frogg files

"She could never be a saint, but she thought she could be a martyr if they killed her quick." --Flannery O' Connor

Friday, May 25, 2007

Arrival: Louisville

Well, I've arrived in Louisville, the 16th largest city in the world (as a billboard in the airport proudly proclaims) after two uneventful flights. Woo-hoo!

I took a taxi to my bluegrass digs, an experience which became a crash course in why honesty is not always the best policy. Remind me that, in future, it will save me a lot of trouble if I just don't make small talk with cab drivers, particularly if they are Middle Eastern/North African. And if I disregard your sage advice and talk to them anyway, remind me that when they ask the inevitable question (i.e., "Are you married?") the answer is always YES. Yes yes yes! Because if it isn't I will proceed to be peppered with the other inevitable questions, to wit, "Why not?" and "How long are you staying here? One day? Two days?" and "If you want someone to take you around Louisville, I will take you."

(And before you all yell at me about how prejudiced and bigoted I am, let me point you to my profile where you will see that I am of Middle Eastern descent. So keep your galabeyah on, OK?)


The weather in Louisville today is better than it's been in California for the past couple weeks. Go figure.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

My Ol' Kentucky Home

OK, so it's not home exactly. But anyway, I'm off to Louisville tomorrow night, to start my second semester in my creative writing program. Which means, of course, that I am currently in the throes of last-minute-packing panic. Argh!

Hopefully I'll get a chance to update the blog while I'm away, but if not, see you after June 3! Be good, and as always... miss me, my darlings!

Kisses from the frogg princess...

Monday, May 21, 2007

Weekend Tasting

This past weekend I high-tailed it out of Dodge (i.e., Los Angeles) and headed north to the Paso Robles Wine Festival in, um, Paso Robles. My brother the Pod Person has a friend who owns a winery called Vihuela, and his friend needed volunteers to assist in his booth at the festival. Which means I was conscripted into being, of all things, a "booth bunny" of sorts. I know, I know... my feminist nature could hardly bear the shame. (But I placated her with plenty of wine, so it's all good.)

The festival was on Saturday, and many more wineries than I care to count were represented. People were friendly and fun, and it's a different atmosphere from the formality and old-schoolishness of Napa, though I love visiting the wine country up there, too. The Central Coasters, however, were as laid-back as you could get. I was worried that, since I was pouring wine for visitors to our booth, I'd be expected to actually know something about wine, and be able to use words like "tannic structure" with a certain degree of knowledge. Thankfully, this was not at all the case. People came up with their glasses, said, "What do YOU like?" and I'd say, "This one," pour it, and everyone would be happy. It was great!

And in case you are wondering, the one I liked was a playful red called Concierto de Rojo, a blend of Syrah, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. A light, fruity wine that avoids being sweet; full-bodied with a nice little kick at the finish... a casual wine that's good anytime. Try it chilled, too—very refreshing!

Hmm, that last paragraph almost made it sound like I know something about wine. But don't let me fool you, because if I learned anything this weekend, it was how to fake like I do!

OK, back to the festival. Some highlights... trying out a "Tobintini" at the Tobin James booth (that would be their sparkling wine mixed with a wine called Liquid Love—how could that NOT be good?!), discovering a flavorful temperanillo by Silver Horse, a drunk guy who wanted to know if my friend and I would be waiting for him and his buddy in their motel room that night (how romantic!), getting to wear really cool-looking T-shirts as our "uniform", being told I was really good at applying temporary tattoos (who knew that that was one of my many talents?), seeing a minor celebrity (I actually didn't recognize him because I don't watch television, especially reality television, but according to my ecstatic friends it was one of The Bachelors of TV's "The Bachelor" fame, a certain young Mr Firestone), and getting a really bad headache at the end of the day (oh wait, that was not a highlight—my mistake!).

Side note: I think I broke a record just now for how many parenthetical phrases I could fit into a single sentence. Woo-hoo! I will now proceed to give myself a Frogg Award for Parenthetical Excellence. You may applaud at will.

Thank you, thank you. *bows*

OK, now back to our regularly scheduled post:

On Saturday, I helped out at the party hosted by Vihuela at their vineyard, where they had a BBQ, wine tasting, and a fun live band called Incendio. My various jobs consisted of selling tickets for the band and BBQ (which I discovered that I'd been doing wrong after I'd been at it for an hour or so), directing parking in the parking lot (which I let one of the other volunteers handle so that I wouldn't have to break a sweat by actually moving around), and schmoozing with visitors and refilling their glasses (which I handled flawlessly).

Taken altogether, the whole experience was characterized by warm, sun-infused weather, an unpretentious attitude, and an accessible ambiance that concluded in a lingering, smooth finish. An excellent weekend, with a remarkably balanced tannic structure.

Or something like that.

PS I wasn't kidding about Vihuela's Concierto—really a fun wine. I happily recommend it to everyone. Oh, and also the 2003 Syrah.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A Tangled Problem

Will someone please explain to me how it is possible that headphones, which are completely free from knots and nicely wrapped around my iPod to keep them from getting tangled, somehow magically get knots in them and are all tangled when I go to unrwrap them again later? Argh!

