Monday, October 31, 2005

Sunset in a Cadillac


Party Over

Eileen's Hat


Hard Rock Kabul




One Room Schoolhouse in Carter

Grazing Cattle

Evanston at Dawn from Brookhollow

Sunrise at the Plant

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Drama Queen

Last weekend I experienced an irrational, assumption-induced high and the subsequent distressing slam into reality when my brain caught up with my imagination. My nerves are raw and my limbs feel like lead and I am inexplicably disappointed despite having realized there was never anything to expect. I am furious and coiled like a steel spring, wanting to rage but without a suitable target. I can't comprehend how I get myself into these things, but I've been distracted and sullen for five days, restless for five nights, and it took the oldest and best Frank Sinatra in my extensive collection (the cassette Mary made to help me get over Rob ten years ago of Frank's earlier, happier hits at Columbia, as opposed to the luxuriously depressing ballads from the Capitol and Reprise years, most of which I have on CD) and several days' worth of violent and inspired piano playing to dig me out of the emotional trench I crawled into. (It took me an hour to sound out the chords and melody to My Immortal by Evanescence, which I've heard maybe twice, but it was worth it because Kelly will pee his pants when he hears it.) The weekend slumped into an excruciating week that feels like sand in my eyes, but I have an annual party to cohost Saturday and I refuse to let the people I love see just how petty and vain I can be. So I absorbed Frank's take-no-shit attitude through my auditory canals until I could stop traffic with a look and channeled that intensity into being the most delightful and engaging me I can be for the people who care, which always works like a charm. I might crack after the weekend but at least I'll have a good reason: exhaustion.

Besides, I think I know what's wrong with me. Just about the time I started to worry about becoming bipolar or something, I remembered the prescription. I recently switched from the Wal-Mart Pharmacy (Wal-Mart is evil) to the quaint mom-and-pop corner store on Main, City Drug, and of course they have a different generic for my Ortho Tri-Cyclen (gay). So I went from Tri-Nessa (gayer) to Tri-Sprintec (gayest- who names this stuff?), and I’m hoping that the new pill is what’s making me insane. (I could forego it altogether since it's not performing its intended function right now, but then I'd probably get cramps so bad I'd pass out on a regular basis, and I work around lots of deep water so that's not good. I know, I know, TMI.) There’s just no other justification for feeling like the bottom dropped out when my life is simply awesome and getting better every day. I despise the fact that I’m at the whim of my hormones and a small-town pharmacist named Garth.

The week started to look up the minute I realized that I might not be responsible for my crappy attitude, and it looked even better when I discovered that the new store in the old Wal-Mart building (we got a Super Wal three years ago), Murdoch's Ranch and Home Supply, carries the Ariat Fatbaby line, indisputably the best thing to happen to women's western fashion since those ass-perfecting Lawman Jeans. Cheri had a pair of the orange (oops, sorry, Cognac) Fatbabies on when she dropped in two weeks ago and I almost wanted a tornado-borne farmhouse to fall on her so I could seize them and click my heels. They look like a pair of Doc Martens knocked up the rodeo queen's pink Justins and they sent the kids to a Manhattan finishing school. There's also Gembaby (spackled with rhinestones) and Dollbaby (taller, slimmer, and flowered). Expect to see them on the painstakingly pedicured feet of the jet set in your local metropolis (don't laugh- they embraced Uggs, didn't they?), but remember: the overprocessed bimbo you see them on has probably never stepped in a fresh cowpie in her life.

Late Tuesday morning I was brooding, slouched at the sunny break room table across from Jeff, who was trying not to fall asleep despite having polished off an 8-cup pot of black coffee all by himself, a daily occurrence. He was sitting sideways with his chin in his hand, and every once in a while he would jerk upright and give me a sideways glance from under the brim of his ball cap with a guilty expression. Finally the Super Looper magazine he was pretending to read slid off his lap and he almost followed it to the floor, so he suggested we drive out to the shop and get the mail. (He's lucky. If he had started snoring or drooling I was going to set off an alarm by switching the hypochlorite pump into manual.) While he drove the big Ford up Evanston’s main drag, Front Street, I started noticing what a glorious day it was. I saw Bud’s truck at his mom’s and Jim carrying a big package into The UPS Store, and Kathy’s husband Glen peering under the hood of a teenager’s car in front of Kallas Auto, and Frankie and Mike arguing in the parking lot at Cazin’s Hardware. At least every other local driver on the road waves to Jeff. He knows everybody. He shoes everybody's horses. By the time we got back into town from the shop and stopped at City Hall, I was nearly myself again. Nancy had a singing, dancing witch with fiberoptic hair and Jo had grandkid Joey stories, and Susan wants to "do lunch" at Michael’s next Tuesday. It's nice to know I'm missed. I briefly bitched with Austin about how hard it is to find a decent guy in this world. Then I told the chief of police that he smelled good, which caused a general uproar, but he did. He was standing too close and he was drenched in some nice clean-smelling cologne, maybe Perry Ellis or Nautica, and that doesn’t mean I don’t still think he’s a skunk. I have one hell of a sense of smell but I’m an even better judge of character, except in rare cases.

