maarmie's musings

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Smoky the rat

I was lying on my bed minding my own business last night when this furry creature with four legs scurried out of my kitchen and into the main room of my apartment. He/she was on a trajectory aimed at the center of the room when he/she saw me move. He/she (hereafter referred to as "Smoky") thought better of the course and darted behind my bookcase.

Since I'm a girl, I really have no idea what to do in the event of a rodent infestation except 1) panic and 2) call a man. I grabbed my phone and scrolled through the saved numbers looking for my landlord's. I hadn't saved the number in my phone. I would have to go to the kitchen to get the number off my fridge. But there might be more of them in the kitchen. A whole gang of them ready to grab onto my ankles and take me down, angry that I keep my food in a high cupboard out of their reach and ready to gnaw my face to the bone.

I ran over to my computer desk chair and jumped up on it flinging myself and the chair (thank you whoever invented wheels!) kitchenward. Once in the kitchen, I grabbed the landlord's number off the refrigerator door and pushed off back in the direction of my bed. Once back on the bed, I dialled the landlord's number. That's when Smoky darted from behind the bookcase to behind the computer desk to behind my dresser. The landlord said he and the pest control dude would be out today.

I could tell Smoky was dying to get into my closet because that's where the little mongrel kept trying to go. But the door was almost closed, and Smoky was too scared to take his time about getting in there. Smoky finally made it into the closet. That's when I shut the closet door. Knowing that mice and rats can flatten themselves to squeeze through almost any size opening, the fact that Smoky was in the closed closet didn't quiet my nerves. I picked everything up off the floor (including my rumpled comforter that could easily hide a rat) and stayed on my bed the rest of the night with a broom next to the bed. I didn't sleep too well last night.

This morning, I got ready for work without use of my closet. It's a good thing I keep some of my pants in my dresser and that I don't have to wear a suit during the slow season. Before leaving the house, I left a note for the landlord/pest guy on the counter with a drawing of the critter (for size purposes) and descriptions of where I have seen droppings and where I last saw Smoky. I think there will be some very inhumane traps in my house starting today. Thank goodness today signals the beginning of two weeks of house sitting for my friends.

Smoky was a fine rat. WAS being the operative word here.

Update: My landlord and the pest control dude put a couple of glue traps down with peanut butter as bait in each one - one inside my closet and one behind my bed. Great. I can see it now. I'll be trying to sleep and all of a sudden I'll hear a bunch of shrieking and squealing right by my head. That ought to give me pleasant dreams. Landlord ordered me to keep my box of shoes off the ground for however long it takes to catch the sucker. Smoky likey my box o'shoes.

Update: A call from my landlord confirmed that a rat was found in one of the traps. I don't know it if was Smoky or not, because my landlord disposed of it. There's one more trap in my apartment. I just hope there aren't more rats.

New music

Albums recently purchased

Metric/Live It Out

Bonobo/It Came from the Sea

Very Hush Hush/Mourir C'est Facile

No image available

Yeah Yeah Yeahs/Show Your Bones

The Rakes/Capture Release

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Operation Save America from Operation Save America

Operation Save America (formerly known as Operation Rescue) is an organization of violent right-wing religious activists whose members will flock to Jackson, Mississippi, between July 15 and 22 to cause trouble for the state's last remaining abortion clinic. Referring to the gate around the clinic as the "gates of hell" and referring to the clinic as an "abortion mill," Operation Save America Director Flip Benham is urging members to do what they have done in other cities containing clinics: show up in droves to frighten doctors and patients and disrupt the business of the clinic in the hopes of shutting it down.

I will hopefully be in Jackson that week as a National Organization for Women volunteer during a week of activities aimed at protesting the protestors. Members of Operation Save America don't just protest, though, they harass patients and take out newspaper ads meant to incite violence against abortion doctors.

According to, Operation Save America blockades the doors of abortion clinics, picket doctors' homes and hold protests outside gay bars and progressive churches, all part of the group's regressive agenda of intimidation. NOW will be countering some of these measures with a kick-off rally, a march on the state capitol to demand protection for women and girls and the registration of pro-choice voters. I can't wait to help let Operation Save America members know there are still people out there who value their right to choose.

According to the NOW Web site, Operation Save America has gathered at abortion clinics in Boulder, Colorado; Columbus, Ohio; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Dallas, Texas. Abortion is now illegal in South Dakota and is threatened with legislation in at least six other states.

If Roe v. Wade is ever overturned and Florida decides to ban abortion, you can bet I'll be running a clandestine abortion clinic out of my apartment. Abortion doctors who would like to volunteer their services can e-mail me at

Note: Squidley wanted to let me know that I went against the grain when I used the term "abortion doctor" to mean "doctor who performs abortions." I will refer, instead, to abortionists as "doctors who kill fetuses before they are old enough to complain."

As unpalatable as abortion may be - and the words used to describe those who perform them - I assure you I am pro-choice. I say this remembering that my own abortion in 1997 was unpleasant to say the very least and not at all the trip to Disneyland I was hoping it would be.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Another two-week vacation - with pets!

I had dinner and a training session last night at the home of my friends who are going out of town for two weeks. I will be moving into their house for those two weeks to care for their pets, check their mail, bring in their newspapers, eat all their food, waste electricity, host a kick-ass party on the new deck in their backyard and make out with guys who mistakenly think their beautiful abode is mine all mine.

