The Comeback.

by Nicole Willson

So it’s been a while. Sorry about that. I really am going to try to get better about this.

2015 has been relatively quiet thus far, and after the sheer hell that was the second half of 2014, quiet is good. Awesome, even.

Just yesterday, I got the results of a CT scan and ultrasound that were done to check up on the blood clots that made my December so memorable. And I’m happy to report that those clots are gone, baby, gone. I’m still going to be on blood thinners for at least a year; we learned that I have a genetic mutation that makes me prone to clotting, so my doctor is not in any hurry to take me off the meds. And thanks to a yucky blood thinner side effect that I won’t get into here, I’m quite anemic and have had to up my iron intake significantly. But at least that’s an easily treatable problem. And for now, I don’t feel like I’m walking around with a ticking time bomb in my body anymore. The clots are gone. What’s left of my appendix is gone. I’ve only been to a hospital once this year and that was a scheduled visit for the tests. This is good.

How’s the writing going? I’m at a scary point with Book One because I really feel like it might be close to done. Maybe. At the very least, I’ve gone through the most recent draft and no longer feel that I need to make any more major structural changes. The book might still need fine-tuning (hell, I’m sure it does), but I really want to start sending out the first queries on this thing soon. I’m just not sure how I know when it’s really ready.

It’s April, but I didn’t sign up for this round of Camp NaNoWriMo. I have several different possible projects I could be working on, and the choices ended up overwhelming me. I could start querying Book One. I could work on editing the next two books in that trilogy. I could take a second stab at my most recent NaNoWriMo effort.

The one last choice that’s been making me crazy is the possibility of starting my fifth book. The idea came to me a couple of weeks ago after Bill and I saw “It Follows” at the Alamo Drafthouse. (I liked “It Follows”. I didn’t love it the way some others have. I thought “The Babadook” was far more original and engaging; I would have written about it back in December but we saw it on the same weekend that the DVT/PE combo happened and the Babadook almost got me.) “It Follows” reminded me of a nightmare I’d had way back in college, a nightmare that was so vivid that I jumped out of bed and wrote it all down the minute I woke up and can still vividly recall it nearly 25 years later. And as I was recounting the nightmare to Bill, it occurred to me that I could spin an entire novel out of this premise.

And I’ve already envisioned a good bit about the main character and the storyline and part of me really really wants to start writing this right now, but another part of me wants to just do the prep work and wait for November to begin. I really like the November NaNo ritual. There’s just something amazing and energizing about sitting down at my laptop on November 1st and allowing the first chapters of a story I’ve been kicking around for months to come forth and start taking shape at last. I’d hate to deprive myself of that.

But hooray — I have a fifth book idea, and possibly a sixth! For someone who used to shy away from the idea of writing novels because I didn’t believe I could ever come up with a story idea big enough to sustain one, I’ve had a surprising number of them.

Other stuff I’ve been up to:

I finally got to meet and have my picture taken with a skater I’ve been a fan of for a long time, Evan Lysacek:

Yes, he’s really that tall. And I’m really that dorky.

I’d followed Evan’s career from when he was a junior skater, so watching him rise all the way to Olympic Gold was extremely cool.

We saw cherry blossoms at the DC Tidal Basin last week.

I dyed my hair red. It used to be sort of red naturally, but as I’ve gotten older it’s just gone all mousy brown tinged with gray, and that’s no fun.

In general I’ve been trying to get my footing back after a very scary 2014. So far it’s been a pretty good year.

American Horror Story: Freak Show.

by Nicole Willson

I haven’t been doing weekly posts about “Freak Show” because I didn’t really feel like it (physically or otherwise), but now that the season has concluded, I’m ready to post about it.

Honestly, I think I’ve been watching a different season than almost everyone else has. “Freak Show” has been taking a critical and Internet beating nearly everywhere I look, and I really don’t understand the disdain.

Was it perfect? Oh, no. It won’t overtake “Asylum” as my favorite AHS season, but I’d definitely rank it on a level with “Murder House”, and in my mind it was miles ahead of “Coven.” There wasn’t a single episode of “Coven” that I had any desire to rewatch after it was all over. I can already think of several episodes of “Freak Show” I’d like to see again.

Random thoughts that will probably be spoilery for both “Freak Show” and previous seasons:

- Ryan Murphy will likely give Finn Wittrock whatever he asks for to come back next season, and deservedly so. But I hope he also brings back the delightful Mat Fraser. Next to Wittrock, Fraser was the standout AHS rookie for me.

