Category Archives: Personal history

Of statues and fangs

At approximately this time of year, eight or nine years ago, a friend from near Boston and I decided to meet up in New Orleans for a long weekend away from winter. You’ve seen some of those pictures before, such as my pictures of egrets from the zoo, and me very hungover. Here are a couple more photos of some famous landmarks.

And of course, when one thinks of New Orleans, one thinks of vampires, right? 😉

“Well, I might not know what they are, but they are kind of fun to play with.” -Chaos

“Gimme!” -Mayhem

“Gimme gimme!!” -Mayhem

Looking into the distance…

…and back in time. Me, near Abiquiu, New Mexico, in very early spring, 2004. Have I mentioned how much I love the Santa FeEspanolaAbiquiuTaos area of New Mexico? The weather’s a heckuva lot better than here, I guarantee it. 🙂 Monday’s high in Minneapolis? +10F. In Abiquiu? +49F. Calgon, take me away

“Big deal, Mom – here’s me doing my impression of you in New Mexico. I don’t see a difference.” -Chaos

I’ve got Friday on my mind… wait, it IS Friday?!

Pass the soy mocha, will ya? It’s been a heckuva week.

Me, January 2001, hungover in some random cafe in the New Orleans Garden District…

“Mom?! Mom?? I feel all weird. Maybe I’ve been working too hard. Or I’m melting.” -Mayhem

Have a relaxing and recuperative weekend, all! Let’s hope I have my other notebook computer all set up again before Monday, or I’ll have to break out the burro photo…

Personal History: I walked away from it

It was a completely normal evening in October of 1999, right before Halloween. At the time, I lived in Plymouth, a western suburb of Minneapolis. I was driving my trusty Dodge Neon home from a sketching class in Minneapolis. As I merged onto northbound Highway 169 from westbound I-394, the car in front of me (very close, since I was merging into traffic) inexplicably slammed on its brakes. Instantly, I verified that there weren’t any close vehicles in the left lane and changed lanes. I over corrected, lost control of the car, and hit the center divider. The cement divider absorbed a lot of momentum and drastically slowed my car. The air bag deployed, flinging my glasses into the back seat. And then, everything that wasn’t already blurred crashing and motion became blurred crashing and motion and light as my car was rear ended by a semi, flung across the right lane, and hit the divider just past the exit for Betty Crocker Drive.

Within moments, several people had called 911, pulled over, and were talking to me through the shattered driver’s window. (Thank you, whoever you were.) Someone retrieved my hiking boots (formerly in the trunk) from the highway. The semi driver had pulled over and was hiking back down the shoulder to my car. Someone saw my severely bent glasses in the backseat and handed them to me. I got out of the car. The highway patrol arrived and began asking me if I had any idea how lucky I was. Yes. Yes, I really did have an idea.

The ambulance arrived. I remember sitting inside the ambulance and refusing transport, so they bandaged my left hand, which had gone through the driver’s window at some point, suggested that I clean up and re-bandage my hand when I got home, and let me go. After a tow truck arrived to remove my totaled car, the nice highway patrol officers gave me a ride home.

I was in shock, but didn’t really grasp that yet. I went into my apartment, logged into my email, and, with one hand, typed and sent an email to a friend about the experience. His response was near-instantaneous and very freaked out. Huh. (Shock, you know.) I wandered into the bathroom, pulled off the makeshift bandage, and realized I could see the bone in one my fingers. The shock started to recede and I started to get pretty darn freaked out myself. I called my dad (who was living in an inner ring southern suburb of Minneapolis at the time) and told him I thought I needed to go to the ER. He arrived amazingly fast to take me to the ER. Turned out I needed some glass removed, plus a few stitches.

Doesn’t really look so bad from the front, does it? You can see where I hit the divider. And perhaps the back bumper being draped across the hood doesn’t bode well.

Hmm. Don’t Neons usually have trunks?

