Thursday, August 31, 2006

If I Were a Post Office, Where Would I Hide?

Well, I guess first I would hide on a nearby street that's so torn up from construction, it isn't quite drivable. And then I would hide on a university campus, where I couldn't be easily seen from the road and where there is nowhere for people to park and wander around until they find me.

It's a good thing the job application I want to mail doesn't have to be in until Tuesday. It might actually take me that long to locate a post office. As much as I love living here, I've got to admit that driving around lost in the city on 1/16th of a tank of gas is less than fun. By some insane stroke of luck, I followed a sign to the highway (West or east? Semi-educated guess: west.), and the exit ramp dropped me off in the lane that goes straight to my exit. I almost soiled myself out of joy and unjustified pride.

Why Can't Amber Find a Job?

She has three years of retail experience. She has six months of customer service/receptionist experience. She taught, which means she's capable of leadership. She formats her cover letters properly. She doesn't misspell words. She's dependable. She's dedicated. She's qualified. In fact, she's overqualified. And that, right there, that must explain it all. She has a Master's degree that she can't bring herself to leave off her resume because she's also extremely honest, and because that Starbucks application pointed out that omissions are fraudulent too. But almost a week ago she applied for a job at a bookstore that was advertising for help. The bookstore has not contacted her for an interview. The bookstore must be thinking, She has a Master's degree. She can't possibly want to work here. She'll just leave as soon as she finds something better.

The bookstore is right. But what the bookstore doesn't know is that Amber's savings are dwindling, and people with Master's degrees have to eat too.

Amber thinks she is being deeply wronged.

Monday, August 28, 2006

20 Things I Like Best About Living Here

It took me a few weeks...but I finally finished this list. And since I don't want anyone to get the impression--between the ranting about the bathtub and the griping about the noisy kid upstairs and the almost-crying about being done with school--that I'm unhappy with my life here, now seems like a good time to post it.

1. Listening to the thumpity-thump of the cats chasing each other across hardwood floors at dawn.
2. The black one-eyed cat that wanders the neighborhood. We call him Lucky.
3. Stained glass.
4. The small, enclosed space of the pantry makes the smells of the onions and fresh bread I store there especially strong and wonderful.
5. I'm closer to most of my family here. I get to see them more often, and when I'm not with them I take comfort in knowing they're nearby.
6. Friends came along.
7. Bikes. They're a viable (if slightly dangerous) form of transportation here. Lots of people ride them around my neighborhood, and it makes me wish my own bike wasn't defunct.
8. Choosing a cafe at random for lunch, and discovering that it is surprisingly cheap, yummy, and funky.
9. Beginning to feel comfortable navigating complex streets.
10. Feeling warm inside when I see the Minneapolis skyline from the highway, because it usually means I'm almost home.
11. Being completely overwhelmed with restaurant choices.
12. Tiny movie theaters with red felt walls and low screens.
13. Artistic graffiti.
14. Listening to a family on my street speaking Spanish amongst themselves.
15. Stacks of free newspapers just inside the door of every coffee shop, bar, restaurant, or music store.
16. The bright green canopy of tree branches that stretches far above the back yard.
17. A yard full of wildflowers.
18. Doors with skeleton keyholes.
19. New things, like the gas stove with the digitally-controlled oven.
20. Old things, like original wood trim and kick molding, and the freestanding kitchen sink.

Here's a teensy, tiny glimpse of my new world:

Today, school is starting. Without me. Can I cry?

Saturday, August 26, 2006


Several times a day, I have to quash the urge to run out onto the porch, bang on my landlord's door, and demand to know whether her son's constant STOMPING back and forth across the floor above us is part of an experiment designed to measure the strength of my sanity.

And because I don't have kids, I can say this: if that were my child, he would have been trained years ago that there are people living below us, damn it, and you can't just STOMP for no reason.

I think I just heard a chunk of plaster fall inside the wall.

Friday, August 25, 2006


I feel a momentary thrill every time I see that word in an employment ad. Keeper of books. Then I remember that this is a job for math nerds, not literature nerds. And I'm starting to resent that such a romantic title belongs to a job pertaining to numbers instead of words.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

O Holy Night

I live in a hippie neighborhood. People on my block paint their houses turquoise and purple and lime green (our house is lime green); they hang signs that say "Peace" over their front doors; they decorate their porches year-round with white Christmas lights and art. And there is a neighborhood Virgin Mary.

