"It was imprudent of us, in the first place, to become authors. We could have become something regular, but we managed not to.
We were lucky, but we were also determined." Roy Blount Jr

"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

More thrilling Break activity

Day 4

  • received telephone call from a friend
  • drove to one of the nation's most prestigious boarding schools to meet a different friend for lunch in the Refectory (pictured below). He's a department chair and faculty member.
  • observed to him that the exquisite and generous slice of German Chocolate Cake was definitely not appropriate Lenten fare
  • ate it anyway

  • visited a carwash. I was the first driver to enter after the Car Wash Repairman finished his work. Consequently, my writer's imagination ran amuck imagining one horrific scenario after another. What if he didn't connect the wires properly? Could I be crushed by the sprayer? Gosh, $8 is a lot of money for soap and water, is there a refund if my car doesn't get clean? Could this be a diabolical form of infinite water torture? Why is it so hot in here? What's that funny smell--poison fumes? Am I feeling faint? When is that door going to open and let me out of here? Damn, I haven't got my mobile phone. I'm doomed.

  • emerged safely from the car wash, my big black Saab transformed from one of the filthiest vehicles in region into the cleanest and shiniest. The soap 'n' soak cycle miraculously removed the disgusting white coating of salt, grime, road dust, mud, etc.
  • on my way to the Post Office, felt superiour to drivers of very, very dirty cars
  • nearly got run over in the P.O. parking lot as I stood there stunned by the gleam and glisten of my own clean (still dripping) Saab
  • during my homeward journey, admired the historic Meetinghouse in its new location behind the historic Town Hall (didn't stop, it's a drive-by shot)

  • talked on the telephone with the same friend who called me in the morning
  • telephoned the Chap
  • found out he'd paid only $2.50 to clean his small Saab at the self-serve car wash near his office
  • didn't care that he was more thrifty than me (as usual)
  • read emails received at my legislator email address regarding controversial issues
  • greeted the Chap enthusiastically when he got home
  • cooked dinner
  • ate it
  • watched 24

    Day 5

  • returned telephone call concerning a "faith in public policy" conference
  • rang the UK to renew an overseas magazine subscription
  • threw red ball for Ruth till one of us became uncooperative
  • shopped online for embroidery kit (several ladies in the Legislature do handwork...mostly knitting. I haven't knitted since I was 12 years old, but I love embroidery)
  • blogged again
  • ate brunch in the sunroom
  • wrote a novel (more accurately, a very small portion of one)

    more pictures from our afternoon on the Big Lake

    Standing on top of the water we swim in during the summer

    Ice formation clinging to a rock beneath our dock

    The winds whip down the bay and push up the water under the ice, making it bend and buckle like this

    A bright spot in the woods, where the beech saplings hold fast to their leaves

  • Sunday, February 25, 2007

    How I'm Spending my Break

    Day 1: Friday

  • blogged about Thursday
  • started reading novel
  • magazines read: W (featuring a fab article about African-American artist Kara Walker, whose work I've seen in galleries and admire greatly) and Publishers Weekly (so where's their review of my cousin's debut novel, anyway?)

    Day 2: Saturday

  • did my '06 taxes (Oh, What a good girl am I!)
  • finished reading novel (most excellent!)
  • magazines read: Preservation, Condé Nast Traveler, Yankee, Vogue (featuring a great article by food critic Jeffrey Steingarten about having his own personal chef for a couple of weeks...decided I couldn't easily give up control of my kitchen and shopping, or eat gourmet lunches and dinners every single day.)
  • watched The Independent Spirit Awards for indie films on IFC followed by my adored A Man for All Seasons all by myself because the Chap went to a nonprofit fundraising party to which I didn't go because I'm seriously On Break

    Day 3: Sunday

  • went to church and attended the adult Via Media forum afterwards
  • returned to the Lodge and ate a pear for lunch in the sunroom
  • drove up to the cottage on the Big Frozen Lake with the Chap and the girls
  • watched the Aquatherm propeller whizz the water (to keep it open and prevent freezing around our precious pilings)
  • bitched about visible winter damage to our dock (which the Aquatherm and all those costly $$$ metal pilings we had installed 2 years ago are supposed to prevent!)
  • shot 192 awesome photographs

    ~~a very tiny teeny weensy small sampling~~

    Ruth's preferred swimming spot, with sandy beach. Looks as if we'll have a bit of a wait till we can open swimming season again! (The trucks are parked on the lake.)

