It’s been almost exactly a year since my last Midwest Adventures post. This gap can be attributed, I think, to 1) being busy with everyday life and 2) becoming more settled in this part of the country and feeling less like a newcomer here. Still, I could have written several pieces over the past twelve months under the Midwest Adventures banner, I just didn’t get it done.
We have reached what we hope is the tail end of our second winter in central Iowa. The first one was very mild. It set records for warmth and lack of snow, and as a result it was a nice way to ease us into the Midwest. This second winter has been closer to “normal.” There’s been quite a bit more snow, and it’s been colder overall. And yet, long-term locals insist it’s still been relatively mild compared with some of the winters they’ve seen. We aren’t eager to experience a winter season much more severe than this one.
The tone was set with a genuine blizzard in mid-December. We got 10 inches in less than 24 hours. I still don’t have a snow blower, so shoveling out of that storm was a three-day affair. Ultimately, our neighbor did bring over his snow blower to help us with one particularly big pile lingering in the driveway. By anyone’s standards, it was a big snowstorm, and there are vestiges of that snow still on the ground around Ames.
Snowstorms affect driving, and they affect walking. Driving issues are alleviated pretty quickly in the city by sending out dozens of snowplows to clear the roads. People drive slow, not only because it’s the smart thing to do but because there are stoplights and lots of other cars on the road. But the highways are a different story. They take longer to become safe. When people can’t go to work or school — just can’t make it — it’s because they have to take a highway to get there.
Cars slide off the highway a lot, ending up “in the ditch.” This is a phrase you don’t hear much out West, but it’s very common here. Being “in the ditch” usually doesn’t mean you are dead or injured, and often your car suffers little or no damage. But it’s scary and certainly has the potential to be serious. Knock on wood, we haven’t been in the ditch yet.
We’ve had several more periods of significant snowfall since the blizzard. Each time the first order of business is to clear the driveway and sidewalks. I don’t mind shoveling actually, if it’s not too cold or windy. I like the physical exertion and the sense of progress and completion of the task. I like the fact that I’m getting better at it and faster.
If there’s a significant snowfall, there is likely to be either a snow day at school or a two-hour delay, allowing time to clear the roads before the kids venture to school. Sara has been off school a fair amount this winter, and being a senior, she doesn’t have to make up the time at the end of the school year. The younger kids will have extra days in May, which I’m sure they will gripe about when they arrive. Sometimes, after a storm, the paper doesn’t get delivered in a timely fashion.
Walking is another matter. Walking is an issue long after the snowstorm has passed, because commercial sidewalks and parking lots remain icy. You have to be really careful. People are falling a lot, and some of them end up at the doctor or chiropractor as a result. Some people get very anxious about walking in winter, while others don’t. Knocking on wood again, we haven’t had any painful falls yet.
We’re expecting another spot of snow starting tonight and running through tomorrow. It’s not expected to be much, but you never know. The meteorologists do the best they can, but weather can be unpredictable. That certainly was the case with our most recent large storm. The meteorologists said it would miss us entirely — that it would go east instead of north — but overnight that changed, and nobody expected the six inches that we got.
It’s possible that this will be the last snowstorm of the season. Locals say we tend to get our last snowstorm during the state girls basketball tournament, which is going on now. Assuming they’re right, this could be the last one, and we will start turning our attention to spring. On the other hand, my neighbor, a lifelong Iowan, tells stories of times when he’s seen big snowstorms in April.
Although we have stoically endured this winter, we are eager for it to be over and to enjoy the warmth and new life of spring and summer. Spring here is kind of like a prize for making it through the winter. The birds and other wildlife emerge, seemingly out of thin air, and the farmers and gardeners jump into action. People holed up for months are suddenly on the go all the time.
Still, a nagging question in our minds during these long months of December, January and February has been: How many of these winters are we going to experience? Are we in this for the long haul, or is this somewhat temporary duty, after which we will go someplace where winter is very different? The answer, obviously, is complex and dependent on many factors. In the meantime, March is a transition month, so we will watch closely for the telltale signs of spring and hope for an early conclusion to winter.
In a couple of weeks, I will have lived in Iowa for two years. I remember my first couple of weeks here in 2011 — late March/early April — as being quite springlike, although they were marred somewhat by a series of tornado watches in the general vicinity. There’s always something.
ADDENDUM: It is March 24, and it’s snowing. It’s been snowing for several hours now. Luckily, we aren’t getting the brunt of this storm, which is slamming places like Kansas City to the south of us. Still, it’s March 24, and it’s snowing. That’s not right.
