Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Comfort and Other Hazards of Fleece

Water sampling, believe it or not, can be a very dry subject. So no matter how flashy the Powerpoint or freezing the room or engaging the presenter, I suppose it was bound to happen.

As the monotone rep from Energy Labs droned on about preservatives like sodium thiosulfate and hydrochloric acid, I was descending into cryogenic sleep, eyes fixed on the glowing EXIT sign over the heads of some 50 men on pink hotel chairs. Then I began to hear a noise, an occasional low growl that quickly evolved into steadily intermittent, dull nasal snore. As it grew louder, I heard a high-pitched male giggle and assumed someone was trying to illustrate a point, one that really needed no public demonstration. We were all going slowly mad.

The snoring continued long after even the most juvenile joker would have been amused, so I snuck a glance across the aisle- and had to look again. Alone in the adjacent row was a heavy woman in a pastel pink fleece hoodie, her hands folded neatly on her stomach, the wild corkscrews of her long, graying blonde hair obscuring her face as her head drooped heavily forward over her chest. The three men in the row behind her were beside themselves, desperately gripping their chairs as they struggled not to guffaw, their eyes bulging and their knuckles white. The man directly behind me muttered, "Good Lord."

She dozed on for fifteen minutes, and as the rep rounded the corner into sample longevity she took one deep, silent breath and lifter her head, eyes open. She observed the final half hour of the session as if she'd heard every word.

Later over steaks at Poorboy's I described the scene for Bud, who chuckled, nodding. "Every year I come here it seems like I have at least one class with her, and she does it every time."

I don't care how funny the men thought it was. I was secretly jealous.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Business Trip

The sun was just beginning to take a rosy interest in the day as I descended the bare U.V. steps Saturday. I've glimpsed the herd of muledeer earlier than ever, grazing in a hollow behind the plant, and the damned marmots- the low, slinky, orange-bellied rodents Jeff calls rock chucks- are coming out of hibernation already. They tunnel under concrete and cause structures to collapse, and they view the U.V. steps as their personal toilet. Last year we tried to gas them. This year we're shooting.

I'll be out of town now until Thursday afternoon, and I know how much is going to change in just four short days- more green fuzzy grass, more buds, more birds. Bud and I are attending Wyoming Rural Water's annual spring conference in Casper, which I've been looking forward to. Greeley was such a quick trip that it didn't really feel like getting out of town, and I was so wrapped up in family that I forgot to take in the scenery.

So I won't have time to work on the dozen or so posts I've started, and I need to step up the studying or I'm going to go down in flames in Rock Springs on May 24th, the day my Level III Certification exam is tentatively scheduled. Just keep reminding me: convert cubic feet to gallons. (Multiply by 7.48.) I really do mean to blog more. Honest. Life just keeps getting in the way.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Snowmobiling on the Greys

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Tromp l'oeil

I am absorbed by this sudden spring, a steaming, sodden time with trees full of taunting birds and a sky full of light I forgot the stunning quality of as I languished through the dreary months between. We drove up the river yesterday to look for murkiness and color, the greenish-yellow tint that means we’ll have to start adding a secondary coagulant or the U.V. reactor will become our worst nightmare, demanding care like a spoiled child. We got out on the bridge by Ernest’s Grove and while Travis walked around looking for a rock to drop- to see if the frozen layer was still ice or just slush- I put my pale hands out flat on the concrete rail and turned my face to the sun. I could have stood there like that all afternoon, until the fragile skin on the bridge of my nose turned raw, burned by the same dangerous light harnessed in our troublesome reactor to inactivate pathogens in water.

I read plenty of viciously critical reviews of turnips before I brought a few home, but this evening I skinned and sliced them, boiled them with salt and crushed cloves of fragrant garlic, and mashed them with margarine and low-fat sour cream. They’re pleasant and mildly sweet, rather woody but not stringy, and a perfectly welcome addition to my potato-less existence. I was recently accused of having the diet of a homeless person, addicted as I am to canned tuna, microwaved yams, and avocados with pepper jack cheese, so I’m endeavoring to broaden my culinary horizons. I got tilapia filets and edimame and more red pepper hummus last trip to the grocery store, so I expect the insults to end.

