Waking up.
Coming home.
I'd forgotten how magical winter light is with snow on the ground and up the sides of the trees.
* * *
With the first significant snowfall yesterday evening, I'm oh so ready for December. So many snow-smiles today.

But November, now: I did it! I didn't publicize it, but I was doing NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month). I thought about trying my hand at NaNoWriMo again (Novel Writing), but I knew with every fiber of my being that it would not, could not go well. I barely managed a blog post a day, so forget seven pages of fiction.

I bent the rules early on. A post a day, before a midnight-deadline, was impossible. But thirty posts in thirty days is basically the same, and something I could manage. I backdated the late ones so that it would be obvious I had fulfilled my task—a post for every day, if not posted every day. If I'd had internet in my home, I might have kept the rules stricter, but sometimes there's just not enough energy left for a walk back to campus. With this post, I've hit the thirty-post mark. I've got the momentum back. I think, after all those false starts, I've brought the blog back.


Crunching Through December

It's horrible-time in horrible-land.

Okay, fine, sentences with meaning. It's crunch time in university-land. Exams, term papers, other papers. Sometimes you get to turn in five in nine days, and also become a year older and not really celebrate! If you are my boyfriend.

It's crunch time in my land, too, but I am crunching toward December 1st, not crunching toward sometime closer to Christmas. Maybe this crunching thing doesn't work as an extended metaphor. I did finally buy some potato chips yesterday! With the end of November end my blogging obligations. (Blobligations? Bloglibations? Neither!) (That syntax back in the non-parenthetical preceding sentence would totally work in German, instead of sounding almost cool but actually just wrong like it does in English.)

This post is the last thing I have to write tonight before I can trudge home through the sludge to my bed. When November ends, NaBloPoMo ends, and I can write without guilt spurring me on, and spend less time commuting to internet (especially once December 9th rolls around and internet is activated in my home). But my boyfriend is busy. Very, importantly busy. So with my new-found time, I am going to make things. I will cook dinners—everyone has to eat, so he can multitask when he sees me. I will cook things I haven't cooked before, and cook for just me. I will read some new books. And I am trying my hardest to hang out with friends. Movies, dinner, coffee shops, grocery shopping. You offer it, I'll take it. I offer it, you better take it.

Even though yesterday, my brother told me,
"this is death week though
fucking term paper
all the weeks are death weeks"
today, he invited me to eat delicious fried rice he's making on Thursday, and next week to an experimental more-authentic pasta alla carbonara. If I play my cards right, John could fill all my free time, be all my friends, and all my new cooking experiences.

No. He does work sometimes.

* * *

I lied. I have other things to do, deadlines to meet. What's with all these December birthdays? It's hard enough to think of and afford Christmas presents for everyone. In fact, I usually fail.

Saturday's birthday girl lives many states away, so her presents should be in the mail. Since they go by mail, her Christmas and birthday gifts should travel together. My sad busy boyfriend's birthday is Wednesday. I don't know which night, if any, I'm taking off to celebrate.

I have been working on card designs, and silly details to go along with things, and creative packaging materials. I'm not so clear on gifts. Once I make it past the early-December birthdays, there's a translation I want to do for someone, and photos to pick to print, and frames to find, and everything else to figure out. Christmas celebration number one is December 17th. There's not a lot of time!

Fact Into Fiction

I've gotten used to the loud raindrops that fall on the roof right on the other side of the wall from my pillow. A gutter spills or leaks from the third-floor roof onto my second-floor, almost flat roof, so that it drips even after the rain has stopped.

I wonder if I'll remember this, so that someday it will find its way into something else, where it can fill a gap and fit in.

Negative Anticipation

How do you overcome the end-of-vacation dread? Or, if you're me, end-of-tiny-one-day-weekend or sometimes simply end-of-Thursday dread, because Thursday is a nice, pleasant day, and Friday is not.

I had a great Thanksgiving break. Wednesday night, I got to go to IKEA and eat the new version of the Daim-Torte that has cream! on top under a layer of chocolate, and my boyfriend bought a couch. Which I will get to sit on! someday in the future when perhaps I, perhaps he, perhaps a team effort has put it together. And then my dad had cooked my brother John and me meatloaf for dinner. In the morning, my family actually left on time to drive to my cousins' in Lansing, where we drank delicious late Riesling and I ate my third Thanksgiving feast of the week. On Friday, I went to my five-year high school reunion, and it was actually really fun. It was actually too short, or maybe just too crowded by the end. (We agreed that no one had really gotten fat.) I spent Saturday morning catching up with a friend from my year in Germany, and the afternoon was the fourth and final Thanksgiving, complete with tasty apple crisp—there's something different at every one—and a timid cat who not only allowed, but asked me to pet her for the first time ever.

And then it was home again, home again. I was sullen because I didn't know how I wanted to spend those last few hours of freedom. I'd been in a bad mood all day, when not otherwise occupied, and I couldn't shake it. Like I've written before, it gets better once I'm in it, it being that stupid normal thing that happens all the time and yet I dread, but it's so hard to convince myself ahead of time. At work at the restaurant on Sunday, we were doing what you might term 'deep cleaning,' because there wasn't a lot of business, and cleanliness is great. They're not all pleasant tasks, but it was fine. I got some stupid satisfaction from making things clean, and I chatted with my co-workers between tasks. When I left work, I was in a good mood. Once I sat down in the computer lab, after standing for seven hours, I almost fell asleep. Then I almost had Panera for dinner, but it closes early on Sundays. Then I almost made Kraft mac and cheese for dinner, but—surprise ending!–I had dinner with a friend and her mom who had just finished seeing a movie at my favorite theater, and everything was nice. I just wish I had been able to avoid the negative anticipation of the day before.

How can a regular human being like me avoid it? Or—why are vacations so seldom long enough?

Correlation, Causation, Nope

Apparently, the Rudolph who attends the Grosse Pointe Thanksgiving Parade (and delivers the presents to little Grosse Pointers?) hasn't grown his full antlers yet. He looks pretty sad.
If reindeer delivered fresh-baked bread to Trader Joe's, I could blame Rudolph or Santa or Dasher or Dancer or Prancer or Blitzen for there being no fresh bread that day. They were too busy showing off at the parade.

