It’s been a very productive weekend in terms of cleaning out closets and getting stuff done. I also managed to put together a quick painting!

Holstein Fish

I dunno, the whites aren’t as intense as I’d like, and you’re fighting the texture a bit when you work on this varietyof artist panel (the cheapest Ampersand, has a kind of canvas texture.) Might try more fish on illustration board and see if I can get whatever elusive thing it is I’m after…

Ahhh….

So last week, I was a crazed stressbunny, fighting off that ass-deep-in-alligators feeling and sensing that I was about to slide into raging bitch mode at any moment.

My buddy Brooke says "Right. We’re going to the beach." 

I said "I’ve got way too much work." Then I stopped and considered that the last time I took a trip for fun rather than business or family obligation was…um…um…good god, 2004? (There was that one trip to the mountains in 2006, but there were some really weird tensions going on, since my marriage was, unbeknowst to me, on the way out…hmm. Yup. 2004. And we went to Duluth.)

I attempted to recall the last time I went to the actual beach, hit a number that indicated I had not been of legal age to drink at the time, stopped doing math, and decided that probably the world wouldn’t explode if I took a day off. "I’ve never been to the beach here," I said. "I’d feel stupid if I had to move and never went to the beach," I said. "And we could go to some galleries, and it’d be a business expense," I said. "Get in the car," Brooke said.

So we kissed our respective boyfriends, climbed in the car, and headed off to the town of Duck–yes, it’s called Duck–on the Outer Banks, stayed at a resort hotel with a private beach (not as expensive as you’d think, since we’re starting to hit the off-season) and good lord. Just…lord. Why has it been thirteen years since I did this? What was I thinking? 

We walked on the beach. Well, Brooke walked, and I stumbled along with my binoculars out going "Sanderlings! Oh my god, look at their little legs! Royal terns! Oh my god, that flock is nothing BUT terns! Look! It’s a Ruddy Turnstone eating barnacles off an old horseshoe crab shell! Hey, is that a Greater Black-backed Gull?"

There’s a standing joke–or problem–that every time Brooke and I go anywhere, people assume we’re a lesbian couple. In this case, they probably thought that we were a lesbian couple and Brooke was really really patient.

So it was wonderful. There were zillions of dead moon jellies washed up, but it was still wonderful. There were dead horseshoe crabs. There were sanderlings. I love sanderlings. They run in front of the tide and their rapid little legs are wonderful. There were willets and several zillion gulls. There were tiny scuttling crabs who had dug holes in the sand. There was beachness.

We went to galleries. We went shopping for pants twice because in thirteen years of not visiting the ocean, it didn’t occur to me that I would need to pack extra pairs if I was going wading because there are WAVES and saltwater soaking your pants is a three second thrill with daylong repercussions. We ate crab. (At one point, Brooke ordered a sandwich that turned out to be an entire softshell crab on a bun, with some sauce. It still had legs. I will treasure her complete lack of expression when it was set in front of her forever.) I drank something called a mako tai. It was bright green, and involved a great deal of tequila. Then I called Kevin while drunk and told him that he needed to get a job out here.

It was awesome.

So, I’m back, sort of, although it’s hard to get brain back out of vacation mode. It would be a good day to run errands except that I have none set up to run. I have Dragonbreath to do and art to make and books to write, but god, I think I want to go back to the beach. For at least a week. We didn’t even get to the aquarium or the lost colony or the Elizabethan gardens.

Blarrgh.

Back from the vet, yet again. Ben’s having another flare-up of the stomatitis–lacking teeth, it’s now attacking around the hinge of his jaw, making it hard to open his mouth. So he’s back on the steroids and injectable antibiotics. The vet’s hoping his flare-ups will be less frequent now that his teeth are gone. I hope she’s right–if it goes back to non-stop stomatitis like before, there’s really no treatment options left. Can’t pull the jaw bones! Urgh.

Well, here’s hoping…

Went to see Ponyu last night.