Last night, I learned where the doggie leash and collar are kept, where the dog and cat foods are kept and when/where to feed the two cats and one dog, rules for the animals (no cats on the kitchen counter, doggie sleeps in the kitchen), how to adjust the air conditioner and how to work the TV/VCR/DVD player. I also got a copy of the house key. On Tuesday, we will go over everything all over again, and I will be quizzed on collar essentials and walking the dog 101.

With every joke, I am making my friends more and more wary of leaving their beloved house and pets in my care. I joke about beating the dog into submission or poisoning her, locking the cats out of the house for the two weeks without food or water, setting the house on fire or posting their address on my blog and letting people know where the spare key is hidden outside. While I was at their house last night, I saw a pair of kitchen scissors that appeared to be top rate. I said, "Are these kitchen scissors? I've always wanted a pair of kitchen scissors. These are nice ones."

The man of the house replied that he'd be checking to make sure the kitchen scissors were still there when they got back. I assure my dear readers that if I was going to steal something, it wouldn't be a pair of kitchen scissors. Geesh!

All joking aside, my friends know they have nothing to worry about - though they pretty much accept the fact that I will be keeping the cats out of the house as much as possible and that the doggie will be sleeping with me the entire two weeks. Like I'd ever let that cutie patootie sweep on the kitchen fwoor! Aside from these major transgressions, that house will run like a well-oiled machine, and I will bask in the lap of luxury for two weeks. The down side is that I'll finally find out what I'm missing out on by not owning my own house and having a cutie patootie doggie woggie all my very own.

Friday, June 23, 2006

News alert: Librarian attempts sense of humor; public stunned into silence

maarmie: I'd like to turn in these two books (lays books on counter) and renew this one (lays a third next to the other stack) if I can. They're all overdue, but if I can't renew this one, I'd like to just keep it for a couple more days and pay the extra fine. I also have a book on hold I'd like to check out if I can.

librarian: (slowly processing the situation) Let's see here. OK. Check these two in (scans bar codes of the two books) and (moving slower than a turtle) now this third one. If it won't renew (musters all the resolve in his puny body, which wasn't much) that means it's on hold for someone else and you would (pauses, eyeing me) have to turn it in. (deep breath)

m: I'm sure it is on hold, but I want to keep it through the weekend and just pay the extra fine. (pause) I'm prepared to grab the book off this counter and run out the door with it. (smile)

l: Well, I'm not going to fight you over the book...

m: I'll hit you in the head with my wallet (wags rather large and heavy wallet at the librarian for emphasis) and run out the door. (smile)

l: (smiles, now forming a sense of humor) You're just full of it, aren't you?

m: You have no idea...

l: Oh, I'm starting to get an idea. (smile)

m: (smile)

l: Well, I'll tell you what I'll do. This book IS on hold, but I'm going to break the rules. I'm going to renew the book for you, but I'm not supposed to. When do you think you'll have it in?

m: By Monday. I swear. (million dollar smile)

l: (suspicious) Well, OK. Try to have it in Monday.

m: Oh, I will. I swear. (librarian scans bar code to renew book) You're such a renegade!

l: Shhh. Don't tell anyone.

m: Oh, ok. Sorry. (wink)

l: (smile)

m: (wink wink pause) I have a book on hold, too.

l: Oh, OK. (walks to the hold shelf to dig out my book) Omnivore's Dilemma? I've been an omnivore for years, and I wasn't aware we had a dilemma. What's the dilemma?

m: I don't know. I have to read the book to find out.

l: Oh, yeah. You have to read the book first. (smile)

(librarian scans bar code)

l: Now, you can pay your fines now, or you can wait. You owe $1.60.

m: (holds out two $1 bills) I'll pay now. I mean, I could hold off and earn the interest on these two dollars, but I don't think it would make me very much money. (smile)

l: (smile. walks to the register to ring up the fine) I suppose you want your change, too.

m: Oh, absolutely!

(librarian brings the change)

l: Here you go. Forty cents.

m: (holds the coins out to the librarian) You can keep it as a tip if you want to, but, keep in mind, this could be construed as a bribe.

l: Yes, I'm aware this could be construed as a bribe. You can keep it. I only take bribes of a dollar or more. Forty cents isn't worth it.

m: Yes. You have a point. (smile)

l: (smile)

m: Thank you so much. Thank you. Thanks. (smile)


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

I hate it when... coworker brings her adorable little almost-2-year-old daughter, Amelia, into the office. I immediately turn into one of THOSE women. You know. The kind that coos and ahhhh!s and squeals and whines "Iiiiii waaaaaannnnnnt ooooooonnnnnnneeee!"

Tick, tick, tick. Shit. My loins are on fire now, and I need a good fucking. Maybe I can find a kind donor on my lunch break.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Judgment day

I set my alarm for 6:30 that morning. My friend and I had to be out of the house and on the road by 7:15. I wanted to be at the courthouse by 8:30 or 8:40, and Yahoo! driving directions said it was going to take 1 hour and 20 minutes to get to the address in Ottawa, Illinois, the seat of Lasalle County.

As my friend and I neared the work zone in which I had gotten my speeding ticket, I made it a point to take note of whether or not the zone was clearly marked. Yep. Cones and signs warned of the upcoming work zone. The problem hadn't been the signage or lack thereof. The problem had been me. Big surprise. No, really. Huge surprise.

(insert photo of traffic court sign here)
My only photograph of the traffic court building. Guards took my friend's camera upon entering the building, but she got photos of me in the courtroom using her camera phone. Tee hee!

