Travel Theme: Sky

So, this week on the Ailsa Travel Blogging Network, and intrepid and mostly fearless leader is looking up at the atmosphere with a gaze of wonder. And just to go along with the theme, here’s a little mashup for Joss Whedon fans, involving Firefly and Agents of Shield: You can’t take Skye away from me.

Philip Island, Australia

Philip Island, Australia

The Empress of Victoria, Canada

The Empress of Victoria, Canada

Tiny town on the mountains of Mexico

Tiny town on the mountains of Mexico

Portland bloodshot

Portland bloodshot

;o)

Travel Thursday: Cinqueterre before the crowds

Unlike previous travel blogs, this one is gonna be edited rather than one smooth flow, because too many things happened that were just uninteresting. . . to other people; I liked them just fine. So feel free to treat the spaces in between paragraphs like two-second commercials, not long enough to go to the bathroom or make popcorn. Call ‘em blipverts. . . though I promise you won’t explode. . . from the blipverts, anyway.

I have this habit of not looking at a town, whether I’ve been to it before or not, until I’ve thrown my stuff down on the hotel’s bed and am squared away. So after finally getting the key I went up to my room to dump my stuff {not a euphemism} and look out the window at the perfect view; there was a reason this was my favorite room, and as long as I had it, I might as well use it. I thought of it as tradition as I reached for my camera, for despite all the times I’d shot this view through this same window, it just didn’t feel right unless I took a photo to start off the stay. Maybe I was trying to avoid a jinx, if you want to get metaphysical about it.

The name of this Terre, out of the Cinque, was Riomaggiore. Being the easternmost of the five towns, and therefore the first one you came to when driving from La Spezia, it was a little more touristy than the next three–we’ll leave the last one for later. As you might guess from the name, there was a river nearby, but it was hardly noticeable when up against the picturesque harbor where the boats were used more to add to the pretty than for actual fishing or sailing.

There was a flier on the desk in front of the window, with quotes and fun facts. One person, listed as anonymous of course, had obviously taken the view of the little valley in from the footpath leading from Manerola, for they’d said “the vertical buildings were leaning against each other, like someone stole their crutches.” Not bad, I grinned, in a Escher or Picasso or Dali sorta way.
The next tidbit informed me the pastel colors of the buildings, which I couldn’t really see from this angle, were enforced by the local government’s “commissioner of good taste.” At this point I sighed and dropped the brochure, then put my camera into my daypack so I could go hunt down some lunch.

I took in the upwards view. This village had a layout made up of a series of steep footpaths, some of which allowed direct access to the upper floors of some of the houses. I wondered if teens snuck out a lot at night, having that easy way outside. Not that there was much to do in this place, but on the other body part, there was only one thing for teens to do when sneaking out, right? Well, only one that really mattered, anyway.

Good thing everyone knew everyone else in this little village, I mused, figuring a tourist should tread gently if he knew what was good for him, something tourists in general were not usually prone to doing. Anyhoo, I went back up to my room to snatch up my backpack full of camera gear and other necessities, my brain making plans seemingly independent of the running of my body. I did stop to check the map, but only to confirm that the place I wanted to go right now was Vernazza.

Not long after I was stepping off the boat, then making my way through the town. There was one main street, running from train station to the sea, and a ruined castle at the top, but I decided to take the carrugi instead, the narrow lanes of steps that zigzag up to the top. You could go from harbor to castle on these and not see the views, but on the other hand they kept you safe from pirate attack till you got to the castle.
Unless the pirates had cannons, but that’s neither here nor there.

My hearing was even more attuned than usual, I thought as I heard snippets of dozens of conversations, and even some clanking of silverware. Then I remembered no cars were allowed in this town, except on market day to bring the goods in. No wonder it felt surreal.
I also noticed the architecture here was a bit different than Riomaggiore, a little ritzier, if that was the proper way of saying it. There was probably something written in the history books about why, but since I didn’t come to shoot buildings I resisted the urge to root through the guide book or ask.
After walking past the last building and turning away from the castle ruins, I found myself in rural territory, groves and vineyards and other fields with more ocean than sky as a background, once I turned around. Taking a few photos, I decided I needed to get a little higher for the perfect shot, and with a sigh my legs complied.
Having shot to my heart’s and eye’s content pretty quickly, I checked my complaining legs and felt they weren’t really barking so badly, so there was no need to go back down for the train or ferry. And since Lindsay wanted to take me on that shoreline walk later, there was no point going down to take that path either.

Cinque Terre had thousands of footpaths that crisscrossed the rural area above the seaside villages. Most tourists didn’t get off the coastal or main paths, missing delightful little side trips. Not that I had that much time right now either, so I headed back toward Riomaggiore, thinking I might get some shots along the way as well. I just hoped I wouldn’t get tired walking back now, then decided sunset was far enough away to allow me to take her to dinner first.

