Saturday, December 27, 2008

Good Vibrations

video
I admit I’m a pansy. I’ve spent many years of my life terrified. The rooted-to-the-ground, eyes-squeezed, screaming-prayers-in-my-head terrified. For those of you without such experiences I pity you that your life should be so boring.

The feeling happens when I lose control, something inevitable when I combine my klutziness with speed. Knowing this I’ve spent many nights racking my brain for a way to conquer boarding on land, snow and sea. And when I went home in July for a family reunion I found the answer, the long sloping road I grew up on.

Memorial Drive runs a loop from the highway south of town to Main Street just north of the first stop sign, passing by the VFW, the cemetery, my childhood home and the hospital. I decided Trav and I could skip the first three and hook up near our new house and riding the mile down to the park. My memory holds moments of cruising down the smooth road on a bike, fast enough to tangle my hair. It would be great for Trav to learn and me to gain confidence.

We started a little shaky. Literally the road shook my board, but I’d expected this to be the shady part of the journey. We went down the little dip where the road crosses Willow Creek then kicked up the only hill we encountered. At this point a smarter person would have enjoyed riding down that hill and gone home. We proceeded kicking down Memorial. Occasionally I’d tell Trav life would improve once we made it to the hospital where the road went downhill.

I don’t know that he heard me or that he knows sign language. The rough road caused my board to go slightly backwards while I urged it forward. I felt the shudders course through my right foot, up my leg and trunk and settle in my lungs and throat. It grabbed the air that carried my words and jumbled it around so what came out through chattering teeth sounded demented and foreign. And the wild gestures I threw to signal him got lost in my struggle for balance.

Then as we approached the bridge and the stinky tower (appropriately nicknamed) entrance to the park I saw a familiar white dodge pickup turning toward us. My father drove straight at me. I noticed two craters on the side of the road and thought of the impending disaster. Perhaps a book and cup of cocoa should have been my day’s adventure. Instead my shaky legs stood on a longboard on a busy two-lane road without a shoulder and my dad, who hours before complained about his failing eyesight, headed straight at me. I envisioned a tumble in the ditch and as any sane scared person would do, I held my breath and closed my eyes.

When I opened them the road had cleared and I navigated into the park. Laughing happily I glanced around for Travis. Meanwhile my speed decreased and Trav passed me as my board hit a crack that jolted me backward onto the cobblestone asphalt.

Longboarding on the plains: they told me it couldn’t be done but I didn’t believe them.

They were right.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Eve of Storytelling

I remember sitting on the cold floor of the gym, cringing at the lingering stench of cafeteria food and sweaty kids eagerly waiting for the hour to be over. Assemblies never meant much to me except a sore bum and time away from the creative processing I managed at my desk. This happened to be when I had questionable eyesight and came in as third shortest in my second grade class. I couldn’t see over the other kids’ heads so the presentations held my attention for about three minutes.

One speaker stood out, a Native American who sat in a chair and related creation stories passed down from her tribe. She became the most beautiful woman I couldn’t see. Her melodic chanting voice lulling me along as the sun scorched the silly coyote. At that moment I hoped to be a great storyteller. But maybe I didn’t need outside inspiration, storytelling is in the blood.

Gathered in the kitchen for Christmas Eve chili I received the warm teasing of the visiting child from Gramps.

“Now let me tell you something Breanna,” he started. “Where did you get that dark black hair in a family full of dishwater blondes?”

I fought the urge to point out that he asked me a question and told me nothing. He proceeded to tell me that it came from him and pointed to an old black-and-white high school photo. His hair appeared black. This sparked the evening’s entertainment. We read through the book of transcription to an interview my aunt held with him.

At each pause when while we passed the book over for the next grandchild’s turn, Gramps raised to his full height punctuating the stories with sweeping arm movements. His deep voice projecting and his bright blue eyes dancing mischievously looking younger than his weathered wrinkles he turned to each audience member.

Watching him I realized I’d inherited his skill as an orator (explaining the speech awards and maybe even the blog) and I finally found a common trait with the family patriarch.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Fingerprints

“Don’t run,” he yelled.

I straightened and turned my face, heated with shame, towards the unknown man. Throwing an apologetic smile I promised to walk on the icy path. Then I laughed knowing I looked childish in my mismatched winter gear assembled in haste. But I had 11 minutes before the hours for fingerprinting ended.

Rushing through the front doors I met challenge number two. The security guard who looked strangely familiar gestured to me to sign in. Could these ridiculously old men not tell that I failed to plan? I didn’t have moments to spare for the nonsense like walking and registration complete with the State’s version of a bathroom pass—a large round visitor’s sticker.

As I’m sure many security cameras can verify I ran down the hall, nearly pulled the door off the hinges and tapped my foot impatiently waiting for the elevator. Arriving on the fourth floor I approached the first woman I saw sitting at a desk.

“I need to be fingerprinted,” I exclaimed. Honestly I said it loudly and stood confused when I had to repeat my request to the woman in the next cubicle. She had been facing me when I first spoke so I wrongly assumed she had heard. Not my only miscalculation.

An hour later, which included a quick trip to the ATM across the street, I stared at my fingers. The computer refused to believe that my individually scanned fingerprint patterns matched the four digit scans done first. My skin dried out from the damp cloth the lady kept wiping them with, the cloth that was meant to hydrate.

I felt criminal, like I’d gotten away with the perfect crime only to have karma kick me. We scanned and re-scanned and erased to start again. I regretted not drinking that glass of water. This was no routine ink job. When we finally tricked the digi-cop I breathed deeply, mentally checking this errand off my list.

“Here are your papers,” the lady said cheerfully handing me the forms I’d just filled out. “Keep them together and bring them back after you get your criminal history from Ireland.”

Did I complain about the hour-plus fingerprinting? I might have more to say when the Garda get back to me next year.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Fading Glory

I lie, I lie, I lie. And in the face of the truth I rationalize. My recent offense occurred a few weeks ago when I enthusiastically signed up for a weekend volleyball tournament. I excitedly told everyone about it. I rescheduled therapy sessions. I imagined two days of digging and swinging.

That was the first lie. I don’t swing. I’ve never been a hitter and my short attention span makes it difficult to get the timing down. Back row pass, setter’s got the ball, she’s sending offside, that’s me, start the approach, wow those are bright coral shorts, reminds me of a flower in Dublin, or maybe it was Monet’s garden. Suddenly I’ve jumped with my right arm stretched. I hastily finish the swing while shifting focus back to the falling ball. Sometimes I even hit it with my hand.

Tonight while flailing pathetically on the court, I silently cursed my talent and contemplated why I continue to play with a broken body, not to mention the ghosts of indoor play. My team got hammered from all fronts. Our opponents’ seven foot stars out shining our nearly five foot midgets. Their girls were taller too.

I held on to hope that we’d find a rhythm, save our dignity and appear as competitors. I rallied, thinking myself a fierce intimidating threat. Then a visitor from my past showed up. We hugged hello and I apologized for making her watch our games. She smiled and proclaimed to be happy with anything as long as she could stay the night at my apartment. She was driving through Salt Lake on a holiday trip from Portland to Denver.

We chatted a bit and soon I stretched in preparation for the next match. It crossed my mind that I had been a little distracted earlier and I expected my abilities to improve now that I wasn’t worried about my visitor. It may have worked had my visitor not offered a confession that detected my second lie.

“I wasn’t sure how I was going to find you. It’s been about five years since I’ve seen you,” she said. “And that was only for few hours. So I just looked for a short, petite brunette.”

Any other day, say when I’m pool side in a bathing suit, I would welcome the petite suggestion. Short never passes as a compliment. I felt more like a harmless kitten and less like a powerful lioness; no one finds short and petite intimidating on an eight foot net.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Let Her Eat Cake

I missed the foreshadowing, the driver’s license, the bewildered midnight phone call, the aching bone, all a sign of the irony to befall me on the mark of my 26th year.

Walking into work two minutes early sent a rush through the estimating office. Paul glanced up with pleasant surprise and like a kid who aced the spelling test I smiled brightly. Dorky, sure, but when the two people who love you most wake you with a birthday tune perfectly pitched with adoration the day is destined for cheesy smiles.

And the birthday wishes? They poured in hurricane style, again a foreshadowing I wish I’d noticed. I did not though. I just kept smiling and laughing, occasionally dipping into the sparse workload to wrap up the week. My roommate even nailed me down with a desire for cake with my closest friends (side note: marriage sprinkles my girlfriends around the world and leaving me with a living room of boys for my party). The morning passed by blissfully.

In contrast the afternoon took me gruffly, twisting my blood pumper in the most unpredictable fashion. My boss called me into his office. He sat behind the formidable wooden desk and remarked, “It’s not a good day girl.”

It’s not? I thought. But today I’ve been loved.

“I’m going to have to let you go,” he blurts as if the news barreled from the pit of his stomach burning his throat and tongue in passing.

