Tonight after work I stopped by Barnie’s in Winrock to visit Miss Lisa. She was there with co-worker Sarah, who was making a crazy embroidered sequined costume for Halloween. “Halloween?” I asked, blinking. Halloween hasn’t meant much to me since, oh, middle school, with the exception of course of my senior year in college when the ladies of White House and I went as the “Bad Habits.” Even then, we each spent about 20 minutes and 10 bucks on our costumes, if even. Then there was Halloween junior year, when I went as a "social construction worker" (some things, I find, are only funny at Grinnell – last year I said something about that costume to my co-teachers at Berg Middle School and they all just scratched their heads and muttered "don’t mind her; she comes from that gay naked college"). Anyhow, social construction worker me and sleepover friend Ali found ourselves at a party composed entirely of women dressed as Hooters girls, with half of the women mad at the other half because half of them had gone to get Hooters tee-shirts without the other half, so the second half went out and got Hooters tank tops to out-hooker them. And they were all in a big fight about who was the cutest. I’m not making this up. I believe it was after approximately five minutes of this nonsense that Ali and I fled the party, ran back across Mac Field to my little single on Main 3rd where we drank far too much whiskey and played M.A.S.H. for the rest of the night.
Anyhow, it was nice to hang with Lisa because it was one of the first times since I’ve been here that I didn’t feel the need to be all restrained and watch my every word; I could relax and read the paper while she served coffee and just idly chat. Pleasant.
When I got home, Zeke was hyper because I’d left so early this morning and didn’t get back until nearly 8:00, so I agreed to go in the back yard and throw his ball for him for a while. After three or four throws, he brought the ball back and dropped it at my feet as usual, but when I bent down to pick it up he jumped up and punched me in the eye socket with his nose. HARD. It took a minute or two for the vision in that eye (my right) to come back, and then I held an icepack over it for a half hour to try to reduce swelling. How perfect will it be when I show up to teach a class called "Bully-proofing" with a huge black eye?
Anyhow, it’s in line with everything else that happened this weekend, from spilling coffee on the wall to breaking my toe....
Because Lisa and I had talked about how we both missed our best friends who live far away, I sent her a copy of the story I wrote for Ali, Migration. For Ali and for my sweet little cousin Jimmy, who liked to play wildlife prairie park and this game where we piled all the big green and orange pillows on one person and then jumped on them. He especially liked it if the pillows were being piled on his dad, my cousin Jim, or on my dad, his great-uncle Roger. Ah, Jimmy. I remember the spring of ‘01, when Ali drove me to Aunt Barb’s funeral in Peoria, I was so proud to introduce her to Jimmy, who was so polite and so much cuter than any of the lame boys at Grinnell.
Anyhow, later I heard back from Lisa saying my story had made her cry, and then right after she read it she got a call from her crying best friend who had just broken up with her boyfriend. Says Lisa, "hope you don't mind, I sent her the story. I told her that I hope it would bring a bit of comfort, because I love her just like Caryn loves Amanda." I’m thinking, how could I mind? Being told that a story of mine made someone cry?
In other news, I heard from Mark Baechtel tonight that this is officially his last year at Grinnell. I guess the department was just waiting until I moved far enough away that I couldn’t make a huge fuss about it. Super. That department has its priorities just too, too confused. Last night, I had a wonderful dinner with two fellow Grinnell English majors and we talked about the department, and I went off on my usual rant about how maybe I wouldn’t have been an English major if I’d have known how few writing classes I’d be able to take. In retrospect, I’d certainly trade a few trads classes for another Mark Baechtel class or two. Of course, in retrospect, I’m glad that Cannon Schmidt lied to me about the possibilities for English majors at Grinnell ("You can choose to concentrate in either literature or creative writing" – ha!) because it’s one of the reasons I chose Grinnell. And yeah yeah yeah, I’m glad I was an English major.... I guess. It certainly comes in handy when I’m standing in front of a class of tired teenagers, holding a 6 foot long bull snake and talking about how it uses its nose tooth to break out of its rubbery shell. ("And who can name some famous snakes in literature, kids? There’s Kaa, of course, and all the snakes Rikki Tikki Tavi killed, and obviously there’s the Miltonic snake that has a nice little chat with Eve in a certain garden....")
Oh, Grinnell English department, how foolishly you let go your great gifts.
"This, I think, is one of the truths at the center of beauty: that we love the world despite our certain knowledge we will lose it; that we will lose all those we love and eventually the world itself, and knowing this and choosing to love anyway makes that love miraculous, and makes our courage in allowing ourselves to feel it, despite our fear, truly heroic, one of the reasons the Angels envy us." – Mark Baechtel