As usual, composing this post has had the necessary therapeutic effect on me. I can almost always write myself normal, or something like it. Why I always feel the need to wrap it up with a profound thought I don't know, but I've got nothing in the arsenal but quotes from the thirty-year-old dictionary at the plant, so here goes:

“An Idea, like a ghost (according to the common notion of a ghost) must be spoken to a little before it will explain itself." –Dickens

And while I enjoy that line, I liked this one from Dickens even more: "In came Mrs. Fezziwig, one vast substantial smile."

Force me into any mold, and just see how I adapt.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Light Up My Life

I survived an agonizing weekend to get to this. I guarantee you there is actually nothing in my hands, and it's not Photoshopped, either. It's just a sunbeam. That's the old plant in the background. Behind that rail is an empty 20-foot-deep concrete basin. It's cold enough now I have to wear my old bomber jacket to work. I'm sick of the wind and it's only October.


We still haven't necessarily come to an agreement, the digital tablet and I. It's very hard to control fine lines, hence distortion in detailed features like hands (this was a timed sketch so I vowed not to go back and fix them), and I still haven't quite mastered the whole pressure thing, so other lines come out much darker than intended, giving images a very cartoonish feel. But I'm enjoying the challenge and it's already cut down on clutter. I think I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. And yes, I realize I'm my own worst critic. I had no visual reference for this, so I can see every artistic flaw and aesthetically disappointing feature, and I'm probably the only one who can tell at what point in her spin she's in. You're probably just thinking: nifty.

Battenburg Lace


Saturday, October 22, 2005

Happy Place

If I don't have your email address, you're missing out. I got an email from Kathy the other day that I can't post but which completely stopped work at City Hall for a good half hour (on second thought, that's not really that difficult to do). If it makes accountants laugh, it'll work on you. Email me if you want it.

I had a weird dizzy spell this evening for an hour or two, quite like Morgan's episode yesterday. A not-quite-right, world-is-spinning feeling, like I had too much potent tequila in Tepic, Nayarit again. We drank rum out of coconuts while floating in the tepid June Pacific off the coast of Mexico. Everything I tasted that month in Guadalajara had a flavor like molasses, even the Coronas, a sour, burnt sugar taste that made the glands under my jaw shriek. Rosy mangoes dropped off the trees into the streets and just bled sticky juice when bitten into. I hated the flies. I hated the way people treated dogs and the stinking cauldrons of boiling oil lining the sidewalk at Sunday bazaars. I loved Armando's two-toned whistle and Emilia's Spanish eyes and Bettie's doll-like children. It seems odd that they will live their lives through in that two-story concrete bungalow painted in pastels, and I will never see them again. I can't even remember the baby's name.

But I have a new and beautiful thing to wonder about, and I am as good at waiting as I am at many other things. I used to forget the line in Uninvited where Alanis claims that, "like any hot-blooded woman, I have simply wanted an object to crave." Amusing how simple things become when you box them up in a song, square and safe, and how often a song changes meaning in a flash, like magic.

I'm an imp this midnight, slightly wicked and willing to wish. I'm lazy tonight, putting things off knowing that this week will be a mad rush and I will perform humble miracles. A conscious procrastination, from the Latin
procrastinatio, formed from the verb procrastinare "to put off for tomorrow," from pro-, "forward" and crastinus, "of tomorrow," from cras, "tomorrow." All I care is that it starts with pro. Like protean, which I am.

I want to go to Disneyland.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Lemon Crush

I have a new obsession. I picked up some Lemon Ice Crest toothpaste at Smith's Thursday, and I can't recall ever being happier about any personal hygiene product. I brush my teeth four or five times a day on routine days (it's just my thing, okay?) and I get really tired of mint, which I was never that crazy about in the first place. So the recent flavored toothpaste craze has me pretty excited. I liked the citrus stuff, the vanilla-mint was weird but tolerable, cinnamon reminds me of Dad's Close Up and I enjoy it despite the fact that I can't stand cinnamon candy, except for Atomic Fireballs... but the lemon? It's awesome. It's all I can do to resist carrying it around with me. Angie, whose mom Cheri has a far worse dental fixation than mine, would probably say that's not a good idea. Her advice to you would be this: never just pick up a canned beverage and start sipping if Cheri's been around.

Not Much News

I'm watching a show about cannibalism. I'm impressed that I can see things from the point of view of the anthropologist who spent time with the Wari in the Amazon River Basin, a tribe of small, dark people who traditionally roasted and ate the flesh of their relatives after natural death. The idea of putting the body of a loved one into the cold ground to decay and be devoured by worms was appalling to them. I'm certain I couldn't consume human flesh (unless perhaps my survival depended on it, like the unfortunates the show is featuring now). But if it weren't for cremation, I don't think I could have let them bury Dad. To place his ashes in the ground, dry and clean and sealed in a container that will outlast humanity, seemed much more acceptable to me than to have to remember a cold clay cast of the person I loved, buried in the ground in a box to rot, even if that is the natural way of things.

