Saturday, January 29, 2005

Learning Curve

The strangest thing happened just now. I was spreading peanut butter with the stainless steel butter knife from a set I’ve used all my life when I had to stop and look at it. It felt funny. It has a thickly rounded, heavy handle with a tapered end, and any piece from this ancient set of Grandma’s silverware usually feels comfortable in my hand, customary and familiar. The utensils I first learned to eat with. But something wasn’t right. It took me almost half an hour to realize that it doesn’t feel like a violin bow, which is of course much heavier and longer and quite a bit more square. I don’t use my home silverware very often (ah, the carefree culinary life of a bachelorette!) and I’ve been handling the bow a lot lately, and I guess my hand just got accustomed to the shape and weight of that more impressive item.

It’s disconcerting when something you were once used to is suddenly completely alien. Like City Hall is now, and any shoes that aren’t my steel-toed Skechers and pants that aren't jeans. Once in a while I do that with words, too. The longer you look at a word, even and especially simple, common ones, the more unfamiliar it becomes. The first word that ever turned on me like that was ‘Fraggle.’ Recently it was ‘lapse’ and before that ‘grapevine.’ It’s like you suddenly see the individual letters for the first time, and the whole word crumbles, as if someone swept a word in letter blocks off a table and they landed jumbled, each one far apart on the rug.

I still remember being unable to read as a very small child, when letters were puzzling, individual things. Street signs and restaurant names and magazine covers were mysterious codes I couldn't crack. I was desperate to understand, yearning to belong to the throng of people around me who scratched letters on paper as easily as breathing, writing things others could understand but not me. I've never liked being left out, and I've never liked the frustration of not knowing. I want to be able to use whatever tools are handy to work on whatever task is necessary. That's something I didn't think about when I took the job at the Water Plant. It's frustrating being the one who has to just stand and watch, even though I constantly ask questions and the guys are careful to answer in patient, simple language, never condescending but certainly repetitive and slow. I'm picking it up fast, and I love the look on their faces when I ask a question that clearly indicates I understand far more than they thought I did or already knew something they didn't expect a girl to know. They're pleased that I care, and glad that I'm willing, which is all they would ever ask of me. Soon, much sooner than anyone expects, even me, I'll be as familiar with the knobs and screens and pipes as they are, and it will be hard to remember a time when I wasn't. But in the meantime, it's just hard.

The luckiest thing about timing is that I'm currently taking violin lessons, too, which is ever so much harder than the trombone is, and I can play the hell out of a bass trombone. I taught myself that and the trumpet and clarinet, and I'm one of those annoying people who can hear a song once and sit down at the piano and out flows an impressively intricate version. I ‘play by ear,’ which isn't the same as ‘perfect pitch.’ I can't tell you what a note is that I'm not seeing you play, but I can easily distinguish the spaces between the notes, and that's all ‘playing by ear’ is. It makes it easy to predict which note should come next in a melody, and which two or three or four will make a pleasing, harmonious chord. This instinct, however useful, will do me no good on the violin. At least not early on. Anyhow, my point was that learning the violin, a process which simply cannot be rushed, is helping me develop the patience to learn my new job at the slow and thorough speed that will make me very good at it. And even the occasional frustration isn’t enough to make me not want to go to work. Because I do so love to learn, however difficult.

I didn't mean to neglect so many things this week, such as the blog, but sleep was the most important thing, and there were a lot of beginning-of-the-year important events to attend. The Renewal Ball Kickoff was Thursday night, and this will be my fourth one, the first weekend in June. I did the poster two years in a row and one year the original art sold at the fundraising auction for just under $4,000.00. I was almost annoyed because it wasn't one of my better works, having been influenced and directed by someone else. But it was still gratifying. This year I signed on for much less stress and drank too much champagne. (I've still never had a hangover, thanks to excessive body weight and lucky genes.) I still feel like the outsider, especially at the ball, when the upper crust of this dinky little town dress to the nines and still look like fours, or threes trying way too hard. I see no sense in sequins and blonde highlights and fake tanning and acrylic nails when there are only 12,000 fairly unimpressive people to see you. Go ahead, call me a snob, but I despise pretension and some days this town fairly reeks of it. The ball is still a nice event, though, and for a while you get to feel like somebody else living someplace else. And that's always a gas, right?

