Friday, June 30, 2006


I scraped my knee, and my foot, and my hand getting onto the roof of the garage at Tiffany, Jes, Karina, and Danielle's house tonight. Does that mean it was a successful party?

Monday, June 26, 2006

Job applications are sucking my soul out through my eyeballs.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

How I Accidentally Met Gloria Steinem

This story will be anti-climactic, I promise.

I work at a hotel, and at the start of every shift, I check the arrivals list to see how many people are coming in and whether any of them have preferences that will dictate which room I assign them to. On Friday, the list included the name, "Steinem, Gloria." My immediate impulse was to laugh, like it was somebody's idea of a joke. Then I assumed that it must be another Gloria Steinem, because certainly there is someone in the world who shares a name with America's most famous living feminist and civil-rights activist. But I said out loud, "Gloria Steinem?" The hotel manager was standing nearby and said, "Why? Who's that?" He'd made the reservation earlier that afternoon, but had no idea who he was on the phone with. (In fact, only one of my coworkers--another English major--knew who she was.)

The manager looked at the reservation again and pointed out that her phone number had a New York area code, so I started digging on the internet, trying to figure out if there was any reason the Gloria Steinem might be visiting our little town. The website for this week's writer's conference made no mention of her, but I knew the American Indian Institute was having some kind of conference, and all of the people in town for that were staying at the hotel I work at. So I typed something like "Gloria Steinem American Indian Institute" into the search engine. One of the results described a book by another of the hotel's guests, for which Gloria Steinem had written the introduction.

So I commenced waiting, impatiently, for her to arrive. I was afraid to take a bathroom break, because what if I had the chance to meet Gloria Steinem but I was peeing instead? I started steeling myself for the possibility of having to punch out at the end of my shift and just stay at work, waiting for her, because it would be ridiculous to forego meeting a cultural icon because my shift ended. I silently rehearsed what I would say to her, to guard against the probability of saying something completely stupid.

When she finally arrived, five hours into my shift, I recognized her immediately. She walked up to the desk and told me her last name so that I could check her in. I smiled and said, "Yes, I know." Then I did my job, carefully and professionally. My coworker, Amy, admired her ring, which she said was Bedouin and took off so Amy could get a closer look. After I directed her to her room, I said, "And...can I shake your hand?" She said, "Oh. Yes. Can I shake yours?"

I shook Gloria Steinem's hand.

I was impressed, pleased, relieved. Because I can't express how disappointed I would have been to find out that she was rude or self-important. But she was gracious every time I talked to her: when her suitcase arrived and I took it to her room; when I helped her with a problem she was having with the computer in the lobby; when I had to tell her, Sorry, there's no fruit juice in any of the hotel's vending machines. When she came in from the conference at about 10:00 last night, she smiled and said hello to both Amy and me individually.

I feel a little silly, making so much of meeting Gloria Steinem through no merit or effort of my own. I was really just doing my job, and she happened to be in the room. But it is a big deal to me, because someone who's accomplished so many important things suddenly became more than a black-and-white photograph to me. She became a real person who has made sacrifices to transcend all of life's requirements, and to make a difference.

It's probably too early to say, but this could affect the way I approach my own life, and my goals for it.

Friday, June 23, 2006


Tonight I met Gloria Steinem. And she is beautiful and humble and gracious and real.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Nature Therapy

Last Sunday we drove to a campground that sits adjacent to an exceptionally beautiful lake. The campsite we chose has a path leading down to a platform where people usually fish. Last time we camped there, three years ago, we watched a deer swim across the lake while a family of loons called angrily at it.

I'd missed the place, almost as much as I'd missed camping in general. Last year, because we had four weddings to go to and couldn't really ask for more time off, we didn't get to go camping even once. The year before that, we camped only one night.

I love camping for lots of reasons, most of them cliched and obvious. But I also savor the opportunity to set up a home (no matter how temporary) where there was before only grass and trees and a fire pit and a table and a pump full of earthy-tasting water. My nesting instinct is on steroids so powerful that I was almost able to enjoy being a hotel housekeeper for three years. So after we set up the tent (very nearly, we later discovered, in a pile of deer shit), I giddily put together our bed.

After laying out our sleeping bags on the queen-size air mattress (we're wusses, and totally okay with that), I flopped down on top of mine and gazed serenely up at the top of the tent for a few seconds before realizing that something smelled distinctly of urine. It turned out to be my sleeping bag, although I'm not sure exactly how or why. So I took the bed apart again, and put it back together using blankets and Eric's unzipped sleeping bag. That actually turned out to be better, I think, because I'm claustrophobic and when I don't sleep in a sleeping bag, I don't have panic attacks in the middle of the night. However, I do sometimes wake up with a completely frozen ass.