We arrived at the courthouse with 30 minutes to spare. I took a photo of the traffic court sign. Two women were smoking and gabbing nearby, obvious employees of the court. They asked if I had photographed them. I told them I was taking a photo of the sign as a souvenir and that I could tell the place was evil. They told me I had no idea just how evil the place was. I told them I could smell it. Once inside the building and through the metal detector, I made a big deposit in the courthouse bathroom and waited in the courtroom with my friend.

The only other time I had been to court was when I was 19. The incident in question happened on July 4 that year. I was in a friend's front yard with my then-boyfriend. I had been drinking. I was drunk and holding a beer. All of a sudden, a man was in my face asking if it was my beer. I thought it was an odd question, but, in my drunken stupor, I managed an indignant "yes." Next thing I knew, he and his pal were reading me my rights and telling me to follow them several blocks to their car where they photographed me with the can. Evidence for court. They were two off-duty cops coming back from watching fireworks at a nearby park. I was charged with underage drinking and paid $75 in court to keep the charge off my record. This time, I didn't get so lucky.

Others began filing into the courtroom. They wore shorts. They wore tank tops. They wore jeans hanging halfway down their asses. They wore baseball hats. They chewed gum. They sported many tattoos and multiple piercings. They had attitudes that matched their youth. I, on the other hand, was dressed tastefully and respectfully in a jacket and skirt. My tattoo was hidden. I felt way overdressed but appropriate. I looked over at my friend and her multiple tattoos and piercings. I asked her what the deal was with everyone in the room having body art. She said, "What can I say. We're (people who have tattoos and piercings) lawbreakers."


Three attorneys sauntered into the courtroom just after 9 and proceeded to call out the names of the people who had actual court dates that morning. When the name was called, the person was to go to the front of the room, enter a plea with the attorney, sign the paper and wait for the judge. The judge entered and called out names one by one. After everyone who had a court date declared themselves guilty in front of the judge, they were to wait again for the paperwork to be entered in the system and were then led to the cashier's office where they were to pay their fines. The judge left the room when the last person had entered his plea. Then, they led in the prisoners.

Clear the front row, everyone! We're bringing in the prisoners!

What the?

Three men in leg chains were led into the room and told to sit in the front row. One of the men looked like a more scraggly version of Charles Fucking Manson with his long mangy beard and hair and gaunt face. Their files were looked over, and they entered their pleas with the attorneys before the judge came back into the room. Same system as before, and, before I knew it, the prisoners were led back out of the room - but not before the youngest of them stared at my friend with a grotesque open mouth and disgustingly perverse look on his face that said, "I want to rape you." She saw it, too, so it wasn't just me.

I was among three walk-ins that day. After the inmates, it was our turn. Same cycle. I asked the attorney if it was OK for me to plead no contest. I didn't want to say the word "guilty." He looked at me as if to say "Hey, dumb ass. 'No contest' means 'guilty,' anyway. Might as well face up to it." He practically said as much, too. He was right, and that's what I did. When my name was called, I went in front of the judge, referred to him as "your honor" and laid my guilt bare at his feet. It was over like that. What a relief.

That's when the fun started.

Some young cocky blond lawyer strutted into the room, and, I'm telling you, he was hot. I'm not normally attracted to blonds (I like my men tall, dark and handsome), but this guy was a rare specimen. My friend and I agreed that he could have been from Australia. Yes, he was a foreign kind of hot. A tiny moan escaped my mouth when he entered the room, an automatic response that signaled my friend to look up. Just when she started to drool, I was led out of the room to pay my fine.



Double drat!

The morning had been so entertaining, my friend repeatedly thanked me for getting the ticket. I kept sarcastically "you're welcom"ing her and told her she owed me $200. She thought that was funny. But, wait. No. Seriously.


(insert ottawa photos here)

I joked with the cashier, the woman who had the day before dug my ticket out of the stack thereby saving my life, that issuing tickets was not a very nice way of bringing tourism into the county. She said it brings more people to the City of Ottawa, where they spend money browsing through the shops and buying lunch. She was right. We had planned a whole day around the court visit. I ended up spending at least $100 additional dollars on a cool tote, ring and lunch before we drove the 12 miles to Starved Rock State Park, where we braved the deer ticks and wild animals, photos of which can be found below.

(insert starved rock photos here)

Monday, June 19, 2006

Minneapolis/St. Paul Sunday night and back to Bloomington

After ice cream at an ice cream shop near downtown Minneapolis (I had a scoop of banana/chocolate and a scoop of chocolate/cayenne) and a nap at Jeremy's house Sunday afternoon, we got dressed for dinner with his aunt, uncle, cousin, brother and sister-in-law at Mystic Lake Casino Hotel, an alcohol-free and firearms-free casino owned and operated, says the Web site, by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux (Dakota) Community. Jeremy told me that there are only 200 members of the tribe and that each member gets an equal share of the casino's earnings each month. That translates to $90,000 for every MAN, WOMAN and CHILD - EVERY MAN! EVERY WOMAN! EVERY CHILD! - per month. Ninety grand per month. For each of them. Every month. Ninety grand. I think I must have some Dakota in me somewhere. Can I join the group?

I had never been on a reservation, and I had never been in a casino. I was ecstatic - that is, until I smelled the smoke and saw the people drowning their machines with coin after coin, bill after bill and hoping to hit the big time. It was depressing, like watching hours and hours of Jerry Springer. I ended up spending about $10 - no more - while I was there. Of course, I had dreams of walking away with millions. Instead, I walked away with a zippered pocket full of goddamn nickels.