Festivity and Tree Troubles Anticipated

I remember this commercial from last year fondly. Such pleasant Christmasy sights and sounds. Such a funny little quivering rein-dog at the end. Drew, let's get some Stella. Heyyy, advertising.
In the minds of the semi-insane, it is now justifiably Christmastime. I agree with the lights on the trees—they can go up as soon as the leaves are gone, in my opinion, so they can start saving us from winter despair—and decorated storefronts are acceptable, considering consumerism and all that. (They were not acceptable at Halloween.) 

But my family will never have a Christmas tree before the 22nd or so. We make up for it by leaving the tree up forever once it's there, because lights are nice, and who wants to put the ornaments away? Emma and I did it differently. Knowing we would be gone from Ann Arbor at the crucial Christmas-tree time, we got them the first week of December or so, to make the most of the purchase and prolong the holiday joy. We then suffered as a result of those ten- or fifteen-dollar Scotch Pines for the rest of the year. There were always more needles to be vacuumed.
This is one of my favorite Christmas photos. Taken at the Weihnachtsparty ( = Christmas party) senior year.

Those Scotch Pines at Home Depot were the cheapest trees we could find. We wanted smallish trees, because full-sized trees awaited us (or at least me—Emma and her mom like cute, manageable trees) at home. My current apartment requires something much smaller, though, and I think that means I have to buy a living tree. The best way to get a tiny evergreen is one in a pot, for a lot more than fifteen dollars, but I don't want a fir tree of my own, to plant where afterward? We have too many trees in my parents' backyard as it is. So I might get a houseplant sort of tree and hang lights on it. Maybe a Norfolk Pine. My dad brought one of those home for Christmas one year, along with a traditional Douglas Fir. The Norfolk came with extremely lightweight, somewhat tacky, little gold-colored ornaments that attached with golden pipecleaners, which we saved to use every Christmas until the tree got too big for our house and he donated it to city hall. I hadn't thought about my small array of ornaments being too heavy for a non-traditional Christmas tree. I want to use them. Maybe I'll have to take Emma's advice and get a silly little, totally fake, white or silver tree.

Let's All Get Couches!

I am thankful for my red leather Klippan* couch, which is truly a dream come true for me. Not everyone likes IKEA, not everyone likes this iconic model, which is mainly known as a cheeeap couch, not everyone likes leather. I don't really like leather. But when I saw this couch the first time, I knew I had to have it. If I entered and won that $500 IKEA sweepstakes, that beautiful beautiful gift card would have bought me my $500 red leather Klippan. At the time, it seemed like an exorbitant amount to spend on a couch that's not even that big (it only comes in Klippan-"loveseat," which while bigger than a loveseat, is not as big as Klippan-"sofa"**). It would be a frivolous purchase, even if it waited until I was older with a job and things. Because it's red, and leather, and a little silly. But someday, I would own it—my future self, who has $500 to spend on a single item. (Can I talk to you, future self, about some things you could buy for me?) The couch would last, and then when I became more serious and needed more couches and a real life and had children and new boring concerns, maybe it would be moved into the bedroom, where it would be a wardrobe-extension by day (putting clothes away is hard), occasional site of refuge, reading in the bedroom with the door firmly shut, by night. It would be the symbol of a wilder youth.

My youth, you guys—it has been so wild. Still, the couch would be a prize, held onto and cherished and hidden from children who might throw up on it or scratch it. I imagine that children are loads of fun all the time, you see.

But lo, a miracle. $250 advertised on Craigslist. $220 in person. Used, but gently. It's the second year of my dream couch and I still love it.
Moving it (and my super cheap IKEA sofabed stacked on top, and my bedding and my popcorn maker and my printer and my fan and my everything) in my parents' minivan to Emma's and my attic apartment, last August, not this August that just happened. My dad is a great packer.
I'm also thankful for Table Cat, even if he is blocking the view of my couch. Ah, attic living.
I'm thankful for this delicious turkey soup, made from the carcass of the turkey my boyfriend's mom made. Yum yum. So lovingly separated for me from the rest of the broth before unnecessary vegetables were added to it. It kept me happily fed those last two days before heading homeward.
Thank you, friend, boy-, soup-maker, for cooking that carcass for seven hours until I got to enjoy that wondrous turkey broth. (I will, apparently, never type 'broth' without typing 'brother' first.) Even if you hide from photos that incriminate you as a wearer of sunglasses, you did pay for an entire day of me in Toronto, complete with you reading the maps, me sleeping on a beach in the Beaches, each of us eating two scoops of some of the best ice cream ever, and all the rest, just because I turned a year older sometime in the past month.

Thank you for actually picking out and purchasing your couch after three trips to IKEA in as many months. Such a feat. Even if yours isn't quite a dream come true. Let's all get couches!

*Recently discontinued, as I revise this in 2015.
**I'd forgotten there used to be Klippans bigger than 2-seats, but I assume this was also once true.

Where Are My Potato Chips?

Yesterday was never-ending rain.
Today is sunshine.
I've seen potato chips on two separate desks in this office. Clipped shut. Abandoned.
Can I just eat some chips and leave while there's still light?

Packing Is the Worst

I'm trying to pack for Thanksgiving. Tomorrow I've got a haircut, a phone date (hi Ali!), work, and then a ride home (hi Emma!), perhaps with a detour to IKEA. So basically, there's no time tomorrow and I need to do my dishes and pack tonight. But that means I have to come up with the clothes I want to wear to all these occasions with real people at them, people I don't see all the time, occasions where I don't just wear one of my boring uniforms (in other words, I'm not going to wear mayo-streaked black pants soaked in the greasy air of a commercial kitchen and a baseball cap, nor am I going to wear grey khakis and respectable flats and a sweater) but instead wear clothes that are nice. Or, like, one of my two pairs of black flats, but the cute ones that can't go out in the rain, and the same jeans I wear whenever I don't have to work, because they are THE ONLY JEANS LEFT, and then that turtleneck sweater I got three Saturdays ago and have worn EVERY SATURDAY SINCE. (Not this Saturday, I swear.)