He continues with an econ lesson which led him to downsize drastically. I tuned out as angels sang. The pounding in my ears echoed the excitement of my heart. Freedom. I straightened in my chair and a smile tiptoed across my lips. I raised my eyes to look at him.

OH! My left hand flew to my collar bone. I watched the ragged intake of his shortened breath. I watched his hands stroke his temples pulling his eyes tightly long. A lone tear escaped from his left eye. Ashamed I averted my gaze unable to bear his grief. Instantly my voice filled the room consoling him in his choice.

Then my chest constricted and I wanted nothing more than the comfort of my mother’s embrace. But 750 miles is a long reach. I returned to my desk and helped Paul finish his bid before informing him that I would be leaving. I prepared to say goodbye to my work friends.

They had a chocolate cake with rows of mistletoe. A birthday cake serving dual purpose and with calm composure I scooped the ice cream the irony of the economy burning in my newly 26-year-old mind.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Feeling 50, Looking 15

“OK Group 5 this is our last run. You’re all doing great but remember to watch out for beginners, they don’t know how to handle their equipment.”

With a wicked grin I turned to Travis and raised my hand. I managed to get my thumb to my jaw before bursting into laughter. I’m sure Trav felt the bench shake, just as I’m sure more than six guys stared at me. I only hope that my new snowboard friend saw me as well and thought I laughed at him.

The lifts opened yesterday and we dragged ourselves up to the mountains hoping for snow. I think the 33” mentioned on the website meant they combined all the snow in front of the lodge and built a snowman of such height. But this year I’m determined to conquer the heel-side and to do I will need every available day.

I made it down the one packed trail with a little snow and plenty of people, which helped block out the numerous trees. The trees covered in snow look like soft mounds of fun, bare I see them as prickly death sticks that I am destined to meet spread-eagle. I took a couple tumbles dodging fate. My acrobatics caused me to look young and uncoordinated and each time a creaked back up I imagined my chiropractor’s face twisted in horror at the damage I’d done. One lucky run I decided to regroup by stretching my legs out near the bottom hopeful that I’d appear to be waiting for my friends and that my toe would stop tingling.

I got one out of two. Moments after stopping a young high school boy waved at me and asked if I came up with anyone. I explained that I did have people watching for me but in my slow awkward decent I had told my friends to go on without me. I didn’t realize that was the green light he’d wanted.

“You can ride down with me and I’ll help you. I can teach you how to ride,” he grinned.

No, I thought, you can’t there is an obvious generation gap. Except that it wasn’t obvious as my mouth betrayed me by laughingly saying, “It would be a long trip, I’m not good I struggle.”

His grin spread, at the challenge I’m sure, and he told he’d wait for me at the lifts. He did right in front of Travis. When I slid up between them Trav started excitedly talking about his adventures and asking about mine. I bit my lip to suppress a rising giggle and watched as my new friend told me he’d see me on the top of the slope. And he did. He rode up behind us, waited for me as I sat beside Trav and adjusted my boots (really it is awful trying to concentrate while worrying your toe will need amputation), and watched as a burst into laughter in the middle of Group 5’s instructions. Then he waved good-bye and left me.

Being hot and young enough for a high school kid shouldn’t bring so much joy, but on the cusp of losing another year to old age it was a boost.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Swim Caps Compulsory

Learning to swim I had one flaw—moving in a straight path. Superman style, back float, breast stroke, even bobbing I deterred. It didn’t matter because I soon gave up swimming for lying on a towel chatting with a girlfriend. My apologies to anyone who thought higher of me but for a good ten years I spent summers achieving the perfect tan. Now the thoughts of wrinkles and cancer push me back to the act of swimming, indoors away from harm.

Harm from the sun not from crazy Boy Scouts. Actually they didn’t inflict any physical harm other than the growing hunger pangs I endured while waiting for them to finish their swim tests. One lane opened and I jumped in ready for embarrassment. Good thing as it came shortly. While thinking straight thoughts in a stroke, stroke, breathe pattern I gained a fan. Not the Boy Scout you assume but a peer who spent his youth on the swim team.

He wanted to share my lane. Of course I accepted his offer and agreed to split the lane. Except that he held his breath twice as long as me, ok longer but it pains me to confess. He glided through the water gracefully and I tensed up with the knowledge that at some point I would whack him with some part of my body.

In my Europe days I learned all about wearing swim caps and goggles protect my enhanced eyes so from the neck up I looked legit. I caved under pressure and swam worse and worse eventually causing my asthma to flare up. Choking and sputtering I gripped the wall in the deep end. My eyes widen with horror as I felt an old feeling in my toes. A cramp of the my-toes-look-sick-and-crippled variety. I easily hid the deformity by placing my foot against the wall and pushing hard. Too hard as I lost my grip and flailed. My lane partner flipped under water and began his beautiful butterfly stroke.

Back at the safe end with feet touching I explained that I would take the now free lane to our left. He looked puzzled, as if he wanted to tell me to stop swimming or stay in his lane in case he had to save me. Then he offered to go to the other lane (it was beside the wall). I shook my head and ducked under the divider forcing myself to swim for an additional fifteen minutes.

He could have offered to give me back my dignity.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving Tales

Part 3: From Pan to Floor

While we guiltlessly indulged in many pies, even those meant for others, on the other side of the mountain a boy cried inwardly at the ruin of Thanksgiving dinner. His traditional apple pie splattered along the wooden floor.

Eric and spent many long half-hours preparing for the perfect pastry. He peeled the red skins, cored and sliced the Roman apples. He zested with zeal the orange and lemon. He carefully measured their juices and mixed in the flour, nutmeg, allspice and cinnamon. He even used Kosher salt as directed.

With the apples steeping and the sweet aroma heavy in the air Eric began the crust. In his excitement (or maybe spurned by a comment from Mike) Eric ground the pastry cutter into the mix. The screw gave under pressure and shot across the room, pinging against the window in a failed attempt to escape.

This should have warned of the upcoming disaster. But Eric continued his baking. Parchment paper in place he rolled out the crust, lined the dish with his pastry, and poured in his apple concoction. Then he added a crust top, folded over the edges and sealed them. After an egg wash and detailed cuts he placed the pie on the oven rack and gently shut the door.

The minutes rhythmically ticked filled with running sarcasm between the friends. Anticipation grew and beat the conversation silent. Eric’s mother went to the oven to take the pie out. She grabbed the door and lowered it parallel to the ground. As she pulled on the oven rack for a better angle of the pie the pan slid with momentum and hung suspended in the air. Eric instinctively opened his hands and lunged for the dish. Of all moment to make a wonderful catch this was it—until the intense heat of the glass transferred to his flesh. With blisters bubbling he dropped the pan, the squishy clatter evidence of the sight before him.

Maple-planked apple pie for a thankless Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Tales

Part 2: Girls of Greed with Pie

I only had three pies to choose from. The obvious choices—lemon meringue, cherry, apple baked by Grandma—sat on a white stone-topped kitchen island in Lamar. So I took the pumpkin classic and wandered to the seat of my dinner humiliation. Kellie followed me carrying a slice of chocolate silk pie. Normally I picked off my mother’s plate and she off mine, a twenty-five year tradition. In her absence I turned to Kel and proposed we share our desserts. She agreed.

We both thoughtfully savored our first bites. With my mind on the pumpkin my eyes spied a generous serving of banana cream on a plate touching my own. I assume Kellie had similar thought because she looked from pie to me to pie to me before questioning which family member would leave it unattended.

I scanned the crowded kitchen and saw everyone holding a plate. Clearly the pie lay unclaimed, inviting the stakes of our forks. We snuck a few more cautious glances before pulling the plate in as part of the shared pie platter.

Our forks broke sections off for us to enjoy. I imagine our joy would have been more so had Jessica not walked up just then asking for her banana cream pie. Smiling through mouthfuls of bananas and pudding Kellie and I surrendered the stolen slice.

“You just ate someone’s dessert?!,” Chris cried incredulously. “You didn’t ask whose it was?”

Yes. Guilty. We ate it. In our defense Kellie and I offered to share what was left of our own pies. Jess hates pumpkin.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Tales

Part 1: Embarrassing Family Moments

I hold a firmly rooted belief (undoubtedly founded on Gramps claiming the Halls as the best) of my luck at being born into my family. In return I believe them to feel lucky to have. This Thanksgiving shattered those beliefs and now I'm certain they hope to give me away in marriage.

Sitting around the browned turkey my cousin Chris engaged me in a round of teasing and bantering. He told me about his recent break-up, sharing details not meant for parenting ears but clearly we'd captivated the kid table. Then he posed a seemingly innocent question. When had I last been in a relationship?

Beginning with my aunt at the stove I heard the silence wrap around the room spiraling to me. A mute button so pronounced that I heard the strands of my hair brushing against each other, moved by the wind of my slow exhale. I felt my uncle stop mid-step behind me, balancing a bowl of homemade rolls. Even the chattering babies had quieted in the gathering awe.

Looking up confirmed my fear that 34 eyes peered at me unashamed. I, the quiet and shy one, had become a painted target. As I said they'd like to give me away in marriage. I hung my head in response and waited for the commotion to ensue.