Jeremy's relatives all seemed nice, especially his brother and sister-in-law who just got back from what sounds like was a fabulous vacation in Europe.

Back at Jeremy's house with graham crackers, marshmallows and Hershey's chocolate, Jeremy built a fire in the pit in his backyard, and we made s'mores - a delicacy I had never made as I don't often get a craving for burnt marshmallows. After a few more photos, Jeremy and I called it quits for the night. The next morning, I left his house at 7:30 a.m. and had an uneventful but completely restful drive back to Bloomington, six more cigarettes out of the pack calming me every step of the way.

Once back in Bloomington, I had my friend break and throw out the remaining six cigarettes. I haven't had one since, and I don't even have any cravings. Nice to know I can smoke 14 cigarettes and be OK after. It's all a matter of willpower, I guess. But I have a feeling if I try that stunt too many more times, I might not come out of it a nonsmoker in the future. I need to watch my step. 'Tis a slippery slope, after all.

I'd like to conclude my posts about Minneapolis/St. Paul with a shout out to Jeremy who was, overall, a fantastic host and a good sport. We ended up doing just about everything I had wanted to do in Minneapolis, and, for the most part, Jeremy and I got along decently well - for being two Tauruses, that is.

Remember, Jeremy. Next time, I'll be the host. I just hope I can entertain you as well as you entertained me. You sweetie peetie poopie pie! Nyah!

Next: Judgment day

Minneapolis/St. Paul: Sunday

Jeremy didn't get any bright ideas at the Walker Art Center

I'm sitting at work now after having gone through stories from my vacation about 100 times each for various coworkers. By the end of the telling and retelling of the stories - ...then the Walker and a $13 drink at this place called Chino Latino. And this paella that was fabulous. Crappy pizza in Chicago, my last day of vacation spent in court. They said I could take the warrant for my arrest, but what if I move to Chicago? Better to pay the fine... - they had gotten so fantastic that I ended up practically telling stories about being chased by rabid raccoons and being nearly jailed for my defiance against a state cop. I swear, I should write books. Or bad action movies for Hollywood.

Sunday in Minneapolis. Jeremy and I woke up early for a hike in Minnehaha Park. I popped out of bed bright and early, popped two Advil and drank some water. No hangover, really. Just felt kinda crappy.

Minnehaha was beautiful. The weather was beautiful. A tad bit overcast and moderate in temperature. No rain. Just right for hiking. We saw a waterfall...

...and a river...

...and more water...

...and statues, including this one...

After the hike, we went back to Jeremy's to shower and get ready for a museum experience. We would only have time for one, and we had a choice between the Walker Art Center and a historical museum. I wanted to see both, but time was not on our side to go to a museum and get ready to meet Jeremy's aunt, uncle, cousin, brother and sister-in-law at a casino for dinner. It was my vacation, Jeremy said, so it was my choice. I chose the Walker. Big mistake.

Jer and his pair of square chairs, Walker Art Center

I knew Jeremy was a drama queen by this point, but I had no idea how much of one he could really be or just how allergic he was to modern art. I don't get it. The art never did anything to him, but he acted like it had insulted him to the very core of his being and that it was getting ready to launch a series of momma jokes at him in the 'hood with all his friends watching. Seriously. Jeremy was offended by the art. He didn't get it, and he didn't want to. He said it wasn't meaningful to him and that he didn't want it to be. He reminded me of my father. Not good.

My reaction to his freakout about the videos of the armed bunny and the girl sitting in the grass reading wasn't anger. I tried to explain things to him, to let him know that the pieces could mean anything he wanted them to, that there was no one answer or interpretation, that it didn't have to be serious, that he could have fun with it if he so chose. His problem with the paintings was that objective works of art they were not. Most of the 2D and 3D works of art at the Walker were neither still lifes nor landscapes nor portraits. The Walker, my dears, was in a large way all about the abstract.

I could tell that the minimalist works by Donald Judd and others like them really churned Jeremy's butter that Sunday. And not in a good way. I feel like he saw things he didn't like and immediately closed his mind to everything, though. In the sculpture garden later, he was still expressing his disdain and I tried to explain to him about how different artists express themselves differently. Hence Van Gogh and his need to get perspective wrong and use garish colors and a childlike painting style though his earlier drawings show just what a talent he had for realism. I tried to relate the works back to Jeremy by telling him that everything he saw was a product of the various artists' experiences, outlooks, feelings, etc. At one point, I tilted my head back in frustration and yelled to the gods, "It's human experience!"

That's when Jeremy indignantly let me know that he didn't care about other people's feelings, outlooks or experiences. End of conversation. Argh!!! Oh, and I didn't get a minor in art like Jeremy said on his blog. I got a minor in art history. A very different animal.

I am still offended by his offense at the art. I mean, really. The man in his home in Backwards, USA, wearing a bunny costume and shooting a gun through the window could have signified, like I said at the time, man's frustration with alienation. It's OK to make up a story, to let it mean anything you want it to mean. You just have to use your imagination. Art doesn't have to be and shouldn't be some kind of lofty thing. It's simply a representation of our humanity.

This is the end of my art lecture.

The Walker Art Center is a fabulously designed building that houses fabulous spaces and had dedicated an amazing amount of square footage to experimental video. The sculpture garden was nice, too, except that Spoonbridge and Cherry designed by Claes Oldenburg was in bad shape and the water it's a spoonbridge over was gone, drained. I guess the statue is being renovated. Here is a photo of it in disrepair.

