Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A day at the races ...

I ditched my car in the first spot I saw on Park Point. I was in a dead sprint, or what constitutes as one these days, before my second foot hit the ground. Whoop-whooped the lock over my shoulder, chugged along.

I'm used to 6 o'clock meaning "sometime after 6," shrug, yawn. But the Norwegian Wonder called at 10-to and wanted to know if I'd get there in time and suddenly I was all, Oh. I suppose this starts at 6 p.m. The *real* 6 p.m.

I was going to miss my baby's race.

I finished what I was doing and bolted. There was a U-turn. Some indecisiveness among my peers at a 4-way stop. No you go, no you go bullshit. Then, of course, I got bridged. Stalled in front of an Old Chicago, imagining my tot zombie-walking her way toward her first finish line.

"You and your sailboat," I thought. "I hope you're real happy. I hope you're the happiest blasted sailboat owner in all the land."

I imagined a solution to this problem of getting tall boats under the bridge and through the canal without leaving drivers trapped, left to simmer in the essence of chain deep dish. What if they built a taller bridge? The incline could start way back here. It would be steep, but. Then I saw the new bridge coated in ice, Subarus cartwheeling off of it and into Lake Superior. Dangerous.

Finally those fun-loving, carefree sailboaters passed, the bridge locked back into position. I crossed it and wound along the point. An electric sign announced a low threat of rip currents and that there was a lifeguard on duty at the next beach -- 3.3 miles away. I did an approximation of math. At 30, ok, 40 miles per hour it would still take more than 3 minutes to get there.

I took a deep breath and thought: "You are so calm, they'd have to wake you up to put you into a coma. Your arms are feathers. Your spleen is a leaf in the wind."

More winding and all of a sudden, standstill. Waiting for an elderly woman with a free flowing mane of grey and her reusable tote to cross the street. Park Point is a character-driven plot of land. It's practically its own country, I decided. It's like the whole place was sprinkled with muscle relaxers. Are shoes even legal?

Toward the end of the Point, cars were stacked along the edge of the road. Not good. It was the finale for Wednesday Night at the Races, in which kids run from Point A to an inflatable Finish line however many meters away.

Technicality: The PBG isn't walking yet, per se. Nothing a sports psychologist couldn't right. She's too in-her-head, you know? If, say, we were walking and my hand slipped out of her hand, she would continue two steps, realize she was alone and drop to a heap on the floor. So for now she would need an assistant for the race. But, it's not like it's Olympic time trials, so.

So I sprint toward where I think this thing is happening. A man in business attire angles in, also sprinting, on my left.

"Where is this?" I heave.
He points.
"That yellow thing is the Finish line, I think."
We continue running, jumping over obstacles, dodging trees and pedestrians.
"We look like a commercial for working parents," I say to him.
"We're just trying to find some balance in our lives," he said.

I veer off and see the Norwegian Wonder and the PBG -- fresh from their finish. The girl was cutely wrapped in a too-large T, clearly flushed with a runner's high. I know the look. A thick dribble of sweat rolled down my back.

The PBG heard everyone clapping, the Norwegian Wonder said, and stopped just before the Finish line to clap along. Our girl loves to contribute to applause, that's the truth.

Anyway, it was all pretty informal, so I grabbed her and managed to sneak into the final heat for another race. (Just before it started, a woman told the PBG not to touch her kid in case she had germs. LOL). I mostly carried her, but let her pass under the inflatable finish line with just a little assistance.

Photos by my friend Alicia and the Norwegian Wonder.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Three things ...

My old friend Nora Gabora was vacationing in Minnesota and I was trying to figure out how to get to Brainerd to see her during the week or to Minneapolis to see her on Saturday. I'm not sure what constitutes a trek to a New Yorker. Would I sound like a pussy if, at crunch time, I couldn't cajole my freakishly strong tot into her carseat for a 5 hour round trip? Would N. Gabora be like "Sometimes I travel 5 hours just to buy olives!"

