Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Jeff Next Door



Growing Pains

Welcome to Evanston, Wyoming: future sight of the first free-standing Starbucks in the entire state.

I verbally rejoiced when Bud brought the news from the planning office, where he'd been waylaid by Duwayne (who has no respect for personal space). Wi-fi! Coffee after 6:00 p.m.! A real, true Starbucks within 45 miles. I can hardly believe it.

His next revelation curbed my enthusiasm. Starbucks will be making itself at home on two small empty lots right next to his mother's Front Street house, the one she's lived in for 54 years. Mary is not excited about getting a Starbucks right next door. She wasn't excited about the expansion of Front Street that lopped ten feet off her front yard, or the Maverick service station, McDonald's, and Wal*Mart that moved in right across the street, either, but there was nothing she could do. There's not much she can do about Starbucks, either.

I am witnessing the awkward stage of a western town getting too big for its rural britches. On the one hand, I'm excited about all the new businesses riding the wave of the oil boom into town. On the other hand, I mourn for the people who remember playing ball in a field that is now a parking lot and the old timers getting squeezed out by insatiable developers unwilling to pay what residential properties are worth. Also, I'm worried that the eventual (inevitable) bust will leave Evanston burdened with the empty husks of abandoned commercial properties.

I'm a rabid advocate of Main Street, so I would certainly feel guilty while purchasing a Caramel Macciato at the new Starbucks. (In point of fact: had I not gotten the job at the plant and discovered that I love nearly everything about water treatment, I would almost certainly be working on a degree in Historic Preservation, and I may yet.) Starbucks, like Wal*Mart, is not conducive to healthy urban renewal. However, I find it almost painful to leave Kate's at 10:00 p.m. and walk up Main past the darkened windows and locked doors of our locally-owned-and-operated coffee shop (in the historic Blyth and Fargo building), which never seems to be open when I need a latte or, even more importantly, just a place to go with my laptop. I am not going to start haunting the Flying J Travel Plaza just because I need stimulation.

So here I am, straddling the fence, unsure whether to laugh or cry, and it strikes me that this is just another symptom of the acute ambivalence that distorts my own character, and really, the face of the nation. Like the restless California CEO shopping for a vacation home in unspoiled wilderness, I want to have my cake and eat it, too. I want everything at once, the best of both worlds, the rhyme and the reason, the mountains and the shore. We Americans want it all.

Tonight I want time to stop in quirky, provincial, stodgy, affable Evanston as if it were a living museum, so that people may always know what life was like in a small turn-of-the-century town poised between Old West and Cosmopolitan. In the morning I'll want a Venti White Chocolate Mocha with cleverly marketed sprinkles, steaming in a foam cup printed with the logo seen the world over as a symbol of that distinctly American commercial luxuriance.

We're getting a Starbucks. Imagine! Rock Springs is going to be so jealous.

Monday, January 30, 2006



Elk Antler Chandelier

A Fool for Lesser Things

The weekend was proof that foul weather is never going to stand in the way of my fun.

Our trio made the pilgrimage to Ogden Friday despite hazardous road conditions, but the blizzard was no match for the front-wheel-drive Cadillac, even when we could hardly see the reflector poles and had to ride the noise strip at ten miles an hour up Echo Canyon just to stay on the road. We came home with a pair of perfect jeans (Mom has all the luck), the microsuede duvet I’ve been stalking since October, and – almost – a $300 mahogany leather club chair Mom and I became totally enamored with in the span of five seconds. I decided against it for reasons I won’t admit here (hint: cats and leather don’t mix, but if things keep going the way they are I might soon stitch up two chic cat-hide toss pillows to grace future leather furniture*), but now I have the furniture virus so there’s more shopping on the horizon. We had lunch at Ruby River and I found the ideal black frame at Sears for three of my favorite San Diego photographs by Lenny. Good Lord, I miss the beach.

Saturday Mr. Goodwrench and I braved yet another blizzard to get to CAKE in Salt Lake City and had a marvelous time. We stopped in for all the meat we could handle at Trolley Square’s Rodizio Grill (served by an army of enthusiastic men with two-foot skewers and razor-sharp cleavers), along with fried bananas and grilled pineapple imported directly from heaven. But just for future reference: if I was you and I happened to be at Rodizio on my birthday, I wouldn’t advertise the fact that it was my birthday. I just wouldn’t do it.