Dinner had basically been a continuation of lunch, mostly usual getting-to-know-you stuff without digging too deep. Soon enough we were off on our walk, heading along the shore to the next town.
The coastal path linked all five villages, making for a hike from the first village to the last that took about five hours. I doubted many tourists or even locals did the whole thing, at least not without stopping, but it was good to know in case I ever needed it.
Yeah, right. If I ever needed to get from the first town to the last in such a hurry, I’d take the train. And since I was here on vacation, I saw no need to worry about it now. Thing is, I’m such an information whore I can’t help but remember every little thing that might one day be of use.
I let the blonde babble on as I concentrated on the views in my camera as well as views of her, often managing to combine them. Despite her purported shyness, she certainly didn’t mind getting her photo taken, though she joked about not being charged my obviously exorbitant rates. When I’d asked if she was still talking about photography, she’d dropped that angle and moved on to the history of the area and such.
“This whole area is a national park now, as well as a UNESCO site, so there’s a fee, but at least the trails are better maintained.”
“If the money isn’t being diverted by devious bureaucrats, of course.”
“There is that. This town we’re heading for is called Manarola. Not that we’re going to check out the town, it’s the walk that’s the big deal, La Via dell’Amore.” Her hand squeezed mine.
“Lovers’ Pathway,” I said without showing my usual irritation at being so taken for granted. I’d been here so many times I could give tours, and soon enough I’d have to tell her, but for now I reigned it in and let her prattle.
“It’s a winding footpath along the coast, a thirty-minute walk. I assume you can handle that.” Smirk.

Luckily there wasn’t much she could say about the town we were heading to, because I knew there was a scarcity of historical info, for whatever reason. It made concentrating on her and the sights much easier.
“This is the shortest walk between towns, popular with artists and romantics.” She suddenly blushed and automatically squeezed my hand again, then gasped at herself.
And then we turned the corner in the rock face, and there was the town. Sheltered in a deep gorge between two promontory rocks was the little port that generated most of the eye candy, but the vertical pink buildings, a little brighter than usual in the sunset, added to the scene in a way I’d never seen here before.
I had her strike a pose by the railing so I’d get the whole town in the background. She seemed patient enough, so after I got the requisite shot, I waited a few more minutes until the sunlight was just as perfect as it would get. As soon as the shot was done she turned around to look.
“I love that!” she shrieked. “I don’t care if I ever see the photo. Just the fact that you wanted to take it, and framed it so well. . .”
Why can’t all women be that easy? I sighed.

We climbed up to the main part of town and found the streets full. “Isn’t it a caution the way everyone knows to come out at the same time?” she teased, knowing I liked her acting country, if not actually being.
I was glad to see her well out of her funk. “It’s the vasca.”
“The who?”
“Vasca is Italian for lap. . . not what you’re going to sit on later, but laps around a track, or in this case, the town. At this time of the day the locals go out to walk the main streets and say hi to their ol’ buds.”
“I see. I like it. We should do that back home.”
“Home as in Riomaggiore?”
“Home as in everywhere in the States! And they do it in Riomaggiore too.”

Corniglia was the middle of the five towns, and in my mind, the least interesting. It was all about wine, more like a little ag village in the middle of Italy. The highlight of the town, other than ways to get drunk, was the church. Bo-ring.

“I don’t know if this story is true, just heard it–”
“Hit me.”
“–but I figure you’d appreciate it. An American shopping in Rome, goes into a clothing store looking for a specific item. He wanted to say maglia–”
“Sweater,” she blurted before she could stop herself.
“Instead said moglie.”
Gasp. “Wife?”
“So the store girl asked what kind, and he said negra.”
Shocked. “Black?”
“More specific, the girl said, having a wonderful time, so he said pesante.”
“Heavy?” she hooted. “He was ordering a heavy black wife?”
“‘Why do you want that?’ the girl asked. ‘Riscaldarmi,’ he said.”
“Don’t know that one.”
“It means ‘to keep me warm.’ So by now there was a huge crowd howling at his every word–”
“Oh lawd, I hope that never happens to me!”

Monterosso al Mare was the westernmost of the Cinque Terre. Since I was well on the opposite side of the region, I took the boat. From the dock I walked through the tunnel under the castle to get to Old Town, from where I took in the view.
The village was topped by hills covered with vineyards and olive groves and was surrounded by vegetation, like the rest of them, but that was where the similarities ended. Its beautiful beaches, steep rugged cliffs and crystal-clear waters made it one of the most charming resorts in the whole of Italy. . . some said, anyway. I was no expert; all beach towns from Portofino to Cannes looked the boring same to me.
Glancing up as I trudged toward the house in question, I used my hands to frame a good shot of the medieval tower which separated the ancient part of the village from the more modern part. My memory was telling me the tower was called “Aurora,” but it wasn’t important enough to check right now. On the off chance anyone was watching me, I wanted to look like a tourist, so I reached for my camera and got a good shot before continuing.
This was the most resort-like town–cars and big hotels, real beaches with umbrellas–pretty much like any part of the Riviera. Big crowds, warm water, a promenade. . . bor-ring. . .

The rest of the story involves helping an old friend solve a murder mystery, so I’ll spare ya all the–yes, bor-ring–details. . .

;o)

Poetry Tuesday: Kissing Her Hair

This would not be my first, second or third choice as far as parts to kiss, but I guess everyone’s got a fetish. . .

By Algernon Charles Swinburne:

Kissing her hair, I sat against her feet,
Wove and unwove it–wound, and found it sweet;
Made fast therewith her hands, drew down her eyes,
Deep as deep flowers and dreamy like dim skies;
With her own tresses bound and found her fair,
Kissing her hair.

