metal chairs) and the glass-topped table in the garage as well,

I also put the bird feeders in the storage box on the deck, stacked the two plastic Adirondack chairs on each other and stuck the little plastic table under them. And that's our storm prep.

Spent the evening watching the news or whatever was on, which wasn't memorable enough to note here.

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Flourish

» Saturday, September 09, 2017
Storm Watch, Part 2

Sigh. When I need to sleep, I never can. Put me on the futon in the middle of the afternoon, and I will pass out like a tightly-corseted lady dancing too much. At night, toss, turn, leg hurts, knee hurts, rinse, repeat. Grr.

Anyway, we had Hair Day this morning—the usual tumult of haircuts, chat, and snacks. We were glum that we had to go back to Verizon after that—since the phone did its thing perfectly and quit making calls and started rebooting after 12 hours—but to our surprise, this didn't take long. We found the same tech (Robert) and he called James' phone and again it didn't work, and he immediately put in an order for another phone. It will be mailed to us within three days, which still doesn't get it here for Monday. He will just have to use my phone.

It took so little time that we made a short trip to Barnes & Noble, but we stayed only a few minutes. I was about to fall asleep on my feet. James picked up "Airfix" and we went home, but I had so many other things to do that I didn't get to lie down until almost four o'clock and then had to rise in a hurry to get to Publix to pick up James' birthday cake and then get all the way to Brookwood for his birthday dinner (we should have had the cake done at the Macland store, which was closer and on the way).

But, we got there on time, and a good time was had by all, and the chocolate cake was a hit: James had it as chocolate cake with fudge filling and chocolate frosting. Even with small pieces we were chocolated out. 😊 Of course we missed James' mom and sister, and Maggie and Clay; they were supposed to come up, but that got scotched by the mass evacuation of Florida due to Hurricane Irma which has I-75 north from Warner Robins bumper-to-bumper with cars, vans, mobile homes, scooters, you name it. Someone from Florida is already taking refuge in our neighborhood, and the news coming out of the Caribbean has been genuinely scary: Puerto Rico got clobbered.

After the party we came home to collapse but ended up not getting to bed on time again.

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Flourish

» Friday, September 08, 2017
Storm Watch, Part 1

This weekend was shaping up to be busy despite the weather; the weather just added a menacing fillip.

Friday was my compressed day off, and I decided to blow off my original plans based on the weather reports coming out of the Caribbean. I did the grocery shopping at Kroger, diverting from the usual list only to get some additional bottled water (the gallon containers were nearly gone already). On the magazine stand I saw my first two Christmas magazines, but hope to get them at Barnes & Noble (or even as an e-magazine), and then at checkout I saw the fall preview "TV Guide." Oh, that brings back memories, all the way back to 1963, which was my first fall preview (we had a 1961 that turned up in a pile of newspapers in the cellar, but that didn't turn up until 1968 when my dad fixed the basement). I received special permission to keep it, and the Christmas issues, which back then had poems by Alan Sherman in them, because my mom was afraid I'd fill the attic with "TV Guide." (I did keep special issues, including the 1964 issue that was completely devoted to how television covered the Kennedy assassination. Let's see the "People"-clone that TVG has become do that.) Over the years I walked a mile to the grocery store (or to Thall's Pharmacy, which got TVG before anyone else) for that elusive issue. After a while I started buying two, so I could cannibalize one for my scrapbooks and keep the other (except for a new series description I might be keeping that was on the opposite side of another new series description). The only other TVGs I collected were the ones I picked up going on vacation, because in those days before cable there were different regional editions and the programming was different in each—especially in vacation spots near the Canadian border where there were CBC listings in with the US ones.

I couldn't get to the Smyrna Publix to pay for James' birthday cake due to construction, besides, I had to book on to CVS; I had a 30 percent off coupon and needed to get a few staples. I also stopped at Sprouts and picked up some soup I could save for Sunday dinner. Then I had to make a trip to Hobby Lobby. I have this summer rash problem that is really bad this year, so I wanted to buy some flannel as extra absorption of perspiration (which is aggravating the problem). I was in a hurry because I had a few perishable things in the car: in front of me were three ladies getting fleece for a bunch of Girl Scout projects! Happily, they called someone to help, so I could get the soup and the perishables home and the flannel in place (ouch!).

Unfortunately, we had an odious task tonight: we had to go to Verizon. James' phone hasn't worked properly since the Sunday of DragonCon. It drops phone calls, shows static on the screen, reboots when you take it off the charger or wake it up, just a whole list of things. I told him they would ask him if he did a backup and restore, so he did one himself, and while it made calls fine for a while, it crapped out again after 12 hours. So we went there and, guess what, the guy made us do it again, and not load any of the apps—because like James' lung doctor, he zeroed in on one thing—Zello, the walkie-talkie app we have been using for nearly six months—as the culprit, or another third party app. Grrr. So the phone is working again right now, but I don't expect it to be by tomorrow. And tomorrow we have forty places to be.

Needless to say, I couldn't wait to take a shower and get to bed.

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Flourish

» Sunday, September 03, 2017
DragonCon 2017, Part 3

I see we are back to Not Sleeping Well 101. And then upon rising, I lost my badge.

I didn't really lose it. At night when we get home the first thing I do is put the backpack in a dining room chair to have access for reloading, and then clip the badge to the backpack. I swear I did it last night, especially since when James went to the kitchen I asked, "James, is my badge clipped to my backpack?" and he said yes. But there was my backpack, with no badge clipped to it, when I got down to the truck. I raced upstairs and for twenty frantic minutes searched everywhere for it. Did I drop it coming upstairs? Leave it in the bathroom? Drop it in the bedroom? But James had said it was clipped to my backpack! Finally, after resigning myself to buying a two-day pass, I came downstairs. There was the badge, clipped to James' backpack. But he'd slept so badly he didn't even notice it.

