I feel like we could create our own version of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” over here. Tonight, Ray ate:
- one two-inch piece of chicken breast
- half of three pouches of fruit & veggie blend purees mixed with baby cereal
- about a dozen Puffs
- half a cheese stick
- probably two dozen bites out of my cheesy ham and potato leftover dinner
- about a dozen bites of cherries
- about a half dozen bites of pear
Here’s hoping he doesn’t have a stomach ache tonight…
“Mick (Jagger) didn’t hesitate when Michael told him to warm up his vocal cords before recording their duet “State of Shock” in 1983. It was a classic recording session a year after “Thriller” had cemented Michael’s reputation as the King of Pop. By then, everyone knew how good Michael was. If Michael Jackson says, ‘Warm up’, you warm up - even if you are Mick Jagger. […]
I normally record a singer about a dozen times before getting enough to mix together a perfect vocal track for an album. With Michael, it only took two to four takes. And one of those takes would be perfect on its own. But hours of preparation preceded recording. We would change lyrics, tempo and pitch, working for days and hours on getting the song just right before finalizing the track. Thriller was recorded and completed in six months.
[…] “Off the Wall’ and 'Thriller’ showed Quincy Jones kaleidoscopic approach. […] But it was Michael’s talent and drive for perfection that kept the singer practicing all night before a recording. That’s why a typical recording session started late.] We were up at the crack of noon.] Michael never started singing until after he warmed up his voice thoroughly for a typical 10-hour day.
He was a perfect gentleman and a consummate professional throughout all meetings. He never drank coffee. He never drank alcohol. He was a fussy eater. I guess he was what you would call a health nut. [I will remember him as one of the best prepared artists he ever worked with.] He never came in half-stepping. Michael was always prepared. I never recorded Michael when he had the lyrics in front of him. His dedication to his craft was unique. During album recordings, which would sometimes last more than six months, he rarely rested. He would work on the lyrics all of the time.”
- Bruce Swedien, American audio engineer and music producer, author of 2009 book, “In The Studio With Michael Jackson”
James is barely awake when he feels the careful dip of the bed and the sheet across his waist catches under weight and pulls down tighter against him. He breathes in and a sweet smell reaches him just before about a dozen other strong smells that really don’t mix well together, causing his nose to scrunch before his eyes begin opening. It draws a breathy laugh out of Kara, who he finds sitting upright, fully dressed, and holding a brightly frosted cupcake with a single lit candle in it.
“Happy Birthday.” She says softly, meeting his blurry eyes with hers that are bright and wide and full of anticipation.
James can see the balloons and streamers strewn about the apartment behind her and he has to blink a few times to determine if he’s only imagining the confetti littering the bed around them. He’s surprised none of her decorating had woken him already, Kara always struggles to do anything quietly.
“Good Morning.” He croaks, his voice deep and scratchy and catching on the G from sleep.
Kara smiles at him, soft and happy, one of his favorites of her smiles.
“I went and got you everything, all your favorites for breakfast and pizza and pot stickers and ice cream…” She announces, her mouth open and ready to continue listing through the inventory but James puffs out a laugh and is shaking his head in amusement. “What?”
“Those are all your favorites, Kara.”
She looks momentarily hurt, a pout quick to her lips but then she rolls her eyes and nods it away like an after fact. “Okay yes BUT… I got all your favorites too!” She pauses. “Besides my favorites are your favorites.” That’s probably true.
Kara shoves the cupcake closer and regards him expectantly and James’s mouth quirks up against her insistence. He’d rather lean over and kiss her than delay it any longer for blowing out a candle but he does, to please her, pausing just long enough to make a wish.
“What’d you wish for.” Kara predictably asks once the cupcake is out of the way and she’s finally leaning close enough that he can card his fingers through her long hair.
“You know I can’t tell you that.” He answers and laughs when Kara narrows her eyes at him.
“Rao, sometimes I forget how superstitions you Earthlings are.”
“You Earthlings.” James repeats with mock offense and Kara is already grinning, wigging her entire body to get closer to him. “It’s like that now?”
She laughs but its cut short by her finally being close enough to kiss and the moment shifts and consumes them both. When they part Kara’s eyes have grown soft and a bit dreamy and her cocky grin more dopey than anything.
“I wished for this.” He whispers with Kara pressed against him and their faces inches apart and Kara blushes. Actually blushes, tips of her ears and all.
“You already have this.” She says with quiet assurance and strokes her hand delicately across his cheek.
“It’s all I need in a birthday.”
“And the ice cream.” Kara corrects.
He nods. “And the ice cream.”
“Oh and presents!”
Reluctantly James nods again. “Okay, and a few presents.”
“And the surprise party!” Kara blurts, the words tumbling out of her as if she’d been holding them in for a lifetime.