Next: Minneapolis/St. Paul: Sunday night and back to Bloomington

Minneapolis/St. Paul: Saturday

I woke up and got out of bed an hour or two earlier than I should have. Ate breakfast in silence with Jeremy after fighting about me taking his photo for my blog. It was then that I found out that he only likes having photos taken from far away. I asked him if he was vain. Affirmative.

Normally, the way he yelled and cursed at me would not have gone unpunished - my first instinct is to fight back or retaliate in some way (ego) - but I wanted to stay at his house for the weekend and I wanted us to get along. So I stopped taking photos and brushed off the altercation, though I knew this wasn't a good start to my Saturday and the weekend. After breakfast and dressing, we went to the Mall of America. I normally don't like malls, and I REALLY didn't like the Mall of America with its specialty store for everything under the sun including gold teeth - yes, gold teeth - and its stupid rollercoasters.

Had I felt like I had more money to spend, I would have bought more than a refrigerator magnet, though, that says "We're Making Enemies Faster Than We Can Kill Them!" with a drawing of Uncle Sam gleefully running off to battle with his rifle and bayonet. I saw tons of cool shoes at other stores but kept my head - and my wallet - relatively intact. Jeremy returned some shoes.

After we were done at the mall, we took the train to downtown Minneapolis where we walked around, had fun with Mary Tyler Moore, watched a blues band and had encounters with a couple of somewhat hostile people.

On one corner in downtown, there is a statue of one of my television heroes, Mary Tyler Moore - one of the first women on television to live on her own, make her own living, live her own life and be happy - gasp! - without a man. How dare she!

It's funny how two people can have the same experience and have very different stories to tell afterward. On his blog, Jeremy claims that he felt like he needed to protect me during our encounters with a couple of aggressive indigent people we encountered on the downtown streets, but I recall things much differently. I feel like he was the one who needed protecting and that I had to keep an eye on him to make sure and get his back if anyone started a fight. One of the guys who bothered us walked in front of my camera when I was taking a photo, and, as a joke, I said, "You ruined my shot, man!" He came up to us wanting money. We said no. He said he was going to do something bad. I tensed up with a fight or flight response in case punches were thrown. He waved his arm in front of my camera. That was the bad thing, trying to ruin another shot. I grimaced at him. He made some dumb joke. The end.

The other guy who gave us problems was Ali from Somalia. We were outside the First Avenue nightclub. I was trying to figure out what kind of photos I wanted to take of the place that has hosted music greats such as Tricky, the Beastie Boys, the Pixies, Rage Against the Machine, Radiohead and PJ Harvey when I saw a guy walk up to Jeremy as seen in Jeremy's post about the weekend. I walked the other way when the guy approached Jeremy, but I kept an eye on him for a while in case something happened. It didn't look like any kind of fight was going to start, so I kept taking photos of the club. That's when Jeremy walked my way followed by the guy who came over to me talking trash about Jeremy. He wasn't too happy, so, to defuse the situation, I told the guy he had an interesting face and asked to take his photo. Old reporter's trick in action. When someone is pissed, flattery can fix everything. I also had a strange desire to reach out to this guy in some way for some reason.

As planned, Ali was flattered, forgot all about Jeremy and let me photograph him. Then, he made me promise I wouldn't post his photo on the Internet, asked to see the photos, told me to take new ones (he didn't like the ones I had already taken) and wanted to give me his phone number so I could connect with him to mail him some photos. I told him that I wouldn't be sending him any photos and tried to signal that our little exchange had come to an end, but he kept hanging around like we had all day to spend with him. Jeremy gave him a couple of dollars, he gave me a hard high five and gave Jeremy a close encounter of the creepy kind and wandered off.

We took the train back to the Mall of America to fetch Jeremy's car and went back to his house for lunch and a nap. Here's us on the train:

Jeremy's lunch consisted of slices of low-fat turkey Spam on bread with cheese, mustard and ketchup. I was just fine with grapes and some kind of flat tortilla-like bread with butter and sugar sprinkled on it - lefse - a dessert from the old country introduced to Jeremy by one of his relatives.

After the nap, I got ready for dinner. I was going to be meeting Jeremy's friend, Mary, and we were going to eat at the ultra-trendy Chino Latino where the young urban hipsters go to see and be seen. Before dinner, we checked out shops near the restaurant. I bought two CDs at a record store (Yeah Yeah Yeahs and local songstress Venus DeMars) and checked out some couches at a shop where you can get a huge gourmet bar of soap for $12 and a cool digital watch/bracelet for $90. Here's Jeremy relaxing on one of the couches:

Chino Latino lived up to the raves Jeremy has always given it. The food was fabulous. We had a coconut curry shrimp and paella that were out of this world. I have had dreams about the paella. Good ones. Not nightmares. Pinky swear. The food comes in troughs big enough for everyone at the table to get full on each dish twice over. It was an expensive meal but not too bad considering the quality and the quantity of the food.

Mary agreed to be the designated driver, so Jeremy and I each ordered a Crack Ho Mojito ($13) and mixed in our vials of fruit puree. I sucked it down and ordered a cheaper ($10) drink after that - a raspberry martini. I was determined to relax and have fun. If that meant getting drunk, so be it. After dinner, we went for drinks at some laid-back punky kinda bar that had bands playing in the next room. It was there that I had a few too many midori sours and said some embarrassing things that I probably shouldn't have said. On his blog, Jeremy described my comments as "ribald." I would categorize them as downright smutty. Give me a break, though, OK? I was drunk. For the first time in a long time. But not as drunk as I wanted to be. And the night ended too soon. Because I wanted to get MORE drunk. I wanted to party. I wanted to break out. Jeremy and Mary wanted to go home.

