This Place is Like Sea World

August 30th, 2005

It’s a new semester, and after a short hiatus from teaching, I’m back in front of students who look to me for some kind of guidance and wisdom and entertainment. At least they will never want for the latter. My 8 a.m. section of composition began like any other, with me trying to find whatever paperwork I needed among my compulsively organized but completely unfamiliar 10-tab binder system. Self-sabotage. Just what did I mean by “Possible Materials” when I printed out that neat and lovely label?

Trying to be cool, I sat on one end of the table in front of the room and talked for a while. It was then that I realized it was hot in that room, and even hotter for the dozen students hoping to add if others drop, all panting with longing, longing to learn! So I stood from the aforementioned table with the intention of walking to the door to prop it open.

It was then that my water bottle, sitting open on the other end of the table, launched into the air—like a baby from a see-saw shared by a sumo wrestler, like a liquid circus performer from a canon, like the mouthful of soda you take just before a friend finishes telling the funniest joke in the world—and exploded onto my papers and at two of the first-row students before spinning long enough on the floor to empty half its contents. Picture it now in s l o w … m o t i o n.

The students, unharmed, seemed worried, tense. I accepted this as what we like to call in the pedagogy business a “teachable moment.” “I’m very clumsy and awkward,” I taught them, “You’ll see more of this type of thing from me no doubt.” And we moved on. While they were writing their in-class assignments, I retrieved what I can only describe as Paper-Towels-Placed-by-God-on-the-A/V-Cart and did my best to eliminate the pool in the front of the room.

The moral here is “Don’t try to be cool.” I never seem to learn this one, despite years of hard lessons.

Sarah says these lucky students of mine experienced an event “sort of sitting in the front row at Sea World,” and I like to think that’s true. Meanwhile, I have another section to teach (of poetry), and then I’m off to the instructors’ meeting, where Sarah says I will have the best first-day story, and that I should “work it.” I’m considering stopping in the ladies’ room to douse my hair and clothes so that when I tell it to the other instructors, I can be like, “Oh my God, we were all drenched! It was a gallon jug of water, after all. I mean, look at me!”

Relaxed and Pummelled

August 30th, 2005

We returned from our trip relaxed and with great photos and headed down to San Onofre area for Sarah’s birthday camp-out. The camping was a little less than rough—freeway within view and a group of skater teens by the bathrooms day and night just hanging out—but the company and food were awesome, and the beach was sandy and sunny and sweet. The water was another story. It was full of rocks, which the powerful waves hurled at us repeatedly. Being the brilliant group we were, though, we were undaunted. So now we are bruised. But oh, the memories.


August 24th, 2005

We saw a side of Idaho we liked better. Central Idaho is neat. Lots of horses, public grazing lands full of cattle, and even some authentic (as authentic as you can be in 2005) cowboys. We spent the night in Salmon, Idaho, population 3,000 (a large town for this state, albeit an incredibly remote and isolated one). Salmon boasts, among other attributes, the Sacajawea Motor Sports Trail and is also the home of friend Ingrid, who made us a delicious dinner. This morning we forged on to Oregon. The easternmost part of the state was a little boring to drive through, but when we got to the Columbia River, we enjoyed driving along its banks on the highway for many hours. A giant river. Gorgeous sunset tonight.

During one of the boring hours, I asked Steve to do something to entertain me. “How many of these Saltines do you think I can put in my mouth at once?” he asked. I guessed four, then six when I realized he meant not to just wedge them in but to chew them up one at a time without swallowing them. Well, folks, my husband can fit not six, but SEVEN Saltines in his mouth at one time. Not only this, but he can then present a Saltine mold in the shape of the interior of his mouth. So clever. There’s no telling where we’ll go tomorrow. Since we explored Portland earlier this year, probably just south.


August 22nd, 2005

We’re in Idaho. So far, we miss Utah (but not so much the Great Salt Lake, it wasn’t all that). But we’re heading up to Central Idaho, where the views are supposed to be beautiful, and Ingrid awaits her visitors. We’re enjoying the convertible a lot. I’m coming up with a business plan to market a special brand of shampoo and conditioner just for people who ride in convertibles. Industrial Strength. Steve suggests the name “Hair-o-dynamics.” It’s for those who want that wind-blown look, but not necessarily that wind-blown-to-bits look.