But there are two Thanksgivings to go, and a high school reunion. That means, hopefully, three different outfits. Plus something to wear to IKEA and to get my glasses adjusted on Friday so I don't look permanently crooked at the reunion/for the rest of the year. I'm sick of being crooked. And when am I coming back to Ann Arbor? What am I doing in the time that's not already violently scheduled? Probably being violently mauled by my Isabel, in which case I will just wear sweatpants and clothes I can leave behind because they are covered in her fur.

I was sitting on my couch last night, staring at my open closet, trying to convince myself to deal with this wardrobe situation and not watch a second or third or fourth episode of 30 Rock (I stopped before four), when I realized that a substantial number of the items hanging before me were five years or more old, just like my high school diploma. There's pretty much no way I'm not using my black leather purse this weekend—the one I picked out for Christmas senior year of high school. I don't think anyone will remember, or care, but most girls have more than two purse options for going to the bar. I pretty much only have one I would consider for this weekend, and its handle is dried out and cracking, its lining has black ink from an exploded pen all over it, and I've been carrying it for nigh on six years. The other options are too schooly, too summery, too utilitarian, or too fancy. (Where's my -y word for 'utilitarian'?) Then again, maybe I don't need a purse for an open bar, just a license and a cell phone. But then I have to wave my cell phone around all night, because I will not have it bulging out of my pocket.

I always assumed I wouldn't go to a five-year reunion. It seemed like it would be too early to care. Too early to have succeeded at anything, if reunions are about showing that you are great! and not fat! and not alone! like TV shows always tell us (including 30 Rock, this evening, playing on my computer screen). We have Facebook, so we've got some sort of handle on the lives of most of the people we care about. Except for the ones that made their Facebooks tiny-profile-, no-wall-only. Or the ones we missed in that friending-rampage that shook the internet when we graduated and made our college profiles, and then couldn't just friend later, because it was weird to do it later, even if they were in more of your classes than those other people who friended you, who you never really talked to.

Anyway. Reunions. Weird. I was reading some advice column or something on the Hairpin the other day, and whoever was dispensing advice said something like, "College friend? Why does he still care about his college friends? They stop being your friends after like five years." I was flabbergasted. Or some emotion less silly-sounding. I thought college friends were supposed to last. My situation isn't totally normal, in that some of my closest college friends are my best high school friends, in which case they transcend those labels and are just my best friends, leaving room for other people to be best college friends, but still. I make friends seriously. For keeps, maybe.

I'm excited to see the friends (hi Sarah!) I know I'm going to see at the reunion. As long as no one asks me what I'm doing. And no one thinks I look fat.

That was a joke! Mostly! What am I going to wear?!

Maybe I Should Make a 'Transportation' Label

This is my bike. Not the lovely, white, somewhat antique Peugeot in the back; it's the beat-up Huffy in front. I've had it since sometime in high school—all my other bikes were tied to birthdays, so I can pin them down, but not this one. There was my first bike, on my fifth birthday, an extremely 80s white one with thin black squiggles of wild paint and fluorescent yellow wheels surrounded by white tires. I think we tried to name it Zebra at some point, but naming bikes doesn't really work for me. The next one was Black Beauty, or maybe the Black Stallion (not so feminine, nor beautiful), but that name didn't stick either. It was a black Magna with yellow and orange bits. On that bike, I finally learned to balance on two wheels, and then to start the bike rolling on my own, at which point I convinced my parents I could have a proper girls' bike that I wouldn't have to pass on to my brother. I was turning nine years old. This bike came with a name, "Glamour Girl," as well as shiny streamers on the handles and serious glitter you could feel as little bumps when you ran your hand along the shiny turquoise body. The color and the glitter outweighed the stupid name; though eventually, I had to rip the streamers out and peel off the Glamour Girl and all other associated labels.

My dad bought me my current bike less than two years after he bought me my first full-size bike, which was a nice, dark purple with a comfy, wide old-lady seat. Once I realized that was something to be embarrassed about, I was, but I also loved that bike. (I wish the current one was as comfy as that one was.) My dad has a habit of forgetting to close the garage door; one night, that cost me my bike. So we went to K-Mart, I think, and I chose this purply-blue Huffy (historically a favorite color of mine) with thick curves inspired by old-fashioned bikes and a matte finish (still with subtle glitter). It turned out that a water bottle doesn't fit in the normal place because of the way the bike curves; the lack of space can also make locking it difficult, since I use a thick lock with little give. The suedey finish on the bike seat, soft and appealing when I first got it, has dried out, cracked, lost a layer, and now soaks in all moisture it meets. If I leave a plastic bag on the seat overnight to protect against rain, I'm confronted with a wet seat inside from condensation. It takes forever to dry out. The handles are cushioned by foam, which, like the seat, has dried out and holds in moisture. The gears don't like me very much, and my back brake—you know, the important one—needs to be fixed again.

Still, it's essential. My bike keeps me within ten minutes of everywhere I regularly need to be, as it has for the past two years (excluding Detroit, an important destination for the past year if not anymore, but one that required my dearly departed Honda). I am, with my bike, less than ten minutes from the train station. Both jobs, my brother, my boyfriend. If there was anywhere I actually liked to buy groceries in this radius, I'd be set. Still grumpy, but more contentedly self-sufficient. Between downtown and campus, it's usually faster to bike than to drive, anyway, partially because traffic laws feel flexible when you're on only two wheels.

But I kind of hate it. I hate the hills in Ann Arbor. I hate how I bike up the same ones, day in and day out, and it never gets easier. I keep doing it, and I keep getting exhausted. We lived for a year at the bottom of a hill, and every day I biked to class—often in the rain, sometimes in the snow—I had to pedal up that hill. It felt like it took forever to reach Hill Street (ha ha) and be able to catch my breath and charge forward onto campus and to class. Coming home, though—it was great. To work hard to get to class, a place I usually didn't really want to be, made sense in some way. It was unlikely I would enjoy the way there, but the way home was fantastic. I raced down East University once, sometimes two times a day. If the street was dry, the traffic sparse, I'd let go of the handlebars completely and fly down the hill. Sometimes I dared keep my hands off even at the curve, so I could practice steering, not just balancing, simply with my body.