Here’s the official press release:
For immediate release:
Stephens Press Selected to Publish Book
for Nevada’s Sesquicentennial
State’s Top Writers and Photographers Will Contribute
to Nevada: 150 Years in the Silver State
LAS VEGAS, January 9, 2013: The Nevada 150 Sesquicentennial Planning Committee has chosen Stephens Press to produce a book commemorating the state’s sesquicentennial — 150 years of statehood — in 2014.
Nevada: 150 Years in the Silver State will be a compelling historical, cultural and visual portrait of Nevada. Tapping the state’s finest writers and photographers, this ambitious book will feature each of Nevada’s 17 counties, as well as its diverse cultural treasures. Natural landmarks such as Lake Tahoe and Red Rock Canyon will be highlighted, as well as the neon metropolises of Las Vegas and Reno. The book also will delve into the economic engines that built the Silver State, from mining and gambling to ranching and entertainment.
“While history will be a vital component, it will be just one element of this book’s rich texture,” vowed Geoff Schumacher, a longtime Nevada journalist who will serve as the book’s editor. “From desolate dry lakes to bustling urban streetscapes, all aspects of Nevada will be explored, with the goal of accurately and perceptively depicting a state that’s too often misunderstood.”
Carolyn Hayes Uber, publisher of Stephens Press, said she is honored that Stephens Press was selected for this prestigious project.
“With this book, we intend to make an important and enduring contribution to Nevada,” Uber said. “We hope this book will be cherished by future generations as a seminal portrait — in words and pictures — of our state.”
Schumacher is assembling a team of editors, writers and photographers who will scour all corners of the state to capture the depth and breadth of its diversity.
“The past, present and future of Nevada will be represented in this book,” he said. “The past 150 years in this state are loaded with amazing stories that we plan to tell. But what’s happening now and what could happen in the future also are topics we will explore.”
Uber said she expects the book to be released in the late fall of 2013.
About Stephens Press
Headquartered in Las Vegas, Stephens Press publishes both fiction and nonfiction titles and markets books online, through newspapers, bookstores and specialty retailers. Topics include history, current events, travel, entertainment, nature, sports, lifestyle and more. Stephens Press is the book division of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
About Geoff Schumacher
Author, editor and newspaper executive, Geoff Schumacher grew up in Southern Nevada, earned his journalism degree from the University of Nevada, Reno, and worked for Las Vegas newspapers for 23 years. He is the author of Sun, Sin & Suburbia: The History of Modern Las Vegas and Howard Hughes: Power, Paranoia & Palace Intrigue, both published by Stephens Press.
Here’s my list of favorite albums of 2012. I no longer try to listen to everything that comes out. Too old and too busy. And over the years what I like has narrowed to cull out a lot of things that might otherwise be deserving of mention on such a list. One thing you’ll quickly notice on my list is a significant number of old-timers who are still producing great work. It was a good year for legends who aren’t over-the-hill just yet.
Best CDs of 2012
1. Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Psychedelic Pill
2. Bob Dylan, Tempest
3. Bruce Springsteen, Wrecking Ball
4. Gary Clark Jr., Blak and Blu
5. Waylon Jennings, Goin’ Down Rockin’
6. Patterson Hood, Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance
7. Todd Snider, Agnostic Hymns and Stoner Fables
8. Rush, Clockwork Angels
9. Lucero, Women & Work
10. Gaslight Anthem, Handwritten
11. Mumford and Sons, Babel
12. Dr. John, Locked Down
13. Cloud Nothings, Attack on Memory
14. Avett Brothers, The Carpenter
15. Green Day, Uno!
16. Van Halen, A Different Kind of Truth
17. Jack White, Blunderbuss
18. The Shins, Port of Morrow
19. Craig Finn, Clear Heart Full Eyes
20. John Mayer, Born and Raised
21. Japandroids, Celebration Rock
Well, it’s clear I watched too much TV in 2012, because I completed only 45 books during the year. This is well below the norm. I’m usually in the 50s or 60s.
That said, I read some good ones this year, and a few of them (such as the Stephen King novels) were long. Still, it was an off year overall, and I blame “The Walking Dead,” “Mad Men,” “Big Bang Theory,” “Modern Family” and even, dare I say it, “Vegas.”
The election probably had something to do with it, too. Wasted a lot of time agonizing over a nation with Herman Cain at the helm.
Yet another factor was that I started a number of books that I have not finished and therefore cannot put on the list. Included among these are a couple of whales that I may not even complete in 2013.