The Depot is still in the charmingly disorganized stages of early enterprise, and is happily smoke-free. Seating is extremely limited, and instead of sharing (you people should remember this from Kindergarten), groups would stake out campsites and jealously guard the uncomfortable bar stools lining the walls, leaving the most obese or repellent member of their clique at the post at all times to snarl at anyone who so much as set half a cheek down for two seconds. Which was fine, because by the time CAKE came out I had completely forgotten I was wearing boots with four-inch heels (so sue me, there were seat numbers on the tickets, and I’d wear them again even knowing what I know now). I paid dearly the next day, but as Grandma used to quote from the dialogue concerning a shoe-related injury in Little Women, “But, dear me, let us be elegant or die!”

It was also hot on the dance floor, causing most people to tie the sleeves of sweaters and jackets around their waists early on. At one point I looked around and noticed a tall bearded man just in front of us who was still wearing a blue quilted jacket and ratty fedora (or was it a trucker cap?), and I thought, “I’ll take my coat off when that guy does.” I lost track of him and finally tied my black wool coat around my waist like everybody else, only to notice later that as CAKE took the stage, John McCrea was doffing the aforementioned outerwear. He is surprisingly tall compared to inebriated Utahans.

CAKE was great, and the crowd was mellow (aside from that horrid stool stinginess). We got the bonus Buck Owens cover but we didn’t get Lenny’s theme song, “Satan is my Motor,” so I was .005% disappointed. I’d still go again every night this week if it were an option, inclement weather or not.

I have a lot of crushes on any given day (Monday, January 30th, 2006: Jack Johnson, Daniel Craig, Clinton Kelly, and the Honda Ridgeline) but I’ve had a crush on Vince DiFiore since he was a guest soloist at a college jazz festival I attended around a decade ago, shortly after “The Distance” put CAKE on the pop radar. And I’ve never even gotten an honest good look at his face.

Obviously, there’s CAKE on my iPod, keeping company with Enya, Bare Naked Ladies, Chick Corea, Jack Johnson, Paul Simon, Frank Sinatra, Sublime, Itzhak Perlman, Billy Joel, some movie soundtracks (no Disney today, I swear!), and Rascal Flatts. What a hodgepodge. It’s my study soundtrack. It’s amazing how bored you can get just reading more about what you do at work every day.

Is “exceedence” a word, or does the E.P.A. just like baiting me?

Jeff called the plant’s resident winter-white weasel “cute as a bug’s ear” today. This from the man who once stomped a thumb-sized mouse right in front of me. Of course, the weasel was carrying the late mouse’s late cousin, so that might explain Jeff’s sudden affection for a rodent.

*I don’t know if it’s a seasonal thing or what, but the cats are driving me crazy. They require constant diversion or they develop the potential to make total pests of themselves. Good thing a major diversion for cats is sleeping. Just for the record, I would never really skin them. But if they don’t stop shedding, I may shave them bald.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

I'm Racist...

and I didn't even know it.

CAKE would still be my heroes even if they hadn't played a very CAKEd cover of Buck Owens' "Excuse Me (I Think I've Got a Heartache)," but for that I admire them even more.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Leap of Faith

To a rocket I’ve been tied
I’m ready for that screamin’ ride
It’s full of fuel and I just lit the fuse

I’m a raging, burning ring of fire
And I get hotter as I get higher
And I’m tearin’ a hole right through that sky of blue

When I woke up this morning, I was making exactly $1.00 per hour less than I am now. How's that for a Friday? (Well it's my Friday.) Bud seems to get a kick out of making me really happy. I can't believe I took a chance and got this lucky.

If a promotion and raise aren't reason enough to be elated, everything else about the day is:

-So what if there were four more inches of snow this morning? I got to spend an hour in the Case backhoe with Bruce plowing the parking lot. (I love playing in the backhoe, and I think the world of Bruce.)

-The fourth-grade class we gave a presentation to yesterday will be coming to the plant this afternoon, and they're a lot of fun and full of surprises. (Never open the floor of a fourth-grade classroom for questions. You get stories. "One time," said a little brown-haired girl, "our sink exploded." Well, it's water-related, right?)

-My prospects this weekend are fantastic. There's shopping with Mom and Morgan tomorrow and CAKE Saturday and dinner at Bekah and Chad's Sunday, and if that weren't enough, I lost a pound this week without even exercising.

-And my house somehow cleaned itself last night while I got a Billy Joel overdose from the iPod.

-I've listened to "Leap of Faith" by Big and Rich over 1,000 times, trying to figure out why I love it so much. (I'm serious. I listened to it repeatedly all the way to Mom's and back one weekend, which is 200 miles round-trip.) It's not the lyrics, which aren't super sophisticated. It's not the
two contrasting, acrobatic voices in perfect complement, or even the surprising gratuitous cello riff I caught about the 5th time through. I can't quite put my finger on it, but it's just great. Go download it. Now. And tell me why it's got me hypnotized.

