Monday, December 31, 2007


Well, it's been a long time since my last video game addiction. I was into the Sims for a couple of months about three years ago, and I'd spend so much time feeding my little guy and sending him to the bathroom and getting him a job that I ran a risk in real life of starving to death and/or wetting my pants. Playing the Sims had all of the appeal of playing with my doll house when I was 7. I got to build a house and add onto it and buy furniture. I named all of my Sims after NPR personalities, so I got to be the hand of God that caused Nina Totenberg and Corey Flintoff to fall in love and start a family (until Nina started her little fling with Carl Kasell). Anyway, eventually, I realized that I was hungry and I had to pee, so I let the Sims gather virtual dust inside of my computer, and Nina and Corey and Carl returned to their original roles in my life as voices on the radio.

The Sims was one of those games that was designed to appeal to women, because the male video game market was already tapped, but women weren't playing. It worked (at least for me), because the Sims was all about relationships, and the slow building of a life. You begin with a little bit of money and a simple house, and you have to work from the ground up, gradually adding rooms, upgrading your stove and getting promoted at your job. You flirt slowly with the Sim next door, talking about sports and birds until eventually your thoughts turn to love, and then you get to work on living happily ever after by expanding the house and having babies. In the Sims world, though, I was always more into the house addition than the new family members, because the babies just meant more mouths to feed and trips to the bathroom.

So, it's no coincidence that my new video game addiction is also made for women and families. The Nintendo Wii, is actually about the relationships of the real people holding the controllers, though. You get to jump around and be silly with your friends and family, flailing wildly and ducking and weaving as your virtual selves box it out on the screen. You can team up and play tennis together, feeling like a well-oiled machine with your friend (or like a machine that has a couple of missing cogs as the case may be). You also get to slowly build up your skill points, which feels a little like being a Sim and finding your way in the world. And, of course, I can spend twenty minutes creating a "Mii" who looks just like me (sort of, almost, a little bit), which appeals to the doll house lover in me.

I'm just glad that I don't have to feed the Mii or take her to the bathroom, and, just to be safe, I'm not going to let her flirt with any other Miis. I don't know how effective Mii birth control is, but I do know a thing or two about abstinence, damn it.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Jinxing It

So you get all dressed up, and you spend more time than you'd like to admit wondering if it's OK that there's a gap between the bottom edge of your skirt and the top of your very first pair of sexy-ish black boots (with sensible heels) and, if it is OK, should your tights be black or gray? You wear a little bit of make-up because you hear that that's what the real girls are doing these days, but then you get nervous in the car and probably chew it all off your lips, and you have dinner with a guy who looks a little bit like your older brother (who's a good-looking guy, but it's still distracting, because, ick, incest), and then you wind up having a Geek Off right there at the dinner table, and you talk about sci fi and perfect numbers, and you kind of wish you'd shut up, but even more, you kind of wish he'd like this about you, more than the chewed-off lipstick and the skirt, because who knows when you'll be wearing those things again, but the geek? That's forever, baby.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

How to Make an American Pick up Litter

So this morning, as I was walking Buddy through the winter wonderland that Minnesota has become since yesterday, I saw a plastic Ziploc bag lying in the road at 38th street. I probably would have let it stay there, except when I glanced at it I realized that there was cash inside. Turns out that it was only $42, but it was rolled up in such a way that it looked like much more, and, so, OK, I wouldn't have picked up this baggie if it didn't look like it was loaded with cash. Sorry. Call me greedy. It's not like I was going to take the money for my own.

And so I detoured slightly at the sight of the greenbacks, and I picked it up, and I discovered that it not only contained cash, but bank account numbers written in an old person's handwriting, keys, a cell phone, a wallet, credit cards, a social security card, a drivers license, and a phone bill. I looked around for hidden cameras. This was obviously a test. It was probably some sort of "Which City is more Honest?" thing for some weekly news magazine. I didn't see any cameras, but I was starting to worry about the owner of this property, so I walked Buddy back home (which he thought was a Very Bad Idea since we hadn't even gone a block yet, and he really had to crap out that entire loaf of freshly baked French bread he allegedly stole off of the counter at Christmas yesterday) and I started my investigations. Now, you don't have to be Veronica Mars (or even Nancy Drew) to figure out someone's phone number from a Qwest phone bill account number, so I dialed the number, but a fax machine answered.

As I listened to the high-pitched language of data transfers, I glanced through the rest of the bag. There was a number and the mystery guy's name written on the outside of the bag, so I figured he was probably a newly-released prisoner, and these were all of his possessions when he entered the joint. I even imagined his buddy picking him up in a cab from prison, them arguing in the back seat (about his refusal to reveal the location of the bounty from their most recent crime spree), and then the inevitable pummeling, followed by his no-longer buddy tossing all of his worldly possessions out the window, before dumping his body somewhere far away. Of course, this explanation falls apart with the existence of the $42. No way some hardened criminal is just going to throw $42 out the window. Still, this scenario kind of made me glad I was trying to communicate with a fax machine rather than a real person.

It didn't really fit with the guy's handwriting though. His account numbers, written on the back of an address book which had turned yellow on the edges with age, were written in the handwriting of a frail and shaky old man. The first names in the address book, too, were not the first names of the friends of criminals. They were names like "Bev" and "Arlene" and "Roger". Old names.

Then I pulled out a yellow slip of paper. It was an inventory of the contents of my mystery baggie right down to a list of the bills that made up the $42, and it was from the Hennepin County Medical examiner. This was a dead guy. I was looking at everything this man was carrying right until he died three days before Christmas. Poor George. Somehow him being dead made me want to protect him even more than him being a living person ripe for identity theft. And so I walked and fed Buddy, because he wasn't going to wait for any mystery. And now I'm off to the police station (another long and snowy walk for some lucky dog) where I will put poor George's belongings in the hands of professionals, so they can contact Bev or Arlene or Roger and take care of his things properly.

PS For those of you still wondering about the resolution to that other mystery "The Case of the Missing French Bread", Buddy's intestines added to the circumstantial evidence that he was the culprit. I'm his biggest fan and his most ardent supporter, but I knew he was the guilty party all along.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Secret Optimism

Despite being a rather depressive and pessimistic person (especially at this time of year), I do have a secret deep-seated belief that there are many men with whom I could happily spend the rest of my life. I also believe that if I keep looking, I'm bound to find one of them. Sometimes, I think that I've already let some of them go in my youth and my ignorance. But since I'm not a believer in the One True Love theory, it doesn't always make me despair knowing that those good men are long gone.