A doe and her two grown fawns have taken up residence in the broad meadow down the hill by the plant. We keep startling each other at the bottom of the UV stairs, at the back door of the lab, down on the third reservoir when I check the level at 3:30 in the afternoon. I had to go up and check on the chlorine residual about 10:00pm tonight; we're having some trouble with our modem and can't rely on the dialer to call us. I've been alone at the plant in the night several times before, but tonight was the first night it spooked me to be there. I am rarely disturbed by thoughts of ghosts and monsters; it's people with bad intentions that frighten me.

Morgan and I were sitting sewing costumes in her basement late last Tuesday when the doorbell rang. As usual, the three dogs went berserk and by the time I got upstairs and hauled hundred-pound Daisy out of the way by her collar, the ringer had fled. On the porch was a stack of homemade gingerbread cookies in Saran wrap, with a photocopied chain letter encouraging us to play the same trick on our friends. And I thought to myself that there really are nice things about living in a small town. A complete stranger stopped me in the parking lot at Smith's this Tuesday to tell me so. He shouted, without preamble, "do you know how lucky you are to live here?" I looked around to make sure he was addressing me, and we had a brief conversation, standing ten yards apart, about how friendly people are here, how clean the air is, how glad he is to be back from three years working in Seattle. He doesn't even mind the long, severe winters Evanston dishes out. I wanted to say how much I miss San Diego. I didn't. I just agreed with everything he said and wandered into the store, where by chance I found the perfect twig broomstick for my Halloween costume.

I have so much to do this weekend that I'm frightened I'll never get through it all. Tonight I stuck a gently admonishing note on the windshield of a silver Impala. The 21-year-old kid upstairs (I can't believe how incredibly wide the small gap of five years between us feels sometimes) parked like an ass, taking up two spaces, and I politely told him to watch it. We'll see if it makes any difference. After a long morning of watching Gary wrestle with the software and hardware that operates the plant, Bud looked at Jeff and I and said, "I had no idea today would turn out to be a day like today." And he didn't even have to pee in a cup this morning. Drug tests are not much fun.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

A Royal Scolding

Important Memo to the Reigning Mayor and his Council:

Authority intoxicates,
And makes mere sots of magistrates;
The fumes of it invade the brain,
And make men giddy, proud and vain:
By this, the fool commands the wise,
The noble with the base complies,
The sot assumes the role of wit,
And cowards make the base submit.


Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Jump the Gun

I was not a chronic false-starter during swim meets. I am perpetually 3 minutes late for every occasion and I am always the most accomplished procrastinator in a room. That’s just how I do my best work. Too much time to second-guess or rework and I'll blow it. However, even with 15 posts still to go before the acclaimed (by me) 500-mark, I'm initiating blog no. 2 because you know what they say: carpe diem, and I'm seizing while the seizing's good.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Wild West Show

Quickies. I zipped over to Rock Springs tonight for Mom's cousin Eileen's KKI auction at the preschool at cousin Cheri's house, which is going to be sold soon because she and Gordon are building a place up by Merna with a view of the Windrivers. I took four packs of twelve notecards to the auction that I drew on the Wacom digital tablet and printed in multiple on textured cardstock. They sold for $25.00 a set. Mom bought, among more practical things, a huge orange sweatshirt with an attached black collar, which features a glow-in-the-dark jack'o'lantern face.

The drive to Rock Springs and back was insane. I borrowed Kelly and Morgan's black Pontiac Grand Prix GTP since the Caddy recently had surgery (and supersquare Monte doesn't do the freeway unless you don't mind taking an extra hour to get where you're going) and I tell you what, that car is a guy magnet. I had truckers honking at me and Chevy trucks tailgating me suggestively and some gel-addicted geek in a white Maxima with Utah plates doing laps around me trying to get me to look at him, none of which ever happens in either of my two vehicles (thank Heaven). On the way home I almost wrecked twice thanks to my clueless roadmates and I decided I'm going to make myself a t-shirt that says I HATE TRUCKERS. If you're not going 82 miles an hour you're going too slow for them, and they'd just as soon drive you off the road as share the freeway. God forbid they should lose momentum, and none of them know how to read, apparently. "No trucks in left lane." Who do they think that sign is for? My dad drove truck and I remember him complaining about the caliber of drivers on the road today, mostly how inconsiderate and incredibly stupid they are, and he was justified. I saw one solitary highway patrolman the whole night and he was parked in the T&A lot, probably scarfing Taco Bell food instead of brutally fining any one of the Legion of Hell that is today's long-haul freight drivers. In your travels, if you happen to see a white Freightliner cab with a green-striped trailer that says Belkins on it, flip him off for me, just in case. I'm sure he couldn't see my finger in the dark.

Saturday, October 15, 2005


I'm slowly getting the hang of my new toy, the incredible Wacom Intuous 3 digital tablet thingy. It's a wonder, but it's really hard. There are so many variables to learn. I used to dream that technology like this would come along. I love my Magnadoodle with all my heart, but this is where it's really at.