Turns out it didn't matter. Her brother-in-law was going to swing into Duluth to visit friends and she could hitch a ride.

"I'll bring a bottle of white wine," she messaged.

Jack. Freaking. Pot.

So she came to my house and my child was charming and went to bed with little fuss and then we got to talk about babies and the people of Lourdes High School and books and books and books and books.

For the next three days, my sentences were like:

"Oh, so Nora told me ..."
"Nora said that ..."
"Then Nora goes ..."

I started to get pretty self-conscious about the NoraNoraNora-ness of it all. 

"Is it weird that I'm talking about Nora so much?" I asked Chuck. 
"No," he said. "But I do think that maybe you need to talk to people more often."


It went undocumented on social media, but it still happened: Chuck and I had our Eight Year Meetiversary. Eight years ago last week we met at Subway while on dinner break. Sometimes I like to revisit the scene in my head and whisper into the ear of that hungover woman in mismatched clothing who was picking at her BMT: "Get used to that face sitting across from you. Someday everyone in your family will be wearing it."


We went to the Minnesota State Fair on opening day. The first thing that happened: I used a Porta Potty that literally had ground feces in the corner beneath the urinal. 

We ate our faces off and made up, gastrointestinally, for many years of not attending the Minnesota State Fair. 

"The last time I was here, it was to see the Gear Daddies play," I told Chuck who found this a little too funny. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

The phone thing ...

We were waiting out the storm in the Susan Boynton section of Barnes & Noble when I decided, screw it, we'd just go for it. The girl loves a storm. She thinks wind is hilarious. She goes face-first into the rain, eyes closed, smiling wide. Besides, we had to jet before she took a bite out of "Doggies," the tell-tale cardboard evidence crusting at the side of her mouth. Not that I'd know what that looks like. Chirp.

We were in the last row of the mall parking lot, but I lettered in high school track five times. I yanked the canopy of the stroller over her head and gave us a pep talk:

"We got this," I said.*

I collected my bearings under the overhang. Cinched my hood; Got on my marks. Then, bam! We broke for the car. Four strides in, my iPhone fell out of my pocket. I realized it about the same time my right foot landed on it and used it as a sort of toe-board to skid across the wet asphalt.

"Shit," I said, dipping down to grab it without breaking pace and tossing it into my purse.

I strapped the girl into her car seat, broke down the stroller and hoisted it into the back of the Space Shuttle. Then I plopped, wet, into the front seat. I dried the phone on my pant leg and then looked at it.

The screen was blurry with tiny blue lines. It was like an old TV, antennae askew. The longer I stared, the blurrier it got. I restarted it. Still blurry.

What if it's not the phone? What if it's me? I wondered.
I recently learned that I do not need glasses to read. I shared this info with friends as a sort of "Guess what? My vision is improving!" story then stopped short when I realized that it's really a story about how I probably can't read with glasses anymore because I need bifocals.
Pollyanna, indeed. It's all how you look at things.

Meanwhile, in the back seat, the PBG was getting antsy and with antsy comes whiney. She prefers movement to staring out the back windshield while I start and restart my water-logged companion muttering my mantra: "Oh no, please no, no no no." Can't blame her. Still, the whine made for a lousy soundtrack and then thinking that made me feel like I was the star of a painful Public Service Announcement.

(Gravelly voice intones: Quit yer whining. Mama's phone is broke. Camera cuts to teary eyed toddler clutching a beloved stuffed animal, a giraffe-cow hybrid seemingly found only in Norwegian toy stores).

Finally I put the phone away and drove home and thought all sorts of crazy things like:

1. Great. Now my million dollar phone is broken a year before my contract expires.
2. I'm probably going to steal a flip phone out of one of those cell phone donation bins that collect devices for the troops. Tacky.
3. Do burners have cameras?
4. You know what? This is stupid. It's a phone. I don't even talk on the phone. Ever. At all. I'm just addicted to holding it.
5. What do I use this iPhone for, anyway? Texting. Photos. Looking at Instagram and Facebook. Googling things like "What are the last 12 things I've Googled?" All sorts of mind-blowing shit has gone down in a pre-Words With Friends world.
6. I should take a deep breath and prioritize.

