Wednesday, June 29, 2005

A Little Violence

A few weeks ago I received Terry A. Del Bene's The Donner Party Cookbook. It's tremendously funny if you keep an open mind, but don't read it right before bed. It's a very detailed account of the events that left several unfortunate pioneer families stranded and helpless, beginning with a misguided shortcut through the nearly impassable and then uncharted Wasatch Mountains of northern Utah. (Take Parley's from Park City on in to Salt Lake on a weekday morning and you'll get a sense of what they went through.) The book includes accurate recipes of the era and a section with recommendations for throwing your own "Donner Party." I love it. Terry, ya done good.

I killed my biggest hobo spider yet this morning, the first this summer. He came zipping out of the VHS tapes in my entertainment center and headed straight for the less brave of my two cats, who was sitting on the rug. BC jumped and ran, which is smart because a hobo bite could easily kill a cat, even a giant one like BC. I jumped off the rower and smashed the bastard with a black leather Steve Madden ballet flat. It was very satisfying.

Monday, June 27, 2005


Act II: Summer
Enter the weeds. Milkweed, treacherous foxtail, edible thistle tall as a man, with vivid purple pom-pom flowers. Kochia, invasive Italian ryegrass, redroot pigweed, sweet-smelling gobs of yellow mustard weed attracting swarms of bees. And among them stalks wiry, incredibly strong little Jeff, decked out like a superhero with a backpack tank full of poison and a spray wand. Hail the conquering hero.

What do you know? Angelina Jolie and I both have green eyes, and at some point in our lives we both found Billy Bob inexplicably attractive. Sadly, that’s where the similarities end.

Duracell and WalMart tried to screw me today by making me buy a two-pack of 9-Volt batteries for $5.00. Who needs two 9-Volt batteries? I need only one for my smoke detector. Nothing else I own requires one. I don’t think Duracell makes single packs, and if they do, the Wal staff hid them. I got wise and bought a single EverActive for $1.47.

I went to Autozone to get brake parts for Mom’s ’93 Buick Park Avenue Saturday afternoon. The guy asked for my phone number (for the warranty, he always says, but he’s asked before when I ran into him at the biker rally downtown), and since it’s Mom’s car, I gave him hers. Dad’s name popped up on the screen in big green block letters, and my eyes welled up. I get caught off guard that way. I never noticed before, but his initials were B.S., too. And he bought an awful lot of stuff at Autozone.

I got online and checked the Silver Collection website, and the auto auction at Teton Village in Jackson Hole (overpriced novelty beer at the Mangy Moose Saloon, anyone?) is this weekend. I guess I could go by myself, in memory of our pilgimage every year. In recent years Dad preferred an auction to a cruise-in (like Hot August Nights in Reno) because you could just sit and they’d drive the cars right in front of you instead of you walking rows and rows of them in the summer heat. Last year Dad had a hard time. He tried to walk from the parking lot to the auction tent on the lawn behind the Mangy Moose, but I wound up pushing his 300-plus pounds in the wheelchair most of the way there and back, which only bothered me because I knew he hated it. (He was a huge guy, but you wouldn’t have known looking at him that he weighed so much. His bones alone must have weighed 150 pounds, all six feet, two inches of them.) We stayed for just eight cars before he needed insulin and cold water and air conditioning. I guess I should have known then it would be our last trip.

We were driving Morgan’s Pontiac Grand Prix for some reason instead of his Caddy, the Pontiac black with black leather seats and sunroof and cd player and air so cold it makes my joints ache and my nose run. We stopped in Big Piney for the Fourth, to watch the fireworks they shoot over Guio’s field, where Mom and Dad used to cross country ski, off the hill in Marbleton. It made me think of the fireworks on the golf course in Coronado, where we sat on perfectly clipped greens and watched them reflected in the San Diego bay. Or the fireworks at the El Cajon Speedway, before high-profile races. Fireworks in Vegas with Dad. Sparklers and Roman Candles on Sorensen Drive, watching the City’s display from Kelly’s family’s trampoline. One year it snowed. Fireworks at Morgan’s four years ago, with my ankle in the air cast (I fell down two stairs), Dad and I side by side in folding chairs like royalty and little Cordale lighting everything he could grab on fire.