So we were hellishly late, because I wanted to see Matt Smith, but I did make it. I think I was the penultimate person allowed in that room (the big Marriott Atrium Ballroom; why John Barrowman hadn't been here I'll never  understand). He was sweet and personable, but people persisted in asking him "Can you tell us some memories of how you felt when you and Karen and Arthur wouldn't be working together again?" Guys, it's not marriage or a love affair. It's a job. Of course, they had a good working relationship, but now it's over. And all the questions were Doctor Who-oriented. No one asked him about The Crown or the Sally Lockhart films he did. (Yes, I should have asked myself, but I was feeling very uncomfortable health-wise after my panic this morning and did not want to stand in line. My ankles have been stone-cold bitches this weekend.)

Then trudged to the Hilton for my next panel; found myself (literally) chilling in the new BritTrack panel room until I realized it was the wrong panel room. The Moffat-to-Chibnall panel was upstairs! 😀 This was a lively discussion about what we might expect for next season with not only a new Doctor, but a new "showrunner." The consensus was that Chibnall could do right by a woman as the Doctor. We are just hoping they will be all regular Doctor Who stories and not "the Doctor is female now so we have to comment about it again" stories.

Then back in BritTrack for "Classic Series Doctor Who" and everyone got to tell their stories of how they originally began watching the series. Some folks actually did see it when it premiered in 1972 (I didn't see it until February 1974). Some interesting stories from the younger folks who saw the new series and then went back to watch the old. Several people mentioned buying videotapes at Media Play and I was homesick for them all over again (and concurrently for playing trivia at Rockford's, as we always stopped at Media Play before hitting the restaurant).

This morning James had said he really wanted to see Alton Brown's panel, and, since he had several nonscheduled hours this morning and afternoon, I said "Why not? Just get there early." I decided I wanted to go myself, and since I had a free schedule at this time as well, I went to the Marriott to line up (I have a seat-in-line sticker because of my stupid knees and ankles). It was already a mob scene at 2:30; at least fifty people were already lined up just for handicapped access. James messaged me that he was coming over and I held a space for him as other folks showed up. He showed up having just been to the dealer's room. He had bought himself a t-shirt and a gift for me and a satchel to carry his phone and diabetes kit in, having tired of having a pouch bouncing on his waist and getting in the way of the arm of the power chair. Some people came by and asked why Alton Brown—with his interest in cooking—was at an SF convention! Well, because he's local? And because his show features scientific principles of cooking and there is a science track at DragonCon? How about just because he is FUN? (Really, people, we have wrestlers here, and Celtic performers. Why not a rock-star cook?) Anyway, the Marriott Atrium Ballroom (which holds at least 2,500 people) was SRO at 3:06 for a 4 p.m. panel. That is why Alton Brown is at this convention.

And, yes, truly this was a fun panel!!!! Not only was Brown here, but he brought "W" and some of the other cast members from Good Eats to tell us behind-the-scenes stories of building strange sets, maneuvering the camera and people through same, and accidents on the set (Alton Brown is actually bleeding on one side of his face during the Ghiradelli chocolate factory interview after being hit by machinery). Best of all, Good Eats is coming back! The new series will be called Return of the Eats, and, sadly (Brown said sarcastically) this means Food Network will have to cut down Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives to only 7 1/2 hours per day. LOL.

Some nice folks helped us with the elevator (James said he had no problems with the elevators today at all, and people were all very kind), so we went downstairs to "RetroBlasting Presents Indiana Jones: the Hilarious History." The hosts pointed out funny things and trivia about each movie (like the guy in modern-dress in the bazaar scene and the "really excited monkey," or the fact that Sallah was supposed to be killed off in Raiders and that the raft scene from Temple of Doom was supposed to be in Raiders originally). Apparently the Indian government took one look at Temple of Doom and wouldn't let them film there; it was done in Sri Lanka instead, and the tribal chieftain learned his lines phonetically, as he spoke no English at all. Oh, and Willie Scott screams thirty times in the film!

Supposedly there is an Indy 5 coming out, too, with Harrison Ford.

James wanted to see one last panel, so we went to the Westin for "Surviving an Apocalypse." He was a little disappointed. The description made it sound as if they were going to riff on stupid actions in apocalyptic films and it would be humorous, but instead it was a more serious discussion about the mistakes people make in these films—like letting the children get out of sight and then having to search for them—and how you could deal in a real-life situation.

Finally down the long length of John Portman Street to the garage and then home. That stupid panic attack over my badge had done me no favors; my heat rash was starting to heal—I even showed James last night—and now because I perspired so much and got aggravated it is worse than ever.

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Flourish

» Saturday, September 02, 2017
DragonCon 2017, Part 2

One hour's more sleep last night: morning ablutions and dog walking and restocking the backpacks and we were ready to go. My headache and arm ache of last night had vanished; sure glad I was feeling better. The weather was beautiful, too, only 61°F.

Once again breakfast at Cafe Momo. We saw the cutest thing: a mom dressed in a red leaf print dress with her hair dyed black, carrying the cutest baby in a Stitch sleeper; so she was Lilo!

James didn't have a 10 a.m. panel; I had two of them on my schedule. I ended up at the eclipse panel at the Science track in the Hilton, where they were talking about the "fake" glasses (none of the ones Amazon sold were fake; they just didn't have an ISO sticker) and also about not needing a super camera to take photos of it and about photoshopped images that were passed off as real. He had some killer pics taken by iPhones and just regular cameras just like mine. And of course talking about what a high seeing totality is.