On the other hand I'm starting to think that none of my true loves dates online. Oh, well. I'll go back to joining stuff. Maybe I'll volunteer for some Democrat. I'm pretty sure all of my true loves are Democrats. I'll also continue to beg my friends for blind dates. Somehow I think this will work better than joining the lonely hearts online. Although, I must say, married people don't seem to take their responsibility of setting up their single friends very seriously at all. Come on, people. Be a pal. It's no skin off your noses.

And now I've become distracted by the word "deep-seated". I initially wrote it as deep-seeded, but, since Google is so easy I looked it up. It's "seated". Wouldn't it be better if it were the other way? It's firmly planted, right? So seeds. Plants. Get it? Oh, well. Stupid English never makes sense, anyway. That's why we should all do math all the time.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

My Musical Ear

I spent last night at the St Paul Chamber Orchestra listening to the Brandenburg Concertos. If you are one of the people who actually knows me, I know what you're thinking. It goes something like this: "What? You? Music?" I have a little problem with music. I can't hear it. For a long time, I thought I was tone deaf, but my 8th grade band teacher informed me that I was good at tuning my trombone (and finding the notes along the slide), so my problem is deeper than mere tone-deafness. No, I actually think I'm tune deaf. I can't piece together the individual notes in my brain and form a melody. I should say that I have a really, really hard time piecing together the notes, because I hate it when people say they "can't" do math, and, besides, I do know three or four tunes. I know the way "Take me Out to the Ballgame" sounds (and even Jimmy says that I mostly sing it on key). I can also sing "The Wheels on the Bus", which is an old preschool trick. I believe in singing to kids, but with my disability I didn't master every song, so I just made up new lyrics to one song. I'm not so good at "Happy Birthday" even though I've heard it at least 34 times, so I lip-sync that one. I do have the melody to a couple of Beatles songs stuck in my brain.

Mostly what I do when music is playing is I tune it out. My brain gets tired of trying to make sense of the tune, so I think about something else. Sometimes the something-else is the lyrics. I sometimes turn on country music, for example, when MPR is running a pledge drive, because I enjoy the stories in the lyrics, but I couldn't sing you the tune of a single country music song.

Once when I was relatively old, I was stuck in a record store with my dad (who loves music), and I was bored so I wandered around looking at things. I discovered a section of the store called "Movie Soundtracks", which is when I found out that all movies - not just musicals - have music in them. I flipped through the records marveling at this whole new world I'd never noticed before. "Bull Durham" had music? What? I never knew.

Anyway, when my old and dear friend T invited me to listen to chamber music with her, I was flattered and interested enough that I thought I would try it out. Maybe in person, with the instruments right there in front of me, I could pay attention to the music. Classical music, however, is the very hardest for me, because there are no lyrics to focus my attention.

The first song (concerto? musical piece?) caught my attention for a little while because it sounded like men and women arguing. The men were the baseline with slow, steady, repetitive, and well-reasoned arguments. The women were the violins arguing with passion and volume and eloquence. By the end of the song (movement?), both voices spoke with triumphant joy at winning the argument. The men knew that they couldn't have lost with such reasonable and steady arguments, and the women were just as certain that their verbal acumen had once again carried the day. I was proud of myself. I had found a way to focus on the music. I couldn't possibly hum one strain of what I had just heard, but even without lyrics I had a whole story figured out in my head.

Then T turned to me and said, "It's so festive, you can just imagine a room full of people in ball-gowns dancing, can't you?" So I smiled and agreed, because my argument theory was obviously the wrong way to hear the music. Still, it sort of worked, so I tried it with the next piece. I can't say I was always successful at making up stories to keep my mind from wandering back to school or the taste of my dinner still lingering in my mouth or my cracked and bleeding hands, but I can say that I stayed awake for the entire concert. Which is saying something since it went way past my bedtime.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

What I Want

What I really want right now is a connection. I want to stay up late into the night talking, because we can't think of anything not to say. I want to wake up the next day too tired to function, but blissful and somehow energized, because I can't wait to say the 24 more things I've thought of to say the next night. I want to feel excited for the phone to ring. I want to be sure about someone. I want to feel beautiful and smart and exciting, and I want to be able to make him feel that way, too. I'd love to come home to a meal cooked for me on some ordinary Tuesday. I want someone I can call when some lame very-special Christmas episode of "Bones" makes me tear up, so the tears can turn to laughter and snot, instead of moroseness and despair. I want a travel companion who knows how to take off on his own sometimes. Someone who could read books on the couch next to me while I grade papers. A warm place to put my feet at night. I want him to kick my butt into graduate school already. I want someone to plan with me. I want him to crack inappropriately surprising jokes that keep me from ever really anticipating his sense of humor. And if it's not too much to ask, on top of all of this, can he be tall and lanky, too, please, so that I feel like touching him? Often.

Have I squandered another perfectly good lifetime listening to Car Talk, or can I feel this way one more time again before I start knitting tea cozies and adopting stray cats, while I peek around my curtain and call the city about neighbors who don't shovel their walks properly?

Sunday, December 09, 2007


Two side-by-side houses in my neighborhood each shoveled themselves out of the snowstorm this week. Inexplicably, neither one of them shoveled a foot-and-a-half wide swatch of sidewalk somewhere between the two houses, leaving a patch of untouched snow between two well-cleared areas. I can only come to one conclusion: They are in the midst of a terrible feud, possibly involving sex, drugs, or a disagreement about a fence. This is very exciting. I will have to keep an eye on the no-man's-land between these two houses. Will the disputed territory extend to mowing as well? Will one of them crack and take the extra half a minute it would take to clear that last scoop of snow or will it continue to pile up threatening death and destruction to old ladies, until the city is forced to consult its maps to determine the exact property line between the two houses? What could have been so terrible that the second shoveler stopped before he reached that stripe of snow? I may have to set up surveillance. Or maybe, just maybe, I've seen too many episodes of Veronica Mars this winter.

Saturday, December 08, 2007


Fern and I coined a new term. I, of course, forgot all about it, until she reminded me last night. It was in response to a certain situation at a wedding last month. The wedding had square dancing instead of the traditional awkward couple-swaying so common at most weddings these days. Square dancing increased participation because the caller would tell you exactly what to do, and, even if you didn't have your own partner at the wedding, asking someone to square dance is a non-sexual advance, so it was relatively easy to participate as a single person.