Hmm.

I was frankly disapointed, but in retrospect, I think the problem with this movie was the marketing.

See, it was a fine little movie. It wasn’t complicated, it wasn’t dramatic, it was just a mild little tale of magic fish. As such, it was enjoyable and there were bony fish, which were kinda neat. I’d put it somewhere in the range of Kiki’s Delivery Service, (alas, without the cat) just under Castle in the Air, but a fun little film.

The problem was that the marketing I heard included overblown phrases like "What Miyazaki attempted in Spirited Away and Mononoke, he achieved in Ponyu!"

Nuh-uh.

It wasn’t the same sort of film. It was a nice little movie, but Spirited Away was bloody EPIC. I mean, if I got one movie on a desert island, it’d be Spirited Away. And I can’t watch Princess Mononoke without bawling for the poor boar god.

Now, look. I , of all people, respect the right of artists to do some things that are small and gentle and whimsical and not BLOODY COMPLEX EPICS. God, do I understand! I do Digger, which is the stupidly multi-volume epic, and then I draw hamsters, or do the short and sweet "Little Creature" or whatever. And I am not in Miyazaki’s league at all, but I think the principle holds–there are a lot of stories, and the vast doorstop ten-book epics are not the only ones worth telling. You tell me "This is a quick and silly little piece," and I respect absolutely that’s what it is, and I’ll enjoy it thoroughly on that level.

This was not a movie of epic spectacle. And that’s fine, not everything needs to be. Had I gone in expecting a nice little film with maybe some Devonian bony fish, I would not have been disappointed, but all the hype was screaming "MIYAZAKI – MOST EPIC WORK OF MOST EPIC GENIUS OF OUR TIME!!!!!" and…well…it wasn’t.

So, go see it, even a small Miyazaki movie’s worth seeing, but don’t believe that it’s going to put Spirited Away in the shade.

Been having frequent and dramatic nightmares lately. I think it’s stress. (Actually, Kevin suggested that it might be stress–I hadn’t even noticed that there was an uptick until he pointed it out.) I have deadlines every which way, and I’m at the death march stage of Dragonbreath 3 (two-thirds done! Woohoo!)

Still, as stress responses go, it beats the heck out’ve heart palpitations and acid reflux and whatnot, and I frequently seem to be able to DO something in the dreams, which is positive. I guess.

Last night was short and dramatic. I was in a house alone, and there was a mirror on the wall. I was walking toward the mirror and I saw an alien in it, standing behind me.

Now, it’s worth noting at this point that I happen to be terrified of aliens. Not ALL aliens–I quite like the notion of extraterrestrial life, I am a huge science-fiction fan, I wanted to be a Vulcan when I grew up–but those little grey buggers with the big eyes freakme the hell out. I think it’s the fact that they never want to negotiate, and they don’t appear to want anything. They scare the crap out of me.* Go figure.

So there’s an alien in the mirror behind me. This one wasn’t quite grey, more fleshtone, but short and with the huge eyes. (In this case, red and lizard-like.) I spun around, and it made a noise at me, somewhere between heavy breathing and a really nasty snicker.

Proving that my dream-self, while not particularly bright, is at least not a coward, I launched myself at the alien, got my hands around its throat, and started choking it. This only seemed to bother it a little, but the snickering got rather labored, which was victory of a sort.

Dramatic narrative almost demands at this point that I wake up throttling Kevin or the beagle or something, but in fact I woke up quite spontaneously, not throttling anything in particular, and went "Urrrrggggghhh…fuckin’ aliens…" and staggered into the bathroom.

Ben looked at me like I was weird. "You don’t get to judge me," I told him. He judged me and went back to sleep.

*Also, that one Star Trek:TNG episode with the chair and the scissors and the clicky things in the dark stealing crewmembers and experimenting on them? Scared. The. Shit. Out. Of. Me.  Guh, just thinking about it gives me the willies.