The creeping warmth in my cheeks prompted me to remember other moments of humiliation my family has provided me.

* Phil calling to me from the deck, "Breezey you come up here by me and let Heather work with Kellie. You're too pretty to play catch."

* "I like the dress alright, but it looks a little tight across the chest," says my dad of my junior year Homecoming dress. Apparently I developed at 16 and he just noticed.

* Mickey Mouse ears.

* Gramps urging Grandma to check me out during Christmas dessert shouting, "LuAnne look at her. Doesn't she have a nice figure? I don't know why she's not married."

Monday, November 24, 2008

Apology to My Brothers

Blink back those tears boys, the moon closed the weekend. And the year will end shortly. It pains me to know that I have caused you frustrations. Dominating the March Madness bracket brought cries of outrage in the first round, suspicions in the second round and by the championship game you drank denial. You believed my picks to be the work of some basketball master with insider tips. When I calmed those allegations you turned to straight-up-luck-of-colors-and-names foolishness and called this year a flop.

The witch-hunt accusations reminded me of your refusals to play card games with me. While the blood relatives handle my winnings with more composure than the marriage tie-ins, Sunday dinners heated up in the game playing afterwards. Maybe it’s not fair, but I can’t help that I win. Family of competitors, right?

As the True Blue failure adds to the year’s defeats know that the Crimson sweater I wear on Christmas morning celebrates the holiday. A turn-coat and traitor you think me, but with an unblemished record I know those emotion-spurred labels are code for “You’re the greatest sister.”

To honor these close bonds I played in a flag football game Saturday morning. When I got hit in the head with the football I thought of your teasing. And as my breath rushed through my teeth after being slammed in mid-air and knocked back a few feet, I thought of group hugs. It felt like you three crushing my ribs.

Sorry the year has been a rough one. I guess you can blame Daniel. Your consolation prize—I burnt my tongue while composing this apology. Next time I will try for more sincerity.

(Pictures withheld due to the emotional impact of visual aids. Fresh wounds.)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Hunt

The pristine envelope he handed me contained a little more than the expected pay stub. I’ve finally been inducted to the company through an invitation for the upcoming holiday.

I struggle through my days at work, counting the seconds my mind drifts from caissons and piers. Then I remember I hate numbers and their rigid stance, a clear line of multiply and divide, black and white, right and wrong. The daydreams resume interrupted by the comfort of my high heels clacking along the muddy tiles as I walk to the fax machine—a ho-hum day at an office that reminds me of home.

Home with its dust and farm equipment, tractors driving down Memorial, kids wearing Wranglers and Lugs to school talking with that soft drawl and mixed vowels I slip into often. A lack in communication over the work schedule led me to pass on the twelve hour drive to eat bird in Lamar this year. Feeling a little homesick and less than thankful I wondered how to incorporate the Hall Turkey Bowl, rolls and pie into my Thursday. Who would wake me up at 4 a.m. as they stomped through the house in camouflage grabbing guns, ammo and-most importantly-victuals?

The answer lay in my thick envelope, an invitation for a company day-after-Thanksgiving pheasant hunt. As long as I brought a gun and bullets the birds would be paid for. A tradition I believe in, though have never participated in. It seemed like my holiday would be salvaged and I owed thanks to the wonderful co-workers who call me Goth, Emo and artsy-fartsy (those seconds drag tortuously).

Then I reread the invite. Paid birds. Hunting at 10 a.m. A two-hour drive. My Friday wasted. It’s one thing to tell the Boys I’ll go with them at 1 a.m. in Lamar, they don’t remember I agreed four hours later. And I like shooting things, probably even more if I ever hit anything. But this experience needs to be done on hallowed hunting ground at home, not a pheasant farm that releases birds.

I think I avoided the naughty list and if Santa pulls through then it’s guns in the A.M. this Christmas.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Breezey vs. Tin Angel

The Scene: A dark, damp night downtown Salt Lake City.

The Crime: Neglect of a beautiful woman.

The Culprit: An orange frizz-fro haired man, unbecoming in his mustard yellow t-shirt tucked into a dark green apron.

Our story begins as the young woman unassumingly walks through the table-covered patio. She reaches for the door in excitement. For the past five weeks, visions of butternut squash risotto and spinach with poached pears popped effortlessly in work-time daydreams. Memories of bread pudding and hazelnut tugged her mouth muscles upward.

At the appointed hour our heroine asked for a table for two. Here the villain coolly remarked that maintaining prestige requires dismissal of the twat before him. Without a reservation did she really expect to be fed on a gloomy Tuesday night?

Uh…Yes she did. And she’s pissed off that he turned her away. Prestige doesn’t happen when sharing the same street corner as Pioneer Park, a.k.a. resting grounds for the bed-less. Before turning customers away let’s raise those standards on appearance. Even the Brick Oven requires well-groomed attendants. They want blush, lipstick and mascara, but even the basic combed hair and occasional shower helps.

Salt added to the wound when my dinner date called to confirm the booked restaurant. I told her of my suspicions, discrimination of wonderful people, because the sparse bodies failed to fill the available chairs. My friend suspected as well because of the night (Tuesday really?!). Surprisingly her proactive phone call allowed for a table in 30 minutes.

That stung a little more. Discrimination against girls from Southeastern Colorado born in December with dark hair, blue eyes and O-positive blood.

The Verdict: The Tin Arch-Angel Café guilty of depriving guests of my fascinating personality and odd eating habits therefore not providing the best atmosphere.

Unofficial Official Scorecard: Tin Angel Café one point in snootiness, and my city girl status demoted to country bumpkin.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Word From Our Elders

Peanuts. Peanuts. Peanuts, gum? I tried to stay focused. My roommate waited for me at checkout as I hurried down the aisle at Smith’s.
I grabbed Orbit’s sweet mint in my left hand and Planter’s peanuts in my right, turned on my heel, slipped slightly and rushed back to Stacey M.

Two-thirds of the way down the red-flannel-shirted geriatric exclaimed loudly, “She’ll kill me if I don’t get the right one.”

I blinked and glanced to my right, wrong move. He took that as a sign of my commitment to the conversation and proceeded, “I never know which is the right one. But this light ranch looks good.”

Stunned and wanting to respect my elders I smiled brightly and humored him by saying, “Seems like a fine pick.” Again wrong move.

He turned and now stood face to face with me, probably better for his neck but now I was trapped.

“Can I ask you something?” he says. My smile stays put. “How do you feel about the outcome of our election?”

Obviously he had not read about my feelings—I guess my internet stalkers only recently developed. I summed it up by saying I’m ok with it all.

“Let me tell you how I chose,” he continued, his bright blue eyes sparkling. “I’m not Republican or Democrat so I wanted to pick the one who’d be best. Intelligence. I looked at their IQ scores. Obama was top of his class at Harvard. John was bottom of his class at Annapolis. And Sarah, well she lives on Mars. That’s why I voted for Obama. We need someone in there with intelligence to fix the mess.”

So the red flannel did not correspond to political party affiliation, but it did blend nicely with the red I Voted sticker. My civically minded friend pulled a rolled stack of papers from his pocket. He offered me one sheet, prepping me by explaining that he drew a cartoon the night of the election. Copyrighted I’m sure so I can’t reproduce it here, but John’s blood pressure declined and Sarah looked forward to a career in comedy. (Insert laugh) Still smiling I said goodbye and thanked him silently for the imparted wisdom. Too bad the advice came four days late.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Rocked the Vote: Failed to Care

Leaving the elementary school and its geometric design emphasized with color-wheel selected paint, I felt the sting of failure. The bright red sticker placed over my heart screamed I VOTED and instinctively I raised my right hand to cover it.

I remember watching Clinton’s first election as a fourth-grader. Granted I didn’t pay attention but we had one intimidating teacher who shared her political passions. She emphasized the importance of keeping up with current events (she harped on that again and again the following year while preparing me for the state geography bee), understanding crisis and plotting a course of action. And after we did that choose the candidate that followed our idea.

Clearly that is not how it works. I didn’t do my homework, didn’t prepare for the test. I voted with limited knowledge and poor options. But consistent with the apathy of my generation the guilt of civic duty paralleled my conscious allowing me to believe that my actions ceased to matter. Until I hit the 24-hour mark.

Monday night the anxiety plowed over me and the exhaustion of it led me to retire early. So much for my night of cramming before the big test. Driving to voice my convictions I realized I had none. At the booth my index finger hovered over two boxes. My toe tapped in frustration, my left fingers drumming on the privacy slab, my ears ringing with the incessant chatter from the poll workers beside me. Unless they wanted to vote for me I really needed them to stop talking. And when I began to wish that for the quiet comfort of the BYU Testing Center I knew the election had ruined me.

Touch and done.

