Wednesday, August 31, 2005

While You Were Sleeping

Umberto rolled his Freightliner into the Pilot Travel Center here in town last night. He washed up, fueled up, and crawled into the sleeper of his cab. Having departed Garyville, Louisiana several hours before, on roads that likely no longer exist, Umberto was understandably exhuasted. His tank of polymer, bound for our treatment plant, was the last shipment to leave the chemical factory before all operations were suspended and the staff was evacuated, due to the inevitable onslaught of Katrina.

Umberto woke up to discover that during the night, as he dreamed peaceful dreams in the cushy cubicle of his shiny tractor trailer, the price of diesel at Pilot had risen fifty cents a gallon. He thought he was still dreaming, a nightmare this time.

We wished friendly Umberto well and waved as he left for Houston, after pumping the 4,027 precious gallons of 8157 coagulant into our fiberglass tank. Who knows when we'll be able to get more, and we can't produce potable water without it. The aftershocks of wrathful Katrina will be felt for quite a while, I reckon, and not just at the pump.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Playing God

What I have learned about everyday life in ancient Egypt from playing Sierra's Pharaoh with the Cleopatra expansion pack:

1. Food production (dried ostritch meat, chickpeas) isn't nearly as important as beer production.

2. You have to host a drunken block party at least once a month or the gods send a plague.

3. Don't build a bridge in a marshy area or alligators will eat your building inspectors.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Pearls Before Swine

I’m giving up abruptly tonight. It’s disappointing to sit down with my oils, my first chance in weeks, and discover that I don’t have the patience for them. I have so many half-finished canvases. I guess I lose heart in the middle of things. A scenic line of tank cars beside the crumbling roundhouse, a dashing purple thistle, some well-lit peaches in a crate, all started. As yet, unfinished.

I have a nagging suspicion that Garth Brooks is about to make a splashy comeback. Watch for it.

During the windy dawn today, I was driving a John Deere tractor around in circles. It was up to its gills in muddy sludge, which is the concentrated sediment collected in the four anthracite filters. Every so often we run water backwards through them and pipe the captured dirt out to a lagoon behind the plant. We pump the water off the top of the settled solids, and pump the sludge into drying beds, shaped-earth bunkers stair-stepped down the hill. The big solids pump has a hard time with the thicker bottom mud, so we drive the leaf-green tractor around in it with the bucket down, mixing it up by plowing and sloshing and basically just playing in it. Watching Jeff at his turn, I thought how closely the laboring little tractor resembled Daisy the Labrador frantically doggy-paddling around in Bear Lake this summer. One-hundred pound Daisy would love the slightly septic, chocolaty sludge, attracted as she is to the nastiest matter available in any environment. You wouldn’t be able to get her out of it. Adjusting the heavy rubber hose to the pump, Bud himself nearly took an involuntary swim in the sludge. I thought of the Bog of Eternal Stench in Labyrinth when he said, “my God, you’d never get the smell of it off you.”

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Steal Your Attention

“Today is a day of profound introspection,” wrote a fictional journalist in his fictional column. Today is my twenty-sixth birthday. It’s a good time to contemplate the last whole year of my life, in which I accomplished, survived, and realized more than in the last five years combined. It’s a good time to sit back and take stock.

I am happier today than I have ever been in my life. Doesn’t that seem like an outrageous claim? I had a wonderful childhood. I’m sure I can’t recall some days from those years that most likely hit the very top mark on my own personal happiness-meter. I do remember a few days in my teenage years that were out of this world, those high school days full of firsts and triumphs and learning, which always fulfills me the way few things can. But as far as the soul-deep contentment I’ve got going on these days, there’s just no question that it beats all. Even though I am now subject to the burdens of adulthood, there’s no more of that crippling adolescent doubt, no more frustration at the limitations of youth. All things are open to me. I am finally in control. I am truly, serenely happy.

The past year hasn’t been easy. I ended a five-year relationship, a figurative amputation that both gave me hope and tore me apart. But I also learned that I am the opposite of codependent, and I will never again let anyone try to force me into that mold. A few months ago I lost my father and the grandmother who helped raise me, both in the space of three weeks, and while it has required considerable emotional restructuring to learn to function without them, it has also been a release. I don’t think I’d prefer them to still be here, unless I could have them back healthy and able. They were suffering, though I didn’t realize it until I thought about what would have lay ahead had they continued. I started a new career in January, which may have begun as an escape but quickly became the best thing that ever happened to me, employment-wise. The intense acquisition of knowledge was like electric defibrillation for my numb and stagnant mind; suddenly I wanted to learn everything about anything again. I work with three men whose company I enjoy and whom I trust and respect, and I love the daily routine and even the occasional major tasks, the physical labor and dirt under my fingernails. For the first time in my life, there is no part of my job that I dread.