I've noticed the same thing happens to jewelry. I put away a necklace in my jewelry box, and the next time I take it out, about 10 other pieces of jewelry come with it, all snagged by the chain. The necklace might not even have been TOUCHING those items when I first put it in, but that doesn't seem to matter to the Law of Strange Attractions. Even more perplexing, there is an 80% chance that the necklace will have at least one knot in it, even if it had NO knots to begin with. What sort of world do we live in where this can happen??

It's a mystery of the universe on a par with why socks, when they go through the laundry, only lose one of a pair. I mean, if they are going to get lost, can't the whole pair just disappear together? Why does just one sock have to stay behind to cause confusion and consternation? I ask you.

I'm sorry. I'm in a weird mood. "June gloom" in May does it to me... grrrr.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Skinned Knees and Rose Bushes

We have a set of wide wooden steps winding up from one side of our house to the back hill, like a sort of boardwalk. I was standing on that boardwalk this morning, contemplating our rose bushes. Specifically, I was annoyed that someone (who?!) had cut off the one single yellow rose that had been growing amongst all the pink ones. I had noticed it the other day, still tightly budded, and was looking forward to seeing it bloom. Then today, it was gone.

I have a suspicion it was one of the gardeners. All I can say is, he better be giving it to his mother tomorrow.

As I started to come back to the house, the first plank of the wooden step completely gave way, and I fell flat on my face in a way that I haven't since I was, oh, about 5. I am sure it looked quite amusing, but I didn't laugh til much much later. Instead, the whole thing just added the fuel of suffering to the spark of my annoyance about the yellow rose.

Thankfully, however, the sun was out and soon put me in a good mood again. I always feel calmer in sunlight, for some reason. Also, though I skinned my knees, it turned out that I sustained no other injuries. Whew!

(Wow. I am nearly 32 years old, and I skinned my knees! How funny is that?)

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

My Summer Vacation: The Kalalau Trail

Well, well. I have returned, alive I might add, from my Great Backpacking Adventure on Kauai. The alive part could very well have been called into question by various sections of the Kalalau Trail (such as Mile 7, Mile 8, and Mile 9), but thankfully was not. So here I am.

I've actually been back since April 30, but my ego had a heart attack when I checked my blog and saw one whole message in the comment section of my last post, thus prompting me to wonder if perhaps my "legions of readers" are not so legion as I would hope. Either that, or I am not as missed as I like to believe.


(A second comment appeared a few days after my return, for which I personally was profoundly grateful, but my ego was still in shock and therefore took little notice. Oh well.)

Anyway, it's taken awhile for my ego to get back on its feet, which ought to explain why I have not updated my blog. I've also been busy. If you are not satisfied by my explanation, that's truly unfortunate and I sympathize. Feel free to make up one that you like better; I won't mind. After all, I am not satisfied by lots of things, so I know how it feels.

I am happy to report, however, that I was more than satisfied by the beauty of Kauai and the challenge of the Kalalau Trail. Even more satisfactory, I did not get any blisters on my feet! (Although a couple toenails did come loose and will doubtless fall off soon—big surprise.)

Instead, I got lots of cuts and scratches on my arms and legs. I am not sure what the $10/night permit fees are going toward, but I can say with a fair amount of confidence that they are not going toward anything that might resemble "maintenance" along the trail. Most of the plants were wildly overgrown, and we bemoaned our lack of machetes on an occasion or two. Or three. Or, well, kind of a lot of occasions, really.

We started the trail on Tuesday, April 24. We parked our car at a campground about a mile from the trailhead (all the advice we got included the words: "Do not park your car at the trailhead" so we didn't) and set out for the campground at Mile 2. We figured we'd sort of ease ourselves into the hike that way. Unfortunately, "ease" was not really a good word to describe the uphill climb fraught with mud, mud, and more mud. There was some downhill, too, but that's no fun when the ground is super-slippery. We made it to Mile 2, however, without incident and set up camp next to a guy who very kindly offered us wine from a box. (I could only wonder how much extra weight THAT added to his pack.)

The next day, we set out early, knowing that we had a lot of ground to cover between Mile 2 and Mile 11—specifically, nine miles. (See, I CAN do math!) We'd been going for about an hour when a man caught up to us. He asked if we were going on to the end, and we said yes. He said he was heading there, too, but that his toe was sprained so he would have to go slow. He then said goodbye, and disappeared rather speedily, which made me wonder if he knew what the word "slow" actually means in English. Because last I checked, it sure didn't mean "speedily."

Somewhere along the way to our destination, we also met a couple hiking out. "Don't be afraid of the one-eyed man at the end," they said, apropos of nothing in particular. "He's really very sweet." "OK," we said, while I mentally gave that short conversation a Frogg Award for Most Unexpected Sentence Ever.