At any rate, we each separately noticed a very particular unpleasant smell emanating from the crowd of people dancing. Because so many people kept swapping partners, it turned out to be nearly impossible to identify the exact source of this odor, but as the night progressed both Fern and I put forth several private theories, most of which didn't hold up to the long night of dancing. We also each worried that we were the objects of other people's hypotheses since we realized that we were just two more faces in the crowd of possible suspects. Eventually, since the smell continued no matter who was on the dance floor, I was left with just three surviving suspects.

First, I had to suspect the caller. He was the only common denominator whenever I was dancing (other than myself, and I ruled myself out because I'd know if it were me). He was also a logical suspect, the sort of crunchy granola, older dude who wouldn't hold in his farts if he had to cut one.

Second, since the dance floor wasn't far from the bathrooms, it could have been a plumbing, rather than a gastric problem. The women's bathroom seemed fine from my two visits there, but who knew about the men's? It could have been the source of a lot of unpleasantness.

And finally, I suspected the dinner. It had squash and pheasant in it, both of which could have been an unfamiliar irritant to several different stomachs on the dance floor. Maybe there wasn't a single perpetrator of the stank, but several emitters of silent but deadly gases. This "grassy knoll" hypothesis seemed at least as likely as the caller, and slightly more likely than the men's bathroom (because, really, wouldn't one of the men have mentioned it?).

At any rate, it was a rather unsatisfying mystery, because it remains unsolved to this day. I didn't even realize anyone else had noticed it, until during the car ride home, Fern abruptly announced that we needed a word to describe the lingering, but unidentified, fart smell on the dance floor. "Ambigasity" won the short debate. We don't have an answer, but at least we have a word.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

There Might As Well Be Snow

If it's going to be cold anyway...if the ground will be hard with frost and the grass will be gray and dormant...if the sun won't shine after 4:00 in the afternoon...if I'm paying for all this heat to leak out my 97-year-old windows...well, then there might as well be six inches of clean, white snow on the ground. I don't know if I'll ever learn to be the type of person who loves the winter, but I am the type of Minnesotan who gets all edgy and nervous when we live through all of the symptoms of winter with no snow.

Last year, for example, there was hardly any snow far too late in the season, and we'd also have strange warm days mixed in with our cold ones. I used to watch the grounds crew at the local park try to make ice. It was the saddest ritual. It'd be 5:45 in the morning while I walked past with Buddy, and they'd be bundled up so many layers thick with Carharts that you couldn't identify them by gender. Morning after morning they'd stand there in the cold darkness, watering the ice. At 5:45 in the morning the water would turn slushy as it hit the ground. Then, by 10:00, the sun would come out, the thermometer would hit 40 degrees and the slush would turn back to water, so they'd have to try again the next day. All through December they tried. It was into January, and the ice still wouldn't stick. I began to see it as a portent of evil, a sign of the apocalypse. No ice in Minnesota in January. We really fucked up the planet this time.

This year, though, their first layer of ice is already laid down on the ground, and it's surrounded by mounds of fresh snow and it's only the first days of December. We are back to where we belong. All is right with the world. The kids can sled and skate, and I can tromp through snow with Buddy on my morning walk. I don't love the winter, but I do appreciate it when it behaves as it should.

PS If it happens to be your birthday today, then give yourself a big hug from me, and give me a shout so I can buy you dinner.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Balls! Balls! Balls! Turkey!

That xkcd guy built himself a ball pit instead of a buying a couch. Of course, I'm totally in love with his geeky math sarcasm, and, besides, something about pictures of nerds sitting in a sea of primary colors cheers me during this cold and dark season. I think we've all learned a valuable lesson about Al. She likes her colors bright, her days long, and her men a little bit silly and a lot bit geeky.

I imagine his Thanksgiving gathering with TV trays set up in the ball pit. It makes me happy, even though I know he's probably really at home with no ball pit for the holiday since he's just a young guy.

Mine will not involve any plastic balls at all. I'll be at the dad's for the meal. We will, however, play games and eat lots of good food. Happy Thanksgiving to anyone reading. Be good to yourself as the seasons shift to a darker and grayer time. Today, I am thankful for ball pits and geeks and lightboxes and the fine dusting of snow covering our gray and dormant ground.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


It seems like little kids always have skinned knees, and it's no big deal. They just shed a few tears after hitting the pavement and then get up and run around again like nothing ever happened. On the other hand, I fell yesterday (for no apparent reason, just a misstep off the edge of a sidewalk), and now my knee is raw and bloody and it seems like it's still all I can think about even 24 hours later. I suspect that this may the difference between surviving the impact of a 40 pound body falling on top of your knee and a 140 pound one, although it could also be that I am just wimpier than your average 4-year-old.

Speaking of little kids, the overly intelligent and far too-good looking Nephew was baptized today. He was the oldest baby at the font, hardly even qualifying for that term. In fact, he took a stroll through the pews while waiting his turn to get anointed, ducking his head and playing peek-a-boo with whatever grandfather or aunt who happened to look his way. Because of his childcare situation (daycare by Jimmy on Thursdays and Fran on Fridays) he looks at older men as a source of comfort and care, which amuses his maternal grandmother who has to carefully warm him up to her each time they meet while the grandfather can just pick him immediately even after a long absence.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Dark

It's starting. The sun barely rises just as I arrive at work. It sets long before I get to leave. Little things, like filing papers, answering phone calls, and planning for class seem overwhelming. I can't force myself to do laundry because I still haven't put away the clean clothes from last time, and I can't put them away because they aren't even folded yet. This is the season when I most need to get my ass outside for a run, but it's also the season my ass is least likely to want to go outside. "It's dark out there," says my ass. "And cold. Leave me alone. I'll make microwave popcorn, and we can watch TV. It's much easier than all of that running."

My house, buried in newspapers (I can't recycle them because I haven't read them. I can't read them because there are too many of them) groans under my neglect. Buddy's footprints cover the floor. His hair finds its way into all of the corners. I'm cold even in my sweatshirt. It would be so much easier to just crawl back into bed. Why do I always have to clean? I'm never even home to enjoy it.

But I'm wise to this business, and I know it means two things. #1 I have to suck it up and clean, or I'm going to beat myself up for living in squalor and #2 I'd better start taking care of myself before the I get to that God-awful crying stage. Crying for sunlight never seems to produce it. It just gives me another reason to beat myself up (weakness, you know, so unattractive).

