Monday, May 31, 2010

day 17: i checked out some boiling-hot geology porn

Yesterday around 2 a.m. my brother A. and I arrived at Yellowstone National Park, and everything here is boiling and steaming and spewing in a way that has me convinced it wants us all dead. 

Turns out Yellowstone is actually a volcanic hotspot, and last time it erupted some 650,000 years ago it covered half the U.S. in volcanic ash. And it is still very much alive, as bulging and surging beneath the ground is enough magma to push the ground up to an elevation 2,000 feet higher than the surrounding land. Which is probably why it might snow here tomorrow on the first day of June.

In some spots where rainwater and melted snow seep through the earth, the magma heats it up and spews it back out along with other gases, creating the geothermal features Yellowstone is famous for. 

Enjoy some free geology porn from our first day in the park, as well as some funny shit we encountered along the way:

Artist's Paintpot

"I think the term 'continental breakfast' is misleading. It doesn't sound like it should mean 'shitty,' but it means 'shitty.'" A., Travelodge in Rapid City, South Dakota

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Unfortunately-named South Dakota politicians: David Lust and Scott Munsterman

Sulphur Cauldron

"Do we get a free sample of gold?" - little boy in Mt. Rushmore Cave

Mud Volcano

Potential smallest town ever: Emblem, Wyoming, with an official population of 10

Tomorrow we visit Old Faithful and Mammoth Hot Springs. And we eat more Montana huckleberry ice cream, because dammit, that shit is good.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

day 16: i drove across south dakota

First of all, my mom should have been a boy scout. She is always prepared, and I’m convinced that after packing for something as simple as a four-hour trip across Kansas, she could feasibly survive for up to a month in the wilderness.

My brother and I are road-tripping to Yellowstone by way of Mt. Rushmore, and judging from the three bags she packed full of granola bars, Benadryl, Advil, first-aid kits, sunscreen, bug spray, Pepto-Bismol, flashlights, spare batteries, binoculars, etc., I think she’s convinced we’re going to die.

And today it did get a little scary. Most of Interstate 29 along the Iowa-Nebraska border and into eastern South Dakota is pretty much identical until you get to the Badlands. Today it was storming, and we could see heavy rain blurring the horizon and lightening streaking the sky several miles before we actually drove through it.

As rain and hail beat against the windshield, South Dakota quickly went from snorefest to intense. A few miles later the rain began to let up, and between the darkness of earth and clouds a strip of grayish sky hovered eerily (pictured above).

The storm was invigorating, allowing me to stay alert during the next 300 miles that featured an excessive amount of billboards advertising a place called Wall Drug, which could have been anything from a restaurant to a gift shop to a water park; the ads were not terribly specific. When we finally reached the exit, as far as we could tell it was a tricked-out gas station.

When the next surge of billboards hyped a place called Reptile Gardens, I imagined it was an iguana in a cage behind a curtain that some dude would let you peek at if you gave him 50 cents. Turns out it’s on the way to Mt. Rushmore, so I guess we’ll find out tomorrow.

Friday, May 28, 2010

days 14 & 15: i saw the birth of my godson

Note: Because I feel it is mommy's privilege to share baby's first pictures and not mine, the photos are of oddities from the hospital's so-called "gift shop." After 26 sleepless hours, I thought they were hilarious.

My 12-hour crash course on labor and delivery was intense. It was like riding a rollercoaster while sticking needles in my face and eating pop rocks. It was like driving 90 mph down the highway on a motorcycle while not wearing a helmet and firing a handgun. And it was the most amazing thing I've ever seen.

I have known E. since we were 14 years old. Saying we're best friends doesn't do our relationship justice; we are more like sisters or even soul-mates. For the past 13 years, we have seen each other through our best and ugliest times, so when she told me she was pregnant, there was never any question about whether I would be at the delivery.

When she called Tuesday to say her labor would be induced the following evening, I took a personal day at work and went to the hospital bearing a caramel frappuccino, the last thing she would be allowed to eat until the baby was born.