Bud brought the swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated to the plant but tried to minimize my exposure to it, lest I be offended. (I just wanted to read Rick Reilly’s column and peruse the suits, none of which I will be secure enough to wear until I get a breast reduction, but still.) It came with a variety of GMC truck ads featuring red and blue color-bled images that required 3-D glasses to view, which were included. One page had no truck whatsoever, no sign of bumper, tailgate, or fender, but instead featured a model with some kind of gauzy white fabric draped around her, and viewed through the glasses it appeared to be flowing right off the page. The bi-colored lenses made me nauseated for some reason, so I had to take them off. But I still enjoy the number of tricks that can be played on our eyes.

And that’s what this mid-March spring is, a trick, a jest. I know Wyoming well enough to realize that not even global warming is going to bring me spring this early.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Runaway Music

I accidentally discovered a new sound to love. If you love all things brass as much as I do and happen to be of Slavic descent- as I am- you may love it, too. (Mister Anchovy, I give you Peter Stan, accordion wizard, who has been known to actually steal things from people's ears with his music.) It sounds like the best ethnic marching garage band ever, and it's heartening to know that somewhere in Brooklyn, this incredibly culturally diverse group of musicians is making a lot of fun noise. But what's with the rooster?

The funniest coincidence about me discovering this bunch (in a MassMOCA flyer no less, Larry!) is that they recently headlined for the group, Gogol Bordello, that headlined for CAKE when they came to Salt Lake City in December 2005. I wasn't that impressed with Gogol, but I think it's safe to say that if they sounded anything like Slavic Soul Party!, I would have liked them a whole lot more.

And speaking of sounds I love, Miss Angie's senior recital in Greeley, Colorado last Tuesday at Foundation Hall was a superb performance. When she and five other trombonists played the final piece- her very own arrangement of Mozart's Tuba mirum, from Requiem- I wept. Mostly it was the result of extreme family travel-induced giddiness and the big-sisterly devotion I feel towards this lovely little cousin who had the heart and the stomach for the years of advanced technical training on the trombone that I could never have faced. But they were also selfish tears for me, because circumstances have decreed that I set my own bass trombone aside for a while, until the opportunity comes along for me to pick it up again. There are days, like Tuesday, when I miss playing with a good group like I would miss breathing if I were forced to suspend that too.

When we met Angie earlier that afternoon outside the hall, every last person on the bus sported a pair of plastic Billy Bob teeth. (Eileen leaned over to Cheri when her teeth were in place and quipped, “For ten dollar, me love you long time.” Apparently that’s how her son answers his cellular phone when he can identify the caller.) Angie did a double take and then doubled over. Far from being embarrassed, she tried to hug everyone at once and announced that she almost peed her pants. Her senior recital was presented in partial fulfillment of her Bachelor of Music Education degree from UNC, and we couldn't be more proud of her.

To top off a week of musical adventure, I slipped down to the Beeman-Cashin Friday night to see an old friend of Kelly and Morgan’s, that flat-picking maniac from Ten Sleep, Jalan Crossland. He hauled out the banjo and the Nebraska Whackadoo and howled about trains, trailer parks, Dick Cheney, bourbon, atomic energy, shadows of crows, alcoholism, rock shops, and other popular topics of Wyoming life, but he does it with such charm and wit that you can’t help but stomp along.

Knees bent, head drooped, shoulders bobbing, he strums and slams whatever stringed instrument he’s clutching to produce folksy bluegrass chucks and waltzes with a mean modern bent. I bought Kelly a birthday copy of Jalan’s newest album, “Trailer Park Fires & Other Tragedies,” more tongue-in-cheek, acid social commentary featuring songs like “Methamphetamine Saturday Night In The Country With You” and “The Little Girl & The Dreadful Snake.” Good times. I may regret not picking up a beer can warmer emblazoned with the lyrics (from “My Home Is On The Bighorn Mountain” from his Moonshiner album): Darlin’ you’ve been pourin’ liquor down me/ Hopin’ I’ll start wantin’ you around me/ But there ain’t enough liquor in the County/ To drink the ugly offa you.

Happy Birthday to Kelly (38 on the 11th) and Lenny (28 on the 13th) who each got exactly what they wanted (and deserved) for themselves: Lasik in both blue eyes for Kelly, the Husqvarna TE-610 for Lenny. So nobody better fuss if I buy myself an Exocet Cross 84 or NANO when August rolls around.

If ran away tomorrow, all I’d need on the iPod is Sheryl Crow’s “Steve McQueen.”

Monday, March 05, 2007

Intersections & Crossroads

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Remembering February

Salt Palace, Salt Lake City

Green River, Wyoming

Green River, Wyoming

Wasatch Range, Utah