James just laughs and pulls her tighter into a sort of sideways hug. Kara curses herself with her face pressed closely to his ear and it all feels incredibly calm and normal and really, exactly what he’d wished for. For the present and years to come if he’s lucky enough.
I’m going to say this
up-front: I don’t know how much of this story is true. The second half was told
to me by someone who seemed completely sincere, but who was pretty much a
stranger to me. She was also a tourist guide, a profession that sometimes
attracts “creative” types, for whom an entertaining story for the
clients is far more important than the gospel truth.
That said, she really had no reason to lie to me, and events
of the preceding day lent credence to her story. I practically had to drag it
out of her, and when she shared it with me, remembering it seemed to genuinely
upset her. So yeah, I feel that she was truthful with me, but feel free to take
it with a grain of salt.
I’m getting ahead of myself, though. First, I need to tell
you my small part in this tale.
PART ONE: MY STORY
Two years ago I went on a lengthy holiday across a good
chunk of central and eastern Europe. Having never been further east than
Marseille, it was pretty exciting. My boyfriend Neil and I flew in to Hamburg,
took the train up to Berlin, then doubled back and saw Austria and the Czech
Republic. The final stop was Hungary, a country I had always wanted to visit
for its natural beauty, its hot springs, its spicy food, its friendly people,
and its wonderfully impossible language.
Our first couple of days were spent slacking off in the
natural hot spring baths of Budapest. Seriously, it’s an amazing place, and I
cannot recommend it highly enough.
However, neither Neil or I are the sort of tourists who like
to laze by the pool with a cocktail. We both like to get our hands dirty, see
the real country, meet the real people. As such, we had booked ourselves a
guided hiking tour through some of the roughest terrain Hungary has to offer -
which, to be honest, isn’t that rough; Hungary is tucked into a relatively flat
spot between the mountains of Austria, Romania, Slovakia, and Croatia. So yeah,
it would be a fairly challenging walk, but we’re not talking about the
We met with our group about lunchtime in a rustic,
wood-panelled pub in Budapest. There was about a dozen of us, a mix of Aussies,
Brits, and Canadians, and they were a really friendly bunch. Within ten minutes
we were like old friends, laughing and drinking glasses of rich red wine over
steaming bowls of chunky goulash.
We were soon met by our tour guide Ráhel (I had to ask her
to write it down - that wonderful Hungarian pronunciation made it sound like
“Ghrayshel” or something) who was a sturdy, sweet-natured woman of
about 60. If any of you have read Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books and remember
Nanny Ogg, well, that’s immediately who she reminded me of. Her face radiated
health and happiness, and her only real wrinkles were along her heavily-used
laugh lines. I liked her immediately.
Once lunch was finished, Ráhel loaded us into an old Volvo minibus,
tossing our backpacks into the cargo space underneath and getting us seated
inside. It was a 16-seater, so with Ráhel, her assistant, and the driver, it
was fairly snug, but we were a cheerful group (thanks in part to that excellent
red wine) and we were told it wouldn’t be a long drive.
We headed east, winding up into the foothills of a
mountainous national park whose name I honestly had no hope of remembering. I
was full of rich food and wine, cuddled up close to Neil, being lulled to sleep
by the motion of the bus, and honestly, Hungarian place names seem engineered
specifically to be impossible for foreigners to pronounce or remember.
I watched between heavy eyelids as the scenery slid past.
Hungary is such a pretty country, made up primarily of gently rolling green
hills and small forests, interspersed with neat little farms. I must have
nodded off, hypnotised by the rocking of the old vehicle and the slow
progression of the landscape outside the window, because in no time at all, our
excited, chattering group was unloading into the gravel carpark of a trail-head
As we fetched our backpacks and got on sturdy hiking shoes,
Ráhel explained our timetable. This was a two-night trip, and we were starting
with an easy bit. From this spot, we would walk through the national park for
three hours, arriving at a cabin complex in the late afternoon.
be a harder day, as we would start just after dawn, eat our lunch at a
mountain-top waterfall, then start down the other side, spending one night in
our tents at an open meadow high in the foothills. Finally, we would walk five
more hours, and be picked up on the far side by Ráhel’s driver, who would
return us to Budapest.
For the first day and night, that’s exactly what happened.
It was early Autumn, and still summery warm, but the leaves on the trees had
begun to turn gold, scarlet, and purple. I’ve never seen autumn leaves like
them, and the whole hike was like walking through a fairy tale. The cabins were
primitive, but comfortable and warm, and we were well protected from the
The next day dawned clear and crisp, promising another day
of warm sun once the cool night-time air had lifted. Eager to get moving, we
all scarfed down a quick breakfast and got back onto the trail. We were slowly
winding higher, and for the first time we began to see views that I would call
mountains, rather than just hills. Even so, the trail was never too difficult.
