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LIF109 PUMP YOUR OWN GAS
A course designed for those students who overfill their carís gas tank in the hope that they can make the round trip without needing a self-serve gas station. This class is an intensive, hands-on workshop designed to eliminate the anxiety associated with pumping your own petrol. Students will learn how to work and lock the nozzle, discern whether to pay the attendant in the mini-mart or use a credit card at the pump, and end on a round number for cash only. Final exam held at a remote Exxon. New Jersey and Oregon residents only.
A recent dream I can write about here:
I was auditioning for something Ö a musical on Broadway? Off-Broadway? The lights were hot but low, a mixture of lavender and white. The stage was wide wood planks, smoothed from years of performances. I walked out slowly to the center and sang at a black microphone. I was wearing a skirt, that much I can remember. I performed some standard Ö did fine, not great. As I thanked the judges out beyond the lights and walked off, I thought,
No, no, you were supposed to do Emilyís monologue from
Could it be that before 6 p.m. I have finished the work I scheduled for myself today? Unheard of. I could push myself through more tonight, but thatís what Iím trying to change: the old pattern of working too hard, not using my time in other ways. So. What to do. It seems obvious that I should continue organizing and cleaning the second space Iím working on. Still more there to accomplish. But after that Iíll make myself relax, too: continue reading that short story collection; catch up on some TV; write back to friends; look up at the stars.
After cobs of corn and lemonade in cold tin cups, run out to the backyard after dark, Grandpaís uncut grass at your ankles. Cut your name into the plum-blue night, waving a blazing-white sparkler into looped letters. Then draw infinity signs and hearts, and chase your sister around the tree with an outstretched flaming hand until the hiss and fizz gets softer, the sparks dimmer, and suddenly youíre back to the settling darkness again, and the faraway thunder of another townís fireworks, and the amber glow of the kitchen window, where inside a paring knife is separating stem from strawberry.
I am a scientist, a researcher, running trial-and-error experiments to find out what may be making me rise from bed at 4 a.m., wheezing as I've never wheezed before, to go get the inhaler my doctor gave me recently, "just in case." I have never felt this way before, so it's imperative that I get to the bottom of this irritation. I won't be lucky enough to have become allergic to the cat, no doubt. My first experiment went well: If I leave the bedroom fan off overnight, I wheeze much less. Now on to other tests!
They were red, werenít they? The seats. They had red ďcushions,Ē so old and flat that you might as well have been sitting on bleachers. Comfortable? Thatís hard to believe. What about that straight, hard back. Adjust? Whadda mean, like a La-Z-Boy? No kidding. Yeah, but you have cold thighs from squeezing that big soda cup. You still Ö What? Cup holders? Like a car? No, well, itís been a long time. Sure, yeah, I used to go a lot. Well, all summer, I guess. Or when I was asked. Now? Well, thereís not much that goes on like that.
Work gets interrupted with many insistent thoughts: with forties tunes sung by Marion Hutton or the Andrew Sisters; visions of coastlines stringing along under the whirl from a helicopter; tributaries blue like veins under the soft skin of the forearm; the idea of cutting new streams, blue to red, wondering where they would lead; the pulse of failure, laziness, good intention; names of places meant to be on plane tickets; timing; exercise: a jog to a walk to a run, a deliberate pounding; the deliberate absence of poundings; recipes; writing poetry again, then finding small reviews, then sending out submissions.
She bought the newest
Merriam-Websterís Collegiate Dictionary,
not so much because she had to, as everything is online now, but because she wanted to support the printed word, and the small bookstore down the street with a bell on the door, but then when she got home and started to riffle through the new, crisp pages she took notice of the guide words, how
and decided this was a conspiracy at the highest level, speaking directly to her, because certainly someone in production could have set the text solid here and there.
I walk into FedEx today and notice a strong scent of suds all through the place. I drop the manuscript and galley pages heavy on the counter and start building my own box, as they have you do, and when Mike is done helping a customer I say to him, "It smells like beer in here! Very hoppy!" And he says, "Really?" And sniffs deeply. "Yeah, it kinda does." And when the customer leaves, Mike leans over and says really thoughtfully, "Hey, maybe it was that guy. Never saw him before. Maybe now he knows we know he's a drunk."
In three different social situations in the past couple weeks a person has inquired about my life, heard that I have been busy with editing, and then told me about the typos found in the book he or she is reading. I smiled and talked about how the proofing stage has been dropped from many publishers ... and then silence. Insert an apology here? As if I control all editing? Not sure.
My sister called, just back from the Virgin Islands. She brought
50 Shades of Grey
with her, said the writing is terrible. Again, a pause.
Iíve been quiet today. Reflective. Introspective. Trying to work but doing a terrible job of staying focused. Being aware. Appreciating. Breathing. Cleaning. Thinking that itís been quite a long time since Iíve been drunk, or even buzzed, and wondering whether thatís a good thing, or maybe could I benefit from feeling something else for a while, a me who wonít trace the lines so carefully. Then deciding to read poetry, philosophy, zen passages. Remembering that I am here where I am, in this place, in this moment, through nonattachment. I practiced. I continued. Now, again, I care, and itís okay.