I rushed through the remaining pages and watched the print out roll by with more blank votes than checked. In part I gratefully acknowledged the Republican dominance of my state. But then I cursed my luck of leaving Colorado, a swing-state, where the excitement of a counting vote might have spurred my political activity. I guess I have fours years to transfer back.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Frightful Fits

I lay on my dark bed noticing the hair standing wildly on the backs of my hands. In the blue tinted light it looks werewolfish. Or my overactive imagination keeps me wide awake on Halloween. Nightmare on Elm Street is not the best choice for a bedtime story. And it didn’t help me overcome my aversion to striped shirts. They look freakishly hideous on me and great on Freddy. Interesting.

As memories work I think only of every moment I’ve screamed in terror or cried realizing my voice held no sound. At six, seven, eight, nine, ten and eleven, waking from a terrifying dream where my sisters turned into Gremlins when they babysat me. No comfort as I trembled and told myself it was just a dream. The twins slept in my same room and if it wasn’t a dream then I’d see their bubbly green skin.

Same age, one same sister and broad daylight. Heather waits for me to walk down the basement hallway. I feel her watching me and calmly turn to look her in the eye. Years pass and we hold the gaze. A glint in her eye and a faint smiling twitch, she cries boo and I scream until tears run down my cheeks. Really those nightmares had lasting effects.

Sitting on the floor of Laura’s bedroom I see the soft pink light casting shadows across my friends’ faces. In hushed tones we hear the fate of a young girl. A child’s game of getting ready ended with her head crushed behind her dresser. My back rests against Laura’s dresser and I see my friends’ eyes widen. The horror in their expressions matches my own. I choke back any sounds, the room falls silent. They think it’s a dramatic ending to the story I just told. Really I’m trying to picture unicorns and flowers after scaring myself.

Sitting on Rich’s bed wondering why it blocked a door. A glass door. He proceeds to tell me the door doesn’t lock and his mom put the bed there to keep out unwanted visitors. Visitors like the man staring at me through the door. I stopped breathing and a strange gurgling sound escaped from my lips. I moaned, then screamed, then hit Rich and then grabbed him. Unfortunately I scared the daylights out of him and he started screaming which set me off again. I had the shakes for about an hour. He never played a “joke” on me again.

Waiting for Stacey to come home, I undress in the hallway as I pace between her cracked bedroom door and mine. I reach for the handle then stop, leave and come back. I’m dying to talk to her. I reach for the handle again. As if I’ve moved too close to a flame I withdraw. I peer into the deep black of her room. Holding my breath I search for the outline of her bed, visible by the streetlight outside her window. I see nothing. In my head someone shouts, “Go To Bed.” I listen and the next morning we discovery a missing computer. Piecing together the night Stacey and I realize that the thief stood holding her door still while I darted back and forth. It easily swung open from the weight of her shoes. The bright streetlight only dimmed when blocked by the form of a man.

And still I’m excited for the potential scares of the holiday. Besides how often do I get to pretend I’m a punk rocker?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Squatter's Halloween

A house party in Utah begs one question: will the cops wait until midnight to crash and shut it down due to a noise ordinance or bust through at eleven?

These wild and crazy parties I attend seem mild. No one drinks until they pass out, no exchanges of illegal substances, edited music drifts from the dance room and I’ve never seen a broken glass egg. A glorified dinner party or twelve-year-old girl’s birthday, complete with fun size candy bars.

The shock lies in the venue. I’ve wondered how people my age continue to throw faux parties in glamorous homes mountainside homes. The parties perfectly planned out, right down to the removal of nearly all furniture and valuables. No family portraits on the wall. No grandfather clock from Germany, books in the study, throw blankets, coasters, magazines, magnets on the fridge, nothing that makes a home homey. Model homes look warm and inviting in comparison.

But I’m there for the Halloween festivities so I dismiss the unease of a cold home and embrace the luxury warehouse party location. Until I hear a snatch of conversation. Squatter’s Rights. What I imagined to be an old out-dated law (like no sneezing in public in Ashville) is actually a claim to the title of land. Apparently my party throwing miscreants are law abiding citizens. They just enjoy twisting obscure laws to fit their purposes. Or not twisting.

Legally a person can storm the castle, set up residence and fly their flag to gain ownership. Harsh, cruel and inconsiderate, hostile you could say. And that’s a requirement for squatters. To take over a home the squatter must do so on hostile terms, meaning the actual owner doesn’t want that occupant around. There are other rules but the CliffsNotes version goes something like this:

Enter evicted home. Move in furniture and stock fridge. Plant flowers, mow grass, trim trees. Bare teeth at owner. Introduce yourself to neighbors. Growl at owner. Live continuously in home. Defy owner and claim land.

Knowing this my thoughts turn to a home I remember well in Castleknock—Huntington, Out Farm Lane. My €3 million mansion remains unoccupied. I was one of the last to live there and I’m ready for a hostile take over.


http://www.lloyddaly.ie/propertiesview.php?house_id=195

Friday, October 24, 2008

Our Pet's Heads Are Falling Off

...Or maybe just mine after a gruesome deep tissue sports injury recovery massage. When I stumbled to work the next morning looking something of train wreckage, my office buddy Paul decided we should compare workout notes. A short comparison as my massage therapist beat me to a bloody pulp as if she were tenderizing a steak. As Paul droned on about his intense workout I thought what happened to my girl friends and girl talk? I miss the late nights doing our nails, plucking, wrapping, waxing and whining about our hips, thighs and stomachs. Stacey and I even had a bra contest and she still makes fun of me for losing.

The crazy late night obsessions and Gold's Gym runs disappeared when Stacey moved to Vegas with her husband. But the conversations on body image just changed form. Recently I find the same phrase falling from the lips of my closest (most-time-spent with) guy friends, “I’m trying to eat healthier so I can slim down.”

I’ve discussed zone, velocity, low-fat, no sugar and detox diets quickly followed by a weekly plan for workouts. The benefits of aerobic and anaerobic, card workouts, ladders and circuit training all to tighten up and shed Mr. Lippy, as my sisters call their stomach pudge (which they've had when?). Paul and I even started doing push-ups, dips and wall sits every hour.

My volleyball partner roped me into his new scheme as well. A contest to see who can loose the most weight in a month. I jumped in head first without considering anything, like how much easier it is for guys to loose weight and how dedicated they are versus my feeble attempts. But on Tuesday I'll ante up and step on the scale for a careful number tracking. I admit that guys approach this dieting thing with vigor. And I wish that my girls were still around to commiserate our weight through a bag of peanut butter M&M's.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Texas Anyone

I have put some serious thought into grad school in either Texas or Cali. After today I'm pulling for the not-so-dirty south.

Texas is its own country. I grew up hearing that, especially when we study states and capitols, but I always thought the saying referred to the size of the state. Clearly I was wrong.

I've only been once and it was an ok trip, nothing to write about. I do remember walking around feeling like a city girl among rodeo queens. I felt the full impact of the separation this morning as I made repeated calls to residents of the great nation-state. Asking only one simple closed question, I found myself restating it three or four times as my words blared unintelligibly to the Texans.

Odd. I grew up an hour from the Texas border. I speak the regional dialect. Or part of it, ridiculously massive land. My country slang is slow and twangy. I drop my g's and slur my vowels. Yet the Texans sought clarification.

Solution? I crossed the barrier and thickened my accent to A fu-ull blow-en catt-el callin' back-wirds hick pro-non-ci-a-shun. An y'all know what? That did the trick. We started talking just like old friends, or kids who grew up together, you know, and it went so much faster after that. But the truth is, I wouldn't have minded talking to them girls for a bit longer.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Grave Intrusions

With the workday winding down I jumped into my weekend listening to a tales from the crypt story. My boss jokingly explained that he didn’t want to go to heaven. Sounded odd so I took the bait, why the avoidance of heaven? At first I thought it was a reference to a hatred of cold weather and he wanted an eternal heater. I’ve thought that when the temperatures drop.My boss told me that he thinks someone will be waiting for him on the other side, waiting with fury.

A few years ago the company I work for contracted to do ground work for a construction project downtown. Problems arose and they needed a way to keep the soil in place. So my boss proposed doing soil nail work. This was incredible for two reasons: soil nail had not been done in Utah before and a prominent historical and religious figure lay below ground next door.

The grave fit snugly into the right angle precisely where the steel nails were to be drilled as anchors. The drilling commenced and the project was successfully completed. Months later my boss received a call verifying his participation in the soil nailing. When he affirmed his role he was asked to meet at the church office building, on the 28th floor.

Arriving at the building my boss entered the elevator only to notice the missing button for his floor and the two below. He inquired someone at the reception desk and was told to take the elevator to the 25th floor. He could then get off and walk around the shaft where he would see another elevator. That elevator would take him to the 28th floor.

Doing as told he found the 28th floor. The elevator doors opened to a desk and with an inquisitive woman behind it. The words framing her read Church Security. Promptly the head of security came to meet my boss, shoulder holster in place and handcuffs hanging from back pocket. He escorted my boss to a room where another security officer met them. Then the interrogation began.

What happened when the nails hit steel? Concrete? Could the driller feel if a void was hit? My boss answered perplexed. Then he caught on.

