Wednesday, August 25, 2004


So whilst talking to Brandon on the phone this afternoon, I got a beep on my other line. I unwittingly walked into the lair that houses disgruntled and uppity Medill secretaries and aides.

I had emailed a prof in Medill for the course I want to take come fall quarter that had filled in the section I wanted. The only section open, which I would have signed up for, conflicted with my schedule. I sent this email that I worked on for quite a while to word "just right," and make sure he knew how much I wanted to get into this other section so I could take the course.

When I answered the beep, I got a garble of introductions from a haughty woman on the other line, all I caught was Northwestern University. I deduced that she must be calling about my class switch.

Before I could say more than hello, she hissed into the receiver, "You DO realize, I'm SURE, that you CANNOT BE a journalism major."

Excuse me?

She went on to spit and steam about how I was in CAS (woah! is that what school i applied to because NU's damned admissions office made journalism sound impossible?? oh right!) and how I couldn't be a journalism major because of that.

Right, I said. It was my intention to take this course as a student in CAS and provided that, as will most likely happen, I enjoy the course, I will apply to transfer into Medill for winter quarter.

(let it be known, if you don't know already, this decision has been a huge struggle for me...the last thing i need is some lower end registrar telling me what to do with my life.)

Wellll, she huffed, It is difficult, if not nearly impossible, for sophomores to transfer into Medill. It's hard to get into the Medill School of Journalism as a freshman.

(Hey, thanks for the encouragement and words of advice...)

Well, I said, Regardless, I want to take this course.

She quickly exhaled a curt and disapproving "hmph."

I sat on the other line while she grumbled complaints and put-downs for five minutes, changing my schedule.

Thanks so much for your help, I said earnestly when she finished.

Not even a "you're welcome," but rather I got a final word from her: Well, just because you're IN this class doesn't mean you're a journalism major. Very few people are accepted as transfers into Medill. If you don't do well in this class, you might as well not get your hopes up.


I sometimes want to take a reality stick and beat people with it. Or maybe certain organizations.

Get over yourself, I'd say as I beat them with the hard oak of get-real.

Fortunately, I received an email from the professor this afternoon, asking me if all went well with my class switch. He said if there was any reason it didn't go smoothly, to contact him and he'd fix things.

Maybe I should tell him to fire his uppity secretary.


Sunday, August 22, 2004


It's about time I rant about retail. I've done it oh-so little.


Sometimes, stores close. This unfortunate calamity, in fact, happens every EVERY store...except for, perhaps, your local Kroger.

When stores close, it's not the employees' faults.

We, the employees, do not choose when we are open and when we are closed. If we could, we would, but we can't.

So, please. Do the employee a favor... Don't throw slut-phrases around like:

"Weeeehlp, mah daughtah an' I travel ah who' hour tah get 'ere. Y'all didn't make yer announcement thatchy'all were closin' like y'always do."

Well, ma'am, I'm sorry. We do close at six.

(NOTE: there is NO announcement, nor has there ever been one. I'd gladly get on a loudspeaker and tell people to "Kindly make your final (damn) purchases and make your way (haul some freaking ass up) to buy your items (shit).")

"Weeeeeehl, that geeeeeeerhhhllll back dere in y'all's fittin' room done said mah daughtah can't try her clothes on."

Well, ma'am since we do close at six, we can't let anyone back after closing since the registers will close. And you have the option of returning all your items and receiving the full price for which you paid them, should you keep your receipt during the 90 day return period.

(NOTE: "the registers will close:" A white lie told to all customers. The registers cannot actually be closed until the last customer leaves the store and the doors are locked behind him and/or her. Don't believe retailers who tell you that load of crap.)

"Weeeeeeehl, none of this 'ere clothin' will prolly fit mah daughtah. An' we all live an hour away from this 'ere Old Navy."

Well, ma'am, I'm sorry (you live out in the middle of nowhere and) our store is inconveniently placed (in this suburban shopping center. God knows that it's never ever shopped at ALL and we constantly get complaints about how its location directly between Best Buy and Barnes and Noble marks its desolate position.)


Location: That inconveniently-placed Old Navy

Day and time: Sunday, 6:15-6:35 pm

Regular closing time on said day: 6 pm.

Number of customers still in said location: 1

Location of said customer: Register 6

Time said customer has spent at said register: 20 minutes

Brief transaction description:

--customer began transaction, requesting use of expired coupon

--customer said she did not need gift receipts

--after half of transaction is rung up, customer requests gift receipts for certain previously rung items

--customer requests cashier's assistance: "What size would a girl who looks like she's 30 in the face, 12 in the body, but she's 16, wear?"

--customer returns to store floor to grab new sizes in girl's size based on cashier's compromise suggestion of a size 14, since the girls' department does not carry a size 30, and clothing sizing is never based on faces.