-I slept like the dead last night for the first time in weeks and woke up ready to join the circus.

My God, what a beautiful day.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Gene Weingarten doesn't get any better than this. A long and worthy read with a sinister twist, ripped off from Dave Barry's blog.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


In case you were wondering: yes, I am normal today. I'm back on my feet. I'm up to the challenge. I'm still harboring secrets, but they're the good kind. You have to remember that the blog is my therapy, and sometimes my dark side comes out on these pages. I am not prone to depression or angst; in fact, this winter has been one of the most emotionally difficult seasons I've ever had (worse than my teens, because at that time I wasn't conscious of the potential for true happiness in life). And it'll be a month at least before I know if the pill had anything to do with it. (Please see the bookie if you'd like to place a bet.)

Bud came into the control room this morning and asked me to go into his office and type up the letter he left there, written on notebook paper in his heiroglyphic scrawl. "Make it sound good. And make it look, you know, official." It was a letter asking Oop to promote me to a Level I Operator (from an Operator in Training). Being in the fragile state that I am, I nearly bawled over the nice things it said. My last shred of doubt about fitting in faded while I typed.

He stuck his head in while I was wrangling with the margins in Wordpad. "Is it grammatically correct?"

"Would Oop know if it wasn't?" He laughed and shut the door, making the blinds rattle.

After that Jeff and I went around to the elementary schools to collect bacteriological samples to send to the lab in Cheyenne. (We call it Bac-T, a test for harmless coliform bacteria that may indicate the presence of pathogens. How often you test depends on the size of your system; we take ten a month, five at a time.) Having done this for decades, Jeff moves like a magician, breaking the label on the bottle (which is prepackaged with sodium thiosulfate, a preservative acid) almost too fast to see, swirling the mouth under the tap with a flourish and sealing the lid before any bacteria has a chance to get in. (Get a bad Bac-T back and you'll be taking samples up and down the line until doomsday.) He disinfects the faucet with a lighter (which Travis has enthusiastically customized to provide a three-inch flame) after removing the aerator, making the room reek of burnt metal. I take a chlorine residual to make sure the distribution line is carrying enough to remain disinfected. I adore the rosy blush of chlorinated water when I mix in the powdered packet of DPD reagent, and I can tell within .05 mg/L what the outcome will be just by the shade of pink.

I love taking Bac-Ts, mostly because it's something different from the everyday grind. I love being in the truck with Jeff, who keeps the heater full-blast (when it gets too hot he just rolls down the window) and the country station on low. He always thinks of two or three errands to run between stops and meets half a dozen buddies along the way who want to visit, most of whom harrass him about good-ol'-boy things and wink at me from beneath the brims of stained Stetsons to make sure I appreciate their wit. And I do. I like going to the schools, even though all schools have that smell, the musty/soapy/perfume smell that fires my mind like a slingshot back to the tortuous schooldays I survived before Bekah came along. I dislike going out to the hospital because we have to use the tap in the men's room and it apparently annoys men to find a woman fooling around at the sink with a glass tube full of pink water. Jeff got so he just holds the door open and shoos them away.

When we got back to the plant I read my favorite columns in Sports Illustrated: Rick Reilly's brilliant Life of Reilly (today a gut-busting sarcastic rant on the questionable nature of Olympic skeleton), "They Said It" (there appears to be a rather high percentage of people associated with sports who are completely uneducated and genuinely stupid), and the "Sign of the Apocalypse" box. I also like the "Pop Grid" section where they ask four athletes questions regarding current music, books, trends, movies, etc., which shows just how completely out of touch most professional athletes really are. Oddly enough, it's the hockey players who appear to be the most steeped in reality. In today's grid they asked, "How many television sets do you own?" and one football player responded, "Twenty, but ten aren't hooked up right now." Oh honestly, people.

I think there are some pilgrimages in store this weekend, and maybe a musical experience, a pleasant dinner, some creativity (because somebody jumped my battery with new art supplies) and hopefully some writing, because I've obviously got some great ideas.