So as I was saying, Iím enjoying what we have, look forward to our conversations, observations. I like how our reconnection relates to what Iíd already been working toward in my life. This morning I am noticing things in the moment: how my hands smell like a long, warm day at the shore, having just sent K. to school coated in sunscreen; how the cat, getting older, still twists in a high, quick leap to chase that annoying fly in the living room; the ticks and clicks of the house; the amber of the sun held back behind wood shades.
My girlfriend and I just hired two private instructors whom we really like to take some hours in August and direct our sons in their play, learning, interactions. I am thrilled that August no longer looks like a scary, long chunk of time during which I must plan numerous directed activities. The hours don't fill the whole month (unfortunately), but it helps. Now to figure out what to do with the rest of the time. Trips to farms, playgrounds, the local lake, nature centers, the shore? Lots of ice cream. (That's actually for me.) And cramming work between it all.
Another day of working too slowly. Took time to get out to the playground, push K. on the swing, play basketball. Then sat at my desk again, watched golf, went through old photos of trips to Europe and the West, ate chips, chatted with friends, looked into starting a photo blog, read the manual of a photo printer I have and never took out of the box, drank lemonade, played indoor basketball, played Words With Friends. Now friends are about to drop over, have some pizza, hang. I will be up late, editing fiction and academic articles. An endless loop.
Hey, thanks for sending your next part of the book ...
- Sorry I was late with it and all. Got caught out there on the island. Never thought they wouldn't have Internet at that kind of resort.
No, why would you? Yeah. Well ...
- So what do you think? Honestly. I'm taking us in a new direction --
Yeah, I see that.
- I was out there with the sand between my toes and I thought, Why not have her dive for treasure? Just spice up this mystery a bit.
Diving. Okay. But we've had her in the wheelchair ...
- You can fix that, right?
I just saw American innovation at its finest. Real ingenuity. Made me look up and say,
Damn, I wish I'd thought of that.
A flagpole that at its top had a cap of small halogen lights pointing down on the red, white, and blue. A way to keep it properly flying at night without the buggy spotlights at the base. Neat.
I'm not one for inventing things. I do think someone should come up with a way to secure personal devices. Like when you have to pee on a flight and don't want to take your iPad to the bathroom.
I'm sad to say that I no longer have any idea how to relax, for even one evening. It is 8:30 and my work is done and I have tons of projects I could/should take on (cleaning, sorting, budgets), but it's so rare to have hours to myself to do "nothing" (scare quotes) that I want to simply sit back and unwind. Unwind. That word makes me tense up, actually. My brain screams,
Edit another article and get ahead. Keep moving forward on organizing.
I am trying to ignore the voices, telling myself I deserve just one night.
I just realized that I have not heard one jingle-jangle ice-cream truck coming down this street all year. Other years we had a regular truck in the afternoons, an older white Good Humor box on wheels, probably making the circle at the park and then winding around these back streets. But this year, so terribly hot on many days? Nothiní. Not that I ever took advantage of the truck. And K. was too young to pay attention before this. Maybe the bad economy has bitten into the drive-around, kids-run-out-of-houses ice-cream delivery service. Next time itís chocolate eclair bars for everybody!
So sometimes I feel accomplished and skilled and on top of what I do and all that, like when I looked up a style point on the APA blog and found that they interpret it differently than I do and so I posted a query and they responded, admitting to having incorrectly stated that point, and I feel all attentive. But then I review a friend's resume, look for inconsistencies and errors and such, and after I do that I read it, just read it, and see all the things I am missing from not working in a publishing office.
After the automation was in place I was assigned to lingerie and intimate apparel. We were one of the busier departments: housewives rushing through to pick up stretchy black Calvin Klein before their manicure appointments, silk camisoles for the socialites, giggling young women searching for the perfect bridal peignoir set, long Dior nightgowns for the demure. Then there was that long, quiet afternoon when I had nothing to do but fold and restock and a brown-haired, tall, middle-aged man popped round the racks and asked me nicely for suggestions for his wife and I hoped she actually got the stuff.
Sometimes I challenge myself, you see, to keep my brain in tip-top shape. Sharp as a carpet tack. Doctors say to do those word puzzles that come in the Sunday paper, but I thought I would do a memory test: How many James Bond film titles can I write down on the back of an old takeout menu? I remembered the moon one, and A View to a Kill, Casino Royale, You Only Live Twice, Diamonds Are Forever (girls always remember that title), and The Spy Who Loved Me, and then they got a bit hazy Ö that shark tank one Ö
Itís the first date and Iím excited because heís taking me to Red Rooster. Iíve heard a ton about it and never been there, so I wear that dress, the casual one with small red flowers Ė for fun, to match the restaurant color. We have a nice wine, and I get the salmon and he gets the meatballs. After six bites he starts in how those canít be lingonberries in there, like heís an expert now, and he starts making a scene, and finally I have to jump up and yell, Heís freakiní Marcus Samuelsson! I think he knows lingonberries!