Sleep were no sweeter than her face to me,
Sleep of cold sea-bloom under the cold sea;
What pain could get between my face and hers?
What new sweet thing would Love not relish worse?
Unless, perhaps, white death had kissed me there,
Kissing her hair.

;o)

Travel Thursday: Funny St. Louis, part 2

If I’d figured out how to take a new award-winning shot of the Taj Mahal, after billions had, I figured, couldn’t I do the same with the Gateway Arch?
But before I could, to my surprise, I came across an overalls-clad tow-headed teen walking with a likewise blonde but much more interesting girl.
“What might that contraption be, good sir?” she asked with a wink.
Glancing behind them, I saw a guy in a white suit and heavy facial hair, all Mark Twained-out, and got the point. I don’t remember just how widespread photography was back in that part of the 1800s, but I let ‘er rip anyway. “It’s a picture taker, Miss Thatcher.”
“Oooo, so small. Take my picture, please!”
Like I needed to be told. I even let Tom Sawyer get in on a shot, then managed to hand my business card–the photography one–to the young actress playing Becky. There was a future supermodel if I’d ever seen one.
Then Tom Sawyer winked and said, “My mind is not for rent, to any god or government.”
How the hell had he known to reference Rush?
Oh yeah, the patch on my backpack.
I took in the Museum of Westward Expansion, conveniently located at the Arch’s base, for a few minutes, just long enough to check out all the Lewis & Clark stuff and some of the American Indian Peace medals–“world’s largest collection of!”–before chucking this scene. Finding the riverfront too busy for the frame of mind I wanted, I decided to head out west, much like the pioneers had from this spot, to Forest Park, and then, depending on my mood when I got there, either visit the art museum or the zoo.
After yet another reminder to shoot the train station before leaving town, I jumped on the requisite bus and we zoomed along, little traffic at this time of day, and got to the park quickly enough so that I didn’t start thinking about where I was going next. Or Starr, for that matter.
As it happened, the bus let us off pretty much right between the two possibilities, so I stood there turning my head from side to side, like a mule stuck between two haystacks. I checked my backpack and found I didn’t have my fast lens, which would make shooting art difficult, but then I wasn’t here to shoot. And how often did you come across a free art museum, after all? On the other hand, the museum’s website had very few examples of their artwork online, the fewest for an art museum since the Hammer’s in El Lay, but don’t get me started on that. . .
I noticed a few families, with plenty of kids in tow, had jumped off the bus as well, and were moving toward the zoo. There seemed to be an equal number of more sedate people heading off to the museum. . . or the Planetarium. . . or the Science Center, Natural History Museum, or Botanical Gardens.
And then an old man, dressed like he wanted to retain the dignity of his previous life but not able to afford new threads, carefully made sure his St. Louise Zoo cap was on straight before following the kids.
Chuckling, I followed too.
The next couple of hours were spent in silent contemplation and communing with nature, urban style. As usual, the reptiles were popular creatures, but because of that and the fact they were so icky, I walked right by. Though I did want to take a peek at something called a tuatara, simply because I’d been told the zoo taped their sexual encounters. I wasn’t going to ask why, and come to think it, I wasn’t that interested; maybe my curiosity did have boundaries after all.
I skipped the Discovery Corner too, not at all fascinated by the thought of having to deal and be around sugar-powered kids. The River’s Edge section was fun, though, affording plenty of photographic opportunities. Luckily I caught the stink in the air long before I arrived at the penguin compound, despite how easy they were to shoot, and managed to turn away before my stomach got involved. Though it did take my appetite for dessert away for a while. The grinning polar bear made up for it, though, and while the big white fluffy one didn’t quite bring my craving back, it did help me to forget why I’d lost it in the first place.
It wasn’t long after that I came across a restaurant called the Painted Giraffe, but being well-experienced with amusement-park-type food, I went for Ice Cream Oasis instead, where I “made do” with a waffle cone, which they claimed was “A World’s Fair Original,” and a pretzel. That should give me enough energy to un-hungry myself till dinner, which I hoped would be a big production that would leave Starr trembling in her high heels. . . with desire, of course, just making sure you got that. Not creepy at all. . .
And at that point, for some reason that I’m sure had nothing to do with the beautiful brunette I’d be meeting later, a whiny voice managed to push into my consciousness from a few tables down. I didn’t have to look over to know the speaker was blonde. . .
“I’m so thoroughly depressed!” came the sighing moan; I could picture her leaning over the table, cheek on palm.
“Why are you depressed? You know you’re the most desired woman in at least Missouri, if not the entire Midwest!”
Well, that obviously wasn’t true, I mused, unless they weren’t counting redheads.
“That’s true,” came the brightened tone.
Well, every stuck up bitch needed at least one enabler, I ruminated, finishing my cone in a hurry before they could ask for my opinion. I left in such a hurry I almost forgot the pretzel, but as always made a last look around, and in so doing noticed the whiny bitch looked exactly like I’d pictured. . .
Feeling happy for some reason now, I decided it was finally time for some heavy photography. . .
Having reached the end of the park, I realized those buildings across the street looked familiar, and it only took a few seconds before I remembered Washington University, a very highly ranked academic school as well as a monster in Division II women’s volleyball and a few other sports. Did I know any young ladies who were matriculated here at the moment? That took a longer trip through the memory, but I finally decided I didn’t, plus it was time to be getting back for a little rest before dinner.
Walking back to the bus stop, I fondly reminisced about a particular fine young cub; I’d been thinking of her as a filly, but the university’s mascot was a bear, and according to the digital camera I’d gotten some good shots of the polar one. We’d enjoyed each other’s company–talking about the girl, not the polar bear now–and she was a local gal probably still in the area, but I was sure she was married by now, with kids and a husband who had a lot to be jealous about. No, best to leave that a fond memory.
But as the bus drove back I recollected another girl who’d gone to that U; our first and so far only sexual encounter had ended disastrously before it really got very far, when I found out she spritzed perfume down there, and it was more than just my nose that was allergic to the smelly stuff. . . um, the artificially smelly stuff, that is. Just as bad was the embarrassment of showing up in the emergency room and having to tell the admitting nurse exactly where the allergic reaction had occurred. . .