Next it was off to the Hyatt for Mercedes Lackey and her husband Larry Dixon. They were in a room opposite of James' panel room—since the elevators are so in demand on Saturday he pretty much just stays in the Hyatt at the Sci-Fi Literature track (he wanted to go to a panel on the 6-Day War at the Westin, but there was no way to get around the crowd lined up for the parade)—so I ran in, gave him a kiss, and then went to my panel. This was a Q&A where Misty and Larry answered questions about writing, Valdemar, old characters, collaborating on books, collaborating with other writers, etc., and they told a cute story about one of their birds (they rehabilitate raptors and have African greys), a small cockatoo. Apparently the bird has learned to cross his wings in front of his body, making a heart shape with them. Then he cocks his head, puts up one foot, and says "Pretty?" Oh, yes, he has them trained!

From one author to another; off to the Jim Butcher panel! Jim is always fun. He came out in a Hamilton outfit and later on answered a question in song from the play. He talked about how easy it is to write a first person character (Harry Dresden) versus writing third person (because  you have to decide from whose POV you will tell the story), but that sometimes he gets sick of Harry because he lives in his head all the time. His funniest story was a childhood memory about being at a church camp in Brazil singing at Baptist churches and at farmer's markets, and being cursed by a witch doctor while performing at the latter. Right afterwards, he was almost bitten by a poisonous spider and a ditto snake. But he defeated the curse and the witch doctor was beaten up by villagers after they realized if a teenager could defeat the curse, he wasn't all that he seemed!

I had a free hour here, so went to see the art show. Pretty similar to last year, although I was taken by an illustrator who does kitsunes, and also a pastoral print of sheep turning into clouds around a floating city. Next I had to run for the bathroom, and when one was closed had to race for another. Finally I went to wait for the Carrie Fisher and Kenny Baker tribute panel and read my tablet. There was a service dog here named Red, and he watched his owner worriedly every time the person stepped away from him.

The panel was nice, with funny stories from the panelists, many of whom had interviewed or met Carrie Fisher and Kenny Baker at gatherings. One man told a rather sad story about taking his daughter, a big Kenny Baker fan, to an autograph signing just a few weeks before he died where he couldn't speak and was signing autographs slowly but doggedly. All he could do was meet the girl's eyes and smile through them. There were some clips of Carrie Fisher and Kenny Baker from various interviews on YouTube. Fans also shared what Carrie Fisher meant to them.

Then it was back to the Hilton to attend Victoria. This was a great panel about the series, with lots of give-and-take from the audience.

John Barrowman had a show upstairs in the Hilton at seven, but when I emerged from Victoria and went upstairs it was evident there was no way to get James upstairs in the power chair on time for the event; the elevators were mobbed. Too bad it wasn't at the Sheraton as it was last time; the elevators in the Sheraton are manageable. I looked to see if there was any type of elevator at the back, or a ramp, but no dice. It was still furiously loud with a DJ hosting the racket—but I was "okay" with it tonight; no problems—and would probably be worse when we got out of the concert if we made it at all. So I told James to meet me on the corner of Courtland Street and John Portman. It took a while because he exited the Hyatt through the Motor Lobby, a route he's never taken, and then took a wrong turn and was heading for Ted Turner Boulevard (formerly Spring Street). Luckily I found him on the Life360 map and redirected him before he got too much further.

So we were home early; James had some soup instead of his sandwich and I watched The Incredible Dr. Pol and cried over a cat who had to be put to sleep.

Perhaps it was better we avoided the Barrowman concert: there were complaints all over Facebook about the crowd, people not getting in, and one person complaining that he couldn't get in but disabled people were allowed in. (Well, that's because they have spots saved for them.) Also reports of someone in security yelling at the disabled people waiting to get in. On the other hand, John came out in a Wonder Woman costume and sang "Copacabana." That's our guy!

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Flourish

» Friday, September 01, 2017
DragonCon 2017, Day 1

Darnit, have forgotten to say "Rabbit, rabbit!" first thing this morning. It's supposed to be good luck and Susan Branch always mentions it.

We were up at 6:15. I was hoping we might get downtown early, eat first, then register and then see Nathan Fillion, since he had only one panel first thing this morning. But between one thing and the other, we arrived at the garage at eight o'clock as usual, when registration opens, so we might as well just go there. Disability Services was just putting itself together, so we weren't on our way to breakfast until around nine. I did get to the Hyatt at 9:45, but the panel was already full, thanks, I found out later, to Hyatt security jumping the gun and loading the room instead of the convention directors. All the disabled people got shut out because they did not leave room for them.

So instead I went to the "Welcome to BritTrack" panel in their new hotel. They, along with TrekTrack and the animation track, are now down on the Galleria (lower) level of the Hilton, in a nice big room, which is great, because that tiny Macon room they've had for years (replacing the even tinier Baker room they had for years before that) just didn't "do" anymore. It was so chilly in there I took my cool towel, which I didn't need now because it was nice out this morning, and put it over my shoulders.

I was in the Hilton for the next three panels: "Brit TV Classics You Should Be Watching" (from Are You Being Served to Being Human), "Sherlock: History & Holmes" (about how Sherlock has been influenced by the canon and by his predecessors from Gillette to Rathbone to The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes—with some love for Watson, and especially Jude Law), and "Doctor Who: Series 10 in Focus" (lots of love for Bill, including someone in the audience dressed like her).

Then I moved over to the Marriott for the panel "Sci-Fic TV 1997: From Fantasy Island to Space: 1999." These were mostly the shows that came out before Star Wars, before the explosion of SF that came afterwards: the two aforementioned programs, and things like Quark, Fantastic Journey, Lucan, Space Academy, etc. This was a fun panel.