Iím proofing a book about a teen spending her summer in Florence while her parents are in Vermont orchestrating their divorce, and so far thereís as much description of complex family emotions as the piazza and trattorias, and Iíve never been to Florence so I canít fill in more nice images myself, and Iím not in the mood to read the other, so Iíve turned to thinking about the full flower bush in a neighborís yard and the large, flat blooms, wider than my open hand, and why I canít enjoy them without first identifying them by their common name.
Today was very strange. When I woke, I thought it was Saturday. I was furious to hear the alarm going off on the weekend. And then I remembered it was Tuesday, of course, so I had to become un-frustrated. I washed a large stuffed tiger. Put it right in the washing machine and the dryer, and thank goodness it didnít come apart. A slice of hardened laundry detergent cut me when it got stuck way under a fingernail. Donít ask. I washed down walls in the kitchen. And I spilled milk only on my shorts back pocket. Hard to do.
They spent most of their time wandering through the European section, the landscapes and sculptures, but when they came to Corotís
he stopped and leaned to her, closing to the edge of a proper distance.
I wanted you to see this one, he said.
And he told her of Eurydice and Orpheus and the forest and the serpent.
Itís all about that moment, he breathed, the moment when Corot chose to capture her. Itís in her face.
Her face, she repeated.
She is calm, almost lovingly gazing down, he whispered. She feels the sting but does not know.
Itís addicting, this clearing out and organizing. Recently I went through linen closets, dresser drawers, jewelry boxes. At the bottom of one box I found the first necklace I ever remember wearing; I think it was a birthday gift from a girlfriend, and I wore it constantly: a metal star painted light blue, the chain hooked on each side to a point, so the star floats between. I found Girl Scout pins and my confirmation pins and my National Honor Society pin. I found my momís original mood ring: a large oval that on me turned black to catís-eye brown.
You know how I feel about them.
> Yeah, but the eggs. We got the chickens to sell eggs. We're losing profit, here.
You know I hate cats.
> You're the one that's all
and everything. What, you want me to use poison?
> How do you know it's rats?
I've seen 'em. I've seen a bunch. They come in pairs, and one lays on its back and holds an egg, and the other pulls the tail, and out they go.
> That's a bullshit wives' tale.
Nope. I read about it.
> You just want a cat is all.
Yep, that's it!
That oneís Skull White. That oneís Scab Red. That oneís Red Gore. That oneís Fiery Orange. That oneís Badmoon Yellow. That oneís Vermin Gold. That oneís Palladin Flesh. That oneís Rotting Flesh. That oneís Snot Green. That oneís Bilious Green. That oneís Enchanted Blue. That oneís Midnight Blue. That oneís Hawk Turquoise. That oneís Warlock Purple. That oneís Tentacle Pink. That oneís Codex Gray. That oneís Fortress Gray. That oneís Bleached Bone. That oneís Scorched Brown. That oneís Bubonic Brown. That oneís Snakebite Leather. That oneís Chaos Black. That oneís Snow Shadow. That oneís Polished Silver. That oneís Honed Steel.
I made meatloaf for dinner tonight. Mashed potatoes. Green beans. This is a classic American meal, right? Except my loaf is turkey. Is everyone cringing? What, not ďclassicĒ? I havenít had red meat in more than twenty years. Well, okay, thatís not quite true. One evening in the beautiful city of Portland, Oregon, my cousin took me to an old Irish pub: honest food, wonderful beer. The menu presented many fabulous choices, but only one listing called out to me: Grandmaís Meatloaf. A crusted slab of oniony beef with potatoes and rich gravy. Delicious! Iíve never regretted that one-night diversion.
Hey, did you hear that?
> Where are you?
In the smoking chair on the porch.
> Hear what?
Glazunov. I swear it's Glazunov. Une Fete Slave. My great grandmother used to dance around to it while she smoked her pipe. A woody, spicy --
> You hear it?
Yeah. Faint. Those little bells. Out in the yard.
> What are you smoking?
Not that. God. It's playing, I'm telling you. Come outside.
> I'm not coming outside.
Maybe it's the neighbors.
> You're just trying to make me come outside.
There's the swell of strings.
> You're scaring me.
Things like this
happen. A miraculous healing.
that for which
next for below
previously for above
although for while
whereas for while
because for since
and so on for etc.
e.g., for for example
& for and
and for &
who for that
post hoc for post-hoc
data are for data is
Second for Secondly
8 months for eight months
10 hr for ten hours
6 s for six seconds
In addition for Additionally
suprarational for supra-rational
Most important for Most importantly
goals, actions, and passions for goals, actions and passions
Life Satisfaction subscale for life satisfaction subscale
Age ◊ Time interaction for age by time interaction
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