I had enough time to nap and get that perfume memory out of his mind, not that I had to worry about being late, for Starr decided to be a typical woman and not show up at the appointed time. I spent a few moments regretting not getting a photo of her last night, then tried to picture her in my mind, just to make sure I’d recognize her, if she ever got hungry enough. The long dark hair was easy enough, and there was that tiny overbite that looked cute instead of. . . anything else, and also made up most of what was really an innocent look. Not that those huge dark eyes needed any help, but there was nothing childlike about either her body or the way she liked to show it off, so–
There she was, flashing across the window, and then trying to look like she wasn’t rushing as she entered the restaurant with a little flush that could be seen through the gloom. Telling the seater–not fancy enough for the French term for it–she was meeting someone, she took a deep breath and marched over to me, where I got up and greeted her with, “You run faster than you look.”
“Thanks. . . sorta.” But she smiled, and that was really all that mattered.
I helped her with the chair, not that she needed help, but she seemed to appreciate it, and I used the opportunity to look her over from a bit closer vantage. I liked what I saw, so there was no reason not to continue smiling at her as I sat myself back down and saw her beaming back at me.
Last night she’d looked like a beautiful woman in her early thirties. Tonight, in jeans and t-shirt peeking out through the leather jacket, she looked ten years younger. And I didn’t think it was simply the lack of makeup and power suit.
“I called ahead to reserve a bottle of my favorite wine,” she informed me somewhat shyly, probably hoping I wasn’t going to be a take-charge kinda guy like most of them. She took the bottle from the waiter, beamed happily, and made to pass it to me.
I took her hand instead of the bottle, not caring to check the label; she somehow managed to keep from slapping me. “I don’t drink, so go ahead and order whatever you want.”
“Good!” she gleamed, passing the bottle back to the smirking waiter, who started opening it. “I think I’ll need it. Got a long set tonight.”
“How long?”
“Twenty minutes. Got some place to be?”
“Trying to figure out when to hit the restroom. In the middle of the act, near the beginning. . . before?”
“I’d go with that one.”
“Give me a five minute cue.”
“You got it, stud.”
“Now that’s the first appropriate use of that word in a long time.”
“Ha! We’ll see. . .”
“Looking forward to it.”
Gulp! Did she just tell me she wanted to sleep with me? Sounded like it, and she knew it, even if it wasn’t true. Trying not to grin, she excused herself to hit the ladies’ room. “I’m probably sweating from my run. . . no, don’t tell me if I am.”
I hadn’t planned on saying anything, though the old cliché about sweat turning me on leaped momentarily into my mind, but she was gone before I could say anything. On the other hand, she did spend an inordinately short period away.
As soon as she returned she went with, “You didn’t roofie me, did ya?”
“You realize that someone who would roofie you wouldn’t admit to it just because you asked. Or at all.”
She waved that concern away and reached for a menu. I’d already chosen the steak, so she gave me the little waving go-ahead to order first when the waitress showed up. My detailed description of exactly how I wanted the steak had the waitress smiling and gave Starr more then enough time to choose a salad, figuring she’d make up for it with a big rich dessert.
“So,” she beamed once everything was settled, “I just got back from New York. Bet you love the place.”
“Sarcasm is saying the exact opposite for a laugh. You got the first part right, but it wasn’t funny. And you forgot the eyeroll.”
It took some doing, but she managed to ignore that. “I stopped at a cafe to get a sandwich and while I was waiting I decided to tune my guitar. Yeah, don’t ask why I had it with me, okay? I didn’t realize I’d left the case open on the ground in front of me. and a guy walking by dropped a dollar in my case. I wasn’t even doing anything! I think I’ll move to New York.”
“Not if the music fans in Noo Yawk think tuning is a song.”
“True,” she muttered, having already learned the best strategy for dealing with me was simply pretending to agree with everything I said. “But maybe the city can use another chemist, right?”
“They have plenty. Someone’s gotta refine the drugs before dealing them.”
“Ouch! They never taught us that in class.”
“Yeah, Bill Nye the Science Guy never did that episode.”
“Bill Nye rawks! I was so his bitch growing up!”
“Hmmm. In that case, I’ll pass on seeing you after the show. I don’t want a used bitch.”
Snorting her way through a chortle, she took a moment to write that one down. Then, pushing the envelope early, she asked, “So what can I expect after my show? Or does it depend on how good I am?”
“I won’t know how good you are till after. . . oh, you mean comedy-wise?”
“You just bought yourself an evening of whoop-ass, mister! I’ll show you!”
“Now that’s a comedian word if ever I heard one. Whoop-ass. Do you buy it by the can?”
“Don’t change the subject. When I get through with you, they’ll need a forklift to get you out of bed!”
Smiling gently–my own version of “Whatever!”–I reflected with that familiar faraway look, “Want me to tell you about the time I shot a porn star, a playmate, and a wrestling babe at the same time? Wow, what an orgy that turned into. . .”
After a few moments of gawking, she got that grin I’d already figured out and, before I could stop her, launched into her own story, though with the pauses she took to think up further raunchiness, I knew it didn’t stand a chance of being true.
A couple of tables around us quickly asked for their checks and hightailed it out.
“After that story,” I sighed, “I need a shower, but I’ll have to settle for washing my hands.”
“You saw which way I went. Want me to get you another 7-Up?”
“Please. I hope you can make it through the next few minutes alone.”
She was torn between waving me away and fake-pleading for me to stay, so she almost didn’t get any further than I had when she’d gone. But at the last moment, mostly without thinking, she managed to blurt, “Is that your tail I see between your legs?”
Smiling evilly over my shoulder, and winking at a woman at the next table who’d overheard–and hadn’t run out while Starr was telling her story–I cooed, “No, but I can see how you’d get confused.”
It felt good making a comedian laugh. And the other woman was laughing too, which might make Starr ease up a little. You never knew when a little female jealousy could work in your favor. . .
When I came back, I looked at my new drink suspiciously. “You didn’t roofie me, did ya?”
She grimaced, finally realizing how stupid that sounded. The food had arrived and, having waited dutifully for me to return, she now felt free to dig in, though not before pouring herself another cup of crushed and fermented grapes, the poor things.
“Tell me about yourself.”
“You tell me.”
“I asked you first!” she whined childishly.
“I asked you second, and two is more than one!” I replied in exactly the same tone. “See how you sound?”
“Okay then. I enjoy kick boxing and riding horses, though not at the same time.”
“Think how much better it would have been had you been able to simultaneously do both.”
