Monday, February 28, 2011

Arrested in Turkey... Almost

Every once in a while, I have a job that I don't like.

Scratch that.  I hate working.  I love the idea of having a job and making money, but I generally feel like my soul dies a little bit every time the alarm clock goes off in the morning or I hear the word "synergize " used in a sentence.

I assume there are quite a few people who feel like I do... glad they have a job in the recession, but not really happy about it.

When I am feeling down about my current job, I have to remind myself that I have had it much, much worse in the past.  All I have to do is look at my journals from years back...

Here is an example:

May of 2003:  I had a dedicated journal for when I went to Europe for the first time.  I went with a tour group because I wasn't confident enough to plan my own trip, and I really wanted to get myself to do something instead of making excuses why I couldn't.  We went to Greece, but we had a one day excursion to Turkey to see Ephesus, our cruise ship landing in Kusadasi.

Here is what I wrote about that day:

"If I get arrested in Turkey, I won't have to go back to work.  I am considering it."

I didn't write anything else about that day, and yes, I saw Midnight Express before that.

After the tour bus brought us back from Ephesus, we were supposed to sit through a “cultural demonstration” at a rug shop, and then have some time to wander the bazaar.

At the rug shop, they gave us apple tea in pretty little glass cups with golden handles, and they pointed out the beauty and amazing colors of various rugs.  These are wool.  These are silk. They were beautiful, but all I really heard was “It takes a village a year to make one of these rugs,” in other words, “there is no way in the universe you can afford this, you silly girl”.

I was sitting in the back, and I managed to peer behind one of the smaller rugs hanging on the wall.  It had a price tag, and was listed at 20,000 Euros.  Not dollars.  Not lira.  Euros.

I set down my tea and snuck out through the back.

I didn’t want a cigarette, but everyone was smoking so it was on my mind.  I thought, “I should get some Turkish tobacco for my friends back home”.  It seemed like a brilliant plan.  A nice, cheap, souvenir for my friends, and a chance to wander without the group.

The nice thing about being in Turkey after having been in Greece was that they used the Latin alphabet.  There was also a particular feeling of Turkey that made me feel more at home than anywhere we had visited in Greece.

Sure, the buildings looked like they had about five thousand years of dirt on them.  Yes, I saw a spider about the size of a large mouse in the ruins.  Yes, it was so hot at the end of May they actually had canvas tents strung between the buildings to offer shade.  But the people reminded me of being home.  They all looked different. Tall, short, dark, light, and everything  in between.  Some people dressed nice, some people wore khaki cargo shorts and flip-flops.

But I wasn't scared to wander off by myself, like I might have been.

I probably should have been.  I mean, how safe are port cities anywhere?  Especially ones that expect rich tourists to land?

It didn't occur to me to worry.  I found what appeared to be a tobacco shop within a few minutes of looking.  The sign that said “Cigarettes” may have tipped me off.

“Hello hello” said the man behind the counter.  He was very small.  Very very small.  Maybe 5 feet tall at the most, but he had a big voice.

“Hi,” I said, “I would like to buy some tobacco.”  I walked through the narrow shop to the counter.  There were hookahs on the back wall, and the counter had dozens of flavored tobaccos underneath Plexiglas.

“Drum?” he said.

“Um,” I said, “I was hoping to find something Turkish…”

“Camels?” he asked.

“Um,” I said again.  “Well.  Never mind.”


My jaw may have dropped.  “No,” I said, “I just wanted tobacco.”

“Drum??” He was getting more agitated.

“Turkish tobacco.”


“I’m leaving,” I said.  I was sweating.  I don’t know if it was from nervousness or because the shop was sweltering.


I turned to go.  “Wait!” he said.  I was shocked when he touched my arm.  I jumped about a foot straight up.

“This tattoo,” he said, “Where did you get it?”

“Um,” I said, “Why?”

He laughed a little nervously.  “It’s a symbol of Turkish mafia,” he said.

“Huh,” I said.  “I have to go.”

I pushed my way past some obviously American  college students who were wearing designer hippie clothes and reeking of patchouli.  I paused as I exited.   I guessed they weren’t there for tobacco.   I think that’s the moment I realized I could probably get arrested and sent to Turkish prison if I wanted to get out of work going to work on Monday.

I was saved by a girl in my group, I think her name was Lisa.  She saw me and dragged me off to search of  pashminas.  But I thought about getting arrested for the rest of the day, and wondered what would happen if a real Mafioso saw my tattoo.