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Wounded

There was the one who couldn't even hold a pencil or type an email, because of Pain. There was the one who gambled away his house and had to move in with friends before running home to his family. There was the blind date who really was blind. There really was a crack addict, even though it seems like a lie. There was one who gave himself a vasectomy because of what a terrible parent he thought he would be. There was sort-of one who still woke up swearing over the woman who abandoned him years before. And the one who divorced his new wife for cheating on him.

I keep telling myself that I, in comparison, am pretty healthy and happy. I'm the one who has emerged from this battlefield relatively unscathed. I can barely even pick at any of my scabs anymore to remember what the pain felt like.

On the other hand, I seem to be the one encased in bubble wrap. I'm the one who doesn't feel any more. I can go from smitten to over-it in three short weeks. I have turned off my compassion to you for your depression/your gambling debts/your suicide attempts/your chronic pain/your inability to combat your own drunkenness/and your broken heart, because feeling it for each of you turned out to be too much for me.

And so, I say it again, because I keep forgetting: I'm opting out until I can feel my own self again. You can keep your wounds and your stinking pheromones. I'll be the one at the dog park with Buddy.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Stevie's Obitchuary

In April, my cat died. On the way home from the vet (where I swear she spoke twice after she was pronounced dead by the vet) her obituary came to me nearly fully formed before I got home to frantically type it out. Here it is, in honor of a very old, very mean cat.


20 years ago...

in the midst of the Iran-Contra Affair, Stevie was born. Ronald Reagan was president. The Twins had never been World Champions. I was 13-years-old and for Christmas I got a fuzzy little blue-eyed kitten with certain violent tendencies, but she was mostly OK as long as you didn't make eye-contact or pet her the wrong way or piss her off by laughing or talking too loudly.

Today, the oldest cat I know died quietly at the vet.

Some facts about Stevie
  • Her parents were siblings. She was the only kitten in her litter. “Auntie Mom” ate the next litter of kittens. And we wonder where she got her personality...
  • She was named after Stevie Smith, a little-known poet, about whom a little-known Glenda Jackson movie was made. I happened to see parts of it before I met Stevie. I have since thought about changing the story so I wouldn't have to pretend to know much about Stevie Smith the poet. A good alternative: She was named after Cat Stevens.
  • She's lived in eleven different houses and apartments, and twice traveled across country in a moving van.
  • She's lived with eight pets: Mandy, Dewey, Theophania, Corey, Sati, Louie, Koji, and Buddy. Nobody ever bossed her around until Buddy, who took a month to learn to submit to her will.
  • Her roommates included Janice, Marvin, Perley, Jimmy, Judy, Jake, Beau, Dorothy, Sarah, Anne Marie, Josh, Jen, Rory the Boy, Ann, Nicky, and me.
  • Her claws were stuck in my face twice.
  • She's eaten the “senior” version of Science Diet since 1994.
  • She's been totally deaf since 2001.
  • Her favorite place in the house was behind the toilet.
  • In the end, she lost all of her violence, and enjoyed sitting quietly on my lap, just absorbing heat and hanging out with me. She liked it when I sat still. She even let me touch her back feet.

Sunday, November 04, 2007


I was never the kind of kid who dressed as a bride and fantasized about getting married and having a husband and kids (well, at least not the husband part). Blame feminism. Blame divorce. Whatever it was, I just never got into the whole parading down the aisle thing. Well, never, except for that one time.

I was thirteen years old. My dad and step-mom used to take me up to the North Shore every summer for a week in a cabin on Lake Superior. We played a lot of board games, cooked homemade food, and drove up and down the shore looking for good hikes. We picked fresh raspberries and saw the witch tree, and then every year, we'd take part in some kind of indoor/cultural activity, too. There was a little play house in Grand Marais, we'd sometimes attend.

One year, my dad took us out to dinner at the Naniboujou Lodge up past Grand Marais. I fell in love the minute I walked in the door. It could have been the immense rock fireplace (the largest in Minnesota) with elaborate natural stone designs, but, since I'm not really a subtle person, I'm thinking it was probably the brightly painted walls and ceiling. They are decorated in rich primary colors with Cree Indian designs. After a lifetime of white walls and subtle trim colors, the effect blew me away. I couldn't believe that this abundance of color hid behind the sedate exterior of the place. There was a hush in the dining room. People talked, but, at least to my teenage ears, it seemed that they spoke with reverence. They were in the presence of great and unusual beauty. These were people who survived the grayest months of winter, so they knew how sacred it was to spend even one meal basking under vividly saturated walls.

I toured the rest of the public spaces of the Lodge. I discovered the "solarium" with the immediate infatuation of a dedicated reader. I longed to stay there instead of our simple cabin, spending my week next to the warmth of the fireplace and those improbable walls. I would have been reluctant to leave even for hikes and excursions to Witch Trees or Canada. I decided, since I knew it was too expensive for just a regular summer week, that someday, I'd get married at the Naniboujou, and when I did I'd spend one perfectly happy week in my own personal temple to beauty.

Anyway, this weekend I finally did get to attend a wedding there, even if it wasn't my own, and I did get to square dance under that fantastic ceiling, even if I didn't have a partner to swing round and round. I also finally lived my dream of sleeping at the Naniboujou, in a single bed, granted, across the room from Fern's single bed, and the bed totally sucked, even for a single bed. But I did wake up the next morning and drag my book down to the solarium for some quality time before I ate my final breakfast under a resplendent ceiling.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Novel I'm Not Writing

There's a perpetual question for teachers. "What do you do over the summer?" I always try to come up with something good to answer, because, damn, I don't know what the hell I do over the summer. Somehow day after day, I just use up the time, and then after the exhaustion from the school year has finally passed and just when I'm starting to get bored, it's time for school to start again.

My first year, I bought my ticket to Hungary at Christmas time, so that I knew I was earning something good for surviving until June. The trip was only two weeks long, but no one had to know how short it was, and I could answer with confidence: "I'm going to Hungary to build houses." Theoretically this was enough for a summer. It sounds impressive, anyway.

Two years ago, I told everyone about my brilliant knitting-pattern book idea and pretended like I'd spend my summer working on it. I even fooled myself that year, because I spent some time at the library researching architecture for my patterns and talking to librarians about the idea. Notice: I said talking about the idea. Very little in the way of knitting-patterns actually got put to paper that summer. Still, you know, it was a great answer to the question and gave me all sorts of freedom not to plan another trip to Hungary to build more houses.