October Sky

Magic Carpet Ride

I'm sitting on my low couch with both bare feet flat on the rug (my, what lovely fire-engine red polish you have on your toes) and each foot pillows the head of a snoring cat. They also spend the nights this way, in a sort of bipolar tandem, one glued to either side of my ribcage, pinning me down. I don't mind because 99% of the time I sleep so still that all I have to do to make my bed in the morning is flip the corner of my down comforter back up over my pillow. Since I sleep on my stomach, it's easy to just swing one leg out of bed and slide out without disturbing the covers, or the cats. When I want them off I just flip over really fast and send them rolling. People have a tendency to poke me when I'm sleeping to make sure I'm still alive; alas, the martyrdom of shallow breathers.

Mr. Goodwrench and I both had omelettes at JB's this afternoon. I really wanted to order eggs benedict, but hollandais is always such a gamble. We went to Kallas Auto and got the parts he needed for the Cadillac, which turned out to be more than just a belt. The bearings in the water pump seized up and threw the belt, which explains why she was vomiting coolant all the way up Harrison Drive Wednesday evening. This is also the belt that drives the power steering pump. A Cadillac without power steering is not fun to drive. Earlier in the week, when the Caddy started hissing and spitting, I thought she was just mad about the 85 octane gasoline I slipped her last time I filled up, so I bought some STP Octane Boost ("Barely Street Legal!"), thinking she just didn't like cheap wine. Not so. Luckily Eddie had a remanufactured water pump, so we got that, and a new belt and a new idler pulley. Mr. Goodwrench is the most polite and gentle mechanic I've ever seen, and I've watched him enough to know that it isn't just because I'm watching or because he's operating on one of les spéciaux, my two mechanical darlings. He finesses sticky bolts gracefully with the ratchet and his bluer-than-sky eyes squint off into the distance every once in a while while his hands, nails pearly through the black grease, continue to work. He only cusses when he gets hurt. When things didn't go his way with the Caddy today he would stand quietly wiping power steering fluid and blood onto a blue shop towel, muttering about how to get around the problem. It's a joy to watch anyone who loves what he does.

I stopped at Jubilee on my way to Morgan's tonight for a few bottles of SoBe Green Tea, and a man in tattered Carharts asked me for a quarter on my way in. I gestured towards the store and told him, "let me get some change." (I use my debit card for everything, so I can track my spending. I don't even see cash for weeks at a time.) He looked as if he assumed that was my way of getting around him. I bumped into cheerful Terry, who I worked with at Home Decor the winter I helped Jim upstairs, in the checkout line and we visited on our way out; she wanted to know all about my new job. At the door we both aimed left to where the panhandler was sitting dejectedly on a bench covered in handpainted advertising. I handed him a few dollar bills and Terry handed him a plastic grocery bag with something small and square in it. He looked up at us, apparently shocked, and mumbled, "thank you. My God, thank you." Terry never stopped talking, eyes twinkling, about the plant and Home Decor and the ranch she lives on outside of town. Her bright, friendly face was such a contrast with the man's, with his sallow skin and grimy beard. He looked fairly young and able, and I wanted to ask him why he wasn't working at one of the multitudes of $25.00-an-hour jobs in the oil field. Probably he couldn't pass the drug test. Mom said one of her regulars at the Inn told her that of the 600 men his company interviewed for several positions on their rigs, only 30 passed. Interstate 80
snakes like a dirty vein of concentrated drug abuse across the breast of the country; the communities for a hundred miles north and south of that strip of weathered concrete are poisoned by what travels on it and spills off into them, with no end in sight.

Eric, a local police officer, lost his son Daniel a few weekends ago. Drinking and carrousing in the wee hours of the morning, he and several friends were in his truck out on the Narrows when it rolled and crushed him. This happens a lot in rural America. I could be cynical and call it survival of the fittest. Or I could hedge and call it sad. Morgan took the family, who live in the house across her back fence, a pot roast and talked to the youngest girl for a while. This week they started hauling all of the truck parts Daniel collected out of the backyard.

I also forgot to memorialize Paul Eveleigh, who died on 9/11 this year of a heart attack. Paul, a lovely person and married to another, the smiling Janet, drove cab for Dad in Coronado. After the end of Dad's company he took a stint as a limo driver in Vegas. His "famous person" story (Dad's involves Kirsty Alley and Mom's was even better. I came home from school one day to find her
sitting on the couch, crying. "Touch me," she said, holding out her hand. "I just talked to Kevin Costner on the telephone." He left Emilio a hundred-dollar tip.) implicates Donald Trump, who he drove from the airport to the swankiest hotel on the strip. Donald told a lackey to tip the driver. The toady just sneered at his retreating back and closed the door of Paul's black Lincoln. Paul was understandably ticked. A loyal Briton, he wrote to Dad shortly before taking the oath of U.S. citizenship: "Janet says it's hard, but you just cross your fingers behind your back and grin and nod." Paul had a charming laugh, sprinkled with snorts, like that pink cartoon sabertooth, Snagglepuss. He was tall and elegant in that tweedy way the British are. He was a gifted storyteller and a kind man, and, like so many people, he thought my father was the greatest thing since sliced bread. He loved chauffeuring, Land Rovers and living in the Cays. And he loved pretty Janet, who will be lost without him.

