Thursday, December 27, 2007

November and December

For your viewing pleasure: more Puck.

After an icy bath.

B.C. gets his regal on.

"Please turn the water on. Please?"

Morgan and Cordale in the Fairfield Inn pool, Greeley, CO.

A from under water.

Redneck Christmas Tree Hunt, Thanksgiving day (OMG, it's my family.)


... and after.

Morgan and Mom find the tree.

$210 carrot cake. Yes. $210.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Go Lightly

It's closer to 400 after today's trip to Rock Springs.

Wind and snow at the Rock Springs Cemetery.

Bud's new Secret Santa earmuffs at Kate's.

Neon at the Light Parade.

My lovely Christmas tree.

Gratuitous bathroom mirror shot at the coffee house.

Friday, December 21, 2007

'Bye, Bo

Mom and Bo, sometime in 2006.

Bo on a July night this year, chasing moths in the ravine.

After 18 great years in the family, Mom had to take Grandpa's favorite cat, Beauregard, on that final, sad trip to the vet. If they let cats into heaven, Grandpa's showing everybody all the tricks Bo can do, like fetching and sitting up. And no, your eyes do not deceive you; Bo had no tail. Our Manx mix's mode of locomotion was something like that of a jackrabbit, and the last few years, those crimped and brittle bones were so skewed that he walked like a trout with whirling disease, front moving directly forward, rear end following along almost completely sideways, wheezing and oozing with the symptoms of kidney failure.

But he was a great kitten and only got more lovely as he matured, dignified and affectionate. He made a great hotel cat, so social and curious. I would have been not quite ten when Bo came into my life, and even though no pet will ever replace the ultimate childhood pet, a cat I had for fifteen years, Bo has always been special. To tell you the truth, I've been surprised to find him still alive every time I've arrived at Mom's for more than a year. She fed him green beans and watermelon, his favorite foods, and he just kept ticking along. He even charmed Henry.

But everybody knows when it's time. It appears that there was a grand design, because just before we lost our stately old man, a fuzzy black stray named Spooky -- the last survivor of a local wild litter that made their home under the back porch, lured by the smell of trout in the smoker, no doubt -- made his way in through the back door and refused to leave, so Mom and Henry will not be lonely.

Here's to Beauregard and all the good years.

Grandpa Bartley, A (nearly unrecognizable -- 50 lbs. and two hair colors ago), and Bo, circa March of 2004.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Short Order

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Puck. These aren't the polished glamour shots I would like to provide, but the thing is, photos aren't going to do him justice anyway, so you might as well enjoy these.

Essay to follow. (Seriously. There is no way I'm going to be able to not write volumes about this car.)

Love at First Sight

I pray thee, gentle mortal, sing again;
Mine ear is much enamoured of thy note.
So is mine eye enthralled to thy shape,
And thy fair virtue's force perforce doth move me
On the first view to say, to swear, I love thee.

— A Midsummer Night's Dream
William Shakespeare

For the once-in-a-lifetime to happen twice in a year is not unheard of, but all the same, I realize it's rare. Even so, I already knew I loved the Caliber when all I could see of it were its sparkling metallic hind quarters (funny, I believe that's the first I saw of Brent, too) poking out from the wash bay, glistening. And when I got along side of it my eyes misted and my heart began to pound, because sure enough, there on the window sticker were the words, "This car was built especially for Adriane Skinner."

It won't seem to sink in. Right now it still feels like something I have to give back, like it might return to its original vegetable form at midnight with a poof, in a cloud of fairy dust. I'm a little bit afraid of it. All I want to do is wash it and stare at it, pluck the little threads of manufacturing detritus from its glossy surface to reassure myself that they're not scratches. It shines like the Chrysler building and smells inside like scalded rubber and seared metal, and the motor is so quiet I can't tell when it's running. People look at this car like it's a dirty joke, a really good dirty joke they heartily enjoy but don't approve of. They look stunned, a little jealous, occasionally scared, but if they notice the car at all, they grin.

Like me. It makes me grin. I keep going outside just to look at it, and in a little while I'm going to drive it again (feeling better now that it's insured) and get to know it, decide on its gender, give it a name. I'll post photos soon.

This looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Waiting Game

Bud called last Saturday night after he got home from an evening at Kate's, a little rummy, a lot smug. "I thought you'd like to know that your car is in Salt Lake." I didn't sleep much that night, or the next. I expected a call any moment. All week. I kept putting two or three gallons at a time in the Cadillac, which, this time of year, devours about a gallon a day just getting me to work and back twice and maybe to the grocery store (about a mile away) once or to M's. Monte is still immobilized and the Cadillac is cranky as heck in the mornings despite being plugged in, requiring several dozen cranks before she stops moaning and turns over. Poor girl.

Anyway, the car is in Salt Lake. Actually, it's 86.4 miles away at the depot in Clearfield, but the transport company keeps promising Dave "tomorrow" each day until he's absolutely enraged. "We have a truck down." "We're short a driver." "It's supposed to snow." The Caliber actually came through town. On a train. We don't have a depot. ZOMG. There are other people in town waiting for vehicles that are keeping mine company at the rail yard.

We're traipsing off to Greeley, Colorado tonight to get my lovely cousin Angie graduated from college. Maybe it'll be here when I get back Sunday evening, and Jeff can take me to pick it up Monday. I like having things to look forward to, but this is getting ridiculous.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Shaken, not Stirred

I was taking a red potato out of the microwave (spitting and moaning in the boiling water in a distressingly lifelike way) when it occurred to me that today is my Friday. I can have chocolate-covered espresso beans for dessert, then, right?