- Maybe he’ll even bring back John Carroll Lynch in some capacity. I’ve always liked Lynch, but Twisty the Clown gave me a whole new appreciation for him. Even when half of Twisty’s face was obscured by that mask and he couldn’t talk, I could almost always tell what Twisty was thinking thanks to Lynch’s performance. He gave the character a real pathos even before we finally got Twisty’s origin story. One of Freak Show’s big mistakes was getting rid of Twisty way too early.

- The whole Edward Mordrake subplot made me wish that Murphy would produce an AHS season that’s pure Gothic horror, set in the 1800s. I know this scene is campy and silly and cheesy, but even if it’s not “The Name Game,” it made me very happy anyhow:

I keep trying to get into the Showtime series “Penny Dreadful.” It seems like it should be right in my Eldergoth wheelhouse and I like all the main stars, and yet I’ve never been able to get through a whole episode. I bet Ryan Murphy could make a premise like that really, really entertaining. I know he said he’d never do vampires or werewolves, but he’s done a lot of stuff he said he’d never do. C’mon, Murphy. Take vampires back from “Twilight.”

- A lot of people griped about the use of pop songs that hadn’t yet been written when “Freak Show” took place, but that didn’t bother me. Your ability to roll with this kind of thing will probably go a long way towards determining if you enjoyed “Freak Show” or not.

- Dandy’s final “IHATEYOU IHATEYOU IHATEYOU” was perfection.

- I’m guessing a lot of people aren’t going to be happy with the ending, believing that Elsa deserved something much harsher. I can’t argue with that, and yet it didn’t bother me. Maybe I was just happy with one last chance to see Ethel and Ma Petite again. Maybe it’s just that this is more than likely Jessica Lange’s final season of AHS, and she deserved a send-off like the one Elsa got. When I was first watching “Murder House” and not so sure I liked it, her performance was what compelled me to keep watching. If she really is done after this season, she will truly be missed.

So anyhow — even if it puts me in the minority, I liked “Freak Show.” I remember a lot of people hating “Asylum” while it was running, and yet it’s now widely viewed as the show’s best season. I wonder how hindsight will treat “Freak Show.”


by Nicole Willson

SkelePen, and a small glass of red wine shaped like a skull. I guess I’m having a very morbid Monday.

At times when I am feeling disgustingly sorry for myself, it’s very nice to have the world of one of my novels to retreat to. It’s a world where I control everything, where nobody gets sick unless I say so, where I can rearrange things until they’re completely to my liking. If only real life were half so easy to handle.

I got that skeleton pen at the Tower of London. It’s my favorite editing pen ever.

So How Was Your December?

by Nicole Willson

I survived my ruptured appendix, but 2014 took another shot at trying to kill me.

A friendly warning: If you develop an odd pain in your calf that doesn’t resolve after a couple of days, it’s worth going to the doctor to find out why, especially if you can’t think of anything you did to cause an injury.

If you’re having that odd leg pain and *then* develop sudden shortness of breath? Get your ass to the emergency room.

That was where I found myself just a few days after my birthday, thinking “Didn’t I just do this?” Indeed, the man who was checking people into the ER that night took one look at me and said “Weren’t you just here?” Turns out he’d checked me in for my appendectomy the previous month.

I had a bad feeling I knew what was going on, and I was right. An ultrasound on my leg and a CT scan of my chest revealed that the mysterious calf pain was caused by a blood clot. Part of the clot had broken off and traveled to my lungs, which was why I suddenly couldn’t walk half a block without stopping to gasp for air.

A doctor woke me up at 2:45 the next morning in the ICU to show me the CT scan of my lungs. My left lung didn’t even show up on the scan. “If that clot had landed in the center of your lungs instead of to the left, you’d be dead now,” he said. I don’t think I slept the rest of that night.

But I did not die, and indeed I did well enough that I would have been moved from the ICU if there had been any room in the cardiac ward. I was sent home just a couple of days later, armed with a prescription for blood thinners.

It’s fair to say that this cast something of a pall over the holiday season. I usually love December, but this one left a mark. I’m trying to stay positive, but trying is the operative word.

I am not going to be sorry to see the end of 2014.


by Nicole Willson

This morning, I finally crossed the NaNoWriMo 50K mark. When I validated my novel on the NaNoWriMo site, it kicked me straight to the Winner page, where I was rewarded with a video of staffers applauding me.

And I got a little choked up. This one was hard. 

