My Writing Weekend… the highs and the lows

My weekend away was such a mixed bag that I decided the Pizza Klatch style would work well here.  I’m going to check in with the highs and lows of the experience.

First High:  getting away

It felt wonderful and strange to jump into my truck, and head out for a weekend alone at Shakti Cove in Ocean Park, on the Long Beach Peninsula in Washington.  It’s been a lot of years since I did anything like this and I was nervous and excited, optimistic and without a clue how the whole thing would go.  I felt terrifically alive.  I was going to be on my own, making my own schedule, with just a few ‘must dos’ on my list of expectations. The rest would be improv.

Second High: making new friends and discovering a new favorite beer

I left my house around 5:30 and arrived at my destination around 8:00.  I unpacked and settled into my cabin.  Checked in with family and best friend to let them know I’d made it, and sat down at my laptop.  My plan was to work for a couple of hours and then head to the local drinking establishment, Doc’s Tavern.  When I walked in the place was packed, with a lot of people watching the action on three pool tables.  I walked to the far side of the room, taking it all in.  Seconds later a guy grinning from ear to ear was introducing himself.  He adopted me as his new best friend and that’s how it was for the rest of the weekend.  We’ll call him ‘Cosmo’.   Cosmo started off quickly, filling me in on the current situation in the bar (pool tournament, most everyone was there participating or watching), telling me who was who (“That’s a guy who’s part of my marijuana collective, that’s his wife, she and I had a thing a few years back, before she was his wife”).  I begged for an intermission so I could hook up with a brew, my hand was gettin’ twitchy from being so empty.  I took a look at the taps and asked the bartender about the one on the end, called Doc’s Ale.  He told me it was darker than an amber, more like a light porter.  I told him that sounded like my beer and he drew me pint.  I headed back to where Cosmo was jawin’ someone else’s ear off and he introduced me to a few more people.  I spent the evening drinking Doc’s Ale, jawin’ with Cosmo and getting to know the locals.

First Low:  transphobia in a small coastal town

Unfortunately, not everyone wanted to be my friend.  At one point, Cosmo came back from the men’s room obviously upset.  He told me that someone there was not my friend and muttered something about rednecks while peering suspiciously around at the other patrons.  I asked him what had happened.  He said he didn’t want to tell me, it was too offensive.  He muttered something about the chalkboard in the men’s room.  I pressed a little more, telling him it I wanted to know what he’d seen.  Finally, he relented.  Someone had drawn a crude rendering of a man/woman and written something derogatory.  He would not, and has not, told me what was written.  I sighed, shook my head and drank some more of that excellent beer.  He told he he’d erased it, I thanked him and reassured him I was OK, but he was very protective after that.  Pointed out a couple of potentially problematic individuals, made sure I wasn’t walking, etc.

Interesting moment:  what the heck am I anyway?

I had a great time.  Beer, good company, story telling all around, it was awesome.  At one point we were showing each other pictures of our family.  I showed him a pick of my Elder Spawn and I, and said something about the apple not falling far from the tree.  Then pictures of my wife and the Wee Spawn.  A few rambling moments, I said something about my pregnancy.  You know when people use the description “jaw dropping”?  Well, the idea that I had been pregnant once was just that for Cosmo.  He stood there, literally gaping at me, eyes big.  “So, wait a minute” He said “How does that work, exactly?”   I can’t even count the number of times I’ve explained artificial insemination to people, so I launched right in with all the appropriate facial expressions and hand motions.  His expression got even more perplexed, and this guy is a scientist, so it wasn’t the concept of AI that had him flummoxed.  He repeated “How EXACTLY did that work?” He was incredulous.  I took a moment, trying to figure out what he was mentally tripping over, and tripping out on.  I waved a hand in the air in front of my pelvic area, “Well, I have all the right parts, so I just needed the additional genetic material.”  Hand over his mouth, he laughed, but I could tell it wasn’t at me.  Then my eyes got big, I had an idea.  “Wait… did you think I was a guy?  Like born a guy?”  I chuckled, the look on his face was answer enough. I chucked him on the shoulder to let him off the hook.  “Man, that’s a first.  You thought I was MTF?”  That was wild for me, that I passed so well that he thought I’d been born with boy parts and was transitioning to female.  And that seems completely ridiculous to me, with my scruff of a beard and short hair but I guess my packer was being read as real.  *shaking my head*  I am really amused by this, still.