These days, I bike on busy streets, steeper, faster hills, in the wind and the rain (and the snow, as of last week). On these streets, I'm too cautious to fly, and I don't really want to bike for fun when I've been biking back and forth all day. It's also cold. If I were writing this in the spring, it might be different. Now walking feels like a treat sometimes. My impatience and my chronic tardiness are the reasons I bike so much more than I walk. Even if I don't have to be somewhere as soon as possible, my instinct is to pedal pedal pedal, make as many lights as I can, and be done. I'm better at relaxing while walking than biking, though again, the cold makes me want to get from A to B with the utmost speed. It's also easier to keep your pants dry when your legs aren't perpendicular to the sky.

Thanksgiving 2011, Part II of IV

Yesterday we had Thanksgiving with my boyfriend's mom and brother, before heading to Cranbrook. Today, I took off the last hour and a half of work at the restaurant so I could make it to my brother John's apartment in time for the appetizers at his and his roommate's lovely Thanksgiving—which was the site of my brother's first turkey attempt. It was a success, and the gravy was, in one guest's words, the "best [she'd] ever had."
Skins in mashed potatoes is a crime in my book. But never fear—you can bake the skins with oil and enjoy them, instead of throwing them in the trash! This was a revelation for some of us.
The great tragedy of the evening was that the double-batch of corn casserole, which is a must for any Thanksgiving meal John attends, failed to bake in a timely matter. The shape of dish and the sheer mass of it resulted in a jiggly mass of corn muffin mix, sour cream, and canned as well as creamed corn hours after it should have been done. The crispy edges that baked were still delicious. But I, foolishly thinking my stomach was recovering from the meal, ate two buttery little morsels of it. And I could feel how there wasn't any space free for them.
The table was beautiful (complete with name cards!), thanks to Rachel, his roommate, and the mulled white wine sangria was delicious. We finished it all off with raspberry chiffon and apple pie—prettier in person, I promise.
Eventually, I ventured forth toward bed. I cannot convey to you the pain of biking with Thanksgiving in your stomach.

This Evening

...we went to the newly-reopened Cranbrook Art Museum. We couldn't find the entrance, at first, because the original entrance is opposite the library entrance pictured above. We knew it was supposed to be the original entrance. But it looked so dark, that we went looking for another one at first. But you should know, if you go there, that the entrance is up there, past the fountain that my night-photography skills couldn't capture. And it's nice.

It's open a few more days—11 days from 11/11/11, 11 hours each day.

Chez Moi

I've lived in my new apartment, the first home I've had all to myself, for almost three months now, and yet so few people have seen it, it seems. I guess I introduced my desk, and another brief glimpse of my bedroom back in October, but it's time to unveil the oasis.

What? If it's being unveiled, it must be exciting, like an oasis. It certainly isn't large, so that angle's out, nor is it impeccably decorated. I'm trying, but there are gaps. When you boil pasta or take a shower, it is steamy like a jungle , and it is an island of warmth in this cold, cold sea. It's hard to fit the whole bed+living room in one photo, because, well, it's just so small. And cozy!
This photo from when I was in Ireland needs to go on the wall between the window and the cabinet.
Here are the gaps I'm talking about. I've got a map for over the desk, one framed poster (Croatian naive art bought in Zagreb!) to go over the couch, but it needs a collage of other frames (to be purchased) with it to fill that massive space—I have nine-foot ceilings! My obliging father painted it for me, and he just brought a paint bucket to stand on, because it was easier than a ladder and worked at home. At home, we have eight-foot ceilings. Thank goodness my landlord keeps a painting ladder in the basement.
My cantilever chairs are antiques. I'm so cool. My parents bought them in the seventies when they moved into their first apartment together (also in Ann Arbor). My dad says they're from the beginning of the twentieth century. He helped me I helped him reupholster them for Emma and me to use last year. Can't wait 'til Deutschland is on the wall. The pastels of the different Bundesstaaten (states) go great with my "ice cube" walls. They're so pale they don't quite show up right in these photos, but you can take my word that they're lovely. Oh, and that hallway is my breakfast-lunch-dinner nook, which leads to the kitchen and then the bathroom. But those are for another time.
 Close-up of my ivory velveteen curtains (which I still have to hem). Funny story—I washed the velveteen for the curtain for the little window over the bed, to pre-shrink it, and when I took it out of the dryer, the raised leaf pattern was gone! Thank goodness I didn't shrink the big curtains.
These are my lovely Simply Shabby Chic sheets, which were discontinued before I moved, causing much anguish. But I found them on eBay, and now can happily coordinate with my walls.
The biggest question: where will I fit a Christmas tree; or: where will I find a tree small enough to fit?

I Need More Friends, Feline or Otherwise

 Yesterday I stopped to visit my kitty friends on my way to Nickels Arcade, where I intended to and did enjoy a pain au chocolat. (Side note: how can anyone get anything done at Comet? The baristas were chat chat chatting away with the customers, and there were so many people going back and forth, that I couldn't stop listening and watching. It was great, but I didn't get a lot of reading done.) I met with early success—the mother cat retreated to under the porch, and the kitten, lulled by my flicking-leaves-with-leaf-stems ways, allowed me to pet its head and its chin and its back. It didn't quite get that it was supposed to enjoy it though. I tried to pick it up, but the mother's head popped out, hissing ferociously, so I gave up.
She hates me.

Well Maybe Just Half a Drink More

You know what's great? Sidecars. Look how goldy that beautiful thing is. Look how pretty, the sugar rim. And the shadow!

If only the Coach Insignia, the restaurant at the top of the Ren Cen, was less boring-slick and more cozy-fancy. It's still a great stop on a birthday night (that was almost six months ago but I can still bring it up), and you can't beat the view in this part of the world. It's even better to have a Detroit expert with you, but either way you're so high in the sky and there are so many lights forever, because that's how this giant metro area works.