“You want to know if I drilled a hole through the grave?” he asked in awe. He'd been hoping for another project.

“The question has been asked,” replied the officer.

The tomb was made of limestone, braced by steel belts and encased with concrete. And the ground was built up around the grave years later. It seems like it should have be noticeable. As no one knew what depth the grave was, my boss was uncertain to answer yes or no.

“My first hole was drilled in at eight feet. If that’s where the grave is buried then there’s a chance we drilled through it,” he stated.

As far as I know there was no reprimand but maybe a few dirty looks. This Halloween I might make the rounds by the old cemetery. Maybe I’ll see a ghost with a freshly drilled hole in his head…

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A Finger Pick

Last Nite...every time I write that the Strokes melody streams through my cluttered head. A head that cleared after I knocked it against my bedroom wall around midnight. But I think it helped.

Earlier I had loving picked up my neglected guitar. On a recent whim I tuned it believing that I would remember how to play and improve on those skills? Maybe you have to practice after you tune it. With my tabs in front of me I stared and concentrated and the only music made was Tyler's laughter. In any case the plucked strings resonated harmoniously as Tyler brushed his quick fingers across them.

Inspired (or jealous) I asked him to teach me. We began with a difficult little number The Format calls On Your Porch. Ok, only difficult for me as I'd suddenly dismissed what a guitar was and how to hold it. My left hand awkwardly wrapped around the instruments neck. Though I can't tell you what cord I played I can say that my wrist looked distorted and broken. My right fingers slowly curled as I clumsily tried the finger pick.

After many bewildered looks and lifting and placing my hands and fingers, Tyler gave up and smiled at me with the patience of father and his toddler. It was at this patronizing point that I traded him my guitar for my computer. Vaio in hand I felt more confident and began moving my fingers in a steady, rhythmic keystroke. Natural.

Oh, wondering about the cleared head? That happened as I showed-off multitasking by writing, texting and IMing. Eric sent me a link for my favorite holiday. I jumped off my bed, screamed like a little girl and slammed my head against the wall. Tyler just glanced up from his reading of the journalist’s dictionary.

Casualty update—my crippled hand hindered the typing of this account which was brought to you by the scrambled remains of my brain.


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Dark Classics

In October the summer heat burns out, the days shorten and I have an entire month to scare myself. Haunted houses, horror stories, scary movies, late night graveyard expeditions…wait that’s a little too Goth for me. But there was that time in Dublin. I convinced the lads to take me to a graveyard because the only haunted house they had over there was a place of devil worship. So we broke into the cemetery and checked out some freshly dug graves instead. My pride pushed me a mile deep into the rows of death and adrenaline kicked into over drive as I ran out after one of the boys jumped out to scare me.

It was also in Dublin that I surfed the web constantly looking for fun new games. After playing hours of text twist and bejeweled (both the autumn edition and the Halloween special with candy corn) I stumbled across a ridiculous riddle of horror: fifty horror classics thrown into a freaky 18th Century painting all to promote M&M’s Dark. I got down to the last seven and ended up doing some intense detective work to unscramble the meaning.

While completing the puzzle I’d look up the movies I hadn’t seen. Funny how doing that in the early morning hours surrounded by ceiling to floor glass windows in a mansion can freak you out. Think nothing of the moaning winds. Then when I’d huddle under the covers in my bed I’d hear footsteps running across the patio roof above me and clanging from the iron stairs that spiraled in front of my bedroom window. And still I loved it. Really it wasn’t worse than the fist sized spiders I’d wake up to. Try sleeping when you’re terrified you’ll find one giving you a morning kiss.

In tradition of the great neurotic minds I will play the trivia game again. And because I’ve forgotten the obscure films it will be just as good as the first time.




us.mms.com/us/dark/dark_game.jspa

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Hard Hat Angels

I traded up from the glitz and glamour of a national luxury magazine to the chaotic labor intensive world of drilling. Last Thursday my new company sent me out on the field to check out two construction sites in northern California. Three of us packed our overnight bags and prepared for a wild weekend with our one-way tickets. As we strolled out of the office our co-workers waved and labeled us Charlie’s Angels. Fitting and funny but not the first time I’ve been one in a trio of curvy blonde, tall red head and spunky brunette.

We wandered onto the first job site and graciously accepted our bright orange vests and hard hats. Then we drove down to the drill shaft where we received admiring looks and detailed lectures of the work scope. Just like digging holes in the sandbox, magnified and washed out with pumped water and a rather large vacuum. Unfortunately our devil may care stance did little to impress the safety warden. He noted and documented our disregard for steel-toed shoes. I felt like a tall weathered six-year-old when he asked me to spell my name. It was an agonizing five minutes waiting to see if my next move would warrant a check as well.

But the anticipation was for nothing and we didn’t learn our lesson. The following day we stumbled onto the second job site at 4:30 in the a.m. If you want to see cement being poured that is the appropriate time to watch. We were lucky enough to catch the repeat performances at 8, 10, noon and 3. Not only that but we had a few guys to keep us company, entertaining us with construction lingo. One of them even doubled as a drummer. I think there was more but it was hard to focus on him with all the other tools and equipment lying around.

Unfortunately we declined all invitations for the evening. A private jet picked us up as soon as the shaft was filled. Yeah, it’s the jet-set lifestyle but we have moments of living like regular people. Mine happened to be two days later when an officer of the law pulled me over for speeding. My weekend stories didn’t impress him but the winning smile of an angel got me off with a warning.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

If the Moose Charges We Stick Together

When my three-year-old niece saw a moose her daddy grabbed her and sprinted to safety. When I saw a moose on my hike I inched my way into spitting distance. Seems incredibly close but ask my cross-country team, I spit a lengthy distance.

The Eagle Scout guided me along the trail to Lake Catherine. At least I think that’s where we hiked, but I also have a vivid and unverified memory of reaching that clearing as a child. As we stood on the ridge looking at the small lake below Eric (the Eagle Scout) told me our destination was not the small lake before us but the two lakes a mile further. Once we made it to the other two lakes I faintly recalled eating a peanut butter sandwich on large rock that jets out into one lake.

Gazing at the lake textured by wind I imagined jumping in. I also imagined gasping as the cold temperature shocked my system but soothed my aching feet. Noting the rocky ledge I would undoubtedly hit before I made the water I instead turned to sit down and dislodge a few pebbles. There in the damp dirt I saw one hoof print then another. Perfectly normal in a nature setting and I’m no hunter so I appreciated the moment and continued about my way.

Lost in reverie and dulled by the pain of blistered feet (the easy hike had been both for natural beauty and a trial run of an inherited pair of chacos) I attempted to retrace our steps and instead tracked a moose. Right in front of me a female of the animal lay in the tall grass. I felt my eyes widen and my fingers stretch up in anticipation. The beautiful cow looked just like a horse. My mind raced through a series of bad ideas that would allow me to run my fingers down the length of its broad nose. Impulsively I stepped forward. Immediately the Eagle Scout spoke reason reminding me that moose charge and I looked like a good target. I tentatively took one more step when we heard a noise. Another moose.

I stopped and listened. Over the loud pounding of my heart I heard a low moaning sound. Further inspection led me to determine that a fallen tree leaning against its neighbor caused the boughs to creak. As I turned to explain my theory I spotted our second moose—a calf hidden by the brush. I calculated the added risk but gazed at the creature. Sensing my fascination Eric suggested we circle back and find a safer viewing point. Didn’t work and minutes later we crept back for one last peak.
Only this time the Eagle Scout went in for a closer look. He stood under the falling tree, a place I deemed sketchy, and watched the calf. I stood rooted watching the mother with excitement and unease. A sudden snap spooked me and the cow. She rose. I ran. Eric followed.

Back on the trail Eric looked at me with wonder. Wonder at why I didn’t think to tell him that the moose was headed his way. I looked at him with wonder. As an eagle scout and the previous voice of caution shouldn’t he have been watching his attacker? Besides I didn’t want to cause a scene…

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Catch All

It’s been a cold September literally I have had a cold. Which means I’ve been slightly delusional (I accepted a job in construction?!) and thoroughly enlightened through sick bed meditation.

OH, did I mention that people whom I have low tolerance for become annoyingly detestable to me? Enter new dancing friend who seemed harmless when I gave him my number while clearly stating it was for dance use only and I have a jealous boyfriend. Actually he asked if I had one and emphatically affirmed.

I ignored him face to face and through txt for two weeks. Luckily it hasn’t diminished our friendship as he still contacts me. This morning I woke happy and high off a plugged nose and answered his Sat txt. Here comes the enlightenment. Every txt I sent carried two familiar words: that sucks.

Pondering on this I remembered back a few weeks. Different boy, also uncertain of the parameters of our friendship, began txting the details of his life.

Him: bad day at work

Me: that sucks

Him: going in for surgery

Me: that sucks

Him: need to get out of the house, friend committed suicide

Me: that sucks

And there was the boy in Ireland who confessed his love for me and asked if we could date. I watched him with a smirk on my face then said unemotionally, “Yeah I don’t feel the same way. Dude, that sucks.”