P.S.  I changed my mind.  I think that I would rather go to prison in Turkey than work today.

Friday, February 25, 2011

By the Power of Greyrock, I Defeated Vampires

"I think the bartender is a vampire," I said.

Chris looked thoughtful.  "What makes you say that?"

"Well," I said, "First of all, he's really pale.  And really muscular."

"Yeah, I noticed that.  He probably works out," he said, "Are vampires muscular?" 

"I would be if I were a vampire," I said.  "What else do you have to do?  Drink blood?  Lame!  And sure, they have superhuman strength, but compared to other vampires, they wouldn't be that strong, so they better work out."

"I've never figured out how that worked for the undead," he said.

"I think I read that in a book somewhere."

We stopped talking for a moment and I watched the vampire.

We were in Gillian's Lounge, which was as likely a place for a vampire as anywhere in Fort Collins.  It was nominally the lounge for the Armstrong Hotel, but the entrance was outside, between the hotel and a place called "Brand Spanking Used".  Brand Spanking Used was some kind of thrift store with a circular logo made it look like the it was actually called "Brand Used Spanking", which sounded like some kind of fetish club or something.

Anyway, to get inside, you walked down a narrow staircase between the two buildings.  The door at the bottom that was the obvious entrance was unlocked, but if you looked inside, there was a bunch of broken cement and an orange and white sawhorse with a sign pointing left,  "Gillian's that way".  My guess is that this is where the workers originally unearthed the vampires that the Freemasons had walled up down there a century ago.

So you find the entrance, and you are in the basement of the Armstrong.  Turn right, and there's the lounge.

It was dark.  Like, really dark.  There were little lights sprinkled across the ceiling and a some hanging lights, but they were all turned down too low to allow sight.  Behind the bar, three slabs of stone were backlit, casting a pale green light.  Green light is creepy.

And then the patrons.  They talked in muted tones, and they all stopped to look at us as we walked in.

"Welcome," said the bartender-that-I-later-decided-was-a-vampire, "Sit where you want."  He was wearing all black, with short sleeves that showed off his veiny pale biceps.  He also had a strange short hair pony tail that fell to his shoulder in a single banana curl spiral.

The bar was full, but the booths and tables were empty.  We sat behind the bar, next to a piano with a cover on it.  I guess this must be a real lounge sometimes.

We ordered really expensive martinis and that's when I told Chris I thought the bartender was a vampire.

"Do you think they're all vampires?" Chris asked.

"Oh... or at least some of them," I said, "and they're drawing people in so they can feast on our blood."

"Yeah," he said, "They could be vampires.  I mean, this place is underground, it's not like there would ever be any light."

I turned to him.  "You're not a vampire, are you?"

"Um," he said, "We were outside in the sun today.  Did I sparkle?"

"I guess not," I said. "And you didn't burst into flames, either."

"Maybe," he said, "They're just scoping people out who are staying at the hotel, here.  Does the hotel room protect against vampires?"

"Good question."

We discussed this for a while, and the bartender/vampire brought us a second round.  We eventually agreed that since the hotel was basically providing a contract for a temporary home, the threshold rule should work to keep vampires out.  Maybe.

More people came in, until it seemed like the place was doing pretty good business.  A child with two adults came in, and we both looked at eachother.  "Child vampire?" we said in unison.

We eventually ate our chocolate mousse and finished our drinks, and headed up to our hotel room for the night.

We were not eaten.

The following day, which was Monday, was also President's Day.  This was awesome, because I didn't have to go to work.  Instead, we decided to go for a hike.

The day before, we had tried to hike, but failed.  It might have had something to do with the 20 mile bike ride (with stops for drinks) that we did on Saturday.  It was hard.

We went back to the same place we'd tried to hike on Sunday as it was only a few miles up the Poudre from where we were.

"We should go the other way," I said.  There were two trails to Greyrock, one called the Summit Trail, the other called The Meadows.  I knew that the Meadows Trail was longer, so I assumed that it would also be less steep.

I was wrong.

But I felt pretty strong, even after a night of drinking.  The air was crisp and cold, so perfect for hiking.

At first, I thought we would only go a mile or two, eat lunch, and go home.  But as we hiked, I realized that I should be grateful that I was not a vampire, that I had not been eaten by some horrifying child vampire in a basement lounge, and I should live my life.