Last summer was the summer I was writing my novel. Writing my novel was an outstanding answer to the question. I explained that November is National Novel Writing Month, and I pointed out that I can't possibly write a novel in November, when school is in full swing, so I would have my own personal Novel Writing Month in July. Perfect. Well, almost perfect. It turned out that the thought of a novel paralyzed me. I wrote fewer words last summer than ever before in my life. The thought that what was supposed to be coming out of my fingers was a Novel was enough to shut down my brain. I had nothing. I can't even call it the Summer I Had Writer's Block, because that's giving me too much credit for trying to write. It'd be more fair to call it the Summer I Slept in a Lot and Took Buddy to the Dog Park.

All of which just increases the amount of impressed I am with all of those regular people who started their novels today. I'm not doing it. I might write pithy little blog posts this month, but I leave the novel-writing to the un-paralyzed.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

What Happened to You Over the Summer?

I ran into a former student in the hallway today. She was the kind of student who made me want to tear my hear out in big clumps. She didn't have basic skills, but she had a strong desire to do well, rivaled only by her desire to have a good time. The two desires didn't coexist well, and she wound up failing my class with some miserable percent I try not to remember. Along the way, there were tears and calls home to her mother and screaming fits at other students. In short, she was the kind of student I loved, but also the kind of student I sometimes wanted to be absent so that the class would get a day-long vacation from her drama. When she was absent (or suspended) the class always ran much more smoothly. It also had much less "personality", as Youngster calls it.

Anyway, now that she's not my student, but just a kid in the hallway, it's all love between us. She asks me where I teach, because she wants to visit my class. She always greets me by name, loudly, and with great affection, even when she's standing in the middle of her crowd of cool kids. And I see her personality as the wonderful asset it is, rather than the reason I can't get my class to shut up after lunch.

Today when she saw me, she yelled my name across an empty hallway to stop me, and then said, "I barely recognized you."
"Yeah," I said, shrugging, "'cause I'm getting old."
"No," she said, seriously. "You look younger and happier. What happened to you over the summer? Did you get married? Did you get a boyfriend?"

I just laughed. I'm not a hugger, but some kids make me wish I were. And the truth is, it's not a husband or a boyfriend that makes me look younger: I just finally bought some pants that fit.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The New Going Steady

On the second date, he said, "Do you think we should change our status to 'Seeing Someone'?" This is the new "going steady" for Internet daters I guess, and it sounded exceeding dorky and flattering at the same time. My mom asked if it was like getting an ID bracelet and then instantly claimed that she never got to "go steady". Of course, as near as I can tell, her entire dating career involved getting engaged twice before she was 25, so how much more steady can you get, really?

On the same note, I kind of wish that I could date someone who was a little bit more aloof. I mean, I'm pretty sure I'm great and gorgeous and all that, but he should be able to pretend that I'm no greater or more gorgeous than he is, so that I don't start wondering whether I can do better. We all saw Swingers. Whatever happened to waiting 48 hours before you call the beautiful babies?

I mean, it's still fun, but I'm just saying...

Thursday, October 25, 2007


I met a guy. He has good pheromones. He likes me. I like him. I'm extremely tired from staying up late talking and stuff, so I don't feel capable of the words I need to describe what this feeling is like. It's been such a long time since I've been able to talk about a date without using every non-committal adjective I know. "It was fine." "He was nice." "We had an OK time." Now I need new words, like "smitten" and "giddy" and "don't tell my mother."

Monday, October 22, 2007


My college roommate was a psych major. Actually, by the time I was a senior, I had two psych majors sharing my sextet. Naturally, they'd get home from class and diagnose us all. Somehow my math major was never quite as handy as all of those psych classes. I just couldn't find a way to work "Functions of a Complex Variable" or "Set Theory" into everyday conversation. And I must say, heat differentials really don't count as everyday conversation.

So, I was a senior, up to my ears in my thesis, preparing to give the longest talk of my life about "Quadratic Reciprocity in Number Theory", and my dad (the librarian) was going to come to my talk, so I had to make at least the first fifteen minutes interesting and somewhat comprehensible (to an intelligent but non-mathematical man), so I was spending nearly every waking moment at the library. I was, in fact, that girl standing outside the library on a Saturday morning, waiting for 9:00 to roll around so the student worker would finally show up and unlock the door for me. So, I was pathetic. OK, but I was determined not to stutter though my whole hour-long talk.

On one of my study breaks from my little private room on the quietest floor in the libe, I found myself sitting around our kitchen table with the roommates. Fern and Skinny were talking about their latest psychology class, and one of them turned her gaze to me.
"You, Alex," she said with the authority of a senior psychology major, "Are a low self-monitor."
"Oh, yes," agreed the other. "The lowest."
"OK," I said, having ignored the conversation until it turned toward name-calling, "What does that mean?"
"It means you can't fake it. You don't know how to be something you're not."
"Oh, yes, I can," I said (thinking I probably couldn't).
"OK, then," said Fern. "Frown."

Well, I frown all the time. I'm one of the moodiest people I know. One of my earliest memories is of how my elementary principal used to stop me the hallway to tell me to smile - which always made me want to smack him. So, I turned the corners of my mouth down, and I looked up, triumphant, not the lowest self-monitor after all. Except. Except they were laughing.

"She can't do it," said Fern, between giggles. "She doesn't know how to frown."
"It's OK," said Skinny, ever the peace-maker. "It's a good thing, really. It means you can't wear a disguise around other people. It means that the way you act is the way you are. You don't know how to put on a face for the crowd. It's good. It means you're genuine."
"I don't get it," I said, "I'm frowning. This is a frown." I turned my lips down again, to their great amusement.
"Your lips are like a creepy, weird line, and your eyes don't match," explained Fern. "That's not a frown. And stop doing that thing with your mouth. It freaks me out."
"OK, fine," I said, "but can other people do it? Can you just frown on command?"

Instantly, their faces went grim. They looked like they'd each lost a favorite kitten. They were right. They could do it. And for a second by the light of their frowns, I caught a glimpse of how other people did it. Other people didn't have to wait outside the library for it to open. They didn't have to spend every waking moment memorizing the patter for their hour long talks, so they wouldn't have to stammer through the real thing. Other people could fake it a little bit, disguise themselves as someone who knew their shit, and put on a smile to cover up for any nervousness they felt inside. Me? I just had to be genuine. Damn.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Virtual Crushes

So it happens when I'm Internet dating that I begin to receive emails from some dude somewhere who looks pretty good in his photos. He might even mention Jane Austen or costume dramas or Buffy or Say Anything in his emails. He spells tricky words like "it's" and "there" correctly. Maybe he'll say that being mathematical is hot. And, so, without meeting him, I develop a crush. I look forward to his emails. I imagine that we'll meet and immediately hit it off. I forget all of the other Internet men I've met before, and instead I imagine the happy times of actually being in a relationship with someone I respect and admire.

