Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sunrise, sunset.

Last night, my friend Sarah's goldfish Gil met with a tragic demise when her roommate cleaned the bowl...
and refilled it with hot water.

R.I.P., Gil.

R.I.P., Gil. You had a good life, a life you could've never imagined 4-5 years ago when a carnie fished you out of a bucket at the county fair, dumped you into a Ziploc bag, and sent you on your way.

Gil's demise was very recently preceded by the demise of Sarah's other goldfish, Bibby...who was also fairly aged (for a goldfish) and who also died under mysterious circumstances. I think the CSI: Goldfish team has been called in to investigate. We may have a serial killer on our hands.

I've offered to organize a wake and Viking funeral for Gil, but I don't know if Sarah was too keen on the idea of us running around with a bunch of lighter fluid.

In happier news...through sheer coincidence (and without knowing yet of Gil's tragic "accident"), last night Sarah won a new goldfish at the Ashland County Fair in the very same game Gil & Bibby came from.

Tiny Tim.

His name is Tim. He has some big fins to fill.

Friday, August 29, 2008

"Won't you come out to play?"

I guess since 90% of the other VISTAs I'd met were my age, I'd just assumed that my friend Will was, too. It's not that he was immature, because he wasn't, and it's not that he looked particularly babyfaced or anything like that, because he didn't--but I guess at 22, I had a lot of preconceptions about what a person ten years older than me would act/look/talk like. And Will didn't fit any of those.

Will, emoting in the midst of the terrible movie Brie & I talked him into being in.

In retrospect, now that I'm toeing up toward the 30 year-old line myself, I think it's hilarious that I was all scandalized that someone who was 32 could still be figuring himself out and be as unsettled as Will seemed to be at the time. Heck, at the rate I'm going, getting to know him was sort of like looking into a crystal ball. Lately I keep hearing that "thirty is the new twenty," and I don't know if that's quite right because I think I'm a hell of a lot more together now than I was when I was 20--I should
hope so, anyway!--but on the other hand, if it helps give some cultural identity to me and my many single, childless, career-searching friends, then I guess it's a catchphrase I can begrudgingly accept.

I'd been in Montana for about six months when I met Will, and up until then, Emily and Kevin
were my main social supports in Helena...well, kind of my only social supports outside of work, really. I was doing alright at my VISTA job, but I was the youngest person in my office by about a fifteen-year margin, and the other VISTAs I helped manage were scattered all over the state so in a lot of ways, I was on my own. My boss, who was about fifty years my senior, was always going off in a million different directions at once, which meant nearly all of my work was self-directed...which, y'know, is generally fine by me, but there were times I was left in charge of things that I honestly had no business being left in charge of and some guidance would've been helpful. Between the generation gaps, the fluctuating boredom/overwhelmingness of my job, and the general culture shock that comes with moving a thousand miles away from home for the first time, I was sinking dangerously far into my own head. If it weren't for Emily and Kevin, I would've been a hermit.

Which is why it was such a happy accident that just when I really needed to be coaxed back out of my shell, somebody came along who spoke my language and who liked the same nerdy stuff that I did. Will was a brainy, sophisticated guy--he loved reading, writing, and talking about big ideas and what was going on in the world--but he was also the sort of person who could quote half of the dialogue from Face/Off. He talked me into going on my first big excursion with the Helena VISTA crew down to Bozeman to watch our friend Ryan run with the Olympic torch, he taught me Russian swear words (thank you, Peace Corps, for giving several generations of Americans the opportunity to learn to cuss in foreign tongues), and he encouraged me to write stuff to read at open mic poetry nights at one of the bars downtown. It was largely through getting to know Will that I got to know the rest of the VISTAs in Helena, and when that happened, it was like the scene in
The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy's world goes from black & white to glorious Technicolor (sans Munchkins). I had...more than two friends in town! *gasp!*

Outside the No Sweat, 2002.

(And just think--if it weren't for Will, the world may have never learned of my recurring dreams about Bono in free verse form!)

Will and I became friends with another VISTA and her husband who lived just south of Helena in a little place called Townsend, and they would invite us down to their house to play Scrabble from time to time. Ryan and Nicole were simply awesome people--two thoughtful, spiritual bohemians happily waylaid in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere, who couldn't have been more down-to-earth. We spent a lot of evenings sitting around their kitchen table, talking about life, Montana, politics, music, religion--all kinds of stuff. And playing a fair amount of Scrabble, too.

Nicole, Ryan and their newborn baby, Lucien.
(Nicole, Ryan and their newborn baby boy Lucien in January 2003.)