We were there on the weekend (two weekends ago already!) with Emma and Ali and Drew. Drew's friend joined us, taking a break from night three (?) of the anime convention taking place in the building. Why I didn't take photos, I don't know, but there were teenagers and not-teenagers in all sorts of costumes running all over the place. Not so much in the restaurant. We didn't see many people who were old enough to drink, and if you're doing it all weekend, you probably don't want to be paying Coach Insignia prices. Cocktails, all weekend! Nope.
Ali and Drew posed perfectly. It was their last dating anniversary—next year, they'll be married! I don't know why they wanted to spend it with us, but I enjoyed it. The photos with me in them failed, so I shall allow them to fade out of memory.

Ali's drink was also pretty. It was pomegranate liqueur and champagne. Not as good as the nineteen-dollar Kir Royale I had once by accident (the accident was the price, not the drink). Drew passed up drinks for a huge, delicious piece of apple pie. Also not pictured, because I'm not used to keeping up with my blog.

Now comes the part where we think about winter.
This is what's coming. I'm sure of it. Sunsets, and broken-up ice the whole width of the river. And down coats with fur-trimmed hoods—I got one this year. I'm ready. Just like Emma, pictured above.

My ice-cold indoor nose is not ready, however. I get that computers are hot, but do they have to air-condition the Fishbowl this much? Glühwein, anyone? Such a nice word. Glow-wine. Mmm.

Stream of Consciousness and Stone-Ground Wheat Crackers

I really want to eat those Trader Joe's stone-ground wheat crackers I have in my cupboard at home. Let's be honest here—I want to eat those crackers with generous portions of butter on each one.

I want to want some decadent ice cream, but the truth is that I probably wouldn't enjoy my crazy fudge moose tracks fancy store brand ice cream as much as those crackers with butter. I'm cold. The Fishbowl, that famed computer lab where, the tour guides tell you, "I've never had to wait for a computer," even though the Mac section with seats is usually almost or completely full, and the PC side not much better, is so cold.

My strawberry banana with pineapple juice smoothie (smoothie 4A!) is also cold. My fingers are very cold. If I had internet of my own, I could write you a blog post that was about something, because I could be warm and reclining on my couch at the same time. I was supposed to have internet today. But the website lied, the service it sold me is no longer offered in my area, and though I will eventually receive a Visa rebate card for the stupid expensive modem I have to buy, I have to wait until the ninth of December for it to be activated. (Can you guess how excited I am to buy a $100-item during holiday-shopping-time, and not get the rebate Visa card until after holiday shopping is over? Bad timing.)

UPS delivered the setup package for the other, simple DSL to me today anyway. I was excited to get a package—could it be cookies from New York? Something else from New York? (My favorite aunt lives in New York. State.) No, it's instructions and cords for internet that I don't get to have. Thank you, AT&T.

I finished the current Outlander book I was on. Safely landed on the coast of Georgia, thank goodness. Books like that are addictions. I got within forty pages of the end and there was no way to stop. So I'm waiting, a bit, before I start the fourth book. I don't want it to go too fast. (At the same time, I want to read other books, Literature of Merit, Foreign Language Literature, that thing I guess I'm trying to translate for a competition eeeeeeeeee, seriously,  that's how I feel.) It can't really go too fast, because there are four books left, at this point. Two of which I haven't read before! But the tunnel vision, that great need to be reading the book—I've got to stave it off for a bit or else I might not think about anything else. And then what will I blog about for the rest of this demanding month?

So I'm going to bike home, stick that disc of 30 Rock in my laptop, and eat some buttered crackers. Two episodes to go before I have to return it tomorrow. So doable!

I can't believe there aren't any pictures of those crackers on the internet. In the first few rows of Google Image results. How?

Not A Fellini Film

Did you do your homework? Just kidding.

In another life I would be your girl
We keep all our promises be us against the world
In another life I would make you stay
So I don't have to say you were the one that got away

For now, unlike Katy Perry in this song, I don't need another life where I would "make [him] stay," because I'm in the relationship-continues-to-exist universe. Hear that, honey? Our relationship continues to exist. In a good way!

There's been an awful lot of Katy Perry playing on Pandora in the kitchen where I work. And I'm okay with that, okay, because sometimes, Katy Perry is great. And by sometimes, I mean usually, especially if it's "Teenage Dream." I agree one hundred percent with what this Hairpin writer has to say about "Teenage Dream" in this incredibly long but interesting post about Marilyn Monroe:
Niagra [sic] also has an amazing scene where, when asked why she put on a particular song, Monroe replies “There are no other songs.” I know the feeling, Marilyn. That’s how I responded when people asked me why I listened to Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” for five weeks straight.
Except five weeks? I think it was longer for me. The release of "Teenage Dream" as a single coincided with the first month of our relationship being official, as well the first month of my living independently again after a summer with my parents, which made things less teenagery and much better. Anyway, the sentiment fit and it was SO CATCHY. Finding "Teenage Dream" on the radio was often my primary form of entertainment on the drive from Ann Arbor to Detroit on Friday nights.

But I'm not writing about "Teenage Dream," because there isn't much to say about that. "Teenage Dream" is straightforward. Love, happiness, skin-tight jeans. "The One That Got Away" is a fraction less obvious. Oh god, I just watched the video. Katy Perry in old-person makeup. Death. Did not interpret that song the way the video did. Did not interpret it very much at all. See, it's less obvious than "Teenage Dream," because there are multiple interpretations. You can lose someone to your being a bitch, to another woman, or to death. What's even less obvious is why I'm using a song about losing the love of your life to write about my current relationship. But it made me think about it, so you're gonna have to deal.

The thing is, we dated before. We dated for a couple months in our final year as teenagers, at the dangerous age of nineteen. Uh oh, I promise I didn't see another song coming, but this one is unavoidable in my personal mythology. And the Old 97's are great.