We went back to Jeremy's house. He was half asleep on his overstuffed chair. I was lying on the sofa. I had had a good night. I was almost giddy. I wanted to make out. I asked Jeremy for a kiss. He turned me down. I was mortified. I went to bed.

Next: Minneapolis/St. Paul: Sunday

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Minneapolis/St. Paul: Friday

I left Bloomington, Illinois, feeling nothing but dread that Friday morning. I had been getting increasingly nervous about making the 500-mile drive through America's Heartland all by my lonesome. Since I am usually so adventurous about these things and tend to throw myself in headfirst without so much as really even thinking, I felt sure that my trepidation was trying to tell me something BIG and IMPORTANT that I shouldn't have ignored. That made me more and more nervous and more nervous still when it took me more than an hour to find my way out of Bloomington.

Then I got the ticket, and my cell phone died at a rest stop after reading that I would be having to make a MANDATORY court appearance in Illinois in August. From bad to worse to worst. I was tied in knots. I was in a near panic. I bummed a cigarette off a very sympathetic man at a rest stop after going back and forth about turning around two hours into my trip and heading back to Bloomington. I called Jeremy three times in a row using my phone plugged into the wall in the women's bathroom at the rest stop. He was very sweet. He encouraged me to continue my journey. He said we could have a low-key weekend, not spend too much money. I could tell he felt bad for me and I could feel his strength - exactly what I needed in my hour of weakness. That conversation made all the difference. I kept driving.

The rest of the drive was gorgeous. Once out of Illinois and into Wisconsin, the ground swelled and buckled into rolling hillsides. I felt free and happy and, with a brand new pack of cigarettes by my side, I smoked my way to Minneapolis. The fear, anger and panic dissolved. I was finally myself again. The cigarettes did that for me. Oh, how I had missed my toxic little friends!

I arrived at Jeremy's house at 6:15 p.m., still making good time despite the many stops and freakouts. Last he heard from me, he wasn't sure if I was coming or not, and I had not yet received the four voice mails he left asking if I was still on my way. A note taped to his door pointed me toward the extension cord snaking out of his garage into which I could plug my cell phone in case he was in the basement working out when I arrived and didn't hear the bell. Another option, the note said, was to go to the basement window and knock. I chose to knock and ran around to the front door when I heard Jeremy yell out a greeting.

First impression: Wow! He's big. I expected Jeremy to have a slight build and to be about my height. Not so. Taller and wider, like a football player. He was all sweaty and grungy when he opened the door, and so was I. The trip had frazzled my last nerve, and I'm sure I looked it. He invited me in. I was nervous and awkward. He was friendly. After the tour of his house and a glass of Coke, we both showered and changed and went to dinner in St. Paul at Axel's Bonfire where I had some kind of fish that is a local favorite. The place was a tad too expensive for me, though, considering my recent financial setback. Jeremy offered to buy me dinner - an offer I graciously accepted. We took a walk down historic Summit Avenue in St. Paul where we saw big mansions and made our way to the state capitol building. It was a nice walk on the way out, but by the time we got back to Jeremy's car our feet hurt from having to run as fast as we could from two giant, rabid raccoons that threatened to eat us. Wait. That was all in my head.

After dinner and the walk, we went to a ritzy store that has hardwood and carpeted floors and bought some yummy food to cook for the weekend so we wouldn't have to eat out the whole time. Jeremy insisted on buying everything except the dessert - an awesome cake we ate in two days.

After cake and milk and a chat, it was bedtime. I fell asleep happy I had decided to meet Jeremy in person. He can be a super huge sweetheart and a whole lot of fun. That was exactly what I needed. I think that's exactly what everyone needs from time to time.

Next: Minneapolis/St. Paul: Saturday

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Trouble in paradise (I survived Illinois and all I got was this fucking speeding ticket)

I will be spending the last day of my vacation in a courthouse in Ottowa, Illinois, in Lasalle County. That's where I got the speeding ticket that took the zoom out of my zippy little rental car and will be taking $400 out of my wallet.

I'm assuming the cops around here aren't very understanding toward out-of-towners who take it upon themselves to drive 81 in a 55 construction zone. I plead guilty, but I have the best excuse ever, your honor. The fact that I have a lead foot combined with my panic at leaving Bloomington more than an hour behind schedule combined with my panic at getting all twisted and turned around in Bloomington putting me almost another hour behind schedule combined with my nervousness about driving the eight hours by myself from Bloomington, Illinois, to some strange blog guy's house in Minneapolis to stay with him for three days served as quite the distraction an hour north of Bloomington when I got pulled over by a state cop who was parked across from the "begin construction zone" sign that should have made me slow from 65 to 55. But no. I didn't see the sign or the cop and I didn't really care until I saw the cop pull out behind me and turn on his lights. I was in my head - in my own world - and going 80 to begin with, but, really. Who ever heard of not being allowed to go 75 on a highway - plus, of course, the five mph that are "allowed" over the limit?

I think I should be above the law and that the rules of the road shouldn't apply to me. They should only apply to idiots and bad drivers, right?