Anyway, without further elaboration, here’s the list of books I read in 2012:
11/22/63 by Stephen King (fiction)
Car Tag by H. Lee Barnes (fiction)
The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt (nonfiction)
Pity the Billionaire: The Hard-Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right by Thomas Frank (nonfiction)
God’s Jury: The Inquisition and the Making of the Modern World by Cullen Murphy (nonfiction)
Under the Dome by Stephen King (fiction)
Iowa Boy: Ten Years of Columns by Chuck Offenburger (nonfiction)
Citizenship Papers: Essays by Wendell Berry (nonfiction)
The Empty Copper Sea by John D. MacDonald (fiction)
By the Iowa Sea: A Memoir by Joe Blair (nonfiction)
Reading for My Life: Writings, 1958-2008 by John Leonard (nonfiction)
Sweet Heaven When I Die: Faith, Faithlessness, and the Country in Between by Jeff Sharlet (nonfiction)
When I Was a Child I Read Books by Marilynne Robinson (nonfiction)
These Dreams of You by Steve Erickson (fiction)
Magic Hours: Essays on Creators and Creation by Tom Bissell (nonfiction)
Ancient Sorceries and Other Weird Stories by Algernon Blackwood (fiction)
How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton Christensen, James Allworth and Karen Dillon (nonfiction)
Vegas Knockout: A Novel in Stories by P Moss (fiction)
London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction by Michael Moorcock (nonfiction)
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter (fiction)
Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock (fiction)
The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (fiction)
American Gypsy: A Memoir by Oksana Marafioti (nonfiction)
The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (fiction)
In the Country of Last Things by Paul Auster (fiction)
Hitlerland: American Eyewitnesses to the Rise of Nazi Power by Andrew Nagorski (nonfiction)
More Baths Less Talking by Nick Hornby (nonfiction)
The Way the World Works: Essays by Nicholson Baker (nonfiction)
Battleborn: Stories by Claire Vaye Watkins (fiction)
Examined Lives: From Socrates to Nietzsche by James Miller (nonfiction)
The Green Ripper by John D. MacDonald (fiction)
Free Fall in Crimson by John D. MacDonald (fiction)
Cinnamon Skin by John D. MacDonald (fiction)
The Lonely Silver Rain by John D. MacDonald (fiction)
I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts: Drive-By Essays by Mark Dery (nonfiction)
The Tenants of Moonbloom by Edward Lewis Wallant (fiction)
Waging Heavy Peace by Neil Young (nonfiction)
The Half-Life of an American Essayist by Arthur Krystal (nonfiction)
One for the Books by Joe Queenan (nonfiction)
The Writer Who Stayed by William Zinsser (nonfiction)
Next by James Hynes (fiction)
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (fiction)
The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough (nonfiction)
Lost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries by Jon Ronson (nonfiction)
Hard Rain Falling by Don Carpenter (fiction)
My top 5 books published in 2012 (not in order)
- Lost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries by Jon Ronson (nonfiction).
- I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts: Drive-By Essays by Mark Dery (nonfiction).
- Hitlerland: American Eyewitnesses to the Rise of Nazi Power by Andrew Nagorski (nonfiction).
- Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter (fiction).
- Waging Heavy Peace by Neil Young (nonfiction)
My top 4 books NOT published in 2012
- The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough (nonfiction). Published 2011.
- The Tenants of Moonbloom by Edward Lewis Wallant (fiction). Published 1963.
- In the Country of Last Things by Paul Auster (fiction). Published 1987.
- Hard Rain Falling by Don Carpenter (fiction). Published in 1966.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal today published a review of my book coming out next weekend. It’s positive and accurate. Click here to check it out.
• Friday, Oct. 12, 5-7 p.m., Artifice, 1025 S. First St.: Pre-book release gathering. Friends and colleagues of the author welcome.
• Saturday, Oct. 13, 1-3 p.m., Nevada State Museum: Book talk and release. Public invited to discuss Las Vegas history and perhaps buy a new book about it.
• Sunday, Oct. 14, 10 a.m.-noon, Barnes and Noble, Henderson. Book signing.
• Sunday, Oct. 14, 1 p.m.-3 p.m., Barnes and Noble, Rainbow and Lake Mead. Book signing.
The new revised and expanded trade paperback edition of “Sun, Sin & Suburbia: A History of Modern Las Vegas” is set to debut at 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12, at the Nevada State Museum.
If you can’t make this event, there will be another chance to get a signed copy at 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 13, at the Barnes and Noble store at Rainbow and Lake Mead.