From there I went back over to the Hyatt to catch up to James at the Tor preview panel. We only stayed a half hour because we were worried about the elevator situation at the Marriott: we definitely  wanted to see tonight's Atlanta Radio Theatre presentation. But we had no trouble with any of the elevators, so got there early.

One of my favorite things to do years ago was to walk around "The Walk of Fame" and take candid photos of the actors signing autographs. They won't allow you to do this anymore, but since we had time we took a turn around the room. Nathan Fillion wasn't there, but we saw Gil Gerard and Erin Gray and Felix Silla, and then...

I had completely forgotten Megan Follows was at the convention. (She is appearing in the series Reign.) She only had one panel, this morning, and I missed it. To get her autograph would be $40. Sigh. But I did it anyway. I picked a lovely photo of Anne looking at the blossoms on the White Way of Delight and got a chance to speak to her. She is actually very short—read "my height"—and speaks with a charming accent you don't hear as Anne. I told her how much I loved her as Anne, but also that I remembered watching her mother, Dawn Greenhalgh, in Strange Paradise and she seemed amused and surprised that I even remembered it. I mentioned her mother in Doctor Simon Locke, too.

After waiting in the disability line, we were allowed to enter the Imperial Ballroom (a new venue for ARTC) for three presentations: a new adaptation of Thomas Fuller's Nairobi Jack and the Lost Gold of the Atlantimengani, a 30s-type adventure story taking place in Africa with a scientist and his snooty beautiful daughter hiring Nairobi Jack and his sidekick to go into dangerous territory to find the invisible source of the Nile; The Three Galaxateers, a humorous WWII-set story about three science fiction writers (based, as well as we could tell, on Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and James thinks L. Ron Hubbard) who are asked to help with secret projects to end the war; and Rory Rammer, Space Marshal: "The Last Boojum!"

It was a great show, but by the time it ended I was feeling terrible. I used a cane today because my ankle was bothering me and it worked on the carpal tunnel in my left arm so badly that it was hurting from my shoulder to my fingertips, which were tingling. I really just wanted to get home. The elevators were mobbed and we though maybe it was easier trying to get to the street from the Hilton. We went over the skybridge and emerged in a cacaphony of hideous NOISE. A rock band was playing in the lobby so loudly that it felt like the roof was collapsing upon me. We both took a turn in the bathroom and by the time I emerged I was shaking and starting to cry.

So we went back over the skybridge and I remembered the little elevators right at the back there, the ones we used to take downstairs when the dealer's room was in the basement of the Marriott. Blessedly, except for a pizza delivery, they were empty and we got to the street level and out the door and were free to go to the garage and home. Once we were home I took Tucker out and then curled miserably on the sofa with a blanket around me nursing a bad headache. I was very glad to go to bed.

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Flourish

» Tuesday, August 29, 2017
Eclipse Photos
I thought I'd post a few of the eclipse photos. As I said, I didn't intend to take photos; I knew Caran Wilbanks would get some killer shots since she has experience at photography. What I wanted to film was the gradual darkening and the folks around me as it darkened, but the exposure meter on my camera had gotten jiggled. Luckily Caran had a solar filter and we jerryrigged it to my lens with painter's tape.

Caran posted a whole bunch of photos to her OneDrive, and also a movie of the sun going into and starting out of totality. The best thing about it, she thought, and I agree, is the voices of our friends in the background, talking about the event and whooping and hollering and clapping. She said this would be an audio memory of a very special day that she spent with her friends, the people she loves. We are "ohana." And of course I remembered this quote:

"And I realized, when you go through any endeavor, any journey, whether across town or to the moon and back, all that matters is that you share the experience with people you love. That's what makes life special. Because ultimately, that's all there is. That's really all there is.". . . . . Alan Bean

Waiting under the trees for the action to begin.
Caran Wilbanks (center, background, in white shirt) starting her photoshoot.
 That's James in the power chair, Bill Ritch in pink, Terry Handy in blue shirt.
Pat Lucyshyn in black shirt standing and Bill's friend Eric sitting left foreground.
Jake Skidmore is sitting way back left center.
Across the street you can see Helen buildings; when it got dark all the lights came on.
This was my first shot, about 2 p.m.

This photo is about 2:20 p.m.

We had a partial solar eclipse here in 1991 and the thing I remember most was standing near a tree next to the back parking deck at work and seeing the crescents of the eclipsing sun projected onto the ground, like using an old-fashioned pinhole camera to view the eclipse. I was especially looking for "the crescents."

One of the fun things from an eclipse is this:
crescents of sun projected onto the pavement.
The leaves act like a pinhole camera.




This is the sun just before totality.

 Sun at full totality. Around us it was the dark of twilight, crickets were chirping, and automatic lights had turned on.


"Here comes the sun, here comes the sun!" Sun emerging from totality.

Sun crescent, just after totality.

This is about where I stopped taking photos, post eclipse.

And for some reason, I couldn't stop singing this after the eclipse was over, for, truly, the world is just awesome!


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Flourish

» Sunday, August 27, 2017
Overcooked

Busy, busy day after a long sleep but an unsettled night: I had one of those organizational nightmares, where I put one thing before the other, but did the other thing actually go first, and woke up James with a yell. Then he woke up at 7:30 exclaiming that he'd forgotten to turn on the alarm. "James, it's Sunday." "Oh." Then he got up again, traded out the towels, took off his sleep shirt, apparently came back to the bed to take off  his sleep shorts, and fell back into bed.

Well, after breakfast we had to go back up to Kaiser. I simply can't understand why they could give it to him today and not yesterday. It's not like he had several weeks' left on the prescription; there were only two days' worth left. This took no time at all; it was just having to go back up there and back that bugged me.