Second Low:  itchy red patches

I got back to my cabin late, having been invited to go clamming the next afternoon.  I crashed, hoping to sleep and listen to the surf.  Instead I woke up at around 3 am, scratching and feeling that irritated burn that means “it’s not just an itch”.  After tossing and turning and scratching, I finally got up to confirm, and yes, I had hives.  I was groggy, irritated and unable to sleep well, obsessed with the idea that I might have developed an allergy to the elastic in my briefs and wondering when the small town mercantile opened so I could get some Benadryl.

Third High:  beach walk

I woke around 6 or 7, not well rested at all but determined to make the most of my time.  First up, riding my bike to a small cafe for breakfast, after which I’d try to score some Benadryl.  I ate french toast, two eggs over easy and drank a couple cups of coffee.  The store didn’t have Benadryl liquid, so I bought the ointment and hoped it would give me some relief.

I returned to the cabin and worked for a couple of hours on the novel.  Then it was time to walk out to the ocean, my treat for having some discipline.  I took pictures on the way, and went slowly, even though I was eager to see the surf.  There was no one else on the beach.  I had my camera, my writing notebook and my phone, so I could post a picture to facebook.  I walked, did some beach combing – though the pickins were slim – and messed about in a meandering way.  It was awesome.  I found a good driftwood log to sit on and wrote some thoughts about my main character.  I had a conversation with him because there were some things I wasn’t sure about in the story line.  That was pretty cool.  After a bit, some other folks came out and I figured it was lunch time

Fourth High:  writing

I really like writing.  Especially when I can play some music, open the door for fresh air, and not worry about anything but doing the writing.  It’s such a luxury and I was rolling around in it.  I really like my main character and did some great character study work along with working on some of the early chapters.  I am coming to the realization that if I really want to finish a complete draft of the novel, I might have to pause in my short story writing and submitting, because my pool of writing time is not getting any bigger.

it’s so cool… Bunny’s in the ‘has it memorized’ phase, so she’s not really reading, but she’s hooked on the idea that books have stories in them and I think it’s won

Cosmo came to fetch me a little after 3 in the afternoon.  Most of the other temporary residents of Shakti Cove had already gone – with buckets and clam guns, wearing tall boots and waders – one couple (one of two lesbian couples there that weekend) had already gotten their limit and were back.  Cosmo hastily cleared a place for me on the passenger seat of his pick up by grabbing handfuls of stuff and shoving them behind the seat.  Except for the beer bottles, he left those between the seats and in the foot well.  He drove the short way down Park Street to Bay and went onto the beach.  In Washington, you can drive on (most?) Pacific Ocean beaches.  The beach was packed, cars and trucks of all kinds  parked and the folks who drove them digging along the surf line or lounging on tail gates.  Cosmo kept driving north, and kept driving… it’s not called Long Beach for nothin.  Along the way he instructed me on the proper way to drive through the fresh water streams that opened up to the ocean, as well as the major alternative – and wrong – ways to do so.  It was highly entertaining.

Eventually, we found a spot that seemed active but not so worked over that we feared the clams were gone.  Our that day was razor clams.  I didn’t have a license, so I was officially along to be his assistant.  We had a blast.  He was highly amused that as a Kentucky boy, he had to tell a Washington native how to use a clam gun.  I explained that the last time I’d dug for clams (at around 4 or 5 years old), we’d used shovels.  At any rate, I figured it out and managed to pull a few up.  I also got soaked from the knees down.  I didn’t have any tall boots or waders.  When I’d told Cosmo that, before we set out, he’d assured me that we wouldn’t be getting that close to the water.  Mmhmm… I won’t believe that line again.  We were dancing in and out of the surf and once your shoes are full of water, it just doesn’t matter anymore.