Nineteen is not the age of reason
I didn't have a reason for setting you free
I've seen a lot of love go sour
But that's not our love, you see the problem was
I was only nineteen

He was at the end of nineteen, I was at the beginning, and we'd both been dating other people, long-distance, the first year of our friendship. That detail isn't really relevant, that we'd met each other while attached. I guess it's relevant in that those broken friendships continued to affect us after we got together. I'd been dating my first boyfriend, my high school boyfriend, up until two weeks before we suddenly but also not-so suddenly leapt into a relationship and proceeded to float on the surface for a little while, before he called it quits and I acquiesced, quietly, then finished falling apart on my own. Nineteen was hard. Most of my friends agree that sophomore year of college was something like torture (except maybe Andrew in some random Facebook outburst where he declared he wanted to go back to sophomore year, but even he does agree with me when in the right frame of mind, and maybe he was being a masochist, anyway). There were money problems, and future problems, and friend problems, and no-longer-boyfriend problems, and those in turn led to sleep problems, and that's no good. (For my pride, which still exists even though I at one point declared that "I won!", I would like to state here that the insomnia preceded the breakup. If anyone's counting.)

It had started on the internet in the agony of the summer that preceded sophomore year, when we lived with our parents again. It started sitting next to each other on the impressively wooden-looking dorm room floor with an illicit bottle of wine, only two wine glasses, and several more people. It started sitting on my new couch, probability says it was after a Fellini film but I'm guessing that wasn't true in this case, with that request that guys usually only have to make to girls who are scared of their first kiss, or in this case, scared of their first kiss with not their first boyfriend. I'd really like to kiss you. I was a bundle of nerves, for one reason or another, for at least six months, not that the relationship lasted anywhere near that long.

My friends told me that we might get back together. We'd probably get back together. Then it was that we would never get back together and even if he wanted to, we shouldn't, and I had to forget and move on and give up. He left for South America, I for Europe. I let go, I even forgot the feelings I had had, but not entirely. There were too many words I could remember if I tried.

You should come over in a little while, otherwise I might take a nap. I might just fall asleep too. That's why we go so well together.

Ali, endless romantic, never really lost hope. She'd send me love stories from blogs whose entire archives I later read. But the first posts I read by those bloggers were about meeting his now-wife sophomore year before leaving to study abroad; her then-boyfriend, years before they dated, with years of an ocean and other boyfriends and girlfriends between them. Proof, that it could happen and did happen and would happen.

And somehow, she was right. He didn't get away, not yet. Eventually, we were done with college, we were both single, and we weren't being too crazy. We were living in different cities when it started, and I proceeded to move to his city as he was moving closer to mine. But it happened.

P.S. Maybe Emma should help me do a post about our favorite Emma-developed cocktail, the "Teenage Dream." It's a variation on the Fountain of Youth, and so delicious. It may involve juice with corn syrup, though. Sometimes, that's all Meijer will give you.

P.P.S. So the Katy Perry tie-in was weak one. Let's be honest. I just have "The One That Got Away" stuck in my head, and I wanted to talk about my boyfriend.

Prereqs for Monday's Post

I'm sure most of the world doesn't care, but this could be important for what I'm posting Monday night. Two are songs I love, two are from a more-than-platinum album, two involve teens. Correction: Two sets contain the same two songs. All three are catchy. Riddle me this!

Old 97's – Nineteen

Katy Perry – The One That Got Away

Katy Perry – Teenage Dream


I went on an early afternoon walk to breathe in the air and soak in the sun (not an activity approved for my skin type) and maybe entice some cats into my loving shadow. Either this yellow ginkgo tree or some chubby squirrel arms were the best part (all cats encountered were otherwise occupied).
I and my reluctantly functioning computer have been sitting with this view, but the sun is diminishing and I think I should go back outside before my chance for sunlight is gone. Two days ago it was snowing and I was trying out my new down coat; today I'm wearing a cashmere sweater for a jacket, but who knows how long this can last.

Plus I was going to bake some banana bread and think about going out to dinner. Saturdays are the best.

Goddamn, It's Friday

I know, I know, I'm a twisted individual. It's Friday! The week's over! Exhale, change out of your work clothes, and have a drink. Go to a movie, an art gallery. Read a book in bed for the next twelve hours and then sleep until 1 pm.

No, don't do that, you will be so tired and then it will be practically dark again by the time you've gotten dressed and had breakfast.

But Friday, for me, is the worst. You'd think I'd be used to closing Friday nights at the restaurant. This is what, my eleventh month doing it? Before, though, I had Saturday and Sunday off so I could spend it with my boyfriend. You have to get your priorities right when you're in a long-distance relationship, no matter how long the distance is. Before, I just worked the six- or seven-hour closing shift, sweeping and mopping my way to weekend freedom. Now, I work at the law firm for four hours--easy, I know--bike over to campus, eat reluctant Italian-inspired dinner, maybe read a bit, and start working by six. I usually get home after eleven and want nothing but my bed, after over ten hours apart from it.

The biggest problem, though, is the ANGER. It's like the time I closed the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. I volunteered to do this. And then I was standing there at the register, let's say 6 p.m., and it's black outside. And no one is coming into the restaurant. (I was actually probably scrubbing the inside of a refrigerator because there were so few customers.) Why, you ask? Why? Because it's Thanksgiving! They are on their way to or already with their families, you dummy! Why are you working? But it was just one time. I was okay. I went to the parade in the morning, and Thanksgiving went on.

This is almost EVERY FRIDAY. I have to serve jerks! Who can afford to eat out! On Friday! And add extra toppings, ninety-nine cents a pop! And a pop to drink! I don't buy drinks on Friday night. I scrape creamy marinara sauce out of bowls and wash them in soapy bleach-water that turns my hands to painful red monsters. On Friday night! And then I only have one day off before everything starts again.

Of course, I chose Friday night. I wanted one day completely off, and I picked Saturday, and that is my fault. It is also my fault that I haven't tried to get a Real Job that pays Real Money. Okay. You win.

So go forth, all ye who have the night off, and have a great time, while I try my best to reset my head to forget it's Friday so I don't scowl all night. Either way, don't come near me after 9 p.m. I will stab you with a to-go fork, or smother you with a to-go bag, because YOU DON'T NEED TO EAT HERE I WANT TO GO HOME TAKE YOUR FOOD WITH YOU BUT DON'T TAKE A BAG WHEN YOU ONLY HAVE ONE BOX TO TAKE WITH YOU, YOU INSENSITIVE EARTH-WRECKER.