So we kept walking.

It took some doing, but we finally started seeing the landscape around us.
At first, we were surrounded by trees and hills, but after a little while, it opened up, and we could see the land around us.

For those of you that have forgotten:  Colorado is a freaking desert.

I had only ever been here in the early summer, when everything is green.  On this day, everything was brittle and dry.

When we got to the alleged meadows, I realized we still had quite a ways to go to get to the top of Greyrock.  I felt my will falter.

"Chris," I said, "I think we should go to the top.  Because we should be thankful we weren't eaten by vampires."

Chris took a drink of water.  "Sounds good."

It didn't take long for the fabled destination to look a bit more like Mordor than a fairy land, or possibly a residence of the Bone Pickin' Monkey Man.  There was a fire a year or two ago.

I had actually been to the burnt area two years before, back when it was fresh.  But it seemed deader, now.

There have been quite a few people lost on Greyrock.  I couldn't understand how they did it until we got onto the actual rock.

There are signs and cairns all over the place, but we kept losing the path, and ended up on ledges to nowhere a couple times.  We wasted a good hour on a particularly stupid spot because there were tracks in the snow from all the other people who went the wrong way.

But we found the path eventually.

And we were completely alone on the rock.

It was still winter... way the hell over there.

We could see clouds on the distant horizon, and the snow covered peaks, but everything else was clear.  The wind was a bit annoying.  We were working hard enough that we didn't get cold, so it didn't matter that much.

The view from the top was phenomenal.   The wind also chose this moment to die down for now apparent reason.  That brown smudge on the horizon is Fort Collins.

We got to the top and looked around for a few minutes, and I realized that even though I am always heading for summits, I really don't like being on them.  Too much could go wrong, and we were a long way from home.

Now all we had to do was get back down.

The trip back was pretty quick compared to the walk there.  We went down the Summit path, and managed to not trip or twist any ankles, or otherwise expose ourselves to vampire attack even though we were both tired.

I'm pretty sure the vampires allowed me to live so that I could summit Greyrock.  I didn't expect to do it, and then there I was.

I was reminded why I love to hike. 

And Chris didn't sparkle all day.

So we totally won the hike.

More info on this trail can be found HERE.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

If I'm Going to Freeze to Death with Someone, I Want it to be with You.

It was a breezy day in the park on Saturday.  I don't know why I was so desperate to get into the mountains, but I truly believe heading for the hills on the weekends is what keeps me mostly sane, and almost able to put up with my work week.

I knew that we were in for a warm spell...What I didn't think about was that there might be some wind.

It's been a while since I actually accomplished a hike with a goal that I set out for.  I find it harder in the winter to set realistic goals, and usually just go play in the snow.  There are options available.

You can:
  1. Hike near to normal lower elevations.  There will be some snow and ice.   This is hard work.
  2. Cross Country Ski at a higher elevationThis is also hard work.
  3. Snowshoe.  No matter how big the shoes, you will sink in at some point in the powdery sugar snow that happens here in Colorado, and you have these giant webbed monstrosities strapped to your feet.  In other words, it's hard work.
Why do I torture myself?  Well... it's hard in a good way.  It's also desperately beautiful, and completely worth minor physical discomfort.

View of Longs Peak from the North.

Being a (relatively) nice day, the park was packed.  The giant 200 car parking lot at Bear Lake was near to capacity.  Undaunted, we strapped on our snowshoes and took off at a very, very slow pace.

I haven't climbed or attempted to climb Longs Peak in ages.  Every year I think I'll get around to it, but for some reason, I never do.  I might have to add this to the list this summer.

For most of the beginning, we were surrounded by trees, so the wind couldn't get us.  I kept having to take off layers to keep myself from over heating.  Then I would catch a gust of wind, and it would feel like jumping into heart-attack cold water.

The wind picked up old snow and made everything look hazy.

I wanted to go to Emerald Lake.

Emerald Lake is less than two miles from the Bear Lake trailhead, but somehow, I have never been there in the winter.  Miles seem longer in the snow.

The trees became sparse and stunted.  Chris waited for me while I snapped some photos.

Often while hiking, I hit a point of exhaustion where the whole world starts to feel bright, and I experience a strange euphoria.  Maybe I just wasn't trying hard enough, but for some reason, my brain stayed dull the whole time.  

It could have been the family with four little kids running and stumbling through the snow.