Monday, January 23, 2006


I can't remember ever feeling this raw and vulnerable, and yet, it doesn't seem all that unfamiliar. I was already a mess- despite having had a peaceful day and a quiet but entertaining evening thanks to the comments feature, the phone, and IM- when I loaded the iPod Lenny sent me (drag me kicking and screaming into the 21st century, will you) with the mp3 files already on my Vaio. They turned out to be the music I burned for Dad's funeral, and any song might have been better than the first one I heard, Andie McDowell singing- each tremolo ringing with vivid honesty- "Sittin' by the Side of the Road" from the soundtrack to Michael, a movie Dad adored. So then I was a bawling basket case for a while. Now I'm the strangest combination of wistful peace and misery. It's confusing.

I hate to use the term "depression," but I just can't get it together. I used to wonder why they depicted people in the movies just laying there looking pensive and teary-eyed. I can normally daydream while I'm functioning. Tonight it's all I can do to pick up the objects that make me happiest. (Now it's Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky." Now Johnny Cash, "Orange Blossom Special.")

Some incredible things are happening to me right now. I think about them constantly. (Bonnie Raitt, "Feels Like Home." What she's singing about is all I ever asked for.) So why do I feel like I'll never see them through, despite evidence to the contrary? Why am I so exhausted? (Alison Krauss, "Down in the River to Pray.") I'm still making plans. By Sunday I should be put back together, a masterpiece.

This iPod may revolutionize my life.

You just can't take me seriously.

Monday Regurgitation

I laughed my way carelessly through Desperate Housewives last night and then thought I might faint, so I decided I'd make an appointment today. Dr. Archer doesn't know what's wrong with me, either, but all the evidence points to a hormone imbalance and he proposed I try to replicate my lifestyle back in August, when things were smooth sailing, including switching back to my original generic. I didn't expect an instant reprieve. The pain seems to be easing this afternoon, and I slept like a rock last night despite it all, for the first time in weeks. I am not one to go to the doctor unless I'm fountaining blood or growing scales, but persistent pain makes Mom nervous.

CAKE is going to be at the Depot in SLC Saturday, and I haven't been this close to where they are since San Diego. I have to work Sunday because Jeff is roping in Rock Springs (he has to take time off or lose it, the freak), and the show doesn't start until 10:00 at night, but what the heck- I'm young and strong, right? Right?

The application for my Level II test is due by April so Molly and Kim can schedule the tests for the first part of May. I downloaded the study guide and pulled out the big guns, the three-inch-thick Ken Kerry correspondence courses from UC Sacramento. I started in on cross-connections this morning, worked through backflow prevention devices and read some worst-case scenarios, like the time at a mortuary where loss of pressure in a line caused blood from a body in the embalming room to be backsiphoned into the potable water line through a hose that was attached to a faucet. Or the time that a man jumped into the shower only to find that the water bubbled on his burning skin like Alka-Seltzer; sodium hydroxide from a chemical delivery truck had been sucked into the water line due to a break in the main two blocks down, where the water registered an alkalinity of thirteen. A Bible-study group with toxic Kool-Aid, a whole city block with flourescent pesticides coming out the tap, the water on two floors of a hospital (where the dialysis machines were located) contaminated by antifreeze from an unused boiler system. Cross-connections are a dangerous thing, my dears.

Today is the anniversary of my first day at the plant. It's been a whole year and I still love it. I'll always be restless, I suppose, ready and waiting for whatever's next, but in 365 days there has never been a single morning when I woke up not wanting to go to work (at least not because of work). The awkward stage when the conversations were like Greek to me has passed, and the time of standing uselessly by and watching while everybody else worked is long gone, too. It's a fulfilling realization, and I am grateful to the three men who were so patient with me, especially Jeff. Besides, I've found my niche. I'm the only one brave enough to reboot a computer.

I'm still enjoying being a blonde. Morgan tried to describe the color to Kelly and came up with "Winnie the Pooh." Jo said, "Well, hey, floozy" and Lenny said, "You look like Madonna." (Twenty years ago, though, right?) Mr. Goodwrench got pensive and finally admitted, "it's gonna take some getting used to," but I think he likes it.

Jeff and I went to City Hall today to pick up the PowerPoint projector for my trip Wednesday to see Mrs. Welling's 3rd grade class. Jo said Don is bored stiff, but walking and talking normally. He's read everything in the house and gotten frustrated with the internet already, so I plan to take him some C.J. Box books and introduce him to ESPN.com and Google. Susan's Chevy Malibu got brutalized by a deer who flew off a ten-foot snowbank in Logan Canyon and landed on her hood. Jeff and I tried out the new John Deere mini-snowplow when we thought no one was looking, and Martha told us we could take it. She doesn't like it and it tried to kill Frankie. He had the blade down so far that the front tires were lifted eight inches off the ground, and when he hit a joint in the pavement it threw him into the windshield. Lucky for him he has that metal plate in his head.