I'm driving around this dead gray town in M's Pontiac because Monte refused to start yesterday morning, squatting sullenly behind the Cadillac (who won't start either), his battery dead or disconnected. He knows. If only I could tell him that no matter how much I love the new Caliber (15th! 15th!), he'll always be my special square. M is happily working from home now, tucked into an inviting little office carved out of a corner, surrounded by a carpet of dogs sighing in bliss.

This December town isn't festive. The plastic bows on the Sternberg lights are still the ones I spray-painted four years ago. The grit scattered on the street to prevent slippage is already caking in the gutters, dirtying the new snow. On the way home I saw a man with one arm and a woman with a very noticeable limp crossing the street, and I thought, that's what will happen to me if I stay here. Everything in this town seems poisonous to me right now, hazardous. The landscape is barbed and drained of color and warmth and some essential thing, some sound or light. Christmas looks to be gaudy.

The way the good people of Evanston were driving on the slick roads this week made me want to slip something in their water. I don't recall ever packing around this much malice in December; It's usually my goodwill-toward-men month. But as miraculous as this year was, it's also been a little cagey with me, dangling carrots. Everything is just out of reach. Also, this year I've seen the worst of some people I thought the best of. Disheartening, but no reason, really, to contaminate the water supply.

I am happy, really. I'm so focused on forward I might tip over any second. I'm just pausing to reflect that it's very easy to become complacent (as opposed to content, which is acceptable), and people who are simply frighten me. I have so much to look forward to that I have to shut my eyes and shake my head sometimes. Then I'm dizzy and I have to sit down, and while I'm there I start thinking again. A vicious cycle.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

All the Things in the World

So winter finally arrives in earnest, cold and gray and so dry my papery fingertips can't tug the next grimy card from the bottom of Butch's tattered, taped old deck from the front desk of the old plant. My hair is stick straight and the skin on my nose peels like it's been sunburned; I can't feel my feet for days at a time and the cats have so much static in their fur that they crackle when they roll on the carpet, and trails of blue sparks explode beneath my hand when I pet them in the dark. After winter in Wyoming, nuclear winter would be a cakewalk. You all might be wiped out, but we high desert westerners will survive, nicely acclimated. Just the Wyomingites and the cockroaches.

Heaven help me, I still love hearing Dolly Parton's "Hard Candy Christmas" on the radio. I hate Elvis's "Blue Christmas" and "Christmas Wrapping" by The Waitresses. I'll take Clint Black's "Milk and Cookies" over either of those any day.

I can accept winter now, though, already a month late, and maybe it won't seem by April like winter is the long end of everything. November was merciful, dry but gentle through Brent's week-long stay over Thanksgiving. The excellent road conditions allowed us to pack him around southwestern Wyoming without worry, hitting a few of the family strongholds and adding 10 hours to his 28-hour round trip from Kansas City. He bore both family scrutiny and Official Dog Inspection and passed both with flying colors, and despite the cold he picked out a perfect Christmas tree for me during our Thanksgiving foray into Bridger-Teton National Forest. The day after Thanksgiving we all enjoyed coffee on Mom's back porch in delightful sunshine, not even thirty degrees and pleasant as a spring afternoon.

And once again I'm reeling, recoiling from the commercialization of Christmas in America. It's just grotesque. And on top of that, now I'm all worried about lead, because everything, but practically everything sports that tiny gold or silver oval chiming, "Made in China." A set of divine floral silver measuring spoons for Morgan bore the sticker and now I'm afraid to let her use them for baking. (I have to give appalled, sarcastic kudos to China for their policy to execute corrupt officials like Zheng Xiaoyu, former head of the State Food and Drug administration, who accepted bribes to approve unsafe medication. If we did that here in the States, we'd wind up having to execute everybody whose name was ever on a ballot. Except for, you know, a few people who've run for school board.)

Life with even a few inches of snow is just that much harder, roads slick and clunky boots required (which track mud and snow into the plant and make the freshly waxed office floors and slick concrete halls treacherous), bottom inch of pants perpetually wet, thick-gloved fingers fumbling with keys in darkness that is never so complete in the summer. When on full blast, the heater in my truck messes with the reception of the four stations I get here, which really doesn't matter anyway because when it's cold the grommet in my speedometer buzzes so loudly that I can't hear the radio over it, anyway.

And it doesn't matter that the speedometer doesn't work, because last winter the orange plastic needle got brittle in the cold and shattered into a dozen pieces. I'm desperate for the new car (due here by December 17th at the latest, please God) but lamenting bringing it into this cold, cruel world. Still... Sirius®. Bring it on. I'll never have to listen to "Forgotten Oldie Friday" or "Disco Thursday" or "Mark and Bill's Excellent Rock and Roll Adventure" ever, ever again, or suffer through the too-much-talk morning shows on the Utah stations.

I'm glad for December, ready to quickly, efficiently navigate the holidays and get on with 2008. 2007 was extraordinarily good to me, but I can't see, after the last decade, why 2008 shouldn't offer even more in the way of improvements. 2007 was for wrapping up, making things official, confirming, reaffirming. Now it's time to move forward. Preferably at warp speed. Come on, December. Don't dally.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Spiral Nativity