Thursday, May 29, 2008

Thursday Night

You know, technology robs correspondence of certain tonal elements. For instance, the script in this message is very even and measured, and the backspace key allows me to erase any hint that my hand is anything but steady as I type this. If this were, say, 1908, I fear my shaking pen could produce nothing but characters only sometimes recognizable as letters in the English language. "Was something wrong with my pal Jess when she wrote this?" you might wonder in your old-timey inner voice. "I can't make hide nor hair of this chicken scratch, see." And you would be rightly interpreting my halting handwriting, for I have just had an encounter. . . WITH LIGHTNING.

So I was on my way home from watching the mind-blowing season finale of Lost at my friends' house, and it was raining pretty good. I'd seen some lightning earlier and even made some stupid comment about standing too close to the metal drainpipe on the side of their house. Oh, how blithely I snarked at mortality!

I drove through the rain squinting for the lines on the road, knowing they must be somewhere under all the reflected city light on the wet pavement. My mind raced with island theories and the first tentative thoughts I'd allow myself to think about the structure of Lost next season.

Fleetwood Mac's Say You Love Me was playing as I pulled up to my place and looked in vain for a parking spot. I think they must be sweeping the next street over tomorrow, because there are twice as many cars on my street tonight. So I circled around and decided to park by the back of the house and try my keys in the back door for the first time since I moved in.

I parked under a big tree and actually thought, "Oh, man, this is so one of those fateful decisions. I'm totally getting struck by lightning." I considered going around to the front door, but it was pouring rain, so I made a quick dash for the back door.

The chorus I'd cut off in the car continued in my head. "'Cause when the lovin' starts and the lights go down and there's not another livin' soul around..." I made it to the back gate and clasped the metal latch. And then every molecule of the air was positively rent with the loudest crack of thunder I've ever heard; at the exact same moment, the night was suddenly white. There was no counting the seconds between the lightning and thunder to determine the distance in miles from from the storm. It was closer than the idea of the word "Mississippi." When I tell you the ground shook, I mean it shook hard enough to set off a car alarm on the street.

"Holy shit!" I shouted, completely disregarding my earlier resolve to be a courteous neighbor and approach to the back entrance quietly. I shoved my metal key into the metal lock and hurried inside, where I stood in my kitchen and shook for a minute. Eventually, I put one foot in front of the other and went to my couch, where I sat and shook for a minute.

My ears have just stopped ringing, and one thing is clear to me tonight: we never know how long we have on Earth. We do, however, know that there are only two more seasons of Lost. Do you know how much that would have sucked if I had gotten struck by fucking lightning before finding out what the hell is going on with that island?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Born to Hobble


Well, I made it. I offer as proof this video documentation (which is also proof of how little I value cleaning the lens of a video camera).

I've just returned from a hobbling trip to the medicine cabinet at the back of the house, where I popped three ibuprofen in anticipation of the soreness in my legs worsening as the night goes on. It'll be fine, I'm sure. But damn! I feel really old right now. Old and angry at Sir Mix-a-Lot, whose joint-smiting rhythms haunt me in my moment of victory.

As for the walk, I'd say it's a pretty good one for the city. It begins with concrete sidewalks in my St. Paul neighborhood. Then comes what I believe is called a "casual path" in hiking circles, where the sidewalk oddly ends and I am forced to walk in a dirt trench carved in the grass by generations of bikers and pedestrians whose voices still echo in the rustle of the wind through the leaves of the low-hanging trees: "What the hell? Where the fuck is the sidewalk?" Then comes the bridge, and over it a bike and pedestrian path all along the Mississippi, until I veer inland for about six blocks of a storied Minneapolis hippie neighborhood, where I work.

I have to be at work at 7:00 a.m., so I reasoned that I should leave at 6:00. Really, there wasn't a lot of reason involved, just my fuck-that attitude about leaving in the 5:00 a.m. hour. I managed to get out the door by 6:03, and I was sort of panicked that I would be late, so I walked really, really quickly all the way there, and I made it at exactly 7:00.

When I do anything requiring even the mildest physical exertion, my face turns roughly the color of a cartoon face that has become overheated due to, say, falling into a vat of boiling water or pounding one's cartoon hand with a hammer. So my first stop at work was the ladies' room, where I splashed some cold water on my face to no avail. I took my seat and attempted to enter my alphanumeric, case-sensitive log-in password with the sausage fingers I get after walking a few miles. I was on my third try when a coworker arrived and said good morning. He regarded my lobster face. "Did you get a bunch of sun this weekend?"

I managed to gasp a reply. "No...I work...really fast." And then he asked the question my knees were screaming: "What's wrong with your car?"

I learned today that when you are dreading a physically taxing commute home, the workday just flies by. Come 3:30, I slung my backpack over my shoulder, told the receptionist that she should look for me in the street if I don't show up tomorrow, and made for the river.

But as soon as I opened the outside door, I breathed springtime in deep, and I was happy to be alive and walking home. I was enjoying the sun and the perfect breeze and, yes, the playful shouts of children in Matthews Park. I know! It was like something out of a movie.

"'Sup?" Came a voice from the barber shop across the street. A man was sitting on a bench underneath the barber pole. I glanced around me and found no one else he could have been reasonably addressing. "Hi!" I shouted back with a wave.

"You coming from chorus?"

Huh? I was utterly unable to account for what would make him think I could sing. "What?" I shouted.

"You coming from class?"

Still confused, I hitched up my backpack and realized that it was what he was referring to.

"Oh, no! Work." I said with a jerk of my thumb to the west. Was this guy trying to gauge if I was legal?

"What you gonna do the rest of the day?"

I fumbled a little. I didn't know what I was going to do for the rest of the day, and for some reason, I felt I owed this guy an explanation that didn't involve any more hints about where I lived or worked. Stupidly, I looked to his example. "Probably just sit outside."