Well, not only did I get myself into a world of shit, but I got into the shit in the shittiest state in the union. In Illinois, speeding in a work zone requires a mandatory court appearance. After a mild nervous breakdown/panic attack that lasted only a few days on and off, almost forced me to cancel the Minneapolis leg of my trip and gave me no choice but to smoke 14 cigarettes, I know that I won't be arrested and that my license will not be suspended. I know that I won't be having to change my flight plans or fly back here for an August 4 court date or to hire an attorney here to go to court on my behalf. The lady at the courthouse was a true gem and pulled some strings, dug out my ticket and entered it into the system right away so I can do a walk-in at the courthouse tomorrow, my last day in this godforsaken shithole.

Don't think I didn't learn from this experience. The entire eight-hour trip back, I drove two miles under the speed limit. Work zones? I was cruising along at between 45 and 55 mph in all of them.

Next: Minneapolis/St. Paul


My friend was right when she said I should come visit her for only a couple of weeks given the fact that Bloomington/Normal is truly the armpit of the Midwest. She's right. Following are some fine, fine views of one of two streets that makes up downtown Normal, the "city" in which my friend works as a professor at Illinois State University.

The T-shirt/poster store and the everything-including-the-kitchen-sink vintage store:

View of street with cyclist:

Pizza, clothing and kitchen shops. Garlic Press, to the far right, is the name of the kitchen store. I think it's a store specifically for Normal's rather large elderly lesbian population. Every person in the store had really short hair and amazing eyewear.

This wasn't the "Broadway" I had intended on visiting:

For all its faults, downtown Normal has some cute and funky shops - including a tattoo parlor and a way rad record store - but isn't the kind of place that would entertain 20,000 college students. I'm guessing there's a lot of fucking and drug taking going on in Normal.

Bloomington, a three-minute drive away, isn't much better. Lots of chain this and that. But the bread store here is to die for - warm strawberry shortcake bread and blackberry bars, for example, and an amazing huge bun with eggs, hash browns, cheese and veggies baked right in. Breakfast in a bun.

While I've been here, my friend and I have busied ourselves making necklaces from parts found at a bead store, talking trash and taking long, nighttime walks while obsessing about and analyzing our lives past, present and future - boys, jobs, sex, love, hopes, fears, neuroses, etc. I also have turned her into a huge fan of Sex and the City. So far, we have worked our way through seasons 1 through 3 and are currently on season 4 of the series on DVD. My friend had never seen even so much as one episode of the show before now. She has a lot to thank me for.

I fly back to Tallahassee Thursday afternoon. I will miss the friend but not the city. Hopefully, we will meet in a much more exciting locale next time.

I vote for Europe.

Next: Trouble in paradise

Thursday, June 08, 2006


One day spent in Chicago does not an expert make. My friend and I drove the two hours to The Windy City the day after I arrived in the Midwest (I was still very tired) and parked in a lot that charges a flat $13 for between 1 and 24 hours of parking. Because this is illogical, my first impression of Chicago was not good. But it got better.

On our way out of the parking garage, we passed through the magical mirrored hall, a hallway that, through its structural elements, seemed to be blocked off by a huge mirror. This is an optical illusion. Can you see it?

Outside of the garage was a beautiful city filled with a beautiful garden...

...a beautiful art project that also functioned as a way to keep adults and children cool and entertained...

...a beautiful pier with views of beautiful sailboats...

...and beautiful views of the city (see below and the first photo in this post)...

...a beautiful urban beach with water that can freeze any appendage off in two seconds or less (won't let me upload photo)...beautiful buildings and beautiful shops for beautiful and rich people. The weather there was unique. Always sunny but, depending on where in the city one was, it was either warm or cool enough for a sweater, even in the middle of the day.

While we were there, we didn't have time for much more than walking around, going to a few shops, eating some deep dish pizza that didn't seem very deep and going to the Museum of Contemporary Art where we saw a Wolfgang Tillmans photo exhibit (think uncircumcised penises), some Warhols (yawn!) and a fabulous exhibit by Chicago cartoonist Chris Ware. In the gift store - also known as mecca - I bought a beautiful book of his that is an exact copy of a sketchbook of his that contains a ton of cool characters and ideas and kooky and kinky cartoons.

I love what I've seen of Chicago so far, which is a lot more than I can say for the Bloomington/Normal area. I'd like to take another trip there to look at the different little neighborhoods, but I don't think that's going to happen. I'm already thinking of a separate trip to Chicago another year, and I'm ecstatic about the Minneapolis/St. Paul trip I'll be starting tomorrow.

Next: Bloomington/Normal

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Who would've thought I could ever be so right?

(note: After this post, I am done talking about white, fat, pasty people. My obsession was fuelled by my anger at my brother. I have to let it go.)

I've spent the last three days staring at white, fat, pasty people in Bloomington and a fourth staring at a mix of tourists and white, fat, pasty people in Chicago. On Friday, I'm renting a car and driving eight hours to Minneapolis where Jeremy has graciously offered to let me crash at his house and to give up a whole weekend to show me around. But first things first: Friday's flight:

The following was written Sunday morning

Time spent in airports seems to go by faster than time spent in any other place. Has anyone ever noticed, or is it just me? Have you ever arrived at an airport with an hour to spare and you barely have time to check in and get through security, to pee and buy a $2.75 bottle of water before they’re boarding section 1 at your gate? This always seems to be the case.