I'm halfway through John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, and already I can tell I'm going to have to reread it. I get distracted by the fire and brimstone of Judgment Day and lose track of poor Christian's adventures. "Judgment" is a word that gets misspelled terribly often, isn't it?

This post is yet more proof that ibuprofen makes me babble.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Calling the Shots

I slapped the brochure for a series of two-day chlorine disinfection seminars down on the cluttered break room table in front of Bud.

"What are the chances of me going to one of these? Jackson, Thermopolis, whatever."

He put on his reading glasses and shook out a menthol Marlboro he knows better than to light in my presence, made a sweeping gesture with it. "Would you rather go to Jackson for two days, or Casper for four in April? I thought you might want to go the Rural Water spring training conference."

I refrained from jumping up and down and hugging him and tried to act nonchalant. "No yeah, that's a better idea. That's fine." He smirked, so I threw the brochure at him.

The odd thing about Bud has nothing to do with how fanatically observant he is or how little he fits in here in the town where he grew up. It isn't that he's a fifty-something who plays X-Box, reads science fiction, avoids his siblings and argues with his ex-wife at work everyday, since she's the Public Works secretary. No, the creepy thing about Bud is that he has vampire eyes. His indistinct pupils smudge outward into a white ring that fades to a pale blue iris ringed in some nondescript darkness, and if I'd never seen him anywhere but at Kate's after sunset, I'd totally think he was one of the undead. It's an even better effect when he's hungover, when they're glossy and bloodshot.

I went up the river to the State Park to ski Friday and take some pictures for painting reference, and maybe see if some sunshine would improve my mood. The SPF-40 smelled like the lake and made me feel worse. It was twenty-nine degrees and snowing halfheartedly from a clear sky, so I wrapped a scarf around my face to save my lungs and moved smoothly and swiftly along the groomed trails. The thing that I love about Nordic skiing is the rhythm, the perpetual shove and glide, poles punching icy crust with every swing.

After about an hour I put both poles in my left hand and started snapping pictures with the Olympus while I went. I stopped to use the digital zoom to get the two fat, lazy captive bull elk in their pen, and when I was putting the camera back in the breast pocket of my Columbia, the snow shifted under my right ski and I went down hard on my right arm (It happens so fast there's nothing you can do, not even swear.) I was right by the road and the four inches of snow wasn't much cushion. My elbow's still stiff today, and it makes me feel old.

Mom and I watched The Quiet Man two weeks ago; she said it was one of Dad's favorite movies. I'm not a big John Wayne fan (I find his gargoyle face unbearable), despite the fact that he may be a distant relative of Cordale's, but I loved Quiet because of Father Paul and Reverend Cyril. John Wayne belongs to that brotherhood of stoic leading men
- like Kevin Costner and Clint Eastwood- who can't actually act, but who seem to get lucky enough to be cast as the same person every time, and we love them for it. I have no problem with this at all.

The larger of my two cats, a male Maine Coon, is by far the more affectionate; whenever he wants attention he rubs the shelf of bone beneath his gigantic yellow marble eye on my hand or slams his head into my calf. But I never thought he was the smart one- until now.

When he hacks like he's going to whork up a hairball (a rare occurrence, since I brush him frequently), I give him a blob of Vaseline, which he enthusiastically licks off my finger. So recently when I was pressed for time on my lunch break and I resisted his friendly overtures (it's hard to ignore a 16 lb. cat), I heard him start hacking under the table and obliged with the petroleum blob, and he left me alone. Usually the symptoms persist in the evening and then disappear for several days, but the next day I shoved his paws off my thigh (he's 24 inches long without the 12 inches of fluffy tail, larger than most small dogs, and stands about 14 inches tall at the shoulder when he's not slinking) and pretty soon under the table I heard, "Hack, hock. Wheeze." More jelly. Same thing next day.

Of course, this has become a pattern. I never hear him cough at night now, only at lunch, and it's worse when I slide him across the kitchen linoleum on his side like a huge, furry Shuffleboard puck in an attempt to gain a moment's peace while he collects his dignity. Therefore, I must surmise that he is faking, the clever snot. So how do I know when he really needs the gunk? After this, no more cats. I'll stick to rainbow Betas in a cup or maybe no pet at all. I don't like things that think they're smarter than me.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Thursday Morning Fog

The Overthrust

I-80 and the grounds of the Wyoming State Hospital

South Evanston along the Bear River

Friday, January 20, 2006

Traffic Jam

One afternoon a few weeks ago Travis and I stood at the top of the hill watching the drama caused by the driver of a Dodge Durango, who inadvertently took the off-ramp at Harrison Drive back onto I-80 going east in the westbound lane. He had a head-on collision with a semi and was pronounced dead at the scene. Traffic had to be diverted through town from the exit at Front Street, which made downtown a nasty mess. We turned the radio in the City truck to the police band and heard them call Jeff the Animal Control officer to come out and get the driver's dog. Sadness and trauma for everyone. (Hey, I can see my sister's house.)




