The Place of Dreams


First, before I forget, I have planned a Christmas extravaganza for those of you who are missing some Hoyt ebooks, including but not limited to 99c and free books.  Today, Death of a musketeer is up for free.

We woke up too early to take older son to the airport, headed to spend Christmas with lovely fiance and her family.  It’s his first Christmas away from us, but we’re not the primary family now, and we don’t expect them tied to our apron strings as they move on into their own family/circle.

Perhaps it was that, or perhaps I’m just maudlin, because it’s Christmas season and I miss long-dead relatives (maybe that’s why people used to tell ghost stories at Christmas?) and there’s no way to go back to the village of my childhood, except in my (obviously imperfect) memory.

The picture above is obviously not the village, but pretty close to the view of my classroom window in the 9th grade.

You see, we were a gifted class when the school was quite literally forbidden from grouping by ability (ah, revolutions.)  They could have argued they didn’t.  7th grade, they grouped us by name. Eighth grade we magically found ourselves in a form composed to top students (took us about zero minutes to find out what the other such form was.  Grades are posted in public by form. It wasn’t hard.)Keep in mind though they had a back up excuse.  We were also ALL troublemakers of the “but I read a book where–” or “But that’s not Egyptian religion at all. You’re porting in assumptions from Christianity” (Yes, that was me.) Or “But the history of the Black Plague tells us.”  Or even “But that’s not how evolution works.”

Still the school was obviously unsure about how they could pass that off, so they put us in weird places.  In eighth grade we were first in a street level classroom in the old earl’s palace (and if you think that’s not too bad, consider all girl’s school, and windows opening to a busy sidewalk.  They kept the shutters closed, and the lights on all the time.) and then, because I guess too conspicuous we were moved to a secret room (don’t ask. You had to go through the back of a closet and along the choir loft of the disused baroque chapel.  In case you guys wonder at all the secret passageways in my books.)  This is where we locked a freaking-out newby science teacher in the closet.  NOT MY DOING, I SWEAR, though I was annoyed enough with her to approve.  And then in the stables, ground floor, another all artificial light classroom. Also weird shape and cramped.)  But they really outdid themselves with 9th grade.  They put us in tiny room in new building.  I don’t even know why tiny room was there.  I later stayed in a similar room when I worked in a hotel in Germany.  It was obviously used — in that case — for low paid staff, and it’s the type of room that Victorians gave maids.  Don’t know why it was in a building from the sixties, unless it was force of habit.

Picture in your mind walking down a LONG attic crammed with broken desks, old globes and other decommissioned stuff.  Also all the utilities for the school, so you’re ducking electrical stuff and ducts for water. At the very end, there’s a door.  Open it.

There’s a room maybe 15 by 15 with a teacher’s desk up front, and a blackboard.  To get to the teacher’s desk you have to walk sideways past desks crammed so closely anyone wishing to go to the bathroom had to either empty the whole row OR (what we usually did) walk atop people’s desks.

Ah, but they let us pick our desks.  I was by the one window.  (Which means I died in place rather than go to the bathroom.) But ah, the view.  And because we were an afternoon form, with classes from 2 pm to 8, I got to see the lights in Porto come on.  And because we were five stories up, I could see all the way to the river.

The road that ran along the river used to be, before highways, one of the routes to the airport.  And since I was going to grow up, move to Denver, and be a writer, it was very cheering to look out at the route of escape.

Was it so bad then?  Well, yes. For various reasons.  In many ways, it was the best time I’d had up till then, and the place I felt most “normal” until adulthood.  But it was still… well… my teens.  Everyone’s teens are bad for different reasons.

The only nostalgia I have for those years is that view.  Because I was stuck in that window seat and frankly, mostly, writing novels.  I dreamed up the world of Darkships in that window seat, and another one (Winter Prince, yes, it’s coming) and drew plans for houses and spaceships, and wrote seven or eight 40k word (hey writing longhand is slow) novels that year.  I miss the inventiveness and the way I could move wholly into my imaginary worlds and not come out.  Yes, it was dysfunctional. But it was also sweet and relaxing.

There are things I miss about Porto, most of which probably are no longer there or not the way I remember them: I miss the old shops that everyone had forgotten, particularly the old book shops with forgotten corners where leather-bound books were priced at early 20th century prices.  Also, lingerie stores with pre-war (WWI. No, I have no explanation, except the shop was the bottom floor of someone’s house, and they only opened when they felt like it. Which wasn’t often) silk lace stockings. And stores with hand made clay figurines.  I wish, in retrospect, I’d bought a ton of those before it all became “caters to German and Scandinavian Tourists, Penises as people” stores.
I miss roasting chestnuts.  I miss rainy days washing down the granite facades. I miss the art supply store I used to frequent.  And I miss being young.

But mostly what I miss, the place that triggers tears is the village.

They’d object to my calling it a village, btw.  In Portugal village or “land” (Terra) means an isolated village somewhere in the mountains.  And by population I think we were a town.  But the only way to convey “everyone knows everyone” and “we’ve been here generations” is to call it a village, and I’m a writer, I use shorthand.

The problem is the village I miss is the village in my mind.  I miss walking up the street of tall buildings, just about two inches from the throughfare which reeked of Rome, past all the people I knew, and the little black dog who’d rush to the gates to be petted. (Nero. Of course.  Portuguese name their dogs after less than good Roman Emperors and their children after good ones.  Except Caligula. No one names their anything Caligula.  Well, maybe a rooster if you’re going to chop him soon.)

