Saturday, March 28, 2009

Ogallala in March

Thursday, March 26, 2009


I enjoy people who say "huck" instead of "throw." As in, "Huck that rock right out there." Like the guy who did our Rocky Mountain Power safety training today. He also had a nifty little model with power lines that shot real arcs of blue electricity at a kite, a tree, a car, a bird, and a person. The presentation was one less hour I had to spend at work on my Friday, and I was happy about that. I was not happy about all the snow we got overnight and the flurries that continued throughout the morning, but I'm happy that it's just slush on the streets right now and that there might still be enough snow to ski on at the golf course tomorrow. On my walk last night I found a golf ball in the gutter of Union Center Road, across from the golf course. Somebody jumped the gun on spring. That's probably why it snowed.

I'm so tired I could collapse. I burned popcorn in the microwave today. I spilled water. I couldn't make complete sentences. I did make cabbage soup. I've been putting off calling the landlady to tell her the refrigerator is dying, so I have a few frozen foods in the trunk of the Cadillac. I'm packing for San Diego a week early because it's all I can think of right now without any negative strings attached. I might as well take a nap.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Don't you ever let anyone tell you that a prospective home is in a great location because it is adjacent -- or even near -- either a church or a school, and if it is blessed with a fine view of the dull gray parking lot of one of each, hightail it frantically in the other direction unless you are deaf and plan to never leave your yard. I see very little advantage (having no children and being a Jack Mormon) to the traffic snarls and perpetual noise these institutions produce. And as for crime and quality of life, neither structure has ever proven a deterrent for the shenanigans that occasionally occur in this house, whether perpetrated by its landlady or her tenants. Someday I want to live in the house -- going for a song! -- that's across the street from a prison. I suspect that's the only way I'll ever know peace.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Weekend in the Heartland

It's been quite a... time. A month? Two? This whole year so far? I can't keep up. I feel like I'm running in place on a sheet of ice, like the one I park on every night. My driveway is in the shade of a giant pine tree that spits sap and sheds needles and prevents the sun from melting the deep snow that falls there, so it compacts daily and since it's a low spot, all the water from the sunny gutter pools in my driveway and nightly freezes smooth as a mirror. I dumped non-clumping kitty litter all over it and it's a little more navigable, but I'm suddenly worried that the neighborhood cats are going to recognize that sweet, sweet perfume and do the unthinkable all around my car, in the moonlight, yowling a ritual medley from CATS. I can always blame it on the neighbors' dogs and make the kids clean it up. Actually, it seems to be repelling the dogs, so yay.

Jeffie, who is famous for pushing so hard with pens and pencils that he breaks the tips, finally got fed up with the needle-thin lead in mechanical pencils and bought these bizarre imitation Pentech pencils that are basically real wooden ball point pens with a vial of reportedly erasable liquid graphite inside. They blob like a pen and if you're going to erase, you'd better do it before the stuff dries, because then it's just like ink. I picked one up the first day and experimented on the same sheet of paper on which Jeffie had been doing what everybody does when they want to experience a new writing instrument: signing his name. I instantly did a scarily precise forgery of his signature, which, with the two 'f's, is very fun to write. Without having seen what I was writing, he said, "Are you gonna sign my checks now, A?" I held up the notebook and all three guys went, "Oooooo." Let me know if you need some forging done. I'm apparently good at it. Later Jeffie couldn't tell which writing was his and which was mine.

Our weekend trip to Ogallala was, for the most part, just lovely, with dry roads all the way there and back and unanticipated gorgeous T-shirt weather while we were there. In the respectable-sized chain hotel we frequent we got the same room we had on our first trip, which was just like coming home. We were settled in no time and had nearly three blissful days to enjoy the charms of our little freeway hideaway, which are numerous. We like to kill time strolling among the headstones in the graveyard, driving over the dam, chomping Potato Olés at Taco John's, and tromping around the lake shore when we're not holed up watching movies.

We took a nice long walk around downtown Saturday and decided simultaneously that we long to climb the weird hollow grid structure that surrounds both the courthouse and the sheriff's station next door. We got yelled at by three separate carloads of local hooligans at different times, window shopped at a music store, and ducked into the Ben Franklin craft store and found enough specialty yarn, buttons, and art supplies to satisfy even me. We stood on the overpass looking down at the tracks as a train roared full-speed underneath, and if you've never done that, you
must before you die. It's quite the sensation. We had wanted to walk Friday night but kept hearing shotgun fire along the riverbed where we were heading, so we went back to our DVD collection and our stash of junk food.