As I said in the previous entry, this story was not coming to me as easily as my past ones have, and that was a crummy, daunting feeling. I really did have to keep telling myself, “Yes, this chapter is crappy and implausible, but for now it doesn’t matter. Get. It. Down. You can spiff it all up later.”

I had a really good backlog of words by November 19th, the day of my appendix surgery. That was a very good thing, because while I got lucky and the surgeon was able to perform the robotic laparoscopy without having to open me up, the anesthesia, pain meds, and general abdominal discomfort knocked me out of commission for almost five days.

I’d never been under full anesthesia before and it was an odd experience. When I started coming to after the surgery, I tried to yank my mask off and got pissed that the nurses wouldn’t let me do it. And then, when it dawned on me that I’d actually made it through the surgery, I burst into tears. A nurse looked down at me and said “Yeah, people do that.”

But the operation seems to have gone off without a hitch and I now have three robot holes in a diagonal tic-tac-toe pattern across my abdomen instead of an appendix.

What I did not have, when I was finally well enough to start typing again, was much motivation. I got myself to about 42K words, and then I got an overwhelming sense of meh. I wasn’t sure how to finish the story. I wasn’t even sure if I cared about winning. Maybe everything I’d already written would have to be enough for this month, I thought. Given all that I’d been through, it was nothing to be ashamed of. I could take December off and then pick up this story some time next year with a fresher mind.

And then the NaNoWriMo winner’s shirt that I had ordered before the month even began arrived in the mail this week, and that ended up giving me the jolt I needed to cross the finish line. I put the unopened package next to my laptop where I could see it while I wrote, telling myself that I wasn’t allowed to open it until I hit the 50K mark.

I also ended up doing something I don’t normally do during NaNoWriMo: I wrote slightly out of order. I usually try to write the story straight through so I don’t cop out of trying to work through difficult parts, but this time I realized that if I didn’t move on from a part that had me stymied, I was going to end up abandoning the novel altogether. Lesson learned: Don’t be inflexible. What worked one year (or even three years) might not work every year.

The draft is not quite complete, and I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to finish it before November is over. But that’s OK. I’m now on a four-year NaNoWriMo winning streak. I’ll take it.





NaNoWriMo: Get. It. Down.

by Nicole Willson

NaNoWriMo status report: So here’s the thing. I’ve had this story idea in my head for more than a year. Before November began, I loosely sketched out an outline of the new novel. I have a good idea what’s going to happen in the middle and the end. I thought this was going to be relatively simple to knock out.

And yet I’m just not feeling this story yet. It’s weird. Something about how it played out in my head is not translating to a draft the way I thought it would. I don’t know if it’s because this is the first time in four years I’m working with a new story with new characters, or what my problem is. I don’t remember feeling this way about the first NaNo novel I wrote back in 2011. And last year, I was so anxious to write the ending of the trilogy I’d been working on for so long that I actually dreamed about those characters. I really miss them. I’m seriously looking forward to December so I can start re-editing my first book again, which is not something I ever thought I’d say.

This is, of course, not stopping me from writing the novel draft, and this is where my years of NaNoWriMo training are coming in handy. I just keep telling myself: Get. It. Down. If you read the draft later on and your ideas suck, that’s what revisions are for. At least you’ll have a draft to work with rather than a bunch of loose ideas in your head. If the characters seem weak and ill-formed, you’ll have the other eleven months between now and next November to fix that. In fact, you’ll have all the time in the world to revise. For now, just keep typing. Throw all kinds of shit at your story wall; figure out what should stick later on. 

And I’m trying to stay way ahead of the daily word goal just in case. Just in case my surgery is more problematic than it’s meant to be and I need a day off, or two, or three. Just in case.

But this one has been hard. I’d gotten pretty cocky about my ability to knock out 50,000+ word stories during NaNoWriMo, so I think I was due a karmic smackdown. I needed a reminder. Revising is hard, but getting that first draft down, especially when you’re working with a new and fresh story? That’s damn hard, too.



by Nicole Willson

So November is going to be even more challenging than usual.

As you can see if you look to the right, my NaNoWriMo word counter has updated itself to 2014 and reset itself to zero.

I’m definitely in for NaNoWriMo, but I may have to adjust my concept of actually winning the competition this year. In past years I’ve always nailed 50K words (the sole criteria for winning) rather easily, but didn’t consider myself an actual winner unless I had a complete novel draft by the end of the month. Even though I have this year’s novel loosely outlined and have a good idea of what the beginning, middle, and end will be, I’m not sure how much of it I’ll be able to finish.