You know what? I texted Chuck. I'm just going to be zen about this.
Oh! Good, he responded. Or something. Either way, he pretended to believe me.

7. I restarted the phone again and roared, a lion with its back leg caught in a bear trap, when the blurriness got worse.

Back at home, I removed the Mophie, a somewhat spendy case that allows me to recharge on my phone on the fly. This is crucial because I'm where batteries go to die and I'm super into Dice with Buddies and sometimes I read entire book-books on my phone, though I'm moving away from that trend. My point: I need juice and then I need more juice.

The inside of the case was as wet as you'd expect it to be after being ridden through a puddle.

I read something online about opening the iPhone to see if it was fixable or if the water-damage indicator had changed colors.

"Do we have a small screwdriver?" I texted Chuck.
"DO NOT OPEN YOUR PHONE," he responded.

Anyway. The phone dried out and now it's fine. It's got some scratches on the screen, but that's the rub of constantly carrying an object with a glass face.

The Mophie wouldn't charge, though, so I still swore a few more times. Just another thing I'm addicted to, this aesthetically pleasing battery pack.

But I tried it this afternoon and it worked again. Like nothing had happened.

"Oh," I texted Chuck. "I guess my Mophie works now, too."
"I hope you learned your lesson," he said.

I really did.

Lesson: Sometimes something bad almost happens but then it doesn't, but you can still write about it.

Just kidding. That's my worst-favorite phrase of 2014. I'd never say that.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Super into this week (the Salsa Lisa edition) ...

The thing about spending a weekend in a "Real World: Stillwater" house with almost a dozen other women -- which is old news now but whatever -- is that you always walk away with something new to be super into. Even if it's just Salsa Lisa. I dipped a white cheddar cheese curd into the container and my synapse sizzled.

Woman 1: You've never heard of Salsa Lisa?
Woman 2: Salsa Lisa is the best!
Woman 3: Oh! I love Salsa Lisa!

(This is an approximation and not verbatim dialogue)

The word Salsa Lisa said so many times, so enthusiastically, that it was starting to sound like a vacation villa housing the most powerful thumbs in all the Land of Masseuse-ery.

We've gone through two containers this week.

I've also been Super Into the boozy mixes Chuck has mixed together lately like some sort of science whiz: We had a Sidecar with an old skool cheese ball; a French 75, a champagne drink, with brie; Lemon Drop Martinis with trail mix and an Easy Tiger with Salsa Lisa Salsa Lisa Salsa Lisa.

TV-wise, I have a lot of really positive things to say about Season 3 of "Girls."

Also: We just finished watching the web series "High Maintenance" on Vimeo and I've missed it every single day since we've been done with it. It's these quick-hit like 5 minute episodes that are a little Portandia-ish, in terms of funny.

Movie-wise, I have some questions about the spanking scene in "Dead Poet's Society." Mainly this: What if spanking was a legit form of disciplinary action in the real world? What if People in Charge of Things compared Paddles from Sharper Image. What if we were all:

"Whoa, did you hear about A?"
"I didn't, but I could tell something was up from his limp."

I read "An Untamed State" by Roxane Gay and didn't close my mouth for entire chapters. It's unbelievable. Probably not a beach read? My review will be on Minnesota Reads. Suffice to say: Amazing, but brutal.

I also read "Seconds" by Bryan Lee O'Malley and while it wasn't Scott Pilgrim, it reminded me enough of Scott Pilgrim to keep me pretty charmed. Review here. 

Joanna Rakoff's memoir "My Salinger Year" is a pretty cool slice out of the mid-1990s at a lit agency that reps the elusive JD. Review here.

Megan Abbott can do way better than "The Fever," a weird YA story that uses real life for inspiration: A bunch of high school girls start frothing at the mouth. Why? Review here.