Bear River

Whose Woods These Are

Bear River II

My Shadow


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

S.A.D. Sets In

Apparently you can be just a phone call or a short drive away from people who love you and still feel utterly alone.

I am horribly crabby this month, this January of diluted sunlight and three-foot snowdrifts the impossible consistency of sifted flour. I've called to have my Prescription rerouted to WalMart (oh, horrors!) because I can't take any more of City Drug's vicious generic, Tri-Sprintec. It causes me to throw tantrums and race lowlives in imports and shirk my creative ambitions.

So, to appease my dark side, I made plans to visit a Wolff tanning bed and ordered a
long-coveted item of summer-themed jewelry I may be bored with in a year, but can always sell on ebay when the sun comes out again. In a further attempt to improve my mood, I made a list of things that make me happy, and you may feel free to skip it, because I'm pretty sure that your idea of being content nowhere near resembles mine. It starts here:

Sweet and sour. Battle Chess. Freudian slips. The Parts department. Turquoise lakes. Cotton thongs. Horseback rides. Chicken fried steak. Log siding. Contraries. Big & Rich. Free parking. Paperbacks. Steak and other "rare" protein. The Great Race. Yellow Plymouth SuperBirds. Ravel's Bolero. Fly Me to the Moon. Beaded chokers.
Commercial-free (unless it's the SuperBowl). Järvinen skis. Captain Morgan® Tattoo. Bass clefs. Futurama. Lip gloss. Road trips. Vegas. Sakura Pigma Micron Pens. Linen, silk and wool. Liquitex acrylic in Titanium White. Farr ice cream in Licorice. OPI lacquer in "Nice Color, Eh?" and "Don't Be Koi With Me." Sunday afternoon naps. Moonlight. Hammocks. Dirt roads. Philadelphia rolls. Freshwater pearls. 501 Jeans. WWII Airplane Spotter Cards. TLC. Inside jokes. Liquid eyeliner. Bivouacs. Flip-flops. Pools. Hot baths. Puddles. Baby grands. Monte. Macaroni and cheese. Olympus Stylus Verve. Alcoholic beverages with tiny plastic swords. Handball. Campfires and charred marshmallows on willow branches. Going to extremes. Lemon yogurt. You.

I could have included about a hundred movie titles, and the one I did is not necessarily my favorite. It just makes me happy, because, you know, Jack Lemmon and Peter Falk, and the pie fight. So I guess I should have put Paint Your Wagon in too, because when the bull is chasing Lee Marvin, I laugh so hard I choke.

And also, because I need the adrenaline
and I get a pleasant chemical kick out of disliking them so much, a list of things I really don't like:

Monkeys (chimpanzees, gorillas, gibbons, orangutans, all monkeys but especially baboons). Cigarette smoke. Apostrophe misuse. Postage rate increases. Hybrid vehicles. Rap. Heartburn. Teenagers. Reality TV. People who bring babies to the theater. The sound of breaking glass. Blowing sand. Fingernails on a chalkboard. Pompous public officials. Commercialized holidays. News anchorwomen.

Thinking of things for list #2 turned out to be boring, so I'm going to make chocolate pudding and some phone calls, and then I'll see where I'm at. It can't be any less fun that here.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Blonde Ambition

I woke up one morning last week wishing I was anyone but me, so I bleached my hair the color it was when I was ten and spent five hours every day in the pool. I walked into the motel office Thursday night and Mom said, "You're back!" And she wasn't talking about me being in LaBarge. And I feel more like myself than I have in a long, long time.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Icy Tracks

Thursday, January 12, 2006

A Place in the Sun

Decker and Dad on Highway 189

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Miracle on Ice

On my 25th birthday in August of 2004, the girls at City Hall had their way with my adorable SUV while they sent me on pointless errands in the mayor's Ford Expedition. It took them half a package of Oreos to spell out "25!" and it took me over a year to get those unearthly blobs of waxy sugar off my hood.

(When the ladies each turned 50 or 60 I retaliated by filling their file drawers with photocopied flyers featuring rude clichés and blackmail photos, screwing up the color on their monitors, and plastering their desks with black crepe streamers, but the point of this post was not to incriminate myself.)

