The ants have started to recognize me; one attempted to eat his way through my chest and into my heart. He didn't live to tell the tale, but I did. I've taken to wearing a fake mustache and large hat to fool them. If this continues, I will be forced to use gasoline. Really, can't we settle this like adults?
I have a special place in my heart for the U of A campus -- I know which buildings are left open all night, what time the sprinklers are switched on, the best place in the library to have a picnic, and even the cheapest secret DIY meal available in the entire Student Union. In case you need it: that little Mexican cantina sells bundles of warm flour tortillas, two for fifty cents. You'll feel the heavy Thanksgiving satisfaction after eating that paper swathed packet of glue, though for some reason, it doesn't appear on any food pyramid.
I can tell you about the best bench spot to appreciate the beauty of Fall, an event that is difficult to see in Tucson, since most trees don't ever lose their leaves. I can take you to a hidden courtyard with a tiny fountain, a tremendous rose bush and the rhum-rhum-rhum of air conditioners that sound just like high tide against the stone cliffs of Encinitas.
I've stood in line to change my schedule, agreed to sign over portions of my paychecks for the next 50 years, bought iced coffee, been the first one into the old Cellar to snag the best wooden booth with the only table that doesn't wobble when written upon. I've watched skaters grind against those ridiculous brass statues, couples kiss inside of empty flower pots and Brazilian students start a pick up game of soccer frisbee at 3:00 in the morning. I've been celebritized by hearing Li Young Li read poems from The City In Which I Love You and giddy when Jimmy Santiago Baca gave me his autograph. This love song goes on longer than In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida so I'll spare you the refrain.
Here is the thing that absolutely gets me every time I put one foot in front of the other on this campus --- I instantly turn back into that student in love with the world. My being fills with lines of poetry, all banging around in my head, hammering to escape through my eyeballs. I adopt the collegiate stroll, know things that you don't know and take the stairs. I want to stay up late and I need an espresso. My pens write more smoothly and I start adding letters after my name. In my never ending quest to figure out the point, maybe it is somewhere on campus, pulling my compass needle toward Speedway and Mountain. I'm making Valentines for my perpetual student.
I just took the writing assessment and blasted it out of the park. Earned the highest score possible...the recommendation of the local community college? Take Writing 101. Does this mean that all of those years in grad school were for naught? Am I really only capable of beginning analysis of The Red Pony and Romeo and Juliet? I feel an existential crisis coming on. Good thing I am on the verge of going back to school -- angst and being a student seem to go hand in hand. I'm firing up the coffee pot, sharpening my pencils, practicing my condescending comebacks and eye rolling. I think I might just be ready. *Sigh*.
While trying to choose the perfect book on cd for your next road/camping trip, consider carefully the ramifications of listening to survival tales from the Zombie Apocalypse. I was just too cavalier, standing there in the relative safety of the public library, deliberating between cute anecdotes about the hijinks of the new family puppy versus the pseudo-documentary of the 10 year global aftermath of a zombie viral infection. I thought to myself, 'It is just *fiction* and who really believes in zombies, anyway?' This was going to be the last road/camping trip of my official summer vacation and I was feeling cynical, tough, even, well, brazen. No G rated puppy stories for this girl, no, I had to pick the zombies.
The fantastic thing about listening to a book on cd while on a road trip is that after a few hours of uninterrupted play, I really start to believe that I am in the story. I am actually surprised to find that the rest of the world is going on as usual when I stop to fill my gas tank or bolster myself with an ice cream cone. Why aren't the gas station attendants more concerned about standing around in the open air, easy potential targets of a zombie attack? How can those drive- through windows be left open, without any protective bars? Hasn't anyone noticed that abandoned car in the parking lot, the one that could be filled with a zombie family, still locked in the vehicle because they turned undead while they were driving and can't figure out how to unlatch their seatbelts? What about that huge truck filled with cattle, just one big all-zombies-can-eat-buffet of beef, rolling down the freeway? Was I the only one concerned about the safety of South Eastern Arizona? This place was the Shangri-La destination for zombies everywhere and I was driving through Ground Zero, unarmed!
The further I drove, the longer I listened, the more critical it became that I take a mental inventory of the contents of my own car. Could I down a charging zombie with a good swing of my camp stove? Did I pack the sharp knife in the food box, or just that wimpy steak knife? Could I decapitate a zombie with my tent stakes? Just how long was the jack that was tucked underneath all of that gear and why was I so stupidly unprepared to leave it in the least inaccessible place in the car? As I plotted my protection from certain zombie doom, I reminded myself that I could blame no one else for this looming disaster -- if only I would have chosen that cd about the puppy. As I longed for the hilarity of chewed shoes and yellow puddles hidden behind a half consumed couch, I turned west, starting the 30 mile drive toward the campground.
Even though the forecast called for monsoon rain for the duration of my camping trip, I was unprepared for the wall of zombie hiding fog that hung ahead. Covering Mt. Graham like a clammy clothesline sheet, I pushed through it at a NASCAR speed of 25 miles per hour. Zombies might shamble but I was confident that I could certainly out drive them. My car swirled up the switchbacks, low lights reflecting through the fog. The zombie apocalypse had finally reached the woods and even the hardiest of self sufficient mountain men were finding themselves falling prey to the ever forward marching infected masses. Park rangers were interviewed about forest safety precautions for campers as I went to my happy place and imagined flowers, the smell of baking brownies and fluffy baby ducks. I could have turned the cd off, instead listening to the wind in the trees or the rumble of thunder off in the distance, but I had to know what was going to happen next, if anyone would survive this disaster.
I found my peace of mind in the voice of Alan Alda, who played Arthur Sinclair, the man charged with organizing the Zombie War Recovery Effort. If anyone could calmly organize former music industry executives, rehab recovered starlets and a crew of maids and construction workers into eradicating the Zombie Plague from the world, it was Alda. He spoke of reconstruction efforts, of self reliance, of the creation of Lobotomizers and I was soothed. I knew that I would be safe on the mountain, with Alan in charge.
I pulled into the campground and set up my tent before the sky unzipped and rain muddied my world. I rolled out my sleeping bag, snacked on pretzels and reassured myself that zombies didn't like the rain and were too clumsy to attack through the sucking sludge of the mud. Just in case, it didn't hurt to have my tire iron inside the tent.