Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Five O’Clock Somewhere Experience

If you want to experience this place in Real Life, what can you expect?

Captain JP, on his blog, has issued a writing challenge. He has made the observation that, for example, the music industry nowadays is not making much money off music sales, but rather, it's generating revenue with concerts and other live experiences. So he has challenged his fellow bloggers to describe the experience that someone could have with a live experience of their blogs.

Pat and I had already thought a bit about the idea. We're seriously strapped for cash at the moment, and we briefly considered making the place available as a vacation rental – there's a real-estate agent who lives nearby who would handle all the paperwork and stuff. At least for the time being, we've decided that the work involved in making Five O'Clock Somewhere into a vacation rental would be too much hassle; we'd have to remove a lot of our personal stuff and lock up the rest, and we'd have to do a whole lot of cleaning. Still, if our financial picture gets worse, I'd rather convert the place to a vacation rental (which we could still use ourselves when nobody's renting it) than lose it.

Since we haven't converted Five O'Clock Somewhere to a vacation rental, I'm going to base this experience on the premise that you're houseguests there, but if we do make the conversion, many of the experiences will be the same.

First, if you're electronically tuned-in, be prepared for communications deprivation. There is no high-speed Internet, only dial-up that is extremely slow because it's delivered over a noisy rural phone line. There is no cell-phone signal. There is no television – broadcast signals don't reach into the mountains, cable doesn't go there, and we don't have satellite. There is a land-line telephone capable of local calls and 800 numbers but not long distance, so if you want to call beyond the Chama area, you need to have a calling card. If you really need to leave the office behind, Five O'Clock Somewhere is the perfect place for you, because no matter how hard they try, the folks at the office won't be able to rope you in.

Next, you need to be prepared for some other areas in which life is more primitive. Electricity is not all that reliable, at least compared to 21st-century cities. The electric co-op does an excellent job, given that it has to cover thousands of square miles, with lots of hazards (dense stands of diseased trees, large birds building nests on power poles, and so forth) that city and suburban power companies don't have to deal with – and the co-op provides its power at about half the price that the city power company charges. Flashlights and matches are in the bottom drawer in the column of drawers below the kitchen telephone, an oil lamp is on the dining table, and candles are all over the place, including the dining room, living room, and all bathrooms. My favorite sort of power outage is the kind that happens during a thunderstorm at night or in the evening. The lightning flashes with almost x-ray blueness, and the thunder either bangs (if the lightning is really close), roars (if it's farther), or rolls (if it's farther still). The wind whips around the house, making blasts through whatever windows are open, sometimes from one direction, sometimes from another, and always it brings an iron-tinged freshness wherever it comes from. The rain comes down, sometimes just a few spitting drops, and sometimes a heavy torrent. And sometimes it's what the Navajos call the "female rain," a steady rain that just flows for a long time. The smell of the rain, the smell of water, is so fresh and clean, and no matter what advertising and promotional moguls may say, this smell has never been captured in a fabric softener or air freshener. If you really want your laundry to smell this way, the only way to do it is to hang it up on a clothesline just before a mountain thundershower hits.

Another thing you'll have to cope with is the fact that you're many miles from anywhere. If you're missing something, you can't just run down to the corner convenience store. The nearest convenience store is 16 miles away, and it closes at 10 p.m. The nearest Wal-Mart is 70 miles away. I do keep a supply of toothbrushes and trial-sizes of toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, and various other toiletry items in the cabinet in the guest bathroom, in case you've forgotten something. I also have some luxury spa-type bath supplies, so if you want more than just a quick shower, you can have an experience. The water at Five O'Clock Somewhere is full of the sort of minerals that people pay big bucks to take a bath in, and we even have a Jacuzzi tub to maximize the experience.

And then you'll have to put up with the critters. On the road into Laguna Vista, you may sometimes find that the cattle from the adjacent ranch, primarily Scottish Longhorns, have gotten out of their pastures and are wandering along the road. They don't move particularly fast, and if you honk your horn at them, they move even slower – unless you're dealing with a bull, who may decide he doesn't like the sound your car is making and take decisive action. Your best bet is simply to crawl along, until the cattle eventually meander to the side of the road, and admire their woolly primitiveness. You will also have to deal with elk (they don't move as slowly as cattle, but they do seem to like to block the road), deer (ubiquitous; a day when you don't see deer is rare), coyotes (I've never understood why many people don't like the howling), bobcats (beautiful but elusive), bears (NOT sweet, and a lot of idiots who have treated them as such have caused a lot of bears to get euthanized because the bears got to treating humans as sources of food, and in a bear brain, a source of food is the same thing as food, so the bears tried to eat the well-meaning humans.) So at Five O'Clock Somewhere, you're going to have to tolerate the wildlife, and you're going to have to make sure not to feed the bears, or even leave any food around that the bears could eat. The best way to deal with the wildlife is to have a camera always at hand – I really wish that I could have gotten pictures of the mama bobcat and her two kittens a couple of years ago as they passed through the backyard.

I see that, so far, I have mostly been dealing with what's outside Five O'Clock Somewhere. I suppose I ought also to touch on what's inside. In real-estate terminology, we're a 4-3. That is, we have four bedrooms and three bathrooms. We have a dining room, a living room, and a den, with a relatively open floor plan. Without any strain whatsoever, we can accommodate six guests, and with some stretches, we can find sleeping room for about four more. In the living room, we have an entertainment center, with Dolby 5.1 surround sound. Yeah, we may not have cable or satellite, but if you want to watch a DVD movie (we have lots, or you can bring your own, or you can rent one in Chama), you can get the full experience. We have a full-scale gourmet kitchen, with lots of appliances, gadgets, and widgets; if you're into fancy cooking, you can have a ball. We have music – we have a baby grand piano in the den, and some smaller things like recorders. If you have a violin or cello, I can crack the rust out of my fingers to play along. We have a game table (I've re-covered my grandparents' old card table with indigo velvet), and we have a variety of parlor games, from the standbys like Mille Bornes and Monopoly, through the more involved like Risk, to cult favorites like Illuminati and Kingmaker.