He’s probably reading this. That sucks.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Adapting to Bowling

Bowling is not my sport but I’m proud of my triple one score. In case you’re wondering it was a team effort and we had bumpers. Head spinning yet? Mine too.

At work (tutoring the autistic) today my little guy’s mom decided to split his session in two, one hour running programs and one hour at adaptive bowling. I cringed then smiled at least this meant I didn’t have to spend the hour coming up with new ways to teach math.

After hammering spelling words into his head we tied our shoes and headed to Fat Cats. We arrived first and had enough time to spend all our attention and excitement watching sports highlights. When everyone else began to bowl Jus began to take his shoes off. I commanded them back on and let him bowl alone first—this is his third week bowling.

Three minutes after he dropped the bowling ball it tipped over a few pins. I let him bowl again and again we wanted in dreadful anticipation as the ball slowly slid down the lane. Before it knocked down the pins another little boy called out to us. It was our turn on lane two. I ushered Justin over and prepared to nudge the ball along. But before I could clasp my hand over his, he let go and the ball crept to a stop half way down. The other moms looked at me, the other boys looked at me and I looked at Justin who looked back at me. Right my fault.

I redeemed my cool status by helping Jus get a spare. Instantly the boys welcomed me to the club with cheers and high-fives. Justin left early for soccer so I stayed to play out our game. My first time up without Justin I had some help. Another autistic boy (high-functioning and hilarious) told me he’d teach me how to bowl.

“You pick up the ball using these fingers. See? Then you run up and throw the ball.”

The demonstration worked wonders and I managed a spare. I turned around slightly awed. My new teacher exclaimed, “Good job! I’m a great teacher.”

I let him continue to think that even as my ball bounced off the bumper and corrected to dead center. They thought I was amazing, who am I to take that away?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Freeze Out Camp Out

I camp often enough to forget why I don't camp. I love being out in the dark scary woods telling creepy stories around the campfire and eating junk food and tinfoil dinners. But the frozen toes that lead to fitful naps throughout the night I could do without.

Being early September I falsely hoped that I would sleep peacefully under the stars at Albion Base. So hopeful was I that I turned down a perfectly warm tent. Besides Bubba told me that I could cuddle up next to him if needed. And I would have if he hadn't kicked me all night. Since he kicked me I tried to cuddle next to Lea and realized that she shared Bubba's flair for slumber karate.

So I minimized my sleeping space and dreamt of the warm sunshine. That morning I woke first and started kicking my camping companions to join me. Then the real fun started as we tried to steamroll each other. The slick bags caused us to plow into and slid back to start. Or so we thought until Russ came from the right and rolled over all three of us. But the slickness of Bubba's bag and a spatial miscalculation sent Russ off our sandbox bed and onto the surrounding rocky terrain. Lesson learned. Steamrolling for the 6 and under crowd only. Parental supervision required.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Welcome to the Wild, Wild West

Legs stiffly bowed we sat in the car with the windows rolled down and let the warm air blow the mixture of sweat, dirt and horse hair dry against our skin. I gazed out at the golden fields of slick looking hay and wonder what Lea thought of it. As a child I loved playing on the hay bales until they splintered and flicked into my hair or face making me itch. I met Lea when I lived in Ireland and now she’s on holiday here in Utah. I’m not sure that she’s ever jumped on hay bales and though I don’t know how to make that happen I did organize a day of horseback riding.

In the four years since my last cowgirl stint things haven’t changed. I still managed to get the horse that yearns to be free from the pack (or maybe horses really do pick up on what you’re feeling) and I was either coaxing from behind to catch up or apologizing for my lack of control as Blaze and I raced up the hill to the front. I apologized because we couldn’t just beat our competition but Blaze felt the need to run them off the trail. And all this close proximity led to my habitual injury.

There’s a reason I haven’t touched a horse in four years. My best friend in college owns horses and as it turns out her family keeps them at their mountain side home in Orem. Easy access, difficult rides. I can count scars on every part of my body from our jaunts to Squaw Peak. But one not so pleasant morning I returned to the corral with a wrapped hand (holding on for dear life when the saddle slid sideways), a blood-soaked tank top (horse took a stunted jump and the saddle horn took a chunk of my stomach) and angry red welts from the trees and bushes that slapped me.

Yes, it was painful but also a lesson. I carefully monitor the saddling of my horse. I treat the saddle horn like a hot iron. And I stick to the middle of the road far from the reach of clawing branches. But what I couldn’t control was Lea’s horse moseying on over to say hi. As I smiled at her the horse mistook my leg for a scratching post and rubbed and rubbed and rubbed and then when I thought the Nazi horse torture done, he turned up the intensity by pushing my foot. The bend of a swollen twisted ankle caused me to yelp. My exclamation of pain meant nothing to either horse except to move a little bit closer. You can imagine what I would have said if I hadn’t been biting my lip. I do know this I take back every mean thought I had about Tom Cruise when he punched that horse in Far And Away. They have it coming.

Monday, August 25, 2008

La Rosa Negra

“We didn't win the contest- but we did win something more important to us. On my last night in Havana we were King and Queen of La Rosa Negra.”

Does it worry anyone else that I felt that way after spending the night dancing with my cousins? Oh there were Latinos involved too but the trouble with them is they stalk you afterwards. And when they ask you to dance it’s not just for one song but for a twenty minute set. Try doing twenty minutes of bachata with the same kid who comes up to your chin and does a little tiptoe jump move when he spins you and dislocates your shoulder with a jerk of your arm.

But those long dance sequences become heavenly when your partner smoothly leads you into turns, spinning you with ease as you fall right back into the step. Bonus points when he knows the steps too and doesn’t step on your toes or take your hand and ask “now what?” We were speechless too.

And all the while I’ve managed to improve my Spanish. Qieres bailar? and sí adoro a mi novio Usually I state in clear English that I don’t speak Spanish saving me from any awkward conversation or lame come-ons. But the best part of going dancing, aside from the giggly high state I achieve after a dizzying night, is the memories of Costa Rica it sparks.

It’s been years since my spring break Costa Rica trip but on the occasional Saturday night I relive particular moments from it. A horribly great movie called Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights largely influenced the Central American trip (that and cheap fares—we were college students). And so on the trip we spent many nights looking for our own Javier to dance with. We fit right in with the wild dance scene and ever since have ventured to Latin nights in Salt Lake.

This Saturday I remembered what it’s like to be one of the only white girls surrounded by Latinos all with the same question in their eyes, where did you learn to dance? I recall laughing at the San Jose boys taking us out to teach us how to dance. Laney knew the steps better than they did and Ashley and I had no problems following. We also wowed the Lizard Lounge crowd and did a number down on the beach.

As Adam pointed out, we put on our dancing shoes (we were mocked for them)and become completely different people. Well different came out of his mouth but I think he wanted to say scandalous or some other sk sounding word.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

East Canyon Flop

We sat. The sun beat down. The wind blew a pungent aroma. We glanced at the lake. We thought about the boat. We called our captain. And when he didn’t answer, we sat.

Phil called me at noon for two reasons. First to inform me he was in town and second to ask if I’d like to spend my Friday afternoon at the lake. Since Friday morning was spent unconscious I thought the lake trumped my day by the pool in the ghetto. I threw on a suit, grabbed my towel and stumbled into the bright sun.

On the drive up we were all in high spirits, singing along to the radio (I won’t tell you what was playing on the radio as that would be social suicide). I even impressed the boys with my tour guide knowledge of East Canyon—fishing rules, swimming rules and navigating mixed in with some special memories of the area. But once we got to the lake disappoint set in. No boat.

So we waited for the boat to show and in those two and a half hours I mentioned back flips. As in someone should do a back flip off the pier. Except that the guys heard that I would do a back flip off the pier. We walked down to the pier and I felt my sudden death. My head would crack on the pier, or my neck would roll off as it went back and the rest of my body failed to follow. Or I would create the East Canyon Flop.

Juan manned-up first and completed a back dive. Once he clambered back onto the pier he and a couple nine-year-old boys shamed me into jumping off the pier myself. I talked my way out of a back flip and into a belly flop looking dive. It’s hard to say who shined most on the pier, Phil with his shimmy, me with my flopped dive, or Juan who managed a half rotation in his running back flip into the refreshing water.

Friday, August 15, 2008

emBareAssed

Dressing after yoga class I realized a missing button of my buttoned down dress gave an ample cleavage shot. Throughout the day buttons continued to disappear. My slit climbed higher, my neckline plunged lower, with a peep show at my belly button. My checks flushed deeper. Unfortunately this is not the only time I’ve bared too much.

A weekly gym visit with Stacey ranks in the top five embarrassing moments and resulted in the ultimate punk’d experience. Done studying for the night and needing to work out some aggression, Stacey convinced me that lifting weights at 1 a.m. would be great. I closed my solitaire game and threw on an inherited pair of shorts. Thank you Heather. That night I followed Stae through her routine of leg press, lunges and squats.