I am finally comfortable in my own skin. I have come to terms with the fact that I will never have perfect hair or be a size six. I am proud to have my parents’ genes, my Eastern European color and health, strength and bulk (shoe and ring size: 9), and the vivid gallery of personality that comes from being an international mutt; I value the Scottish, Irish, English, French, German, Native American, and unknown blood that fostered my hot temper and considerable talents, my patience and adaptability, my prudence and kindness. I embrace the redneck within. Ditto the artsy bohemian, the rather Victorian sophisticate (who loves the macabre), the flirty, vain tramp, the striving intellectual, and the outdoorsy, tinkering tomboy. I have a mean streak a mile wide (the kind that, when provoked, begets a hot, vicious rush of power, that clenched-fist, clamp-jawed, snarling primitive blind anger. I have a tendency towards physical violence when extremely pissed off or frustrated, which is, fortunately, tremendously rare and may be permanently tempered by my newfound inner peace) and enough compassion to flood an animal shelter with tears. I am a Republican and a jack-Mormon, a witty bundle of old-fashioned and new-fangled, a sometimes childish and always scheming dreamer. And somewhere in the last year I began to forget to wonder what anybody else sees when they look at me. I notice people love me more when I am myself than when I am not. I have fairly relaxed morals and superior hand-eye coordination, and a strange blend of silliness and ladylike dignity, depending on the occasion and environment. I know there’s always room for improvement, and I’m trying to be the person I want to remember me as, but I love to reinvent and will likely never stop.

That’s not me in a nutshell. Nobody can be written in a page. But that’s me on a Tuesday in August 2005, and I happen to think that my birth date is one of the best days of the year, seasonally, especially in Wyoming. “Sure is a pretty mornin’,” says jovial little Jeff, as we climb to the top of the concrete water storage tank buried at the peak of Red Mountain. We are measuring the actual level of water in all our auxiliary tanks (to compare to the sensor reading on our SCADA computer) with a fiberglass measuring tape in a big black plastic disc, and I can’t help noticing how golden the day is, how pure. There are no mild days in this wild corner of the world, because the wind always blows and the rain and snow fall and the summer sun bakes, but some summer days are as intrinsically pleasant as any in a tropical paradise, because they are fresh and bright and incomparable. The town is still green at our feet, but I feel fall in my bones, and even though I love the Wyoming summer that goes by in a flash, I love the long, dying autumn still more. Fall is the season that makes me pull over somewhere scenic and evaluate the life I live, and today I am sure that it is a great life. I couldn’t ask for more, even though I’m waiting patiently for the rest of it to begin. Today is enough, and I am not afraid to wait, and work, and try.

Sunday, August 21, 2005









Road Rash

Canadian Geese






Up All Night

It’s 3:00 a.m. Saturday and I’m straddling the top rung of a dew-soaked log fence, massaging my calves, where the muscles are twitching and strained. Morgan is holding her side, Mom her hip, and we have five hours to go. The full moon winks in the ripples of the Ham’s Fork River and picks out the shapes of the willows and sage. Luminaries line the wide asphalt path we’ve been walking, white paper bags with candles inside, each bearing the name of a local cancer survivor or victim. Mom’s name is on one bag, and as we three walk the night, I try to recall how I felt almost fifteen years ago, when it entered our quiet little world. I’m sure we were scared, and felt the horror the families of all people who are diagnosed with a cancer feel, but I was ten, and naïve enough to assume that Mom was invincible. However, her cancer cells were discovered in the biopsy after her hysterectomy, and the radiation was more a precaution, I think. At any rate she did survive, and I forget most of the time that there was ever such an enemy in her life, until times like the ACS Relay for Life.