We had a few river crossings, which were fun, if by "fun" you mean "really annoying." I hurt my toe during one of these, and also lost my walking stick, which made me sad. But our wine-toting friend from our first night of camping fared a little worse than we did—he actually fell in one of the rivers, pack and all. And yes, the box of wine got wet.

But the rivers were nothing. What concerned me most about doing this trail before we even left was an infamous stretch known ominously on various blogs as Mile 7. According to these accounts, Mile 7 winds along the side of a cliff with a whole lot of nothing at all between you and some nice pretty rocks at the bottom—sharp rocks getting pounded by big ocean waves. Well, it turns out that, for once, the Internet was in possession of some frighteningly accurate information. Mile 7 looks exactly how I'd heard it described and oh, so much more. The entire mile is fully exposed, with plenty of loose rock and not so much of a trail, just to keep things interesting; oh, and there is no brush or vegetation to keep you from seeing all the (terribly long) way down to the sea below. No doubt it looks very rugged and picturesque from any one of the dozen or so helicopters we'd see passing overhead on flightseeing tours. From our vantage point, though, it just looked scary. Or rather, I should say that was the vantage point of two of us. The other one of us (and it wasn't me) wasn't frightened at all, but thought Mile 7 was "cool." (On the other hand, her hip and her feet were causing her a lot of pain, which might have been playing tricks on her sanity.)

I would also like to point out that people told us this worst part of the trail would last "about 10 minutes." They must have meant "10 minutes as measured in a wormhole or parallel universe" because those were the longest 10 minutes of my life. Also, as I hinted at the beginning of this blog, it turned out that Mile 7 was not the only mile with exposed, cliff-walking sections. Not hardly! Mile 8 and Mile 9 kept up the tradition. In fact, I thought THEY were the worst part of the trail.

I am not the best pray-er in the world (more's the pity), but I got pretty good at it that day.

But we made it to the end without incident (unless you count me stumbling to the ground and nearly falling off the edge of a cliff as an "incident"), and here's where we had one of my personal all-time favorite moments on the trail. We had nearly reached our destination—the beautiful beach of Kalalau—and met a guy pulling a large branch along the trail in front of us. He invited us to a bonfire that night at "Aloha Central" as he called it, and said they'd be roasting goat to eat. Yum! Too bad we'd seen the most adorable baby goat with its mother earlier that day on the trail. Also too bad that I've read Lord of the Flies. We did not join in the goat-eating that night.

At this point I should explain that there are people who live in the Kalalau Valley, some for months, a few for years, and Mr. Goat Killer was one of these. They are known simply as "the hippies." I don't know if they are real hippies, or if they even call themselves that, but that's what everyone else called them. The few we met seemed nice. Weird, perhaps, but still nice.

Oh, and remember our "slow" friend who passed us on the trail? He joined us for dinner on our first night at the beach, and we learned that he had arrived at the beach at about 1 or 2 in the afternoon, whereas we—who had gotten a head start to begin with, since we began that morning from Mile 2 and he had started at the trail head—arrived at about 6 in the evening. And we didn't even have any sprained toes! (Although between the three of us we had: a sprained ankle, a sore hip, blisters, and a bruised toenail.)

We spent two nights at the beach, and let me tell you, it was worth all the aches and pains (and there were plenty of those). To say it was paradise sounds cliche, but really, that's what it was like. Sharp-ridged verdant cliffs rising in the background, a long stretch of golden sand, turquoise-blue water... it was gorgeous. We also saw two of the most beautiful rainbows I've ever seen in my life, right there in that valley—we even saw the end of one of the rainbows, coming down just behind our tent. (I didn't see a pot of gold, but that's OK. I doubt any of us would have wanted the extra weight in our packs anyway.)

There was a waterfall at one end of the beach, where we bathed and filled up our water bottles. And in the interests of having some useful information in this blog post, I should tell you that the water along the trail has to be treated, because it can contain a bacteria called something that begins with an "L" and ends in "osis" and which I never succeeded in pronouncing correctly. I should also tell you that the hippies don't bother treating the water from the waterfall, and they seem to be OK. Physically, at any rate.

Another tourist tip: if you are not a fan of seeing men walk around buck-naked, you might want to steer clear of Kalalau Beach.

Speaking of which, and in case you were wondering, the one-eyed man really was very sweet, if not always entirely clothed.

We started hiking out on Friday afternoon (April 27) and spent one night at Mile 8 (which is a lovely campsite high on the mountainside, with a spectacular view of the sea). We finished the trek on Saturday, April 28, just in time to lie on another beach (the one at the trail head) before heading to dinner in the charming town of Hanalei (where I had the most delicious pint of Gordon Biersch Marzen that I've ever tasted, along with some less memorable, but not at all unpalatable, food).

The rest of our vacation passed in a blur of lying on yet another beach, and shopping. One last highlight: eating breakfast on Sunday at our hotel while at the table right next to us was... Pierce Brosnan. Yes! I'm absolutely convinced it was him, in spite of the fact that he was wearing Crocs.

If it wasn't, I'll eat a goat.

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