A few hours later when her contractions intensified, I got a cup of ass-tasting coffee from the vending machine and prepared myself for an all-nighter involving baby name trivia, a "relaxing" hospital-produced tv program consisting of an hour of adorable kitten pictures, and some of the most impressive cussing I've ever heard.

Historically I am not a baby person. I'm afraid to hold them because I'm convinced their heads are going to roll right off their weak little necks, and as far as I'm concerned they all look pretty much the same.

But it all changes when the baby belongs to someone you love. When E.'s baby boy was born Thursday morning after 12 hours of labor, I watched him come into the world and take his first breath, and I cried. He had a perfect little nose, big hazel eyes, and a head full of curly brown hair. When I held him for the first time, I felt I could have stared at him forever; in short, I was in love.

Now I am suddenly disgusted by the way pop culture has turned childbirth into a kind of spectator sport. It seems certain fame-whores are trying to see who can pop out the most kids at once (current record: eight), and there is never a shortage of speculation on "is she or isn't she" or "who's the father" on daytime talk shows and in tabloids.

And it's unfortunate, because it detracts from how truly amazing the whole experience is. It is both delicate and enduring, and I am honored to have been a part of it.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

day 13: the caffeinated explorer goes to one more cup in waldo

When I was 17, I got a job at the first KC-area drive-thru Starbucks in Olathe, Kansas. On my first day, I discovered the caramel macchiato, which is as much caramel sauce and sugar as it is coffee. Overwhelmed by the deliciousness, I chugged two within 20 minutes, experienced a brief period of elation, and then had to go home early with intestinal distress.

All things considered, my first experience with coffee was like a sloppy, drunk makeout session that blossoms into a mutually-beneficial relationship, and now coffee keeps me from face-planting into my keyboard on a daily basis. 

Almost as much as coffee itself, I love trying new coffee shops, and I'm always on the lookout for ones I haven't been to; hence One More Cup, located along the Waldo strip around 75th and Wornall that looks like it's forever stuck in 1975, but in a good way.

The quaint storefront is the kind of place you drive by day after day and wonder why you never go in. It looks inviting in the same way a small-town diner does; that is, the staff will be friendly and the food will be good, but there will be a cluster of regulars eyeing you suspiciously, wondering why they've never seen you 'round here before.

Inside, the shop is not fancy or pretentious, and the usual coffee shop fare of croissants, muffins, danishes, etc. lines the counters. I am absolutely thrilled to discover they serve my favorite local organic sandwiches from the Nutty Girl and that their Roasterie iced coffee is from concentrate and not simply drip coffee poured over ice; in my mind, that is one of the factors that separates a serious coffee shop from a merely mediocre one.

For those who like their coffee sweet and fancy, they have a variety of creative drinks featuring Shatto milk, including root beer chai and white mocha strawberry.

Strangely enough, the thing that wins me over is the cups. Manufactured by NatureWorks, the cups are made from corn - a sign on the condiment bar warns that they will melt if left in hot cars - and are 100 percent compostable, as are the straws.

Delicious and eco-friendly? I think I may have discovered a new lunchtime retreat.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

day 12: i watched an entire season of reality tv

Don't get me wrong - I love the Biggest Loser. I watched every episode this season and followed the contestants through their struggles and victories, and they inspired me to stay active, as for years I loathed the gym and viewed it more as punishment than self-improvement.

That said, I figured it was only a matter of time before some enterprising young chap began scheming. Because where there is money to be had, there is a way to unfairly get your grubby little hands on it.