One Friday night, Nicole and Ryan invited us to drive out to some land that Ryan's dad owned in the hinterlands between Helena and Missoula--honestly, it was so in-the-middle-of-nowhere that I couldn't find it on a map if I had one in front of me. All I remember is that we took the exit off the interstate at Jens and went north. And that the road was awful. I mean, GODawful. Will & I drove out in my car, because Ryan & Nicole's was full of passengers & camping equipment, and it was one of several occasions during my time in Montana that I took sweet Bessy the Lumina onto a road that she had no business being on whatsoever. We're talking mud, narrow switchbacks, driving over a makeshift bridge over a bog, almost getting stuck in the mud a few times--it was out there. WAY out there. Fortunately, our two sedans survived mostly unscathed--I did put a dent in one of my hubcaps when we had to back up from a washout next to a big heap of rocks that had tumbled down a cliff--but we eventually gave up on going all the way to Ryan's family's property and just parked by a little lake and roasted hot (tofu) dogs. It was a good night.

Mountain lake, April '02.

Will and Ryan by the mountain lake, April '02.

We drove home late that night, making a pit stop at the gas station in Garrison for penny candy, with the White Album cranked up all the way back into town. Will loved the Beatles. LOVED. So much that he had "Dear Prudence" tattooed on his arm. To this day, whenever I hear that album, I think of that chilly night in April when we went offroading with our tofu dogs, our penny candy, and a sky full of stars.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Gag me with a spoon.

Terrible things from the late 1980s/early 1990s that I should not have to live through a second time:

1. Zubaz.

2. Hideous neon high-tops with multiple pairs of shoelaces shoved through them.

3. This. (Universe, I've already made my stance on them very clear. Do not test me.)

4. This haircut (as modeled by Salt)--the buzz-cut sides with the WHOOOOOOOSH of poodle poof on the top--which I've spotted on several living, breathing women in the past 72 hours:

Like a Hiroshima of hair.

It's like a hair Hiroshima. A veritable mushroom cloud of bad perm & hairspray. Don't let them get too close to Monster Island with that crap or we're gonna have all kinds of problems.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The "Hands of Fate" work in mysterious ways.

This may be the greatest thing ever.

. My. God.


Thursday, August 21, 2008


It was five years ago today that I picked up Flannery from the animal shelter in Helena.

(August 2003.)

The staff at the shelter didn't really know what the story was with this one. One story I heard was that she'd belonged to an elderly lady who'd died or...something...and that the cat was abandoned on the streets. The next version I heard was that she'd been an owner turn-in. So, who knows...she'd had a litter of kittens shortly before arriving at the shelter, and since they'd been weaned, she was ready to make a break for it. (The shelter had a bulletin board up at the county courthouse, and for years afterward I'd see pictures of her kittens on there--referred to semi-jokingly as "my grandkitties!")

She didn't come with a name, so I named her Flannery, after one of my favorite writers.

Flan, with flans.
(Flan with flans, November 2003.)

I'd been at the shelter a couple of times waiting for one to give me a sign, and this one--well, I don't think I picked her, I think she picked me. She was meowing like crazy, purring so hard she could hardly breathe, ramming herself up against my hand when I stuck it through the cage grates to pet the ensuing years, and having lived with her neurotic, stranger-danger terror every time a new person has walked within twenty feet of her, I'm kind of amazed at how friendly she was that day. She must've either really liked me, or really wanted to get the hell out of that cage.

Moving day.
(Moving day--Threat Level: REDREDRED!!!, August 2005.)

Flan in a box.
(Riding to Wisconsin, August 2005.)

She was skin & bones when I brought her home--I could push both sides of her belly together with a pinch--but she's pudged up over the years and now she's got a nice little Buddha belly. (She's still about 14 pounds lighter than Toivo, though, so I'm not too concerned.)

Chasing sunbeams.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


This has been cracking me & my mom up for years.


Bears a striking resemblance to someone, no?

She cut this out of a magazine back in, like, 2001, and we keep finding it every year or two and hanging it back up on the fridge. And he keeps taking it back down. I suppose it would be a little weird to see your doppelganger first thing every morning when you're reaching for the orange juice...

Monday, August 18, 2008

The truth is out there.

I try to refrain from
making constant mention of the crazy dreams I have, but I'm going to take today's horoscope as a sign that I should dish about what flew through my brain last night:
"Dreams are especially important to you right now, so see if you can write them down or find some other way to remember the most important bits."
Full moon + pizza = crazy dreams!

he Most Important Bits:
  1. I was at The Donut Hole in Helena eating long johns with Groucho Marx when David Duchovny burst through the doors, demanding to see my arm. I'm no X-Files buff, but I know enough to know that when David Duchovny tells you he wants to look at your arm, you let him look at your arm.