There have been others in my family who were not so lucky. Dad’s mother died of colon cancer, his father of a brain tumor. Mom’s maternal grandmother had a tumor on her neck the size of a football, which grew inward and paralyzed her after it was removed, eventually killing her. And yet, I don’t expect to get cancer. Or I expect events like Friday’s to finance the discovery of a cure by the time I might suffer it. I am eternally optimistic. You can’t live in fear. Mom wore the purple t-shirt of a survivor this weekend, and I also have her genes, her wonderful hearty DNA. But more than that, I have her outlook, and I believe the human mind can do incredible things.

Speaking of the human mind, I was reading about the debate regarding the teaching of “intelligent design” in schools, in addition to evolution. I am an evolutionist, but there is no reason in my mind that I can’t also believe that God’s hand directed evolution. If you want to talk about how He created everything in six days, well… who knows how long a day is to Him? A billion years? A hundred billion? I did not descend from monkeys. But I may have descended from the same basic material that they did. “Intelligent design” may be possible with an all-powerful God, but I can't help wondering how He could have instantly designed the human eye to be so flawlessly functional without some serious tweaking? And why is the idea of evolution so frightening to people? I think it’s great that we’re a foot taller than people were a century ago. I think it’s fantastic that we have neoprene boxing gloves and ultraviolet disinfection and low-carbohydrate diets, space shuttles (however decrepit), Rollerblades, and PS2. Isn’t that evolution? How can people point to the classic depictions of Adam and Eve and talk about clay and ribs, when there’s freeze-dried Neanderthals popping up all over the place? I am Christian. But I am not afraid to wonder how He made it all happen. I’m curious that way. And I believe that faith and science will muddle through somehow, and wind up reconciled before it doesn’t matter anymore.

I am also a person who thinks Shakespeare is best when performed in a park.

I accidentally found the ultimate boots today at Sawaya’s, brown suede Skechers knee-high boots with a slim four-inch stacked heel and square toe and a zipper on the inside, all the way down to the sole. It isn’t easy finding boots that fit around my curvy calves, so when I do, I like to take advantage. I don’t know if I’ve been a good enough girl to buy myself a $70 pair of boots I can’t wear to the plant, but I’m working on justifying the purchase anyhow, as it’s my birthday Tuesday. And as for money, you can’t take it with you.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Back On Top

I am rarely at rest, but I've driven myself to the point of illness the last few weeks. Who gets a head cold in August? Little Miss Overachiever, that's who. I finally got my CDL today, nearly a month after the deadline because of scheduling difficulties. I am elated. My examiner is in the National Gaurd and has been to Iraq three times, and without thinking, I thanked him. He told me what he claims he tells everyone: "I'd rather be fighting them over there than fighting them here." I've always had a hard time taking people with Southern accents seriously, simply because hearing them makes me grin (think Scarlett in Gone with the Wind), but his was charming and put me at ease right away. I would have loved to drive the big gorgeous International clean out of gas just visiting with him while we tooled around town. He said my air braking is divine. I thanked Dad for sending me an angel, because the last guy was a total Nazi.

Julia's funeral was nice. Mormon funerals are weird, and I don't mean that in a bad way, just that they're not my cup of tea (baptized though I am. Someday we'll have a post about organized religion, and why I feel it's a crock of... butter. But not today). She died in a skydiving accident. That right there would have ruled out the open casket thing for me, but hey. Somebody's pretty good at his job. Greg Crandall's speech was wonderful, her bishop and undertaker all in one, a hard spot to be in. But Greg... well, his other talent is kindness. Justin still just looks shell-shocked and her sisters are a mess (though everyone was curiously dry-eyed at the viewing the night before). There were so many people at the service they had to open the big accordion doors from the chapel into the multipurpose room and set out folding chairs. The line of cars in the procession stretched from the Fourth Ward church on Sage all the way over the overpass to the cemetery, blocking Main Street, Front Street, Bear River Drive, Highway 89, and a few more minor intersections, with cops camped out at the lights. At the plot, her mom's relatives were grinning in a group around the casket, having their pictures taken. They released purple balloons. I tried no to think of the environment.

After the funeral I didn't go back to work. I went to the laundromat. The Kemmerer Relay for Life is this weekend, and I am one of Carrie's Sleepwalkers (we are conveniently walking in our pajamas). I'm going to Pinedale to help Mom hang Rose's drycleaned drapes tomorrow, while Rose (my last living grandparent, out of six) recuperates from a knee-replacement surgery. How strange to imagine having a titanium joint! She's pretty thrilled, or will be when the pain goes away.

