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The annual Langdon camp-out, which is the social event of the season in my little world, was every bit as brilliant as expected.  The weather cooperated nicely this year, and no one got injured, so I can conclusively call this the best camp-out so far.  My little tent was fabulous, and while I didn’t sleep much (not the point of camping anyway), I enjoyed listening to the sounds of frogs, ducks, chickens, and my friends snoring.  That sounds unpleasant, but it’s not: there’s something very companionable about being able to hear everyone breathing peacefully all around you.  It’s always lovely seeing everyone again.

I’m firmly established in my new apartment and enjoying it very much so far.  My room might be a tiny bit book-crowded, but I kind of like that.  If there’s a better way to sleep other than being surrounded by books, I haven’t found it.  Speaking of…





Books: I’m woefully behind on my reading.  Moving and travelling has taken a big chunk out of reading time, and my Goodreads tracker is giving me that accusing look again.  Someone invent a 36-hour day, please.

I finally finished The India Fan by Victoria Holt, and there’s quite a story behind that.  Eight years ago, I stayed briefly at a condo in Perth, Australia as part of a larger trip to Sydney and Vanuatu.  I was only there for a couple days, and I had packed light, so I hadn’t brought any books.  (Dismaying, I know.)  The condo possessed a bookshelf containing a truly random assortment of books, obviously outcasts culled from someone’s collection.  The India Fan was the only thing that looked even remotely interesting, so I grabbed it for something to read during downtime.  I was sucked into the Gothic romance of intrigue in spite of my better judgment.  Great literature it was not, but it was addictive. I didn’t have much free time, and I wasn’t able to finish the book before leaving Australia.  How did it end??  Was the curse of the peacock fan broken??  Did Drusilla and Fabian get together?  (I wish I were making these names up, but I’m not.)  I had resigned myself to never knowing, until the other day when I walked by a friend’s bookshelf and lo, there was The India Fan.  Said friend graciously allowed me to borrow it, thus alleviating eight years of curiosity.

In defense of Victoria Holt’s work, I should say that the author’s real name was Eleanor Hibbert, and she was an astonishingly prolific author with an equally astonishing range.  She wrote painstakingly researched historical fiction, a non-fiction series on the Spanish Inquisition (!), the aforementioned Gothic romances, children’s books, and a host of others (more than 200 in total), under a variety of pseudonyms.  She kept her real identity so secret that most people assumed Victoria Holt was actually Daphne Du Maurier.

I know I sound like a broken record, but I can’t stop singing the praises of the Wake County Book Sale.  I went on the Friday after our NYC trip and bought 18 books.  I only intended to buy the books I absolutely couldn’t live without (and then come back on Sunday for bargain day), but it turns out there are an awful lot of books I can’t live without.  I went back on Sunday anyway, and I am ashamed to say…I bought another 77 books.  For a mere $5, though!  You can’t beat that!  I *had* to take advantage of such a wonderful opportunity!  So I tell myself, anyway, when the guilt of buying 95 books in a few days begins to sit heavy. : P

Speaking of heavy things, I got the keys to my new apartment on the 15th, and I’ve hauled most of my possessions over.  This is where I really begin to question the sanity of buying so many books last week.  Those suckers weigh a ton.  I load a car the way most people play a game of Tetris, so Nickel was packed to the rafters the other day, and he groaned in protestation whenever I took him around a corner.  Poor dear.  But he owes me big time for those new brakes and water pump last month.

Pentecost is Sunday and the Kramers are coming to visit a few days after that, so I’m desperately trying to get all of my stuff moved before then so that I’m free to hang out.  Good times will be had, you may be certain.  The Langdon farm campout is the weekend after next, and I decided to go ahead and finally buy a backpacking tent.  I’ve been wanting one of my own for years, and I found this one at REI that had a decent price and ridiculously good reviews.  With any luck, the weather will cooperate this year and NOT send a deluge, but if it persists in monsooning, I’ll at least be prepared.

My family has been wanting to go to New York City for at least a decade, but between school and work schedules and lack of money, it just never worked out.  This year everything finally fell into place, and we thought we’d better do this thing!

We arrived at La Guardia on Sunday, May 5th, and took our first cab ride into the city.  Since we were actually going to stay in New Jersey to save money, we weren’t able to go to our hotel, so we dropped our luggage off at a seedy-looking luggage storage place in the Fashion District.  It had decent reviews online, and it seemed to be our only option, but we definitely felt a bit uncomfortable with it.  From there we walked to Times Square for full immersion in city life, where about seventy billion things were happening at once.  Ed brought his fancy video camera, so we have some ridiculously high quality footage of all of us gawping at the sights.

One of the things we all really wanted to see (especially my dad) was the Empire State Building.  Everything in NYC seems to require A. standing in line for a very long time and B. a lot of money, but we made it past A and B and up to the 86th floor.  We got there while it was still daylight, and we lingered there for a  while before going up to the 102nd floor to see the city at twilight.  We stayed long enough to see the lights come up and the city at night, which was beautiful.