I love fireworks. Maybe it’s a good thing I live here. Google fireworks and Evanston, Wyoming, and you’ll get at least four major wholesale fireworks outlets: Phantom, Jolly Jack, Black Cat, and the extraordinary locally owned Porter’s, which is also a liquor store. Manna for the poor deprived Utahns! The City logo declares that we have Fresh Air, Freedom, and Fun, but once at City Hall I used photoshop to fix it so it said Fireworks, Firewater, and Fornication, and the uneducated director of Economic Development was not happy. (Utahns are way down on sexually-oriented businesses, too, so that’s another lucrative business venture on this side of the state, and Vision Video has got to be my favorite. I’ve never seen XXX taller in purple neon.)

I’ve completely lost any ability I ever cultivated to not overdo the length of my posts. Thus, the abrupt end.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Three Reasons...

I don't have children: Britan, Abbie, and Kindra June. (Not that I don't want a couple. I'm just too busy watching Carrie and Brian struggle with theirs.)

Smoke Sunset

Is This...

A sign? I dropped this apple two flights onto the metal grate steps below at work, where it impaled itself. Think I could sell it on eBay?


Oil Slick

During Rain

Grape Hyacinth



Cordale on the trampoline in the rain. Gratuitous footage of Daisy Red Ryder I VII VII, construction debris, and Dunnings' firewood.


Cordale, and more gratuitous dog footage: Rose grazing on grass.



Thursday, June 23, 2005

It Followed Me Home

I'm reluctant to blog about NYC. Part of me is still subsisting on that euphoric fairytale and I'm disinclined to view it detachedly through the lens of memory. Plus I don't know where to start. I could post one detailed day at a time, or a vague synopsis of everything we saw and did. It was like seeing too much of Europe in a month when I was fifteen; no wonder my ten-year-old memories of that trip are hazy.

New York City was a week of contrasts, beginning with the farewell snow when our flight left Salt Lake City. When the automatic doors opened on the greasy New Jersey inferno I thought I was going to die. (I didn't even think about packing my inhaler, even though once upon a time I needed it to survive even the two days a week I used to spend in Los Angeles. So I spent the week trying in vain to take a full breath, but then, I wouldn't have had time even if I could. For the record, I am not the kind of asthmatic that wheezes due to exertion. It's only poor air quality that sets me off. An alfalfa fire in Hilliard or Bear River will keep me hacking for days. By-the-by, alfalfa smells suspiciously like pot when it burns.)

The next contrast was between the rowdy, stinking, fabulous street corner at 7th and 45th (yes, Times Square) and our beaUtiful, peaceful, air-conditioned room ten floors above. I am in some ways just a nobody from nowhere, but for seven days I felt like one of four princesses. I'm talking down comforters and satin-smooth cotton sheets and throw-the-wet-towels on the floor luxury. I have never before stayed in a hotel with a shower curtain liner that wasn't going solo. If I did, I didn't stay long enough to notice. Another notable thing about the Marriott Marquis is that it has what I'm convinced is the worst elevator system of any hotel in the world. For instance, you can't pick the floor you want to go to from inside an elevator. You have to enter it at a digital console outside the doors ( there are two such consoles for a dozen elevators) and it will tell you which unit is your best bet. This system may be bearable, if annoying, during non-peak traffic. At dinner and theater hours it's impossible. Occasionally a uniformed attendant can pull some strings for you and help you get where you need to be in less than half an hour, but mostly you're at the mercy of this inane design.