    Our next-door cottage neighbours arrived just as we did (coincidentally, not by pre-arrangement). They strapped on snowshoes for the short hike to their compound.

    Ruth, our little snowplow, ascending a snow wall.

    Your blogger, posing on our dock with Ruth and Lola.

    My best artsy shot of sunlight on ice with mountains behind.

    My other best artsy shot: Still Life with Legs (Theirs!)

    The only, lonely bobhouse (ice fishing hut) in our part of the Bay. We saw lots of snowmobiles passing by. And many small sightseeing planes.

    A plane landing at the Tip o' the Bay, where there's an active seasonal landing strip.

  • mourned the pile of rubble that used to be the Pavilion overlooking the Bay (destroyed by fire a couple of months ago)
  • returned to the Lodge with takeaway Singapore Noodles from Ping's
  • shopped online for Stuff Seen in Vogue: beautiful satiny top, 2 shampoos (1 for me, 1 for dogs)
  • drank caipirinha
  • blogged about my Break
  • logged off
  • sat down to watch pre-Academy Awards red carpet shows
  • smiled on exhausted dog beasts sleeping very deeply on sofa and carpet
  • looked forward to doing same--in my own bed--whenever Academy Awards are over

  • Friday, February 23, 2007

    Public Hearing...Rapid Blurbing...Winter Break!

    Oh, what a week! Three consecutive days of legislating has taken its toll.

    Yesterday morning I arrived at Representatives Hall for the public hearing. Tables, chairs, our nameplates and microphones were set up for our committee members in front of the well. Our Chairman moderated from the Speaker's Chair. Microphones were set up in the aisles. Many, many members of the public attended, from one end of the state to the other, and side to side.

    And there we sat, confronted by a couple of hundred faces--or more. If not for my prior experience of public events and appearances, it might have been nerve-wracking and/or intimidating.

    All the persons giving testimony--on both sides of the issue--were passionate, committed, informed, and experienced. Mostly I listened and took notes, but I did ask some questions and received enlightening answers.

    Altogether, the hearing lasted nearly 5 hours. We began at 10 and took a lunch break around 12:30. The Chap was there for the latter part of the morning, meaning we were able to lunch together in the House Cafeteria, aka "The Dark Dungeon." Its lack of ambience is appalling, but the soup and cookies on offer are always tasty!

    My man and I settled at our favourite table (close to a dungeon window high up in the dungeon wall) and I was able to vent a little bit--actually, a lot. After hours of sitting quietly hearing other people, I really needed to speak! And emote.

    We re-convened at 1. A camera crew was filming in the corner. From the badges the interview participants were wearing, it looked as though the interview involved both supporters and opponents of the legislation. I'm really not sure what was going on, and I didn't recognise the crew.

    You can see the semi-circle arrangement of the committee's tables at the bottom of the shot.

    While waiting for the crowd to re-assemble and the rest of the committee and our Chair to emerge from the Dungeon, some of us whipped out our cameras for a photo-op. A committee colleague snapped me at the table.

    To my own eyes, I look disconcertingly official. (That nameplate!) It's not like I've never been dressed up in nice clothes and seated at a table, but in my previous experience I was surrounded by stacks of books for autographing.

    We then heard another 2+ hours of testimony.

    I'm deliberately not mentioning the specific legislation, or its sponsor. There's controversy and conflict attached to it (and him) and I don't want any of it migrating to my blog. An identical bill was defeated when last proposed, a decade ago.

    The vast majority of speakers, email and letter writers, and phone callers are in strong opposition to it. The minority supporting the bill made a very strong emotional appeal. Our Chair, wisely I feel, did not allow any "show and tell" of the items referenced in this legislation.