I want to go in the side gate at grandma’s and walk around the water tank and through the gate, then the little path past grandad’s workshop, and into the patio that was my childhood everything — unexplored jungle, other world, palace — and into grandma’s kitchen.  She’ll be frying doughnuts, of course, and I’ll sit and sample them while I tell her how things have been.  Until she finishes and gets out the good teaset and the bought cookies which I started rating around high school.  I want to sit and hear her talking of the village acquaintances (most of whom, like actors, I could never keep straight) and let the cats and dogs come to me.  I want to walk down the backyard and jump the back wall, and go exploring in the woods with dad, like we did when I was very young.  I want to go with my brother and watch the oxen draw water to water the crops next door.

I want just one more Christmas at grandma’s house, with all of us together, and the nativity where Joseph is missing because my cousin Natalia broke him before I was born so he was “out gathering wood” and the little Christmas tree because dad objected to cutting trees so we cut a branch, and grandad complaining about the vegetables or the cod fish, then going out the door to meet his cronies at the tavern, with grandma running after him to wipe the little bit of olive oil on his chin.

I want to put my shoe on the stove and wait for the doll or the crayons, or the book then spend the day enjoying it.

See, what I mean? I’m getting old and maudlin.  The fact I can’t even visit the SIGHTS makes it worse.

But in a way I’m happy those memories are strong and tear-inducing.  It’s good to have a place to be from, a place you can visit in your dreams.

I’d never have stayed in the village my whole life.  I didn’t fit in that well. And my dreams drew me forth.  And, no, I don’t expect it to remain preserved under glass for me to visit. (Though a business that builds VRs of people’s memories so they can visit those would probably make a killing. When the tech is there, of course.)

Lands and places belong not to people but to times.  My great-grandmother’s village was completely different from mine, and her grandmother’s even more so.  We live in space in layers, through time, and the places we love exist only in that slice of time.

I’m glad I had the time and place I had to grow up in, even the unpleasant parts in my teens, because it made me who I am.  Who would I be otherwise? Who knows. But it wouldn’t be me.  And I’ve made peace with me, cracks and all.

There are roots in that old village that no longer exists, places that still nurture me and feed me.  Like the roots in that classroom, and the imaginary worlds I created then branch throughout all of my writing now.

Come with me past the broken furniture, the dodgy plumbing. Duck, or you’ll hit your head on that pipe.  Come look out the window with me: See those lights in the distance? Many futures live there.  And I’m going to write them all.

Come with me.


166 thoughts on “The Place of Dreams

  1. I miss long-dead relatives

    ProTip: do not attempt to recall such from the afterlife. That never goes well!

      1. We are in a time when “don’t f*ing kill yourself” is shaping up to be the CDC’s next big health push.

        Compared to that, “don’t summon the dead” being a pro-tip is nothin.

        1. True this. Things like having to tell new hires things like, oh, “Do not *attempt* to stop shredder blades with your arm,” or “Don’t lick the open contacts,” (400amp service), or “No, you are not allowed to swim that close to the dam, because cleaning your partially blendered guts out of the cleanout grate stinks,” these things *should* not have to be said…

          But all to often have to be said repeatedly, and often to the same people. Himself knows I’ve had my stupid moments. But some days I just think letting it happen once and then posting pictures of it onsite would go a long way to ensuring safe practices in the future…

          1. *sad*

            This is actually relevant to an argument currently on-going.

            A priest mentioned the teaching that suicide is objectively sinful; he’s now suspended.

            By strict Catholic teaching, he did error…a bit on the side of mercy. Emphasizing “the guy who killed himself IS MAYBE NOT in hell, there’s a lot of options.”

            Internet mob, “zomga he said suicide is bad murder him1”

            1. To the best of my knowledge, nobody who has ever committed suicide has returned to endorse it, while several people who’ve been to Heaven have returned to say, “It’s really nice, y’all oughtta come on in!”

          2. “…these things *should* not have to be said…”
            If you ever wonder why people think Socialism is such a great idea despite it’s history of 100% failure, this is why.

            1. Indeed so. One of the things that worries me is not just the cult-like belief in Socialism, but how those ejected from the cult either turn inward in neurosis or swing as far as they can get in “the other direction.”

              If they just stopped in plain old hard working conservatism/libertarianism that would be one thing.
              But when they carry their violence with them, into what they thought they were fighting against(rather than what was actually there), we get troubles.

              I’d much prefer not to have that sort of nonsense. If we can avoid it.

              1. The reason is because the ejected still believe in collectivism and the desirability of destroying all of those who dissent with you.
                They just shift their targeting criteria.

            2. Oh come on, Socialism doesn’t have a 100% failure rate. It’s more like a consistent 99%. There’s always some country that’s decided to try it but hasn’t yet run out of somebody else’s money, so is not a failure. Yet. 😛

          3. I was volunteering at a charity canning operation when we had to close down and clean up all the blood from the hand of the guy who thought he could shove the chicken through the chopper blades without using the pushpole.
            It was very bright red blood.

        2. I guess my concern is that there’s someone qualified to give professional advice on necromancy.

        3. On the other hand, suicide is THE way to solve the health care and Social Security problem. I’ve feared being convenience-killed since my childhood.