We like a decades-old native diner called Hokes for breakfast; the family-owned "wormhole to the Eisenhower administration," as Brent likes to call it, serves coffee and hot, salty comfort food faster than you can whistle the theme song to The Andy Griffith Show. Our second visit this weekend was mid-Sunday, where we found most of Ogallala's older demographic enjoying a post-church buffet that offered, among other appetizing fare, barbecued pork ribs and a glistening carrot cake sprinkled with nuts. We ordered our respective favorite breakfasts and took our time emptying the coffee pot to enjoy the scene, the bustle and friendly greetings and clinking silverware and fragrant steam.

We had a rather odd experience at the midwestern pizza chain Valentino's when we popped by for a late lunch just after noon (OK, yes, it was breakfast) to find the weekend Italian buffet in full swing. The wholesome teenaged hostess assumed we were there for the chow line, but we refrained. She brought us a menu to share and, looking apprehensive, swung into the kitchen, where she said (clearly audible to us and the six other customers), "I think they're going to order from the menu!" Someone said, aghast, "They are?" We feared retribution (seriously, we worried they'd spit on the pizza) so we agreed to the buffet, which was, in a word, meh. Possibly feh. So all weekend we exclaimed at appropriate times and in appropriate tones of dismay, "Not the menu!" or something like that.

I made some observations on the 14-hour round-trip commute about the truckers who dominate the freeways in this part of the country. You can tell what kind of driver you're coming up on (or about to be passed by) by the way he (or she, or they, and aren't couples who team drive just the cutest thing, providing you can tell which one is the Mrs.?) maintains his cab. I love the cabs that are immaculately painted and chromed, with the driver's name in loopy, airbrushed script (complete with sparkles!) on the door or over the rear fender. I love hood ornaments, the lean, graceful swans on the Kenworths and the dense, aggressive bulldog on the Macks. I wish new passenger vehicles still came with hood ornaments. Why did they ever disappear?

There are company drivers (like Mayflower and Allied and Schneider) who are generally good sports, rarely pulling out to pass when you're speeding up behind, company trucks with cab IDs and "How's my driving?" invitations on the trailer doors. And then there are the unmarked tractor trailers that frighten me because they almost always do something irresponsible when I'm passing. Probably they're trying to pee in a Snapple bottle, which has to be hard when you're driving; on the way home it was easy to pick out the most appalling kind of trucker trash littering the highway: bottles of urine sparkling amber in the evening sun, because they lose time and mileage if they stop to use the restroom. I told Brent I wish the Wyoming legislature would pass a law that drivers caught tossing bottles of urine into the sagebrush are to be lynched from the nearest telephone pole by any witnesses. I guess he thought I was kidding. But I've done highway clean-ups with Morgan and Kelly and the Evanston Jaycees, and I'd gladly install a winch on Puck's front bumper if it meant I could heft over a crossbar any offensive jerk disposing of a biohazard out the window of a moving truck.

Other than that I enjoy the scenery on this drive, pump jacks and crazy metal scrap art in the desert, truck stop compounds glowing like spaceports, stockyards and corrals and glittering cornfields, very occasionally a meandering, icy creek labeled "______ River," and once in an even greater while a tree or two or five.

I didn't mean to babble this far. I'm going to run down to the library and see if I can find a copy of Lonesome Dove on book or DVD so people will stop pestering me when I say I've been to Ogallala. All I know about the story is what Jeffie has told me, and his plot summaries never make any sense at all. I seem only to recall that as the protagonists journeyed up the Overland Trail, someone was lynched in Ogallala. Probably they tried to order off the menu.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

In Like a Lamb

After work today I went to pick Big Cat up from the vet where I'd taken him to have his teeth cleaned. His breath had gotten so bad that I could tell when he yawned from across a room, and it was only confirmed as he howled in my lap all the way to the vet and the rather rotten smell of his pink, puffy gums and plaque-covered teeth filled the car.

I hate to say it, but I rather adore him doped. He's unusually affectionate for a cat under normal circumstances, and he does cuddle, but I rarely pick him up or carry him, because he squirms, and he's big and strong. When I pick him up after he's been under, though, he's bleary and limp, and I drove home tonight with him wrapped in a blanket in my arms, trembling and moaning. I deposited him in a heap in front of the heater by the bedroom window where he spends a lot of afternoons, but he was up immediately, stumbling after me as I went from room to room, his back legs in a knot. I'm trying to get Kitty to stop inspecting him.