I've been making costumes and practicing Bach's Brandenburg Concertos and not getting enough sleep. Mom left Cordale her bag of little airplane-shaped Cheez-its she was given on her Delta flight from Monterey. He will be thrilled with them, being eleven years old and thrilled with pretty much anything (the gummy sharks are going to blow his little mind), but he will totally miss the irony of the label, which proclaims the snack to be "Cheesy Plane Crackers." Look at the time. I'm learning unrest from the best, apparently.

Friday, October 14, 2005

What's In a Name?

I get these goofy emails once in a while where you use certain letters from your first and last name to select the words that will comprise your ridiculous new name. If you know me, you know I'm fairly tender in the dignity department (despite being a graceful klutz), but sometimes it doesn't pay to act all adult and superior. I think you need a giggle. Find your new name and post it in the comments.

1. Use the third letter of your first name to determine your new first name:

a = snickle
b = doombah
c = goober
d = cheesey
e = crusty
f = greasy
g = dumbo
h = farcus
i = dorky
j = doofus
k = funky
l = boobie
m = sleezy
n = sloopy
o = fluffy
p = stinky
q = slimy
r = dorfus
s = snooty
t = tootsie
u = dipsy
v = sneezy
w= liver
x = skippy
y= dinky
z = zippy

2. Use the second letter of your last name to determine the first half of your new last name:

a = dippin
b = feather
c = batty
d = burger
e = chicken
f = barffy
g = lizard
h = waffle
i = farkle
j = monkey
k = flippin
l = fricken
m = bubble
n = rhino
o = potty
p = hamster
q = buckle
r = gizzard
s = lickin
t = snickle
u = chuckle
v = pickle
w = hubble
x = dingle
y = gorilla
z = girdle

3. Use the third letter of your last name to determine the second half of your new last name:

a = butt
b = boob
c = face
d = nose
e = hump
f = breath
g = pants
h = shorts
i = lips
j = honker
k = head
l = tush
m = chunks
n = dunkin
o = brains
p = biscuits
q = toes
r = doodle
s = fanny
t = sniffer
u = sprinkles
v = frack
w = squirt
x = humperdinck
y = hiney
z = juice

According to this formula, George W. Bush is now Fluffy Chucklefanny. (I still like Chimpy McFlightsuit better, Brent.) Kelly's mom June, who sent this to me, is now Sloopy Pottydoodle; Mom is Dipsy Flippinlips; Sara, who sent it to June, is Snooty Chickenbutt; Jo and Don are now Snickle and Sloopy Pottyhump; Barry is Dorfus Pottydunkin (which is probably closer to the truth than I want to consider); and Bud, who would die of embarassment if he knew, is now Cheesy Dippinfanny.

Maybe I never told you, but my nickname at City Hall was, and probably always will be, Matilda. I have no idea why; it's Jo's fault. Frankie (who has a metal plate in his head and is missing half the middle finger of his left hand) called me Amy, Andrea, Audrey, Alicia, and once, Ammonia, and only half the time was he joking. Jeff says my name the way my big handsome cousin Garrick said it when he was little: Age-er-un. It makes me smile every time.

Mom, Morgan and I were lounging in Rose's cozy Pinedale sitting room with her one afternoon after a morning of chores when, out of the blue, Rose mused, "well girls, we're the last of the Skinners." (Grandpa died May of 2004 after surgery to remove a brain tumor. His son made it not quite a year longer, as most of you know, passing in April of this year.) There's a lot to be proud of as a Skinner, an illustrious past with a little spice of scandal. We're descendants of landed gentry, famous explorers, southern belles and brave officers; smart, adaptable people carrying an ancient and graphic coat of arms with the motto Sanguis et Vulnera: "Blood and Wounds." I have considered keeping my last name if I ever get married... but somehow it doesn't seem right. That's no way to present a united front. I have no middle name, though ("waste of ink!" said Grandpa), so I could move Skinner up one. But I've found the lack of one convenient, so maybe not. I know it's been sort of fun to be a Skinner; you get all the teasing about Principal Skinner (Simpsons) and Skinner from The X-Files and "Skinny," which I am not, and Gary the bass player used to say to Mom in that slow surfer drawl, "Skynnaaaard," on the mornings she would unlock the band room. He meant Lynnard Skynnard, of course. But the harassment I've received about my last name is nothing compared to what I get for my first name.

It's my Saturday on a Friday, and I have such random tasks to accomplish that I can't seem to come up with an efficient gameplan. It doesn't help that I slept until 11:00. But someone just invited me to breakfast/lunch, and agreed to fix my Cadillac (I lost a belt I might be able to fix myself but would rather not bother), so I guess that's as good a place to start as any.

Thursday, October 13, 2005




Lens Flare

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Living Room

In just 25 short posts (not counting this one), I will celebrate a 'lil ol' landmark. I'll have posted 500 entries on this here blog (including individual photo posts, but a what's worth a thousand words?). I've decided to celebrate by cloning this blog, with a fictional spin. I can already tell that I won't be ready for NaNoBlogMo; there's my health to consider- such a busy season- and also my ego. I absolutely won't post a hurried novel, or anything that I feel isn't Pulitzer material, and folks, I understand I've got a looong way to go yet. But maybe you'd care to travel that road with me? I've had that empty blog just waiting for over a year, and I picked up a wonderful book of fiction exercises to work through over a year ago, and finally, finally, I have attained the peace and inspiration and maturity to make use of them and seriously focus on some fiction. Obviously I'll keep posting about my real life here. There would be a mutiny if I stopped, and I've only just begun to realize the artistic potential of blogging reality.