Leaving the gym I remembered I needed a manila envelope for finals. Stae needed ingredients for coffee cake so we ran to Smith’s. No envelopes there but we did laugh at the poor boy who worked the graveyard shift, certain that he recognized us as the sweaty girls that shopped in the wee hours. We went to Macey’s ran around the store and found my envelope.

Once we returned home Stacey began making her coffee cake and sat down to watch. But as I sat on the wooden chair it felt oddly cold and I stuck to it. Instantly I jumped up and ran to the hallway. From a backwards glance I saw my bare white bum. A gurgling laugh exploded from my throat and Stacey ran to see what happened. Too embarrassed I shook my head and slipped into my bedroom. Moments later I carried my shorts into the kitchen showing her the five inch seam separation. Stacey was convinced the squats had caused the split but I argued that the seam unraveled when I scooted in my seat at home. How would I not have noticed the cold air against that sensitive area?

A few weeks later my friend Paul visited and shared a funny story. He’d been at Smith’s the night before and chatted with the graveyard boy. Scandalous things happen after midnight. The cashier told Paul he saw more than he needed to; including people’s butts. As Paul launched into his story my mouth dropped open. Tears formed in my eyes and between gasps of horror and delight I slapped Paul’s arm exclaiming, “That was ME!!” Paul shook his head in disbelief and I shook mine in sorrow that the gothic world of Provo had seen me exposed. My shame lasted for months.

Then one story telling night as we relived that experience Stacey looked me in the eye and divulged her prank. She had met Paul the day after my shorts split and told him the story, they then planned his visit and my humiliation. I sighed deeply with this knowledge grateful that my assets remained unseen.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Trike

They tell me death comes in threes. I’m a little skeptical because I keep hearing about them in pairs. Unless I’m the third and somehow keep escaping the grim reaper. This weekend was no different. One friend dealt with a suicide while another mourned a grandparent. As I wait for the third I thought maybe just maybe the anti-christ was right when he told me that our negative thoughts project destructive energy. Not wanting to be responsible for the triad of deaths I’ve decided to celebrate trios.

Tricornes: Yes, Johnny Tremain has a lot to do with this entry. But not nearly as much as the hour I spent in fourth grade learning a song in German. As I remember it with a surprising amount of English: Mein hut it has drei corners. Drei corners has mein hut. And had it not drei corners. It would not be mein hut.
Actual song: Mein Hut, den es drei Ecken hat, drei Ecken hat meinen Hut Und hat es nicht drei Ecken gehabt, die es mein Hut
nicht wäre


Tricyles: That third wheel did wonders for me and giving it up created a lifelong fear of needles. When learning to ride a bike my next-door cousins put me on a bike without brakes and launched me down the hill of Lake Road. Their final instruction to roll into the grass for a nice easy stop. I rolled into a log, flew off the bike and summersaulted my way through a sticker patch. For at least a week, though it felt like a full year, my poor mother came into my room early in the morning. With the sunlight shining through the window she dug her needle into my chest and tweezed out the embedded thorns.

Three Stooges: Larry, Curly and Moe babysat me many Saturday afternoons as my dad supervised between laughs.

Queen of the court: The best way to play indoor volleyball. Three people on each side fighting for the point to stay on the victorious side and at least three teams to rotate through.

Tres leches: My Café Rio dessert.

So now I wait for my second and third to come home from their adventures. Last summer was the best when the three of us lay pool side. Or, Laney and I lay pool side as Kellie lifeguarded. The pool was a safer place that summer no matter how many outbreaks of Crypto.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Please Allow Me to Introduce Myself

“Park City is a mis-mash of dirtbags who are into the outdoors and skibums.”

When I heard this I silently cheered and silently wept. Journalists dream of such quotes and the journalist me that recorded that quote knew immediately it would never be published in the Park City newspaper that I conducted the interview for. Here I wept.

The fun, frenzied freshman in me instantly remembered Tyler from my frosh ward. Tyler who wore green scrubs across campus. Tyler who stalked the medieval circus camped behind the mental hospital. Tyler who called himself and the rest of the of us dirtbags every day. Tyler who hates scary movies yet watched Fear Friday with me for a year. Tyler who also informed me that the boys dorm believed me to be a witch.
A rumor circulated that year of my magical witch wiles. Before you get too excited let me explain the basis for it. Cacao-colored hair framing alabaster skin with ice blue eyes—a witchy combination. So I figured out why none of the guys talked to me. Ever.

The laughter shared turned into a cackle as I realized this to be a common occurrence in my life. Growing up in a small town I had the same friends since birth and no one really thought me to be odd looking. I don’t think. Then Megan Boardman moved into Lamar in seventh grade. I first felt her gaze at volleyball tryouts. My shyness kept me from saying hello until we both made the team. She quickly fell into the heart of our group.

Five years later after watching Practical Magic Megan confessed her first impressions to me. She too had thought I was a witch. It seemed unnatural to her that a girl should have such pale skin after the summer and such long dark hair (my hair reached my waist) with eerie electric eyes.

I tan in the summers in hopes to alleviate sudden scares when I meet new people. And I’ve fallen in love with the dirtbags and skibums of Park City, a place I desperately wish to call home. I mean that crowd should love a witch right? Here I cheered.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Yoga Enlightenment

With mixed feelings I had arrived at his work (not a yoga studio, just some office) feeling underdressed and ridiculous. I know nothing about teaching yoga, but I was there to be interviewed and tested as a yoga assistant. I expected to be laughed away and hoped for a free yoga session. Oh and it was. My novice rank means little in the realm of partner yoga. We are all just learning it—the hard bendy way.

“Have you done your yoga today,” he asked.

“No,” I replied biting my lip, “not today.” Or in the past seven months….

We sat down and began a series of intense poses—warm-up for the three hour session ahead. Not pain, I’m surprisingly flexible, but not strong so I felt the strain and pressure of holding a position while he stretched on top of me. Think of me as a pillow and he a restless sleeper. Remaining in child’s pose nearly brought me to tears, but I sweated them out instead. As he finally eased out of the pose I frantically realized I couldn’t move. Interview over.

Except it wasn’t. He pulled my arms forward and stretched out my legs, the shook them to pump the blood (I’m certain they held a purplish-blue tint) while he commended me for my energy. He launched into a tutorial on light energy and chakras. They seemed vaguely familiar from my university class a few years ago. But I tuned out when he geared up for our next test of endurance.

I loved this pose. I balanced on his feet as he held me high in the air. Or two feet above the ground, but with my eyes closed I felt like a trapeze artist flying with the greatest of ease. It was like playing superman as a child, and knowing that the lightheaded feeling is what makes it fun. After that we did our cool down and I realized what he’d done. He ripped my muscles apart then gave the big payoff of an endorphin filled flight. Trickery so that when he called to set up another session I’d say yes.

I have a class tomorrow at 8:40.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Mahtmtacis

“Communications majors have no business with numbers. You can’t do math because you don’t think logically.”

Yes, my finance and banking Professor Lance did say that to me. Yes, I did yell at him to back off and help me simultaneously. Yes, I did cry after that extra help. AND Yes, I did ace the class.

So you can imagine my anger at a little number transposing problem I deal with on occasion. My brother-in-law, a manifested dyslexic tells me I suffer the same fate. I shrug it off until nights like tonight. A close friend invited me to dinner and gave me the address. I arrived early and sat talking on my phone for about 20 minutes. At 6:00 I left my car and walked up to a red brick wall. The same wall I had been staring at while chatting away. But because I was at the specified address I didn’t stop to think that maybe the brick wall would not serve me food. Hurmph.

Jumping back in the car I scrolled through my text messages and saw that the 860 was in fact 680. Those numbers, they kill me. I quickly called my friend back and she laughingly reminded me of a disastrous night of Rummikub. I struggled for hours trying to find the numbers scattered on the floor. My friend spent the time mocking me happy that there was a game I sucked at. Until I finally slapped the game floor and exclaimed, “I can’t read the damn numbers!” My dyslexic secret was out. But I’ve never had to play with number tiles again.

Monday, July 28, 2008

México Pequeño

A week of family adventures in Little Mexico, my hometown in Southeastern Colorado. I dubbed it Little Mexico because I forgot the mix of cultures that it is. In Mexico I remember the people I’d met there asking me what I thought about it and how different it was from home. I shook my head and replied that it reminded me of home. They looked at me with disbelief and I began doubting my memory.

Then I went to home to Lamar for a week. I think the town is at least 50/50 white to Hispanic, possibly 45/55. Something you feel when you enter town on the North side. That feeling was validated on day two. After painting Grandma and Grandpa’s house, many cousins and siblings sat in the living room. The ringing of a bell drew our attention to the two large windows face out to the street corner and the park. A little old Mexican man pushed his cart of popsicles down the street. The 106 degree heat pushed us out the door and we each picked our favorite flavor, mine a frozen strawberry bar dipped in chocolate and coconut. Various members of my family speak Spanish fluently so the conversation flowed and I piped in with hola and gracias. (I do know a little more, but nothing to do with frozen fruit bars.)