I have made that same merge many, many times since then, as it’s part of my route to work. In fact, when I’m at work, I can walk about 50 feet, look out the window, and see the spot of my accident. I don’t think of it much anymore, but every now and then (especially around Halloween), I think of it. And feel pretty lucky.

Wear your seatbelts. Really.

A season of egrets

I saw the first egret of the year last Friday.

Egrets are important to me – the first egret of the year marks the true beginning of spring and hints at the promise of summer. In honor of this year’s first egret, I thought I would share with you an essay I wrote several years ago:

There’s a part of the summer that feels like a special separate season – a season of egrets is how I think of it. Sometime between midsummer and late summer, I slowly realize that I’m seeing egrets almost every day – in cloverleaves, along the shore of Lake of the Isles, in the stream running through the golf course I drive by, in the pond at General Mills. Egrets everywhere, every day.

Each time I see one, I feel a tiny burst of joy. I get excited when I see herons and cranes and other wading birds, too, but it isn’t the same as when I see an egret.

The elegant lines? The dignified yet vaguely silly locomotion? The intense white plumage? Or a more immediate and direct spiritual connection? I haven’t figured it out completely, and am not sure that I want to – if you try too hard to grasp magic, can it stay magical? Or does it become mundane?

My first season of egrets occurred in 1992, when I was working as a recreation survey assistant for Hennepin Parks. I was driving to Elm Creek and across from the park entrance in a shallow lake bisected by many powerlines, I saw hundreds of egrets – more egrets than I had seen before or have seen since. What is the group noun for egrets? Surely not a leap or a gaggle, but maybe an exclamation, or an exultation (like larks), or an entirety, or an enigma, or an elucidation… Whatever it is, seeing those egrets stunned me, left me mute, still, changed.

That day I saw the embodiment of joy, comparable only to the miracle of a monarch migration. I regretted that I did not have a camera, and have carried one ceaselessly since, just in case… but surely a photograph couldn’t have done justice to the event… and the image remains with me, vivid, intense, and immediate all these years later. My photograph is my memory, the capacity for joy that I gained at that moment and have been working toward embodying ever since.

And each summer, during the season of egrets, my capacity for joy and stillness are renewed, reborn, revitalized, refreshed, carrying me through the year until the next such season arrives.

– Chris, 8/17/2000

Some egrets in the New Orleans zoo, from January 2001…

100 Things About Me

Yowza, it’s a crazy near-blizzard here! Pictures this evening or tomorrow… The Minnesota Department of Transportation is advising people not to go into work. Hmph – I’m already here.

A few weeks ago, Mama Tulip posted her list of 100 things about herself and inspired me to do so myself. Cute cat picture at the end if you make it through this list!