Okay. No. It's just funnier this way. I'm okay. I can breathe. I'm gonna go enjoy some fettuccine alfredo. With broccoli, so I don't die.

Give Me a Home Where the Catamounts Roam

Today, when I got out of work at the law firm, it was snowing. Not the weird pellet-snow that it started with, but actual snow, wet snow, and I had a broccoli to buy and a bike to ride. (You may be noticing this is a theme in my life. I mean the bike and inclement weather.) The only problem with the broccoli is that it is so sad to stop biking and go into a warm, dry place, and then have to leave it to hop back on the bike and get your glasses and pants wet some more before you get to be home. Also the broccoli at the co-op, surprise!, was sort of brown-y and weird on top and also in huge huge stalks that one person cannot eat fast enough when she has two super-long-have-to-eat-at-the-greasy-restaurant days in the next four, so I didn't buy any, and they also had no reasonably-sized potatoes, and then I just had bread and cheese for dinner. With some orange juice, but no pulp, so I will die unhealthy. (That will actually probably be true, when it happens.) So it seems I could have skipped that tragic stop in my tragic ride in the light snow—it wasn't tragic, it was so much better than yesterday's pouring rain.

The point is that I was looking forward to being in my warm home with its overactive radiator and its coat rack newly on the wall (!!) and everything mine mine mine, everything in its proper place, because I tidied up last night or whenever it was. It's such a good feeling to sit down on your bed and take off your coat—okay, normally you probably want to take off your outerwear before you reach the bedroom, but my bedroom is my living room, so not a lot can be done—and put the important pocket-contents (keys, bike light, phone) in their proper places next to the other things in their proper places.
But it's not as good a feeling to look down at the carpet and the computer cord snaking across it and think how a little furry black head would be turning the corner and rubbing up against your legs if you'd just give him the chance. Well. The image is a little off. Haroun would be sleeping on the bed, and probably not get up. Table Cat would have been waiting at the door as soon as he heard feet coming up the stairs, so he would have followed me from my door to my bed. Living in a studio—no, let's call it a 2.5-room apartment—would probably intensify his need to see what's beyond the door—so he might have darted out into the so! exciting! bone-white painted! brown carpeted! weird-smelling! (that's why he'd do it) hallway.

So I imagined my closest kitty friends being in my life today, and you might say it hurt my heart a little if you were cutesier than I, but I've mostly hardened myself to the thought. I've met some kittens a block over, kittens and their little cat mother and sibling from another litter, kittens who live under a porch and need homes for the winter. I know the people in the apartment below me have cats; I've seen them peeking through the gap in the curtains and said silly cat-things to them in my silly, high-pitched cat-voice. I can't help it. I say hi to my kitten not-friends every time I bike past their porch, even if I can't see any of them. Even if I could convince my landlord to let me, though, I can't adopt a cat.
The practical: The apartment is small. A kitten needs space to bounce off the walls. Table Cat would need space to feel like a panther. Haroun might be content to waste away in near-constant indolence, true. But there's also no place to put a litter box, unless I wanted to smell urine and watch Haroun dig for treasure (maybe you don't want to hear about Haroun's issues?) while cooking my meals six inches away.

The crazy: I care too much about the cats I've already lived with. I was torn when I felt my childhood cats falling behind the college cats in my affection, but it was too late. Haroun and Table were my day-to-day life, sometimes the only living bodies in my apartment with me. When I get my next cat, I give up my claim to Emma's cats, whom she really didn't want to let me name (I got Haroun at least), whom she really didn't want me to have. Who aren't mine. But I don't want to let them go.

The considerate: I'm often gone. I work two jobs, and I go to my boyfriend's, which is just far enough across town to make lazy me want to stay put, and I'm only one person. Emma's cats were outraged when I left for the weekend. Heck, I think they were outraged when she left for class while I was at work. I don't have any big future plans right now, but if I did, I wouldn't want to abandon my cats for six months or a year. My parents wouldn't want to take them. Ali's dog would eat them.
But the biggest thing is that they wouldn't understand. You can't tell a cat you're going away for a while, but you'll come back for him. You can't call him up on Skype and have a really good purr-fest together, then catch him up on all the cheeses he hasn't licked while you were in the bathroom. Sane people tell me that cats don't remember. But I know they recognize me. You should have heard Haroun meow at me through the screen when I would go see them in the summer while Emma was in Poland, and they lived across the street from me. If you heard him, you'd swear he was in agony and only I could save him.

And Isabel. My Isa-kitten, who made a mess in my parents' bed the day we got her and was subsequently banished to the bathroom, who I rescued from her mewing solitary sadness and ever since, she slept next to my head, taking up half the width of the bed. Until I went to college, that is, and stopped coming home on weekends and for the summer. When I did come home, she ferociously bit me. Then looked sad, worried, ran away. Came back later, all love and purrs. And bit me again.
I have suffered through this relationship for years. And I will not have any more of my kittens turn to vengeful little she-cats in their middle age if I can help it.

Animals understand more than we think. Some sense our moods, and act accordingly. Their lives may be mainly in the present, but some of them rejoice when we return to them. And not just the dogs. As soon as I walked in the door—well, until she almost completely gave up on me—Isabel would bound up the stairs to my room and meow for me to open the door so we could hang out together in the sanctuary I'd stolen from her with my absence. Animals care more than we can be sure of, though they obviously understand less than we might like them to. And that's why I think we humans have such a responsibility. I'm not going to adopt and coddle and spoil another kitten with all this crazy affection bubbling up inside me until I know that I can continue to coddle and spoil it all through its life, because that is what it will expect.

Unless Emma trains Haroun to use a toilet. Take away the litter box argument, and all bets are off in terms of my dearly-missed feline flatmates.

P.S. Let's just have an unspoken rule that the label "cats" comes with "crazy" attached, okay?

P.P.S. Anyone know anyone in Ann Arbor who needs a cat sitter or dog walker, not too far from Kerrytown? How about a cat walker?