I have to go find my boss now and tell him I passed my road test. He won't be hard to track down. Thursday evening, in this town? He'll be bellied up to the bar at Kate's.

Sunday, August 14, 2005


I watched the local (UT, not WY) news tonight, after a teaser for the ten'o'clock news during Desperate Housewives flashed a picture of Justin's smiling wife, Julie, in skydiving gear. I had already heard, thank God, or it would have been far more traumatic. I still hated hearing the cookie-cutter newsbitch dramatically curdle up her voice to tell the tragic tale of a young wife and mother killed in a freak accident, but I couldn't not watch. On one hand, I wonder what the hell people who have small children are thinking when they knowingly do something most insurance policies won't cover, jumping out of a plane in the name of fun. I don't think there's any such thing as a skydiving victim, as the headline so dramatically suggests. On the other hand, I saw them at Wally's two or three weekends ago, and we said we don't see enough of each other. And she was awfully good with her children, one of those women who pay attention to the little things they say and do, looks at them with an adoring expression for the benefit of no one else, includes them, hugs them. That was the impression I got from the short time I spent with her. I'm thinking of them tonight, and hoping they bring Justin the peace he's going to desperately need.Julie's children's faces reflect her habitual bright expression.

This town has certainly had its share of tragedy this year, and so have I. And yet, I've found I have a natural knack for grief, and in a healthy way. I find comfort in facing the sadness, distilling the goodness of memories, and building a platform of strength from the pain. It's okay to cry. It's okay to inspect regrets. Just take them and make yourself better, and don't expect it to be easy. This isn't something that can be taught though, so Justin will have to find his own way. I'm confident he will.

Never a Dull Moment

At midnight last night, I was in the empty parking lot of a theme park in northern Utah, empty save for three vehicles (Chevy Suburban, Pontiac Grand Prix, and Cadillac Sedan DeVille- GM to the last) that held nearly all of the people I cannot live without. I hadn't been to Lagoon in over ten years, since before we moved to San Diego in '92. I had expected it to be very different, to have changed a great deal. It wasn't, and it hadn’t. The same smells, the same sounds, the same creepy mechanical plaster Elvira opening and closing the shutters above the spookhouse, peering down at the waiters-in-line, bony wrists at impossible angles. All the paintings on all the horror rides! Finally the sources of childhood nightmares and fantasies are clear to me. The fanged gorilla with spiked club, the woman strapped to a wheel, the man suspended by wrists and ankles, hovering over a revolving barrel with jagged metal teeth, the windows into graves, dirt pressed around a corpse’s face, the rats and spiders and worms. Thank God for cremation. I am too afraid to rot.

I remembered being crushed in a car with Dad on the Wild Mouse, his weight making the treacherous kinks in the track seem all the more dangerously thrilling. New Wild Mouse, same thrill, only it was pigtailed Bitsy, with her fingers clamped onto my sunburned arm, instead of Dad. (In line for the ride she looked up at me, and with all the intense emotional power a six-year-old can naturally distill into the simplicity of a limited vocabulary, she sighed, "this is the happiest I've ever been." And I knew exactly, exactly how she felt.) Dad on the bumper cars, Dad on the JetStar, Dad in the nighttime lights of the gaming concourse, Dad’s back receding in the crowd as my little legs struggled to keep up with him. He was never a leisurely walker.

And Grandma at Lagoon, stiffly clinging even on the mild Paratrooper, a slightly tilted, fast-moving, umbrella-covered Ferris Wheel. And yet we would go again and again, because it was the only ride I wasn’t too afraid of at six (unlike Bitsy, who rode the loopy Colossus twice, and the Spider and Screamer, both spinners), save the carousel and bumper cars. Then Grandma, resigned and placid amid the manic tinkling music of the original fast-spinning wooden carousel, would stand next to me while the leaping cat I rode went up and down. Grandma wiped my sticky hands after cotton candy, waited to comfort me at the end of the roller coaster, on which I had quietly prayed myself hoarse. Grandma was adventurous in life, but she was terrified of heights. In the ‘30’s or ’40’s she crawled to the edge of the Golden Gate Bridge on her hands and knees to look down into the bay.