Hiccupping slightly, she used the napkin daintily over her mouth, though she was sure I knew she was just wasting time. “Your big words are too much for me. See how there’s no way for this conversation to be anything but awkward for me?”
“Has that ever stopped you before?”
“Shush now. Your turn.”
“Starting when? Last month?”
“Never mind, I’ll have more fun guessing. You went to Oxford, where you got your degree in medieval lit, right?”
“More of a Cambridge man, but the weather is horrible no matter which. You were an ocean and a continent away.”
“Stanford, then?”
I cringed again. “UCLA.”
“And the lit?” she grinned again.
“Dirty westerns is as far back as my lit goes. . . except for the Egyptian Book of the Dead and certain codexes.”
“An archaeologist!” she proclaimed, clapping her hands and jumping like a little girl, while still sitting; that looked impressive. “In that case I want to talk to you. . . later.”
“You don’t want to talk to me now?”
“Not about archaeology, stupid. . . and don’t give me that wounded puppy-dog look!”
“With that attitude, I won’t tell you about the four-hundred year-old mummy I found in a castle in England, and the stuff I found with him.”
“Oh yes you will!” She grinned hugely. “Such stuff as dreams are made of!” Then she frowned. “I wonder what that’s from.”
“Prospero, The Tempest.”
She looked at me incredulously.
“Most people think it originated in the Maltese Falcon, but then, I doubt Bogart knew the origin either.”
She looked at me more incredulously.
“You don’t believe me?” I asked mildly, enough for her to be alarmed, even shocked back into reality.
“Of course I do! I was just waiting for you to give me the act, scene, line, so forth.”
“I don’t do that anymore. No one cares.”
“I care!”
“I don’t believe you.”
“Truthishly,” she swore.
“You’re drunk.”
“You’re sexy,” she slurred, then laughed. “Not on wine I’m not. You owe me a sex story, considering the one I just gave you.”
“You didn’t want to hear about that shoot–”
“I do now! No, actually, a different one.”
“Well, I could tell you about that gang of leather babes on motorcycles. . .”
“You got jumped by a bunch of leather dykes?” she hooted. “That’s not a sex story!”
“They were not dykes,” I said fervently. “Once they saw I couldn’t get away, they. . . they all. . . um, had their way with me.” Fake sob.
“All of them?” she gasped.
“Except the little fat one.”
“Huh? Was she a lesbian?”
“No, she just didn’t turn me on.”
“Bastard!” But she giggled instead of throwing the roll at me. “A nice guy with the kind of stamina you exude woulda done her too, not just the hotties.”
“Look who’s talking. Up to now you probably chose whom you slept with by their looks.” I tried to glare at her, but I wasn’t a good enough actor.
Chuckle. “What makes you think I won’t be doing that tonight?”
Glare. “So much for being honest.”
Not about to let me get away with that, she only smiled.
She didn’t speak much during dessert, as always savoring every morsel, which was what happened when you were militant about fitting into your sexy clothes. Nor was there much talking on the short walk to the club. She had to will herself not to hold my hand, wincing at the thought of what I’d say, joke-wise. Luckily we got there quickly and she went off to check the show order while I paid the cover.
According to the list in the hall, she was going first! Usually not prime, but perfect for tonight. I looked a bit startled at her speed, almost crashing into the table, then again pretending to be all coolness like when she arrived at the restaurant.
“Your five minute warning is here!” she piped, even giving me a mock-salute.
“Thank you for remembering that,” I chirruped, though somehow managing to sound serious, “but I already went. So you’re up first?”
“Convenient, isn’t it? Start thinking about how you’re gonna congratulate me for my upcoming awesome show.”
“In five minutes? Or do I not have to pay attention to it, now that I know it’s gonna be awesome?”
She snickered, “You won’t be able to help yourself, buddy. Now then, save the repartee for after, I gotta warm up my throat.” Smiling evilly, she waited.
“I’m saving it for after.” My smile was nowhere as evil, but somehow it got to her more than hers had.
Her face went scrunchy sideways. “Dammit, I gotta stop adlibbing. . .”
Quickly on stage, she started with one of her best jokes, getting the crowd’s attention, then drifted along for about five minutes, long stories with small payoffs, before ramping it up again to make sure no one left or fell asleep.
She sighed, then impishly grinned as she adlibbed, “Life’s a bitch. . . because if life was a slut, it’d be easy.”
Then she looked down at me, an oasis amidst the laughter; I was doing the “you naughty girl” thing with my eyes.
The spotlight was harsh enough to pick up her blush even from a distance, but she couldn’t let anyone guess its source, so she quickly barked, “Are you undressing me with your eyes, mister?” and shoved the mic in my face.
“Yes. . . but then I mentally redressed you in something much more flattering. You‘re welcome.”
She stared at me for a few seconds, then admitted, “Better than what I had.”
I would never know how she stacked against the following yuckers, for as soon as she finished and got some congrats, she was sitting across from me, eyes shining, breathing labored.
“Wow, is it that tiring, or does telling jokes turn you on?”
Having known me long enough, she smirked, “Both, baby.” She hesitated now, but only for a moment. “So, you gonna e-mail me tonight?”
“What for? What do you want me to say?”
She shrugged dismissively. “How much you enjoyed my show?”
“I can tell you that right now.”
“So tell me.”
“I’m still here.”
She winced. “I’ve had better reviews.”
“What, you don’t think I stayed with you because you’re a babe and I might have a chance at scoring with ya tonight, did ya?”
That earned me a hoot. “Okay, I deserved that one.”
Since she was being so gracious, I let that go without a reply. Or else I was stunned into silence.
And if it was the second possibility, she couldn’t leave it like that. “And what have you got planned for tonight?” she whispered, hoping I was going to say something about watching TV and going to sleep early, so she could give me a better alternative.
“Plans can always change, of course, but basically it involves taking you back to my hotel room, undressing you gently, placing you in the bathtub so I can wash off the sweat you generated from your run to the restaurant, then dry and lotion you up. . . everywhere. I will brush your hair, turn off the room lights and open the window to let in the moonlight, which will add just the right touch to the candles I plan to light, and make the most gentle and sweetest love you’ve ever experienced.”
“Rawr,” she whispered, completely blown away.
Smiling as I caressed her hand, I knew there was no way I was ever going to tell her I was making this up as he went along. . .
I’m deathly afraid of candles.
Not that she remembered any of that five minutes later, when we finally got to my room. From her little sexy growl she’d gotten up and motioned me up and on toward the exit. I’d purposefully walked slowly, just to see if she would place her hands in my back and shove me forward, just like the redhead had done last week. . .
Of course she had; it got the biggest laugh of the night.
I never did remember to shoot the train station. . . dammit.