I'm going to hop off the contrast-themed tour bus and throw you a bone here, because I know you're dying to hear which shows we saw. We squeezed in seven in the five whole days we were there (not counting the half days coming and going), including two matinees, one of which we bought tickets for at the TKTS shack on the bustling median in Times Square. Such a novelty. Anyhow that was Fiddler on the Roof, with Harvey Fierstein as Tevye, and I know what you're thinking and I was thinking it, too, but we were so wrong and he was fantastic. The other matinee was Spamalot, which couldn't have been more hilarious. My face ached intensely for hours. Tim Curry was oddly stiff, like he had a back injury, or maybe his costume armor was restrictive... but then I got to thinking how old he must be by now (in contrast to the baby he was when he played Rooster in the film version of Annie, which Broadway Cast Recording was my first ever casette tape. Upon further inspection I find that Tim was born the same year as my mother. Don't take that 'old' word wrong, Mum), but it made no difference because he positively belted his tunes and smirked and showed off, and I still think he's one of the greatest things since sliced bread. David Hyde Pierce was excellent, too, as chicken-heart extraordinaire Sir Robin. Wicked absolutely blew me away, not so much even the music, which was great, but the astounding performances and the story itself. And isn't Rue McClanahan getting up there, too? She made a great Madame Morrible. I wasn't expecting much from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (trying to be all grown up and not amused by the kiddy stuff) and was once again bowled over. There was too much about it to love to recite right now, but if I were a baroness I tell you what, I'd have my own Childcatcher, too. It's not very often something lives up to the hype but The Lion King proved that it sometimes happens. So what if I could have recited the dialogue right along with, since it was grafted directly from the animated movie; it's an artistic visual feast that simply cannot be described. Brooklyn the Musical was saved by a marvelously crafty set and stellar performances but it wasn't the knockout the other shows were. (This may have been because we were seated in the front row that shouldn't be there, within inches of the speakers, and Angie and Rae Dell had to tear up a napkin from The View and stuff it into their ears. I have this creepy thing I can do, by what I suspect may be flexing something in my inner ear, that blocks out about 88% of noise around me with a pleasant rushing sound. I automatically employ it during live performances or whenever the Mormon missionaries come by, so I was okay. And nothing's too loud for Morgan. She was a teenager in the 80's.) Last but not least was The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, which was also hilarious but was performed without an intermission and wouldn't you know, that was the day we had Starbucks right before the show, so I may not have gotten 100% out of that one because I was concentrating on not actually physically laughing. Which may have been disturbing to the scribbling critic on my left, who was having trouble writing because she was physically laughing way too much. I didn't pick these shows, but I am hysterically open-minded regarding entertainment (I love Futurama) so there was simply no disappointment. I would like to go back and see Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Glengarry Glenn Ross, and The Pillowman, and Wicked again, and La Cage Aux Follies, which was playing at our hotel. There just isn't time to do it all.

Standby and I'll tell you about all the sight-seeing, because we weren't in the theaters all the time. And maybe more pictures. Everybody likes those. Which reminds me: God bless you, Lenny, for updating your blog.

Sunday was my first Father's Day without a dad. My only regret is that we didn't get to see his reaction to our Manhattan adventure, which he wholeheartedly endorsed. But I see him when I look in the mirror, and I clearly remember the things about him I need from day to day. Had he still been here, I would have bought him a bag of pistachios and ink cartridges for his printer, and taken a few DVD's (The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox, SIlver Streak, and Father Goose) up to LaBarge and spent the weekend reading Hot Rod Magazine and the Barrett-Jackson auction catalog to him. Since he isn't, I'm going to fix the vacuum leak in his '91 Cadillac De Ville, that sleek white beauty of a car, and put the 4.9L V8 to good use on I-15 South to Vegas sometime this August. I suppose it's genetic that I should love the car as much as he did.

While we're mourning a little, Grandma would have been 95 tomorrow, the 24th. And she would have hated that we were celebrating the fact; she was 39 and holding, after all. So I guess all's well that ends well. I miss her like crazy, too. She would have loved Manhattan; especially the nightlife. We found the manifest where her mother Jedert, sister Angela, and brother Andrew signed in at Ellis Island in 1907 (they had come from Slovenia), three years before she was born right here in Wyoming, in the same town I was born in when she (Grandma Molly) was 70 years old. It was awesome.

This is an insanely long post.

I have a tendency to turn up the radio when
You Can Call Me Al comes on.