Always Mom, cheering us on when Morgan, ever my arbiter of courage, coerced me onto a ride I wasn’t sure of. We somehow got out on the wide green pond once in a paddlewheel we couldn’t seem to operate, and had to be instructed by a lovely older couple how to synchronize our pedaling and steer. One year we went to Lagoon for my birthday, and Mom packed a cake, which she left in the trunk until picnic time. We have photographs of the cake, whose candles had melted into strange twisted shapes in the August heat. (The candles were in little colored plastic holders the shapes of circus train cars.) Mom liked the log flume and miniature golf and the mild ski lift Skyride that trundles over the park. Mom liked the stage shows and Pioneer Village museums. Mom said she lost her marbles early, which was code for the aging of the portion of the inner ear that plays a part in balance.

But yesterday it was a new family crowd, and I stuck close to Morgan, as I always do when we are together. Morgan was always game for coasters with Dad but lately seems more like Mom than ever. And I sense that in a few years I will be wanting the same thing: my feet planted firmly on the ground. Our favorite part of the day was in the waterpark before everyone else arrived, when we floated quietly in green inflatable tubes on the Lazy River, scorching our shoulders and thighs and trying to avoid the cold waterfall. We compared Then to Now, and decided that there are now far too many people in the world. The rides of variable length we are convinced have had to be shortened to accommodate the crowds. The spaces intended for waiting in line have been enlarged, and where that wasn’t possible, they overflow. We are disappointed in the rudeness of people, in everyone’s impatience and intolerance. We are amazed at the willingness of the park administrators to totally commercialize the place and to take advantage of customers by overcharging for every necessity once they are inside. Disappointed and amazed, but not surprised. And I had to both pity and loathe the bored, impassive teenagers that operate the park. Lord, what a trying summer job; and yet, I can think of a hundred ways to make it more fun than they do. So many people don’t bother to train their children to be happy anymore.

We had our own administrative problems managing such a large group (thirteen, and even though that doesn’t sound like a lot, it is, with a wide age-range), but six cellphones made life much easier. All in all, Morg and I agreed while riding home alone together at 1:00 a.m., that despite the cost and hassle and heat and crowds, Lagoon (and really any theme park, but especially Disneyland) is still a great day. I called Jeff when my alarm went off this morning (intentionally set an hour late) and asked if he could manage alone, knowing the answer will always be yes. The plant practically runs itself on weekends, and I can't function on four hours of sleep, especially not after the beating I took yesterday. Aching bones and muscles, frayed nerves, throat screamed raw, sunburned and chilled, bruised from elbowing crowds and clinging kids, wheezing from panting in that ghastly city air; all the price of fun. Maybe I do get hangovers after all.

I (gasp!) didn't take my Olympus yesterday, thinking rightly that it would have been a hassle, but I took mental snapshots of the day; some of spindly coaster frameworks in the waning sunlight, but mostly of the faces of the younger kids in our crew, all at ages before recognition of price and time mar the magic of a theme park. Britan’s huge ice blue eyes turned sea green in the yellow afternoon glow, the seized look on Cordale’s pointed, pale face when The Rocket shot him 200 feet skyward at 4 G’s, Abbie’s anticipating gaze in the line for another ride, their determined scowls during the heated last leg of a go-kart race. I loved the sated sag of their eyelids as we trudged toward our vehicles through the trash in the empty parking lot, even as they tried to keep up an animated play-by-play of their adventures. Kindra and Brandon did the nauseating clingy-teen-couple thing most of the day, but I am so grateful for her animated happiness lately, after years of depression-induced apathy and reservation, that I will gladly tolerate anything just to see her smiling and serene. (I was ten when she was born- the first of this next generation- and she will always be special to me, even moreso because for her peace is so hard to come by. We are hoping that her current combination of medication will remain effective; a few have started out great before, but after a while their effects seemed to change, or decrease. I was skeptical of the term 'depression' until, watching her one day, I saw the expression on her face suddenly change as if someone had wiped it with a terrible magic cloth, and her personality did an absolute about-face. I have never been so horrified. I have rarely wanted more to be able to help someone where I am powerless. But I am proud of the way she tries to overcome it, makes little changes in her life to try to conquer whatever uncontrollable thing takes hold of her sometimes, tries to find other ways of combat. She is a good girl, full of promise.)

