24 January 2004

First Things First:

Happy Birthday, Dan Itzkowitz!

Some great/interesting things about Dan:
1. He claims that Unitarians have great hands, and therefore give good backrubs.
2. Though he's not a Unitarian, he gives great backrubs (to Unitarians -- namely, me).
3. He also claims to like me best when I'm at my most cranky, because that's when I'm the funniest. That's why, in college, he was one of my favorite people -- because I was always cranky.
4. He can't eat cheese. When I first found out about this, I felt so bad for him I almost started crying.
5. He's good at darts.
6. He's also good at drinking beer.
7. Though lots of poor college and post-college kids talk about participating in a research study for cash, Dan actually did.
8. He liked to come on Hot Dish and joke about how he wasn't wearing pants. He wanted to be a shock jock.
9. He sleeps in the same Grinnell pants as I do (his are gray, mine are blue).
10. He is the funnest.

It's Like The 1992 Olympics

As I was reading The Metamorphoses tonight, I got a surprise phone call from one of my favorite Daves in the world: Dave Pascoe! (In shop class in 8th grade, we used to sing "These are the Daves I know I know, these are the Daves I know..." and then make up lyrics about the Daves we knew. This practice continued into high school, when we'd sing about Davey -- "This is Dave Pascoe, I don't know much about him, but he catches frogs and he has a dog and he likes to play piano! Oh, these are the Daves I know I know, these are the Daves I know...." On the 1995 orchestra trip, about half the bus spent the entire trip from Albuquerque to Santa Fe singing songs with the words changed to make them about Davey: "Oh the Dave Pascoe Wagon is a'comin down the street..." or "Someday my Dave will come....")
Tonight Dave was calling me from Columbia, MO, where he's interviewing for a residency. Only 25, the brilliant young doctor prepares to go into the extremely competitive field of dermatology. Apparently, he spent $2,000 applying to residency programs. Jeez. Before he can begin his residency, of course, he needs to spend four months in Spain. Obviously. Anyhow, his call made my night, and I reassured him that my offer to let him marry me and support my writing still stands.
Best of luck, Davey!

It's Gonna Take a Lot to Drag Me Away From You

(There’s nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do
I bless the rains down in africa....
la la la... I seek to cure what's deep inside....
something something like Kilimanjaro rises above the Serengeti....)

Point being: Ali now has her very own Adventure Log!

Riding Somewhere South of Heaven

Cindy came to visit me last weekend, bringing some gray Wisconsin skies with her -- I so wanted New Mexico to show off how pretty it is, and like a petulant child it wrapped itself in dark clouds and even rain all Thursday, most of Friday, and part of Saturday. Of course we need the rain (desperately), but nonetheless I wanted Cindy to experience the particular quality of light here that I first fell in love with when I was fifteen. Luckily, each day had its moments.

Friday we went down to Old Town in Albuquerque, and in that lovely hour just before dusk the sun finally came out and illuminated all the warm browns and corals of the stucco buildings. Before I moved here, I never realized there could be so many different (and beautiful) shades of brown. Most striking was the San Felipe de Neri Church, lit up by the setting sun against the stormy blue sky. In the east, the Sandia Mountains were a brilliant, ethereal pink at sunset, and seemed to float like mysterious ships in the snow-clouds. Sandia means watermelon, and they're so named because (allegedly) in winter they turn the color of watermelons in the light of sunset. I didn't believe it until Friday, when Cindy and I stood in the old plaza and gazed at the very tops of the mountains over the low buildings of old town. Watching the sun set on the eastern mountains helps me to believe -- not just to know, but to feel -- that the earth is round. As the sun drops farther and farther down past the western horizon, the line of sun-color inches up the mountains, until only the very peaks are lit, and then -- slowly -- the sun slides up off them altogether. It's as if the mountains are slowly stepping into giant socks of darkness. (That's right, Mr. Gale, socks of darkness!)

Saturday, we first drove up Sandia Crest, but the farther up the mountain we got, the more the roads were a problem, and eventually we had to turn around before reaching the peak. Sandia's ski area has nearly a foot of snow, though Albuquerque in the valley below is completely dry (and rather warm), and the roads were terrible. Driving down the curvy, snowy mountain road (with flakes falling on the truck the whole time) was a lesson in winter mountain driving --- completely different from driving in the winter in, say, Iowa, where if you go off the road you'll most likely end up in a cornfield. Strange, too, how about two-thirds of the way back down the Crest, the snow stopped and the roads were magically clear again. This elevation thing never stops amazing me -- intellectually I understand it (it's not too complex), but physically it surprises me almost every time.