I went to see
Mr. and Mrs. Smith yesterday at the Strand on Main. It was great. But there wasn't enough Vince Vaughn, and what there was was icky. There's never enough Vince Vaughn.

Honestly, the Cadillac really did follow me home. I think I'll keep it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

NYC Reflected


NYC Sunset


RaeDell, A, Angie and Morgan at Wicked

Marriott Up

My Favorite Renoir

Flower Seller

View from Empire State II

Used Horns

Wall Street

View from the Empire State Building

Set of Brooklyn

I snuck this in before one of the Nazi ushers turned back around. It looked so incredibly authentic, down to the steaming sewer and little weeds, that I had to have a pic for Mom.

Carnegie Deli

Australia in Bruise

I sustained this lovely injury running between aisles at the theater where The Lion King was playing. I slammed into an armrest in my haste to meet Angie at the pit before the orchestra took off, because we wanted to see if the guy's bass trombone was bigger than mine. It wasn't. By the time I got home and took this it looked much less like Australia but I swear the first few days it was a perfect topographic representation.


Monday, June 06, 2005

Make Way

I’m blogging standing up because I’m waiting for my sunless tan to dry, so I can go to bed without turning my sheets orange. Which is silly, because this time tomorrow I’ll be in New York City, and there’s no way I can sleep tonight. I’m all packed, having distilled my wardrobe down to the most flattering and sophisticated and appropriate pieces. I’ll try to post daily, but there may not be time. There may not even be wireless on our floor, anyhow, but my Sony Vaio’s going with me so I can unload the Olympus every day. At the highest resolution, I can fit 275 pictures on the 256MB XD card in my camera; bets, anyone, on how many times I’ll fill it up? My family’s betting that will happen daily. Oh Lord, I hope I don’t forget anything important. But then, you can probably procure anything in the world in New York City. I’ve been secretly dying to go ever since I fell in love with the Pierce Brosnan/Rene Russo remake of The Thomas Crown Affair. Or at least the soundtrack. I’m tired tonight. Tomorrow I’ll be watching for Tim Curry on the street. I should have summarized my itinerary on here just so you could see how much we’re trying to jam into a week. It’s crazy. ‘Little A’ in the Big Apple. Madness. Wonderful. I may even go by Adriane just for the occasion.

Sunday, June 05, 2005


Esmeralda: glassy green eyes staring from a papier-mâché face, glossy black plastic curls under a red paisley silk scarf, drowning in brass-coin jewelry and lacquered coral lipstick. I saw her, half a gypsy in a glowing box, through the riotous mass of high school kids packed into the bright parlor-arcade on Disneyland’s Main Street. I gave her two quarters, and within the acrylic cube her pale, stiff hand brought a card forward from the deck before her (oversized Bicycle, oddly, instead of tarot) with mechanical sluggishness. She released it into a chute where I snatched it and tucked it into a denim pocket, with various tickets and wrappers, to examine later. I never once glanced at her again.

That was March of 1996. In July of 1998 I found the card while unpacking in my new apartment on 13th Street in Imperial Beach. The paper was stained and creased but still bore the comically ominous warning, “beware a dark-haired man who wears a great deal of jewelry.” I met black-haired Oscar on a blind date in March of the next year and forgot all about poor Esmeralda. Her card was stored with other sentimental talismans in a Roitan cigar box which I’m certain, in his desperate attempt to completely obliterate the life I lead before he entered my world, Oscar’s brown bejeweled hands covertly conveyed to the dumpster in the parking lot.

Oscar couldn’t erase my life before him, but he had to try. It was almost as if he were two people. Half of him truly wanted to be encouraging, thoughtful, supportive, and a good partner and friend. The other half couldn’t help attempting to force me to fit his ideal. Stay home. Wear skirts. Live only for me; I should be enough for you. Wait until I am successful, and then your success will come easily; you will have the means to create it. Sorry, Oscar, I couldn’t wait. It had less to do with impatience or doubt and far more to do with progress, a natural shift of my concept of happiness. I don’t think there was anything you could have done to prevent me leaving. Dying, maybe. I would have stayed with your ghost forever. I’m terribly adept at making do with just fractions of the men I love. And then too, if you were dead no one could have proven to me that you would eventually damage my life beyond repair. Alas, you lived, and I saw it coming. So you see, I had to let you go. And only then did I notice that love can easily be inadvertently imitated.