The last I saw of them all was the girls' arms waving frantically out the window of the ‘Burban as Brian gunned the engine through the twists of the canyon heading home, and Cordale slouched in the black leather seat of the Pontiac, head lolling. Weariness is different for children. They can allow themselves to give in to it. It seems to be a rare case now, as an adult, that I can fully enjoy the state of being exhausted. But that, my friends, is what I am about to do. It's 3:15 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon, and I am going back to bed.

Hell Yes

I am neither realistic nor adult enough to ponder the possible negative side effects of this coming to pass, but I fully endorse it because it's so damned cool. (Thanks, Shepcat.)

Thursday, August 11, 2005

A Threat

There are now only 12 days left until my 26th birthday, which means that a certain recent victim of oral surgery had better get his gluteus maximus in gear and drop a certain DVD in the mail before I have to come down there and get it.

Rainbow at Dawn

Rainbow at Dawn

Caboose Move





FIeld IV

Field III

Field II

Field I


Wednesday, August 10, 2005

All the King's Horses

I blew up my microwave today. Nobody ever told me you can’t hard boil an egg in the microwave. It exploded and blew the door open and egg flew over half the kitchen. And for some reason I am neither angry nor disturbed at all. In fact, once I got over the humiliation of realizing that I should have known it would happen, I thought it was freaking funny, even while I was wiping up egg with magical Clorox Clean-ups wipes. I was worried about the cats getting into the egg but noticed that they were conspicuously absent from the scene; I think the noise scared the crap out of them.

It seems asinine that I should have to constantly remind myself how great my life is. I never forget that I have a stellar family and a few dear core friends I depend on, but it’s the simple things I overlook: my cats (who are, at times, terrible creatures I’ll admit. But the unspeakable, grounding comfort of reaching absently out to pat a soft head in the midst of my harassed daily routine, or the cosmic timing of their affectionate overtures when I am troubled, these far outweigh the irritation of his-and-her hairballs and the occasional snag of a throw pillow or rug), my Vaio, a little silver window to the world without which I would feel much more claustrophobic in this pokey little town, my books, my half-dozen musical instruments, my beloved, trusty ’87 Raider and the Cadillac that is like a time machine to the last years of my father’s life. There are so many things I hardly consider, and yet, my potentially scary basement apartment is a home because of them: my six houseplants, which survive somehow with minimal light, and a ragged assembly of furniture, including a rusty camp stove I fished out of the desert sand and refurbished (makes a perfect end table) and the bookcase my mother’s father built before he died when she was twelve.

I wrestled violently with my old blue Schwinn for two hours tonight. It won, but I know a virtual army of able and willing men who each own a link assembly tool and whatever impossible contraption is required to actually put the tire back on the rim without tearing the new tube. While I was standing in the bike aisle at the Wal the Beach Boys’ Little Deuce Coupe came drifting down from the sound system, and before I knew it I had tears running down my face, the quick kind that you wipe away with a smile. One of those celebrated little boxy Ford roadsters was the raffle car at the last Logan Cruise-in Dad and I went to before oxygen tanks and wheelchairs, shaking hands and blinding bleeding retinas. He wanted to win that little thing so bad; I could just see big six-foot-something Dad folded up into that tiny car. Like his Porsche 911s and the Pontiac Fieros; why do big, tough, mechanically minded guys want to fold themselves into those ridiculous little cars? And then again when I got home I had to pause, because the smell of axle grease and the sweet reek of WD-40, which I had liberally bathed the rusty bike in (works every time), hit like a blast from his noisy old air compressor, which I was using to fill the tire I managed to reassemble. I think of him often and miss him very much, but I wouldn’t wish him back here, knowing what lay ahead.

I sometimes wonder if I’ve given people the impression that M and I had the perfect father and we were Daddy’s little girls and our lives were sunshine and scented Downy softness. You ought to know that wasn’t the case. We had as weird a childhood as anybody. It’s an awfully long story I’ll get to sometime, but the gist of it is that Dad wasn’t around much, and for five years beginning when I was almost 7 or so and M was maybe 10, we saw him twice a year for a week at a time, at Christmas and late August before school started, Mom and M and I on joyous pilgrimages to San Diego before he got set up and we moved down, too, which was the best thing that ever happened to me. But the one thing that I had that so many other kids I know (who are adults now, struggling with the lack of it) did not was the absolute certainty that my father loved me and thought I could do anything. In recent years he didn’t so much approve of all the things his girls did, but I have never doubted that he recognized in us the indescribable genius he passed on, a knack for things that makes us surprisingly resourceful and just so damn able, without even knowing it was his. He may have been intoxicated a good 50% of the time I spent with him, but he was a delightful drunk and I never thought twice about it (until I turned teen and decided he was embarrassing, and then I hollered at him quite a bit, until he up and quit one day). Anyway, he was still a father to be proud of.