    In a couple of weeks or more our committee will make its determination. It promises to be an interesting discussion.

    I choose to describe my experience because it's another of those "firsts"--plus, on my committee a public hearing this big and high-profile is not the norm.

    After the hearing adjourned at 3 p.m. the committee members picked up their voluminous stacks of printed testimony--and our nameplates--and hurried over to the Legislative Office Building for an Executive Session on four bills. (At that late hour, we barely had the necessary quorum).

    According to the rules, the person who moves consent to a bill is responsible for writing the blurb (description) to be printed in the legislative calendar. For most members of the House, this pithy précis is the only information they'll have about the substance of the bill and the committee's rationale in decision-making.

    Our Chair wants to ensure that all committee members get a chance to blurb...and most of the people present had already done so. When we came to final bill, and after we passed the amendment attached to it, it was time for somebody to move consent.

    The Chairman looked over at me.

    "Representative Porter, you haven't written a blurb yet, have you?"

    I didn't want to be unhelpful, but because I respect the importance of a decent blurb and seriously doubted my abilities, I expressed reluctance. Blurb writing happens immediately after the Exec. Session, and it must be approved by the Chairman and handed over to the committee secretary for typing practically on the spot.

    We were short-handed, so I responded to the need. Bowing to the inevitable, I consented to move "Ought to Pass." Which it did.

    You'd think, for a professional, award-winning, Who's Who designated author, cranking out several sentences--a single paragraph--would be a no-brainer. Unfortunately, I had no brain left. I felt numb.

    But I did it anyway. As blurbs go this one was about as easy as they come. Our decisions on the amendment and the bill were unanimous. It was non-controversial--granting an easement to the Fish and Game Department for dam maintenance and allowing public recreational access to a specific water body located in a conservation area.

    You wouldn't believe how much angst I suffered over the hundred or so words that I hastily composed. Compared to a 100,000 word novel it was nothing. But I'd never done this before, I'm a perfectionist addicted to revision, and I had to complete this task in a matter of minutes. So I scribbed a first draft, then made a fresh copy of a second draft. I honestly don't know if it's a good blurb or a sucky blurb, but the Chairman (who was writing a blurb of his own) approved it. I thanked him for "making" me blurb, and thanked God the secretary was able to read my scrawl.

    When I fled the LOB just before 5 p.m. I did so with a major sense of accomplishment. And relief.

    And a soaring sense of liberation. As of today, my Winter Break has begun. I won't return to my duties in House until March 6th.

    I shall be older then, the result of celebrating a birthday in the interim, but probably no wiser.

    Wednesday, February 21, 2007

    Ash Wednesday

    Yesterday my committee met in our conference room at the Legislative Office Building, for public hearings followed by an Executive Session. In the morning, while passing through the underground tunnel that connects the State House and the LoB, I met the Governor coming from the LoB where he had been testifying at a hearing.

    I hated American Idol last night. Several guys who, in my opinion, shouldn't have got passed forward to the Hollywood round proved me right.

    This morning we had another joint session of the House and Senate, attended by the Governor and various judges, for an an address on the judiciary issues by the Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court.

    After the joint session, we had a House session, voting consent on various bills. (Meaning they'll be passed over to the Senate.) We had a couple of roll call votes. The majority party prevailed.

    The House session lasted till after 1 p.m., by which time everybody was starving. Several committees were meeting in Executive Session this afternoon, but not mine.

    The major upcoming event in town is moving the old Meetinghouse. The re-location will begin in the early hours of Sunday morning. On the way home I passed the warning sign informing drivers that the highway will be closed between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m.

    I shot the church (while stopped by a red traffic light!) It has already been lifted up from its foundation in preparation for the move. There's a gap now beneath the building, you can see if you look closely.

    I returned to the Lodge to find more telephone messages about the bill that has its public hearing in my committee tomorrow morning. It's expected to draw a large crowd (mostly of opponents) so we'll have the use of Representatives Hall. I've received dozens of emails (mostly in opposition) and I don't know how many telephone calls and messages. I'm leaning one way--probably not the way my party would like-- but will listen respectfully to both sides of the debate.