  2. Said arm's underside was covered in a strange series of inverted bumps that looked kind of like candy buttons that sunk deep into my arm--like, halfway through it--but without anything gory showing. Oh, and they were arranged like Cassiopeia. This apparently was what David Duchovny was looking for, because he actually yelled "Eureka!" (who yells "Eureka!"? Not even the mad scientist in "She Blinded Me With Science" yells "Eureka!") and pulled me out to what he kept referring to as "the getaway car" (which looked suspiciously like our family's car circa 1987, affectionately referred to as "The Ghetto Cruiser").

  3. "But what about Groucho," you ask? Well, funny you should, uh, ask--as we were dashing out to the getaway car, Groucho ran out behind us, stopping right in front of the car for dramatic emphasis...and pulled off his face. Because it was a mask, see? Groucho wasn't Groucho at all--he alien! An alien that looked like one of the Bananas in Pajamas! (This may be the first time in history that Groucho Marx and the Bananas in Pajamas have been mentioned together in the same sentence.)

  4. And thus began an epic battle a la The Matrix, with David Duchovny and Groucho/B1 (or was it B2?) duking it out all slow-motion-style. (You haven't lived until you've seen an anthropomorphic banana go all Taekwondo on somebody, seriously.) To be honest, I don't remember much about this part, because during the fight I stayed in the car, eating donuts. And right in the middle of everything, I woke up to the sounds of my cat puking a few feet away from my head.
How did Cassiopeia get on my arm? Was it Groucho's doing? Where was David Duchovny going to take me? How did Groucho get that mask to fit over his giant banana head? DID I FINISH MY DONUTS??? I may never know.

I do know one thing, though--the truth IS out there. And I'll bet donuts are involved somehow

Saturday, August 16, 2008


"How to fluff tissue."


Friday, August 15, 2008

"Was it good for you?"

There was a letter to the editor in Tuesday's
Daily Press that was, quite simply, magnificent. Its overuse of commas, its pile of run-on sentences, its faux-lawyerly-to-the-brink-of-being-unintelligible language flourishes...great gravy, it's enough to make me swoon. I would link to it in its entirety here, but alas, the Press makes people sign in to read things online now, and while this is a painless & spam-free procedure, I know how you people are. You're lazy. (Hey, I'm not judging, because I am, too. I'm just sayin'.)

A sample:

"To those of you who may be humored or even motivated by an old syndicated Seinfeld episode, framing of a man selling soup, as a 'Nazi,' because he couldn’t or wouldn’t promptly and efficiently feed the many, you will quickly understand the defacement that was associated with our business trademark."
Uh...well, maybe I would "quickly understand" the foregoing if it wasn't a ridiculously convoluted and confusing way of describing this:

"Home of the Pepperoni Nazi."

It goes on & on...
"In a past not long ago, 'Nazis' with community support used a form of branding on homes, businesses and persons: the image of a star — the inference of a faith; physical classifications and characterizations; personal classifications and characterizations — culminating in personalized physical numerical identification tattoos. The plurality found it humorous. The plurality claimed justice. The plurality found that it was good. Do you find it humorous? Are you part of that plurality? Are you having a tee-hee-hee moment right now? Was it good for you?"
Well, when you put it that way...uh, yes. Wait, we're talking about the "Pepperoni Nazi" graffiti here, right? Because to be honest, yeah, that did make me giggle. The Holocaust, not so much.

Don't get me wrong--I don't think people should be running around under cover of night, graffitiing signs and defacing other people's property. That's the way to anarchy. If you don't like a business, don't buy anything from them--it's that simple. And the owners of this business have every right to be ticked off and to fire off a letter to the paper about it. But comparing someone painting "Pepperoni Nazi" on your plywood sign in the sticks between Ashland & Washburn to...the Holocaust? Are you kidding me? Isn't that just a wee bit of a reach?
"To those of you using skills equal to Columbo’s, accusing us of defacing our own signage, but equally incapable of determining by common sense means, that negative alterations or modifications to our business logo, with resulting negative connotations being placed upon us individually or as a group as well as to our product line, would be less than productive, you had better keep your day jobs."
Dude(s), maybe you'd better keep your day job(s) and leave the writing to people who can put a sentence together.

People should write letters into their papers when they see something going on in their community that bothers them. But the best letters in the paper read like the polar opposite of this one--they're concise. They're to the point. They don't try to fancy-up their language to sound smarter, or more sophisticated, or more well-spoken. They write from the heart, and they cut to the chase. Writing like the stuff above, while stemming from real emotion and outrage, no doubt, just comes off as calculated, stuffy and condescending. If your message is lost in all the artifice, what's the point?

“The difficulty of literature is not to write, but to write what you mean.”
- Robert Louis Stevenson

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Winning the battle, but probably not the war (against bad grammar, or, apparently, "The Man").

Crazy guy outside of the Courthouse.