Dad once fixed our microwave and left a screwdriver inside the works, and when it blew up he maintained that he had left it in there to hold something in, it was intentional, part of his plan. I didn’t believe him until I was driving his old gold Cadillac up the 405 in L.A. during 7:00 morning traffic, and I fiddled with the mysterious pencil-and-rubber band contraption stuck to the dash and the cruise control came on. I had never driven a car with cruise, so I panicked when the gas pedal suddenly dropped away from my foot, and I didn’t know how to stop it so I slammed on the brakes and nearly got rear ended by the monster Esuvee behind me. Dad was a real-life MacGyver but his tinkering could be hazardous unless you had him explain it first.

The trout survived their first day and night in a tank, and they’re devouring the beta food. Way to go, guys!

I spent the afternoon getting my new Sketchers steel-toes wonderfully dirty, moving mud with our little John Deere tractor. It's beautiful coffee brown, clean mud composed of coagulated river silt that may possibly be the perfect dirt. It even has that potting soil smell, that musty, acrid smell of damp earth. When Travis was taking his turn (got tired of me not listening to his directions, I suspect, and wanted to play with the toy) I walked around checking out the vegetation. Sagebrush, greasewood, thistles, tumbleweeds, grasses and spiny brush. I pulled the flat, wing-like pods off the dried brush and found little ruby seeds inside, like tiny jewels, like the blood red granules of sand in those Native American sand paintings. We had just got into the second drying bed when the black clouds came up over the Wasatch Mountains and started rumbling, and we got inside just before the sky dumped buckets. So much for pushing the layers of dry dirt off the top so the wet sludge underneath can dry. I don’t know why everybody doesn’t want a job like mine. Maybe not everyone likes to get dirty.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Flies are for Fools

I caught three trout in the sedimentation basin yesterday. I scooped them out with a 1,000 milliliter beaker strapped to a mop handle, which contraption we use to get grab samples when we do jar tests (a series of six rectangular Plexiglas jars on a platform with six little propellers, called a gang-stirrer, which is supposed to simulate the plant processes to test for ideal formulas, quantities and timing of chemicals). It’s not as easy as it sounds to just snag minnows with a glass jar at the end of a pole, and yet it isn’t nearly as complicated as fly-fishing for the larger variety. They’re each about ½ inch long, but in a year or two we might have some nice fillets, if you like trout. I don’t; too many bones. I call them Bob, Jack, and Hughie, after the brothers in a favorite book. I hope they like freeze-dried brine shrimp and beta food, which is all I have. I suppose it’s okay if I can’t keep them alive. They would have died when the coagulant in the clarifier clogged their gills anyway.

I go through more witch hazel than anyone might suspect.

My boss is one of the rare men who make being bald look cool, like Albert Finney’s Daddy Warbucks or my grandpa Farnsworth.

I complained all winter that I wanted summer. Now all I can think about is the glory of fall. I’ve hit upon a pocket of melancholy, a little mourning for past and future, and I’m inclined to indulge myself and wallow a little. I’ll cheer up momentarily; I always do. But I find I’m weary of being myself tonight. I’m not worried about my dysfunctional moral compass or how detrimental daydreams can be. I’m just exhausted by my own potential.

Jo has reserved me Thursday for a tour of the new fifth-wheel and because she’s making creamed pheasant before Don goes back to South Dakota to shoot more. I’ll put her new computer together while she’s busy in the kitchen. I can’t do that sort of thing with people watching. I love Jo’s house, from the HGTV-worthy back porch to the smiling mounted moose head, which she calls Bullwinkle, in the cozy basement. Between her taste and Don’s carpentry talent the place is as inviting as any mansion.

A power bump caused the plant to go haywire while I was there alone Monday and I’m thrilled to say that I managed to keep it afloat until help arrived. I put the water champ and the floc drives and all the pumps in manual, adjusted the hypochlorite and coagulant feeds, and waited for Gary the Prince of LadderLogic to drive up from Utah and save the day, which he promptly did by hooking his laptop into our diseased SCADA (System Control and Data Acquisition) and giving it a digital what-for. And that evening I went to my last summer violin lesson and Mr. Lundstrom shook my hand and told me I’m a natural. And I hardly even practice.