Ultimately, Emily Gould's novel "Friendship" isn't going to linger long in my melon, but I enjoyed it for the duration of the read. Selfish bests in NYC. Life changes when one gets preg. Review here.

I was really not into "Adam" by Ariel Schrag, whose graphic novels I really like. The main character is really unlikable, the central situation -- a high school age boy goes to live with his sister for the summer and finds himself running with a GLBTQ crowd and just goes along with it when his love interest mistakenly believes he is transitioning from female -- seems like too much "Three's Company" to balance an entire novel on. Plus, it's hard to tell whether Schrag is writing satire? Review.

Now I'm reading "The Shining Girls" by Lauren Beukes and I'm really digging it but I have the new Murakami  staring me in the face and saying "READ ME INSTEAD WHO CARES ABOUT TIME TRAVELING SERIAL KILLERS."

Jenny Lewis's "Just One of the Guys" is one of my favorite-favorite songs off of one of my favorite-favorite albums so far this year.

I only ever stop listening to Jenny Lewis to listen to Bleachers.


Since there is no reason to link to Amazon anymore, I'm scrapping my dinosaur of a series Weakly Reviewed in favor of Super Into This Week. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

'size 8 1/2 shoe and a b-cup' ...

Back when blogging was an edgier pursuit, bloggers used to be like: "Can't blog today, peeps, so swamped. But here's a blast from the past. A post from that really tickled the ole six pack. Enjoy!" Like we were all rock stars, live and in concert, diving deep into the discography to appease the masses with a song so catchy that it couldn't not get used in a car commercial. Or whatever.

Anyway, it has been six years today-ish since I was robbed at gunpoint in front of our old apartment in the East Hillside. It was super weird and it took a while to feel normal. Today I Googled-up the old post I wrote about it in 2008. It's surprisingly whimsical. Here's the one I wrote immediately afterward, like I didn't want to get scooped or something.

So here's my One Hit Wonder.

How Being Robbed at Gunpoint Changes Your Life, Day 1

1. it is hard to sleep the night that you are robbed at gunpoint. after you bore yourself with flashbacks of the gun pointed at your head, deconstruct the scene and provide a written statement the local pd, consider the scenarios in which things could have ended differently[what if you'd slammed the car door shut and layed on the horn! what if he had shot you in the brain!] you will reluctantly take a sleeping pill and sit wide eyed on the couch devouring the refresh button on your google reader. email as many friends as possible, starting the message with ... so i got robbed at gunpoint tonight.

why no one updates blogs between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. remains a mystery. 

2. the phone will ring at 10:30 a.m., which you can ignore. you don't know who's calling because when you were robbed at gunpoint, you accidentally squeezed your cell phone so hard that the screen is broken. now it looks like woozy psychodelic art from the side of a fish tour bus, and so you play russian roullette with answering and choose no. when they call back, you assume they are serious. 

jcrew reads you a police report, which is pretty accurate save for one crucial fact -- when you were robbed at gunpoint, the robbers did not get your purse, they got your backpack and your lunch bag. it's as surprising to you as it probably was to them, as they rolled down the avenue finding a sweaty sports bra, running pants and socks, a newish pair of asics running shoes, a flat iron, a makeup bag, brush, empty shampoo bottle and conditioner, a padlock and probably $1.50 in change; leftover gazpacho and a water bottle.

there is no sleep after that. there are lots of emails, phone calls, texts, blog comments. you realize you know a lot of people who aren't assholes who would rob you at gunpoint, and you are grateful. 

3. soon you segue to angry: why does someone think it is okay to hold a gun in your face and demand that you give him your leftover gazpacho and sarah jessica perfume and hanes white medium-sized tank top, soiled by a six-mile run? how does he rationalize that? if this had happened to him, what would he do? and how did he know you hadn't been robbed at gunpoint before, gone through therapy and karate and gotten a gun? as bad of a time as it is to be a noncriminal, it's a pretty bad time to be a criminal. you could have popped that mfckr's ass. did you? no. you're sane. you save money for my bulk supply of hanes tank tops instead of putting a gun in someone's face and demanding their gazpacho leftovers and burt's bees conditioner.