I don't really know how I do it, because when I'm not in that email-crush-stage of one of these things, I know intellectually just how deceptive it can be. I realize that the percent of the male population I can actually stand in real life is ridiculously small, and I know that the chances that one of them will like me back approaches zero. Yet, I hope when I get these promising emails. I get a little bit devastated when they don't write me back. I flirt ridiculously when they do, revealing way more about myself than I ever would if I weren't suffering from the effects of email-crush hormones.

Sometimes when we meet, the disappointment is so great that there is no hope of a second date. Sometimes it's there, but I ignore it so I can feel my initial high a little bit longer. And maybe someday, there won't be disappointment at all, and we can live happily ever after.

But I doubt it. I think the man for me is in the real world somewhere, and not hiding behind the Internet, which probably means I have to close this post now, and get myself out into the real world.

Friday, October 19, 2007

You Can Never Go Back

Fern and I drove to Carleton today to get new sweatshirts, eat Hogan Brothers' Sandwiches and breathe the Malt-o-Meal laden Northfield air. According to the radio, this is the last weekend for peak fall color viewing, although, for me, there's no point in viewing bright orange, yellow, and red leaves unless they are splashed across a clear, blue sky, and clear, blue skies have been in very short supply this gloomy October.

It wasn't until we arrived on campus and saw all of the prospective students milling about with their parents that I remembered that MEA weekend 17 years ago was the very weekend I decided to attend Carleton. I remembered walking across campus with my mother who spent that year riding a Sine curve of my annoyance with her and so treated me with gentle standoffishness that weekend in order not to jinx my Carleton weekend. We were near what later became my favorite spreading elm tree on campus when some current students saw a crowd of prospies walking across campus and chose to fuck with us by announcing loudly that they were on the way to the library to write their 30-page papers due the next morning. I liked that these existing students noticed us and created some humor for us. It was very different from Northwestern, where, if anyone noticed that I was walking across campus with 20 other high school students, he didn't find it worthy of remark. I remember turning to my mother to see if she got the joke and finding her at close to -1 on the annoying scale, which was how I knew that the Carleton campus was already having an effect on my mood.

It still does. A quick walk across the bald spot, staring at the little kids who currently pose as Carleton students is almost sure to bring a smile to my face. It was Friday today, so the student mailboxes overflowed with Friday Flowers and my heart joined them. Of course, we only get to visit now and bemoan our slacker senior year, when we had the chance to take such fascinating classes and we blew it by only taking the bare minimum load. We only get to see the outside of the windows of our old rooms in Nourse, and we can't head on over to Goodhue for a round of hall 'bee before dinner.

Still, we left refreshed with that feeling that we always get, that we were lucky for those four years, happier than we knew, surrounded for the only time in our lives by people at least as smart as we were. It's good to see that it still exists, even though we know that it's not really there for us anymore.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


I'm teaching the dread chapter 9 again. In this book chapter 9 is polynomials. Naked, unadorned polynomials without an equals sign. I struggle to make polynomials relevant more than any other math, because really (and don't tell my students this) it sort of isn't relevant. All of the polynomials in chapter 9 are really just a test of your dexterity at symbol manipulation.

Watch me distribute across these flaming parentheses! Oooh and aaah as I undo it with a little greatest common factoring. See me divide a polynomial by a monomial. Shiver as I disobey the very laws of physics and conservation of matter by adding two trinomials together to get a binomial!

Sometimes our book in an attempt to make polynomials "real" for the kids will throw in a story problem. Unfortunately the story problems are total bunk and go something like this: "Mt. Kilimanjaro is (5x2 + 4x + 9) meters tall. Mt. Everest is (11x2 + 8x - 15) meters tall. How much taller than Mt. Kilimanjaro is Mt. Everest? How tall are the two mountains stacked on top of each other?" Anyway, I skip these pathetic attempts at relevance, and I'm left with nothing. Nothing but a bunch of rigid rules about symbol manipulation and a feeble attempt at enthusiasm...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Secret to Getting the Grading Done

I refuse to turn on the heat. I might break down in November. My (somewhat whack) theory about heat is that if the pipes don't need it, then neither do I. So far, my pipes haven't frozen, but I, on the other hand, have discovered that it's really not such a bad deal to pay $6 for a bowl of soup in a coffee shop, since then I get to sit in the coffee shop soaking up the heat, and I can take off my jacket for a brief while. At home, the jacket stays on until I get to crawl under the 20 pounds of blankets I have set up on my bed.

Anyway, I was sitting in the coffee shop with the bowl of soup, and I got out my tests, and I was really on a roll, grading like a machine, when a cute guy with a little girl squatted down beside me to talk about teaching the math. He teaches math at a small Montessori charter school. Asked me my name twice. Made intense eye contact. Then, oops, mentioned his wife. Oh, well, my coffee-shop romance was nice while it lasted.

I could feel that the grading was practically going to do itself as I basked in the free coffee-shop heat, when suddenly I got an uncomfortable feeling that everyone else was leaving. Damn. Was this one of those crazy Minneapolis places that closes at 6:00? Yes, alas, it was. Sometimes I miss Portland. Besides, in Portland, Mr. Montessori Blue Eyes wouldn't have a wife at his age.

And so I was left with a class and a half of tests to grade and a cold, uninviting home to grade them in. Where in my neighborhood would be open late enough in the evening for me to take in the warmth while I got my work done? Where, oh where? And then it hit me. There are places open late into the night. Warm places, places with a lot of people and music and beverages. I found such a place (an old favorite: The Chatterbox), and I sat alone in a corner with my tall glass of cold beverage and my stack of tests, and before too long I had just a half a class left. My lips weren't even blue, and by the time I got home to finish the last class I barely even minded the cold.

Monday, October 15, 2007

A Greener Day

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day
I used to think that we'd blow up the Earth. I was so convinced of it that I deluded myself into believing that the Soviet sense of fair-play would not allow them to nuke us while we slept. It was my secret way to trick myself into sleeping at night. Before I made up the fair-play rule, it was during the darkest hours of the night that my fears of planetary destruction would pound in my ears and keep me from thinking about anything else. During the daytime I could put Nuclear winter out of my mind unless I happened to see photographs of mushroom clouds or the hear the engine of a low-flying propeller plane (which I must have associated with the Enola Gay, because I always thought the bombs would be traveling by plane, even though I swear I had heard of missiles).

