Thursday, October 25, 2007

OK, Winter

Bring it on.There's a pair of these in my closet. Do your worst. They buckle perfectly into my snowshoes with no slipping, and they'll be great for climbing hills when I'm sledding. (Plus, if you're paying attention to that sort of thing, you'll notice they match my new car.)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Wrapping Up

I can't put my finger on anything, it seems. My mind twists and tumbles like sneakers in a dryer. When I'm walking hard and fast it spins out of control like the pinwheels in the gardens I pass. The realization of these mental characteristics makes me wonder whether or not I ever thought in complete sentences.

I'm fighting off the doldrums, though. Today was a gorgeous day, absolutely glowing, breezy but not too cold. I've been desperately savoring the last of seasonal fruits and vegetables, artichokes and peaches, avocado, pears, late kiwi sweeter than candy and so soft you can suck it right out of the fuzzy skin. I'll survive on yams and spaghetti squash this winter because these other things become alien in the winter, flown or shipped or trucked in from milder continents, with different tastes and textures than I'm used to, skins too bright and perfect except where marred by handling and travel. I crave Gala apples by the bushel this time of year. I have dreams about visiting an orchard to pick my own, the sunlight twinkling through the thinning branches and blinking on the giving ground.

I savor a lot of things this time of year. I'm about to go into a hibernation of sorts, so the last glimpses of green grass are precious. Ditto the summer blues of the sky, Alice and Cornflower, Dodger, Denim, Sapphire. In the winter it becomes diluted, less pure, although Wyoming boasts many sunny winter days. The birds are almost all gone except the hawks and magpies on the hill and the owl in the pine by my driveway. I would call him Stan if I wasn't slightly afraid of him. Owls are traditionally bad omens.

Of course, he's been around for years and nothing but good has come of the last four for me, even when my envelopes bore that dank and dismal address, #5. Life in sunny, sweet-smelling #2 is bliss compared, although I feel more exposed here. Even though my cars are old and ratty, I love them both, and knowing they're out there in the driveway where anyone could harm them makes me want to tuck a wing around them -- like Stan must to hide his flat, feathered face -- and pull them in closer. This makes no sense because before they were parked on the street, where they were more exposed. But being up here heightens my awareness of the traffic on the street at all hours of then night, and not just vehicles. Hoodlums frequently traverse my street.

I'm going to savor some more sunshine before Big Band, which is going swimmingly. One day it occurred to me how much Vern reminds me of Phil. Maybe it's the clothes. Vern wears soccer shorts, sweatshirts with the bottom band and half the sleeves cut off, and drab Nuthinz, which he kicks off at the first available opportunity. I wonder if he teaches his high school choir classes in this garb. Phil wore T-shirts or Hawaiian shirts, Khaki cargo shorts, and flip-flops in any season. He could do that. We lived in San Diego. Phil played the tuba and Vern plays electric bass (when we have a full sax section; otherwise he plays tenor), and that strikes me as another similarity. They both wear thinning, colorless, shaggy straight hair and have sort of wild eyebrows like overgrown gardens above twinkling blue lakes of eyes. I miss Phil, and I miss San Diego, but Vern is an acceptable substitute, if a little more gruff.

San Diego is burning, and I worry. I worry about that tiny bakery in Julian where I used to get hot apple pie with vanilla ice cream early on fall mornings. I worry about Flynn Springs, the cool, shady, slightly haunted park and the rickety row of storefronts with a wooden sidewalk, the musty rooms full of antiques and homemade jam and cheese and penny candy. (Although I've noticed on Google Earth lately that more than wildfires threaten that little slice of old rural charm. Tacky subdivisions are encroaching.) I worry about people I don't know and places I've never been. I worry about the homes of people I knew in Alpine and Jamul and Dulzura- a lovely desert name. I wonder how many people understand that palmy, beachy, delicately humid San Diego is, in fact, a desert. It's easy to forget. And deserts burn.