On the way back we stopped at the new Nam Dae Mun to check it out. It looks like the Spring Road location is going to stay open, as they talk on the Grand Opening sign about the West Smyrna store and the East Smyrna Store. It's also funny that they don't have all of the same things, too. James' ginger tea is not there, but they have the chamomile mint he likes. We found some lamb steaks and low sodium soy sauce.

Then it was off to Publix to order James' birthday cake for his party on September 9, and pick up a couple of additional items.

Time to go home and rest!

Well, no. The moment I got into the house I put the oven on preheat. I had six pounds of chicken meat to cook this afternoon; we need it for sandwiches for DragonCon. Cooking always takes an interminable amount of time and this time was no exception. I thought that silly chicken would never be finished. I showed about 1/3 of it a picture of some salt and put some Litehouse salad greens on it, and made cacciatore with the rest (Campbell's Harvest Tomato soup, granulated garlic and onion, and a slice of green pepper broken up into the sauce). By the time I finished the news was on and I wished I could make chicken sandwiches for all the people in Houston. It's...appalling.

(I am not getting chicken at Costco again any time in the future. I think the boneless skinless chicken thighs I saw at Nam Dae Mun were better. I poured grease off the plain chicken three times and off the cacciatore twice.)

With more Swiss cheese in hand, James spent the remainder of the afternoon cooking up more breakfast burritos. He now has a stash of forty, which will get us past DragonCon and Yellow Daisy to boot. However, after all that cooking, we were in no mood for more; we just warmed up the egg rolls we got on twofer.

We finished up the evening by finally watching the final three episodes of this season of Hawaii Five-0. I see Steve is messing with his half of Danny's liver again. And Chin Ho and Kono are on their way to their exits. I think it's a shame they couldn't get a raise. When the series came on, sure O'Loughlin and Caan were the big names, but over the last few seasons it's been Kim and Park with the most intriguing storylines. Simply not fair.

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Flourish

» Saturday, August 26, 2017
No Go, Yo Ho, and Five-0

First on today's agenda: sleep! Wonderful sleep, on soft, fluffy feather pillows, with fans beating around us. And then breakfast.

We had a nice quiet day planned, with just a few errands. First we needed to go up to Kaiser's TownePark office where the urgent care clinic is and therefore an open pharmacy, as James had forgotten to order one of his prescriptions, and he only had two days worth of pills left. Then we were going to stop at Publix for a few twofers and then kick back at Barnes & Noble. The Town Center store usually has the best magazines.

Well, damned if we didn't drive all the way up to Kaiser—a twenty minute ride!—only to be told it was "too soon" for James to be reordering that prescription. We would have to come back tomorrow!!! James had already planned to cook burritos tomorrow for his breakfast stash. Grr.

We stopped at Publix anyway, because now he would have to cook burritos tonight, and then still did stop at the bookstore, only we couldn't stay long because we had yogurt and egg rolls in the insulated bag. Luckily it was mostly cloudy and we didn't have to worry about the sun  beating on the bag as well. Hit the jackpot inside: a new "Bella Grace," the latest "Just Cross Stitch" with autumn patterns, a new "Blue Ridge Country" with fall excursions, and "Country Living Autumn Decorating." James was going to buy a book, but we should get a coupon next weekend and that will help cut the cost of it, so he put it back.

Then we had to dash home so James could start the burrito marathon. It turned out he couldn't finish because one of the packages of Swiss cheese he had—he uses Swiss because it has the least sodium—turned out to be moldy. He did get sixteen made. While he was cooking I put up some hooks, cleaned the toilet in the hall bath, and played some records while I was tidying up.

When he finished up we went to Fried Tomato Buffet for supper and then had ice cream for dessert, and watched a couple of episodes of Hawaii Five-0. (We still have five to go for this season.)

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Flourish

» Tuesday, August 22, 2017
The Great American Eclipse 2017, Part 3: Sunset
Wouldn't you know that I slept worse at the nice hotel than at the tatty one? This was a problem in March, too: I find the bed in the room where we usually sleep (the handicapped access one, where James doesn't have to step over the side of the tub) very uncomfortable. And their pillows are too soft. I had two and they still didn't prop up my head as is needed. While my infection seems to be gone, my stupid nose is still running. It's like being in a mucus marathon. Yuck.

No one in the common room this morning at all after we packed a little and went to breakfast. We knew Juanita and David had gone with the Boulers to breakfast at Wendell's, but didn't see anyone else until John Campbell and the Boroses came into sight in the breakfast room. Country Inn and Suites has a good breakfast bar: eggs, sausages, biscuits, four kinds of cereal, three kinds of juice, bread and bagels with a toaster, fruit, milk, and other goodies. We talking with Phyllis about teachers (and how they just aren't paid commensurate with what they do) for a long while, and then with heavy hearts set out to finish packing and load the truck. We said goodbye to Bill and Caran, who were also loading up.

We'd planned to stop at Dawsonville at the outlet stores, but halfway there James said he just really wanted to get home, so that's what we did, just went directly to the vet's office. It was so funny: they brought Tucker out first, and, unlike in March, he came racing out, bounced at my leg, and then went directly to James, all excited, jumping all over him. In fact, he was so enraptured with the fact that we were back that he completely missed the big, black cat that was sitting on the front desk, observing him with unblinking yellow moons of eyes. This is the new office cat; I've forgotten his name, but he was a pantherlike, well-muscled cat with an unflinching stare.

Then Tucker twigged. He froze between James' legs and stared at that cat and started making anxious, worried, eager little whines and cries, and then started to jump forward, but James snubbed him in. He continued to whine and cry and try to go after that cat; someone finally picked the cat up and put him in one of the offices, a good thing, too, because he probably would have scared Snowy to bits. Snowy came out already ready in his little carry box, the nurse helped us wrap up the cage in a plastic, and we were off.