    Tonight our church holds an Ash Wednesday with Imposition of Ashes.

    Afterwards, the Chap will watch American Idol and I shall probably stick my nose in a book or magazine (and my fingers in my ears!)

    Monday, February 19, 2007

    Monday at the Lodge

    We had a busy Sunday, so we're in recovery mode. Luckily the Chap can spend today at home, thanks to all those Presidents we're honouring. I expect a day of telephone calls related to a controversial bill coming up in my committee on Thursday. So far this morning I've had 3 or 4 of them.

    After church yesterday we returned home for lunch. The snow flurries came fast and thick, but didn't last long.

    In the afternoon we returned to church for our parish Mardi Gras potluck dinner.

    Everybody brought a favourite hot dish--jamalaya, chicken curry, cassoulet (moi), chili--or salad or dessert or appetiser. Among the desserts was a traditional King Cake decorated with green and purple and gold sugar. (Anything featuring almond paste makes me happy!) I wasn't the one to find the little pink baby baked inside, but the cake was sufficient reward in itself, it was absolutely delicious.

    Here I am, post-party, taking a break from clean-up. The Chap gave me those beads I'm sporting--he acquired them at Mardi Gras in New Orleans only a few weeks before we met, back in...well, it was a very long time ago!

    During our homeward drive, we saw a deer leaping a snowbank on the side of the roadway.

    We watched the premiere of the all-star edition of Amazing Race. Some of the contestant couples are ones that I've loathed in the past, so this will be hard going for me. The Chap loved it.

    It was extremely windy all night, and so far today. The temperature is way back down in the low digits but isn't supposed to stay.

    Saturday, February 17, 2007

    Wolf Mountain

    Ever since our blizzard, Lola begins every morning by vaulting over Wolf Mountain, the pile of accumulated and shovelled snow on our deck.

    How'd I do?

    Exceptionally well--especially for a 14-year old!

    Second attempt. Ruth, little buddy and official "spotter," takes the low road. With the photographer blocking the path, achieving the necessary height and speed proved difficult.

    Yesterday, during my journey to the capital city to legislate, traffic was stopped for some pole work near the home of a friend and fellow legislator.

    Presumably the crew were raising the power lines in preparation for moving the meetinghouse. And after that Training Center Open House the other day, I'm so very well-informed about linemen!

    My committee held several public hearings in the morning and afternoon, followed by our first Executive Session--all postponed from Valentine's Day, due to the snowstorm. A long but productive day. Our Committee Chairman brought brownies and placed them in our committee office for all to enjoy. He claimed to have baked them himself. Delicious!

    It's a beautiful Saturday, over 30 degrees. We sat in the sunroom to finish reading the morning paper.

    The interlude was briefly interrupted when a member of the public rang me, to express her opposition to pending legislation in my committee. This occurs with increasing frequency. While scribbling notes on the back of an ancient shopping receipt, I realised I must install notepads and pens beside every telephone in the house.

    Thursday, February 15, 2007

    A World of White and Blue

    Subtitle: Everything Looks Pretty with Snow & Sunshine

    For example....

    The State House, where this morning a joint session of the House and Senate heard our Governor's budget address. (Gentle readers, I paused to take this photo specifically for your viewing pleasure. Even though the temperature was 9 degrees F--also known as effing 9 degrees--while being whipped by winds of 20 mph.)

    The historic Old Meetinghouse, which on Saturday our town voted to save. It will be picked up and moved, intact, and relocated to a property farther along the highway on Feb. 25th. (I hopped out of the car for this one. It was 15 degrees, and still very windy, hence the slightly tilted frame. I was snow blind and shivering. All for you!)

    Closer to home, the Old Tree by the stone wall on the hilly road that leads to our little lake. (Hilltops are extremely windy. I heard branches breaking in the woods behind me.)

    A few yards from the Old Tree, a view up to the deer meadow. (My feet were so cold trudging through snow, despite my shearling lined leather boots.)

    And the little lake itself--no longer a sheet of ice, but a sheet of ice topped by a foot of snow, give or take. (Call me a wimp, but for this one I merely lowered my car window and pointed the camera .)

