What’s New? What ISN’T? (Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre)

W.A.I.T. Button, 78 percent“Welcome, one and all,” says Will Scarlet, with a broad smile and a bow, “to Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre!”

Allyn-a-Dale blinks in surprise. “What, really? After all this time? What throwback madness has possessed you now?”

“Well, the thing is this,” Will explains. “Danielle has been accumulating a lot of real-life news, lately. But she doesn’t like talking about herself, or about real life in general. Our author gal likes fiction. So you and I and our friends from the story world of the ‘Outlaws of Avalon’ trilogy—”

Available now,” Allyn inserts the obligatory plug.

“—Are going to talk about it for her, except one better, by adapting it into a skit! So make yourselves comfortable,” Will addresses the audience, “as we now present to you: ‘What’s New? What ISN’T?’!”

<<<>>>

[The curtain rises on a table set for two, in one chair of which sits Robin Hood. Behind him, the backdrop shows other occupied tables in silhouette. Hidden speakers provide ambient chatter, laptop keyboard clacking, pop music, and calls for randomized names to come pick up their lattes – the volume of which fades as Allyn-a-Dale enters from stage right, costumed in hoodie, stylin’ boots, badass coat, broad-brimmed hat, and (the only departure from what he might wear on any given Outside venture) glasses.]

Robin [sitting up straighter with a smile ]: Danielle! So glad to see you!

Allyn/Danielle [taking seat opposite Robin ]: Robin, hiii! So glad we miraculously share a plane of reality today! Even if we have to share it in a public coffee shop full of noise and germs and people. I don’t suppose we could meet up in the forest, next time?

Robin: Bugs, though.

Allyn/Danielle [glum-faced ]: Oh, yeah.

Robin: But enough about establishing your characteristic phobias. How’s life in Yosemite National Park?

Allyn/Danielle: Oh, you haven’t heard? I don’t live there anymore.

Robin: No? Why ever not?

Allyn/Danielle [gaze in the distance – more specifically, on the backdrop shadows, shifting from its suggestion of a coffee shop interior into a mountainous skyline, featuring the iconic shapes of Half Dome, El Capitan, and the Three Brothers. ]: Well…

[The general stage lights dim, leaving two bright spotlights – one on Allyn, and one stage left, where enters Will Scarlet, wearing shorts, crocs, a lightweight hoodie against the glare of the California sun, sunglasses for the same purpose, and a T-shirt that reads ‘Flashback!’]

Will/Tirzah Duncan: Fare thee well, D! I’m moving back down the mountain!

Allyn/Danielle [rising in dismay ]: But bestie mine, you only recently joined me on staff at the Majestic Yosemite Hotel! How can you so soon abandon me??

Will/Tirzah: You know the long-game plan’s still to get a place with you, babe, but sharing a tent-cabin in the mountains with you and a random third roommate? Not sustainable. Besides, I applied for full-time work at the new Amazon facility in Fresno…

Allyn/Danielle: So did I!

Will/Tirzah: …And got hired!

Allyn/Danielle [plunking back miserably into chair ]: …I did not.

[The Will spot goes off. The general lights return, along with the coffee shop backdrop.]

Robin: Wait, what? Why in the world would the Amazon warehouse hire Tirzah, but not you? You’re equally dedicated workers!

Allyn/Danielle: One, it’s technically a fulfillment center, not a warehouse. Two, I KNOW, RIGHT? I was devastated. All I could do was ask myself—

Robin [sympathetically ]: What you’d done wrong?

Allyn/Danielle: No – ‘How would I handle this if I were an entitled white man?’

[Backdrop change! This time to a massive building with a smiling arrow logo. General lights, down. Spotlights up on Allyn and, stage left, Merlin, dressed from T-shirt to baseball cap to badge-carrying lanyard in Amazon gear and seated at a paperwork-covered folding table.]

Merlin/Amazon Rep: Will all prospective new hires please find your paperwork and have a seat.

Allyn/Danielle [standing, politely bright smile plastered on face ]: Yes, hello, I don’t believe you’ll find my name on your list, because there seems to have been a mistake.

Merlin/A.R.: What kind of mistake?

Allyn/Danielle: You didn’t hire me?