When we moved in, we laughed about the plywood cutout of the Virgin Mary that sat on the porch of the purple house directly across the street. Within a few days, we saw that it had moved one porch to the left--a phenomenon that struck me as vaguely creepy. A few days after that, it vanished.

Last weekend, we spent a couple of nights out of town visiting my dad, who was visiting from Oregon, at my aunt's house in Cannon Falls. On Saturday we went to the Renaissance Festival in Shakopee. That evening my aunt drove us home so we could give the cats more food and grab a few things we needed for one more night at her house. As we drove toward our house, I pointed it out to my aunt and my dad: "The green one is ours.... Why is the Virgin Mary on our porch?" Apparently, the Virgin travels on a rotation, and our landlord has signed our porch up as one of the stops. So now we know that she is holding a painted-on baby Jesus, and that there is also a second plywood cutout--of one of the wise men kneeling to present a box of gold, frankincense, or myrrh.

Our bedroom window is still flanked by these two pieces of a dismembered Nativity scene. I won't discuss the irony in this, but I do want to tell you about the dream I had last night. All I remember of it is throwing myself on the floor, covering my ears and squeezing my eyes shut while gunshots sounded nearby enough that I could see flashes of light through my eyelids. (I know gunshots don't actually involve bright flashes of light; this was a dream.) This startled me awake, and once I was awake, I realized I had to pee. As I walked into the bathroom, I thought I saw flashes of light through the closed blinds of the window to my right. I backed up a few steps and stared at the window, hoping I wasn't crazy. But there it was again, and I could even hear a little thunder. So the flashes in my dream were lightning. Okay. I peed, then walked around the house closing windows against the storm before I climbed back into bed.

Once in bed, I lay on my stomach and parted the blinds of the window at the head of the bed. I admired the violently blustering wind, the rain splattering in the street, and the eerie orangeness of the sky before noticing an unfamiliar dark shape to the right of the window. My breath caught and I had to squint at the thing lying across the porch for a few seconds before I recognized it as the back side of a plywood cutout.

So in my dream, when I thought I heard a gun being fired, it was actually just the Virgin Mary blowing over in the wind.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Holding My Breath

I just emailed a cover letter and resume to a potential employer...more or less in my field. I worked hard for this one. I want this one.

The Bathtub Saga Continues

Tom, who wears a yellow shirt with the words "General Handyman" on the back, came over this morning to work on our drain and smack his head hard on the overhang above the basement steps.

The pleasant part of this story is that our tub drains like a hoover now, thanks to a bottle of lye and five gallons of boiling water. The unpleasant part is that I went to the basement to do a load of laundry this morning while the tub drained from my shower, and noticed water dripping from the ceiling just below the bathroom. Tom also noticed this when he went down to check out the plumbing, and he's loudly proclaiming that the old lead pipes in this place are due to be replaced. I've even been instructed not to take baths until the leak, which only springs up under extreme water pressure, is eliminated. Tom's down there discussing replumbing with the landlord now, and I feel bad for drawing attention to a serious problem that will eventually cost Maria a ton of money and make life miserable for us while our tiny bathroom with its ancient charming fixtures is ripped apart, along with the kitchen cabinets that were installed on the wall that provides access to the pipes. Tom is recommending we take a cruise, so we don't have to shit in a bucket and shower outside.

I don't know about the cruise, but I can say that the idea of homeownership seems less and less appealing with every place we rent.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


I just learned that in the business world, this abbreviation stands for "point of sale." But I'm pretty sure, nevertheless, that "POS Equipment Cleaner" is not a job title I would like to have.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Just between you and me, I don't think Bob is a real plumber.

The good news is that he got our tub to drain at almost the rate it was draining at before I took the plunger to it yesterday. And he told me not to do that anymore. (But once I saw a real plumber clear our tub drain that way.)

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Bathtub: 1, Me: 0

An hour and a half of plunging later, the drain is more clogged than it was this morning. Bob the Plumber plays the next round. Good luck, Bob.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Every Party Has a Pooper

And the pooper is me. Yes, me.

Unless it's a pity party. Then I'm the belle of the ball.