    Wednesday, February 14, 2007

    A Valentine's Day Blizzard is Fun!

    Fun for the camerawoman:

    Snow shedding off the roof

    Front yard white-out

    Today the Sun Room becomes the Snow Globe Room!

    Fun for the Canines

    Ruth and Lola snow-leaping on the big deck

    Ruth races through the deep snow

    Exhausted after play.

    While the girls nap, the Chap and I will enjoy the hot coccoa we earned for the first wave of shovelling out....

    Valentine's Eve & Day

    Lola slept through the second night of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. The Chap missed the first hour by watching American Idol on a television upstairs.

    Ruth, on the sofa with me, got very interested when the Herding Group took the ring.

    Look, a Border Collie! Like me, only bigger! And purebred.

    James, the English Springer Spaniel, was my choice for Best in Show--can I pick a winner, or what? The Chap liked the Akita, my second choice.

    We were thrilled about the Pedigree Challenge, which raised $1.1 million to help rescue and shelter dogs find homes.

    To backtrack a bit, I had a quiet Wednesday morning and an active afternoon. Did some shopping for the parish Mardi Gras dinner to be held Sunday night. On the way home I voted in the special town election--to determine whether our town will accept the donation of the historic meetinghouse, circa 1861, in danger of being demolished due to the construction of a convenience store. For about a year I've been writing supportive editorials and letters to the editor and attending meetings. Of course I voted yes!

    Came home, threw together a crockpot chicken curry, and headed out to an Open House at the new Training Center the power company has established in the next town. (Local legislators were invited to attend, and did, along with the Chief of Police, the Fire Chief, a couple of Selectmen, and local citizens.)

    I don't know when I've had so much fun, or learned such cool stuff! We toured the facility, which has some state-of-the-art training models. We saw the innards of transformers and cables. We had a tutorial in the equipment--I now know how heavy the linemen's tool belt is and things with the cleats they wear on their legs. I put on one of the work gloves, also very heavy. (The PR person is supposed to send along a picture of me wearing that giant glove!) Everybody, from the bigwigs to the trainers to the public relations staff were so proud, of the facility and their safety record and the reputation of their line crews.

    I will never look at power lines or poles the same way again.

    After the tour we had cake and coffee.

    In the evening, just before the dog show started, one of our Selectmen phoned to announce that the old Meetinghouse is saved--the town voted to accept the building and move it to the town-owned property occupied by new library and our historic Town Hall.

    We're having a White Valentine's Day. This snow is a birthday gift to Lola, who has turned 14. When we adopted her 12 years ago, on February 17th, she'd just turned 2, so we chose this for her birthday.

    Due to the impending blizzard, it was announced late yesterday that all Senate and House activities were cancelled at the State House. This is fairly unprecedented. My committee had numerous hearings and an executive session, which have been rescheduled. The Chap's office had a late opening this morning. I predict an early release for him, because the conditions are supposed to worsen as the day wears on.

    At the moment we've got about 5 inches on the ground. Could get as many as 12, or more, by the time it ends tommorrow--when we have a joint House and Senate session to hear the Governor's budget. That won't be cancelled.

    Here's Ruth, flying up the snowy back steps this morning.

    Ruth and Lola stalk a red squirrel they've just chased off the deck.

    The Valentine's Day bounty. We'll open cards and gifts as soon as the Chap gets home.

    Happy Valentine's Day to all!

    Monday, February 12, 2007

    Monday Mutterings

    Can you spot two dogs in this photo?

    How about this one?

    Here at the Lodge, it's a lazy day for those of the canine persuasion. They're recovering from last night's Grammy telecast.

    We all enjoyed the show. The reunited Police were fantastic--left me wanting more and more and more. And why not a set, why just Roxanne, which wouldn't have been my tune of choice? Chicks (of the Dixie and Mary J. Blige varieties) ruled! Lionel Richie--who knew? I smell a comeback. Would've preferred hearing Earth, Wind and Fire on their own than backing Ludacris and Mary J. We had to wait way too long for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but it was worth it. Well, maybe not for the janitorial staff, responsible for the clean-up afterwards!