This is about Monte, my nimble little '87 Dodge Raider, and since today is our 9th anniversary, I am compelled to celebrate the milestone and pay homage to one of the trustiest vehicles Mitsubishi ever made.

I bought Monte from my dad in 1997, in January of my senior year. He picked it up at E&L Motors in Kemmerer, WY and drove it to San Diego to sell. I recognized it instantly; it belonged to my 5th grade band director Don Hinton, and it was the only automobile I ever wanted when I was ten years old. I think I gave Dad $2,500 for it, and he said (and I quote), "sure, it'll get you around for a few years." (Just last winter
when I rattled up one weekend I caught him shaking his head and saying, "I just can't believe that little puddle jumper.") It had just over 100,000 miles and almost all the original components, plus some fish hooks from my grade school classmate Dominic Nardelli, who had owned it for a brief time after Mr. Hinton traded it in. The body was in great shape, the paint serene and glossy, the fabric seats sound and soft, and I put a set of $40 tires on it that lasted for 90,000 miles and installed the JVC cassette player from Morgan’s poor wrecked Mazda RX-7.

My buddies dubbed it "The Refrigerator" almost instantly; he's also known as "Montezuma" (the family took to calling him Monte) or "The Ice Cream Truck," due to rather sluggish acceleration. Make no mistake- once he gets going Monte can really move along and there's nothing he can't climb; Mr. Goodwrench says he drives like a CJ-7 Jeep. He has a 14-gallon gas tank and gets 25 miles to the gallon on the highway.
Open the hood and all the parts proudly bear the tri-pronged Mitsubishi logo and instructions in Japanese. The only automatic devices he offers are a tailgate lock/unlock switch on the dash and auto free-wheel hubs. I use the 4x4 maybe twice a year in the winter; he's that reliable on bad roads. I drove him all over California and back and forth to Phoenix and Wyoming several times without a hitch. I can break into him in less than 3 minutes when I lock the keys inside and the original key is worn so smooth I can slip it out of the ignition with the engine still running. The air conditioning doesn’t work (I never bothered to recharge the Freon) but with the windows rolled down that perfect square uses every available breeze to the best advantage, and for our first few years together we were beach bums and A/C was for wimps.

My ex once charged, "You love that car more than you love me." I'll be damned; he may have been right.
I can’t fathom what I’m going to do without Monte some inevitable day. I know it’s crazy, but you just wouldn’t believe how much of my heart and soul is wrapped up in those four loyal little cylinders. Monte’s gotten me out of more scrapes and been more steadfast than most of my people-friends ever were. He’s the perfect road trip companion and he doesn’t mind my singing. For nine years I’ve seen the world through his clear square panes of non-tinted glass, and it may never look better.

Wrinkled and wrecked, threadbare of fabric and muddy and matted of carpet, with a cracked windshield (the third day post-installation [after we got dive-bombed by a kamikaze owl] it got nailed by a rock in road construction on Highway 189), Monte still starts when it’s twenty below and there’s nothing wrong with his heater. Rust blooms on the once shiny paint and whole inner panels have corroded away due to the salty, humid air of San Diego. A Buddha sticker covers a slice in the ceiling upholstery and out of superstition I never removed the wooden rosary from the rearview mirror where Oscar hung it five years ago. The drop-down back seat and cargo area are usually full of bike parts and skis, racquets, boots and gloves, crumpled maps, puppy fur, dried leaves, California sand and sprigs of sagebrush.

After nine long years together, I recognize the symptoms of most of the problems that beset the little engine that could better than I know those of my own body. He backfires like a tractor and rattles like a diesel, ticks when he needs oil, and I keep begging him, “Come on, just one more winter together and then I’ll retire you to Mom.” She claimed him in his final years some time ago, and the only trips he’ll make then will be leisurely crawls up in the mountains to discover the tranquil pine glens she craves.

Monte's been benched for several weeks (since that cold snap finally did the starter in) but Mr. Goodwrench deftly resuscitated him and had the girl at J.C. Electric put new brushes in the remanufactured starter I've never replaced in nine years. I cracked the head once driving to L.A. with a busted thermostat, Dad bought me a clutch when the original started to snag, and Mr. Goodwrench has put a water pump and the rebuilt alternator in (bad brushes in it, too, but what do you expect), and other than that it's only been belts and bolts and everyday wear and tear. He’s creeping up on 250,000 miles, but I fully expect Monte to make it to 300,000, and when that day comes I promise you one hell of a party. Here's to the best car a girl ever had. (Thanks, Dad.)