I thought about Tom Hanks in Big when I read first read Esmeralda’s card. I pondered being careful what you wish for. But I am a chronic wisher. And not necessarily for unreasonable things, but for simple happiness and meaning. The card also said I love flowers and jewelry and beauty, and Oscar came bearing mountains of these things. Overkill, and a deficit of the things that really matter: patience, understanding, dependability, and respect.

Esmeralda said to stay away from boats. My dream home was once a houseboat on Lake Powell, replete with all the solitude, beauty and romance of reflected desert sunsets. But then, I occasionally get motion sickness. And pests abound near water, West Nile and all that, even though mosquitoes apparently find me unappetizing. And I’m learning that water isn’t so reliable as I once thought it to be. It’s actually quite a fickle element. Corrosive and persistent as all get out, water is nobody’s fool. A pair of hydrogen atoms seduces an oxygen atom and makes for one volatile ménage à trois. A skimpy foundation for a home; even one that floats.

I am only superstitious on August 23rd, when I pour all my hopes and dreams into a birthday wish that more closely resembles a fervent prayer. But if I still had that three-by-five playing card from Esmeralda's enchanted deck, I would frame it, the words kissing red felt and only the graphics on the back visible behind the glass. The card was, of course, the queen of hearts, and the queen had raven-black hair and leaf-green eyes. Her robe was red Chinese silk, and scattered in miniature across the fibers were the divided and destabilized yin and yang of that preoccupied pattern, paisley.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Book Meme

Responding to Shepcat’s utterly flattering tag is irresistible, but I’m terrified I’ll disappoint. While I appreciate your logic, I must, in all humility, be honest and credit whatever literary ability I’ve developed to National Geographic ("member since 1993!") and a superbly written (and illustrated) series of graphic novels called ElfQuest, which I devoured at the unsuitable age of ten. (When they say graphic, they really mean it; but the language is poetic and steadily sophisticated, despite being in all-caps.) My good grammar is simply the result of good parenting. Sadly, I’m not picky about reading material; I read everything I can get my hands on. But then again, maybe it’s that wide range of influences that might someday make me a successful writer. And I rarely go in search of a good read, although I’m prone to single out Pulitzer winners, just because I like the motivational result: “This won a Pulitzer? I can do better than that.”

  1. Total Number of Books I’ve Owned

An actual figure here would be misleading, because during my ten formative years in San Diego, I made darn good use of the exceptional County library system, especially the one on Coronado Island. Working my way through college wasn’t conducive to budgeting for a book habit, so I made due by carting home armloads of thrift store paperbacks, something I still do too often. A few of those original paperbacks I still have (I’m working on third copies of some), but most got weeded out during numerous relocations in the past five years.

Do jointly owned and inherited books count? And what about my graphic novels and college textbooks? And what about all the classics I intend to buy, the Shakespeare and Herodotus and Jane Austen? My current 340 square feet is not a lot of space to comfortably cohabitate with a private library, but if I were to pack up all the books that have stood by me, they might fit into three 27-inch T.V. boxes. That doesn’t seem like enough to me.

I’m betting that only the truly unenlightened can actually count the number of books they’ve owned in their lifetime.

2. What was the last book you bought?

I bought The Shipping News on Author E. Annie Proulx lives in Wyoming, but is not a native, and after Mom’s cousin Eileen reluctantly turned us on to her Bad Dirt: Wyoming Stories 2, I had to see if another of her books contained the secret to her acclaim because folks, Bad Dirt is sort of a rotten collection of stories. I sincerely hope people who read it don’t take it as an authentic depiction of life in Wyoming, although she claims that, according to her extensive research, it is. I find myself wishing that Ms. Proulx would pack up her hard case self and her grimy literature and get out of my state. However, even though I’m offended, I have to admit that her repulsive, vivid style makes The Shipping News a decent read. I’m still puzzling about the Pulitzer.