While everyone else seems to be enjoying their move to the Cities immensely, I wake up every day more depressed than I was the day before. But not because I miss Bemidji or because I don't want to be here. In fact, I'm very excited to be living in a city with interesting stores and restaurants and museums and events. But I haven't really experienced those things yet. We've eaten out twice, both times within 24 hours of our move, both because we didn't have food at the house yet, and once it was take-out from the only place nearby that was still open and wasn't McDonald's. (On the bright side, it turned out to be delicious.) The closest I've come to experiencing local color was picking up a package of nails at the neighborhood hardware store and a prescription at a privately-owned (not Target) pharmacy.

Our apartment is beautiful, and I have plenty of good things to say about it. But I'm starting to feel suffocated by it, even when I'm reading on the front porch or bird- and squirrel-watching in the back yard. Inspired by Jessie, I started a list of the 20 things I like most about living here. I got to #7, and then drew a blank. This is my fault, I'm sure. I should be taking walks, browsing in nearby stores and co-ops, drinking coffee at neighborhood cafes. And I can make excuses and even form valid explanations for why I haven't been doing these things, but I won't subject you to the rationalizations of my crazy mind. I will simply say that there are many things I want to do here (working, shopping, eating), and that those things (reading, writing, volunteering) are becoming a daily source of massive guilt because I'm not doing them right now.

And I will. Do them, I mean. Those things I want to do will be a part of my life because they are priorities in the way I want my life to be. But I'm always slow at habituating myself to new places and integrating myself into communities. And at the moment, it doesn't help that I'm so goddamn lonely.

Ten hours a day, five days a week, Eric is at work and I'm here. Alone. With tasks to accomplish. (Still, I can't seem to make myself put away the last scattered items of our lives or sit down and steadily search for jobs online.) And maybe it's pathetic that I can't quite function on a normal level when he's so consistently not around, but I'm used to sharing things with him. I like to share things with him, and actually, I don't want to try to experience this city without him.

So I'll admit that I'm probably acting like a coward and a crybaby. But I won't admit that there's anything wrong with wanting my best friend around.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


Wednesday, August 09, 2006


I just located the nearest stores and copied driving directions. Today, I'm going out there. I'm going to Target and Cub Foods. (A whole mile away. Wish me a safe journey.)

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Inconvenient Fears

I woke this morning heavily laden with the effects of last night's too-much wine. Dizzy and acutely aware of my stomach, I started the day cautiously on the couch, munching a bagel and sipping room temperature water. I'm better now, mostly, but despite a hot shower, a cup of tea, and half an hour on the front porch with a book and a warm breeze, my head feels nebulous and guilt has begun to settle in my chest, right in the space made by a new and beautiful and comforting development: my new house is home now. It even looks like it.

But with nearly all of the unpacking out of the way, I no longer have an excuse for putting off other necessary duties. For instance, now I need to focus enormous shares of energy on finding a job. And since I'm all about the honesty, I want to admit at this juncture that I'm scared to look for a job. Because I've already applied for several and had only one disappointing bite on my resume, I feel convinced that I'm doing it wrong. No matter what the ad says, it can't be enough to simply mail/fax/email a resume and letter of interest. And yet, what if applying in person is disruptive or otherwise undesirable? Also, I'm shy. I can usually fake confidence, but I dread standing in front of strangers and trying to sell myself. Sending paper into the void is much more comfortable, and if I'm expressly invited to stand in front of a stranger who knows a little about me, well, then I feel better about selling myself.

But at the moment I feel discouraged and naive and sort of holed up in my comfy little corner of the city. I don't feel free to move around here like I did in Bemidji. I don't feel like I have anywhere to go, even when I do actually need groceries or shaving cream or cat litter. I wait until Eric gets home from work to cater to those needs, because he can come with me then, and he belongs to the Twin Cities: he has a job.

This is a fearful and aggravating vicious circle. Today I will make a long to-do list (with "find a job" at the very top) that I hope will pull every element of that circle into a line and make it real and doable and less frightening. I hope.

Friday, August 04, 2006

After nearly two weeks of steady packing, moving, and unpacking (mostly solo, because Eric actually has a job), I think the laws of physics are trying to tell me to take a break: I've put together two garment racks today (because we have only one closet and digging in boxes for my clothes every morning has pushed me to the edge of homicidal mania), and both are now broken. If I mix and match parts, I will have one working rack. But my clothes are relatively accessible now, on the freshly mopped floor where they landed after the second rack collapsed, and I can't seem to find energy or inspiration in any of these boxes.

Strange New

House. Neighborhood. Sounds. Smells.