I’m tired of thunder with no rain.

Missing Pieces

Martin M., what gives? The email address I've always used for you at didn't work the last time I sent out a bulk bulletin to my locals. And you were sadly absent from Kate's last time I ventured in and staggered out. And you look confused whenever I wave from a Caddy instead of my Raider as we daily pass on Morse Lee, which is understandable. But really, this lack of chatting has to stop. I have too few favorite people as it is.

Monday, August 08, 2005

In Vino Veritas

I whistle an innovative counterpoint to most Billy Joel songs, I worship Itzhak Perlman, and Red, Red Wine will improve my mood by at least twenty-five percent no matter how wong my day is going. I absolutely cannot bear the Beatles, or the music of any individual component post-dissolution. John Lennon falls way short of “musical genius” in my book. I am rabid about this conviction. How can he possibly be compared to Andrew Lloyd Webber or Chopin or Wagner or Johnny Cash?

In my jumble of class notes on chemical equations and zinc orthophosphates and Variable Frequency Drives, the words EPIC FABLE are also scribbled. I’ll do something with that someday. Last week it was all I could do to worry about the syllabus for Enhanced Water Treatment, which included such subjects as Pumps and Pump Maintenance, Cathodic Protection (which Jeff calls ‘electrolysis,’ much to Travis’s amusement), and Coagulation Aids, just to name a few.

After class Wednesday evening we met Bud at Kate’s for drinks, where the conversation flowed effortlessly until almost 11:00 when we realized we never got around to dinner. Our NALCO reps, Celeste and Scott, made it back to the Dunmar in time to get salad. Topics ranged from all things water- and wastewater-related to politics, families, drugs, climates, stand-up comedy, and all the random debris of life that seems so relevant after a few glasses of Yellow Snow. Travis, the evening’s token domestic dispute victim (“just one beer, and then I’ll be home, Honey, okay?”), wound up sleeping in his truck; he said the next afternoon, “but we had fun, right?” Of course right. I did feel a little bad for being the first to say, “you’re already in trouble, Trav, why not have another?” But I was in no way the last one to say it.

After his fifth glass of red wine, Bud got on a soapbox about passing his important industry contacts at the DEQ and elsewhere on to the next generation. Sonny, who bought one of Daisy’s puppies this last spring, waxed enthusiastic about “Hershey” for an hour straight, which was gratifying. The local hard-living electrician brought his new Harley by to be admired. Sue was so glad to see me being social (yes, it’s that rare) that she nearly fell off her stool. Scott kept going into the broom closet instead of the men’s room. I got a kiss from Barry in addition to the usual brotherly bear hug on my way out the door, and I got mistaken for my sister at least twice by people who have seen her around town, which always amuses us. All in all it was an interesting evening, but I was sorry for everyone else the next day in class. I have a convenient genetic resistance to hangovers.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Beverage Wars

I am apparently just one poor victim torn apart by geographical differences of opinion. I just say "no" to carbonated soft drinks, in case you were wondering.

Monday, August 01, 2005


Here I am again, desperately juicing the brief and glorious Wyoming summer for all it’s worth. I’m stiff and sore from golfing and swimming and running, batting, rowing, mowing and jet skiing. I’m half senseless from sun and hard liquor, loud music, and the ruthless combination of late nights and early mornings. Somewhere in between I bothered to go to work, get a CDL and a pedicure, send a get-well card, change the kitty litter, register the Cadillac, prodigally master the violin, and learn to use masking fluid in my watercolors. Eat your heart out, Martha Stewart; protean is my middle name.

Self Portrait I

When you're eastern European, you learn to love your freckles.



Angie in the lobby of the Marriott on our last morning in New York City


Jewels in an uber-high-end shop

Stolen Image

Park'n JET


Some idiot kids had a rollover on Harrison this afternoon. I laughed. I've had a top-heavy Esuvee with a 95-inch wheel base for eight years with nary a hint of tipsiness, so I'm certain they had to be screwing off quite a bit to wreck. Nobody got hurt but I'm pretty sure that brat's going to be afoot for a while.

Self Portait