  1. I’m sort of afraid (ok, phobic) about the spinning blades of lawnmowers and garbage disposals.
  2. I’m also afraid of heights.
  3. In Basic Training, they had to push me over the edge when we did rappelling because I wouldn’t go on my own.
  4. Because I wasn’t ready and my spotter wasn’t ready, I dropped about 20 feet down the wall before my spotter recovered and stopped my descent.
  5. Strangely, this did nothing to reduce my fear of heights.
  6. Oh? You’re wondering “Basic Training”???! I joined the Army Reserve in 1987. (It was much safer then.)
  7. I went to Basic Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
  8. Because I was unable to do any pushups when I got there, I spent an entire month in “Fitness Committee,” doing pushups and situps all day long.
  9. I hated Basic Training with a passion. Strangely, it was not a good environment for an introverted, individualistic nonconformist.
  10. I did my Advanced Army Training at Fort Sam Houston, which is almost in downtown San Antonio, Texas.
  11. I trained to be a “91A” (91 Alpha in Army speak) – basically an EMT/litterbearer.
  12. I picked 91A because it had a good signup bonus.
  13. When I was 16 (beginning of 11th grade), I ran away from home in October, about a month before my 17th birthday.
  14. Why, yes, there was a boy involved.
  15. We went to Orlando, Florida (his idea).
  16. He couldn’t/wouldn’t get a job and after I supported him for two months, he bought a crap car on credit, stole the battery from my car, and drove back to Minnesota.
  17. At that time, I worked at a Burger King. I took home $90/week. Rent was $65/week+$5/week electric. It was a relief to have that guy gone – hard enough to have one person living on $20/week, let alone two.
  18. I am not a patient person.
  19. I used to drive a purple 1997 Escort Station wagon.
  20. I loved that car. My knitting friends loved it, too, because if we were meeting somewhere, they could just drive around until they found my car.
  21. My beloved Escort wagon repaid my love by blowing a rod at 141,000 miles.
  22. Now I drive a silver 1997 BMW 318ti, which has 38,000 54,000 miles on it.
  23. I am usually early or right on time.
  24. I would rather wait for the next show than go into a movie 5 minutes late.
  25. I am slightly dyslexic. If we go to a movie together and I tell you the time it starts, you would be well advised to independently verify that time.
  26. I also have trouble keeping clubs and spades straight.
  27. I have mnemonic for that: “Clubs is clovers. Spades is shovels.”
  28. I can’t remember the rules for card games.
  29. I read very fast.
  30. I learned to read early and had library privileges in kindergarten.
  31. I don’t watch TV. I have in the past, for brief periods, but I would rather read.
  32. I have the kanji character for happiness tattooed on my left shoulder.
  33. It used to be the character for good luck, but I got it changed in November 2005.
  34. It’s hiding a weird scar from a mole biopsy.
  35. The tattoo artist who did “good luck” said I should get lots more tattoos because I have a high pain tolerance and my skin takes ink well.
  36. I don’t think that’s sufficient reason.
  37. I live in the Uptown area of Minneapolis, which has its own entry in Wikipedia!
  38. I love to ride my crappy old bicycle (a 12-year old Specialized crossbike).
  39. I am phobic about my upper arms looking squishy in a tank top.
  40. I love to wear tank tops in the summer.
  41. I do a lot of pushups to keep my phobia at bay.
  42. Chaos, Mayhem, and I live in a 637-square foot condo, top/3rd floor, NE corner.
  43. I am allergic to cats, mold, tree pollen, apple and pear skins, perfumes and most strongly scented items, most skin care products for the face, and probably a crapload of other things that I don’t know about.
  44. I learned to knit in the fall of 2000.
  45. It was the first hobby I ever tried that “grabbed” my attention so completely.
  46. I think it’s because there aren’t many concrete outputs of my job, so knitting fulfills my need to have visible proof of effort. (Because, really, how satisfying is it to produce an Excel spreadsheet or a really sweet SQL query?!)
  47. People guess my weight 20-35 pounds less than it is.
  48. I am extremely nearsighted (20/800 and 20/1000).
  49. I am not a candidate for contacts or laser surgery.
  50. I have peanut butter toast and orange juice every morning for breakfast.
  51. I have at least one (preferably two) straight up soy mochas every day.
  52. I don’t like coffee unless it’s mixed with chocolate.
  53. I am lactose and gluten intolerant.
  54. I was diagnosed with celiac disease (gluten intolerance) in 1997.
  55. I still crave chocolate and almond croissants.
  56. I have never intentionally cheated on my gluten-free (GF) diet.