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Genetic Mishap

Hallelujah! Vindication! Because seriously, folks, I am big-boned.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Plant, and more here.


Sunday, January 23, 2005


I spent my early childhood falling asleep to the sound of people laughing hysterically, and it was because of this man.



Friday, January 21, 2005

Sob Story

My last day at City Hall went pretty well, and very fast. I found I didn’t count off the ‘lasts’ like I expected I would: the last misdirected call for the County Clerk (why are you calling the City if you want the County? What’s wrong with you people?!), the last batch recalculation sheet, the last close-out, the last photocopy, the last water bill entry at Lee’s desk, the last handwritten Purchase Order, the last booking of the Machine Shop. At least, I didn’t realize their finality while they were happening. Only later. Only now.

The last goodnight to everybody, the last hug and wave as we all pulled out of the parking lot, was harder. It’s not like I’ll never see them again. I just won’t see them as much. We still all work for the City, but I no longer belong at City Hall. Three years is the longest I’ve ever worked someplace; it’s no wonder I’m so attached. Besides, I am, like my mother before me, extraordinarily sentimental. I’ll miss my chair and fighting for my special blue clay mug, and the twenty-year-old microwave and the monthly third-Thursday potlucks and Frankie and Nancy bickering while they sort the mail, and Mikey wailing my name from his office when his computer doesn’t recognize that it has a mouse attached when he turns it on in the morning. They’ll be glad to have me stop by, but still. It won’t be the same. To my credit, I didn’t start sniffling until I was safe in my car, and even then there were no tears. You should be proud of me.

One of the many consolations here is that I’ll have my very own restroom at the Water Plant, since the three guys use the men’s. No more “you’re young! You should let the old ladies go first!” as they cue up behind the door, or vaguely wondering about the droplets on the seat, because City Hall’s is a coed potty, and there are a few men. And the big, the huge, the greatest consolation of all: I’m going to go, every morning, somewhere I want to go. Someplace I can’t wait to get to know. Maybe in a few years I’ll be longing for something new, but we can’t always look so far forward, now can we?

In the midst of all this, I’ve nearly finished another painting. I’ll post it here and you can tell me what you think. I’m not as shocked at how good it turned out this time, because I did one this summer that I just had to show everybody and I’m not usually eager to share my work unless I know it’s good. But it’s getting to feel more natural, easing the oily pigments into shapes and shades, watching the subject gain demensions and life. I’m glad I didn’t take any classes and just figured it out for myself, because I don’t want to paint like anybody else. Like everything artistic I do, I’m not very competitive or comparative. If someone thinks your art is good, it’s because they see something in it they like, and not everybody likes the same things. A work of realism is the only time I expect a consistent reaction, and that’s because the viewer is comparing it to the concrete things we all see the same. How much does the painting resemble the subject? But even then, someone will say “wow, you really captured…” they pause. What? The expression, the hue, the spirit of something. Honestly, sometimes it’s an accident. But even then it’s a success.

Splish Splash

Never underestimate the emotional value of silent laughter. Cheering yourself up without offending the tender dignity of someone else is immeasurably useful.

Nobody, and I do mean nobody, does drag like Jimmy Fallon. Maybe I'm wrong, but hey.

Oh. My. God, what a beautiful day. The sun is shining, the sky is the blue it can only be in Wyoming, it's almost forty degrees, and the four-inch-thick layer of ice on the roads is melting into huge dirty lakes in driveways and gutters. I'm taking more notice of water, suddenly, in all aspects... when I shower, drink, drive. Pretty soon I'll be surrounded by it, and I'm sure I'll never look at it the same. I'll see the ocean again someday, but by then I'll be forced to think of all the steps necessary to treat it if I wanted to make it totally potable. But for now, I just like to splash in puddles. I have an old, square SUV that really gets the best of them.

Thirteen of the most amazing women in the world took me to lunch yesterday. I'm flattered they all turned out; a few even rescheduled important engagements to see me off right. I cleaned my desk out today, slowly, and into a carboard box like they do on T.V., but the major gutting was of the computer I've used for a year and a half. I'll miss it; it's like an old friend. They remembered to take my keys away, but my new boss Bud brought me a set to the Water Plant. "In case you beat Jeff there Sunday morning," he said, and to their credit, the girls waited until he was gone to rib me. I've been at least five minutes late to City Hall every day for the past year. I'll miss that, too.