We're blessedly free of fires this fall, and I'm going out to walk in what's left of this glorious day.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Dying of Waiting

I woke up unreasonably but seasonably miserable. It happens sometimes, especially this time of year, despite the fact that it's my favorite. Every thought feels tender, bruised; every memory reflects a series of mistakes committed months and years ago, mostly things I said and shouldn't have or didn't say and needed to. I can't repair these things, errors of insertion and omission. I try to outrun them.

There are a few inches of snow on the ground now, but before it fell I walked around town nearly every night. The cottonwoods are the last to turn, and from E Hill they appear to be giant yellow clouds come to rest for a moment in someone's yard or a park, shivering and bending, insubstantial. They might rise up any moment and float away again. The leaves are not fragile when they fall, they're still stiff and flexible and glossy. They settle into the grass on edge between the blades like bright yellow files in green folders.

We had about two weeks of proper sweater weather. Now it's on to coats. I use a down comforter year-round, but I'll be putting flannel sheets on the bed soon. Everything else in the house is without distinction, seasonally. The cats have on their winter coats and I didn't even have to do anything.

I whipped off my beanie at work last week and flung my favorite pair of sunglasses into the sedimentation basin. I watched them slide jauntily down the eight-foot-long stainless steel sheet, which is tilted at a 45 degree angle. I think I've had them for three years, possibly the longest I've ever worn a pair. I have a lot of photos of myself wearing them. Perhaps when we drain and clean the sed basins in the spring I'll find them. Who knows what condition they'll be in. They're just plastic, but they do have metal hinges.

I'm criminally uncreative just now. I finally have room to paint and I have only once, squirting acrylic primary colors directly on to a canvas and scratching them around with a palette knife. It felt good, but oddly alien. I haven't painted in earnest in over a year, for myself, for the sheer joy of it. The Renewal Ball painting was such a chore. I've started dozens of blog posts and jot down phrases or observations now and then, but nothing seems to come of those, either.

I'm waiting for everything to happen now. I don't eat enough one day and eat too much the next. Water dribbles out of the kitchen ceiling when the kid upstairs, who I call Shaggy, uses his shower. I think his name is Justin, and I'm surprisingly unconcerned about the leak, although I did call Kathy and tell her to send a plumber. She thanked me profusely. I put my printer in a plastic sack and set out some buckets.

I'm ambivalent and apathetic. I miss the annual Halloween Sweat'n'Toil. Heck, my costume's been ready for twelve years. I skipped Bud's daughter's Pirate Costume Ball Wedding last night, but the only thing I regret is not getting to see Bud dressed up like Captain Jack Sparrow. I'm not feeling my usual autumn social surge yet. Maybe it won't happen this year, and that will be just as well.

I should get more sleep.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Blood Money

No, nobody murdered my next of kin and paid me the underworld's restitution. But the $3,800.00 check I deposited today might as well have bought a life, or at least four years' worth of one. It was payment for the four miserable years I spent in an awful relationship at the beginning of this decade, which is speeding to a close. I sold the last of the specialized equipment that constituted a major portion of my credit card debt, and with some of those dollars, I'll pay off the last of it. Tonight I pay off $30,000 in four years, and for the first couple of years I did it on a minuscule administrative salary.

Between almost $20,000 in student loans, constant repairs to his cars (one of which I'm 99% sure was stolen), and those tools for his "business," I dug myself a hole I thought I'd never get out of. Luckily, I live so cheaply that in the last year I've been able to make $1,000 payments most months. I'm not a martyr; every penny was my fault. But admitting that just gives me more cause to celebrate. And tonight, with a click of my mouse, I'm buying a new life.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Look Out, Binky

I did it. I just got back from Dave's, and for the first time in my life, I think I need a cigarette. This is obviously the biggest Christmas present I've ever bought myself. It only took 15 minutes to do and I'm sure I left Evanston Motor Co. looking white as a sheet. He's one of Bud's best friends, so he didn't even ask for a deposit.