Phone convo right before I left:
“You would never fall for a guy like me.”
“Why not?”
“You’re a professional comedian. To fall in love with someone funnier than you–”
“HA! You wish!”

;o)

Poetry Tuesday: Clockwork Angels

As happened a few months ago with Egyptology, I am inspired to do a poetry entry by something I went to see. Last night I went to the movie theater to see a Rush concert on the big screen, or as it turned out half of one, but that’s another blog. As far as reviews go, this is what HD and Dolby sound were made for; the experience was at times better than live. More to the point, it inspired me again to think that song lyrics are today’s poetry.
So with all that said, some of my favorite excerpts from Clockwork Angels

I was brought up to believe
The universe had a plan
We are only human
It’s not ours to understand.

You promise every treasure
To the foolish and the wise
Goddess of mystery
spirits in disguise
Every pleasure
We bow and close our eyes

Sometimes the angels punish us
by answering our prayers

Canyons and cactus
Endless and trackless
Searching through a grim eternity
Sculptured by a prehistoric sea

All I know is that sometimes yuo have to be wary
Of a miracle too good to be true
All I know is that sometimes the truth is contrary
Everything in life you thought you knew.
All I know is that sometimes you have to be wary
‘Cause sometimes the target is you

Believe in what we’re told
Until our final breath
While our loving watchmaker
loves us all to death

And of course the point of the whole endeavor:
In a world where I feel so small
I can’t stop thinking big.