--customer returns with new items, changes mind on some as they are rung up

--customer comments that she does not, in fact, know her own son's size, asks cashier if she would know

--cashier responds, surprisingly, that she does not know the customer's son's size

--customer's cell phone (with loud annoying song) rings at approximately 6:30, mystery-size son calling

--customer asks son following questions: "What size do you wear? I already chose a bunch."..."What's your favorite color denim, the one blue or the other blue?"..."Does Sissy like pants?"

--when transaction is totaled, customer attempts to use expired coupon again

--cashier takes coupon, throws it away

--6:35, customer leaves


Character description: The BAD PARENT, (usually accompanied by one to three BAD CHILDREN)

-BAD PARENT is male or female, usually parent to young BAD CHILDREN

-Most likely, BAD PARENT is dressed very nicely, while his and/or her BAD CHILD is dressed in rags

-Discipline for BAD PARENT involves combat and/or screaming

-Misbehavior from BAD CHILD involves combat and/or screaming

Sample scene 1:

OLD NAVY CASHIER: Hi, ma'am! Did you find everything you needed today?

BAD PARENT (not listening to ONC, yells at son, age 8): Joey!! Get your butt over here or else we're not having dinner tonight!

JOEY (enters from stage left): MOOOOOM!!!!! You SAID I could get a DOG BONE! I WAAAAAANT a dog bone!!!! YOU SAID!

BP: Shut your mouth, Joey! THAT'S IT!! You're done!!!

ONC (while ringing last item): And is that it for you today, ma'am? Did you want to open an Old Navy Account and save ten percent on this and your next purchase?

BP: Shit. No. Yeah, that's it. No credit cards for me, thanks. (pauses, watching son who is currently sticking hangers in electric outlets and kicking over piles of clothing) JOEY!!! Get over here NOW.



Sample scene 2:

PREGNANT BP stands in line at register with shopping cart in front of her. Her three-week old INFANT/NOT-YET RUINED CHILD is in the built-in car seat of the shopping cart. Her BAD CHILD/TODDLER is running around the front display, grabbing shirts and throwing them.

PREGNANT BP is distracted by ONC and turns back on both INFANT and TODDLER.

TODDLER runs around display twice, then at cart, jumps on end of cart, sending cart tipping over on its end, pinning TODDLER underneath and sending INFANT sailing six feet in air and landing on head on concrete floor.


Now then. I'd, unfortunately, be lying if I said any of the above wasn't true. So I just would like to make a plea.

I know you're the customer. You come first. We all do because we're all customers.

But please.

Take pity on the poor salesperson, who hath giveth his soul to the dark demon of Retail. He knoweth not what he does and what dark lord he serveth. Easeth his suffering with quick responses, a kind smile in return to the one giveth to you, and every once in a while, openeth a credit card account. He will feeleth your mercy.


Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Just when you thought this town was boring...

Don't open your mouth too soon, everyone. The excitement level for the summer picked up a few notches in one surprise swoop.

Today started as your usual day, with the exception of going out for a "last supper (ie: Chipotle lunch)" with Michael. I was awoken by my mom at 10:30, lounged in bed, got a call from Brandon at 11... you know... nothing spectacular that you want to read about.

But then...

As I was drying my hair in my bedroom, my parents come galavanting in, yelling something about a mystery being solved.

As my parents made me guess what the solved mystery is and I grabbed for my pink kimono to cover myself up (since they HAD just barged into my room unannounced and obviously hyped up), my dad waved around some plant leaf in his hand.

And thus, mystery solved indeed.


Growing in our backyard.

On our property.

For some reason, this was really exciting for me too, and I got up and bounced around my room, laughing. I really don't know why, doing that made a lot of sense at the time.

We all laughed as pieces of the bizarre neighbor puzzle came together.

Flashlights and whispering in our property line bushes at night...

Mysterious vehicles coming at the wee hours of the morning to our neighbor's house...

Loud raucous laughing, you know the laugh I mean, at seemingly nothing.

I should really clarify, though. This neighbor is actually my neighbor, Jerry's tenent. He lives in a smaller house on Jerry's property and takes care of the pool and yard and such. He's always been a little weird and the like.

He's the type who will yell things like "FUCK THIS BULLSHIT!!!!" at the top of his lungs in broad daylight. I think we all have a neighbor like that, or at least someone in close proximity. Or maybe we ARE that person...

Anyhaps, so in about the course of an hour, the police came and questioned my family and poked around the bushes and then went to our neighbor's to do whatever it is they do in these situations.

Seriously. Summer excitement level, increased from about a 2.3 to a 7.0 today.

I suppose if I really wanted to increase the level more, I would have picked some of the plant and have it hanging in my basement to dry right now, but I did not do that. So, summer excitement level will probably plateau back down to about a 4.0.


Sunday, August 8, 2004


Like Robert Frost said...


The house had gone to bring again
To the midnight sky a sunset glow.
Now the chimney was all of the house that stood,
Like a pistil after the petals go.

The barn opposed across the way,
That would have joined the house in flame
Had it been the will of the wind, was left
To bear forsaken the place's name.

No more it opened with all one end
For teams that came by the stony road
To drum on the floor with scurrying hoofs
And brush the mow with the summer load.