They were having fun, laughing and scrambling, none of them over the age of 5, they would run up a hill and then slide down again on their knees with their brightly colored snow pants.

But maybe I really just wanted to be alone with the woods.

I have been here in the summertime, and have never been able to take a picture of this tree... in the summer it is thronged by hikers.

Rocky Mountain National Park is incredibly beautiful, but it is also very popular.

I need to start heading out to places where I don't see anyone all day.

Emerald Lake gets it's name from the bright green color of the water.  There was no green on Saturday.

When we got for the lake, the wind was whipping over the Divide above us, picking up snow and ice particles.  I had added back most of my layers at this point, but I hadn't planned on it being quite that windy. The skin on the backs of my legs started to get cold.

It was sad to leave, but I was getting cold.

When we got back to the trailhead, I realized I couldn't feel the backs of my legs.  I didn't actually get frostbite, but it was close.

I almost literally froze my ass off.

And even though I didn't experience the wonderful emptiness of the wild, it was a brilliant day.  I think I need to remember more layers for my legs, and to go farther, try harder, and make bigger goals.

Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park:
Distance     1.8 miles one-way
Starting Elevation     9475 feet
Ending Elevation     10160 feet
Elevation Change     685 feet

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Invisibility is a Gift

It's been a bad couple of days at work.  Stressful.  Painful.  Ridiculous.

For some reason, I keep associating it with something that happened when I was small.

This childhood memory also explains part of the reason that I would be the WORST CRIMINAL EVER.

A long, long, time ago, back when I was in the first grade and living in Glenwood Spings, I was dishonest about something.

OK, that sounds lame.  Kids can be randomly dishonest.  I understand that.  But I was seriously a goodie two shoes.  Believe it or not, when I was in the first grade, I was one of those silly girls in the frilly dresses and patent leather shoes and perfect little braids who usually got A's and was arrogant and cruel in the way that little girls can be and I never, ever broke the rules.  Ever.  I didn't like to hurt people's feelings on purpose, it was more of an innocent cruelty, which almost makes it worse.

Anyway, on this particular day, we were in school filling out worksheets.  This is not the incident where I did the entire assignment in mirror image because I accidentally picked up my pencil with the wrong hand, scaring the crap out of everyone that I was dyslexic or something, this was something far more nefarious.

The problem was that I was filling out the worksheet with a dull black crayon, even though the teacher told us to use a pencil.  It was a little packet of papers that we were doing in class held together by a paper clip.

And I messed something up.

Some scribbling and smeared black crayon later, I realized there was no room for me to write the correct answer, because I was writing so big with the crayon.  It was horrible.

I was also one of those little girls that cried at the drop of a hat.  OK, maybe I still get misty-eyed at the occasional Hallmark commercial, but it was crazy when I was little, and I would hyperventilate over a missing brown crayon or if someone took my jump rope (even it it wasn't actually mine, but belonged to the class).  I also really really really hated crying because I have never been a pretty crier, but one of those blotchy-skinned-red-rimmed-eye-frayed-hair monsters when I cried.

So I was looking at this completely messed up worksheet, and I could feel a familiar pressure behind my eyes and a tightness in my throat as I struggled to keep from falling apart.  I may have had some kind of anxiety.


I picked up the paper, thinking I could hide it, or throw it away and pretend it was missing from the packet, when I realized the paper underneath was exactly the same.  The teacher had accidentally given me two copies of the same worksheet in the packet.

I pulled out my pencil and quickly filled it out, with all the corrections.  It was perfect.

But what should I do with the bad one?  I couldn't stand up and throw it away.  Everyone would know.

My solution was simple.

There were two other Laura's in my class. The one that sat closest was Laura W.

Laura W. was actually my friend at the time.  She was another frilly pink girl, only she had this wonderful permanent and died her hair red that year (something like Little Orphan Annie).  I was insane with jealousy about it because suddenly my almost white blond hair that hung in straight perfection wasn't interesting anymore.

I took my black crayon and crossed out the "K" in Laura K, and put in a "W".  I glanced around, not looking suspicious at all, and then put the paper face down on the floor, kicking it slightly in my patent leather shoes  and pushed the paper into the center of the aisle.

I then proceeded to work on page 2 of the packet, pretending innocence.

Within moments, Mrs. M. spotted the paper on the floor and picked it up.

I concentrated on my assignment.

"Whose is this?" she said.