Here is my Biggest Loser get rich quick scheme in 5 not-so-easy and potentially physically- and psychologically-damaging steps:
  1. Doughnuts: Fucking eat them. In order to get on the Biggest Loser, you need to be at least 100 pounds overweight. In season 9, the heaviest male contestant was 30-year-old Michael, weighing in at 526 pounds. The heaviest female was 27-year-old Ashley at 374 pounds. 
  2. Anger: Direct it inward. If you’re in a relationship, you might want to end it. Feel free to drink too much and overeat in an attempt to fill any voids in your life; then beat yourself up for it. With the help of super trainers Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels, the angriest contestants learn to use their rage to fuel their workouts.
  3. Make the cut: Getting on the show can be tricky; with more than 60 percent of the American population to compete with, you need to stand out. Try to be the fattest, the cockiest, the most desperate, the most optimistic, the most motivating, etc. It probably helps if you have a good reason to get in shape, such as kids or a spouse (or perhaps you want kids or a spouse but don’t feel as though you deserve them, about which you should be very vocal).
  4. Maintain: Once you’ve made the show, your goal is to be there for all 16 weeks. In order to avoid being eliminated, you need to consistently put up big numbers, so don’t blow your weight loss load all at once. Also, in the event you do fall below the yellow line and are eligible for elimination, you don’t want to be the bitch in the house like this season’s Melissa. You never know when you might need allies.
  5. Win: This is, of course, the part where your scheming pays off; not only is the Biggest Loser confident and athletic, he or she becomes $250,000 richer. This season’s winner was Michael, the heaviest contestant in BL history, who dropped to 262 pounds; in second place was Ashley, who ended at 191 pounds. Most contestants ended up losing at least 50 pounds, and some, like 24-year-olds Sam and SunShine, are downright smoking hot now. Others, like 51-year-olds O’Neal and Sherry, have simply been inspiring to watch as they regained control of their lives. Check out the before and after pictures on the BL web site. And then hit up the closest fast food drive-thru, because you’ve got some work to do.

Monday, May 24, 2010

day 11: i admired an ice queen

For as inept as I am when it comes to makeup and clothes – if it were socially acceptable, I would go around barefoot wearing hippie skirts and never brush my hair – I am nonetheless fascinated by fashion and the world that has been created around it.

This is mainly because I’m a sucker for tragedy. The runways are filled with hungry young women – hungry for fame, money, love, acceptance, and perhaps most of all, a big fucking sandwich.

Even more interesting are the people who helped create this artificial, impossible standard of female beauty. And no one can argue that one of the main culprits is Anna Wintour.

Vogue editor-in-chief since 1988 and famously aloof bitch, the skinny 60-year-old’s trademark dark sunglasses and severe bob have become iconic, as has her tendency to overuse the one F word that seems to matter more than any other in modeling. In her position of power, she has the last word in what is considered "in." And each year, it all starts in September, the "January of fashion."

The 2009 documentary The September Issue follows Wintour and the Vogue team as they plan and shoot the largest issue in Vogue history, weighing in at nearly five pounds and being hailed as the "Bible" of fashion.

As a documentary, September is most revealing in what it ignores: most people aren’t chauffeured to Starbucks each morning, taken seriously for saying things like “I’m really feeling whites this season,” or aware of who designed their gym towels. The only outsider’s perspective comes from Wintour’s daughter, a 20-something law student who feels "there’s more to life than fashion."

Despite Wintour’s apparent obliviousness to the fact that most designer clothes are not accessible to anyone who is not both rich and thin – the documentary opens with her saying most people avoid or poke fun of "her world" because they are "afraid" of it – there is something to be admired in the singularity of her vision. She knows what she wants, and she knows how to present it in a way that inspires both interest and desire.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

day 10: i went down to funkytown

In Raytown, Missouri, a large shed in a shopping center just off the highway houses Funkytown, a neon, disco-themed dance club that is locally famous for being both ridiculous and awesome.

Despite wanting to hold the place at arm’s length and enjoy it only ironically, I have to confess I had a genuinely good time, especially because the dance floor has been tricked out to look like a giant carwash complete with old-school brushes and bubbles.