3. Last Book I’ve read

Over a year behind on the mania, I choked down Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. The dialogue and imagery reminded me of The Babysitters’ Club from the first sentence, but I’m no snob. It ought to make a good movie. And I like books that are sort of historical soup.

4. Five Books That Mean A Lot To Me

For whatever reason; not necessarily that they’re ideal. This is purely subjective, right?

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Never was a fairy tale more empowering, and never could it have been better timed. The guy at Aunt Ellen’s Water in I.B. was a recovering addict of some breed, and he had a knack for searching souls. He must have sensed my aimlessness and self doubt, because he took this unassuming quick read off a shelf and loaned it to me; I read it in a few hours and went back to buy it that night. The keynote speaker at my college graduation used it for her spiel, a coincidence I thought perfect. Part mystery, part manual, and part folksong, I start reading at whatever random, lovely page I open to at least once a month. Read it and see if you can pick out the gorgeous phrase (repeated twice, and highlighted in my oft-loaned copy, something I rarely do) that I’m considering having tattooed on my forehead.

The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough. I am a total sucker for this book, another one I got hold of probably too soon (eleven), even though I haven’t liked any of her subsequent novels (and I tried them all in hopes that it would recreate the thrill of reading this one for the first time). Oddly enough, my life grew to contain a conflict much like the stalwart heroine’s, which might explain its continued appeal for me (not to mention the fact that it’s a great piece of fiction). Richly descriptive, with utterly believable characters and emotions and a vast, consuming plot that’s to die for, this is one of the books I’ve owned in triplicate. I use parts of the tattered paperback covers for bookmarks. It’s one of my travel and necessary-distraction staples.

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje. Time says this book is a “rare and spellbinding web of dreams.” I’ll buy that. I first encountered it in a stucco room in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico during the heat of August, in a pile of American literature Oscar’s endearing father brought me to while away the time until someone who spoke English showed up to translate for us (Oscar was at work). I snatched it up and inhaled it. I bawled openly twice, which caused poor Armando great alarm. It’s poetic, it’s extreme. It’s dark as blood and white as light. It’s almost the stark, vicious love story Lolita is, which brings me to

Lolita by Vladimir Nobokov. I second Shepcat’s praise, especially the notion that it isn’t fair that somebody whose native language wasn’t English should have the ability to manipulate it the way he did. It’s absolute magic, and something I aspire to as well. Poor raving Humbert! What a phenomenal fictional character. I saw the film, with Jeremy Irons as Humbert, in Pomona one night years ago with Larry and I simply had to read the book. I read it again whenever my writing plods or grows stale, and it never fails to be the necessary jolt.

And last but not least: Scarlett, the sequel to Margaret Mitchell’s singular Gone with the Wind, which Alexandra Ripley was commissioned to write by Mitchell’s nephews and boy, did she ever get some serious critical flak for doing so. I read the book, very open-mindedly, as a new and separate thing, and I love it. I think I’m on paperback number four. I love Scarlett’s drastic but believable emotional transformation, the vivid descriptions of environments and details, the tidbits of history and mythology woven in, and, perhaps best, the happy ending. And there’s some very lovely language, too, and a grand supporting cast. What more could you ask for in a book?

5. The Tag-Five-Others Challenge

I don’t think I know five people who blog (and read mine), let alone know what a blog is. But, to be game, I tag Lenny, who has been known to read a wide range of things, and JOB, who doesn’t have time to read but never fails to surprise me, and Libby, who, as a librarian, is surely pretty acquainted with books (although her current blog doesn’t necessarily lend itself to this kind of activity). I suggest Larry get busy and develop a blog for this express purpose, and continuing it would be at her discretion, because I know she doesn’t have time, either. And I’m going to ask Mom to do it, and I’ll post her results on here because there’s no way she could find the time to run a motel and blog, and WebTV doesn’t lend itself to this sort of thing, anyhow.

This has been fun; I knew it would be. But it also demonstrates my complete inability to be succinct. I hope you made it this far; I realize it got entirely out of hand. Words do that to me.