Why? Because next month, I’m finally having the long-threatened surgery to remove whatever’s left of my exploded appendix. Gulp. Although my most recent CT scan revealed that the inflammation has resolved itself nicely and there are entire days when I don’t feel so much as a twinge of pain in my lower right abdomen, or even think about what happened in July, my doctor still wants the sucker out of there so it won’t cause any problems in the future.

She is planning to perform robotic surgery. I really wish that idea didn’t make me picture Bender from “Futurama”.

“Gimme that appendix, meatbag!”

This is supposed to be a less-invasive procedure similar to laparoscopic surgery, and if all goes well, I won’t have to spend even one night in the hospital. I also shouldn’t be incapacitated for too long and will probably have plenty of downtime to finish my NaNo novel. If all doesn’t go well and they have to go more invasive, I’m not sure what that’s going to mean for finishing up the draft.

It’s possible, though, that I’m going to have to accept crossing the 50K mark as a win, and anything else after that is gravy. (It’s also possible I won’t win at all, but I’m not really going to allow that as an option right now.) We’ll see.

As a motivation, we’re also going to go see Stephen King give a talk at GWU in mid-November. That should be a nice shot of inspiration — King is the one author I’ve been reading very consistently since I was a kid. I wasn’t sure I’d ever get to see him in person, so I can’t wait.

Since I know he watches “American Horror Story,” I’ll try to resist the temptation to ask, “So, who’s scarier — Pennywise, or Twisty the Clown?”

I know who gets *my* vote …


The Autumn of Purple Hair.

by Nicole Willson

Right before we went to London, I finally did something I’ve wanted to do for a long time and dyed my hair purple. I wanted to do something fun with my appearance for the trip, and I figured that if my plane crashed on the way to London or on the way back, I didn’t want to die without ever having had purple hair.

Luckily, nothing that dramatic happened. I’m still here, and so is my purple hair.

I used Pimpin’ Purple (sigh) by Special Effects. I didn’t bleach my hair first, so the change was more subtle. At first my hair just looked very dark, but after I shampooed it a few times, the purple really started popping out.

And I really, really liked it. I still like it.

My hair the morning after I dyed it; I’d shampooed a couple of times to bring out the purple color.

At the wine bar in Dulles Airport on our way to London. A woman with awesome sky blue hair came over and complimented me on my hair. That made my day.

The color has slowly been washing out and fading to a sort of fuschia-auburn hue. In some lights it just looks like dark red hair now, although I’ve been doing a few things to try to keep the purple going a little while longer.

Monty Cat doesn’t really care what color my hair is. I think my hair looks pretty with his eyes.

My initial plan had been to make sure all the color was washed out before I had to go back to work, but that didn’t happen. I liked the color, and I wasn’t ready to let it go. And since I don’t work in a terribly strict or conservative place, I decided it wouldn’t be a big deal. Indeed, it was not — all the feedback I’ve gotten from coworkers has been very positive. One of them asked me if I’d had the color done in London, which I took as a compliment. It made me feel so sophisticated.

I’m not sure I’ll ever bleach my hair beforehand to get that screaming bright Crayola look, but even if the color keeps fading to a pinky shade, it’s still way more interesting than the mousy reddish-brown with gray sprinkles I’ve been sporting for a few years. Now I don’t know why I waited so long to do this. After all, it’s just hair.

London Vacation, Part II.

by Nicole Willson

On Saturday morning, Bill and I went to the British Museum.

Unfortunately, every other tourist in London had apparently had that exact same idea.

This unfortunate person was beaten to death when he got in the way of someone’s iPhone shot of an Egyptian statue.

The building was gorgeous, though.

We escaped to a higher floor and were rewarded with the very interesting and seasonally appropriate Witches and Wicked Bodies exhibit.

After Bill nearly got elbowed off of his seat at lunch because he had the nerve to be in the way of some jerkass’s perfect shot of his family at the table (“Here we are eating! Isn’t that so exciting!?”), we’d had enough and decided to head out. We walked to the Bloomsbury district in search of a bookstore Bill had read about prior to our trip.

An aside: London, I am insanely jealous of your bookstore scene. The night before, we’d gone to a huge Waterstone’s bookstore in Piccadilly. Six floors — a restaurant and bar on the top floor and a cafe in the basement. We got temporarily confused during our search for the Bloomsbury bookstore, but passed two more used bookstores within two blocks of the place we were looking for. And I spotted several other new and used bookstores on our various treks through London. Stores like that are dying on the vine in the US, and I don’t understand why.