            1. Anyone else struck by the coinkydink that we’re refusing to prescribe painkillers while pushing euthanasia?

              And I’ll guarantee you that a big part of the spike in opoid deaths is people who can’t get the legal painkillers they need buying illegally and getting inconsistent drugs,

    1. I’m thinking the problem is probably specific to moving from the realm of the dead to the living, not vice versa, so it should be much safer for us instead to drag the world of the living to visit them.

      (Also, publicity can cause various problems, so naturally we should do this in complete secrecy.)

      1. Going to visit the Land of the Dead is as easy as falling off a log. Its the trip back that seems to be the problem.

        I prefer to imagine this is because nobody want to come back here, because it sucks.

    2. *considers her relatives*

      I’m not sure a demon would be any better than ‘waking up’ any of my lost relates.

      Sis isn’t long dead, yet, but waking her up from a normal mortal sleep was bad enough. Immortal sleep? No, thanks.

    3. But ghost stories ala A Christmas Carol and Turn of the Screw are such an OLD tradition. . .

      Do you mean they have to come back on their own?

  2. there’s no way to go back to the village of my childhood, except in my (obviously imperfect) memory.

    Minor quibble: the “imperfect memory” of your childhood village is the village of your childhood. All children of that village of that time grew up in slightly different villages because all perceived the village slightly differently. But the important village (for you) is the one you perceived, as that is the one which developed you.

    But because that village was an artifact of particular memories you can no more revisit it than you could be again that child you once were.

    1. RES – very good explanation of why you can never go back to where you used to be “You can’t go home again”): it simply isn’t there anymore.

  3. “Many futures live there.”

    Yes, by God, they do. And that is why I keep coming back to this blog. There’s a future other than extinction being imagined.

  4. Dang it, dust allergies kicked in there. (Yes, I need to tidy my office. Yes I’ll do it later today. Really.)

    I think, for a lot of people, the shorter days and longer nights incline us to think about what else has passed with the sun. Ghost stories, thoughts of light and darkness, traditions and questions of faith… We’re trying to gather the threads together once more, to re-weave the best of times and places and use that tapestry to hold back chaos and the Dark. It’s not always realistic (no one invites Uncle Sweeny the icky creep), but it is Real the way the best stories are Real.

  5. *snifle*
    I wish that I could do a holiday dinner at my maternal grandmothers’ little cottage in Pasadena — with the orange and lemon trees out in the yard, the smell of their blooms heavy on the air, and the sight of Mt. Wilson in the distance capped with a bit of snow. My other grandmother being silly and charming, the other elders talking about old times…

    1. “Auld Lang Syne”

      All the more because Gramma was Scottish, and just barely missed meeting the Princess– always thought we’d have time, but….well, my dad found out she was sick when he got a call she had just died. (Still nothing on Elf’s family; his dad found out his mother had died after the funeral. F*ed up is an understatement.)

      And one of the first things I ever impressed my sister with was finding the lyrics for that song…and the translation. We sang it. (badly)

    2. If you’re talking about Pasadena California (you can’t be talking about Pasadena Texas if you can see a mountain anywhere), yeah, I was born in LA. I miss seeing the mountains to the north, the ocean to the west, the lemon tree in our garden, and having robins the way we have sparrows now, little birds all over the back yard. When we first moved to Texas and saw a Texas robin (the ones that come here for the winter), it was like seeing a monster on steroids.

      1. (you can’t be talking about Pasadena Texas if you can see a mountain anywhere


        Oh, goodness.

        El Paso.

        I never knew how danged SICK I would be, without mountains.

        They’ve got a really lovely hill-line, but….oh, gads, they think the cute little hop over it is a “pass.”

        It is truly lovely, but it is NOT a mountain, and NOT a pass!

        That doesn’t make it bad, it just means “giant flat spot way up high is not a mountain, even if there are some 500ft bumps on it.”

        I miss having a horizon.

        (No, no why we are leaving, that’s solidly job related,…but it’s a reason I’m not sorry?)

        1. Seriously – I MISS mountains. I miss the Wasatch Front from when I lived in Utah, I miss the sight of the mountains at the back of where I lived at the far end of the San Fernando Valley growing up. I loved being in Albuquerque during that TDY to Kirkland AFB and seeing the Sandia range in back of the town. I wanted to go to either of those places for my last tour of duty. But the AF personnel office didn’t oblige, for which I am still a little pissed-off.Texas is OK – but for the lack of serious mountains,

          1. Did you see the sunsets there? I’d start seeing the clouds coming in from the west and the sun turning their white to gold and yellow and rose, and pretty much doing the same to the Sandias as the sun went down. The best consistent sunsets I’ve ever seen.

            1. Oh, yes – one of the other NCOS and I used to run from the NCO Academy barracks to the BX every evening, and then walk back. Also loved the way that the afternoon rainstorms would blow in, and you could see them coming from a long way away, and smell the rain long before it arrived overhead. *snifle* I think I would have loved New Mexico as much as I love Texas now…
              Ah well. You propose and this thing called Life disposes…

          2. Texas does have mountains, but none have a prominence much greater than three thousand feet, and they’re pretty much all crammed into the western part of the state, that sparsely inhabited area well west of the Pecos River. And I only know that because I was checking the area out online, considering a trip to Carlsbad Caverns, which is a just a few miles north of Texas-New Mexico border.