Merlin/A.R.: …

Allyn/Danielle: …

Merlin/A.R.: Have a seat.

[Back at the coffee shop…]

Robin [awed, amazed, maybe even admiring ]: Wait … so you just walked in … and they hired you on the spot??

Allyn/Danielle: Lol, if only. I mean, yes to the part where I just walked in like a ballsy boss, but it didn’t land me a job. They just told me I could reapply when more positions opened up. But time marched on and on, and nothing.

Robin: At least you had the Yosemite job in the meantime, though.

Allyn/Danielle: Without Tirzah? It was torment! What use is money when the only way to share it with those you love is to take a 3-hour bus ride down the mountain for a too-short visit on weekends? No, good sir, I put in my notice and followed her to Fresno. I blogged about it and everything. [wounded expression ] Doesn’t anybody read my posts?

Robin: Right, of course, just slipped my mind. So you got a part-time job somewhere…?

Allyn/Danielle [with a scoff ]: More like part-part-time. There were hardly any hours to speak of. If I wanted anything like a steady paycheck, I needed a second gig.

Robin: Did you find one?

Allyn/Danielle [looking haunted ]: Briefly.

[Backdrop changes to a line of cars. Seated before the shape of the front-most vehicle stage left, detached steering wheel in hand, is a spot-lit Loren McCaughley.]

Loren: Yes, lemme get the, uh, number seven? Sorry – five?

Allyn/Danielle [resignedly replacing awesome hat with a Burger King cap and microphone headset ]: One number five. Would you like to make that a medium or a large combo?

Loren: Um, large, with a— do you have diet (mumble-mumble)?

Allyn/Danielle: I’m sorry? Could you repeat that, please? Oh, diet root beer. Yes, we do. Will that complete your order?

Loren: Yeah, that’s all.

Allyn/Danielle: All right, I’ll see you at the second window. Thanks so much.

[Coffee shop returns.]

Robin: That… does not sound like a job you’d enjoy.

Allyn/Danielle [speaking noncommittal volumes while returning to the better hat ]: Mm.

Robin: But you said ‘briefly’. So you weren’t there long, right? What happened next?

Allyn/Danielle [brightening ]: Ah. Now we’re getting to the good part…

<<<>>>

“Aaaand SCENE!” says Will.

Allyn startles. “But we’re only halfway finished.”

“So ‘scene to be continued next week’,” Will amends. “Meanwhile, my beautiful audience, if you enjoyed yourselves (or if you didn’t, but you totally did, right?), don’t forget to leave suggestions for future productions in the comments! Words or phrases we’ve got to include, a prop to use, a prompt to run with… anything goes! ‘Til next time, friends: Will and Allyn out!”

The End Times of Yosemite Dan

On the first of December, 2017, I entered Yosemite National Park for the second time.

My inaugural visit to the park had been just that – a visit, as a tourist.

Five years later, I was about to become a resident.

That was seven very short, very long months ago. Back when the days were winter cold, the nights all layer upon layer of stars, the waterfalls abundant and full, an ever-present roar behind the call of ravens and Steller’s jays.

Now we’re deep into a scorching summer. The falls fade fast. The mountains blur out behind a choking veil of smoke. The sun burns red. Not far away, the woods just straight up burn. Wildfire has come to California. The park’s crowds of sightseers thin. The humidity overwhelms the Majestic Hotel’s walk-in refrigerators, forcing hundreds of pounds of refugee food into cramped trailers on the back docks.

Aesthetically, it all looks rather like the end of the world.

Realistically, it’s only the end of my time here.

My Tirzah left for Fresno a month ago, and with her departure came a familiar feeling. An itch of entrapment. A need for escape. The lonely ache for home that’s only ever further from reach when she’s gone from my side.

It was time to go.

Well, first it was time to find Fresno employment, so I wouldn’t be ditching the park and an income all in one go.

‘Twas a frustrating job hunt. Blame it on my curse: For whatever I most desire, I am forever doomed to call into the void, often without so much as an echo in response.

But finally, a former manager of Tirzah’s hired— well, not Me so much as Tirzah’s Highly Recommended Friend. I shall simply have to show my new boss why employers are always bummed to see the back of me. Lord knows my current manager is loath to let me go.