Despite what happened later, I still treasure this time as one of the best I have
After five hours of walking, with a handful of stops to take
photos of the breathtaking scenery, we began to hear the telltale sigh of a
waterfall, beginning as just a hint of white noise on the edge of our hearing,
but slowly growing to a distinctive rushing sound. Finally, after half an hour
of teasing, we rounded a bend and got our first look at the waterfall.
It was better than I could have imagined - a wide stream
toppled over a steep overhang, resulting in a fifty metre plunge through the
open air, into a wide bowl eroded into the mountainside. I have never seen
anything like it - literally a falling column of water that you could walk
around 360 degrees without getting wet - and I gasped aloud at the sight. I
heard a chuckle beside me, and glanced over to see Ráhel beaming with pride. I
had to smile with her; here was a woman fiercely proud of her homeland, and who
loved to see visitors appreciating it too.
We were given an hour and a half to eat lunch at our own
pace, and to explore the waterfall and its surrounding rocky slopes. The rush
of water and twittering of birds was joined by that other common sound of the
great outdoors: the insectile clicking of many camera shutters.
It was the overhang that was our undoing, I think. More than
half the sky was hidden from our view as we marvelled at the beauty inside this
green-tinged rocky hollow, so there was no way to see the storm coming. Looking
back, it seems almost supernatural how quickly it came upon us. We had hiked
across the ridge barely an hour before, and the sky had been a radiant cobalt
blue from edge to edge.
The first I knew of it was a rumble of thunder, barely
audible under the constant hiss of falling water. Looking up, I was puzzled by
what I saw: green trees with blue sky behind, but at the rocky edge of the
cliff where the waterfall began, there was smudged grey. As I watched, I could
see the grey band growing: the storm clouds were rushing over us from behind
the mountain. Perfectly timed, a fat raindrop splashed onto my upturned face.
I turned to find Ráhel, but she was already looking up, and
something in her face made me immediately worried. The laughter in her eyes was
gone, and instead she wore a blank expression. I had only known her for a day,
but it looked to me like somebody trying to hide their fear so that others
It had only been a matter of seconds since the raindrop had
hit me and I had looked for Ráhel, but suddenly the heavens let go, and a
deluge of rain fell into the hollow. It was shockingly sudden, frigidly cold,
startling after the warmth of the morning. Around me, members of the group
rushed to get their precious cameras into rain-proof camera bags.
I popped up the hood of my light hiking jacket and walked to
Ráhel’s side. “Are you okay?” I asked. “You look worried.”
She blinked and gave me a half-hearted smile.
“Sorry,” she said. “Sudden storm in Autumn, can be bad. Forecast
say nothing about it. Very-”
She didn’t finish her sentence, but instead froze and stared
deeper into the hollow, where other members of our group were sheltering from
“No!” she shouted, and I jumped with surprise.
“Stay out!” A rumbling crack of thunder followed her shouts.
I didn’t understand what she was saying, but I turned my
gaze back to where she was looking, and there it was. The rational parts of my
brain tried to tell me I was wrong or that I hadn’t looked closely enough
earlier, but in my gut I knew what I was seeing: a small cave had appeared in
the cliff face. It had not been there before.
In honour of the OQ first kiss anniversary, have some feels - angstier than I intended but hopefully worth it. As today is also conveniently merylisoneofakind‘s birthday (good call! ;)), I dedicate this story to her - happy birthday, Karola! :)
It makes its first appearance the day after Regina has tucked the tattered, taped-together page XXIII into the drawer.
It’s both too early in the morning and too early in the year for such a thing. Yet there it is again: a single chirp, as if the bird were warming up, and then a string of sounds, bright and cheery and impossible to ignore now that she’s no longer asleep. Dread stirs in her belly and spreads, and she struggles to breathe, to resist the urge to rush over and yank the drawer open just to make sure the page is really there. She rubs her fingers together, testing the pads for residual glue. The bird flaps its wings and hushes.
At last, she thinks, it’s gone, she can go back to sleep (if only she could) but she’s too busy dealing with the tears suddenly welling in her eyes.
With tremendous self-denial she rolls over, pushes herself up and cracks the drawer open, quite certain now that the whole quest to gather and reassemble was but a dream, that the drawer contains nothing but neatly folded scarves.
It’s there, page XXIII, peeking out shyly, eager to soothe but equally ready to torment.
The bird twitters and trills, won’t leave her alone with its incessant canting just like the picture of alternate Robin and alternate Regina lingers even after she’s slammed the drawer shut.
Vegas and Aria had a blast at the Corgi meet-up yesterday! Not only were there about a dozen Corgis and Corgis mixes, there was also a Swedish Vallhund and lots of other various pups about! There were also two other Corgis that looked similar to Vegas, so we had to make sure that we went home with the right kids lol Aria was quite the social butterfly and had to greet every dog and human that she came across, which was the sweetest sight! Her first trip was a HUGE success, with many more to come!