Snowy sang all the way home, which took some time since we had to turn back at a bad accident and find our way out of the neighborhood we were in. By the time we got home, we were starving. We'd remembered the leftover barbecue pork from last night, and James made sandwiches of it—it made four sandwiches, two for each of us!

And that was the end of our Eclipse Odyssey. I shoved everything in the suitcase into the washer and nearly drowned the suitcase in Lysol. And then I washed the clothes in the hamper, too, because Tuesday's my regular laundry day anyway. James thawed out some already cooked pork chops for supper, and we roved around the television looking for something that was a reality show. We ended up watching the specials the Science Channel did on the eclipse. It was actually kind of dull, since they duplicated a lot of scenes in the last special from the first special, and the "live coverage" was just intermittent live reports from Oregon between showings of a special on the sun and a special on the moon. Should have recorded the NASA coverage.

Sigh. Work tomorrow...

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Flourish

» Monday, August 21, 2017
The Great American Eclipse 2017, Part 2: The Greatest Show on Earth
Here's a definition of irony: after thirteen days of a wretched cold/infection/whateverthehell, in which sleep has been grabbed in dribs and drabs and never complete, sleepless, frustrated, and quite annoyed, I get my best sleep in a damn bed in a tatty hotel that might have bedbugs in it. I slept the sleep of the exhausted, four hours straight, a trip to the bathroom, and four more hours straight.

For the record, I woke up with no red marks, no itching, no sign that I'd been molested by insects of any kind, and neither did James. Hope to God that we have escaped this plague. Anyway, we packed up our baggage (none of which had touched either of the beds) and then went to eat the "continental breakfast" offered. It was heavy on carbs (Froot Loops and Cheerios, honey buns, Danish, mini bagels) but there were also mini-sausage biscuits and oatmeal packets, and one of those ubiquitous waffle makers, and coffee, orange juice, and milk.

Finally we were able to pack up and drive over to the Country Inn and Suites to join everyone else; we put our shareables (goldfish crackers, grape, and packages of cookies) out, and Alice let us stash the luggage in their room. We got our pink parking pass (the hotel was towing anyone not staying at the hotel who parked in the lot after noon) and settled to talk and anticipate the eclipse.

I wandered outside at one point and found a man already setting up his camera, of course with the special filter. Talked with him for a bit, then wandered back in, sat for a while...it was a long morning, yet a short morning, and about 11:30 everyone pulled out the goodies they had brought with them for lunch—we had Kroger buns and Underwood chicken spread—and we had a big indoor picnic.

Outside things started to be busy. Alice and Caran were setting up chairs under a little group of trees behind the hotel. I pulled out the little folding table we bought at Academy Sports, and that was a hit, but in the end the little tent shelter was a bust. I pulled it out of its container and Juanita and a guy named Daniel tried to help me put it up, but we hadn't gotten far when it was almost one o'clock and time to watch the sun get eaten by a dragon. Thank goodness for the trees!

In the meantime a crowd had gathered; our folks, hotel customers, folks who just walked up, people parking in the big grassy lot in front of the hotel. Bill's friend Eric showed up.

I didn't have any filter for my camera lens. I knew people would be taking much better pictures than me, so what I wanted to do was film the event as it got nearer to darkness, chronicle the birds heading for the trees, the crickets starting up, the lights coming on, the peculiar blurry dim light that happens as more of the moon slides past the sun. Unfortunately when I put my camera in movie mode it looked like everything was overexposed. (I found out later that something had jiggled the exposure settings, but too late for filming then.) Well, Caran had a spare filter which we jerryrigged to the lens of my camera with painter's tape, and then I was taking photos, too!

At first, as the moon is taking its first "nips" of the sun, you don't notice much except that the wind starts coming up a little. As more and more of the sun is consumed, you start noticing the light getting funny. It's hard to explain. It's not like it's getting dark, but the light getting dimmer, and although even before totality it isn't dark, you have to squint...it's kind of silvery is only how I can explain it.

As the sun waned, I was looking for something that had entranced me during the last partial eclipse we had here in 1991. We were still in the old yellow building in Buckhead and I remember going outside and standing under the big tree that grew out of the deck of the bar—Buckhead was full of bars in those days—on Buckhead Avenue. The partially-eclipsed sun was shining through the gaps in the leaves, and the gaps in the leaves acted like pinhole cameras: you could see the crescent of the sun projected on the concrete decking of the parking lot.

Sure enough, projected through the leaves of the trees we were sheltering under between bouts of staring at the sun in our approved eclipse glasses, there were the crescent shapes. People must have thought I was berserk: "Look at the crescents!" Even better, Clair had bought a cheap umbrella, pricking tiny holes in it hoping that the pinholes would act like a pinhole camera. I guess they were too small, but when she stood under the tree, the crescent shapes between the leaves projected on the dark umbrella. It was too cool.

As the sun dimmed, people were still milling around, including a guy with a young Sheltie he was trying to teach manners. He would have "Scooter" sit before allowing him to be petted. What a lovely dog!

And then the light got more silvery and dim, and the crescent sun through the glasses became thinner, and thinner...and we saw Baily's beads (the sun shining through the mountains of the moon) and the "diamond ring" (the final glare of light) and then it was dark—not midnight dark, but more like sunset dark—and the lights had come on, and Venus hung in the sky and the crickets were chirping like mad, and we could rip off our glasses and look full at the sun with the moon before it: a dark circle with the halo of the corona dancing around it. People burst out cheering and clapping and screaming and someone shot off fireworks "to scare off the dragon eating the sun." You can see photos but nothing compared with being there...nothing, nothing, nothing like seeing it happen in person!