Except for a few bleak, blustery days, this young year has been unfathomably beautiful. We've had 40+ degree days for what seems like weeks, and I haven't minded even the 30 degree days. They've been threatening snow for what seems like weeks, but January and February were for the most part dry in our corner of Wyoming.

There has been enough snow up north to provide for a great weekend of snowmobiling (almost two weeks ago now), and we got a Saturday so lovely we couldn't have ordered it any more perfect. It's easier to see when the sun is shining; the snow has more definition and shadows show where treacherous rocks and logs and ravines are hiding. We kept to a packed trail, for the most part, through the Green River Valley and up into the Windriver Mountains, to a lodge near Dubois called The Line Shack, where we had a lovely lunch.

Cordale, who had been piggybacking (since we were short a machine and The Place was out of rentals), got on the little 600 Polaris (my favorite, a steadfast and very rideable purple machine) and proved that boys and fast objects go perfectly together. He was so wild to drive himself that I piggybacked with Mom most of Sunday on her brand new Arctic Cat Crossfire (the same machines The Place rents, so Morgan had one, too, and at one point she sank it beautifully in three feet of powder trying to turn around uphill) and found that being a passenger is its own kind of heaven, because the scenery in that part of the country is unparalleled and sleds are the only way to see it in the winter. The long distance vistas take your breath away, all that snow-covered granite, and there's something heartbreaking about a blonde cloud of winter aspens with their black bones showing through.

Snowmobiling -- at least the modern way -- is a very solitary experience, even in a pack. I think it's the helmet. Your thoughts are your own in your sound-dampened world, your own breath and the snarl of the machines blocking out anything anyone might shout to you, and even riding double doesn't really make you feel connected even though you're clinging to someone else for dear life. I felt like a little girl again, reassuring my mother that I could hang on no matter what (I was wrong), wrapping my arms around her down-padded torso and trying to feel which way to lean, peering around her to anticipate when she would dive off into the powder to pack snow into the track to cool the motor. After a while I got complacent -- she's such a good driver and the nice new machine rode so easy -- and I wasn't hanging on very tightly when she avoided a large rock and hit a small one, and when the machine bucked I was bounced into the air before I knew what hit me. I landed on the packed trail but was completely unharmed, protected by the helmet and four layers of clothing. I got right up and ran after her.

Also due to the noise and the helmets, there's an unspoken language on the track, a series of gestures, mostly thumbs-up and expansive waves, and a great deal of head-bobbing. You know the riders in your pack by the clothing they wear and the machines they're on. Mom's coat (like mine) has a wave of black-and-white checkers on it, and Henry wears red to match his red machine (which was handy, since we were always squinting at him from far, far away). There were a lot of riders congregating on the trail due to a poker run that day but not a lot actually moving on the trail.

Nights in the Green River Valley are pitch black despite the expanse of summer homes; the night we arrived was so cold and clear that the stars were visible like you never see them if you live in a community of any kind. The Milky Way shimmered and constellations twinkled bright crystal white in a black velvet sky, and even at 9 degrees we had to stand outside and admire them for a time after we unloaded plastic totes of gear into our rustic cabin. The wall that separated our two spaces was so thin that we spent the weekend hollering at each other from the other room and M and I got harrassed for whispering and giggling late into the night.

Except for weekend adventures like that, the days are flying by and I'm feeling battered, exhausted by Jeff's enthusiasm and my neighbors' antagonism and the thousand little things that fill the time of my days. I can't catch up and I can't get control and I can't sleep even though I desperately need to. The neighbors stopped cleaning up after their two dogs as soon as the snow fell; when Kathy came by and told them to clean up they cleaned the twelve square feet around the front porch and left the giant pile of poop the dogs have deposited right next to my car door. I am a certified animal lover but I can't stand these particular specimens, a giant, yapping Pomeranian and an idiotic, unfriendly Boxer adolescent (I've never met a Boxer I liked), and I hate the way their owners stand on the porch and scream at them the whole time they're out in the yard, three or four times a day, as if the dogs understand. Also they keep them in a kennel on the other side of my kitchen wall while they're gone for hours at a time, and the Boxer will occasionally spaz out in its cage and bark and rattle and whine for half an hour.

I wish I were more interesting and coherent and happy, but it's technically Thursday night for me, and I'm shot. Fried. Tired. All I want is some hot tea and a little time to unwind and keep an eye on my poor old cat, who is still trying to figure out what hit him. I wish I could tell him I know how he feels.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Is This Thing On?

For May and her new hip, because I bet the great-grandkids make healing a lot more fun! Hope you're 100% very soon. (Although, I wouldn't want to leave Brookstone. Ever.)