Whose is what? I thought, It isn't mine, obviously.  It doesn't have my name on it.

"Laura?" she said.  My head snapped up.  She was looking at Laura W.

"I didn't do it," she said.  "Someone," she looked at me, "must have crossed out their name and tried to blame me.  I'm using a red marker."  She held up her hands to prove it, her fingers speckled with bloody red ink.

"It wasn't meeeee," I said, trying to look as innocent as possible, "Someone put the wrong answer right there," I pointed.  "Besides, mine is right here."

A boy in the class who sat behind me said, "Well, someone crossed out the old letter.  They're trying to frame Laura W."  The little know-it-all.

"Or maybe," I said, feeling desperate, "Maybe they messed up the W the first time and tried again. That's what you get when you don't use pencil."

Laura W. looked daggers at me.

"Can I see it, Mrs. M.?" the little know-it-all said.

She smiled and handed him the paper.  He turned it a little in the light.  "You can almost make it out..." he said.  I drummed my fingers, and he glanced up at me, then back to the paper.  "I think it's a C," he said, "See how it curves?"

Mrs. M. turned to look across the room.  Laura C. hadn't been paying attention, still working on her paper.  I remember she was "weird".  

"Laura C.?" Mrs. M. said, "Is this yours?"

Laura C.'s chin wrinkled up, "N..n...Noooooooooooo?" she burst into tears.

I was close to tears at this point, too, but I valiantly tried to hold onto my lie.  What excuse would work?  Maybe it was from another class...?  There was a Laura S. in the other class... Or.. or... "Maybe Laura W messed up and then tried to put a C over her name, and then felt bad and put it back to W."

"It isn't mine!" Laura W. said, starting to cry, too.

"Stop," Mrs. M. said.  Girls and boys were crying all over the room at this point.  "It's OK, everyone.  No one is in trouble.  Just go back to work."

Mrs. M. had one of those calming and authoritative voices that are also vaguely motherly and required for teaching small children.

The room was quiet in moments, nothing more said.  Mrs. M. crumpled up the paper and tossed it in the trash.

For a moment I was exhilarated.  I was amazed that I had gotten away with it.  The next moment I felt horrible, and cried quietly at my desk while I filled out the rest of the worksheets.

I was also shocked that on my report card the teacher put "intimidates other children" about my behavior.  It never occurred to me that the little know-it-all behind me was scared of me.  He did cut my hair in art class some time later.  I thought he just liked me.  And Mrs. M. wasn't fooled for a second.

So anyway... this memory keeps coming up this week.  Some deep repressed guilt?  I'm sorry, Laura W. from something that happened 28 years ago!  Is that it?


I know.

Because work has been horrible, and all I want to do is cross my name off of my account, and pretend it's someone else's responsibility.  But I can't because if I do Laura W. will push me off the swings at recess.

Maybe it would be better if I just cried.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Bone Pickin' Monkey Man

My parents are pretty brilliant people.

I don't mean to brag, but seriously.  They have some smarts.

When I was very small, we moved form Illinois to Colorado.  They liked the mountains.  They liked hiking.  They also had little kids.

Little kids are super strong.  Their muscle to mass ratio is way the hell up there, and they are capable of phenominal feats of strength for their size.  The issue is getting them to want to try to do anything.  Like hiking, for example.

This last weekend, we went for a hike on Crosier.  This is the same area that I noted in THIS post.  And THIS one. 

Sometimes they would bribe us with candy, and leave Skittles or Reese's Pieces along the trail to draw us along.

More often, they would just tell us horrifying stories about the Bone Pickin' Monkey Man.

Crosier Mountain has two trailheads within 45 minutes of town, so it is one of my "default" locations if I want to hike, but haven't planned properly or get a late start.

We didn't believe them.  Not really.

"Better walk faster, kids, or the Bone Pickin' Monkey Man is gonna get you!" they'd say, "He always gets the person walking in the back."

We didn't believe them, but we were a little bit scared anyway.

Originally, we were planning to ski on Saturday, but I was slow.  I needed to sleep in a bit, and I took a long time waking up after I got up in the morning.  Luckily, everyone else who was going didn't seem to mind, so we went with the hiking thing.

I remember arguing about the Bone Pickin' Monkey Man.  If I was in the back, I would say, "No, he get's the middle person!" because usually my dad or mom were in the middle.