IT WAS TOTALLY WICKED COOL AND FREAKING AWESOME!


The sun at totality. (Thanks again for the filter, Caran!)


And then the minute or so of totality we got was over, and back came Baily's beads and the diamond ring and back on went the eclipse glasses and the filter over the camera lens, time to dance about giddily at what you had just seen and hug people because it was just so freaking amazing, and watch the moon move on and the sun emerge. (And all those cars pick up and leave and cause a traffic jam down the main street of Helen...LOL.)

Finally it was time to pack up all the chairs and the little table and the useless tent and move back inside. Caran had said she was going to take a good shower when she got to her room, and the two of us, not being sun people, lured out into the heat, decided that sounded wonderful, too. My feet were so warm when we got inside that I put them over the vent of the A/C to cool them off. And the shower was almost as good as the eclipse!

Basking in eclipse afterglow, we all gathered back in the common room. Some of the group went to Bodensee, the German restaurant, for supper, but we walked (well, I walked and James wheeled) with the Boulers and the Gibsons to the barbecue place downtown (it really was not a long walk; the heat was just oppressive again) where the Spiveys and Terry, and Isabel and Miguel were waiting (they drove up for the day and ran into no traffic on the way up). This was the place James fell last year and they gave us ribs on the house. I remember them being good ribs, so I had those, and he had a pork dinner that was so big he ate half the plate and was able to take enough home that we had two sandwiches each of it for supper on Tuesday night. Country music played in the background and we all just smiled a lot.

After eating we walked up to the t-shirt shop with Juanita and David. Juanita saw some beautiful eclipse t-shirts yesterday and they bought some and everyone was interested when they saw how lovely they were. The gentleman at the store said he would order more if we could get thirty-six more, and from the crowd that came up to see the eclipse we made up the correct number. So we put our deposit down, and then had some ice cream from the place two doors down from the t-shirt place and then walked back to the hotel.

We found ourselves in the common room for a while with a few people, including Juanita, who had a bad tooth and was feeling terrible. I got her my shirt because she had the chills and later some Ambesol. Chatted for a while, but everyone was exhausted and we were back in our room before the ten o'clock news. We were hoping to see eclipse reports, but the Donald had chosen tonight to make an announcement about sending troops to Afghanistan and we had to wait until the interesting portions of the news came up (since we had to wait through another one of those interminable reality shows to get to it). We had spied a Fox5 Atlanta van in downtown Helen earlier and sure enough there was a news report on people watching the eclipse downtown.

When we went to bed we were still smiling.

Freaking awesome, I tell you!

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Flourish

» Sunday, August 20, 2017
The Great American Eclipse 2017, Part 1: Bug Out
"As we say when approaching a tall piece of cheddar, better start from the top." . . . . . Father Mouse, Twas the Night Before Christmas

Back in March when we were at Atomicon, some talk emerged about the upcoming eclipse, so when I made reservations for next year, on a whim I put in a reservation for the Monday night of the eclipse. Now I didn't think I had a chance in hell of getting two days off during end of fiscal year, but if I did I thought we could just toss a change of clothes in a suitcase, take the fids to the vet, and go up early Monday morning, watch the eclipse with everyone and have dinner, then leave the next morning. After all, we had gone to the eclipse panel at Anachrocon, received free glasses, and it sounded incredible. We'd had a partial eclipse here in 1991—I remember going out to the parking deck at work and seeing "the crescents"; the leaves of the tree growing out of the deck of the bar near our parking lot acted like a pinhole camera and reflected the crescent sun on the concrete parking lot—but neither James nor I had ever seen a total eclipse.

I put in a leave slip and, to my surprise, got the leave. James also was allowed to take two days' vacation.

Then the news stories started popping up. This wasn't going to just be a "teaching moment" for schools while people rushed outside at work with eclipse glasses enjoy the show. Expeditions were being planned. Rabun County, up in northeastern Georgia in the longest part of totality, was planning a big "do." James commented that he wished we'd made reservations for Sunday night, too, because the closer the event came, the more concerned he was that we might start out Monday morning and find ourselves in a traffic jam, since the vet didn't open until 7:30. So about mid-July I hunted online and found a room for us Sunday night. (I won't mention the name of the lodgings due to what happened later on.)

We were very excited about this coming up. And then came last week's Cold. If it had been a mild sore throat and a little runny nose, I wouldn't have cared. But the pain in my throat was tremendous. Swallowing was more painful than when I had the mumps. I don't go to the doctor twice within four days for nothing, and to be told your throat wasn't irritated on Monday and end up with "a fever blister" on my throat by Thursday was frustrating. I couldn't sleep, I felt so bad I couldn't even read, I had work I wanted to finish and at least one purchase order that's pretty much blown up in my face. And I had a trip to plan with a fuzzy head and a ringing ear and a runny nose and a sore throat that felt like strep.

Nevertheless, everything got packed from all the medicines to the charge cords for the cell phones.

Saturday night when we got home from Ron's birthday dinner we noticed there were messages on the answering machine that we hadn't listened to. Most were from Kaiser, but one was from the vet—they were having employee appreciation day on Sunday and would be closed! Well, they would be closed after 9 a.m., anyway. We would have to be there early, but we were planning to do that anyway.

Needless to say, neither of us got a lot of sleep, but I think I clocked in at two or so hours. We tossed suitcases, C-PAP, food to share, the charger for the power chair, and the power chair in the truck, then I woke Snowy up, and before he could protest, plucked him from his nighttime perch and put him into the carry box (where, of course, he promptly began courting the cute bird in the mirror). The cage went into a big trash bag to load in the truck, and once Tucker and Snowy were aboard as well, we were on our way.