            1. Carlsbad Caverns was a family trip for us several times, from the Texas Panhandle. Very impressive for us youngsters.
              Where I was born, the tallest thing for 100+ miles around was the highway overpass for the railroad.
              The running joke was, if you wanted to see further out on the plains, just stand on a tuna fish can.
              I like having the mountains on one side in Denver; I always know which direction is west.

          1. I takes about two hours to walk up one of them. You still have to take it seriously; some of the trails are pretty obscure.

        2. I know a woman who grew up on the shore, and found living in middle of New England with all those hills all around rather unnerving her first year at college.

        3. It really is a mountain. You westerners are just spoiled, what with your mountains with two mile prominences. Those of us who grew up in the east largely had to settle for mountains no more prominent than a half-mile, and usually less – we were topographically deprived! And those poor, poor souls who grew up in the midwest, they had to settle for sticking a “mount” label on a few hills along river valleys. Your complaint is just another example of western mountain privilege, you mountainist! 😛

          (Yes, this was a joke.)

      2. I’m the same about the Southern California in which I grew up.

        It’s not the same any more. At all.

        1. My father was born in Long Beach, graduated from Alameda High School. He detested Los Angeles, because he could remember what it had been.

          When we first saw “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”, he claimed they had captured 1947 Los Angeles perfectly.

        2. Yeah, I grew up in San Diego, just a few blocks from the end of development in two directions. There’s an RV dealer where I used to ride my bike across an open mesa. The raw canyon where we would sneak off and play, returning with tadpoles and swearing NEVER to tell Mom about the rattlesnake is now either a park, or single family homes (in the part of the canyon that a fighter pilot from NAS Miramar rode his jet down into the canyon because he couldn’t be sure that it would clear our full schoolyard if he punched out.) Old US-395 was replaced by I-15 and the 6 lanes in each direction of 15 are a worse parking lot than the two lanes each way that 395 was.

          Worst of all to someone who grew up in California before it fell, San Diego is in modern California, and I’m too used to living in the United States.

          1. Hubby grew up in Lemon Grove (San Diego). I never saw it isolated, but he said it used to be. They left early/mid-70’s as his folks retired to Oregon.

  6. That tiny room in the new school building sounds an awful lot like a rondent-proof storage area repurposed. The summer house had (has?) one of those for over-winter storage of things rodents like to shred, like bedding. If you looked closely you could see occasional ends of small wire mesh embedded in the plaster of the walls. Don’t know what the school would have been storing against rodents, though, but the tiny size and the attic placement are reminiscent.

    I miss the summer house. We shared it among my Mother’s sisters and their broods, but because Father was a Professor we got to spend all summer. Southern Massachusetts, near the old Whaling town of New Bedford. I miss the shapes of peeling ceiling-paint that looked to a child’s eyes to be fantastic animals. I miss the old Pug who lived by the road to the local swimming dock (rock beach). He was blind as a stone, but he always came to the road to bark ‘hello’. Not ‘yapyapyapyap’, just ‘bark’ and then accept ear-scritchies if you were so inclined. The day Bobo went missing, everyone on the Point turned out to look for him, including renters who hpwere new that summer. I miss Caine’s Pond, which had been a cranberry bog until a hurricane had opened it to the sea. It was a great place to hunt hermit crabs and you occasionally saw horseshoe crabs, too. I miss the sound of my Grandmother’s ghost playing tennis on the empty court; ‘bounce-poc bounce-poc’.

    But my generation really can’t afford the upkeep of a summer house that was built (if I remember correctly) in 1917. And with my folks passing, amd my Lady’s health issues, staying there was a LOT of work for me, so it wasn’t a vacation anymore. And The Peoples’ Republic of Massachusetts is getting worse by the year.

  7. the nativity where Joseph is missing because my cousin Natalia broke him before I was born so he was “out gathering wood”

    Joseph always seems to have problems. In our one Joseph lost an argument with our cat and fell on the floor and his nose fell off in a way that was impossible to repair.

    1. No idea what happened to ours– second hand– but our Joe was previously probably a shepherd, and has been upgraded to a saint block my (very protestant, so much valued) sister in law sent for last Christmas. (Included was Saint Lucy and Saint Christopher; she is trying REALLY HARD to hold up the “raise the children in the faith” oath.)

      They have been joined buy WreckItRalph in a car. But not any of the rest. I approve.

      1. The nativity in our house is missing the the Angel. Was broken by one of our earliest felines wrestling with it well before our daughters were born. From that point on all our cats have loved to sit near the nativity, looking like 50′ tall felines guarding the Savior. We decided they were playing the part of the (broken) angels. Reasoning is simple, the first thing any angel says in the biblical texts is “Fear Not”. If there were a 50′ tall talking cat I don’t know about you but I’d be afraid. Clearly the Angels were 50′ tall felinoids. This is held as an article of faith in our household :-).

        1. One day it struck me that folks were passing out when God or angels or whatever appeared to them. And who wouldn’t? But now when I hear some preacher or someone talking about falling out in the spirit or something I sort of roll my eyes because I view it all as very human based and not spiritual at all.

          “Fear no…”
          “AAACKKK!!” *thump*
          “Drat… not again.”

          1. I note that Paul observed that the spontaneous reaction of on-lookers to speaking in tongues would be thinking they were drunk.

  8. I want just one more Christmas at grandma’s house, with all of us together….

    Me too; please, excuse me; I need to go outside and blow my nose.