Experience the funk (and because they were never intended to describe something so unnatural, some funky haikus):

Pray to disco ball
Spinning and shining above
The god of the dance 

Climb up the stairway
To heaven, it’s VIP
And remains empty

A town this funky
Makes neon a state of mind
Crunchy as fall leaves

Drinks become empty
Gnarly tree lords over bar
Sees you sip then trip

Cougars in a cage
On soapy neon dance floor
They get too frisky

Halo of bubbles
Suspended like a held breath
Pop ephemeral

Chair offers a hand
Have a seat in your short skirt
Homage to the douche

Saturday, May 22, 2010

day 9: i went on a shopping spree

Along with drinking, swearing, and ogling pretty girls, shopping is another thing I do like a man: I go in, grab a few things I like, try them on, and buy the ones that look good. Then I leave. I don’t go back and try other sizes or colors. I don’t browse the discount racks for that elusive bargain. The whole ordeal takes about 25 minutes.

I also suspect my feelings about weddings are atypical. To me, weddings are like new cars – sure, they look nice, but I don’t seriously expect to get to have one of my own. I have grown emotionally detached from the idea of weddings in the same way I’ve trained myself to believe that as long as it runs and gets me from A to B, one car is as good as another. That’s why, in the event I’m still single ten years from now, I have what I consider a pretty solid backup plan to become a crazy cat lady.

I must confess, though: I am ridiculously excited about my friend Rachel’s wedding. I have known Rachel for nearly 20 years, so I want her special day to be beautiful and fantastic, and I fully expect to be teary-eyed and puffy-faced by the end of it. Today we went shopping for bridesmaid dresses, about which she is being really cool – she wants us each to pick out a plain black dress. No neon pink or peacock blue or tulle or satin here.

The task sounds fairly simple, but I’m not gonna lie – the thought of dress shopping with four other girls, even girls who are some of my best lifelong friends, stresses me out a bit. That’s why I’m surprised when I enter the store and spot a cute dress in the juniors section, and it’s like salve on my bedraggled soul.

Here’s what I learned during my shopping spree:
  1. Workouts work. Seriously. I can fit into a size four now. Not that I have ever been overweight, but a few months ago I was a size eight. I’m shrinking, and it’s awesome, and it makes me want to spend my entire tax refund on new clothes. As anyone who has been with me while taste-testing gelato knows, when I get excited, I swear loudly and uncontrollably. Everyone in the fitting room when I zipped up those shorts undoubtedly heard me exclaim, "Motherfucking size four, bitches!"
  2. Retail therapy is real, and it works. When I arrived at Macy’s, I was in the middle of a fit of self-loathing. Then I bought a bunch of crap. When I left, I felt lighter. I even sang along to Frightened Rabbit with my windows down the whole way home, and I didn’t care when this dude at a stoplight totally stared and laughed at me. 
  3. People find Jesus in their filth. After shopping we went to Barnes and Noble for coffee, and we discovered a book called Look, It's Jesus!, in which people claim to have found images of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and even Buddha in common, every day objects such as a closet door or a grilled cheese sandwich. It would appear many of these religious fanatics live in something akin to squalor – one submitter found Jesus in his moldy door jamb; another found him in the brownish stains covering his white couch. It’s as if they’re saying, "Yes, I may be disgusting, but I’ve been blessed for it."
  4. Clothes can be confusing. I tried on one garment today that could have been either a skirt or a really poofy tube top. I had to ask the cashier for confirmation that it could feasibly be worn as either, and she said yes, even going so far as to suggest you could start off wearing it as a top and then pull it down and wear it as a skirt if you got bored, though it seems various parts of your body would be awkwardly and perhaps illegally exposed before, during and after this transfer.
  5. Being girly can be fun. There. I said it.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

day 8: i out-worked a chiefs cheerleader

I have to preface this blog by admitting it is largely self-serving from the perspective of a 17-year-old version of myself. I was not cool in high school; I was an angst-ridden mess of self-loathing, so of course the poised, beautiful, self-assured cheerleader was my natural enemy.