From the Crest, we headed north on the Turquoise Trail to Madrid (pronounced MAD-rid), where we ate nachos in an historic old tavern from the days when Madrid was a coal minin' town, not an artist's colony. The walls of the tavern were papered with one dollar bills that people had signed with sharpies. It sounds weird, but it looks cool, even though it bothered me to think that I could pay my rent with the wallpaper.

After lunch, we drove down into Santa Fe, where we poked around galleries and shops (I found the funny jesus store that Mom and I so loved when we were there in August -- one of the only stores in the world that I find irresistable), walked around the plaza, talked to some of the artisans, and of course went to the St Francis Cathedral. St Francis is one of those places in the world that draws me in to it, so that I can hardly visit Santa Fe without stopping at the cathedral. It's just beautiful, as well as being a very telling example of the interesting blend of aesthetic and cultural influences in this state. Whenever I sit inside the cathedral, I think that I'd like to attend a service there, but then I think that the space is so inspiring that I'd probably have to convert to Catholicism -- so then I think, maybe I'll just come to Mass in Spanish. It would probably be prettier if I didn't know what they were saying, anyhow.

After St Francis, we went to the Loretto Chapel, which was supposedly patterned after the Sainte-Chapelle church in Paris (only little!) to visit the Miraculous Staircase!! I was so excited. We'd been there with orchestra in 1995, but though I'd looked for the chapel on subsequent visits, I never found it until this one. I was so thrilled to find it that Cindy let me go into it (and came with me) even though we had to pay $2.50 just to get in. It was worth it, in my opinion. The staircase has a very mysterious story behind it, but more importantly it's beautiful. It's astonishing what beauty, particularly in surprising places (a staircase, for one), does to us. Or should I say me -- I don't know that everyone gets the feeling that their hearts are being constricted while at the same time they are filled with extraordinary peace when they are confronted with exquisite beauty.

Sunday, Cindy and I drove north to Bandalier National Monument (speaking of beauty), where we climbed up into the ancient cave dwellings of the Anasazi people. Luckily, the weather was stunning (though chilly in the shade), and our hike through the canyon was far less scary than my last experience there, when sunset caught Kevin, Cynthia, and me by surprise and we had to feel our way down the path in utter darkness back to the car. Bandalier is the only national park I've been to that has signs posted about watching out for ghosties. Yikes! It's only scary in the dark, though. In the afternoon, when Cindy and I were there, it's lovely. We got a kick out of imagining Memo there, climbing into the caves. How he would love it! Of course, who wouldn't? Sunday was my third time to Bandalier, and it's different each time.

Driving back toward Santa Fe that evening, the sunset over the Sangre de Cristos was -- as usual -- incredible. The Sangre de Cristos are particularly gorgeous right now because they're all snowcapped, and at sunset they turn dark violet against an rosy tangerine sky. Sunsets over the mountains never get boring, and though I've seen a large number of them since I moved out here, they always make me feel -- at least a little bit -- like a foreigner. As in, how could I possibly belong to such an amazing place?

Cindy's visit was a gift to me, because I got to play tourist here again, when so much of my life here is just normal -- I go to work, I come home from work, I let the dog out, I go shopping for groceries, I check the mail, I take the garbage out. Being a tourist again allowed me to see everything through new eyes, which was especially fun in Albuquerque and the East Mountains, places I see so often I sometimes forget to look at all.

Changing the Subject... (ha!)

As I mentioned before, Dave's call interrupted me as I was reading The Metamorphoses. I made it about half-way through last spring, and then put it aside when everything got so crazy in Grinnell. I just picked it up again recently, and was revisiting some of my favorite passages tonight.

From "Phaethon":

And while they stood bewildered, bark embraced
Their loins and covered, inch by inch, their waists,
Breasts, shoulders, hands, till only lips were left,
Calling their mother. She, what can she do
But dart distractedly now here, now there,
And kiss them while she may. It's not enough.
She tries to tear the bark away and breaks
The tender boughs, but from them bloody drops
Ooze like a dripping wound. "Stop, mother, stop!"
Each injured girl protests; "I beg you, stop;
The tree you tear is me."

Doesn't that just kill you? As Dan Beachy-Quick would say, "Oh my god. Class dismissed."

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