It's bittersweet, but it's going to be great.

Stand by for puppy pictures.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Hoar Frost

Before the Causeway



Fremont II

Fremont Lake



Saturday, January 15, 2005

Rocket Ship

And so ends, for me, one of those days you vividly recall years hence.

After a quick and painless and somewhat informal (a word which here means 'disorganized') interview with Bud and Oop and Sue, Travis is guiding me around the brand-spanking-new Water Treatment Plant, waxing enthusiastic about the job and the chances of me getting it. Over the rushing of millions of gallons of water flowing through a concrete bunker full of deep green pools and massive, humming equipment, an alarm starts bleating. I realize it's the phone as Travis finishes his sentence and we slip into the sparsely furnished break room, where he politely answers with a formality long practiced. After a moment he says "sure, she's right here," and hands me the phone with a look I can't describe, something between quizzical and surprised and apprehensive. (It all happened so fast I can't recall now what the phone looked like. Was it black or white, corded or cordless? Was it wall-mounted, or resting on a surface?) Oop's voice over the phone sounds like it always does when he calls City Hall, urgent, anxious, always full of business, only this time there's a rushing in my ears that has nothing to do with the multitude of water flowing just outside the room or my blood pumping furiously, churning towards my brain like a powerful wave; it's that wind again, that unstoppable rush of time speeding by. "What we'd like to do at this point is offer you the position," he says matter-of-factly, and before I can think, before Jo's or Jim's face or my desk at City Hall can flash into my mind, before I inhale or exhale or even blink, I say "I'll take it." It's done, and my breath is gone, my head is empty. Some unbearable coiled tension that has been tugging for three weeks has suddenly sprung loose, and I'm free.

I could have collapsed, fainted, or maybe laughed and cried at once (which I am prone to do when extremely excited and unable to think clearly), but I didn't. I just looked over at Travis, who looked both astounded and pleased, and grinned. He reassured me that I'm going to love it there and sent me home with the first volume of a correspondence course I'll be taking, preparing me for the test to obtain my Level I Operator's Certification. The thick, catalog-sized paperback manual is full of complex Metric system equations and chemical symbols and diagrams and goofy, scribbly caricatures of people performing lab tests, calibrating equipment, changing filters and scrubbing screens.

On to something new. On to steel-toes and coveralls, on to intense learning and a massive challenge perched on the highest, most wind-blown dirt knob in Evanston, Wyoming. Somehow, despite being overwhelmed and in shock, I am at peace. Somehow, leaning over spotless aluminum railing and peering down into the emerald depths of a pool with the slowly swirling flocculator, I was reminded of other peaceful water, of gentle, sunny afternoons spent leaning over the rail of a rickety wooden pier and surveying other rippling green, marbled with gold sand and salty foam. When I got back to City Hall I put ten dollars into the lottery pool, so when Frankie drives to Fish Haven, Idaho tomorrow, I'll get a share if he picks the winning ticket. I've never put in before, but by that time the elation was setting in, and the possibilities were surfacing in my mind like strong beams of sunshine breaking through storm clouds. I felt lucky.

I don't know what this means to my plans. I don't know if this will hurry or delay my return to San Diego, a return to a life I often recall as kinder and richer than this, and to another very important goal. I have a hunch that this move might mean I make it back sooner than I originally planned. And yet, when I called my sister on her cellular phone to tell her the news, I found her at Mom's cousin's house two hours from here, in a room full of people eager to hear from me even though that wasn't the reason they were gathered. Just knowing they're so close is enough for me right now, knowing that Mom will call tomorrow for the minute details that I already related to my sister when she got home tonight. In the loud congratulations that met my announcement, I could hear my mother's voice and my sister's, and the laughter of her husband (who is the supervisor at Evanston's Wastewater Treament Plant, at the other end of the spectrum), who bet on me with his coworker, Frank, and I hope he bet money because this time he was right.