Several times a week I go to Project Poolside class at Scott Fitness, also known as boot camp class. Because I’ve been going for a few months, I can usually handle the intense, hour-long workout of weight training and cardio fairly well. Unless the Tiny Torturer is instructing.

A 5-foot-tall, bleach-blonde powerhouse of pain and fury, the Tiny Torturer will follow a set of 60 lunges with 30 jumping jacks and 20 pushups and then make you do it again while holding weights and doing bicep curls and lateral raises. You will hurt more than you thought was possible; sweat will bead on your skin like moisture on a mid-summer margarita glass.

Because I ate two full-size Milky Way Midnight bars for lunch, I felt I had no choice but to go to class this evening. After grabbing my weights, I took my usual place at the back of the room.

“Oh fuck,” I thought, noticing a blur of platinum bouncing at the front of the room. “It’s the Tiny Torturer.”

As the class rapidly filled up, I took note of who was around me; I tend to get annoyed with chicks whose weights are larger than mine. But tonight’s culprit was even more loathsome: a skinny brunette with a tight, red, sequined tank top reading “Chiefs cheerleader.”

“Ugh, bitch, stay back,” my awkward high school self groaned from 1999. But as the class filled up, she moved closer.

Then the workout began. Almost immediately I was sweating and dying, choking back the desire to push open the emergency exit, vomit in the parking lot, and take the walk of shame to my car.

“I can’t do this,” I thought. “It’s too hard. I should have eaten more for lunch. Fuck it; I’m leaving.”

Then I noticed it: cheerleader was fading. On the last set of pushups, she quit halfway through to mop her forehead and have a water break.

“Do 20 alternating forward lunges with bicep curls,” Tiny Torturer shouted.

Cheerleader did five, then dropped her puny four-pound weights and waved to her friend.

“Sorry,” she shrugged, and she turned and walked off the floor.

Of course I was fading too, but watching cheerleader give up gave me enough adrenaline to pump my eight-pound weights for two extra bicep curl/lunge combos.

Though outside my face looked like a cherry tomato, inside I was partying like it was 1999 and I was totally planning to skip lunch and smoke cigarettes behind the soccer field. Because, hey, I'd earned it.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

day 7: i donated to an animal shelter

Do you want some of my money?

Then tell me about your sick pets. Got a dog with worms? A kitten that needs to be spayed? A bunny that has fleas?

Yeah, I’ll totally help pay for that.

You should also know that I believe getting a pet is a lifelong commitment (pictured at left: my cats Phoenix and Bubba Lee Kinsey go head-to-head), so I have a special place in my heart for older animals. If your furry friend is on his or her last leg, I will be even more inclined to help. And the more heinous the affliction, the greater the odds I will empty my pockets into your waiting hands.

Puffy Paws Kitty Haven, a cat shelter in Englewood, Florida, is pretty much the ideal recipient for my disposable income (which is, like, ten dollars. No kidding).

Caring for more than 100 unwanted cats with physical, health and behavioral problems, including feline AIDS and leukemia, the no-kill, all-volunteer shelter also adopts out healthy cats and kittens.

The Haven is especially unique because it's also the home of founders Rick and Chrissy Kingston. One picture on their web site proves that Chrissy has lived a childhood dream of mine: to be covered from head to toe with kitties like a furry, purring blanket. (I have since revised this dream so I sound less deranged; now I just want my two cats to sleep on my feet in the wintertime.)

Puffy Paws’ e-mail newsletter provides pictures and anecdotes about the kitties living in “the world’s greatest cathouse” and is pretty much gravy for a future crazy cat lady like me. As a nonprofit organization, the Kingstons rely largely on donations to cover food, transportation, litter and veterinary costs, so the newsletter is also forthcoming about financial struggles.