  57. I make great GF pizza (I eat cheese when I make it).
  58. I love unsalted roasted cashews and almonds.
  59. I think dark chocolate is the only chocolate worth eating.
  60. I don’t snack.
  61. I love red wine, but all of it gives me migraines – except pinot noir (which was cheaper before Sideways came out). No wine – it all gives me migraines now. Bless gluten-free New Grist beer.
  62. I also love margaritas on the rocks.
  63. I grew up on a farm near the Rochester, Minnesota, International Airport, which has two runways.
  64. I am so not a farm girl – give me the city any day.
  65. My memory is simultaneously very good and very bad. Because it’s so good on some details, when I say I can’t remember something, some people (usually at work) think I am “dissing” them.
  66. My memory is very good for many (but not all) aspects of telephone switch call detail record processing and billing (work), Star Trek TNG trivia, X-Files trivia, and knitting.
  67. My memory is very bad regarding parts my own past and the plots of books and movies.
  68. I consider not remembering the plots of books a benefit of sorts – if I really love a book, I buy it and can happily reread it every other year as if I was reading it for the first time.
  69. I tend to avoid reading books that generate a lot of hype because I develop unrealistic expectations of them, which they can rarely meet.
  70. The song “Pop! Goes the World” by Men Without Hats always makes me want to dance crazily.
  71. I played piano for 12 years.
  72. I quit when my teacher wanted me to start competing – mostly because I might have to practice.
  73. I wasn’t a very good piano player – but I was a very good sight reader.
  74. I played alto saxophone from 5th through 10th grade.
  75. That was by parental choice – I wanted to be a percussionist.
  76. I also took guitar for a few years in junior high.
  77. Eventually I gave my guitar to a friend in community college.
  78. I didn’t go back to high school after I returned to Minnesota from Florida.
  79. Instead, I went to community college, which was paid for by a local high school through Minnesota’s PSEO program.
  80. I got my Associate of Arts (Liberal Arts) in May 1987.
  81. I got my high school diploma from a high school I’d never attended in June 1987.
  82. I worked as a physical therapy orderly at St. Mary’s Hospital (part of the Mayo Clinic) for several years.
  83. I waited tables throughout my teens and into my early twenties.
  84. My great hope is that I will never work in food service again.
  85. In the summer of 1991, I worked in the Black Hills National Forest marking timber and fighting forest fires.
  86. In the summer of 1993, I lived and worked in Itasca State Park.
  87. My very favorite color is black.
  88. After black, other favorite colors are purple, royal blue, and forest green.
  89. Doing home projects is not one of my favorite things, so I can put them off near indefinitely.
  90. I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies with a Forestry minor from the University of Minnesota (U of M).
  91. I have an MS in Forest Recreation from the U of M.
  92. Realizing that Forest Recreation was insanely unemployable, I also got an MS in Rhetoric and Technical Communication (aka technical writing) from the U of M.
  93. I got my current job because of a karate class.
  94. I used to go to a lot of concerts at First Avenue.
  95. I can’t even remember most of the concerts I’ve seen.
  96. I have a five-second spot in local band Arcwelder’s video for their song “Smile” – I’m waving and smiling.
  97. Why, yes, I was living with the guy who made the video. 🙂
  98. I got married in 1989.
  99. I knew I was doing the wrong thing because I had an anxiety attack during the wedding, but I went through with it anyway.
  100. We separated in 1990 and divorced in 1991.

List updated 12/6/2007.

“Look into my eyes. You are growing sleepy… very sleepy. When you awake, you will remember nothing… except to send tuna.”

Sedated in the 80s

Mama Tulip, EE, and some other bloggers are doing a “Blast from the Past” this week, so I thought I’d dig out a few of my ancient and amusing pictures. This should help you understand why 80s fashion should not ever return!

1982, with one “Patches” at a friend’s house. Badly permed hair and short shorts. Ewww!

1986, at a holiday party. I am so drunk in this picture. I was a cashier in a liquor store – boy, do liquor store employees know how to party or what… Anyway, note the big hair, dangly single earring, and gorgeous sweater dress.

1987. Would you buy a used car from this woman?!

1989. If you weren’t a bride in the 80s, count your blessings. If you were, you can commiserate. Big asymmetrical permmed hair. Whoa. There’s a reason I don’t wear makeup anymore – I got it all out of my system in the 80s…