Oh Schicksalstag and Lizard Hips and Alligator Eyes

I'm sitting in my brother's kitchen. He's trying not to get killed by a hot wok full of expertly-minced onions that will soon be joined by marinated chicken and rice and eggs. We can hear characters from Gilmore Girls being hysterical but I guess it's just background noise, because the screen is too small and too at the wrong angle and no one's paying attention anyway. We shared some tiramisu I brought from work. It's really windy and I don't want to bike in the wind but I want to get home quickly to my warm shower and maybe my popcorn maker and my book on my couch under a blanket in the glow of one lamp. I think that means I should leave this little internet attic haven, and go forth into the wind toward my bed.

But today is November 9th, which is kind of a big deal in German history. It's called the "Day of Fate," because so many important things happened on that day in different years. Here's a link to my three-years-younger self's explanation of this phenomenon, written during my year in Freiburg. I thought it was pretty crazy and interesting.
The Reichstag (German parliament building) to the left, Brandenburg Gate to the right, and the wall went between. Taken from the holocaust memorial.

Since it was the day the Berlin Wall fell, I might as well link you to the excerpt of the German novel I translated, too, about a Turkish-German 19-year-old who rushes back home to Berlin from school in Istanbul as soon as he learns his city is reunited. Published in the University of Michigan's Canon Translation Review.

Scotland the Brave

I'm currently rereading Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, which is an amazing historical fiction/fantasy (there's time travel to get the historical aspect) that also—yes Sarah, yes Maraia and friends—contains a passionate romance, depicted in bodice-ripping detail. That's not what's important, though. It's the carefully crafted story, told in thousands of pages of detail. It's the vividness of the characters, their strength, their relationships, their appeal. Well. Some of them elicit revulsion, or simple anger, but not the protagonists. I gobbled up Outlander, the first book, in just a few days; Dragonfly in Amber took me much longer, because I knew, as Claire and Jamie Fraser both knew but were hoping could be changed, that Bonnie Prince Charlie would lead Scotland to the Battle of Culloden, the massacre of the clans and the subsequent terrorizing of the Highlands. I didn't want to get the declaration of war, and I certainly didn't want to get to April 16th, even though I knew there were multiple sequels, even though I'd read those sequels.

So the very, very basic plot is that Claire and her husband, reunited after World War II is over, are taking a second honeymoon in Scotland when Claire, collecting plant samples at a circle of standing stones on the feast day of Beltane, accidentally travels two hundred years into the past (it's always two hundred years in the fairy stories). She ends up marrying Jamie for protection, they fall madly in love, everything is hard/great. When she tells him where she's from, he takes her back to the stones, but she can't leave the love of her life. Blah blah lots of problems, the biggest of which is that Claire's first husband was a historian, so she knows about the Rising of (17)'45 to come, and that it is doomed to fail. Can you change history? They try, but I don't think I'm giving too much away when I say that in the end, all of Scotland gets punished for the ambition and pigheadedness of Prince Charles Stuart.

The last big series I read was also centered around Scotland, although it took a long time to get there, from Belgium to Trebizond to the Gold Coast of Africa to Austria to Iceland to Poland to Georgia but always back to Scotland. The desires of the royal family (also Stuarts), far off and remote from the great powers of early Renaissance Europe, to catch up to their rivals. The attempt to take England—with or without support from France. The cold winters in Edinburgh. It's much the same a couple hundred years later.

I'm really thinking most about the cold winters in Edinburgh right now, boring as that may sound. And the winters in the Highlands, harsher still. At the start of the third Outlander book, our fair hero, after seven years living in a hole on his own estate, has one of his tenants give him up so that his people can collect the price on his head. He's sent to Ardsmuir prison, in the north of northern Scotland, where a new commander has just arrived as well. To be posted at Ardsmuir prison, in the far north of the godforsaken highlands, on a peninsula jutting out into the cold, cold sea, is a punishment. The landscape is composed of forbidding crags and treacherous bogs. Communication with England is slow. Worse yet, there's no Society with a capital S out there, just a small Scottish village, the usually drunk soldiers, the prisoners, and loads of whisky—cheap for an English soldier willing to use the power of his red coat.

In some silly way, this made me think of my good friend Emma's mother, who moved from the proper, civilized, beautifully seaside East Coast out to savage, grey, flat, boring Michigan right after getting married and has been stuck living here ever since. People in Michigan have a sick fascination with the weather. People in Michigan get sinus infections. Everything is wrong. I, obviously, think this is all nonsense, although last winter was horrible and the rainy fall is horrible, et cetera et cetera, but Michigan is also my home, and I like it, and I think there are great things about it. But it certainly lacks the romance and excitement of old Scotland. I know part of it is that when I'm looking for dramatic, engaging novels, I'm usually looking for something pre-1800. Michigan barely existed then. Our written history is shorter. But the French came long before the colonizing Americans hopped over the Appalachians. There were the Objibwa and Ottawa and Potawatomi. Where are our exciting novels? The Young Voyageur: An Exciting Historical Novel of Mackinac, which Emma and I were forced to read in fifth grade (assuming it was part of the Michigan curriculum and not the Explorers curriculum), is definitely not it. That book enraged us. I don't really know why, besides that the text was printed green, and it was probably boring, but I know that it is for children, not compelling, and I will probably never open its cover again. I did read some interesting things about voyageurs and how they were the first people to penetrate the continent and all, but that was just in some history/memoirs about how railways built America and Canada. They were great books (I liked the Canadian one better), but somewhat lacking in excitement, and the author skipped Michigan altogether. (Sure he traveled every track in the country, of course the ever-late Wolverine line from Chicago to Detroit doesn't exist, and I haven't made my way to Detroit alone since crashing my car. Nope.)

The last book set in Michigan that I both remember reading and remember liking—and I'll admit that I may have forgotten something because there must have been something in the intervening decade—was That Wild Berries Should Grow by Gloria Whelan (who I think my mom knew somehow at some point, weirdly), but that was in fifth grade, and about a little girl growing up during the Depression, and that doesn't really fit what I'm looking for.

Excitement. History. Romance (not necessarily bodice-ripping!). Strong characters, strong plot. Plus Michigan. Does it exist?