Nowadays superpowers blowing up the Earth occurs to me less and less. I spend that familiar nervous energy worrying about what we're collectively doing to it instead. The Earth will survive our game of chicken with the enormous bombs. It won't go out with a bang (or a series of back-and-forth bangs between ticked off superpowers). Instead it will go out with an almost too quiet whimper.

It will complain of the heat, like a menopausal coworker. "Is it hot in here or is it just me? Do you mind if I open a window?" Only the window won't help, and the Earth will continue whimpering. "It didn't used to bother me, but now, well I guess, I just never expected to be able to wear shorts Trick-or-Treating in Minnesota. I'm hot. Are you hot? I used to could go North to cool down, but there's hardly any ice up there anymore. When was the last time we cross-country skied, anyway?"

We'll hear stories about how the roofs in Poland collapsed last winter under the weight of the snow, and we'll pause for a minute, "Hmm. Doesn't it usually snow in Poland? How much snow did they get to collapse roofs that were built for snow?" And then we'll hear about mudslides in California and hurricanes in Louisiana and torrential rains all over China, and we'll stop each time, listening to the faint sound of the Earth whimpering, but caught up in our own lives as usual, grading papers, getting home to the baby, trying to figure out a route home that doesn't involve that 35W bridge. And the Earth will groan a little bit more. A drought here, a flood there. A late-season tornado that wipes out a small town. "We weren't expecting it. The sirens didn't sound." And the weather-person tries to come up with new non-threatening ways of telling us that we've broken heat records. "Record-high temperatures today. Lots of sun. Hope you got a chance to get outside and enjoy it." Nothing ominous there, except that I just don't remember setting so many records back when I was a kid.

And so I'm glad that we haven't blown up the Earth, don't get me wrong. I just wish I could remember to focus my anxiousness about this climate thing the way I used to when I was a child. I also sort of wish I could think up a good lie to tell myself so I don't have to lie awake at night. The Right does it all the time. Why can't I?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Going Public

I was going to post regularly for a while, and then when I felt like I had a pattern going, I was going to announce my little blog to the world (or, more accurately, I was going to quietly make it a public searchable blog). However, I am not posting regularly because I get caught up in my regular life, and it has occurred to me that if I had regular readers, like Lemon Gloria does, then maybe I'd write regularly. Yeah, except that the reason I read Lisa's blog regularly is that she posts regularly. So, I guess I'm the egg trying to convince myself that the chicken came first (even though I really know that dinosaurs laid eggs long before chickens walked the earth).

Also, I'm trying to use the word "regular" as many times as I can in one paragraph. My student interrupted me one day while I was teaching and using the word "garbage" to stand for the stuff next to the x, to say, "Have you ever noticed how a word can sound weird if you say it enough times? And besides I don't like the word 'garbage'. I like 'trash'." Excellent point. Also, exactly the reason why I really like teaching kids with "attention deficit". They say much more interesting things than their on-task classmates.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Writing Club

I joined a writing club today. We sat at a coffee shop and did timed exercises. Here's one of mine. The prompt was "Willie's husband died. She bought a Harley and dyed her hair flaming red..."

...but you can't change who you are, because after a jaunt across country and the prerequisite pilgrimage to Sturgis, her roots came back as mousy brown as ever and the Harley gathered dust in the garage. Willie just couldn't hack it as a biker chick. Of course, she had had some meaningless sex in Sturgis - with a guy who arose the next morning and pulled on a grimy t-shirt that read, "Of course I love you, darling, my dick's hard, ain't it?" which was enough to get the poor asshole kicked out of Willie's warm bed forever. Even before he revealed his true nature, though, sex with the nameless man in Sturgis only made Willie feel lonely and cold. Did he really think she was the type of person who had flaming red hair and drove a Harley? Would he toss his head back and laugh if she farted in bed? Could she tug on his earlobe if she had something to say while he slept? Would he snore companionably beside her so she could pace her breathing to his and sleep, finally sleep, the way she hadn't been able to since Frank?

Typed out it looks much shorter than it does written out longhand on the page. Huh.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Names for a Girl

We took dinner to some old friends who are expecting their second child any day now. They had some baby name books. The first child took their girl's name, so they need a replacement. These are not the sort of people to find out the sex of their child until the doctor holds it up and shouts, "It's a _____!" Nor, it turns out, are they the sort of people with any time before 9 months of gestation to decide on a name. Oh, well, we all know how long it took Beau to get a name (and only by the skin of his teeth did he avoid being called Ivan).

And so, here are my favorite girls' names, since I spent the evening looking through them.
  1. Clara. It's just simple and clean. It reminds me of Claire my old baby-sitter, but it's a wee bit more elegant. I'm probably just thinking of the Nutcracker, and extrapolating that any girl named Clara knows ballet.
  2. Asdis. This one is definitely because I had a girl-crush on the girl named Asdis at my high school. It's Icelandic. I don't think it works with my last name, but if I mother a child with an Icelandic type we can give her his name, just so her first name can be Asdis.
  3. Isabel. I know it's trendy. I just like it. I can't help being a herd follower.
  4. Molly. It just strikes me as a solid, friendly name. Could you imagine someone named Molly embezzling money from retirees? Are you going to cry because you got stuck sitting next to Molly on the seating chart? No, you're going to be glad to be so lucky. You could be sitting next to Brittani, and then you'd have to defend yourself against tattling all day long.
  5. Nora. I seem to like surprisingly girlish names for girls. Girlish and elegant, like Nora. I liked being an Alex, but I'm drawn to names with a clear femininity to them.
OK, so those are the names. We'll see if the pregnant friends go and steal one of them from me.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

A Quiet Morning in Bed

We awoke this morning to the sounds of a domestic disturbance in the ol' neighborhood. Fern woke up earlier from upstairs and heard more than I did. She also saw one of the participants of the disturbance standing around in our (fenced-in) back yard. I woke up at 5:00 when the woman two doors down joined in the yelling. It was lots of "f*** this sh**" and "f*** you" with a little bit of "b****" mixed in, not to mention the "get these n*****s out of my house". We also both heard the dude admit that he had pushed the woman ("Only one time, and you act like this."), and we also heard him threaten another resident of the house ("F*** Richard. I'll f***ing kill Richard.") So my question is, at what point do we break down and call the cops?