  9. “I want just one more Christmas at grandma’s house, with all of us together….”

    Only when your personal Task is done, and Our Father finally calls you Home.

    Some of us may take longer than others to get there.

    1. Yes. Both grandmothers, & dad, will tan our hides if we don’t fight being called home with everything in your arsenal. Only then will they welcome you back into the fold with welcome arms.

      Daddy died relatively young at 73. His mom just short of 80. Mom’s folks, within weeks of each other, at 95. Pretty sure grandma held on because grandpa needed her. Within hours of the conclusion of his Masonic funeral, her heart gave out.

      Mom is 84 & going strong. As are her siblings (82 & 72).

  10. They’d object to my calling it a village, btw.

    It isn’t simply a matter of size, it is also an issue of attitude. There is a mentality in a community that makes it a village, a town, or a city which owes little to population. Some of it is where the community’s “center” is — in the country clubs, in the theatres and business lunchrooms, or in the VFW, bars and salons. It is a matter of the types of paces where people meet, where decisions are made, and where assessments are taken.

    1. I wonder … how about a novel (or movie) about a monstrous entity that occupies a village, controlling the minds of all the inhabitants and forcing them to conform to its design, to suppress their natural desires, forsaking freedom and individuality?

      It could be titled It Takes A Village.

  11. Last year I was back in central Illinois farm country where I grew up and decided to drive past the old house. I’m surprised by how devastated I was to see that the old barn had fallen down, and was a pile of (probably mostly rotten) wood scraps. That old barn figures hugely in my memories of the time. I wanted to stop and climb my favorite tree to see if it was possible to find where I carved the names of my secret crushes WAY up in the upper branches where my older brother was too afraid to climb (hey, you take your privacy where you can find it). Just as well I didn’t, I probably would have broken my fool neck. LOL!

    1. It doesn’t take that long.

      My folks…the owner finally overplayed his hand. For years, he’s been informing my mom, to her face, that women don’t do work like men.

      Then he decided that they’d reduce her pay to what she was “really” doing, ie, less than the borderline worthless hired hands they get at the pay they offer, and barely legal.

      So dad informed him that if he was firing his wife, he was firing the manager, too.

      They are now gone.

      And the place looks like it’s been abandoned for YEARS, because nobody is clearing roads, nobody is trimming weeds, nobody is upkeeping water systems, nobody is propping up the barn.

      It hasn’t even been a year, and the house looks…well, the a-hole is blaming them for “trashing” what would take several thousand dollars to pass basic livability inspections, because it’s OLD. And has been since his sister in law declared they’d leave if it wasn’t upkept….four decades ago.

        1. THey’ve landed on their feet, prayers for them to land on OUR feet would be appreciated.

          (And not just because ten minutes without watching the kids would be nice.)

    2. “Just turn left where the old barn used to be. What barn? The one that fell down and got carted off 20 years ago, of course.”

  12. And now for my daily inappropriate mood-destroying observation:

    I wonder if this realization that the meaningful places of our childhoods no longer exist is why some people are so bound and determined to create preservations of quaint, picturesque, and primitive cultures.

    1. Bonus points if can relate to myth of the Noble Savage. Extra Credit if one can correlate with Federal (U.S.) ownership of land, particularly west of the Mississippi River.

    2. The last time I was in my hometown I drove by the house I grew up in and the house we moved into when I was 14. Looked much as I remembered them.

      1. My mom still lives in the house I grew up in …

        Now my maternal grandparents place is slowly being covered by blackberries. Don’t know exactly what happened. Was sold immediately for what the land was worth, in 2006. Realtor bought it. Cleaned & fixed the house, sold it in ’08 or ’09, for what had in it. Fast forward to ’16 & the place is abandoned. Can barely see where the road goes to the house, & graveled area for parking. House in ’18 can barely be seen for all the blackberries & poison oak. This in a location that is fairly hot as far as property goes. At minimum there is a good deep well (pump working at this point? Probably not.). Large septic & drainage field. Over 2 1/2 acres. House should have gone immediately in ’06, so no loss there; but still …

        1. Sounds like a place not far from RedQuarters. MomRed asked around and found out that the owner had died, the heirs lived in different states (not offspring but nephew and cousin) and one of them was not entirely sane, so getting probate sorted out in order for someone to sell or buy the place took years. The current owners really improved the place, updated it without ruining the “bones.”

          1. Rumor from neighbors was it is abandoned & foreclosed on. But, just rumors as they were relatively “new” neighbors … property was already abandoned when they moved in. Someone is/was keeping the grass down in the front half of the property, probably in defense (or was spring ’17, last check). Back around the house, pump house, & up the hill behind, along the fence west of the lane in, nope, not so much.

            House was a shack. “Improvements” in ’06 were gutting to studs, adding missing insulation, & replacing siding, redid mudroom/back porch. Still a shack from the mid-’30s. Place I remember fondly as a child. But, also somewhere we did not take our baby/toddler; partly the house, mostly by then they were hoarders … think I’ve mentioned the dead mice/rats/snakes found when we helped their kids clear the place out …

        2. Decades later, my aunt is still *livid* about not being allowed to sell her inherited property in a pricey section of Atlanta because some Senatrix wanted the space for the Tupac Shakur Memorial Library. Which never materialized, and now the pricey section of Atlanta is no longer pricey and the land went for about a twentieth of its original valuation…

        1. “This was a strange weapon, even for us. The Grauniad might not be impervious to bullets, but we needed something certain and deadly. We were armed with dictionaries and spellcheckers. High-capacity, unabridged, multilanguage spellcheckers, of course. It still felt strange to have something so seemingly harmless as the primary weapons.”