Most Valuable Employee tweet
Narrator: “Alas, her flight was to be none so swift and easy…”

And part of me is sad to leave the Yosemite I’ve come to know. I’ve seen her blanketed in snow, spilling over with floodwater, playing in the wind. I’ve wandered her pathways and rivers, climbed her boulders, crossed her fallen trees. I’ve smacked her mosquitoes and painted her ducks. I’ve treasured every rainbow she gave me.

Yosemite Watercolor, Mine_Rivertime
“Rivertime” –  Deshipley, 2018; watercolor, painted en plein air in Yosemite National Park

She actually gave me many things – memories chief among them.

And independence.

Resilient courage.

The reassurance that no matter how life’s challenges flatten me, I’m tough enough to eventually rise up for more.

Also, hella biceps.

There is much I’ll miss. But I’m ready to move on. Ready to leave Yosemite Dan behind, and be… still me. Just, as of next week, planted somewhere else.

Next chapter ho…

The Tale of Yosemite’s Three Brothers

Yosemite - Three Brothers and Bridalveil Falls

On a recent bus ride back into Yosemite National Park, one of my characters (call him Galliard; it’s his name; you haven’t met him, more’s the pity) was so inspired by the gorgeous Tunnel View that he made up a fairy tale about it on the spot. His audience was much entertained, and if ever there were a month to share it online, that month is June. So here it is, transcribed as faithfully to the original as I can recall. Enjoy!

<<<>>>

Once, there were Three Brothers, standing tall and grand in Yosemite Valley. And their hearts were full of love but heavy, for though they had among them a bridal veil of falling water – long and laced with mist – alas, no bride had they.

The three turned to their mighty, monolithic leader – the noble El Capitan – and asked, “Know you where we may find a bride? For though we have among us a bridal veil, alas, no bride have we.”

Yosemite - El Capitan

“A bride,” El Capitan mused. “The answer to that, I do not know. You would do better, perhaps, to ask the Starr King.”

Yosemite - Starr King

So the brothers sought out that royal peak – his head still crowed with snow even in early summer – and asked, “Know you where we may find a bride? For though we have among us a bridal veil, alas, no bride have we.”

“A bride,” said the Starr King, thoughtfully. “You might try your fortune with the lovely Half Dome. Perhaps she seeks her other half.”

With hope, the Three Brothers turned toward that iconic mount – her face flushed rosy bright in the sunset – and asked, “Would it please you to be a bride? For though we have among us a bridal veil, alas, no bride have we.”

Yosemite - Half Dome

“A bride,” Half Dome murmured, considering. “Mmmmm no, I don’t think so,” she decided. “I like that single life.”

Discouraged, the brothers returned to their place in the valley, and passed the night in quiet sorrow. But the following day, when the earth held just right, the sun’s light caught in the bridal veil’s mist-lace, and shone forth as a dazzling rainbow.

Yosemite - Bridalveil Rainbow

The Three Brothers lost their breath, a moment of self-discovery rising in its place.

The first brother realized he that he was, in fact, homosexual, and wanted no bride so much as he did El Capitan, and the pair were in due time wed.

The second brother realized that he was, in fact, bisexual, and while he was not opposed to the thought of a bride, he desired the Starr King no less, and the pair were in due time wed.

And the third brother realized that he was, in fact, asexual, and the love in his heart craved neither bride nor groom, but only intimate friendship; so though he and Half Dome became dear companions, neither one saw any cause to take it farther.

Thus did the mountains of Yosemite Valley live happily for many an age to come.

<<<>>>

Happy Pride Month, yo.

The Continuing Adventures of Yosemite Dan

Yosemite Dan

“So, how’s life in Yosemite National Park?”

I’m glad you asked, unspecified italicized voi— Wait. Didn’t you already ask that question, back in January?

“Danielle. It’s practically June. Things may have changed.”