For me, I considered calling to the point of wondering whether it constituted a 911 call, or whether I'd have to get out of bed to find a phone book so I could call the actual police number. I was deep in a sleep when it started, and I remained half-asleep throughout the argument. My overriding thought was that calling the cops didn't seem like it would improve the situation any more quickly. The man (the threatening, pushing man) was already leaving the house, which is why they were outside yelling, and the woman sounded fully able to tell him to "f*** off" (in fact, I think she did, at 5:10 and maybe also 5:12). I didn't really believe the threat on Richard's life. Of course, I'm not a highly trained police officer, but here was my fear: the cops come, the woman defends the man, they make up, and then we're back to having an on-going abusive relationship, instead of the man leaving the house, maybe never to return...

However, if I had seen the guy standing in our back yard, I might have done it then. I'm not sure what Fern's tipping point was. It was obviously past having a yelling man in our yard. Mostly, I'm just shocked that Bev didn't call. She seems to have no trouble telling the city when our weeds get too big.

Meanwhile, Buddy slept through the entire incident. Some watch dog he turned out to be.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Volunteering with Singles

So I joined the Single Volunteers Twin Cities, and yesterday I attended my first event. I wore a tight shirt and everything, even though we were packing boxes of food donations and I was bound to get sweaty. It turned out to be a bit of a waste of a tight shirt, because I was by far the youngest person there, and I'm not into old guys.

My job was to go through bags of food donated during the mail carrier food drive. I checked expiration dates and put the good stuff in boxes. It turns out a surprising number of people donate really old food to food shelves. It's kind of silly, since food shelves toss it out, but I tried to give the anonymous donors the benefit of the doubt, picturing really old people on social security desperately trying to find something in the back of their cupboard to share with poor folks. I don't know how accurate my picture was, but I didn't give anything (not even expired food) when the mailman asked me for my donations. So there you go.

Anyway with another attempt to find them under my belt, the mystery of the missing single men my age continues to this day.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Excuse Me, Were You Raised in a Barn?

I've been going to the dog park a couple of times a week since I got Buddy, and for the most part people there are helpful and nice. One woman in particular saw Buddy lurking by the gate when my mom was walking him, and she leashed him and took him back to the park to the sound of my mom's worried voice. Someone else found my car keys and hung them for me on the lost-and-found gate. If you lose anything at the dog park, someone is bound to find it and put it on the fence near the exit to be reclaimed. It's a little bit of humanity in the heart of the city.

On the other hand (you knew there was another hand), almost every time I go to the dog park, I run into a stranger (not the same one), with whom I have an awkward moment. We make eye-contact too soon. We approach each other in silence with that eye-contact/no-eye-contact discomfort, and then when we get close enough for a greeting, I'll say "Hello". To which the stranger says nothing. Not one word. Not a nod of acknowledgment. Nothing. I always wind up walking past a bit miffed, wondering if I was using my too-quiet voice and he didn't hear me. Otherwise, I just can't believe that a civilized person would pass another person deep in the woods and ignore a greeting. Are we so shy in Minnesota that a simple "Hello" is too much to ask?

Damn it, then. I'm definitely moving to Denver. I don't care how many family members I have in this stuck up town.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

My Buddy

I took the old dog to the vet today, because he was limping. I swear he was limping. This morning he didn't even want to stand up to follow me around the house. How was I supposed to know that it was some sort of quickly passing morning-time arthritis? As soon as we got to the vet, he turned frisky. He looked like a far younger dog. "See, Al, I'm fine. Let's go home now." Perhaps he caught some sort of a whiff of what happened to Stevie when I took her to the vet because she couldn't walk any more.

So anyway, he's not dying, even though I, of course, feel guilty for leaving him alone last weekend (and for the first week in August which he doesn't even know about yet, when he will experience his first time in a kennel.)

As for my other buddy, Mr. Issues, well, he called me today to let me know that he got hit by a car, and could I, please, give him a ride to the hospital to pick up some medical records from the ER docs for his real doctor. My thought, of course, was "What am I? A cab?" This was before I got the full sordid story. It turns out that the accident happened when he was in a real, actual cab, picked a fight with the cabbie about religion, and then got out of the cab and fled while it was stopped behind a turning vehicle. The cab driver then (allegedly by accident) ran him down. He's left with two sprained ankles, a concussion, and an injured back. According to his ambulance-chasing lawyer, he's actually in better shape, financially, if the cab driver did hit him by accident. If the cabbie meant to run him down, then it's no longer an accident and the insurance company washes their hands of the whole thing.

Never mind. It sounds like I'm making this shit up. Long story short, Buddy, the dog, will be fine, and Mr. Issues, well, who knows what is really going on in that world, but I did drive him around to do his errands and I didn't run him down with my car like a professional cab driver would.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Forward my Mail to Denver

I helped my brother find an apartment in Denver this weekend. By the time we found one (a cute one with hardwood floors, walkable to downtown, and an easy run to a couple of different running trails), I was convinced that actually I want to move to Denver. Here's why:
  • Overall fitness of the population. It got so I turned my head to look whenever I saw fat people they were so rare. Granted, I wasn't exactly hanging out a Culvers, but still it seemed like everyone we saw was fit and tan and good looking. I wouldn't mind an occasional walk down the street to see that kind of scenery.
  • Roving single-sex groups of friends or packs of not-paired up people my age. I'm surrounded by married people here in Minneapolis. It also seems like everyone does couple things all of the time here, so now that I'm in a period of not-being in a couple, I can only find situations where I'm some sort of extra wheel.
  • Mixed race couples. Segregation is so complete in Minneapolis, we don't see nearly as many mixed-race couples here as it seemed like I saw in Denver. Of course this is a very non-scientific sampling.
  • Mountains. It was a revelation to me when I first moved to Portland that you didn't have to live in the flat, boring part of the country. I got to see mountains outside every day. They looked mostly fake-y to me over there in Portland, and I can't say that I ever really got used to it, but the Denver ones looked more real. Maybe if I lived in Denver, I'd actually use the mountains to maintain my fit and healthy physique (perhaps going for hikes with my pack of female friends...)
However, if you know me at all, you know that my roots to Minneapolis run pretty deep, and I must say, Minneapolis in the Spring, Summer, and Fall is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Now, if only the people were more friendly and less xenophobic I'd consider it my utopia even with Winter.