Because I know you're going to ask: 2008 Dodge Caliber SXT, 1.8 L DOHC16 valve, 4 cylinder, 148 horsepower engine (built by Mitsubishi in Dundee, MI) with the manual 5-speed transmission, Brilliant Black Crystal Pearl exterior
(built by Chrysler in Belvidere, IN), Light Pebble Beige interior, and 17" aluminum wheels with Firestone tires. The SXT comes standard with a ton of extras, including the infamous Chill Zoneā„¢ second glove compartment (I'll probably never use it) and rechargeable flashlight mounted in the roof, but I went for all the goodies, including the heated front seats, leather wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, and power sunroof. And it's still under $19,000. I got anti-lock brakes, an engine block heater (another thing I'll probably never need, but why not, right?), and fog lamps, too, just because I like how they look. The rear seats recline and the front passenger seat lays flat, and the EPA estimates the gas mileage at 24/29 city/highway, but I bet I can get better than that. Hello, Vortex.

It's 45 days out, which means it should be here by Thanksgiving. Just try to imagine me in a new car. A hot new car. Dodge wants you to believe that if the Caliber were a person, it'd have a mohawk, tattoos, black nail polish, and piercings in very private places. (I've driven well-cared-for, sedate oldies for so long I probably won't know what to do with myself.) I saw these commercials before I ever added the Caliber to my list of Large Metallic Things to Covet. Enjoy.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Halloween Reset

The first year it was a ghoulish free-for-all. The next five annual Skinner Girls' Halloween Bashes found us desperately trying to outdo the previous year's over-the-top menu and decor for themes including, in order, 101 Dalmatians, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Nightmare Before Christmas, The Harry Potter Conglomeration (my personal favorite), and Wallace and Grommit. But this year, we're drawing the line. It's back to sweet, simple, no-holds-barred Halloween horror; come as your favorite creepy thing. Oh, and bring something with frosting. Or gravy. Or carbonation.

For the first time in seven years of Skinner tradition, M and I won't be crouched in the basement every night of October, lost in a sea of fabric and craft supplies. The sewing machine won't be zinging for hours, no more bloody, pin-pricked fingertips, no hot-glue blisters, no more locking four confused, neglected dogs outside the laboratory door so they don't spill paint or glitter or get tangled up in the Singer's accelerator. We've had a blast making group costumes in the past but this year it's every man for himself, which leaves me free to resurrect Mom's masterpiece Cleopatra from 1996 (just to prove it fits) or recycle another of my favorite costumes from the San Diego years.

It's been the busiest fall in recent memory for me, what with travel, moving, and a major motorized purchase to agonize over. But the real reason we just have to back off this year (and it's so worth it) is that for the next six weeks, Morgan will be spending weeknights at a hotel in Murray, while by day she trains for her new job: drafting from home. After more than a decade mired in remarkably miserable office environments, she'll be working for an engineering firm out of Salt Lake City that is so desperate for experienced drafters with good work ethics that they're meeting her halfway and allowing her to telecommute. There will, of course, be a probationary period, but after a year in the Evanston branch of a San Diego firm working on southern California projects, I'm confident she'll have no problem communicating via phone, e-mail, and IM and fulfilling their wildest Microstation dreams as efficiently and beautifully as she does everything else.

So this year we're asking for more treats than tricks. We're on our fourth location, Roger and Amanda's spacious, inviting home, which worked so well last year, especially since when we ran out of oven or refrigerator room we could just walk down the hill to Rae Dell's and commandeer her appliances.

Anyhow, invitations are inevitable, appetites and costumes are recommended but not required, and watch out for Roland. If you're not careful, you may find yourself with a Basset in your lap, and he has no regard for your costume.

Monday, October 01, 2007

End of September

My favorite alley, between Front and Main

Cattails in the wind, State Park

Jeff and I noticed this canopy of spider webs on the grass as we were leaving work yesterday. It was only visible from this angle. Today's wind rolled it into thin, sticky ropes that trailed out over the asphalt. I couldn't tell what made them.

Sluggish garter snake, Bear River Walk