You’ve got me there, voice. Heck, has anything at all stayed the same?? Let’s run down the list and see…

The Job:

For one thing, I’m no long a steward in the dish pit of the Majestic Yosemite Hotel. (Not officially, anyway…) As of the end of March, I’ve been promoted to Storeroom Clerk. Same hotel, different end of the dining service spectrum: Instead of cleaning the dishes post-meal, I help stock the ingredients that make the meal possible. The job description includes helping the lead storeroom guy put in regular resupply orders, LOTS of heavy lifting when the deliveries come in (hey, Carpentry-Fail Danielle! Chin up, babe – you get stronger!), and helping cooks and servers locate where we put everything.

“How do you like the new job?”

I’m so tempted to add that question to my blog’s FAQ page… People are constantly asking me that, and I have to search an answer other than, “I’m constantly terrified I’m going to screw up and let everybody down and get yelled at and wanna die and—” I don’t know whether to blame the new job for this weeks-long anxiety attack, or if my brain just decided I’d been too chill for too long, but here we are.

Still, the new job comes with a higher hourly wage. So there’s that.

The Cast:

Unofficially? You’ll still find me in the dish pit, from time to time. Because the cast of Joes has undergone a drastic overhaul. Several Joes, both mentioned and omitted, have left the pit for other positions, with too few yet arriving to take their places as the busy summer season approaches*. Although, one very special Joe has lately joined the force.

Call her BFF Joe. Better known, Tirzah Duncan.

Yosemite - Work Besties

That’s right – my bestie came to live with me in Yosemite! And, y’know, to work with me, which we got to do for about two weeks before I moved to the storeroom. But that’s 90% of the reason I still don the latex gloves and vinyl apron in the never-ending battle against dirty dishes: No way am I leaving a skeleton crew that includes my girl Tirzah to struggle alone!

So between my official position, the dish pit overtime, and, oh yeah, the whole self-publishing author thing, I’m working something like 2-and-a-half jobs, and I have the total lack of energy to prove it.

Yosemite - New Job

The Perks:

Did I mention the part where my best friend and I are in Yosemite together??

Yosemite - Together Forever

I mean, given that we’re working two different full-time gigs, we don’t get to see each other as constantly as we’d like. But as of her second week here, at least we’re roomies! In a tent-cabin, right outside the dorms that used to house me. Though a bare third bed warns that the Powers That Be may eventually try to saddle us with a third roommate, the current situation is perfectly livable (and, with our dual paychecks, because #YaySteadyMoney, more than affordable). Moreover, the manager in charge of our schedules has been gamely working to accommodate our need for matching days off, meaning that we’re generally able to visit our loved ones in Fresno every week.

Which is extra good, because Tirzah would probably snap and drown Muttering Joe in a tub of pre-soak solution, otherwise.

The Takeaway:

It’s not a perfect paradise, but it time and again appears that I’m becoming adult enough to handle it. One helpful coping strategy is remembering that all things are temporary. I’ve only got to deal with all the stressful parts until I don’t. And until then, I have only to lift my eyes to the mountains to recall the parts I’ll miss when this chapter is behind me.

Yosemite_Mountain View

*Speaking of a surplus of job openings: Want a gig in one of the most gorgeous locations in the world? The dishwashers of the Majestic Yosemite Hotel want YOU!

…Assuming that you’re a reliable worker, game to be a(n often unsung) heroic part of a fast-paced kitchen environment.

Serious applicants, grab your resume and check out this link!

The Life and Times of Yosemite Dan

“So, how’s life in Yosemite National Park?”

I’m glad you asked, unspecified italicized voice*. It’s been… something else.

Yosemite - Adventure Usual

*(Or didn’t I name that voice, at one point? I wouldn’t put it past me.)

The Job:

I’ve been about a month working in the Majestic Yosemite Hotel as a dishwasher – ahem, make that as a Majestic Steward, according to my manager.

Yosemite - Majestic Steward

Running rinsed flatware, glassware, utensils, and more through the pair of heavy-duty machines. Working with the team to keep the kitchen’s dishes in some semblance of order for the chefs and servers. Walking the line between mind- and body-numbing repetition and cracking the puzzles of how to make everything fit on the shelves – like a living video game that dries out your hands and tweaks out your shoulder.