I realized just before quitting time tonight that I was exhausted and starving, having been unable to force anything down at lunch, the only symptom of nerves I experienced until after it was all over and I felt like I'd just rapidly downed about eight cups of Lee's industrial-strength coffee. I'm calm now, in the wee hours of the morning, even after having put my truck in four wheel drive and plowing into the snow in the yard because the street is full of cars and I can't park anywhere else where the extension cord will reach to plug the magnetic oil-pan heater in. I haven't seen 4:00AM in quite a few weeks and I'm not going to wager a guess as to the temperature. It can't be above zero. I have a fantastic weekend of catching-up planned with an old friend who is flying out from Massachusetts just to see me for a few days. I'm taking Monday off, so I have just four short days left at City Hall, and then it's on to a semi-new life, and I'm taking you with me.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005


And so begins another two years as the poster child for perfect teeth. My dentist, who is not prone to joke about such matters, asks every time: "are you seeing someone else?" It's never more than a ten minute appointment, x-rays and all. I'll have you know that I'm no more a dental hygiene fanatic than Mom's cousin Cheri, who brushes constantly, all day. She spits in whatever receptacle is handy. Imagine her daughter Angie's surprise when she took a sip from that soda can. Also, my sister has even more perfect teeth than I, if you consider that she didn't have to have braces on her perfectly regimented ivories, she didn't grind her teeth until the two in front have slightly wavy bottoms, and she didn't break off both her canines diving head-first into the shallow end of a hotel pool in Vegas when she was eight. She has positively ferocious canines behind that demure smile. (She was the one who pulled me out of the pool. She may have been the one who recommended the dive, too, I can't remember now. Even so, if Morgan told me to jump off a cliff tomorrow, I'd most likely do it, simply assuming she had good reason. And knowing her, she probably would. Have good reason, not tell me to jump.)

Ford or Chevy, Microsoft or Apple, mountains or seaside, Old Navy or Abercrombie, Pepsi or Coke, dog person vs. cat person. The world is so full of contrasts, and it's good to belong to my generation, who seem to get to have it all; there's no black and white anymore. There's grey, and then there's fuscia and aquamarine and flourescent yellow. I like my Country with a little Pop, and that's the way it's served. I like my cola with citrus and all the carbs, and I can have that, too. I can wear prints with stripes and white after Labor Day and knee-high polka-dot galoshes, and even though that's been done before, I can do it a little different and it's something completely new. I'm Republican because Dad is and a lady because Mom is, and somehow the two get along just fine, even when the 'rents don't. There are new diseases and new cures and new crimes and new punishments and I wouldn't miss a minute of it for anything. I just wish it would go a little slower.

The fact that Johnny Depp can go from Finding Neverland to Once Upon a Time in Mexico makes me less skeptical towards the people who say that aliens reside incognito among us.

My interview at the Water Treatment Plant is Friday; I foresee a new career in my future. If the City's water isn't already flouridated, I'll make sure it becomes so; that's the secret to my dental success. I don't care what it does to the rest of the body, so long as my teeth are awesome. I should brush up on my basic hydraulics before the interview, even though my position would be Operator in Training. I just want them to know what kind of person I am: the kind of person that likes to know things.

It would be heartbreaking to leave City Hall. There are definite perks and constant bustle and a general comeraderie that appeals to me. But I don't like the gossip, even though I frequently participate and occasionally even instigate, simply because the thrill of it eventually rubs off on you. I just really don't feel good about it later, while there are others who, sadly, thrive on it. I also don't like being on either side of the frequent secrets, 'in' or 'left out,' or on either side of the frequent civil wars. (Why do you suppose they called it the Civil War? There was nothing civil about it; there never is in war.) Plus I got off on the wrong foot in the beginning somehow, and now it's proving harder than I expected to break the mold. I'm no slouch in the brain department, but I've always played a bit dumb to seem less threatening. I've discovered that deceptive honesty is one of the most powerful social tools there is, but it's a double-barbed fish hook, and I'm caught.