The first edition was published in 2004. This new one — revised throughout — brings the ever-evolving Las Vegas story up to date.
For more information, check out the book’s website here.
A recent column about delivering newspapers is here.
The weather was great last weekend, so Tammy and I decided to explore one of the numerous natural areas within Ames. The Munn Woods are about two miles from our house, and they are surrounded by the city. There is a stream running through the woodsy area. We plan to go back in the summer when it’s much greener.
Occasionally in my book-hunting adventures, I come across a cache of old copies of the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. If they’re in decent shape, I almost always sift through them for a copy or two that might be worth taking home and holding on to. Used, they typically go for three or four dollars, sometimes less.
The format is appealing — roughly the same as Reader’s Digest, but with a lower grade of paper, both for the cover and inside pages. It’s basically a flimsy cardboard for the cover and slightly better than newsprint inside. Also, the text is divided into two columns on each page, for ease of reading. Art and graphics are minimal. It’s a tidy little package, easy to handle, cart around, store, etc.
Looking through the old copies, it’s interesting to find all the prominent authors from the fantasy and science fiction genres. Nobody, it seemed, was too good to appear in F&SF or one of the other very similar magazines with the same format that were so popular in the ’60s and ’70s. Even the top writers couldn’t have gotten much money for their contributions, but they wrote for the magazine anyway. It was the place to see and be seen.
Today, in an antiques mall, I picked up the October 1968 issue, which contains writings by Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Harlan Ellison, Robert Silverberg, Gahan Wilson, Larry Niven, D.F. Jones and Ron Goulart. These were/are prominent names in fantasy and science fiction. I was especially drawn to the Ellison short story, “Try a Dull Knife.” Besides being a longtime fan of Ellison, I was fascinated by the fact that he submitted this piece to the magazine at a time when he was at or near the peak of his career. In fact, the editor’s note introducing the story indicates how busy Ellison was at that time:
“Harlan Ellison’s current projects include the following: scripting an sf film, Esper, for Universal Pictures (it is projected as a film-for-TV and later a series); putting together a second volume of Dangerous Visions; completing two novels, Demon with a Glass Hand (based on his award-winning ‘Outer Limits’ television script, and Dial 9 to Get Out, a contemporary novel ‘more than slightly autobiographical.’ Ellison is presently crossing the country making TV and radio appearances to promote his new collection Love Ain’t Nothing But Sex Misspelled. . . .”
I checked my shelf of Ellison books, and the story in the magazine later appeared in his collection The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World. I just read the story, and it’s pretty good, an allegory about the vampiric codependence between celebrities and their fans. Classic Ellison, in that he no doubt was thinking autobiographically as he conceived this story.
Another fun piece is a column called “The Dark Corner” by the cartoonist Gahan Wilson in which he reviews new horror releases. He has an interesting take on a new edition of an Arthur Machen novel, arguing that the young people experimenting with psychedelic drugs would be wise to read the old British horror master.
“The more naive among the psychedelic set and the pot lot appear to believe that they have stumbled on a New Thing,” Wilson writes. “They style themselves Columbuses, treading an undiscovered continent, making first contact with the angels and demons which dwell therein. They are, of course, quite wrong. Those lands have been explored by previous voyagers, and we have the maps and logs of their journeys. Some of these bold cartographers left encouraging reports, others did not. Among those with less happy news stood — we can say towered — the figure of Arthur Machen. His cautionary essays on what may happen to those who meddle with that which we laughingly call reality should be required reading for those who are tempted to dip their toe into the acid pool or go out with Mary Jane.”
I haven’t read Machen, but my interest surely is piqued now. (Taking a quick look at the Wikipedia entry for Machen, I note that Stephen King, no slouch in the horror field, believes Machen’s novella The Great God Pan may be the best horror story ever.)
The October 1968 issue also includes Clarke’s response to a nonfiction piece by Asimov from a previous issue. Clarke and Asimov apparently were old friends, or at least very respectful colleagues, but the Clarke piece offers a strong disagreement with Asimov about an arcane aspect of science: whether anything is impossible. The dialogue between Asimov and Clarke happened many moons before the advent of the Internet, but F&SF at times had the feel of being an interactive experience within the tight-knit community of writers who contributed to it. It was something like a blog in which a handful of people are contributing and playing off one another’s posts.
The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction is still publishing, bimonthly these days, in roughly the same format. I haven’t been inclined to pick up the more recent issues, in part because I don’t recognize most of the contributors. But I think I’ll get a new one sometime soon and see what’s changed and what’s stayed the same. The compact and unpretentious format is hard to resist.