There's nothing like hunting season to reinforce my opinion that there are too many people in the world. Evanston boasts a robust 13,000 permanent residents, plus a grand or two more employed transients; not bad for a busted boomtown on the Utah border. Wyoming is still the
least populous state in the Union, and yet, I sometimes feel claustrophobic. And I have heard the same thing from numerous disillusioned local hunters this year: there are just too many people. "Gawd, you can't go over the hill after a deer or an elk but some city slicker's already over there shooting at him," says Jeff. He packs smaller pistols in addition to his hunting rifles and locks all other valuable equipment in the horse trailer when he leaves camp, because "them hills is full of weirdos." It's a sad state of affairs. But it's still the best state there is if you don't much care for humanity as a whole, at least 9 months out of the year.

I posted the rest of the pictures from Monterey in the
gallery. Feel free to mosey around in there and have a look at the rest of my life since I acquired the magical Olympus.

Monday, October 10, 2005

From Coach to Pumpkin in No Time Flat

The images that follow (or precede, however you want to look at it) are from Mom's week in Monterey. She takes great photos. And she brings back lots of sugary souvenirs, and things with magnets, and silly, wonderful stories. She brought me the middle eastern spice I covet but can't seem to find in Salt Lake, mahlepi, so I can make a batch of Greek Easter bread. (It's a pungent, slightly off-white powder, so she packed it carefully away, afraid that the folks at the Delta baggage check would think she was a drug smuggler.) She was so tired she slept until almost noon today in my dark abode. Then we went for Chinese and got our hair cut. I wanted something really short but can't seem to take the plunge, so I just got it trimmed. I constantly play with my hair, take it up, put it down, twirl it and deftly tie knots that instantly spring out. In school it drove teachers insane. My grandpa used to call me "Little Hair-Twirler," and I'm not sure I could function without that comforting habit. Not to mention that long hair is one of the few things about me (besideds my DD's) that makes me feel really, truly girly when I want to. After Mom headed home, I watched a show about Alexander and one about Napoleon while I sketched. And I have decided that if all great people are nuts, I must be on my way.

I went with M&K tonight to see The Corpse Bride and found that it failed to stupefy me. A wonderful jaunt through a colorful underworld, but I'm beginning to think that Tim Burton will never be able to top The Nightmare Before Christmas, which changed my life. It was the first thing I ever saw that really said to me, "create from your heart, and you will be happy, and make others happy. It's okay to be who you are."

More posts later about Mom's adventure, including Hearst Castle, whale watching, seafood for a week solid, the 18th green at Pebble Beach, cypress trees, and pelicans.


Hearst Pool



Mom Takes Her Shadow

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Good Luck

If I were a very successful magician, my token incantation would go something like this: “Murciélago, Diablo, Countach, Gallardo, Miura!” And not necessarily in that order. Ten points for you if you already know what would materialize.

It was so cold in the water plant today that our lips and fingernails were turning blue, so we fired up the rumbling make-up air units that cost the City almost $8,000.00 a month to operate during the coldest part of the Wyoming winter, which is certainly not now. We huddled in the warm control room until things heated up, arguing about fuel mileage. When I stepped out, I was overwhelmed by that distinctly California scent: hot air blowing slowly over cold water. It doesn’t matter where I am; that sweet smell invariably picks me up like the cyclone did Dorothy and plops me right down in the middle of the football field at Mar Vista High, a rather benign Oz on a foggy weeknight under brilliant stadium lights. It seems to be the final practice before a field show tournament on Saturday. Mr. Garcia is being his usual flamboyant self on that embarrassing, rickety podium, and I am obsessed with getting home and wiping the condensation off the lovely curved brass bell of my bass trombone, before it has time to do any damage. Those delicious, damp nights were when I learned to love autumn, and Broadway showtunes, and myself.

This afternoon after Jeff left, Travis and I divvied up responsibility for covering the approaching holidays. He generously offered me Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day off. “Well boucoups comp time for you, Sasquach.” He’s going to need it. He and Shannon are expecting their third son in January, and they’re going to experiment with paternity leave. I don’t foresee it going very well. Travis is perpetual motion personified, and he’s not going to take well to sitting at home with the baby, even though he’s a great dad. I know I wouldn’t.