The next few days passed by and the subculture faded into the background, until late Saturday night. Laughing in the hotel room and after eating too much ice cream my cousin turned to me and slapped my leg. I’ve seen that same expression of excitement before—on the Latin dance floor. The not so faint Banda music played late into the night. And again throughout the park on Sunday just like I remembered. When we left at 3 this morning I mentally mapped out the steps to the Mexican Hat Dance and whispered Adios, silently drifting to sleep as Trav drove us to the airport.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Where Is...

In an unfortunate life (a.k.a. mine) I spent an extra few hours delayed at the Salt Lake International airport. Luckily they have a playground. I especially enjoyed the Ariel chair and Under the Sea special table with a hidden treasure top. Wish I could be part of that world, but I’m a little old and have been receiving odd looks all night.

Here I sit in my casual church clothes. Meaning a summery skirt and pale blue Banana T complete with flip-flops, tear-stained cheeks (this is no lie. As I later discovered that a morning cry left streaks in my powder foundation, barely noticeable when you’re red swollen eyes look in the mirror, a little more noticeable at midnight?!) and wavy semi-greasy hair. Who can be bothered to get ready for a night of travel?

No it’s not me they are checking out, it’s the sexy red Vaio. I know because many days I come home from work, throw my purse on the clothes covered carpet and pause to stare. It’s smooth and shiny, a bit like a certain pair of ruby red slippers. If the witches saw this baby they’d be plotting again. And clicking the keyboard a tornado would sweep me back home to Lamar.

Or so I thought until a tired looking girl ran to me, threw herself at my feet, and asked for directions. The baggage claim, hmmm. I encouraged her to continue down the corridor. If she didn’t run into it then try the other way. I get lost in my hometown so I wonder at the GPS look I hold that causes such requests. In Ireland I wandered aimlessly about confused and directionally challenged, yet constantly people stopped me to ask for directions. They with their muddled Irish slang and I with my twangy hick talk pointing firmly as though I knew.

I think it was the running shorts that inspired confidence. If they only knew that I never once ran the same route, and not on purpose.

Friday, July 18, 2008

When I Grow Up I Want to Be Cute


Last night on a late caffeine run, my cousin commented on why people like me. Not because I’m funny, but because I’m cute funny…as in people laugh at me when I do ridiculous things. It was this and the long venture out to Jordan Landing for a midnight screening of The Dark Knight that I remembered my art class and my art teacher’s finely sculpted shoulders. The only other time I’ve been to Jordan Landing was the date I had with said teacher.

A few years ago in protest to an academic curriculum I took a beginners drawing class. Good thing too, my teacher needed me. He was a grad student and this was his first class. He tried to scare half of us away on the first day. Luckily he’d also done a short demonstration, and captivated by those shoulders I decided to remain enrolled.

My friendships in the class blossomed. And in an odd way. Somehow I ended up going out on dates with five of the boys in that class, instructor included and one girl. OK, the girl wasn’t a date but it could’ve been and she made me crash a frat party. One boy even secured me a place on a house boat for a week long party at Lake Mead. Regretfully I passed. But the best friend I made in the class was the middle-aged woman from Park City. I think she only talked to me and our teacher. I was a social butterfly so it’s amazing that I was able to keep up with my drawings.

Not really since my teacher did most of mine for me. After giving us our class assignments, he would walk around and help us individually. For me that meant a revised explanation (Somehow I was the only one in class that actually tried to do what he told us to and he never told us the correct way. In fact I corrected his math and teaching methods a few times, but still couldn’t draw a box). By the end of the semester, my teacher felt like my drawing had progressed. He even complimented one area he found particularly beautiful. As he pointed at it and praised my work, I hung my head in shame.

“No,” I cried, “that’s the part you drew for me not quite two hours ago.”

As the entire class found me entertaining all eyes and ears gravitated my way. My art professor looked at me and laughed nervously. Luckily PC Lady picked up the ball and offered some words of comfort.

Holding my hand she announced loudly, “It’s ok if you can’t draw honey. You’re one of the cutest girls in the class. You’ve got beautiful eyes and a wonderful smile. And I’ve never seen them, but I bet you’ve got great legs too!”

I painfully shared my portfolio on our final day of class, and just to be safe I went heavy on the eyeliner and short with the hem.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Why Can't We Be Friends


My friend recently traveled to Japan and spent two wonderful weeks exploring the island. Unfortunately on leaving the U.S. and entering Japan he was stopped three times and questioned relentlessly by the anti-terrorist police. Those orange-banded enforcers saw their target from a mile away. It’s the Middle Eastern decent that singles out this friend and he’ll probably be stopped habitually. So in honor of his persecution I post my own terrorist interrogation story. When I moved to Ireland for a year the immigrations officer spotted me as a sex slave extraordinaire. Seriously, an average, educated white girl from the States?

I was standing in a long line of foreigners wanting to shoot myself. I’d left my mom 26 hours ago at DIA and had been crying for nearly as long. I was moving to Dublin and was traveling 2 days after the terrorist attack at Heathrow. Puffy eyed, messy haired, no make-up, ratty white T and sweats, I stood out in the crowd of Euro travelers who actually take time with their appearance. In a state of sleep deprivation I drug my sorry ass and luggage up to customs. The official took one look at me a frowned. Then in rapid Irish, which sounds like a drunk on speed, fired pointed questions at my arrival to his blessed country.

Being illegal (staying over the 90-day limit, no visa and employed) I had been instructed by the family I was working for to say that I was here to stay with friends. What I didn’t know is I needed the address I was staying at, the name of the family (I had met them once and was terrified I wouldn’t recognize them when they picked me up), plans, etc. If I’d been born a charming deviant the lies would easily have dropped from my lips. Unfortunately, I was born with a tendency to blunt truthfulness and a damsel in distress look.

After 30 minutes of unsatisfactory answers from me, the official stamped my passport with a restriction and instructed me to report to the Garda. My story “didn’t add up” and he’d love to “hold me for longer to fill the gaps and get the truth” but obviously I was not the only passenger that needed to be welcomed to Ireland. I marched, er slinked, into the shadowy halls plastered with human trafficking posters.

Every month we’d visit continental Europe. And every month I would receive interrogation coming back to Ireland. The Garda were slightly more forgiving. Probably because Jay and Jodi were with me to answer questions, you know back up my story, or embellish it. He was my proof of residence and had come to vouch for me so I could obtain a visa. I sat to his left with his wife on the other side, whom he also had to vouch for (seriously patriarchal over there). Returning to Dublin for the last time a young guy granted me entry, by cheerfully reading my Irish criminal record. “So ya’re leavin to home in a few days, ar ya? Bin stoppt at yer boyfriends, livin wit ‘im. Still leavin?”

Yeah, I’m leaving. But as a terrorist or sex slave?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Paper Panties

If ever Murphy’s Law dictated a privileged life it would be mine. Never do I catch the common cold, but mono and pneumonia—had them both. Worked at my dream job and the company failed. Sped down a five mile stretch and ticketed. Rear-ended in a dust storm and I became a fugitive in the state of Utah. Relocating to Dublin and suspected of terrorism…just an average day.

I enjoy the excitement of such a life and it rarely surprises me, I just have to expect the worst case scenario. In fact I hummed along to the cell phone ring of Halloween during my first gyno appointment. I expected Mike Myers to burst through the door as I sat with my feet in the stirrups and no immediate escape. Thankfully he’s fictional.

So why was I shocked when I showed up for my massage at an upscale Spa Resort in Mexico? Lack of underwear. I’ve had many massages before and am familiar with the optional clothing. However in an early morning stupor I’d thrown on yoga pants and rushed out the door. When I changed into my robe I realized my mistake of not taking time to add panties first. What the hell? In high school I showered with my teammates after volleyball games. Nudity among women is liberating once you get past the embarrassment, I think. This isn’t that different. Until a deep masculine voice calls my name and a large man ushers me into a treatment room. Leading me to a chair he begins explaining the voodoo wand that would verify the correct blend of essential oils. You know the oils he’d be rubbing all over my soon to be exposed self. He believes in holistic healing, I believe in covering my goods.

So when he told me to disrobe and lie under the blanket I panicked. The one day I left my optional clothing in the drawer, I desperately opted for them. I considered running out of the room. I would go home early, quit my job (I was there for a press trip, spa specific) and move in with mom and dad who would welcome me and reward me with new clothing for my virtue. Or I would suck it up and act like a man.
My healing technician walked to the door to leave while I stripped. I clenched my hands together and held my breath, apparent as I released a huge sigh when he stopped and turned around. Holding up one finger he opened a cupboard and produced a pair of disposable paper underwear.

I restrained from jumping and ripping them out of his hand. With the flimsy shield of protection I felt comfortable and ready for my massage. The next challenge in relaxing was not turning red as he hit on me. Maybe the sterile paper underwear trumped my racy hot pink lace thong. At least this time.