The flight to Atlanta was smooth. I sat between two men and didn’t speak to either one. Layover in Atlanta hell. I hate that fucking airport. Huge airports bother me with all their Cinnabons and Newsracks and nasty smoking lounges, tiny, glass-enclosed rooms filled with smoke and walls the color of the smokers’ faces. When I was a smoker, I looked forward to smoking lounges in general, but, in particular, I found them offensive. It seems like whoever designed the rooms designed them specifically so the smoke hangs in the air right on and above each smoker so he/she reeks of cigarette smoke the maximum amount possible upon exiting the so-called lounge. I managed to bypass the lounge near my gate with only a twinge of a craving and ordered a grilled chicken sandwich and large fries at Wendys. Starving. Took my treasure to my gate and scarfed it as fast as I could before heading to Newsrack #2,429 and buying a $2.75 bottle of water.

Gulped that down as quick as possible and boarded the plane not long after. This time, I had a window seat aboard a 10-row plane (a small small small one) next to some guy who was obscenely obese and smelled like old Fritos. While his body could have taken up more than half my space as well, he at least attempted to pack himself into as small a space as possible. The result still included me squishing myself up against the window.

Toward the end of the flight, just when I was praying for death, death almost came. The plane hit some turbulent air and we dipped and dove and swayed side to side. I didn’t cry, but I almost always do in situations such as these. It’s like I can taste death, and death is bitter - like me. But I guess a plane crash would be one of the best ways to go. As you’re on your way down, it must feel like a really long rollercoaster. That’d be cool. And once you hit, you won’t feel much for very long. Hopefully. Quick endings are always best, especially the final one.

While the plane was dipping and diving, the crew (one steward. remember, small plane) turned on some overhead muzac. Some kind of Renaissance Festival version of “We Wish you a Merry Christmas” – all flutes and mandolin. I couldn’t help but sing "bring me some figgy pudding” over and over in my head. That wasn’t my choice of last music, but I guess chanting the words "figgy" and "pudding" moments before impact would be better than their alternatives: "oh fuck" and "oh shit."

As we got closer to Bloomington, the farmland appeared – a patchwork quilt of dark green, medium green, light green, black and brown. Roadways appeared exactly one square mile apart and ran north/south and east/west creating well-demarcated sections of one-square-mile slabs of land viewed clearly from above. Dark dark green rows of vegetation snaked throughout. Turns out Frito man is an ex-farmer whose daddy once also farmed the 1,000 acres 20 minutes north of Bloomington that are now his.

Farmers don't make such a good living anymore, though, he said, so he leases his land for $180 per month per acre to a single woman who farms the whole 1,000 acres herself. Apparently, the green squares mean corn. The black squares mean soybeans, and the dark dark green twisting curvatures of land indicate the presence of foliage meant to transport water from one area to the next. Hay, said Frito man, is also grown in these parts. And of the corn grown here, 80 to 90 percent of it is trucked to Texas to feed cows, pigs, chickens and other livestock. The things you can learn on a plane if you just ask.

Corn farms in Bloomington, Illinois:

I wonder what this used to be:

Next: Chicago

Note: I had a huge problem with this post involving disappearing photographs and weird text and whatever, so I had to delete the original and create a new post. Comments to the original were lost in the transfer.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Packing for two weeks in the midwest in early June

I have never been accused of underpacking. After all, I have to make sure I have enough underwear and at least five pairs of shoes and more than plenty pairs of pants and all manner of shirts, sweaters and tank tops for almost every trip. But my impending trip to the midwest this time of year is hitting me - and my monstrous suitcase - extra hard. The 10-day forecast for Bloomington was OK. Mid 60s to mid to high 80s every day. Madison, Chicago and Minneapolis temperatures aren't as clear. Sometimes in the 50s. Sometimes up to 90. Mostly in the low 80s and those odd times of the day when the temperature is in the 70s. That means I have to pack for a 40-plus degree temperature change as well as for any kind of occasion I am apt to be faced with dressing for.

Step #1: Staring at the mess

For the past few days, I haven't bothered to wash dishes, pick up around the apartment, put away clean laundry or dispose of empty Diet Coke cans. Knowing that I'd be going on vacation, I let the apartment go to shit in anticipation of the "final night clean-up," a ritual for me before I leave for a trip.

Step #2: Sizing up the enemy

There's only so much space in my suitcase no matter how much I might wish there was a vast and endless void waiting to try and be filled. This limited space is all I've got to work with. This is the stage of the packing adventure where I go through denial and anger and then, finally, move on to acceptance. Now, it's time to pack.

First I go through my dresser and pull out shorts, jeans, T-shirts, tank tops and sweatshirts/sweaters. Then, I dig through my closet and rip down dress pants, skirts, button-down shirts and jackets. All of said articles of clothing are amassed into a mountainous pile from which I pick as I begin "the process."

Step #3: Skirts, jackets and pants go first

Step #4: Next, shirts and underwear/socks/bras/pajamas

Step #5: Shoes go last. Tomorrow I'll add the bathroom stuff

Step #6: Zip it up. I'm always amazed when everything actually fits.

Because I am a media whore, I will be bringing my laptop computer with me. Included in my laptop bag is my wireless mouse, digital camera, rechargable batteries and charger for said batteries, extra memory card for digital camera, cell phone, charger for said cell phone, 2006 U.S. Atlas, books, three DVDs, a magazine (Adbusters), plug/charger for laptop, photocopied article I promised to bring to my friend and my 10 favorite new CDs and their cases or liner notes. My friend is a media whore, too, and I love to share.

I think I'm about ready for my trip. All I have left to do is wash a bunch of dishes and pick up this pigsty. There's nothing worse than coming home to a dirty house.