August 22nd, 2005

Well, our vacation has begun! As planned, we left with NO PLANS—just got in the car and drove away. Last night, we ended up in Utah, outside Zion National Park. Indescribable. But the room in our hotel lent itself more to description: Log bed, balcony with canyon view, lobby with taxidermied wild animals. Today, we’re in Salt Lake City. We’re driving the convertible, so my hair has never looked worse. Steve and I are enjoying this a ton.


August 20th, 2005

Last night I dreamt that Steve and I found some photographs in which someone was clearly missing. We investigated and found that we had had a son, but he disappeared—from our lives and from our photographs and from our memory. We went searching in our memories for what happened to him and found that he had been a normal little boy until he became obsessed with something he thought he saw moving in a bush in our backyard. He began smearing his feces on the swingset to write messages to the thing. He told us it moved so fast we couldn’t see it and that you had to watch constantly in order to catch sight of it. He refused to leave the swingset, from which he could watch the bush. We tried everything. He stopped talking and eating. Then he turned into a plate of hot dogs. We put the hot dogs in a plastic bread box and tried to bring them inside the house so we could take them to a psychiatrist, but our hot dogs/son squeezed from the bread box and went to the bush and then went away with the thing that moved too fast to be seen. We were devastated, but almost immediately, our memories of our son began to fade away.

The Day I Accidentally Hiked NINE MILES

August 13th, 2005

I am here in gorgeous Albuquerque, New Mexico, for the National Poetry Slam. The slams have been exciting and fun. This is one lively, dorky crowd. Slammers like to PAR-TAY. Woo. I haven’t been too social this week, but I have been thoroughly entertained and inspired. Tonight is the finals in the competition, and it promises to be awesome.

Yesterday, my fellow road-trippers from Long Beach and I drove to the base of Sandia Peak to ride the world’s longest aerial tramway. The fantastic ride to the top included expansive views of the city of Albuquerque as well as of the mountain terrain below. We even spotted from the tram car the tiny speck of a bear struttin’ along in his wilderness.

At the top, we enjoyed the breathtaking view, cool temperatures and cloud mist. Ah. Nearby we spied a trailhead. As we embarked upon what we expected to be a mini-hikette, I glanced at the “map” of the trail, which indicated a loop. Perfect. We began casually walking, taking photos, enjoying the views. Soon I blazed ahead of my friends, ambitious to complete the loop. The trail got very rocky and downwardly steep, but I hiked on. It got mushy and damp, but I hiked on. After what seemed a long time, I began to wonder when the trail would curve. When it would, you know, loop. And also when it would head back UP toward the tram station. I encountered some people coming from the opposite direction, and they told me they had passed a fork not far back with a sign pointing the way to the upper tram station, so I forged on.

A few notes. Sadly, I was not dressed for much of a hike (although, thankfully, I had worn sneakers), and had no food or water. Blessedly, there was cell phone service on the mountain, and I was charged up. I called my friends to let them know I had gotten lost but was headed in the right direction now, and would be longer in getting back than planned. They had returned to the tram station and would wait.

Their wait would be longer than any of us imagined. I reached the fork the other hikers had mentioned. The sign read “2.8 miles to Upper Tram.” Ug. I had hiked quite far already. Since going back would involve what I estimated to be a similar distance, anyway (and UP the rocky slopes), I steered my feet as per the sign’s direction and forged on. The trail, however, kept going down. Down down down. And the cables of the tram-line were nowhere to be seen. Storm clouds rolled in. I didn’t encounter a soul in the way of other hikers. I thought about the bear.

I hiked on. After a long time, I encountered a new sign: “2.6 miles to Tramway Trail.” This went on. My friends talked to a ranger and gave me guidance by phone. I was clearly heading down the mountain to the LOWER tram station.

Anyway, I made it. I was sobbing and gagging, starving and dehydrated, but I made it. I went straight to my car, where I knew I had a gallon of water in the trunk. My next stop was the gift shop, where I bought a trail map to see where I had gone. I asked the cashier, how far of a hike from top tram station to bottom? Well, you already know the answer to that one.

I have to recognize my two travel companions, Noelle and Eitan, both of whom were stranded in boring tram stations with no way to get back to the poetry slam events for the many hours of my nitwitted exploration, and both of whom helped me by phone and then were such sights for sore eyes when I got back.

