Saturday, September 20, 2008

Interior Volume in Cubic Feet: 111.5

I spend a lot of time in my car. Every day, I drive many miles, alone. Some people might find this to be tedious; perhaps they hate spending time trapped in their car. They see traffic as something through which they must suffer. Me, though, I love to drive. The time I have in my car is a gift. Bring on the 195 car freight train -- I'm happy to wait. Two lanes merging into one? Go right ahead, please, I'm waving you in! I see my car as an extension of who I am and one of the most powerful catalysts that furthers my thoughts. I understand the freedom of possibility that a long stretch of road offers, the I.could.go.anywhereness. of it. I have found nothing else in life that promises such delight and so consistently delivers.

I believe that we are all connected by roads, no matter how geography may appear to separate us. You, in Chicago, you aren't that far from here. I've driven that way; it's right around the corner. You, in Vancouver, you're as close as the on-ramp at Cortaro and I-10. It might be a few days before we see each other, but I'm almost there. Even you, in Shanghai. There may be a big puddle between us, but between here and the airport is a road that keeps us feeling close.

I fall in love in my car. With music, with the future of me, with the landscape, with the stories that I hear on NPR, with a particular thought that starts to loop around my mind as I drive. The time that I spend, hand on the wheel, or just as often, knee, looks like this album cover. Released just last week, Calexico has made a soundtrack for driving in Tucson. I am that girl on the cover, driving ever forward, down the road. Just look:

In discussing this new album, Joey Burns talked about the loneliness that pervades Downtown Tucson and his desire to capture that in these songs. It isn't just there, where loneliness lives. It stems from the way that the bleached sky of this town makes me feel alone. Or the way that those mannequin heads sit in the Wig-O-Rama storefront window, their hair so precisely arranged in alien colors. Or in the passenger seats of the cars driven by those individual people, slowly cruising down Congress on their way to some other place. Malaise is always portrayed by gray cloudy mornings, wet and cold, the shell of a person in their raincoat, head tucked away from the rain, clomping forward. That is not loneliness or solitude. Not really. Loneliness, as desert rats know, lives under the unrelenting heat of the sun. It is the light that cracks the dirt and fades this world to shades of au. Mauve. Taupe.

There is more to it, though. Consider the sunset:

It has a profound distance to it. The sky feels very far away from my feet in the wash, which, in turn makes me feel like the very small speck that I am. It is in trying to understand this vastness that I love long roads, time alone, melting adobe buildings, punishing sun and geographical distance. This is what it means to drive in my car.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Procrastinating Keeps Me Very Busy

Many things are becoming clear to me now:

Friday, September 12, 2008

I Came In Here For A Story

I have a job. It isn't a job that I like, really. It doesn't fulfill me. Luckily, I do not expect it to. What I actually do (or am paid to do) and where I find the fun in my work day are two separate issues.

I have an office. In my office, I have a collection of things that I like. They are not at all related to my job; I just like them. My coworkers find these things fascinating and will often stop by, just to look at them. They pick them up, bringing them close to their eyes, turning them over and over in their hands. 'Where do you find these things?' They always wonder. I can tell that they want to ask if they can keep this thing that they have in their hands. They never do, though. Because as adults, we are trained not to ask those kinds of questions.

People also come into my office to ask me to tell them a story. I guess I am that person at work who thinks about the world and then will make a joke about it. Or, at the very least, a Lake Wobegon observation. Most of the time, the only person who laughs at these jokes is me. I don't mind admitting that I think that I am the most entertaining person I know; I feel sorry for other people who have not yet realized this fact.

Today is a particularly boring day, one in which I have a reduced amount of energy due to reasons that, themselves, are tedious. I find myself waiting for something interesting to happen. As is often the case, nothing does. So, I'm forced to imagine myself stuck in a ditch, with nothing to do, and many hours in which my only source of amusement will have to be self-generated.

A coworker stands in my doorway. 'Isn't today just so painfully boring?' She asks. 'I know that you have been thinking about something. Just don't tell me that story about the tree trunks again.'

She was alluding to a story I'd told her several months ago about some rather shapely tree trunks that I had noticed while driving down a particularly well manicured street. I had rhapsodized about these trunks on more than one occasion. Apparently, she was not as enamored with sexy tree trunks as I was.

'How about a song?' I offered. Not just any song. One about the bald/hairy pattern of Russian leaders. 'This entertained me all day yesterday!' I told her. ALL.DAY! But NPR didn't stop there. No, they then decided to wrangle up a pig farmer with a tube of Ruby Red lipstick, and send him out into a field. It was a fantastic day to be in the car, even if I was bereft of my cd book.

She continued to look at me expectantly. Apparently, I was still on the hook.

Much to her likely chagrin, I can always talk about how much I love to take photos of older people. For some reason, I am emboldened to do this only while I travel. I began to show her some of these photos, telling her the way that I had sneakily snapped the picture without them noticing me.

In Rome:

In Athens:

On Mt. Pilatus:

In Burano:

In the harbor, on the Island of Capri:

In the lagoon of Venice:

In Murano:

In Lucerne:

In Las Vegas:

In Ski Valley, on Mt. Lemmon:

Rocking Oktoberfest:

Making sauerkraut:

After her eyes started to water, I sent her on her way. She just thought she wanted to hear a story.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Robots In The Family

It's now official. My mom is part robot. This device is her super fantastic new knee -- just installed today! She wasn't amused when I suggested that she should consider participating in the Miss America Pageant, since they now accept participants with, gasp, scars. I did get a tiny smile when I congratulated her for winning six months worth of free ballroom dancing lessons, though she did ask me how much I had paid for that and whether or not the gift certificate was non-refundable. I asked her if they had taken any x-rays of her cool new robotic parts to which she merely rolled her eyes and then pretended to fall asleep. Hopefully it will look awesome, like this:

I bet that she will be very excited to see the motivational poster that I made, which includes all of the activities that she can now do with her brand new body part:

Though this is frowned upon:

This would be perfectly acceptable:


And probably even this:

She could even start a new hobby:

But this position is not allowed:

She is going to be pretty bummed out when she discovers that she won't be able to do this:

Or this:

I'll wait to tell her until she is freshly doped up again, in about 2.5 hours.

Since she has another knee that may, someday, need a similar operation, and she loves to save money, I'm going to learn how to do it myself. I even have the anesthesia issue resolved:

As cool as robot parts are, there is one other thing that I wish she would consider:

Get well soon, Mom!