Sunday, January 08, 2006


That Expression You Never Wore Again

Jeff and I can sit for hours at a stretch in companionable silence. He’s reading the course requirements for his January goal, and I should be studying for my Level II certification in May, but instead I’m trying to make sense of 2005 and plot my progress in 2006.

Rebekah’s baby shower was 100% fun, even the part that’s still nauseating to recall: Sara nuked several unused disposable diapers in which she had placed a variety of chocolate bars, and we had to guess what kind they were. Kathryn and I were the only ones who seemed to have a problem with it. I’ve never considered myself squeamish, but the more time I spend around hunters and babies, the more I find I have a weak stomach after all.

True to her family’s bookish roots, Bekah requested books for the baby, which was the most sensible thing I had ever heard. Passing around the glossy pastel library that resulted reminded me of the sketchbooks full of characters and storylines stored in flat crates under my bed. I have long toyed with the idea of writing children’s books; I lean towards fantastic characters and happy endings as bookends for pretty morals, and it may be the only way I can pursue my dual talents of art and literature and do something meaningful with both. I’m finally beginning to understand, however- due to sage advice from many sources- that I still have plenty of time. Without the urgency, creating just comes naturally. I guess that goes for babies, too, doesn’t it, Bekah?

I watched what may amount to a combined total of almost 10 hours of Futurama over the weekend, and now I’m having the strangest dreams.

Brock Yates is my hero. I'll bother to qualify that later.

20 MPH




The Strand




Thursday, January 05, 2006

A Wicked Disappointment

Gregory Maguire must have gotten bored with his Wicked tale somewhere around Act V, because the politics of Oz, previously riveting, are suddenly a muddled mess, and the Elphaba we think we know loses all pride and pizazz. He never explains several characters, creates promising leads for others that are never pursued, kills many off in a most unnecessary glut of pointless violence, and disregards the course of events we know from the original story. I don't require a happy ending, but I demand a little redemption, and at the very least an explanation. Wicked is very beautifully imagined until a certain point; it began so magically, why couldn't it finish that way?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006




Sunday, January 01, 2006

Get Thee Behind Me

Buh-bye, 2005. (You may need to register, but it's totally worth it. I was very afraid we were going to have to do without it this year, because Dave has been on hiatus since last January, but as usual, he came through.)

I can't say I'm sorry to see 2005 go, but the symbolism of New Year's Eve just didn't provide the usual solace and hope this year. I am too weary to conjure up the clean slate imagery, too raw and grieving to be sentimental over "Auld Lang Syne," not even D.J. Irene's inflamed remix.

Somehow, I am still eager. I sense great things are coming, and I have never been wrong about that feeling.

Midnight at the Vortex meant a crushing throng and mind-numbing noise, a throbbing felt in the bones rather than heard, the floor sagging with every stomping beat. The crowd was packed so tight that the stamp on the back of my hand was rubbed off, and the strobe lights and smoke and heat made me ferocious, made me want to bite and kick and scratch. By the time we shoved our way through the two-story crowd and out into the street, the icy rain felt so good that we jogged through it with upturned faces, splashing in gritty puddles, passing people in scarves and down parkas who looked alarmed. I had five pounds of flashing beads around my neck, a small bag of gold plastic coins in my pocket for Cordale's treasure chest, and my jaw was wound so tight that all I had to do to make the left side snap like an incinerated log was pronounce the word "good."

The Vortex is a club encased in one of those glorious old mansions on State Street in Salt Lake City, and I spent the beginning of the evening trying to envision the original splendor of the parlor, the hall, the staircase, the long drawing room with its faceted columns and stone fireplace. The recent wave of strange weather continued, and tall windows framed the city glow and arcing sheets of rain.

After we left the city at 1:00 a.m., we climbed Parleys Summit in what were the worst road conditions I have ever seen on I-80, thick, swirling snowflakes from seeded clouds clogging the lanes, even worse than that legendary night on Donner Pass in December of 2002. (I have never felt so haunted.) Parleys has been worse, don't ge me wrong. But it was the worst I've ever seen it. People die on Parleys, and this was true even before there was I-80. I absorbed the compelling imagery of Utah's flashing snowplows pressing regally down the hill in the opposing lanes, four abreast but slightly staggered left to right, so each took the piled line of snow and passed it to the next like a chain of cupped hands moving water.

I hope January 1st doesn't set the tone for the rest of the year, because I slept until after noon and I intend to do very little that could be considered constructive.