                1. Waitwaitwait…Dude gets taxpayer dollars (or pounds, I suppose, since he’s British) to write a book and he willfully chooses not to write the book?

                  That’s getting really close to outright breach of contract right there, and he should be ashamed of himself.

                  1. Some animals are more equal than others.

                    That is why you pay a six-digit advance for a political memoir that sells copies in the dozens.

                    1. Is it just me or does he look more than a little like Radar O’Reilly?

                      The photo you select for your author page is a conscious marketing choice. While you can’t do all that much about how you look you can do a great deal about how your picture looks.

              1. Checked my Amazon orders and found it:

                Monster Hunter Guardian Hardcover – August 6, 2019
                by Larry Correia (Author), Sarah A. Hoyt (Author)

                Delivery estimate: Tuesday, August 6, 2019 by 8pm

                Pre-ordered 12/14/18


      Ahem… I mean… sounds good.

      (Sorry for any loss of hearing resulting from that outburst… I’m sure the ringing in your ears will subside eventually)

  13. You had to go through the back of a closet and along the choir loft of the disused baroque chapel. In case you guys wonder at all the secret passageways in my books

    There needs to be a reason for secret passages?

    What next, a reason for coffee? Or chocolate?

    1. Hehe. My husband crafted a “secret room” in our last house (surprisingly easy–I think he had to do something with the doorframe to make it flush, but the main thing was to use panelling on the walls instead of paint or wallpaper.) It was too completely obvious for much of a practical purpose–that is, the rooms on either side of the hall didn’t come close to touching, and anyone with much spacial sense would have to notice that–but it worked well enough on our casual visitors, and it definitely gave my internal giggling preteen a thrill.

      All of this means that I am completely in camp “who needs a reason?”

      (…there’s also a tiny little island across the swamp in back of his parents house. It’s got to have some access, because every however many years they take the trees off and grow them again, but from our side it seems completely like a secret deserted island that can only be reached by walking over the ice. Same thrill.)

      1. One of the houses on our short list for the upcoming move won that place by having a secret room.

        The placement is brilliant. There are CLOSETS on either side, and a bookshelf built into a doorway– so it looks like there use to be a door to a short hallway, and they turned it into closets. Which they kind of did.
        Unless you could look at both, you’d just assume the other room got the big closet. And since the hallway between them is now gone, you have to go the whole length of the house to check…..

        1. I bought mine instead of making it. It was an old legal book but has the cover of Treasure Island.

        2. Ah!

          What you want for that one is a hardback whose contents would cause you to wall the book, should you ever attempt to read it again.

          That’s the perfect candidate for hollowing. I can think of one book that I would love to do that to… If I hadn’t already thrown it away.

          …Or you could buy a book-shaped box. I think I’ve seen them for sale at Ross…

            1. The Fifth Sorceress and sequels. Perfect for hollow books; they radiate such an aura of Awful that no one would pick one up on a whim.

              1. Not familiar with it.

                But now you have me thinking of choosing books nobody would want to pick up… or a joke. Say, “The Prince.”

                1. The Prince is far too small to work as a proper hidey-hole. You need a proper tome for that sort of thing.

                  1. Darn, even with “large type” and “hardback” I can’t find any bigger than an inch and a fifth by six inches by nine.
                    Including when it’s combined with other books!

                    1. Heh… sounds like a good clue from a cozy mystery… the secret hiding place is found because the intrepid detective notices a book, The Prince, and it’s three inches thick.

                    2. I recalled that Michael Ledeen had written a book on Old Nicc, but alas, Machiavelli on Modern Leadership : Why Machiavelli’s Iron Rules Are As Timely and Important Today As Five Centuries Ago is only a fraction over an inch thick in HB.

                      I suspect most 19th Century writers would sit untouched on a modern library shelf. Even Dickens will scare away the curious, so try Thanckery, Melville, Mssr. Bulwer-Lytton or even Horatio Alger.

                      Religious treatises, particularly bound sermons, are an excellent source for thick books nobody will touch. Consider The Royalty of the Pulpit: A Survey and Appreciation of the Lyman Beecher Lectures on Preaching Founded at Yale Divinity School 1871 and Given Annually (with Four Exceptions) since 1872 Hardcover – 1951, for example. This 478 page hardbound collection of sermons by the father of Harriet Beecher Stowe weighs in at 1.4 pounds in a hefty 8.3 x 5.6 x 1.5 inches package, and you can be confident the casual reader will pass over it like the angel of death espying lamb’s blood on a door. A bargain at $2.95!

                      I am advised that the works of Victor Hugo are admirably thick (and not just in the reading), readily adapted to your purpose. They have the added advantage of the Hugo on the spine, discouraging all who eschew unreadable dreck.

                      Alternatively, you can haunt the discount tables at B&N for the kind of omnibus collections of books nobody reads but all seem to think make lovely gifts for the odd person they know who does not consider a book the Christmas equivalent of cotton socks.

              2. I vaguely recall starting and dropping that back in the day. And that was when I omnivorously devoured every fantasy epic I got my hands on.