We got to the hotel very late on Sunday after walking to the subway from the Empire State Building, taking the subway to the NJ commuter train, taking the train to our stop, and then searching in vain for a cabbie to take us to the hotel.  We finally found a guy to drive us to the hotel, and we were so grateful to him for saving us an 8-mile walk that we hired him every morning and evening.  We became pals, so every day when he came to pick us up he would ask us what we’d seen that day.

I suspect that most people go to nice restaurants while they’re in NYC, but I must admit we ate almost exclusively at street vendors or sandwich places.  We were trying to save money, but also we were almost always in a hurry.  We had a long list of things we wanted to see and not a lot of time, so we were really booking it most of the time.  I was wearing a pedometer for work (some kind of health insurance perk where you earn money, which frustratingly was cancelled after only three days), so I can conclusively state that we walked 24 miles in three days.

On Monday, after making it to the city (cab to train to subway), we went to the 9-11 memorial.  It was beautiful, and they were just finishing the spire while we were there.  Then we went on a walking tour of Wall Street (saw the New York Stock Exchange, Federal Hall where Washington was sworn in as President, the Federal Reserve building, etc.) and then went on the Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty from a distance.  When we got back, we walked along the Hudson and came across a couple tall ships on our way to the Brooklyn Bridge.  We had intended to walk across the bridge, but by that point we’d already walked so far that we contented ourselves with taking pictures before continuing on through One Police Plaza.

On Tuesday we toured the United Nations, which was utterly fascinating and one of the highlights of the trip for me.  We also saw the US Post Office Building, ran through the New York Public Library, and then went to see the Phantom of the Opera, which was phenomenal.  If I ever go back to New York, I’ll be tempted to do nothing but see back-to-back Broadway shows.

We had beautiful weather up to that point, but on Wednesday it POURED.  Undeterred, we walked through Central Park looking like little drowned rats.  We went past Sardi’s and the Guggenheim (but didn’t go inside either, due to lack of money and lack of time, respectively), visited the Plaza Hotel (Mom loves Eloise), made a whirlwind tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (I could spend a week there), had dinner at Katz’s Deli, stopped by Jennifer’s Way Bakery (where Mom got her photo taken with the actress/owner of the bakery, Jennifer Esposito), and saw Stomp in a little theater on Broadway (also brilliant).  We had slogged through a flooded subway exit at the beginning of the day, so unfortunately we spent most of the day with squelchy shoes, but we had a wonderful time anyway.

We woke up early on Thursday to participate in our usual battle with public transportation, and we hopped on the plane to Philadelphia, where we were supposed to connect to Raleigh.  Our plane was delayed due to a loose piece of trim in the cabin (which sounds like slang for a street walker; I promise it isn’t), so we waited while that was fixed so nobody was brained in-flight.  Then we were delayed further by bad weather, so we missed our connecting flight.  They said we could either spend the night in the airport and catch a flight to Raleigh the next day, or take a flight to Greensboro or Fayetteville.  We chose Fayetteville as the lesser of several evils, so after connecting again in Charlotte (??) we rented a car in Fayetteville and drove to Raleigh where my parents dropped me and the rental car off and picked up their car from RDU.  They then had to drive an hour south to drop my brother off before they could finally go home.  All this was on about 4 hours of sleep.  Let it never be said that the Ricker family lacks stamina.  We were all pretty happy to get home in the end!

I promise I’ll write up my adventures in New  York City shortly, but in the meantime, I have far too many internet finds to share.




Know this:


Books: I picked up a little gem called Boston: Cradle of Liberty by Edward Weeks at the NC State Library book sale just a couple days after I got back from Boston, and the timing couldn’t be more perfect. The book is full of beautiful drawings of Boston, and I thoroughly enjoyed going through it to find places that I had just visited.

I found Logbook for Grace: Whaling Brig Daisy, 1912-1913 by Robert Cushman Murphy (also at the NC State Library booksale), and it’s delightful.  Murphy was a scientist aboard one of the last whaling ships in 1912, and his log (intended for his new bride, Grace) chronicles the end of an era.  It’s a beautiful mix of youthful exuberance (Murphy was only 25, and rather excited by the whole thing), nostalgia for a fast-waning way of life, and wistful sighs (Murphy was madly in love with his young wife, and missed her terribly).  I read half of it on the planes to and from NYC, and I’m looking forward to the rest of Murphy’s adventures.

After Mississippi Jack, I went on to the next book in L.A. Meyer’s series, My Bonny Light Horseman: Being an Account of the Further Adventures of Jacky Faber, in Love and War.  In which our heroine meets Napoleon, manages to enthrall every male she comes across, and generally act like the most annoying of Mary Sues…and yet, still be a completely enjoyable read. I’ve just started Rapture of the Deep: Being an Account of the Further Adventures of Jacky Faber, Soldier, Sailor, Mermaid, Spy.

You seem to have stumbled upon a storytelling of ravens. Watch for falling collective nouns; you may find a wing of dragons or a charm of hummingbirds caught in your hair. Hardhats are recommended.

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