    The necrology saddened me, as always. We lost many great spirits in the past year....Two felt like personal losses. Ian Copeland, responsible for the creation and nurturing of so many of my groups. And Phil Walden, a force of nature and an influential Southern music maven.

    The late great Phil's first wife was my first swimming teacher. I don't blame her for my lack of proficiency. Subsequent teachers were no more successful. My own limitations account for the fact that the only stroke I've perfected over the years is a singular one more nearly resembling the "dog paddle".

    When not scoping out a presidential candidate or attending church, I kept close to home with my eyes glued to the windows, watching those bird feeders. It was the weekend of the Backyard Bird Survey sponsored annually by the Audubon Society. Here's the result I'll be submitting to the organisation:

    12 blue jays
    6 juncoes
    6 chickadees
    2 red-breasted nuthatches
    2 titmouses
    2 mourning doves
    2 downy woodpeckers (1 male, 1 female)
    2 hairy woodpeckers (1 male, 1 female--last week's rescue bird!)
    2 American goldfinches
    1 nuthatch
    1 sparrow (whose type I've not yet identified to my satisfaction)

    3 grey squirrels
    2 red squirrels

    Unfortunately, our cardinal pair have been absent the past few days, so they aren't included.

    Weather prognosticators warn us of a mid-week snowstorm. Could this be the Big One? All winter we've been waiting for a real blizzard, with accumulation that's deeper than wee Ruth is high. She enjoys the snow, but so far her snow plowing skills really haven't been tested!

    The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show begins tonight. There's 2-hour broadcast of 24. Shaping up as a major "viewing conflict"!

    Saturday, February 10, 2007

    Hillary Is Here

    Please Note: This report is in no way an endorsement!

    The phone started ringing at 7 p.m. last night (Friday), and kept ringing. By 8:30, I had 3 offers of VIP tickets to Hillary Clinton's appearance in our capitol city.

    Although I'd intended to spend a quiet Saturday at home with the Chap and the girls, I agreed to accompany a fellow State Rep to the Hillary-fest. Because it was "historic"--Hillary's first incursion into the Granite State since declaring her candidacy. A decade ago, the last time she was here, she stopped by to help re-elect her husband.

    This weekend she came solo.

    Confession time. I would happily have traded the single VIP Hillary ticket I accepted and the two tix I declined for a single admission to Barack Obama's Monday evening event in a nearby university town. On the other hand, it's entirely possible I can score a special seating ticket for his town hall meeting, if I try.

    The candidate started her busy day in an economically challenged town way up North, then worked her way down state. The doors of the high school opened at 1:15, and we were admitted to the gymnasium where the high school band was playing with great enthusiasm.

    My section was definitely the place to be. I was ushered to the 5th row of the VIP area, among many other state legislators--mostly female. The crowd was made up of boomer men and women, some senior citizens, and lots of high school kids. I spotted plenty of civilian acquaintances in the bleachers and elsewhere.

    Promptly at 2:00, our State Senate President took the stage and made some remarks. She then introduced a newly-elected U.S. Congressman (mine, in fact), who entered with the candidate.

    Hillary addressing the crowd. She uses a lot of hand gestures.

    Secret Service dude in the front row.

    Hillary listens attentively to a question from the audience.

    Needless to say, I wasn't the only photographer present!

    According to CNN's report, attendance was 2000 persons. Sounds about right to me. There was no vetting, which explains why not all the questions were softballs.

    With the egregious front-loading of the primaries and caucuses, by this time next year we'll have two Presidential candidates, and will be faced with the longest Presidential campaign in history.

    I picked up one piece of swag--a campaign button with a photo so unflattering and scary that I recommend the campaign withdraw it from circulation immediately.

    I'm doubting this was market-tested. If so, I shudder to think what the other options might've been!

    While I was hastily proofing this post, my phone rang. Here we go again! A representative from the campaign of New Mexico's Governor Bill Richardson, another Presidential hopeful, invited me to an event next Saturday.

    I am not making this up!