            2. Gee, I was preparing to recommend one of the “Ice & Fire” novels … they’re already hollow!

              How would you feel about customizing a VHS two-pack? That ought be large enough to accommodate more sufficient content and seems unlikely anybody would pick it up for examination.

              1. VHS cases make dandy secret places.
                And you can blackmail your kids into treating you nice by telling them that there really are valuables in some of them, and they will have to go through all 6 boxes of tapes when you die to find them.
                So there.
                (No joke: I used to help care for an old lady who stashed her cash all over the house, in old purses, drawers, under things — her kids could never throw out anything without checking it first.)

                1. $3000 cash & change, found in my grandparents stuff after they died, we had to check everything before packing, tossing, or burning. That doesn’t count the uncancelled checks from family members. They weren’t particularly wealthy …

                  Close to $100k in cash … what my in-laws found when they had to move her dad in with them after his wife died; all over the house, in everything.

                  Not uncommon. If you are helping someone clean out a relatives things, especially those who went through the ’30s or WW2, check everything.

                  1. What we didn’t find when we cleaned out rental house where maternal grandparents lived for 60 years: grandmother’s stash of gold pounds.
                    Unless grandad found it and blew it first (not impossible but unlikely) it went back to the landlord.)
                    She — and mom is getting like that — had “safes” built in things like false pipes. To find them all you’d need to demolish the house. Then she got dementia the last decades of her life. Yeah.
                    Mom keeps showing me things… I’ll never remember where they are. I have NO visual memory. Head/desk.

                  2. Inside of wallets, too.

                    When my wallet was stolen, they found one of the $100 “emergency” bills (and one of them pocketed it, even when returning it under a cop’s eye)…but not the other $250.

  14. No one names their anything Caligula.

    I am halfway tempted, if we get a place where we can have foul fowl, to name the rooster thus.

    And then never call him anything but Cali.

    Or maybe Googlies.

  15. Hmm, the onion chopping ninjas are present today. Cooke City was like that for me; I’d love to go back and drink from the stream, visit the horses, and run along the path between the various cabins.

    1. Here’s the interesting thing: the story of meeting Dave Drake is almost exactly accurate. Only we started out at a world fantasy TOR parties when they were chocolate fests…

  16. Bittersweet.

    The Princess is singing Buddy Holly songs. (Currently “it’s so easy to fall in love.”) So I looked up videos for her.

    …about half the results are about “the day the music died.”

    She has no idea.


    I think we’ll keep it that way. Most of the music she hears is from the dead, anyways. It didn’t hurt me to have no idea what the song “The Day The Music Died” was about.

      1. Zomga, just realized how well that plays into the whole “elves” and “otherworldly” thing– so now the Elves are listening to Hank Williams, in my imagination.

    1. Recall the thing many years ago, “Google ‘YourName is’ and see what you get. Well, thanks to that incident with the Beatles, it was not the most uplifting thing for Paul.

  17. Something I’ve noticed regarding my old homes & apartments. Whenever I’ve been in the process of moving, there’s a strange feel about the place, like it’s confused that I’m packing up and leaving.
    Should I go back to visit, the place feels cold and unfriendly, as to say “what are YOU doing back here!? You betrayed me, remember.”
    If I visit often enough, it can warm up again.

    1. Yes–… Funny one of the houses I stayed at temporarily warmed up… but it seemed to now I was just there until the new owners could move in. Already for them.

  18. I enjoyed this more than anything I have read on the Internet in quite awhile. I think it should be included as a lesson for every aspiring writer.

    No need for the invitation. You already brought us with you.

    Now I’m going back 50 years to ask Grandpa for a fig from one of his trees. Later.

  19. In one of Pratchett’s Johnny novels, there’s a crazy old homeless lady who can travel through time, and treats eras like places – as in, she’s going to go visit that nice nurse over in 1917. I want to be able to do that – there’s too many places I want to go back to that don’t exist anymore. And there’s no new equivalent.

  20. I tend not to go back to places I lived in the past, especially when my family isn’t there anymore. Not sure why.

    1. I’ll look at various places where I’ve lived on satellite and/or real estate listings.

      The 1950s tract I lived in for 6 years never was fancy, but the trees are a lot bigger. It was a bedroom suburb for the automakers and the related support industry workers/office types. We were the peak of the baby boom, and the elementary school is now a ‘resource center’.

      The next place called itself a village, but it wasn’t terribly good for Odds. Still, there were Others, and we made our own village of sorts. Bittersweet memories apply. I’ve seen the house where I lived then, and it’s well preserved (circa 190?), but I can’t imagine ever going in there again. Parts of the old village are there, but it’s like a snowglobe of somewhere you lived for years. (That elementary school is now a mega preschool/daycare/afterschool care center. The main building made our house look young, but life goes onward.)

      No particular nostalgia for the places I owned and lived in and remodeled. That aspect of California disappeared long since, in many ways it was dissolving as we left the state 15 years ago.

      Damn, it’s dusty in here.

  21. Whenever I have the chance, I drive by my grandparent’s old place- it’s a nice, lakefront that’s going more upscale. A couple of years ago, the new owners gutted and remodeled the place. I’m kind of curious to see what they did.
    Should I win the lotto, that’s the place I’d try to buy. Or at least get a house in the neighborhood, on the lake.

  22. I’ve often thought it would be interesting to run Time Jump Holidays, Ltd. Pay the fee, and you get to go back in time, wherever you wish. Unfortunately, the History Protection Act prohibits attempts to alter history, so don’t get any notions…but do have a good time.