Oh… let’s focus on that for a moment. There may possibly be something terribly wrong with me. I cannot possibly be the only woman on Earth who is terrified of babies, can I? I’m big on communication. Babies are not expert communicators. They smell horrible (there’s poo, and then baby powder is one of my least favorite smells ever, not worse than skunk spray or Brussels sprouts or liver and onions, but close). They’re whiny and loud, expensive, demanding, utterly dependent, and not particularly attractive. In short, they’re like most of the men I’ve dated (except for the attractive part, and the smell). Don’t get me wrong. I want to be a mother. I am confident I’ll make a much better mom than most women, especially those ignorant, trashy hags who frequent my favorite laundromat, with their sadly neglected, ragamuffin broods. After all, I’ve had an excellent example in front of me for twenty-six years and counting. And she’ll make such a wonderful grandmother that I can’t possibly deprive her, although in her infinite understanding and tolerance, I doubt she’d resent having dogs and cats as grandchildren for the rest of her life. The truth is I’ve just never been around babies, being The Baby myself, and Garrick and Angie, Sara, Mark, Amanda, Libby, Stephanie, Andy and Zach came along not far enough behind me to really help. My not-direct-niece-of-confusing-relation (one of three), Kindra, was born when I was nine, but Kindra was born a genius and a supermodel, a truly extraordinary baby in every way. (Hard to believe that occurred seventeen years ago this month. Happy Birthday, Koo. Contrary to popular opinion, you’re turning out just fine.) Babies are everywhere this season, though, with Bekah (the most glowing pregnant woman that ever was, and my God, when did we grow up?) due, as well as Shannon, Misty (oh wait, she popped last week), Camielle, Amanda, and Gina. Joel the ex Mrs. Goodwrench unwisely had one last month (see above description of her fellows at the laundro, and shudder with me as I predict the sad fate of that child, fathered by Joel’s decade-her-junior trailer trash live-in. They all exist on one Wal-Mart salary, now.), and Ronda’s daughter (yes, your first grandbaby is an acceptable excuse for missing orchestra rehearsal), freaking unqualified Britney Spears, and several others I may regret forgetting. I got razzed the other day by an acquaintance who, having also noticed the local baby boom, asked, “so is it something in the water?” You’ll think, Buster. Morgan will inevitably beat me to the motherhood club, which is fine because she’s a) older, b) better suited, and c) wants to be a mom more than anything. As always, I’ll learn from her and be all the better for it.

Tomorrow is the start of my four-day weekend (I flipped Jeff for Columbus Day and won, so he’ll hunt with his boys next weekend), and I have to document a distinction. I love four-day weekends now more than ever, but not because of some horrendous grind I’m escaping from. When I paid the bills for the City, each day of a four-day weekend plunged me progressively deeper into despair, because the prospect of going back to City Hall was like a death sentence. I knew exactly what kind of shape my desk would be in when I got back, what kind of messages would be on my voicemail (“bad ‘uns,” as Jeff says), and what kinds of problems I’d have to solve on all the girls’ computers (“I swear, Sue just sat down in front of it and it died!” Sue has a strange effect on computers). But now, I can stay up all night, sleep until noon, make Halloween costumes, write and paint and bask in the glorious company of my sister and mother knowing that nothing waits for me Tuesday morning but another day of peace and order on E Hill, regardless of what sort of problems arise, with stoic Bud at the helm and springy first mate Jeff and utterly straightforward Travis for cabin boy (absolutely no guile, that one), and whatever position I fill. I’m probably the navigator. I can say “sextant” without smirking. And I thank my lucky stars again that I am where I am, doing what I’m doing.

Mom returns from sunny Monterey Sunday; remind me to wash the dishes, make my bed, and fold my underwear (how do you fold a little triangle scrap of cotton and two strings, and why bother? They can’t wrinkle, and even if they did, it wouldn’t matter because there are no witnesses lately) and I had better vacuum before then, too, or she’ll do it all in a fit of rapturous but never smothering mothering.

Jeff’s younger son Jared ambushed me at my dumpster (a mysterious dumpster that never reeks) tonight, having suffered a futile day of hunting and apparently longing to successfully stalk some living thing. I should have known when I saw the sexy silver Monte Carlo in Hank’s driveway that the boy would be lurking about. Actually he was just emptying the trash from his pack, but he still enjoyed my panic a little too much.

I could be an absolute blog-post-factory today. I’m at the early point in my potential writing career where that easy flow, that perfect obsessive zone, doesn’t just happen on command, and I am forced to take advantage of the occasions when things fall together easily. Unlike this post, which sashays rudely in and out of coherence. Thank you for hanging in.

Dear, Dear Prudence

I love Prudence, both for her common-sense guidance and magnetic style. I have her column emailed to me every Thursday. I don't think I've ever disagreed with a single response to the unfortunates she counsels. She’s a damned logical woman and a great writer, consistently succinct and refreshingly tongue-in-cheek. For example, this charming bit of education:

Dear Prudence,
The other night I heard a musician introduce a song, "The City of New Orleans," as written by the "late Steve Goodman." Steve's been dead more than 20 years now. I had always thought that "late" referred to the recently dead, but his introduction made me wonder. Is there a generally accepted period of time after which describing the departed as "late" is no longer appropriate?

—Curious John

Dear Cure,
There is no early dead or late dead distinction, honey. Dead is dead, and dead is "late." Happy to help.