At some point, the Bone Pickin' Monkey Man became a complete boogey man of my childhood.  My brother was extremely imaginative, especially when it came to scaring the shit out of his little sisters (I am still confused that he isn't a best selling author of horror novels).

The Bone Pickin' Monkey Man had a face like a dog, and he didn't have skin, just slimy muscles.

There was a fire at some point up there.  It was more noticeable than the last few times I had been this way for some reason.  Maybe it was the snow on the ground.  Maybe the trees finally hit a certain point of dryness and started to actually fall down.

The Bone Pickin' Monkey Man had wings.  I don't remember when this occurred.  I remember being scared he was hiding behind rocks (no, not scared, it was fake, not REAL, I don't believe in the Bone Pickin' Monkey Man!), and then later I would be worried about walking across meadows because he could swoop down and carry me off.

Maybe it was the snow highlighting everything, but there were dozens of caves visible from the trail.  I thought they were old mines until my father pointed out that they looked like they were right in the side of cliff faces.

I find it funny that this childhood monster comes up so often.

I don't have kids, but I tell my friends' kids about him.  The Bone Pickin' Monkey Man.  They have the same arguments that I did.  "No, he gets the person in front!"  Sounding nervous, they don't believe me.

But they almost do.

He said, "Probably the Bone Pickin' Monkey Man".  I laughed.  Sort of.  Because the Bone Pickin' Monkey Man is something we made up.  But Dad was right.  He would totally live in those high cliff caves.

Of course, the Bone Pickin' Monkey Man goes after kids first, and leaves the stringy adults alone.


One of the many possible dwellings of the Bone Pickin' Monkey Man. 

And here I was worried about trolls.

Monday, February 7, 2011

"Sweetheart" City

I live in Loveland, Colorado (please don't stalk me).  This is not to be confused with Loveland, Nebraska, or Loveland Pass, or Loveland Ski Resort, or Loveland, Ohio.

Growing up in Loveland, CO, Valentine's Day has always been a big deal, and I was surprised as an adult that the holiday is largely overlooked elsewhere.  Loveland puts up more decorations for Valentine's Day than Christmas.

Loveland is named after a fellow named W.A.H. Loveland, a man who went toe to toe with the Union Pacific Railroad, and succeeded in building the Colorado Central Railroad in the late 19th century.

Because "railroad baron" and "love" are totally synonymous.

Much like the modern holiday, it is a marketing ploy. 

The Rotary Club has a project where they decorate lampposts with personalized messages on huge wooden hearts.  The Chamber of Commerce has a contest every year and produces a Loveland Valentine's Day card and cachet, designed by a Loveland Artist.  It's all very local.  We even have a re-mailing program around the 14th of February so you can get the fancy postal stamp.

Every year I think I will remember to have some artwork to submit for the Loveland Valentine contest.  I decide I will draw something without skeletons or hidden monsters.  The winner gets like $500.  I would totally sell out for $500.  But I never do it.  I always forget.

Anyway.  Loveland also calls itself the "Sweetheart City," which actually kind of works... or at least the word "sweet".

For many years, Loveland produced sugar.  Apparently, this entire area use to be famous for the sugar beet sugar, as it was supposed to be some of the best in the world.  The advent of the corn subsidies and a much cheaper way to produce sweetness lead to the decline of this industry, and there are broken down sugar factories all across the region.

I was a little nervous taking pictures of the ruins of the Sugar Factory, so they aren't my best.  The spray painted warning pretty much makes me think someone's going to come out with a shot-gun or maybe release a bunch of giant Rottweilers to get me.

Enter the Amalgamated Sugar Factory.  It was one of the last sugar beet processing plants to shut it's doors on the front range.

These towers are so big that I can see them from Crosier Mountain. 

A couple days after Valentine's Day, 1990, something happened.

A tank ruptured.

Although, honestly, this isn't the destruction of 20 years.  This has been a ruin far longer than the sugar factory has been closed.

It dumped approximately half a million gallons on molasses, which oozed out of a big tank.  It closed down a school and forced evacuations.  Because it was so cold, it congealed quickly, forming a sweet sludge about 2 feet deep in places.

Thankfully, no one was hurt.  But it was one of the few instances where the sleepy little city of Loveland ended up on national news.  For about a minute.

A few years ago, there was a big drug bust here.  The owner's son was accused of having a meth lab.  Loveland SWAT came in with their giant guns and scary military gear.  It was all very dramatic.  Who knew that Loveland had a SWAT team?