;o)

Travel Thursday: Funny St. Louis

Fortified by a cheap yet tasty dinner in the hotel’s café, and with no woman to complain about not going to some fancy restaurant, I debated: should I go back to the room for some TV viewing, or find some other way to pass the night in this burg?
I asked the desk clerk for his opinion on this weighty matter. “Comedy club around the corner,” came the curt, alliterative reply.
Well, no tip for you, I harrumphed as I exited, not bothering to ask which corner; I’d find it.
Ten minutes later I was ensconced at a table in the back with a good view of the small stage, mostly due to there being hardly any crowd. The waitress assured me that would change later as she grumpily put the soft drink in front of me. What the hell was wrong with this town tonight? What happened to all the nice people I’d met before?
“Haven’t seen you before,” came the soft lilting voice standing beside me.
Okay, I have to work on keeping the telepathy, or wishful thinking, contained, at least until it would do me more good. I looked up, hoping not to find a hooker, though of course looks didn’t always tell the story.
I liked the story her looks were telling, though. The business suit seemed a bit incongruous, though with the blouse kinda wide open and the miniskirt very short, it didn’t hurt one single bit.
“Just visiting,” I finally replied, figuring I might as well keep the conversation going, at least until a comic showed up.
“Too bad,” she grinned. “I’m a better act than these guys.”
Well, things just got more interesting. So, was she a professional comedian who liked to dress up like this, or a businesswoman with a comedic dream?
I’d have to find out. . .
“So, thinking about it logically, does this mean you’re not performing tonight?”
She tried to look surprised, but ended up grinning to make sure I knew she was playing. “Unfortunately so. But if you’re still around tomorrow. . .”
“Convince me.” I pulled out the chair just enough so it wouldn’t hurt her.
She introduced herself as Starr, “with two r’s.” I didn’t ask if it was a stage name. Not playing straight face, but not guffawing either, I let her run through her best jokes, then told her, “Sounds good, but I’ll have to listen to some of these guys to see how you compare.”
“That’s hardly fair.” She did her best not-whine, almost succeeded.
“Life’s a bitch.”
Sigh. “Yeah.”
“Because if life was a slut, it’d be easy.”
Luckily for her a comic started his act, so she didn’t have to come up with a comeback, not that she had one. And luckily for the comic, she couldn’t stop laughing.
But as soon as that comic ended, she grinned wickedly and whispered, “You wouldn’t be afraid of having sex with me, would you, big guy?”
“I’d be afraid of what you had to say after! That seems like the only jokes female comics make.”
“Well, at least you’re not against female comics,” she sighed hammily. “Of course, if men were better in bed. . .”
“So you know for a fact you enjoy women more than men?”
She gaped into my grinning face, not having a comeback for that, and not expecting to have to think much tonight. She’d have to up her game if she was going to make me return tomorrow.
On the other hand, none of the comics so far had been very impressive, we both thought.
She hung out at my table for the next comic, who didn’t get many laughs even with this low-brow audience, and he seemed genuinely surprised when his joke about his uncle using Viagra bombed.
“Know why that didn’t work?” she whispered.
“Because it wasn’t funny?”
“Ha!” She suddenly looked around sheepishly, because that had come out too loud, but no one had noticed. “True, but that’s the kind of joke you have to make about yourself, otherwise it just seems sad.”
“If he’d made the joke at his own expense, would it have been funny?”
“Probably not,” she conceded.
“So he’s got too big an ego?”
“Exactly!”
I grinned at her; the exasperated glance she returned told me she’d caught my gist. Needing to recapture lost ground, in a way she knew never failed, she asked me if I could tell how old she was.
“That outfit makes you look older than you no doubt are, so I’ll say 28.”
She looked positively stunned, then wondered if I’d fudged then on purpose, then realized she felt too good to question it. “I’m 34, dummy.”
“Even better,” I grinned again, but didn’t tell her why, and she was afraid to ask.
“I’m not too old to be wearing these clothes, am I?”
That was an invitation to look her over, if ever there was one, though it was obvious to see that such a body begged to be showed off. Her breasts were large enough to make themselves known no matter how many buttons were done up, and her legs were too beautiful to hide as well.
And she knew it, of course. A little early in the relationship to be begging for compliments, I thought, but what the heck, if it got me in. . .
“You’re a leg man.” It was not a question.
“You’re a leggy woman.”
“That’s why I wear short skirts.”
“Oh, is that why?” I pretended to bend down to look under the table, but with a smirk she crossed her legs. “Don’t worry, I promise not to look up your skirt.”
She stared at me, waiting for the punch line.
“Oh! Unless you want me to.”
She couldn’t stop the chuckle, which kinda destroyed her entire scene. But she knew just how to get it back. “Just so you know,” she winked, “I don’t give blow jobs.”
That was interesting, for the moment, anyway. “Why not?”
“I won’t swallow sperm for the same reason I won’t eat eggs: I won’t ingest future children.”
“What about caviar?”
“Shit!”
“Yeah, that’s how it tastes to me too.”
She laughed meanly.
“So there’s not much to say about the egg thing, but giving oral sex doesn’t mean you have to swallow.”
“Damn, I knew eventually some guy would catch that!” She looked both annoyed and happy.
“I think you’re just a heterophobe.”
“Not THAT again!” Feeling like things were happening too quickly, she nervously got up and told me she had to convince a few more people to come to her show before she could rest.
“That shouldn’t be hard,” I grinned. “Should I save your seat?”
“Unless something better comes along.”