The birds that came to it through the air
At broken windows flew out and in,
Their murmur more like the sigh we sigh
From too much dwelling on what has been.

Yet for them the lilac renewed its leaf,
And the aged elm, though touched with fire;
And the dry pump flung up an awkward arm:
And the fence post carried a strand of wire.

For them there was really nothing sad.
But though they rejoiced in the nest they kept,
One had to be versed in country things
Not to believe the phoebes wept.


The barn and tavern are about 50 yards apart. The cemetary is up the hill, about 250 yards, overlooking a ravine that leads to the river...

the view up into the rafters...


part of the cabinet that was part of the schoolhouse in the upper room of the barn...


more of the cabinet...


the cabinet, with all its worn colors...


somewhat disconcerting discovery on the top floor of the barn...


perhaps someone who IS well-versed in country things can tell me what kind of farm machinery this is...


old nail and chains hanging from it, next to the uhh...wagon?


close-up of the front of the wagon-like thing... note that the wheels on the front are super sharp.


this mystery dial was on the front of the mystery machinery...


sunlight peeks through into the barn...


the rear view of the adjacent tavern...


the upper rear window...


the layers of paint peel off a window sill of the tavern...


a shattered window and glimpse inside the kitchen...


a better shot of inside the kitchen through the broken window...


the view of the barn from the tavern...


the front of the Cross Keys Tavern (operated as tavern from 1809-1820, schoolhouse where friend Amy's neighbor was instructed thereafter, currently maintained by Camp Kern(??))


John and Osee Terry's headstone, (one of the best in condition there)...


typical rural Ohio, this schoolbus is in the woods, visible from the cemetary...


Henry Stibbs' headstone, seemingly very successful farmer, the father of John Stibbs, grandfather of Jackson Stibbs, would outlive most of his grandchildren as he lived to the remarkable age of 98. Walked through his old property today...


These two headstones were near the Stibbs' plots, the names are illegible, but these red silk flowers that some person left there mark the graves...



Tuesday, August 3, 2004

"I've been driving a lot."

Today I drove.
It was the most important thing I've done in a while.

I realized many things in the time it took my gas needle to sink from half empty to quarter full.

I leave the house, my hands damp with the humidity and heat, fingers pressing the flip-key of the Volkswagen. And as if in slow motion, I move down my steps unevenly jumping two at a time (clip-clop, clip-clop).

I unlock the door just before my hand reaches for the arched handle of the car. Slipping into the hot seat, the faux leather burns my thighs and bare arms. I turn the key in the ignition, roll down my windows, and turn on my music.

Usually I complete this expected and framed moment by tearing my hairband out of my hair, pulling my sunglasses over my eyes and immediately putting my hand on the gearshift and my foot on the clutch. I'm ready.

Each turn is decided by whim. I veer toward the unknown, the blind corners, the shadows, green hills lined with the ribbon of black pavement at their crests.

I want to be somewhere unknown, where no one knows me. When I find those places, I photograph it. I make those places mine.

Sometimes its the stark contrast of color that draws me: the seering green against a brilliantly ominous sky or the toffee color of thrushed wheat.

Sometimes its the people: the old man sitting in his lawn chair on the main street of an impoverished town, his two scrawny granddaughters bent over in gutter, playing in their worn swimsuits in the dilapidated concrete and dirt, a light blue 1960 Ford pickup truck parked alongside the old man's store that is marked by an old Coca-Cola sign that has faded from red to orange in the sunlight.

Sometimes its the smells: a bonfire in the country, freshly cut fields, skunks, gasoline, manure, burning rubber, plants crushed underfoot, rain. Each smell fresh as the next and unexpected.

It's enough to see my hand on the wheel in front of me, my thumb anxiously stroking the bumpy surface. Enough to grab the gearshift and move from third to fourth as I peak around that curve. To feel my hair whipped by the wind, stinging my eyes.

Somewhere in the gas needle's descent, I realize it's okay to make decisions and be scared of your future. That nothing is ever final. That even if I go to law school, I can take a year off and do this--drive and think.

I realize, too, that I take memories from the past, and like blocks build something that never existed and can't stand by itself. I've worked too hard to hold this construction up and it's time I let it crumble.

I realize (as I speed by the small airport where Amy's grandfather took her as a little girl to watch the planes take off and bought her an ice cream cone but grass flew into the cone and stuck and her grandfather had laughed but Amy had cried) while I'm in my car, time stops. Location becomes unimportant. I can piece together my past and present and see my future.

I drove by a cemetary today at a stoplight and as I sat idle, I read a gravestone on the hill that read: "Sarah, Died Dec. 23, 1823." I wondered what Sarah thought about at my age and in her time and if she could have gotten in her Beetle and driven hundreds of miles in one summer, if she would have. I then thought about how sad it was she died the day before Christmas Eve. I wondered what she had planned to give to her friends and family.

Later that day, I looked at Christmas ornaments and thought about buying my mom one. I didn't realize the workings of my subconscious until now.