Still, there's no question that I fit in at City Hall from day one, and I'm not so sure the three male operators at the Plant would be thrilled to get me, with my girly habits including a severe lip-product-addiction, monthly PMS, and
constantly putting my hair up and taking it down again five minutes later. It would take considerable time and effort to show them I'm willing and able to pull my (considerable) weight. But that's a challenge I look forward to, along with all the learning and tests for certification, all those stairs, and remembering how to enjoy being dirty. Besides, a big change has never done me wrong. I guess in a way I can't wait for it. Maybe it'll jumpstart that novel or inspire more painting, or maybe the continuous quest for excellent water quality will consume me and I'll have found my calling. (Did you just snort?) For a person like me, everything's my calling. And honestly, this job would facilitate the reaching of several goals much earlier than planned, things I haven't talked to anybody about yet. Not just the slightly higher wage, but the schedule and environment, and the difference. Plus, as a career, a Water Treatment Plant Operator has way better prospects than Accounts Payable. As Mom pointed out, basic accounting and clerical workers are a dime a dozen, and if you're not bilingual, it's going to get harder and harder to stand out. But as a skilled and certified operator, you can get a job anywhere, or even do consulting.

Never fear, mes amies, that I'm becoming so realistic that I'm not still expecting to someday make a more-than-decent living at one of my three genuine skills: writing, art, and music. But the fact is I don't work very hard at any of them, and I'm afraid to. I did a while ago and burned myself out, which was a terrible and painful experience. Those are things that have to come naturally, you know, and they are now, more than ever. It's just a matter of patience, and learning to do them for the right reasons. And I might as well spend forty hours a week learning more useful and wonderful things until I can correctly focus. I'll tell you a secret, too: I'm getting distracted by my age. I'll be closer to thirty than to twenty this year and I'm starting to freak out a little. But it's been a long time since I was irrational, and I have it on very good authority that I'll probably get what I want in the end, anyway. I hate to tempt fate, but I always do. And maybe it's partly because I believe I will. Does wishing make it so?

This has become one long, spherical, circular post about ME; but then, that's why you come here, isn't it? If you don't know me, it's like fiction, and occasionally there's a gem that makes you want more, and if you do know me, you can catch up on my life without having to call and take the chance that I'm mad at my malfunctioning computer or can't find something important because I cleaned my house, which will make for a very unpleasant conversation. I'm a total beast when I can't find something; I'm really sorry if I've ever cussed repeatedly in your ear before. People say of my brother-in-law that there's no stranger in the world to him, which is a rather pleasant thought, and even though I'm less likely to strike up a conversation on a plane or invite two scroungy Germans on a record-breaking walk into my life and home and fridge for a week, I'd like to still think that I pretty much like everybody I meet. I frequently have two-hour conversations with total strangers on the phone at City Hall, to the chagrin of my coworkers, who are starting to rethink giving me the main line.

I wish I was clever enough to do an Internet poll on who's hotter: Vin Diesel or The Rock. My dad, sister and I once searched every 7-11 from here to Vegas (about 500 miles south) to find me the Slurpee cup with The Rock on it. We found one at midnight in some teensy town in rural Utah. Supposedly The Rock bakes out-of-this-world chocolate chip cookies and plays Willie Nelson songs like the melancholy Georgia on my Mind on an unamplified guitar, and I've read that Vin Diesel frequently bursts into songs from Rogers and Hammersteins' musicals and dreams up things like Riddick. Not that all men who do considerably unfashionable or unlikely things are inherantly attractive. These two just happen to be built like brick shithouses and have awesome growly voices. I also like that underneath all that fictional heroism, they have such common names
and interests and cares as Dwayne and Mark and cooking and music and creativity and health and inevitable death.

Remind me and sometime I'll tell you the real live version of Once Upon a Time in Mexico. It involves an iguana and some cornstarch and the stars and a pigpen, and I have the photographs to prove it.

Dead Ringer

My friend calls coffee her 'bitch serum.' And it is.

Barry came in this morning with two broken fingers, a splint on his wrist, assorted dislocated, bruised, torn and/or mutilated body parts, and what I suspect may be a concussion. He fell backwards off a ladder while sanding a log on Dr. Francis's log house. While they were at the hospital, Dr. Francis's daughter came in with a sprained ankle. He drove Barry's Jeep to the Hospital and backed into somebody. I'm not sure whose day it was for bad luck, Barry's or Doc's. I've never seen anybody alive or dead who looked more like Billy Bob Thornton than Barry. People on his cruise ship this summer asked for his autograph. Ham that he is, he pretended to be Billy.

