15 September 2003

7:15 pm Mountain Time, Home

Happy Birthday to John Aerni & Maureen Cowan & Danielle Pattison (yesterday)!

The whole house smells too strongly of pine-sol, except my hands, which smell too strongly of the lotion I used to cover the smell of pine-sol. I spent nearly two hours cleaning the kitchen this afternoon, which was in a sad state after the party Friday night, even though Danielle spent a fair amount of time cleaning Saturday morning before she headed off to gross lab, and though her mother cleaned up a bit yesterday afternoon as well. What took me so long was the process of cleaning the floor: first I had to get all the empty beer bottles & cans off it, empty the coolers of ice out onto the roots of the two pathetic rose bushes in the back yard, fold and sort the many beer boxes, collect all the stray bottlecaps, and wipe up most of the stray spilled beer. Then I swept the floor until a kitten-sized ball of dog hair and dust flipped its way out the back door and went bouncing across the yard, and then I moved all the furniture, and then mopped. Mopping in itself wasn’t too bad, because I was listening to my darling This American Life, which was about the “allure of the mean friend,” and was just great as usual. Unfortunately, my timing was off, so the program ended and All Things Considered came on while I was still on my knees scrubbing the dirty linoleum which was probably white during Carter’s administration, but is now a dishwater gray color with slate blue and dusty rose highlights. Linoleum, incidentally, gets its name from linseed oil, which is heated and pressed together with rosin and cork (and color pigments) to make everyone’s favorite floor covering.

12:30 am Mountain Time, Home

I was going to write about The Alibi’s haiku contest, and copy my favorite haiku into this journal (one was about stealing pants from Ashcroft, I think, and one about putting children in the freezer....) but Danielle came home early from her study group and we got inspired to make a real dinner, so we ran over to Smith’s for red & yellow bell peppers and onions and grape tomatoes and lime juice and fish sauce and we made my signature chicken curry with white rice and had a nice dinner with Vivaldi and candlelight and white wine left over from Friday night. I added more curry than I usually do, so the dish was much spicier than usual, but it never disappoints me in its appealing combination of colors and flavors. I found, too, that it takes far less time to cook it when I have a sous chef.


As terribly interesting as this domestic catalogue is, what I’ve been meaning to write about is the party we had Friday night. Danielle invited the entire first, second, and third year classes at the UNM med school, so we got a little worried on Friday afternoon that everyone invited would actually show, and we’d find ourselves with hundreds of people in our little house. We spent the afternoon cleaning, and then went out to the Olympia CafĂ© on Central (old Rt 66) for dinner – and then went to Smith’s for chips, salsa, and beer. Shopping for beer sparked one of the moments of dizzy dislocation I have from time to time. Danielle asked me what kind of beer I usually drank, and I looked at the rows and rows of beers I’ve never heard of, searching for anything familiar...trying to remember what we drank in college, and ticking off an internal checklist of beer after beer I wouldn’t find. Capitol Brewery, obviously, and Leinie’s, and Grainbelt, and Berghoff’s.... I had to steady myself in the face of a wave of homesickness, while Danielle asked brightly, “Do you like Tecate? Or what about Negra Modelo? India Pale?” I shook my head and blinked. “I don’t know....” She decided on Tecate. In the darkest, dustiest corner of the store, I found a few cases of Milwaukee’s Best, and suddenly felt much better.

Later, while Danielle was talking to the checker, I thought about Boom, on his Fulbright of poetry and exile, and wondered what he was finding. Albuquerque isn’t that much different from Iowa and Wisconsin, really, thanks to the magic of international corporations – and sometimes I wish that it were, wish that life here were truly exotic, even though it’s probably much easier to get acclimated when there are such familiar friends as Wal-Mart and Milwaukee’s Best.... Even so, every so often there will be something that you would just never see in the midwest. The other day, for example, Tiska and I went to see “Spellbound” and before the movie, along with the reminders to turn off cell phones and not smoke in the theater, there was a friendly “No ten-gallon hats please!” sign, complete with a graphic of a hat with an X through it. At the time, I pointed and laughed, “There’s something you’d never see in Iowa City,” but it’s moments like that, moments when this state steps up and asserts its uniqueness, when the distance suddenly means something to me, and I realize how far I really am from the quiet cows and long flat horizons of home.

To add to the sense of distance I had Friday, Ali called and said, “Come over and play with me.” She’d had a hard day, and I was kicking myself for not building that molecular transport when I had all that free time last summer.... The only thing I regret about not being in the midwest right now, the only thing I really honestly regret is the fact that I’m not around to watch Ali go through the student teaching experience and visit her class and harass her and remind her of how brilliant and awesome she is. I told her that she should come over here and play with me, but I’m nervous about saying that too often, because she just might, and the world needs her to be a teacher far more than she and I need to spend an afternoon together drinking margaritas and watching the clouds change shape and talking about anything that comes into our heads. And though I know the world needs her, and I know that she needs to teach, I can’t help but think – god, wouldn’t that just be wonderful.....


Yesterday was Danielle’s birthday, so her mum came up from Cruces and took us out to dinner along with Sarah and Devon from med school. It was a very pleasant dinner, with nice conversation the entire time, though I often found myself spacing off while Danielle, Devon, and Sarah talked about med stuff.... BO-ring!! After dinner, she, her mum, and I came home and watched My Fair Lady, which I haven’t seen in a long time. As usual, her mum made a big kissy fuss over Zeke, and snuggled with him for part of the movie, but he seemed to prefer my side of the couch, even though D’s mom was petting him and spoiling him, and I was laying on him as a pillow and punching him when he moved his legs.

Now he’s stretched out next to me on the big green couch in the living room, looking very handsome in his Desert Dog neckerchief. D’s mom kept exclaiming about how well it suited his coloring, and I made internal “ha” noises, because when Megan and I dug it out of our old toy box and put it on Zeke, Mom kept saying that it wasn’t his color. Over dinner tonight, Danielle and I decided that we should consult a zodiac chart and figure out what Zeke’s sign is, and use that to choose a birthday for him. We thought he’d be whatever sign has most difficulty getting along with air signs, since he chases birds so fiercely. Maybe he’s a water sign... he always loved going to Rock Creek and Arbor Lake to chase the ducks and geese. He’s probably an earth sign, since he loves to dig little trenches in the back yard and stretch out in the dirt. Today he was lounging in the sun, and I thought about Snoopy’s weird Desert Dog cousin... that’s my boy, I thought, he’s turned into Snoopy’s weird Desert Dog cousin. Great. But now, clean and stretched out next to me on the couch, he doesn’t look any different than he ever did in Iowa, and I think that he’s doing pretty well here, on the whole.

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