—Prudie, linguistically

In this week’s installment she also quoted Shakespeare (“Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.”), and called an evil sister-in-law (who was betting on the quick demise of the marriage of the solicitor of advice) a “four-door bitch,” which made me laugh out loud. Oh, to be so certain and witty and unapologetic.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Fracture and Facade

It snowed two fast-melting inches yesterday, and I'm torn. It was beautiful. But I am not ready for the winter. Today I conducted a tour for 25 teenagers, most of whom should be shipped off to boarding school for the duration of their adolescence, and possibly tied to separate trees and left for the wolves if corporal punishment fails to improve their attitudes. This evening, over in the valley, we watched Kindra get her butt kicked at powderpuff football by the hostile Miss Hefty, #71. It was close enough to be proud, 22-20. Then there was pizza. And Buzzword, at which I excel. And an ex-boyfriend (not mine). And now, when I should be sleeping, there's an outrageously grotesque romance on television, but Hugh Jackman is in it and his accent is so enthralling that, despite Meg Ryan's sneering, perky mug, I can't turn the damned thing off. He's so smooth it's scary. I think Mom's right about him. She's always had good taste.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Don't Just Stand There

Last Wednesday afternoon I was curled up on my couch with my favorite soft zigzag afghan (which Dolly crocheted for me years ago) and a Sweetwater County Memorial Hospital thermos mug (which Mom got during surgery to remove a bad parathyroid) full of hot Tang. Thursday afternoon I was at the bottom of a fifteen-foot trench, wearing blue coveralls, rubber steel-toed boots and a hugger-orange hardhat. Friday night my sister and I and some of her giddy BP coworkers drank our way steadily through Evanston’s limited social bill of fare, from Michael’s to Kate’s to the delightfully trashy Legal Tender, where we surrendered shortly before last call. Saturday Mom was around and Sunday there was my day job and a coffeehouse in Kemmerer, a fantastic night I want to talk about in depth later.

At the bottom of that muddy trench on Thursday, I was moving football-sized rocks off the surface of a submerged pipe. I got super dirty. And I loved it. Later the vertical wall of the trench nearly collapsed on Oop. There was a tearing sound, and a rumble, and Oop was up and out of there before four cubic yards of heavy earth splashed into the shallow pond he’d been standing in. I’ve never seen anybody move so fast.

Seems like everybody I know is off on an adventure right now. Even Mom, who is living it up with her cousin Kathleen in Monterey this week. I sent the Olympus with her; we’ll see what comes of that. She’s not as snap-happy as I am.

I also learned to run the backhoe last week. You will be amused but not necessarily surprised to hear that I’m fairly good at it, but not as good as Bruce or Hewey, who have each had years of experience. You don’t realize how reminiscent of a live insect a backhoe can be until you watch somebody who’s good at it. Imagine an operator to whom the controls of a piece of equipment are so familiar that he makes the movements of the machine incredibly deliberate and smooth, making it look like it moves naturally, under its own control. Eternally ball-capped Bruce (who has extraordinarily squinty, twinkling eyes) was easily scooping the sloppy mud from between a manhole and tank with the big yellow Case Extendahoe, two rough hands on the four long levers (the City won’t spring for one of the joystick versions) that control the bucket, the main hydraulic boom lift, and the extension and lift of the second hydraulic boom, and his feet on the wide pedals that swing the main boom from side to side. A backhoe, if you’ve never been around one, also has a scoop bucket on the front (like a tractor), but the seat swings around to the back where the hydraulic bucket controls are. There are two hydraulic arms behind the main tractor tires. They resemble short, doubled-over grasshopper legs with flat feet at the knee, and they allow the driver to stabilize the vehicle while operating the hoe. When Bruce set them down and lifted the rear of the machine up, I was reminded of movie footage of people mounting a kneeling camel, and when the camel stands up the rider bobs precariously back and forth until the camel gets his footing. Then Bruce extended one of the grasshopper legs forward and the whole machine slid to the right, and it looked curiously alive. Like Bruce was riding a very hardworking yellow dinosaur. I remember an amusing exercise in a college drawing class (called Concept Visualization), where our teacher asked us to sketch a piece of heavy equipment based on the bug of our choice, with elements of the insect’s body and range of motion. I remember thinking, “Lady, they’re all like that.” I’ll try to find that sketch for you, and if I can’t, I’ll recreate it. It turned out very thought provoking, and a delightful challenge, but I can’t remember what bug I used. The point of all this was that, while watching these things move, it appears that they are not under the control of the little man in the cabin, but living things instead. I’m not sure it would come across unless you saw it yourself.

I’m tired tonight. I owe two people long phone calls full of hearty, confiding conversation. There is some house shopping on the horizon. There is the holiday card contest and NaNoBlogMo (National Novel Blogging Month) in November, and some Water Treatment Plant tours to give to high school students, and my new digital art tablet to master, a Tim Burton movie to see at least six times in the theater, and a Medieval Festival in Evanston and Oktoberfest in Rock Springs and two Woody birthdays this month. But first there is Halloween, and you know what that means: lovely, languid October will be sacrificed to the holiday gods as Morgan and I spend every spare moment feverishly preparing costumes and props for our annual bash. It won’t be in the boardroom at the nursing home this year, and two beloved members of our cast are gone. But there are some exciting reasons to bet that this will be the best one ever.

Evanston’s Red Devil football team stomped the Laramie Plainsmen 32-0 at the homecoming game Friday night. And I have Tangerine Speedo stuck in my head.