Anyhow, we stopped for a pint in a wonderfully quiet pub. We were both amused that this quiet pub — the first one where we’d had no trouble finding a seat and settling in — was next to a university. Something about that just seemed wrong.

I loved the birdcages hanging from the ceiling of the pub.

We went to the Tate Gallery on Sunday. I’d been interested in this place almost exclusively because I’d heard that the building offered stunning views of London; frankly, I can take or leave a lot of modern “art”. But the promised view did not disappoint.

This piece from a Louise Bourgeois exhibit made me laugh.

Afterwards, we walked out on the river walk by the museum.

I really liked watching this Grim Reaper freak people out. Folks didn’t realize there was a human in there until the Reaper would suddenly stretch a hand out at them. The Reaper was cool. (And I’m still not entirely sure how s/he appeared to be levitating.)

Bill and I took a walk over the Millennium Bridge and back. I’d only ever seen that bridge being trashed by Death Eaters in the beginning of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.” I’m happy to report that it’s all better now.

And then Bill suggested that we follow the river walk and head for the London Eye. We’d been planning to go ride the Eye on Monday morning, but the day was beautiful and I still felt reasonably energetic, so why not?

Now here’s the thing: I’ve seen the Eye in lots of shows like “Sherlock” and “Doctor Who.” I know that sucker is big.

But when we finally reached it and I looked up and saw that it appeared only slightly shorter than the Washington Monument at its top height? Something inside of me reacted like this:

I didn’t realize how afraid I’ve become of heights until that moment.

However, we’d walked all that way and I didn’t want to be taunted by any glimpses of the Eye in future TV shows. “Ha ha, you big wimp — remember when you chickened out like a big baby?” So I swallowed my nerves and asked Bill to go ahead and get me a ticket too.

The wait for tickets was probably longer than the actual wait to get on the Eye, and soon enough we were moving. Each car holds about 20 people with a big bench in the middle for those of us with sore feet. The Eye takes about 45 minutes to go through one rotation very slowly, so slowly that when I’d spot it from elsewhere in the city I often thought it wasn’t moving at all.

Nice view of Parliament from the bottom of the Eye.

I tried to distract myself from being scared by taking selfies and making stupid faces. It didn’t really work.

Higher and higher …

I started to relax once we’d gone over the top. Just as we were getting really close to the bottom and I started looking out at the street scene below and thinking “Hey, that restaurant over there could be interesting for dinner …” the damn thing stopped and then started rotating back UP. A gaggle of kids who’d been standing nearby all turned around to look at me, as if of course I’d know what the hell was going on. Boy, were they looking to the wrong grown-up for reassurance.

Anyhow, the Eye stopped moving again before we reached the top a second time and rotated back down to the wonderful, beautiful, amazing ground.

I think half the reason I do these things is because it feels so awesome when they’re over and none of my worst fears came to pass. There was a very convenient Tube stop nearby and we headed over there, rode home, and ate at a nearby pizza place for dinner, where I had a big glass of “How cool is it that I didn’t die?” wine, followed by a “Hey, I’m still alive!” pint at the Nellie Dean, the pub closest to our hotel.

I loved the name of this beer (and the beer itself wasn’t bad).

Part III to come shortly.

London Vacation, Part I.

by Nicole Willson

So my mother and I made a trip to England back in 1989, and I loved it. I’ve been wanting to get back ever since.

This year, for our fifteenth wedding anniversary, Bill and I finally made it to London (it was actually Bill’s first time there if you don’t count a mad dash through Heathrow to make a connecting flight for our honeymoon in Ireland back in 1999).

Something to note about the trip: Yes, we went to a lot of touristy spots. We were tourists. That’s what tourists do. I’ve been known to go to touristy spots in DC just because I like them, so there.

I wanted to make sure we stayed in a neighborhood that didn’t shut down at 5:00 every night, and the travel books we read made the Soho neighborhood sound like the best bet. We stayed at the Nadler Hotel. I suspected I was going to like this place when I saw this lady hanging over the entrance.

At night, her wings lit up in green.

I knew I was definitely going to like the Nadler when the movie playing on the large screen hanging by the lobby doors as we checked in was “Peeping Tom.”  That’s a wonderfully weird, dark choice for a place that had no shortage of children staying there.