Late the first night it rained persistently, drumming hard on the top of the tent and making our sleep restless and cold. But we slept late the next morning, while the sun sparkled through the trees and slowly warmed the wet, chilled earth.

I brought two books along, thinking I would read a lot, and I brought a notebook, thinking I would write. But I didn't write a single word on paper, though I spent a lot of time carefully composing descriptions in my head. And I didn't even finish the book I was working on when I got there. Instead I sat with the book open in my lap, staring across the lake, watching the breeze blow up the edges of the lily pads. Or watching through the trees as the sun sank, slow and huge and orange.

Of course, it wasn't all about silent contemplation. The first night, a singer-songwriter from Duluth was camped two sites away. He sang and played his guitar for hours on end, and we took a cue from some other campers and walked over to watch him play for a while just before dark.

Also, like Jessie and Vinny, we enjoyed the strange sexual formations sometimes taken by the tree trunks:

On Tuesday, I arrived home itchy from mosquito bites, greasy and smelling so strongly of campfire that one shower wasn't enough to wash it away. My eyes were gritty and tired, but I had to go to work. I managed to take a shallow five-minute nap before dragging myself off the bed and into the car, where I discovered that I wasn't really tired at all, but actually completely and deeply rested.

And if I can indulge one of those aforementioned cliches, I would like to say that what I love most about camping is the sudden slowness of the world that cleanses my brain and my bones of all their knotted-up frenetic energy.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Internet is Amazing

When it works. Ours has been going in and out sporadically for a few weeks, and today (when I was trying to email a job application that's due tomorrow, and Mozilla had to think really really hard about connecting me to a site before finally admitting that it didn't know how) I got fed up and called the company. The very nice man who sounded like Gavin Rossdale confirmed that our signal history showed some gaps, and set up an appointment for someone to come look at our modem and wiring tomorrow. We've got our fingers crossed that he doesn't have to do "significant rewiring" because then there's a rewiring fee of $24.99, and I don't feel like paying it. But right now, for the moment, everything works perfectly. I'm so dazzled by the internet's compliance with my every command, I'm almost holding my breath.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Conversation with an "Oil Change Specialist"

"Your air filter is about due for a change, and we can do that for $16.99."

"Thanks...I'll take care of it myself."

"Yeah, because I can't really even see the light through it anymore." [Holds air filter up to the light.] "...You've got some sunflower seeds in there."

Friday, June 09, 2006

About the Scenery...

Tomorrow evening, we leave for the Cities to visit Eric's brother, sister-in-law, and nephews (babies!), and to look at apartments. Tonight, while telling a coworker about our plans for the weekend, I realized that I honestly could not remember the last time I left town. Given a few more hours to mull it over, I've decided that it must have been the last weekend in April, when I went to finally celebrate Christmas with my aunt and grandma.

No wonder I've been uninspired.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Yellow orb. Ceiling light. Smell of clean bedsheets. Bleach. Music. Dusk peers around the dark branches of trees, in the window. Is this home? It has been.

It has been. But change moves lasciviously over in the corner, and the excitement of finding a new home keeps me awake, keeps me on my feet, keeps me obsessively checking craigslist. We called a potential landlord today. Expensive place. Sounds nice. We'll look at it next week, but we probably won't rent it.

And now I feel placeless, as if I'm being unfaithful to this and future homes. In between committed relationships, looking at beautiful people with whom I have nothing in common and no possible future. But I need to rip off the proverbial band-aid, get the proverbial ball rolling. It's time to move on.

But here there's dusk, and dark tree branches, and yellow orbs on the ceiling. And music. And freshly bleached bedsheets.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

At least once when I was a kid, my stepdad offered me dating advice for future reference: always order the lobster. But I'm pretty sure he didn't mean for me to decide, a few blocks from home, that my forgotten sunblock was not worth going back for, and then spend three hours on a boat in the middle of the day.

My arms look like they just might be tasty dipped in garlic butter.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Confluence of Happinesses

Just now, I was sitting in the computer chair listening to Mason Jennings, whose music is rapidly finding its way into my list of all-time favorites because it never fails to make me smile, when I suddenly felt the pieces of a story I've been puzzling out consciously/subconsciously/awake/half-asleep for weeks shifting into place. I grabbed a notebook from the table next to me and started jotting down ideas and chunks of outline, pausing occasionally to look out the window at the sky-blue sky. And once, when I looked out, there happened to be two balloons--one blue, one silver--floating up and away down the block. And after I put away my indignant environmentalism, those two balloons and the fact that I just happened to glance out the window in time to watch their nearly motionless flight into the sky made me very happy.