The vet's office was deserted when we got there, and I was quite upset. But there was a car parked next to us, and it turned out it was one of the vet techs waiting for someone to show up with the keys. Soon Dr. Mike and more staff arrived, and I used one of the exam rooms to transfer Snowy back into his cage—Snowy is a seasoned traveler and sang through the entire journey—and fill his water dishes and food dish. Tucker wildly sniffed around the small room until Dr. Mike entered and squatted down to meet him and then he went wagging into his arms. Not at all like Miss Willow who was Daddy's little girl only and had to be bodily removed, crying the whole time.

And then they were gone and we were on our way after breakfast at Panera. By that time we needed it!

We had an uneventful ride. Stopped to top off the tank of the car in Dawsonville just in case there was traffic in Helen. Discovered that the new Appalachian Parkway was open; you don't even need to go through the town of Cleveland anymore; you come out on Helen Highway at the Catholic church.

We reached our hotel well before the check-in time of four o'clock, but did stop by to see if early check-in was a possibility. The place was very, very busy and the clerk distracted, but he said to check back with him about two. In the meantime, it was almost lunchtime. We knew the Spiveys were about 20 minutes behind us because Terry had messaged us, but was anyone else actually in Helen and did they want the shareable stuff we had brought and what was everyone doing for lunch?

We finally got ahold of Juanita. She and David and Keith Tarpley were eating at the Huddle House; she said everywhere else was packed. We were exhausted and joined them for lunch, and it was such a relief to have someone to talk to. We were both hot and frazzled and worried about the stuff in the back of the truck.

(Originally the plan was to take the car and the Rollator. We were just going to drive to the hotel, watch the eclipse, probably drive somewhere to dinner, and then hang around till next morning. We weren't expecting the crowd of 100,000 people it said on the news! So we wouldn't have had to worry about the stuff in back in the truck bed; it would have been in the hatchback. Changes have consequences.)

After eating, though, we had nothing to do, so basically we went back to our hotel and sat in the lobby with our stuff where it was air conditioned and comfortable and read and waited. People came in and asked about early check-in and kept being told the 4 p.m. story, but a couple of times they were told it was because the lower level was cleaned first and they were on the upper level. Eventually, about 2:30 we got into our room.

This was not one of the best hotels in Helen, and I knew that going in. It was an older property, and it was rather like the inexpensive motels we always stayed at when I was a kid: basic two beds, a dresser with a TV, a desk and a chair, and the sink in an alcove with the toilet and tub in another room. It was a bit down-at-the-heels but looked clean (much better than the place we stayed at in Kentucky in 2012, coming home from Michigan), and I stacked everything on the desk or dresser so we could flop down on the beds and relax until it was time to find out what folks were doing for dinner. I put the air conditioner on "afterburner" and once the stuffy air started to disperse I lost the claustrophobic feeling I got when we walked in the door. We both lay down to nap, but James was restless and we weren't lying down long. So we were talking and he made a joke about fleabag hotels and I looked down next to the pillows I'd been napping on and...

There was something moving.

Yes, there was some type of insect in my bed, very tiny, like a sesame seed. You can imagine what I thought! Bedbugs are always in the news these days. I got the tiny insect on a tissue and looked it up on line and it looked like a couple of pictures on the internet (but didn't look like most of the pictures on the internet). I was suddenly ill. There were no more rooms in town; I called around. If we didn't stay we would have to go home. So I marched down to the office with the little insect still crawling around in the Kleenex and showed it to the manager in private. He said he'd never seen one like it before—but then of course that's what you'd expect him to say—but that it probably came in on one of the cleaning carts. He said that he would send someone down to spray the room while we were out to supper. And I went back to the room not wanting to sit on anything and thanking God I had not put any of our luggage on the bed.

So we heard from Juanita and they were getting up a party to go to Bigg Daddy's. We said we'd drive down there and reserve tables. It was very crowded and very hot and very loud (they had live music), but we were seated fairly quickly and did have a good dinner. (Unfortunately I didn't finish my wings because by that point I was so tired and so unhappy and so freaked out, and we brought them back to the hotel and then forgot them the next morning.) Then we went back to the other hotel (the one everyone else was at and where we would be on Monday night) to hang with everyone for a while. They'd also had to wait until four to check in, and we weren't the only ones feeling exhausted.

By now I was very unsettled and slightly panicky. All the tensions of work and the annoyances of the cold and the fear from it being hard to swallow and breathe, and the heat, and the tumult of planning and packing were just sitting on my shoulders. I needed to talk to someone and quite badly, and when Juanita got back from calling Jessie (Jessie is on a five-month internship at Disney) I asked her if we could talk, and we went into the breakfast room, which was quite dim and cool and pleasant...and I talked and cried a lot and she counseled and reassured. I felt so bad about burdening on someone, but she was so sweet and said it was okay; that she could sense that I was very tense lately and that I wasn't looking like my old self. And here I thought I was doing the best Court Jester act I could. We talked a long time and then James wandered in looking for me and the conversation became more general.

We headed back to our hotel about 9:30, still puzzling over what to do about the insect occurrence. I searched the beds again looking for signs of bedbugs and found none of them (trust me, I checked on line to see what all of them were). I don't know where the original insect came from; we found no more, but I was still crawly. Instead of us sleeping on the bed (we each took one of the double beds), I pulled two blankets from the drawer and I slept in one like a sleeping bag in just my underwear. (They evidently don't use Downy or Snuggle in their laundry; these felt like Army blankets!) James didn't feel comfortable just doing underwear and also wore a shirt. But nothing else touched the beds except our bodies and those particular clothes.

(Neither of us found any bites the next morning, nor were we itchy. So I hope that's a good sign, but I'm still scared to death.)

...to be continued...

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