This was our room. I loved the filmstrip headboard on the bed. The only thing I didn’t much like about our room in the Nadler was the strangely designed shower/tub with walls that were so high that I had to employ gymnastic skills I don’t really have to get myself in and out of the thing every morning. But everything else about the Nadler was delightful.

The blanket on the bed was not real fur, thank goodness.

We didn’t do much sightseeing the first day because we were staggering around in a sleep-deprived and jet-lagged stupor. We did walk around Soho a good bit, and I came to the conclusion that at least during the daytime, Soho reminded me a lot of what Dupont Circle and Georgetown were like before all the fun independent bookstores, music stores, shops, and restaurants started getting priced out and losing their leases.

An especially creepy shop window display. That horrible thing in the chair actually rocked.

Our first real touristy sightseeing kicked off with a visit to the Tower of London on Friday. I remembered liking the Tower very much on my last trip, and that was reinforced this time. There’s truly nothing like the Tower anywhere in the US.

I had no idea about the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red exhibition before we got there, and I was struck by the sight of all of the poppies being placed in the moat when we walked into the Tower. From a distance, it really did look as if blood was pouring out of the Tower window and flooding the moat.

Me being me, I was especially drawn to the Tower ravens.  But “bird biscuits soaked in blood”? Ew.

Luckily, the ravens are enormous showoffs and had no qualms about getting really, really close to tourists.

I thought this raven looked as if it were actually bowing to us, but I’m sure it was probably just doing whatever ravens do to say “Piss off.”

“Hello, there! Got any blood-soaked bird biscuits? I’m feeling a bit peckish. Peckish? Get it? Ha ha ha!”

This was Henry VIII’s steampunk dragon. He called it “Draggy.” He used Draggy to fend off intruders, pretenders to the throne, and wives who wouldn’t produce sons or go away quietly when he got tired of them. Draggy got a lot of use.

Because we visited at an off time, the line to get in to see the Crown Jewels wasn’t very large and moved quickly. I was amused by the number of times I heard someone mutter the name “Moriarty” as we got into the actual exhibit, and was somewhat disappointed that we weren’t greeted by the sight of a cheeky, criminally insane Irishman wearing all the jewels.

Honey, you should see him in a crown …

After we left the Tower itself, Bill somehow persuaded me to go to the top of Tower Bridge. This view of the city seemed really impressive until we rode the London Eye. More on that later.

During his Internet searches prior to the trip, Bill had found a listing for Gordon’s Wine Bar, a wine bar (duh) that’s actually built partly in a very dark, candlelit cellar and was situated only a few Tube stops away from the Tower. There’s also outdoor seating, but zzz. How boring, when there’s that neat dark cavernous space right there. It wasn’t at all difficult to persuade me to stop there, and it ended up being the only establishment we made special trips to visit twice.

Like the Tower, there’s nothing we’ve been to in America that was anything like this place. Unlike almost everywhere in Soho we walked by on Thursday and Friday nights, we managed to snag one of the last indoor tables in Gordon’s that Friday afternoon. It was a nice place to unwind after a busy afternoon. They had good wine and terrific port, and I couldn’t resist snacking on some of their bread and cheese. I’d forgotten how much I love Cotswold cheese.

Bill sits in Gordon’s and wonders what kind of blood the bird biscuits were soaked in.

A word about that Soho nightlife scene: Whoa. I’d been envisioning something like Wilson Blvd. in Arlington on a Friday night — busy, but you can still walk down the sidewalks reasonably unimpeded. What we got on both Thursday and Friday nights was like nothing I’ve ever seen anywhere.

Patrons were spilling out of the pubs and onto the streets before 5 pm, drinking and smoking (you’re allowed to take beers outside if they’re in plastic glasses, and you will not get beaten to death with rocks for lighting up a cigarette in public). By 7 pm on Friday night, we could barely make it down Carlyle Street to get back to the Nadler. Just about every pub we passed — and make no mistake, Soho has a lot of pubs — was overflowing people onto the sidewalks and streets outside.

I’ve never seen anything like this in the DC area, probably in no small part because the residents in most of the busiest neighborhoods would be very unlikely to put up with all the noise, crowding, and smoke for very long before someone’s councilmembers would be called in to start passing laws. Bill and I ended up having beers wherever we settled in for dinner on Thursday and Friday.

Oddly enough, on Saturday night the pub scene diminished considerably and we were able to grab pints in a couple of places we’d passed up due to the crowding on Thursday and Friday. And on Sunday we were able to settle in at a table at the pub closest to the Nadler.

So that’s probably enough babble for one entry. More later.