I laughed incredulously, and she firmed up and plastered her best fake smile back on before beaming it at a couple a few tables over.
Bored seconds later, I fought the impulse to take out the bag of sunflower seeds. I’d been trying to quit for a while now, without any kind of success. My last resolution had been to not salt till the afternoon, but I couldn’t remember one time I’d been able to hold out till lunch.
The manly thing to do would be to quit completely, but there was no chance of that; I was brave, but not that brave. Besides, to do such a thing would be against the public good. Nobody got as ornery as I did when I ran out of seeds, or gummy bears for that matter. Why, if I quit, I might end up killing somebody!
When looked at it from that angle, it was more like the continued digestion of salt was a personal sacrifice I was making for the good of others! Not just that, but I was actually being forced to compromise my health in the name of public safety. Why, I’m an unsung hero!
I reached into my pocket and hurriedly dropped some seeds into my mouth, yet again realizing how good it was to think things through.
Starr made a full round of the venue without much success, according to her estimate of how people should have reacted to her; the whole thing was written plainly on her face. She gave me a smile, then noticed one more stranger, in the corner, who was just sitting down. . .
Luckily, it was close enough for me to overhear everything, because we were between comics.
“Never seen you before,” she tried with a smile that was getting falser as the night wore on.
“That’s cuz I’m just here to perform,” he said with a slur and raised glass.
He might have been saluting her, or mistook her for a waitress as he asked for a refill. Either way, she didn’t like it. Drunks were never funny, especially those who thought they were.
But she didn’t leave fast enough.
“I got an idea: let’s play carpenter!”
Sighing, and against her better judgment, she asked suspiciously “How do we play that?”
“First we get hammered, then I nail you!”
“Huh. I can do a better routine in my sleep.”
Scoff. “Women can’t be comics.”
“Huh? Are you mental?”
“Just because all the guys who want to sleep with ya say you’re funny doesn’t make you funny.”
Furious, she went with, “Just because people laugh at your hideous face doesn’t make your jokes funny either.” Inwardly she cringed, knowing she sounded like an eight-year-old, but saw it got the job done.
Feeling both incredulous and irritated, though mostly at herself, she turned around and, asked me if the chair was still empty.
I passed on making a thorough check of the chair and merely pulled it out for her without looking away from the comic coming on stage. “Talk to everyone?”
“I scoped out the sitch,” she tried.
“I hope that stands for situation. Any commits?”
“Nope. You’re my only hope.” After a second, she added, “Obi-wan.”
I laughed. “That worked. I’ll definitely be here tomorrow.”
“Oh goodie!”
I stared at Starr, wondering how she’d managed to say that without moving her lips, only to find the particularly skanky-looking waitress–not the grouchy one that brought his first drink–had snuck up on us, depositing a fresh glass in front of me while not-so-subtlety ignoring Starr.
“I’m gonna nail that bitch,” she growled, though waiting till the waitress left.
“Figuratively, I hope.”
“No kidding.” She let the lesbian undertone go this time. “She’s all yours.”
“Not in a million. That’s lower than I can go.”
“Hell would wave down at you,” she agreed, happy to see me grin at that.
“Wanna hear about the time I had three major porn babes in the shower?”
“No!”
“Too bad. It was a crowning achievement.”
Of course, I’d been photographing them for a shoot, but she didn’t need to know that. Yet. Luckily she hadn’t made a joke about getting tested. Or else she was distracted by a familiar-looking guy taking the stage.
“So can I tell ya some jokes?” the drunk comic smarmed as he took the stage.
“Doubt it,” she muttered, then grinned at me.
“Don’t be catty,” I told her primly, and she laughed and poked me in the side. As always, I know women are comfortable with me when they think they can smack me around, even if it’s one of those little taps on the shoulder to cover their blushing.
“Master of innuendo,” I muttered after a particularly vulgar joke; luckily she wasn’t taking a drink at that moment.
“Hope you didn’t like his set,” she murmured as demurely as she could some minutes later. “I’m crying, but in pain, just so you know.”
“Yeah, I don’t think there’s a dry seat in the house.”
“Yeow!” But then she showed me the wickedness in her smile. “That one gets you dinner before the show tomorrow.”
“Really? Will you be there, or do you give out gift certificates?”
“Best you leave the jokes to me, stud. You just sit there and look pretty.”
“And eat.”
“And eat,” she admitted. “Don’t order eggs.”
“Looking at you makes me want bacon.”
No way was she touching that one! But she couldn’t help some lip-licking and, “Mmm, can’t wait for tomorrow.”
I opened my mouth to tell her she didn’t have to, but she grinned as she put a finger to my lips, then got up and left.

{Don’t worry, there’s travel stuff coming on the next installment. . .}

;o)

Poetry Tuesday: Against Love

Katherine Phillips lived in the 17th Century, which I guess makes it no surprise she died at 33. To think of all the poems she never got to write. . .
As for the title. . . she married a guy almost 40 years older. Nuff said. . .

Against Love
Hence Cupid! with your cheating toys,
Your real griefs, and painted joys,
Your pleasure which itself destroys.
Lovers like men in fevers burn and rave,
And only what will injure them do crave.
Men’s weakness makes love so severe,
They give him power by their fear,
And make the shackles which they wear.
Who to another does his heart submit,
Makes his own idol, and then worships it.
Him whose heart is all his own,
Peace and liberty does crown,
He apprehends no killing frown.
He feels no raptures which are joys diseased,
And is not much transported, but still pleased.

;o)