4. the replacement part is fun, admittedly: hello, target. you need everything. just for sport, you throw in running pants and a sports bra to replace the ones that were lost at gunpoint. you have more at home, but you want to immediately replace what you lost. 

when it comes to the padlock, you inspect the options thinking 'just because i had this one doesn't mean i need the same one again.' so in this one rare instance, you deviate. but you opt for another edie bauer backpack in a different color. the same running shoes in lime green. 

a book from barnes n noble to make this less of a business trip. you purchase "night of the gun" by david carr, ignoring the irony.

5. this is getting expensive. at first you relish the fact that you don't have to cancel your debit card and buy a new camera and ipod. but backpack, makeup -- but even foundation, mascara and lipstick can add up -- face lotion, running shoes, conditioner ... . something that was likely ditched on jefferson street -- means nothing to the person who put a gun in my face -- will cost hundreds of dollars to relace and give him zero dollars of satisfication -- unless he wears size 8 1/2 women's shoe and has a b cup. 

6. you come home to find the local nbc affiliate is setting up to shoot live from your sidewalk in front of your house. you say: "what's going on?" to a woman with a plastic perfect arrangement of helmet hair and dark lipstick. "oh, someone got robbed here last night at gunpoint," she tells you. "that was me," you say. she says "really! wow!" you tell her if she has any questions, you'll be inside zipping and unzipping your new edie bauer backpack. 

you watch her tell your story on tv. interview the neighbors. images of your house appear on tv. whenever she says "32 year old victim" it sounds like she is talking about someone else. and when they pan on your address, you question if that was necessary. when it's over, you walk outside and tell her: you know, he didn't get my purse. he got a bag of sweaty damp clothes and my leftover soup." she says "i wish i'd known that before i went on air." you think she is obviously lazy, since you basically layed on the sidewalk and begged her to ask you about it. you're no journalism major, but ... oh wait.

you are in the "can't tell the story enough" stage. the people at the running shoe store can attest to that. your loss, nbc affiliate.

7. you go for a long long run on a treadmill at the ymca, where no one can sneak up on your left size and put a gun in your face. you go six miles and suspect you could go six more easily. 

8. you decide you deserve frozen pizza -- the good kind -- and organic potato chips. the line is at least 15 deep and your friend drock is in the no. 2 spot. you wave your pizza at him. you were robbed at gunpoint last night, tonight you will jump line. you give him money and tell him the story. by now it is starting to sound like a story about something you saw on the lifetime movie network. if this were an episode of "the facts of life," you and tootie would sign up for a self defense class after the commercial break.

9. you make sure that you get home when it is dark, but not too dark. you want to see that neighbors are awake, but you don't want to be the sort of person who is afraid of the dark. still, parking makes you a little skittish. and you're further from the house than you are comfortable with. you force yourself to walk at a leisurely pace to the front door. you're keyed up, but wish someone would at least applaud your performance of: woman behaving normally less than 24 hours after she had a gun pointed at her forehead.

10. when a lightbulb pops in the entryway, you jump, turn around and run up the steps. your boyfriend has to look downstairs and make sure no one has shot open the front door.

11. you decide to go out. rt quinlan's is teeming with people who look like the man who robbed you at gunpoint. you can't stop looking over your shoulder. you watch them when they are outside smoking on the screen display of the surveillance cameras behind the bar. eventually you loosen up. the beer helps. and by the time you get home, you can walk into the house with ease. you celebrate with wine. then you celebrate more with 13 solid hours of sleep. 

chuck refers to this as "taking back the night."

12. day 2 begins with a headache and ends being locked up snug in your apartment with tv, toonses and a tori spelling movie. in between you gave yourself pep talks and mentally rehearsed the process of parking after dark. when you whine that you don't want to be a person who is afraid to be out at night, chuck reminds you that you don't have to go back to normal today. that you can take your time and maybe day two is just too soon. 

here's hoping for day three.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Flaming fish bowls ...