I was sipping hot Tang this morning while the snow from my boots melted all over the carpet under my desk, wondering when it's going to stop snowing. There's an email going around with a link to a a short, tacky article that was published in the UCLA Daily Bruin on December 9th about how much it sucked that the Bruins had to play somebody as low-profile as the University of Wyoming in Vegas. I emailed it to the mayor, who is a die-hard Cowboy Joe, a fanatic Wyoming fan, who attended that game. He's the president of the State Bar Association and loves his alma mater; he goes everywhere to see them play. I think it's cute that the author of that article baited the people of our state, but I'm too lazy to write an irate letter enumerating all the great things we've got going for us that he overlooked. I have to shrug and remind myself that there are good things and bad things about living in every state. I lived in California for ten years. I could tell him a thing or two about the things about SoCal that suck, but I don't like to sling racist remarks around on the Internet. If he wasn't so horribly unattractive I would probably write a snide, flirty diatribe and bait him back, which is apparently what he wants: "Those of you in the "cities" of Cheyenne, Cody, Casper or Laramie can e-mail Quinonez at, if you know how to use that thing called a computer." As it is I don't really care. I didn't go to the U of WY. My alma mater is on South Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles, and they don't have a sports team of any kind, unless you count treading the catwalk among your favorite Olympic events.

I do know how to use that "thing called a computer," and I use it very well and all the time, but what would make it even better is if I had one of these. I have to have one. I have to save up. I have to pretend to work now.

Monday, January 10, 2005


Snow Sharks

A and Pep

Snow Cannon

Instant Relief

I'm wounded. Serious papercut. And I can't help but notice again how blood is always the richest color in the room.

Sunday, January 09, 2005


City Hall at Night

Sternbergs on Main Street


A and Scrunch

Messy Nose

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Pulling for Summer

In an effort to free up some space on my harddrive ("13.9 GB and you've got 12.4 GB used?! What the Hell have you got on there?!") so I can load XP, I was perusing through my picture folders looking for things to delete. There are 54 folders, each with an average of 200 pictures. I can't help it if I'm a fanatic! I love my Olympus, I love my family, and I love taking pictures of one with the other. I've burned them all to CDs but I'm afraid to wipe them off my overstuffed harddrive for fear the CDs will fail me. Maybe I'll burn them again. I’d feel better with two copies. Anyhow, I was looking at pictures of summer barbeques at City Hall and summer birthdays at the Woody family's extra-rural home and country picnics and spring branding and drives up in into non-snowy mountains and fishing trips and lazy lakeside afternoons. And suddenly, even though I've complained lightly about it before, I really CANNOT STAND that I live in a place that has about three and a half months of summer. I suffer from Seasonal Affectation Disorder (S.A.D.), a condition where winter just plain pisses the afflicted off. Even though I may go cross-country skiing this afternoon, and I love to skate and sled and I love nighttime bonfires beside the ice ponds, I would still much rather be at Bear Lake on the white sand, staring out across water so turquoise that most people think it's been dyed, on a day so hot that any movement brings on sweat. I just miss green and blue and red and yellow. I get so tired of gray and white.


A good cry soothes a lot of pains. Even growing pains. In many cases it quiets fears, if only by exhausting the thinker into numbness.

Sometimes my potential threatens to crush me. Sometime soon I’ll break free of it, grow and gain so much that it won’t be able to keep me in or under, and I’ll stretch out and shatter the walls that close in, as if they were merely those of a glass box. I’m terrified you’re going to miss it.

Every day I am sadder but wiser. Like everyone else, I sometimes wonder if anybody else can feel the way I do, as deeply, as high, as low. And if they do, how do they keep from showing it?

I went to see Finding Neverland tonight and as usual, I’ll keep my critique to myself. I generally keep my reactions and impressions to myself, too, but tonight something happened while seeing a story about imagination, which, if you didn’t know, is thought to be my forté. And imagination is the screen on which we view our memories. We all know memory assaults with a brutality no exterior villain can match; all it took was an expression, just a tilt of the head, the furrow of a brow, and a pucker of a mouth, and I was right back in the middle of a fight with a dark-haired person, one fight in a continuous string of fights that went on for years. Something about Johnny Depp’s face when his hair is long and loose and parted in the middle, something about how broad and dark is that face, with its square jaw and bottomless black eyes, evokes for me another face that I will not likely ever see again. I hope not to. I would like to remember it the way I last saw it in an airport terminal, youthful and hopeful, not angry at me or disappointed in life. Does it make sense that some people, even as you love them dearly, you do not love enough to endure seeing them age and fail and die? I couldn’t bear to see him pass through all the stages of life. In my memory and imagination, he will always be young and healthy and beautiful. True love must be when you can say to someone “I want to grow old with you,” and truly mean it. How morbid, and yet, how perfect.