When I received the following plea, I could not say no: 
One of the kitties a 18 year old boy named Alex just came into the Haven and upon inspection we found out that his claws are grown into his paw pads in the front. He is undergoing emergency surgery at Loving Care Animal Hospital later today.
Old kitty? Check.
Relatively horrific and painful-sounding affliction? Check. 
My ten dollars is yours? Check.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

day 6: i listened to a podcast

Having spent most of my adult life stumbling in and out of rum-flooded trenches, I am fascinated by the stories of other women who drink. And I mean it in the most grotesque sense – women who get sloppy fall-down drunk, rationalize it (it was a tough day; I didn’t eat enough; if he/she/they would just do/not do X like I want/don’t want, this wouldn't happen; etc.), and then, several days, weeks or months later, do it again.

After reading Drinking: A Love Story, Caroline Knapp’s honest and sometimes startling memoir about her decades-long (and mostly secret) struggles with alcoholism, I felt I had met a kindred spirit.

I don’t feel I have a drinking problem so much as I tend to drink problematically; I won’t touch booze for two weeks, and then one afternoon I’ll go out and buy a bottle of wine, and the next thing I know I’m sobbing on the kitchen floor and the cops are pounding on my door.

Knapp drank more regularly – she had the obligatory “secret stash” of bottles hidden throughout her home – but many parts of her memoir felt like scenes out of my own life: she would wake in the morning unsure of how she got home or where she left her car; she would be stricken with nail-biting anxiety at gatherings when they ran out of booze; she would grow irritated with the well-meaning concern of her boyfriends, who had watched her drink too much and act a fool at one too many parties.

One such well-meaning boyfriend used to tease her about her near-obsessive tendency to finish entire bottles of wine on her own. She would plunk the bottle down on the table with authority, as if to say, "I am drinking this wine tonight, so don’t even try to stop me." He called those her days as a "wine terrorist."

When I found out Knapp had died of lung cancer in 2002 at the age of 42, I mourned the loss of this woman I had never known but with whom I shared a common bond.

It seems women are less likely than men to discuss alcoholism, so when my boyfriend gave me an Aloud podcast from the Los Angeles Public Library featuring memoirist and poet Mary Karr, I was intrigued to hear her describe drinking patterns that sounded eerily similar to my own.

A successful teacher and writer whose drinking life was mostly characterized by periodic binges, Karr quit the booze for good after she nearly crashed her car into a concrete wall. In her struggles to stay sober, she test-drove various religions before settling on Catholicism after feeling inspired by the sense of community she experienced while attending mass. She details her experiences in her 2009 memoir Lit.

While I relate to the absolute lack of control and single-minded focus on getting as wasted as possible as quickly as possible after having a few drinks, Karr and I veer in different directions when considering Catholicism as a solution to this problem.

Of course I respect anyone who has overcome addiction and recognize that sometimes our last resorts can save us (Karr was a lifelong atheist), but I cannot abide a religion that says birth control and homosexuality are sinful, expects its followers to somehow reconcile a god whose love is unconditional with the possibility of eternal torture and damnation, and gives women a secondary role to men. Also, some of the pope’s stances – such as telling AIDS-ridden African communities that condoms are actually responsible for the spread of the disease – are downright dangerous.

Perhaps having been raised in an environment opposite Karr’s – everyone in my family is a devout Catholic – I simply cannot conceive of any reason why anyone would become Catholic by choice. To me it seems the same as choosing to believe in Santa Claus. At various points in the interview, Karr says “I know you think I’m crazy” regarding her choice to become Catholic. And my response is, “Well, yeah.”

On the other hand, she has managed to stay sober, while I have continued to struggle. And honestly, if I were the kind of person who could believe, maybe I would. But the older I get, the more I begin to suspect I'm just not that kind of person.

Monday, May 17, 2010

day 5: i had a relapse of strep

All day I could feel it coming on like demons scraping the back of my throat with a nail file.

“It’s the strep again,” I told my boyfriend. “Either I have PTSD, or it’s coming back.”

“It’s probably allergies,” he said. “Just take some Zyrtec.”