I have no idea how long we were out there, time really didn’t mean much, but the sun was starting to accelerate on it’s path into the ocean.  Cosmo explained that local tradition was that you went to Doc’s after clamming, wet feet and legs and all.  It’s surprising my leg stayed in its socket, with all the pulling he was doing.  So it was that I found myself at Doc’s again, watching pool, bullshitting and drinking beer.  With cold, cold feet.

Sixth High:  more partying

I had planned to go over to one of the local eating establishments to partake in rib-eye steak, which I thought would be an excellent way to round out the day, but I managed to miss that amidst all the beer drinking and bullshitting.  So I settled for splitting a pizza with Cosmo, something I’m pretty sure came out of the freezer case at the mercantile.  But it was food, and I was having fun so it didn’t bother me much.  Happily there were no transphobic incidents that night.

Fourth Low: hives that won’t quit, sleeplessness

Though I didn’t do as much writing as I’d planned on Saturday, I also wasn’t feeling as miserable about the hives.  I headed back to the cabin around 10, feeling quite tired from the days adventures.  That night was worse than the first, tossing and turning and not sleeping well.  I was awake at 5 and discovered the hives had spread.  They were all over and most painfully, in my hands.  Hives in the palms of my hands don’t come out as red patches, but instead, my whole palms were red, swollen and painful. I had a hard time gripping things.  This was my last morning away and I was tired, in pain, angry and sad.  I felt like my special weekend away, which I’d been looking forward to for years, had been hijacked.  Now, at a distance, I can celebrate all the wonderful, unexpected things that happened, but that morning I was upset.

Fifth Low:  time to leave the weekend behind

I got up at 6, took a shower, which gave me temporary relief from the itching.  I made a breakfast of eggs and toast and sat down to do a little more writing.  It was hard, I was distracted and already thinking ahead to the drive back home.  Before long I was cleaning up, packing up and driving away.

The two hour drive home was hard.  I was exhausted, my palms hurt as I gripped the wheel and my whole body felt dis-eased.  My head hurt, both because I had a headache and because I felt betrayed by my body.  I had a theory about what had happened though. After breakfast and before I left, I chatted with Roxy about my symptoms and trying to figure out what I was allergic to.  Roxy and Theo both got on the computer and were doing differential diagnosis on me, with the help of Dr. Google.  I apologize to both of you for the pictures of hives and skin ailments you had to look at to help me.  I really appreciate how quickly you both jumped in to help.  It wasn’t latex/elastic, because of the way it had spread.  It wasn’t poison oak or ivy, because there wasn’t any in the area.  It was the laundry soap used on the linens because that was the same thing we used at home.  Everything I’d eaten was pretty above board, I hadn’t even had any shellfish yet, and I wasn’t allergic to that anyway.  Then it hit me, I wasn’t in one of the pet free cabins.  I hadn’t thought it would be a big deal.  Yeah, I’m allergic to dogs but I take meds every day.  On the other hand, my immune system had been taking a beating for over a month and I had been sucking down dog dander all weekend.  Made sense as well that I felt better the longer I was away from the cabin during the day.  Unfortunately, simply leaving the cabin didn’t cure me.  I got home late afternoon Sunday, left my luggage and clothing in the laundry room, took a shower and put on uncontaminated clothing.  My wife brought me liquid benadryl while I was in the shower.  The ointment hadn’t done much.  The rest of the evening were spent in a benadryl haze, dozing on my recliner and not eating much.  I stayed home on Monday, still pretty hive-y and still with painful hands.  Slept most of the day.

When I woke up on Tuesday, I didn’t know what to expect, but I had to get back to work.  My throat was sore, my ears hurt and my skin was still prickly – and I was afraid to scratch any itch.  I felt pretty low, like I was never gonna be healthy again and that anytime I got some momentum to do the things I love, it was gonna come crashing down again.

And then I did something about it.  But that’s the topic for another post.  I learned a lot from this trip.  I do enjoy being out in the world on my own and I am very capable of stirring up trouble and finding friends wherever I go.  I enjoy being on my own, cooking for myself, cleaning for myself, being on my own timetable.  I’m already looking forward to my next get away.  I love the beach, but I think next time I’ll set my sights inland, and up.  Foothills, mountains, somewhere with some elevation.  Just have to find a compatible place and go for it.



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