What an appropriate role for a man with a boy’s name: a boy who refuses to grow up, a man who failed to grow up. I think there’s a possibility that I would love Johnny Depp even if he weren’t the muse of one of my heroes, Tim Burton. I adore anyone who can evoke pain with no visible change of expression. It’s as if he simply emits pain, and you sense it, rather than see it, and it’s still just as effective, if not moreso.

We called Mom “real quick” tonight to discuss travel plans for tomorrow, which we’ve cancelled due to weather. She had a newsflash: Brad and Jennifer are splitting up! I could see my sister’s husband going through a tedious mental list of all our assorted cousins, looking for a Brad or a Jen, with no luck. I tossed him a bone: “Pitt and Aniston, Kelly.” He made the face he reserves for moments when our family’s oddness really shines through. Honestly though, that’s the only celebrity couple I’ve ever seen Mom pay any mind to. Admit it, we all wanted them to work out.

Friday, January 07, 2005

The World is Quiet Here

I read this motto of sorts in a Lemony Snicket book, and it reminded me of all the places in the world it would do me good to be right now. The World is Quiet Here: exactly the place I need. In the book it referred to a library, and that is certainly an appropriate place to seek peace, which is what I’m looking for. Perhaps that’s why I have always loved libraries. There’s a particular corner in a particular library, though, in Coronado, California, that is certainly one of my favorite peaceful places in all the world. I used to barricade myself in one of the overstuffed chairs in the corner behind the fiction shelves, on sunny Sunday afternoons all year. My corner had windows of high, tinted glass, looking out onto the wide yard in back, onto the tennis courts and eucalyptus and bottlebrush trees mottling the sunlight on the brown grass. I would repair to that place and fold myself into a chair with all the books I could carry. I would skim through them, digesting the plots, absorbing details, oblivious all the afternoon until night transformed the glass into mirrors and I could see my face instead of the street.

There are other places where the world is quiet for me.

The patch of clay worn smooth by my small scarred shins, between two lilac bushes behind our small house on Topaz. (The east-west streets of Kemmerer are named for precious stones like Emerald, Opal, Onyx, and Topaz, many of which may be mined from the ancient hills around the town, which are known as the Green River Formation.) Even with the sickly-sweet pale blossoms dripping off their upper branches, I was safe from bees and hornets beneath the canopy. I would hide there when in trouble or simply troubled, or when I just wanted to be alone and quiet, or with a stack of books or a pouch of my favorite toys, tiny plastic figurines of animals which, with a little imagination, presented limitless possibilities for play. At bedtime Grandma would pick the lilac twigs out of my stringy ragamuffin hair and I would ask if tomorrow I could take the hose out and make a river between the lilacs for the animals to live by. I think she frowned on such a waste of water but she let me do it anyway, as long as I soaked the flowerbeds first.

The kelp forest exhibit at the wonderful Stephen Birch Aquarium, an indoor spectacle of underwater wonders. There is, or was still at my last visit (which was some time ago), a bench built into the wall across from this fantastic living replica of the undersea world. Behind clear inches-thick glass, golden stalks of kelp sway slowly in the artificial tide, branching up towards natural sunlight, which filters through the swirling water and makes dancing patterns on the blue carpet of the hallway. Behind the kelp are rough coral walls where eels and bright anemones and barnacles reside. Crooked flounder and small sharks make hypnotizing laps low above the sandy floor, and I could sit for hours and watch this small world persist in being one of the most beautiful sights on Earth. I love the silence, and it is the essence of a lifelong yearning of mine: to be able to breathe under water. I don’t trust diving equipment; I’m far too claustrophobic. But if just once, for only a little while, I had gills, or something of that nature. Wouldn’t that be divine?

I must be missing San Diego. Next month will mean two years since I stood on the pier in Imperial Beach and felt it shiver as the waves assaulted its wooden legs, or sat in the rose gardens in Balboa Park with only three colored pencils and a thick sketchbook, or rode the ferry from Coronado to Harbor Drive just to enjoy the sea breezes. Plugging my car in at midnight tonight at just above zero only made me more aware that in some ways, life here is harder than it has to be. It makes me think of the tidepools at Point Loma and the shops at Seaport Village and incredible Mexican food from those little dives you’re sure the health inspector missed.