Turns out my Zyrtec is expired, but the real reason it didn’t work is because it isn’t allergies. As evidenced by my swollen glands and tonsils, the strep is back for round two.

And my defenses are down, because round one was brutal – after a five-day dance with Amoxicillin, the strep looked at the pitiful antibiotics, laughed and got stronger. The second doctor I saw suggested the strep was probably penicillin-resistant and prescribed a cephalosporin, aka super pills that he believed would knock it out cold.  

And finally, after seven days of whimpering every time I so much as took a drink of water, the strep began to retreat just in time for my trip to Vegas.

But now it’s back with considerably less force than last time, though I suspect that’s because I began bombing it with super pills before it had a chance to finish regrouping.

So for now I’m grateful that clouds and rain have delayed the spring, as I don’t feel I’m missing out when I opt to spend the evening watching Law & Order and Family Guy while my body goes for the TKO. 

Sunday, May 16, 2010

day 4: i attended a fashion show

A lot of people I know worked hard to put on the Blue Summer Eclectic, a fundraising event for KKFI and KC Fringe Fest combining fashion, music and performance art, including my boyfriend Jason Harper, who made the awesome promo video.

All I did was show up and get trashed.

Because my fridge broke on Friday, I have no food in the house, only a sad sack of spoiled condiments moldering on the porch. I ended up getting a salad and a bottle of wine for dinner, concluding that I would rather drink my calories that evening.

Of course the wine saturated my brain like a sponge, and while teetering around the Uptown Theater's Conspiracy Room I found myself discussing the potential hazards of masturbating with hooks for hands ala Jon Hamm in the most recent episode of 30 Rock and how I wanted to personify the music of KC soul band The Good Foot into one being and sleep with it.

The event itself is kind of a blur, but a very pleasant blur. I remember hot chicks dancing with light-up hula-hoops, hot chicks strutting down the runway in clothes by local designers that I would actually wear (unlike most “high fashion,” which in my mind only falls under the broadest possible definition of “clothing” in the same way a trash bag poncho can be considered “a raincoat”), and hot chicks dancing and twirling while suspended ten feet in the air between two colorful pieces of fabric.

It was the kind of event that made me proud to live in Kansas City and to know such awesome people. And it made me wish I’d gone to the Jamaican restaurant instead of the salad bar.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

day 3: i dove into the abyss

First I should clarify that by “abyss” I mean “the space between the stove and the counter,” and by “dove into” I mean “cleaned.” *

I have been meaning to do this for years, but every time I’ve considered it my overwhelming fear of rotting food – my ex-boyfriend once chased me around our apartment with a molding jack-o-lantern, and I locked myself in the bathroom until he promised to take it to the dumpster – has forced me to stay away from the space into which I’ve seen egg shells, tofu, carrots, zucchini, etc. disappear as though entering the Bermuda Triangle.

I pull out the stove to discover this:

Though I have lived here for three years and am embarrassed to have contributed to this mess that appears equal parts furry and crusty, it isn’t all my fault; the abyss was already the grayish non-color of decaying organic matter when I moved in.

Close up:

Seriously, what the fuck is that? It looks like a mushroom, some croutons, and sadness.

After sweeping the (I get a little gaggy just typing this) chunks of food into the trash, I attack the space with bleach. I am horrified – and no, it’s not too strong of a word – to discover an ancient bag of mouse poison next to one of the “best friend” jelly bracelets I wore when I dressed as a Person of Wal-Mart for Halloween. After collecting myself and wondering what percentage of the filth constitutes mouse droppings, I wipe the floor and end up with this:

Not perfect, but much better.

*I know this isn’t exciting at all. But if I’m going to try something new EVERY DAY, they aren’t all going to go over like gangbusters.   

Friday, May 14, 2010

day 2: i wore four-inch heels

I am a low-maintenance kind of girl - I prefer comfy to fancy and cut-offs to dresses, so wearing heels for a day, especially four-inch heels, is completely out of the ordinary. In fact, the last time I did so may have been at my friend's wedding in 2007, when I preferred to walk barefoot around Union Station rather than endure another moment in those awful excuses for footwear.