Stressful stressness going on, so I spent today out doing things. Went to lunch with a buddy, then out to sell some used books. That was…interesting.

The first place, where I usually go, used to be staffed by a scrappy little guy from Queens, and he was friendly in the way of scrappy little guys from Queens, in that he was sort of cheerfully bitter and very talkative and on several occasions offered, in the nicest way possible, to have anyone who messed with me beaten and left under a bridge.

I can work with this.

Unfortunately he doesn’t seem to be working there anymore, and the daylight hours are now occupied by a grim older woman who responds just slightly less than the barest amount required for civility, makes no small talk, and generally gives the impression that someone has not only pissed in her cornflakes, but that she suspects you, if not actually the culprit, at least know who did it. Possibly you are even part of some broader cornflake-pissing cabal that are breaking into innocent people’s cupboards and leaving a trail of violated cereal boxes behind them. She just doesn’t know, does she?

Also, she buys next to nothing, shreds the bags they came in, and leaves bags and books in a heap on the floor by the door. Jeez, no wonder the cabal has it out for her.

Disgruntled, I took my remaining books to the bookstore a few miles away, with a stop at the hardware store to get some plastic bins to carry them in. (That’s fine. You can always use more plastic bins.) I was browsing among the stacks when the store owner approached me. "I’m done…" she said slowly.

I waited.

"You certainly have the oddest taste in books!"

I started laughing. I couldn’t help it. She couldn’t be blamed–there were random science fiction paperbacks, a few hardcovers like "Science of Fear" and "The Forest of Hands and Teeth," popular biology and gardening, some very nice illustrated children’s books, and at least one Giant Book of Illustrated Sex (or something similar.)

"Yeah…" I said. 

But she took almost all of them, which after I picked up a couple of mysteries and a Diana Wynne Jones I didn’t have, worked out to five dollars.

I gave the five dollars to a homeless guy on the way out of the shopping center. I got some free books and about two-thirds of a shelf worth of space out of the deal, so I figure I came out ahead.

Oof. Had very odd nightmare…I was wandering around a very strange zoo. It was nearly abandoned, and there were the usual not-really-real birds that populate my dreams. I was writing down the name of one–something called a Strangliers Gull, it looked like a giant flying penguin, and the guy running the popcorn cart stopped me.

"You shouldn’t do that," he muttered. "You should get out, now."

"Wha…?" I said.

"I’m taking a break!" he said loudly, to somebody who might be eavesdropping, and dragged me off to a door that was locked, the windows behind it dark. "I’ll show you." We went inside, and there was a whole ‘nother building full of exhibits, only animals that I’d never seen and didn’t exist as far as I know. One room was full of large black moths resting on silver plates. The only creature I saw clearly had four dog-like legs, but the body was a headless oval thing made of blocky ribs, like all those stylized drawings of fish skeletons, a picket fence of bones with feet.

"It’s called a fishthief," said my guide, petting it. A number of other employees had gathered around, looking frightened.

"There’s all these other animals back here?" I said. "In the other buildings, too?" 

He nodded. Then, from the other end of the building, I heard a mocking voice yell "I’m in your building! I’m coming for you!"

"Go! Run!" said my guide, and shoved me back out the door into the main building. The lights started turning off behind me, making that weird slamming mechanical industrial-lights-going-off-in-a-horror-movie noise. I ran, trying to catch up to the rest of the group–there were other people I’d come with, it was very confusing–and I ran into an aquaintence of mine. I don’t know her well, only vaguely socially. For some reason she was naked and extremely pregnant, and we started running, away from the encroaching dark.

I woke up about then. It was a very creepy dream in some regards, but I kinda wish I’d seen more of the hidden zoo animals. It’d be an interesting premise for something…I’ve been behind the scenes in a zoo, and while they generally do have animals off exhibit, (baby Gila monsters, eee!) I’m pretty sure they aren’t hiding a bunch of animals unknown to science in the bowels of the buildings. Still, it’d be neat…