I have a big decision to make, or at least something to seriously ponder. I don’t have any time left, but I can’t help thinking if I could just have ten minutes in one of these places, all the pieces would come together and the world would right itself again. I suppose only time will tell if I’ve played my cards right.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005


I just might create a new blog for the sole purpose of glorifying my new Leatherman Micra. It's the most useful thing I've ever owned! (And cute, and emerald green, and sharp.) Thank you, Kelly. It'll sure come in handy at my new job, too. (Please, oh please!) Speaking of tools, does anybody know where there's a good illustrated encyclopedia of tools online? I'd like to be a little more educated. I found out on new year's eve that what I've always called a pipe wrench is actually a monkey wrench. Bite me, Battle of the Sexes! My only consolation playing that annoying board game was that none of the guys knew what a 'trousseau tea' was for. Ha! Oh wait, the other gals didn't know either. Just me. So the boys whupped us, but that's only because Carrie's Brian is really good at random trivia. Either that or he's really, really in touch with his feminine side. But he didn't know what YSL or DKNY stand for either, so his manliness is still intact.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Here We Go

I'm not painfully distraught to see 2004 go. I did progressive things I never imagined I'd do and I'm so terribly glad, but it only makes me eager to get at whatever 2005 holds, because I'm certain it's going to be fantastic. The details of my grim determination would frighten you, but don't worry; it's going to be a good ride. I've almost managed to wipe away all vestiges of fear, that odd fear of time moving forward like an unstoppable wind, which has been plaguing me for some time now. I'm only returning to the voracious live-er-of-the-moment that I was before. Most people like me that way. It disappoints the ones that annoy me, which suits me fine, because they only exploited the temporary fearfulness, the worrisome version of me.

I don't technically make resolutions, but if I did, this year's would include a little revenge, a lot fewer unnecessary attempts at self-justification, a bit less niceness, further bettering of my health, fewer excuses for everybody else, further admirable progress financially, emotionally, and in all aspects of life, a grand and successful inveiglement, and some serious pampering of a very loyal and trustworthy automobile. And let us all keep in mind that we have another 364 days to be less petty.

I am so lucky. I'm not even afraid that putting it in writing will jinx my lifetime of glorious serendipity; that’s how lucky I feel.

My brother-in-law’s grandmother died today, less than three months after her son. Her passing was not a surprise; she survived almost an entire year after undergoing surgery to remove a brain tumor much like the one that got my paternal grandfather last spring. I suspect that by the time I got to know her, there wasn’t much left of the somewhat controversial person everyone is now remembering, and I didn’t even get a good enough current impression of her to form my own opinion. The thing about her I will keep around is her maiden name: Virginia O’Hara. An elegant, flowing, powerful name, like moving water. I’m tremendously interested in names. Those close to me are considering banning me from ever having children, or somehow preventing me from naming them myself if I do, because I’m hooked on dignified, elaborately poetic classics like Emmaline and Theodore and Lawrence and maybe even Constantine. What’s in a name? A lot. I have an excellent name, and even though everyone’s shortened it to the leading letter for convenience, which I don’t mind, my full name fits me. It’s not particularly unusual, but it’s pretty and somewhat classic. At least Mom spelled it well.

Apparently the larger of my two cats is as charmed by novelty as I am. Some ardent admirer gave my pets a filtered drinking fountain which provides Oreo no end of amusement. I swear he gets a drink about every ten minutes, just to show off. He likes to dip one massive paw in first. I guess he enjoys the light patterns on the surface of the moving water. He’s that way about the reflecting light from compact discs or tin foil, or flickering shadows from candle flame. I’m just as easily amused. I get a kick out of the elongated afternoon shadow of my funny boxy truck flying over the ancient, weathered Wyoming ground along the highway home from Mom’s. I could watch it for hours. If I thought anybody else could appreciate it, I’d use it as the cover of my book… but then again, I’ve never tried to photograph it. It’s always just been my uplifting secret. I think I’ll keep it that way for now.

Here's to another year of discovery and accomplishment.