Damn it! Why did I say that? That's not anywhere near what I had planned on doing, but I felt pressured, and I couldn't very well have said, "Go home and lie on the couch until I regain feeling in my left leg.

"Well, you decide you want to sit out here, you just come on back anytime."

My spirits bolstered by shouted propositions from a shady guy on a bench in Minneapolis, I made it to the river in no time. I shed my sweatshirt and got my iPod out of my backpack. "Coming from class," I said to myself. "That's sweet."

There was only one thing I wanted to listen to, and it was all because I couldn't sleep last night. Probably against my best fiscal interest, I decided to get cable at my new place. When I couldn't sleep last night, of course, I turned to my friend cable. There are about 150 movies you can watch On Demand for free, ranging from Immortal Beloved to Demonlover to Blue Velvet. And while I enjoy a good movie as much as the next girl (I've got The African Queen on right now), last night I only had eyes for Eddie and the Cruisers II.

Which brings me to a little experiment you can try if you like. So Arcade Fire is brilliant. I loved Funeral and bought Neon Bible sight unseen. But listen to Keep the Car Running and tell me it isn't reminiscent of Eddie and the Cruisers' signature song, On the Dark Side. And, of course, Eddie's fake band is mimicking Bruce Springsteen and his E Street comrades, who give us the real deal: She's the One. Follow the links to see for yourself, dude. Bruce Springsteen is a freaking genius, and Born to Run carried me home today. Thanks, Bruce.

By the Time You Read This...

...Well, I'll probably be at home, watching The Daily Show or something. But by the time this is posted, I'll be walking--wait for it--to work! There are those who say it can't be done, and at least one of them is sometimes me, but I am going from zero to six miles in one day, baby, and there ain't nothin' gonna break-a my stride.

Thus begins what I think I'll call my Summer of Doing Shit I Said I Would. Even if I only do it once before my genetically faulty knees buckle under the pressure of not being a jerk to the environment, that's fine.

I'll set this to post at 6:27 a.m. tomorrow, when I hope to be exactly halfway across the bridge over the Mighty Mississippi, which is exactly halfway to work. Here goes!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

How will you make it on your own?

How will you make it on your own?
This world is awfully big, girl; this time you're all alone.
But it's time you started living.
It's time you let someone else do some giving.

Love is all around; no need to waste it.
You can have a town; why don't you take it?
You're gonna make it after all!
You're gonna make it after all!

--Paul Williams, "Love Is All Around" (theme from The Mary Tyler Moore Show)

Well, I tried to move away from you, blog. But you've followed me to my new apartment, so I guess I will tell you about how I've gone crazy living on my own.

Don't get me wrong; I really do think this was the right move for me. This is the first time I've lived without a roommate of any kind, and I'm learning a lot about the "real" world and the real me, who is apparently insane.

The layout of my new place is what the owner refers to as a "rail car" design, and I've also seen it referred to as a "shotgun" apartment. You enter through the living room, there is a set of French doors into the bedroom, then another door into the kitchen, and finally the bathroom is at the very back of the house. See, you move between the rooms much like you would move between the cars of a train...or much like buckshot would move unabated from the barrel of a shotgun in my living room through my bedroom and kitchen before lodging in the porcelain bowl of my toilet. (I do have a bathroom door; I'm just assuming it's open for metaphorical purposes.)

So it has worked out that my bed is about--let me measure--46 inches from my stove. And by way of a transition, I'd like to note that when I just went back there to measure, I smelled a faint odor of natural gas.

The same thing happened a week ago when I was about to go to bed. It was Sunday night, and I was exhausted from cleaning the old place on the heels of a week of marathon moving activities. Because of its proximity to my bed, I've been using the light above the stove as my night-night know, the last one you turn off before you go to bed. When I went to douse the night-night light, I caught a whiff of gas from the stove. I turned off the light and laid down and immediately started to worry.

Are natural gas and carbon monoxide related? Should I be worried about gas filling my apartment and killing me in my sleep? When would anybody notice I was dead? I'm really tired, but is it because I'm physically exhausted or is it because I'm being slowly poisoned by the very air I'm breathing???

I thought that maybe I should crack a window. It was pretty cold outside, but piling on another blanket wouldn't be difficult, and it seemed a small price to pay for the chance to live to see another day. So I got up and opened a window in the kitchen and climbed back into bed. I visualized the gas moving toward the open window and realized that was silly. Why would the gas go all the way across the kitchen when it could just move 46 inches into my nostrils? I mean, it would have to fight NOT to get sucked into my lungs by my constant breathing.

I could just see the local news coverage: "A St. Paul woman was found dead in her awesome new apartment this morning, apparently poisoned by the very air she was breathing. Police on the scene say she had almost saved herself by opening a kitchen window. Had she been a little more motivated, she might have gotten out from under her four blankets and opened a bedroom window, letting fresh air into the room where she was sleeping, a mere 46 inches from her deadly stove, and giving herself a fighting chance at traveling more, writing a novel, and seeing what will surely be the exciting conclusion of the TV series "Battlestar Galactica," which may very well have been her goals, judging by the contents of her truly awesome new apartment in which she had barely begun to live. As it is, she leaves a project half done at work, but someone else can probably just finish that today."


I got up and opened a bedroom window and listened to the real sounds of the city and the imaginary sounds of gas whooshing out of the window for another few hours until, finally, I fell asleep around 3:30 a.m. By that time, I figured that if the gas was going to kill me, it would have done so hours ago, and I allowed myself to drift off to the reassuring strains of: "You're gonna make it after all!"

And so I have turned into a crazy person. Maybe that will make for more interesting blog entries. Stay tuned...