    The fun part being figuring out where/when to go. Washington in the age of Theodore Roosevelt would be fun. Paris or London in 1913. Los Angeles in the early 1960s.

    1. A variant of the game: you have a *not completely reliable* time machine, so there is a certain possibility…say, a 5% or 10% change…that you will be in your selected vacation spot *permanently*.

      Would probably influence choice of destinations….

    2. I think a nice jaunt back to the burning of the Library of Alexandria could prove profitable. With that conflagration nobody is likely to miss a few thousand removed scrolls.

      Group rates for the wedding in Cana? I understand they had some excellent wine.

      It might be necessary to forbid access to certain events; the crowd awaiting the Resurrection would be likely to affect the event. There would also have to be limits on the mystery buffs wanting to visit Whitechapel circa 1888.

      1. Something tells me that, if we ever do develop time travel, certain times and places will be inaccessible for naturalistically unexplainable reasons.

        Supernaturally speaking, however, direct, visible divine presence messes with the time stream.

          1. Outlander series.

            They work to not change certain things, not killing someone one who really needs to be, because he is a recorded/known ancestor of someone in the future that one main character absolutely does not to be erased. The person gets killed anyway, only to find out that the actual ancestor wasn’t the (bad) guy, but a relative, & he was officially the record for “reasons”. Or nature/history will be maintained, one way or another.

            They work to change something, because too horrible to let happen. Culloden. They can’t succeed because of the history & forces behind it, no matter how hard they try, with out screaming “are you freaking nuts!” But they do what they can to mitigate to consequences, of those they are responsible for. Make sure that the “laird” of the property owned is a child too small/young to be blamed for participating. Refusing to take anyone young(ish). Sending everyone back after arriving at a certain point (not that they are 100% successful, but they tried), accepting their own fate (well okay, she gets sent “home”). Other words they came to the conclusion of “Accept what we can change, & the responsibility to do so; put aside what we can’t.”

            Same result regarding historical events closer to home.

            OTOH. When you’ve witnessed history first hand, how do you write a treatise, papers, on what you’ve witnessed, what you participated in, what you now know, all in the context of a trained research historian (with emphasis on the period you are in) when you’ve returned to the future? What sources do you cite? Granted this is presuming that “time travel” is not a known ability.

            Yes. I’ve read all the books. No. I do not follow the series.

            1. When time travel comes up, I always find myself thinking about ‘The Final Countdown.’ One of the navy officers tosses aside all of the borax about how ‘history must be maintained’ by stating he swore an oath to defend the United States and her people, and it doesn’t matter if that’s in 1941 or not.

              We rarely seem to get characters with a clear sense of moral clarity in time travel stories, unless the writer wants to ‘teach them a lesson’ for having that moral clarity.

              1. Time Travel either:
                1) Destiny. History can’t be changed. It is what it is, it is what is known.
                2) History will work around you. What is known, not so accurate?
                3) History is changed & you:
                (a) created a new universe/new future & you can’t “go back to the future” 1632 Universe
                (b) you go back to the new universe – Butterfly Effect
                (c) might have a chance to redo – Back to the Future

  23. It’s easy to remember where I call home.

    It’s a house on a small lot, with enough backyard for a dog, a big tree that was never quite suitable for a tree house, enough yard space in front to play simple softball, even around the tree in the yard. The door out from the laundry room to the side of the house. The roses that Mom can see, and not have to smell due to her allergies, the light in the hallway that required Dad to build an improvised platform to change the bulb. The bathroom with the cheap paneling that I could tell stories to myself from the patterns in the panels. The concrete pad in the back that lead to the alleyway that when I turned eighteen I tried to figure out how to make into a two car garage with a garage overhead that I could call home, because the Parents would never leave here.

    And, turn of 2000, they did. In retrospect, having gone back to where the house in, I’m glad they did. It hasn’t gone downhill, but when you realize that your Dad could afford to build a new house in 1976 there and he couldn’t even afford the property tax in 2018, it’s sad.

    Everywhere else…has never quite been home.

  24. Thank you for the beautiful post Sarah! Many of us can relate. This is part of the reason for the popularity of Disneyland/ Disney World Magic Kingdom. Main Street USA is a place that never truly existed except in our collective memories. Friendly people, immaculately clean, and wondrous shops around every corner.
    Even Walt Disney himself acknowledged that it was a place that everyone wished was the Main Street of their childhood. A place that you wished existed.
    I remember walking to school as 5 yr old and stopping in the local candy store and filling a small paper bag for a nickel. No worries of abduction or predators, crossing streets with no crossing guard. Sadly, that area of the city is now considered inner-city ghetto and dangerous even for police.
    The world is always changing and not always for the better.

  25. “(Though a business that builds VRs of people’s memories so they can visit those would probably make a killing. When the tech is there, of course.)”

    I can see a way to do that, with some good geographical VR datasets, a way to select “pieces” of various places corresponding to a matrix of choices (kind of like building up an police artist’s rendering from the victim’s description: which kind of nose, eyes, ears, etc. — Mr. PotatoHead), and some video-game style animation.
    It would make a good story, anyway.
    What’s up for next Sunday’s vignettes?

  26. FWIW, my favorite Bradbury stories were the ones that had that same sense of dream-nostalgia about places that the characters used to know.

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