*squinting at this guy's sign as I walked down the street (note: in real-life, the sign's lettering was made out of those shiny silver & black stickers that are always next to the rack of "For Rent" and "For Sale" signs at the hardware store and which, when seen from half a block away and partially obscured by a lamppost, are kinda hard to read)*

Crazy Guy:
*noticing me squinting in the direction of his sign and sensing an opening* Speeding is more than assault!


Crazy Guy:
Call your Congressman!

*rounding the corner and heading inside the building*

Crazy Guy:
Yeah, you'd better talk to your lawyer!

*turning back as I went in the door* You spelled "assault" wrong!


Crazy Guy disappeared for a while. He just came back about ten minutes ago, and he apparently he made a run to the hardware store, because now there's an A sticker right where it belongs in the middle of "assault."

Me = 1

Crazy Guy = 0.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Well, if Fabio says it, then it MUST be true.

The poster that made me famous at the health department.

Emily's mom-in-law salvaged this for me from one of the local middle schools where she was working part-time as the school nurse back in the winter of ' immediately took up residence in my office at the county health department.

I don't know how successful it was at convincing middle-school girls to stay away from smoking, but let me tell you, the middle-aged gals at the health department were very inspired.

"Lips are meant for kissing...not for smoking."

Words to live by, ladies. Words to live by.

Roses, waffle irons & car horns.

The Rose Garden in Duluth.

I took a vacation day on Wednesday (gasp!) and drove my mom & Grandma Rosie to Duluth for the day. Our first stop was the Rose Garden at Leif Erickson Park. (Rosie at the Rose Garden, get it? Nyuk-nyuk.) We took her there a number of times back when I was at UMD, but it's been a few years since her last trip...she gets around pretty good for an 89 year-old lady.

(Although as you can probably tell by the pictures, about fifteen minutes after we pulled in, it started to downpour. Oh, well--fifteen minutes of rosy goodness was just about adequate.)

Red and yellow.
Rose Garden.
Jane & Rosie.

A day of thrilling shopping ensued. At our last stop at Target in Superior, my grandma was in search of a waffle iron.

Grandma: *pointing at a waffle iron rolling around loose in her cart* I found a waffle iron!

Me: *realizing immediately that my grandma has unplugged the model that was on the shelf and run off with it* Ohhhh...that looks like a nice one! But, uh, didn't they have any in boxes?

Grandma: Nope, just this one. It was sitting on a shelf at the end of an aisle.

Me: *feigning ignorance, a/k/a the path of least resistance* Huh, that's odd. Why don't we walk back and see if they put out any more in the last couple of minutes?

Sure enough, there were numerous boxed waffle irons on the shelf when we got back there. Those Target employees, they're really on the ball with the re-stocking. *wink*

And we hadn't wreaked the last of our havoc on Target yet that day--when I was pulling the car up by the front door (to save Grandma the walk out into the parking lot, since her ankles were hurting by then), this is what the car horn did (without me touching it):

"Beep! Beep!

Yeah, that third beep? That one lasted for about three minutes.

As every shopper in a five-block area turned to stare at us, we consulted the owner's manual (the entry for "horns" was heartbreakingly brief and made no mention of how to make it stop
honking, damn it), and when we opened the hood, there was unfortunately no giant button that said "MAKE HORN STOP" staring back at us. Finally, my brother Whitey implemented his tried-and-true strategy of whacking violently at the underside of the steering wheel column, and after a couple of thumps the godawful racket finally stopped.

It's frightening, how often that strategy has fixed various car problems in this family over the years.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Police blotter.

Tuesday, 1:08 A.M.:
Caller requests an officer to remove a female from his boat, states she is being irrational.

Tuesday, 3:37 A.M.: Police squad car hit a skunk.

Thursday, 9:39 P.M.: Caller states a dog was tied up across the street and is now loose, dragging a pole behind it on a leash.

Friday, 3:02 A.M.: Caller requested an officer because his 21 year-old girlfriend was celebrating her birthday and wouldn't calm down.

Friday, 10:24 P.M.: Subject states her sister beat her with a stick.

Sunday, 8:23 P.M.: Disturbance reported at carnival between "carnies" and garbage haulers.

Monday, 5:23 P.M.: Report of young child driving a lawnmower.

Monday, 9:15 P.M.: Report of kids ringing bell at church.

Monday, 9:33 P.M.: Request for help removing a woodchuck that's been living inside the hood of a car--responding officer got it out by spraying water on it.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Is that an egg sac or are you just happy to see me?

I found this little lady (I presume?) walking around the wall outside my bedroom window yesterday.
Ginormous spider.

I hope she's been taking her prenatal vitamins, because if what I've found on the interweb is accurate, that's a mighty big egg sac she's toting.

Is that an egg sac?

We kept her in the jar long enough to take these pictures, then released her back where I found her.


I'm just glad we got her back outside before this happened.