These travel companions are great car buddies, hotel room sharers and conversationalists. All of this on top of being two of the best poets I’ve known. We’re having a lot of laughs here in the high desert. And now is the part where I reveal on the Internet one secret about each that I’ve learned in rooming with them:

Eitan: Condition by Clairol 3-in-1 Extra Hold Mousse
Noelle: Pork rinds

And now I have to go tend to my incredibly aching muscles with an overdose of Ibuprofen. I’ll try to post some photos on bebo for those of you who have accounts. Meanwhile, take my advice. When the trail gets too rocky, do not hike on. Turn back, for the love of God.

A Bump in the Night

August 9th, 2005

Last night, middle of the night, I am awakened by a HUGE, I mean, ENORMOUS, I mean even bigger than Linus sound. BOOM! Naturally, I sat up and tried to wake my husband, who for the one and only time in our lives together was actually dead-asleep in the middle of the night. “Stevel! Stevel!” I said, “Something’s happening! I heard a huge BOOM!” He patted me on the arm and mumbled something about it’s being nothing. I tried several more times to convey to him my alarm, but it was no use. Good to know that should I ever hear the sounds of a break-in, I’ll be patted on my arm.

The last time I heard such a boom, I was in the bathtub. It wasn’t long after I’d moved here. I thought it WAS a break-in, and I thought I was done for. I stayed in the water until I was pruny, praying for forgiveness for all of the times I called my sister a bitch when we were teenagers and for the time when we were fighting and I lost my temper and threw her into a wall (I know those of you who know only me are shocked to hear this, but those of you who also know my sister—well, who knew my sister as a teenager—are shrugging and reading on, just as my sister is shrugging and reading on). Anyway, that time it turned out it had been an earthquake. New to California, I didn’t know that an earthquake feels less like a quarter’s worth of fun on a vibrating bed than like a normal ten seconds, except with a big BOOM thrown in.

So I assumed last night’s sound was also an earthquake. (Am I taking too long here to get to the point? I’ll be sure to ask forgiveness for that next time.) Anyway, it was this:

Discovery makes a picture-perfect landing at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

That’s about 130 miles from here. NASA, if you’re reading this, please remove the Villa Monica from the list of future potential emergency landing sites. I know we have that nice, flat roof, but that shit is too loud. Thank you.

Lots of Pots

August 7th, 2005

In case you wonder where I’ve been all week, I became fixated on moving the plants around on our patios, repotting and organizing. There was a lot of dirt everywhere. I bought some bamboo for the balcony, which the cats proceeded to ingest and throw up, but which looks really nice. Not much else has been going on. So much else SHOULD have been going on, but alas. Fixated.

Here’s a quote I heard one guy say to another guy as we passed them on the street down at the promenade yesterday: “I keep wantin’ to call all these women that get on the bus bitches and hos but you can’t do that anymore.” I concur.

Last Days

August 7th, 2005

Very cool looking movie, I just wished I was watching it at home with a fast-forward button is all.

The Hibernation Ends

August 7th, 2005

My ball python, Gin, finally decided winter was over and the week before last emerged from his upside-down flower pot. He yawned and began looking for food. Back to his old tricks, he has refused one out of two rats already. For those of you who don’t know this snake, here’s an introduction: I picked Gin from a litter of tiny, adorable snakes at a breeder’s house about five years ago. He was the runt, and the breeder tried to convince me to choose another hatchling. All of the others were bigger and more interactive; while the runt remained curled in a ball in a corner of the tank, the others came up to my hand when I put it in the tank to investigate and climb. But for some reason, I wanted the antisocial one. He’s a cool pet, don’t get me wrong. So interesting and beautiful, and he’s come out of his shell some. When I take him out of the tank, he makes his way up to my hair, where he likes to hide. But he’s never been a good eater. For a few months, I had to “assist feed” him, a process that involved basically slowly shoving a thawed baby ratling into his throat. Since then, I’ve had to try one trick after another to get him to eat. I won’t get into these, because they’re disgusting. His main problem is that he doesn’t seem to be able to locate the rat most times. I dangle the thawed rat into the tank, for example, on the right side, and Gin perks up and sticks his tongue out and starts looking for the source of the food-smell and focuses his search on the left side. Half the time, he locates the rat, lunges for it, sinks his teeth in, and curls around it to constrict it to death (again). Half the time, he just can’t seem to find it. Sometimes he even touches the rat but then moves on, still searching. Sometimes, he lunges at the glass side of the tank. Ouch. Even when he does take the rat, he spits it back out if I don’t immediately leave the room and vacate it of all cats and make sure it’s dark. He is a very picky one, and possibly a bit slow. Anyway, rest easy, everyone, because winter is over. My brilliant snake says so.