I know other women (and some men) wear even higher heels on a daily basis at jobs where they have to stand for eight-plus hours, and it quite honestly confounds me; today I almost walked barefoot to the bathroom after only a few hours in heels, and most of that time I was sitting behind a desk.

Because when I wear heels I essentially feel as though I'm re-learning how to walk, I've written some limericks, my favorite poetic form from childhood.

There once was a girl from K-City
Who found four-inch heels quite tricky
"My shoes might be killers,"
she said with a shiver
And downstairs she stumbled too quickly.

When a tomboy decides to dress up
She thinks brushing her hair is the stuff
Until one more genteel
Presents her with heels
Though before she was quite tall enough.

She wears her high heels to the bar
Three drinks in, she doesn't get far
Caught on the rug
Her shoe gives a tug
She spills as though poured from a jar.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

day 1: i met a pulitzer prize-winning author

Having spent nearly a decade trying (and largely failing) to write character-driven fiction, I was struck by Marilynne Robinson’s live interview at the Kansas City Public Library when she said that after finishing Housekeeping in 1980, she mourned the loss of the characters she had spent so much time getting to know.

Similarly, the characters in Gilead, her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, stuck with her long after the book’s completion, so she had to continue telling their stories in her most recent novel, Home.

“If these characters want their lives,” she said, “I should give it to them.”

My signed copy of Gilead is awesome.

While I am looking forward to reading all of Robinson’s novels, last month I read Housekeeping as part of the National Endowment for the Arts' Big Read series. In this poetic, observant novel, the characters are fully realized in an organic way that seems effortless and inspires a great degree of admiration and envy in my cold, cold heart.

After losing their mother to suicide when she drives her car into the same lake that swallowed their grandfather’s derailed train years earlier, young sisters Ruth and Lucille fall under the reluctant care of their eccentric, train-hopping aunt Sylvie.

The haphazard family lives in the fictional town of Fingerbone, Idaho, which is a character in itself – located in a valley alongside a temperamental lake that is always flooding or freezing, the town’s difficult climate threatens its mix of residents and transients and rattles its already shaky foundation.

Like Fingerbone, Sylvie is unstable. She sits alone for hours in the dark, fills rooms from floor to ceiling with newspapers and tin cans, “borrows” unattended canoes, and doesn’t know the whereabouts of her husband, whose very existence seems to occasionally slip her mind.

While Lucille rebels against Sylvie’s strangeness, Ruth seems almost intrinsically a part of it. The inherent similarities between Ruth and Sylvie and their inability to conform even when faced with loneliness and isolation raise questions about how much people are capable of change and how much certain tendencies such as transience and privacy (or in Lucille’s case, conformity and propriety) are simply hardwired.

On an unrelated note, Robinson teaches fiction writing at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and she is a self-assured, competent product of a lifetime spent in quality educational institutions. Though she claims not to think of herself as such, she is a capital "W" Writer, part of a group very few people successfully infiltrate.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

if you're bored then you're boring

It's the curse of adulthood - boredom. Complacency, sometimes to the point of numbness. The death of one's soul is a slow process, unnoticable on an incremental basis but devastating in its finality. One day you realize you've been staring at the same spot on the wall for 30 minutes, and you're like... fuck. Because your ability to think critically has been reduced to one-word, pseudo-emotional reactions that simultaneously communicate dissatisfaction and passive acceptance.

Considering my recent propensity to park in front of the tv for three-hour Law & Order marathons and my something-approaching-genuine interest in the outcomes of paternity tests on the Maury Show, I fear I'm reaching this state, so I am going to vow to try something new every day. And to force myself to blog about it. Which sadly means I'll be spending less time looking at the following:

...and much more time slyly (or perhaps not-so-slyly) giving the finger to the gray matter that composes so much of adult life.