The sugar factory still stands.  Most of these factories were built around the turn of the last century, so they contain asbestos.  My understanding has been that they would be relatively expensive to tear down, which is why there are so many still around.

I don't know if the guy was guilty or not.  I don't even remember his name.  I do remember that when the soil samples came back from the lab, it turned out there was no trace of meth.  What they found was... sugar.

Anyway, I decided to take pictures of this crumbling monstrosity and make some pretty holiday cards.  I might not get the official card, but maybe someone can enjoy them.

HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY from LOVELAND!  We're so into sweetness that even our dirt is sugared!

I wouldn't call Loveland the "Sweatheart City", but I figure something should be done to draw attention to the sweet dirt we have.

HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY from LOVELAND COLORADO!  NO METH HERE! (At least, none that can be proven in a court of law).

Happy early Valentine's Day, everyone!

Friday, February 4, 2011

UPDATED: I Must be a Princess. Or Maybe, a Horse

After work today, they gave me a crown.

Not work, what are you thinking?  There aren't crowns of any kind at work. The dentist. The dentist gave me a crown.  I told everyone at work I had to leave on time for my coronation.  They found it funny.  I was in a mild state of panic.

My poor teeth.

This is crown number three. Like a Triple Crown, only without running the Derby. Or, you know, being an actual horse.  Probably. Or maybe being a princess horse, I don't know.

This is the third crown out of seven that I need.

I keep asking myself what the hell I did to deserve this.  I brush my teeth.  I floss. Occasionally.  I don't drink a six pack of Mountain Dew every day like I did in high school.  But my teeth are like chalk.

I would like to blame years of poverty.  Maybe genetics.  It could even be aliens.

It has nothing to do with my incredible desire for sweets, and excuses to eat them.

For example... Wednesday was Groundhog's Day.  Awesome holiday.  It is probably awesome because I don't live in Punxsutawne, PA.

That, and Groundhog's Day, the movie with Bill Murray, which is one of those funny, yet deeply philosophical movies that I try to watch at least once a year.

We have a party to eat pizza, drink beer, and watch it with friends.  I never miss it. Except for the time I had to go to Texas for work that week, or the years I lived in New Orleans.

Some years back, my dad and I decided we should make a Groundhog's Day cake to celebrate.  This involves a box of red velvet cake and some creative cutting.  Every year since it's inception, I decide after I make the cake that next year, next year I will learn more about cake sculpting and make a truly magnificent groundhog cake.

And every year, I forget about it until Groundhog's Day Eve, and I have to rush to the store to buy a box of cake mix and some frosting.

This year, instead of having him lay down like some sad roadkill, Dad and I decided to try to figure out how to make him stand up.

We "succeeded".
Front view of the "Groundhog Cake".
Of course, there were some problems.

The cake mix I used was really soft.  When I bake, even out of a box, my cakes end up light and fluffy and beautiful.  And structurally unsound.

We added some wooden skewers to help it keep it's shape.  And it sort of worked.  Except that they look like fangs or something.
The cake was so soft that the frosting would rip large chunks of the red velvet cake out.  So we nuked the frosting into liquid in the microwave and drizzled it.

The little white things are breath mints, if you're wondering.

I decided it looked more like an alien disguised as a groundhog based on a poor, secondhand description from a psychotic four year old than a groundhog.

Before we put it in the outside fridge, it was already listing. 

We decided that the "groundhog" needed some scale, so I found my toy pirate, and some skulls to make it more realistic.

Note the skulls in the foreground.
But yeah.  He was delicious, and looked appropriately like roadkill when served up.

I made sure I had a big knife, and the red velvet cake spurted like blood.  I said "Who wants a leg?" and equally ridiculous things while carving him up.  He was glorious.

But anyway, what I was saying is that this is NOT the reason I have bad teeth.  I have bad teeth because aliens experimenting on my enamel and it has nothing to do with sugar.

But it might be why I am a princess.

UPDATE: Something I forgot to mention was my unbelievable embarrassment when I sat up after receiving my crown, and realized I had a huge booger hanging out that the poor dental assistant was probably staring at the whole time.   Princesses get boogers, too, you know.

UPDATE 2:  After a number of requests and the obviousness of the thing, I have managed to get some pictures of the cake after and while we "carved" it.  Thanks, Shannon and Dave...

Me and Dad with our creation.
Have knife, will use.

So.  Appetizing.