And if you just plain don't want to do anything, that's OK too. In the warmer time of the year, you can hang out on the front deck and watch the world go by. In winter, you can relax in front of the fireplace in the den, and you can doze to your heart's content.

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Blogger Pat said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Fri Aug 28, 01:32:00 AM MDT  
Blogger Pat said...

More bits and pieces for the Five O'Clock Somewhere experience:

Rock Stacking or Balancing -- one of Jerry Seeger's favorites -- we have many many tons of rocks for this recreational art.

Relaxing -- as mentioned in the main post, we have plenty of quiet diversions -- a few dozen board games, more than a hundred DVDs and videos, and more than a thousand books, plus magazines, music DVDs, etc.

More adventurous souls can enjoy hiking on gravel roads or trails nearby, including Heron and El Vado Lake state parks, or national forests in the mountain country. Bird watching and nature appreciation also includes watching a somewhat unusual local resident, the American Osprey, or fish hawk, which is established in the area.

Cat Appreciation -- besides the wild kitties that Carol Anne mentioned (and years ago a neighbour saw a mountain lion crossing our property), Dulce is available as a "loaner" cat to provide feline companionship. However, she does request a "share" if roast chicken is in evidence at dinner time.

Shroyer Center -- within two miles, which is very nearby in this part of the world, is the local meeting center where breakfasts, dinners, parties, and community events occur. It also has exercise equipment, a video and book library, and offices for the volunteer fire department.

The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad (C&TSRR) departs several times a week during the summer and fall through the mountains of the Colorado-New Mexico border, twisting and climbing and snaking more than sixty miles through the mountains to Antonito, Colorado. "America's longest and highest" old-time scenic railroad is drawn by eighty-year-old coal-fired Mikado-class locomotives.

Winter sports -- Wolf Creek and Taos ski areas are within a couple of hours and there's a pair of snow shoes and cross country skis in the cabin. But, the home is lower in altitude than Chama and on a south-facing slope and on a road that is regularly plowed after winter storms.

Heron Lake -- during high water, the Willow Creek arm is visible and just a three-quarter-mile drive or hike away. Heron is a no-visible-wake lake, home to anglers, kayakers, and sailors, with rental slips available at the marina operated by the New Mexico Sailing Club.

Fri Aug 28, 01:36:00 AM MDT  
Blogger JP said...

Sounds like an absolutely lovely retreat - in particular to write.

It reminded me a lot of George Orwell's house on Jura which is miles from anything in the Inner Hebrides, and where he wrote 1984

Maybe should grab my piles of book plot and character notes and head out there!

Might bring a box set of DVDs with me - currently watching The Office (US version) series 1 - 3... fab :)

Hope you don't have to do the lease out thing. I did think myself about leasing my apartment for the 2012 Olympics, but it is exactly the opposite end of London from the games and quite want to go along to see it all!

Sat Aug 29, 01:39:00 PM MDT  
Blogger Carol Anne said...

Oh, yes, Five O'Clock Somewhere is a great place to write. My brother has used it for a writing retreat, and every November I park myself and my laptop in front of the fireplace to participate in National Novel Writing Month. Which reminds me ... we need to get firewood for the season ...

Sat Aug 29, 10:49:00 PM MDT  
Blogger Carol Anne said...

Oh, I forgot to mention a couple of other aspects of the place, having to do with the floor plan. We have two guest rooms, a rustic one that opens onto the den, and an elegant one that opens onto the kitchen -- right between the refrigerator and the microwave, making it easy to get a midnight snack. We try to keep a goodly supply of essentials on hand in case we get snowed in, and the closet of the elegant guest room, because it's just a few steps from the fridge, is where the surplus beer gets stored.

The elegant guest room also has an Art Deco dresser with a jointed round mirror, a 1930s-era replica of a Chippendale writing desk, and a comfy chair that used to belong to my grandmother. The rustic guest room has a model train set, leopard-spot bedsheets, and a closet full of parlor games.

Sat Aug 29, 11:31:00 PM MDT  
Blogger Pat said...

Then the fourth bedroom, Gerald's, is embellished with tasteful decorative accents from the Late Teen period, including additional floor insulation (clothing, stuffed animals, books, magazines, toys, "experiments".

Sun Aug 30, 12:36:00 AM MDT  
Blogger JP said...

The guest room has a train set in it - that is indeed the height of luxury!

Was that November writing thing when you had to bash our 50,000 words in a month or something? I heard about it here but was travelling a lot then so a no go.

Sun Aug 30, 02:33:00 PM MDT  
Blogger Carol Anne said...

Yes, NaNo is the 50,000 word thingy. Maybe you'll have time to do it this year. It's lots of fun.

Mon Aug 31, 12:21:00 AM MDT  
Blogger Tillerman said...

Maybe you should offer the NaNo Experience! Invite a group of budding novelist to FO'CS for the duration.

Tue Sep 01, 09:01:00 PM MDT  
Blogger Carol Anne said...

Tillerman, that is a great idea!

Sun Sep 06, 12:10:00 AM MDT  

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