Dear Diary,
I'm sitting on the couch watching "Keeping Up with the Kardashians." It's the season where Kim is pregs, so I keep catching myself looking at the tube with a cocked head, an empathetic pout and a little eye burn. I'm watching it on Hulu Plus, but the connection is spotty so every minute or so the screen freezes and I have to look at an unmoving and facially contorted Brody Jenner until this Ingalls-Wilder technology horse powers itself back to moving picture status. Somehow it's harder to take seriously his claims that Bruce abandoned him as a kid, though I do not doubt it. I can't imagine managing a family while wearing 1970's-style track shorts, either.

I went to Fannie's bachelorette party this past weekend at a house I think was on Season 3 of "Read World: Stillwater." So many bedrooms. A tub that could double as a garage. A deck, a patio, a sun porch. A big kitchen. In a parallel universe I'd have sprawled on every surface and blasted through three books. And in that universe the new Murakami would have already been released here in the U.S. and there would be a special machine massaging my calf muscles. Instead there were anatomically specific cupcakes to eat and a roster of ex-boyfriends to tell tales about.

On Saturday I woke to a significant amount of pain, very little of it flushable -- though I tried and tried. It took three glasses of water, coffee, Advil, half an egg and cheese biscuit, an allergy pill and a Smirnoff Ice (Screwdriver flavored, though Tang would be a more accurate descriptor) to finally feel like a human being.

"Well, you haven't been hung over in two years," Chuck texted.
"I know," I said, then did some math to put a number on my damage. "I had ... 4 beers in seven hours."

Dumb. That's nothing. It reminds me of the time I had some drinks and then did some break dancing and this confused girl said "Wait. You did the worm on beer?" like it was an impossibility to feel the effects of alcohol that doesn't come in a flaming fish bowl. True story.

(On Sunday morning Fannie showed me a photograph of a young me wearing a Superman apron and I sprained my brain trying to remember how old I was and the circumstances of that photograph. "I took it Friday night," she said. Oh. Again: Four beers in seven hours).

Gah. This episode of "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" is killing me. Scott Disick, man.

I sent repeated texts home to my people to find out how and what the PBG was doing. I demanded photos. After one, I sat back sick with my heart racing. They'd just returned from a long walk, Ma Pista said. The girl looked splotchy and red, like she had been spun on a spit at high noon.

"Does she have a sunburn?" I asked.
"No," Ma Pista said, assuring me she'd been slathered in the highest SPF known to babies.
"She seems red," I said.
"Must be the reflection from the curtains," she said.


"You'll know when you get home and she's peeling," one of the party girls joked.

Anyway, she wasn't burned. It was the reflection from the curtains. Or something.

But they did this to her, and maybe it's worse?

We took a pontoon out on the Croix. We ate an awesome dinner on an awesome patio. We went to a dance club-y kind of place that was all decks, tank tops and bachelorette parties. It seemed pretty "Jersey Shore"-ish, a total contradiction to the town's dayside vibe.

Freebie, Visitor's Bureau. Stillwater: Quaint little town by day, SIN CITY BY NIGHT.

We closed out the night at a saloon where a two-man folk act busted so hard through a Dylan cover that the harmonica spit was grated into a fine mist.

I think the best part of all of this was the bed, a king-sized number that collapsed around a beaten body.

Today I was a real crank. I tend to bore of a bad mood, but this one lingered. Even now, I'm annoyed that my bladder isn't a touch stretchier. That this Hulu situation means watching TV like an animal. That Lamar isn't getting much screen time this season. Maybe I'm not cut out for partying away the weekend, then returning to a full-time daily obligation and a kid whose opinion of quesadillas could change mid-bite.

So that's that, Diary. Time for me to hit the sheets with my bueno new book from the DPL. (More later).