Two weeks into it, aforesaid manager sat me down to say that he was very much impressed with me and wished to groom me into his managerial position. Color me both flattered and terrified! Of course I strive to shine in whatever role I’m given, and due recognition for my efforts is always appreciated. But… a manager? At the Majestic? Whether I’m psychologically competent to handle the responsibility aside, I’ve never planned to stay in Yosemite long-term. By the end of the year (at the latest), I want a place in Fresno with the BFF.

This I told my manager, largely anticipating that would be that. But, “Oh, Fresno?” he says. “The company has a branch in Fresno. Let me make a phone call…” And he totally calls over there to see what kind of position might be available for me within a year’s time.

If that’s not a sign to go ahead and accept the position of his protégée, what in the world is?

The Cast:

I wasn’t long on the job before I started thinking this would all make for quite the book.

Yosemite - Outlaws AU

Not that I’m big on memoirs (unless you count the upcoming Inspired, which I halfway do), but something in the rom-com vein would suit. …minus any romance, at this point, since none of my coworkers have yet to make a move on my heart. That’s just as well. Amusing as these characters may be to read or write, they’re hardly Deshipley love interest material. I mean, just get a load of these guys – all, for the sake of identity-protection, to be called Jo[e]*.

*(As life would have it, Joe is the actual name of one of my coworkers. Which? I’m not about to tell.)

Mansplainer Joe = Here to make sure that I know he knows what I should know. Because I guess my quick competence is only visible to actual bosses, not just bossy people.

Dead Inside Joe = Going through the motions without any memory of why he once cared, if ever he did. Should probably get a different job before there’s nothing left of him to save.

Muttering Joe = What’s that he’s saying? Nobody knows, and I suppose it doesn’t matter, given that he’s 9 times out of 10 talking to himself. Freezes with overwhelm when the servers pile the unwashed dishes too high at the sink. Will be taking his break now whether there’s anyone to relieve him or not

Super Joe = This elderly man doesn’t speak English (I think he’s some kind of Eastern European?), but he can pull and stow dishes like nobody’s business. “He’s a superhero,” Dead Inside Joe says candidly. “Whenever he’s here, I feel safe.” Clearly, the Majestic Steward that Gotham needs right now.

Sociopathic Witch Priest Joe = …Or so he claims. There’s no telling how much of his manic chatter is true, and how much is him just trying to keep himself entertained. Can verifiably wash and load dishes at the speed magic, if and when he can be bothered to work at all. Loves my high-level use of English. Thinks we should plot a murder together.

Boy Band Joe = Looks like an early Nick Carter. Proudly calls himself the weirdest person here. (Which, wow, have you not met Sociopathic Witch Priest Joe?) Can barely keep it in his hairnet. Low-key resents the manager acting like this is a job to be taken seriously.

“It” Girl Jo = Or is Boy Band Joe the only one hollering for her attention all night? Whatever the case, I’ll totally buy her as the queen bee of the dish pit, proving that you don’t have to look like (or be) a Mean Girl to read as popular. Knows her job and gets it done. Caught me proofreading “Inspired” and showed an interest. Obviously one of the smart ones.

And those are just some of the folks I encounter day-to-day, to say nothing of the rest of the kitchen’s colorful crew. Come at me, Netflix; let’s collab on the next hit original series.

The Perks:

One free meal (often big enough to split into two), plus random tidbits to be had throughout the day. I’m saving like whoa on groceries!

Yosemite - Yum

Yosemite - Fruit

Yosemite - Veggies

Steady money via a job I don’t hate. I began to doubt I’d live to see the day.

Yosemite itself. Sure, I spend most of the winter’s limited daylight hours laboring indoors, but nature’s glory is never far, and is miraculously healing. My head and heart, praise God, are feeling healthier than they have since before the trauma at Germany’s end – and that goes for some of my characters, too.

– Seriously, my characters love it here. The trees and rivers and mountains fill them with joy. And since they’re inside of me, the benefits are partly mine to share.

– When I’ve got two days off to rub together, the BFF is just a few hours away by bus and train. Our reunions are always sweet, and keep us going strong until we’re back together for real.

The Takeaway:

For now – and for once – I’m fairly sure I’m where I’m supposed to be. Certainly, I’m feeling well taken care of. And whether this experience ever makes its way into a book or onscreen, I know it to be well worth living.

Yosemite - Nature