Saturday, January 22, 2011

No Bad Weather, Only Bad Shoes

When I taught English in Moldova as a Peace Corps volunteer a few years ago, my students would remind me, “There is no bad weather, only bad clothes.”
Today was a good clothes day.
[Imagine I took a photo and posted it here: light caramel cardigan with asymmetrical ruffle detail and raised seams, and a pink tank top with scooped neck with tiny flat ruffle fringe, both from last weekend’s Banana run; and a pair of black Calvin Klein jeans, from Coeur d’Alene Goodwill. This might sound like too much ruffle, but in truth they echoed nicely.]
My problem was bad shoes. Dansko clogs were no match for the slick sidewalks. Wily water! Looked like rain. Felt like ice.
Last week I also had shoe problems. I wore my biker boots even though I knew they weren’t waterproof, so the slush seeped in. I thought I had an extra pair of socks in my desk (no), or that the campus bookstore would sell socks (no longer). We missed our transfer bus, so we had enough time before the next one to browse the ceramic knickknacks, notebooks, do rags, slippers and socks. These socks were divine: orange, synthetic, broken out in a rash of hearts and flowers,  “Cutie” in yellow cursive at the top. 
The students and I spent a contemplative afternoon at St. John the Evangelist, where we walked their canvas labyrinth, a copy of the one in the floor of Chartres Cathedral.
We learned that "labyrinth" is not synonymous with "maze," though they’re often used interchangeably. A maze is a puzzle, with many dead-ends. A labyrinth doesn’t trick you, at least not on purpose. It leads you along one path into the center and back out again.
This difference reminded me of a Sunday School lesson in which the teacher explained the difference between jealousy and envy. You can only be jealous of what you already have, she said. You envy what someone else has.
After all of those lessons, among all those crafts and songs with hand motions and flannelgraph Jesuses and Pharoahs, who can say why this fine semantic shading has stayed with me so clearly?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Love & Goodwill

Precious hours of my youth were spent in shopping malls, especially The Huntington Mall. It was a sanctioned place of supervised privacy, an early arena of financial and social independence.
It was my job to choose my turtleneck-vest combo with care, and to spray my bangs into an exclamatory wing over my forehead. It was my job to have change for the payphone to call a mom or dad to retrieve us in a Dodge caravan with faux wood paneling on the sides. Also important: wearing my sun-and-moon watch with leather strap, so I’d know when to meet up.
John and I strolled along Spokane's Centennial Trail on Sunday.
The red wagon is both a slide and a landmark!

John visited me this past weekend, and while the spring-like weather pushed us out of doors, my coupon for Banana Republic nudged us back in. It makes me happy that John likes shopping in small but potent doses, as do I. We share a similar aesthetic. Mine calls for more hot pink and leopard print than his, but generally we both applaud clothes that are fairly fitted but not clingy, with unexpected details in fabric or stitching.
As the sidewalk icy rinds melted outside, John and I commandeered side-by-side fitting rooms. I helped him find shirts in the sale rack he’d overlooked. He appraised the fit of my cardis.
Dickens waxes reflective next to the disco pillow I found at a thrift store
this past weekend in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.
On a retail high, we drove to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, to track down a vintage shop my friend Thom had recommended. Farther down 4th street, we hit a thrift store Bermuda triangle. I caught two stores back to back, then we regrouped for happy hour. Happily, we spotted a sizeable Goodwill that was open till 7 on our way out of town! Happy!
Love takes many different shapes, and one of them is a man in a plaid scarf, reading his book on a Goodwill couch, tuning out a little girl banging on a nearby used piano, while you scout out a fitting room to try on your treasure.
John snapped this view of the Spokane River along the Centennial Trail
(in my head, I sing "working on some night ducks...").

Sunday, January 9, 2011

What Do You Got?

I don’t think of myself as snitty about grammar. Yes, I have a Ph.D. in Literature and Creative Writing, but I don’t sit around critiquing friends’ emails and Facebook posts. I don’t use red pen on student homework unless it’s the only thing I can find in the bottom of my granny purse or the cobwebby corner of a desk drawer. In a moment of haste, I too have inadvertently typed “it’s” for “its,” or lost my way in the thicket of there, their, they’re.
She who has not split an infinitive cast the first stone.
That said, I do enjoy moments when language shows evidence of bending in a way its authors did not intend. It’s a surefire stay against boredom. The world is replete with these delightful gaffes, such as those chronicled in the "blog" of "unnecessary" quotations.
This morning, a high school’s marquee flashed: “Come here / wonderful music.” I didn’t pause to read the other screens, which must have included info about an upcoming concert. I liked that the first screen was, in fact, a curling index finger beckoning “wonderful music” to visit the school. Come here!

I found this henna tattoo stencil at the Purple Moon (full of crystals,
geodes, bamboo plants, incense, scimitars and wind chimes)
in Lava Hot Springs, Idaho.

Just before New Year’s, John and I spent a couple of days in Lava Hot Springs, Idaho (about 2.5 hours from Salt Lake City, and with a little bit of a detour, it can be en route to the Tetons). The temperature outside dropped to single digits, but most of the pools were over 100 degrees. It’s hard not to relax when the steam from the pools mingles with strings of Christmas lights and frosted tree branches overhead. Your feet tingle when you first get in the water because you’re so cold and it’s so hot. Then you chug your Nalgene because you’re so toasty. Your hair freezes on your head. Your boyfriend says “your chin hairs have ice crystals on them” and you don’t get mad or even embarrassed because these mineral waters have healing properties. By now you’re lasagna, and lasagna noodles don’t get mad or embarrassed. Yes, you have chin hairs. Some of them are downy, and some are bristles from the sea-hag’s hairbrush. In a place as magical as Lava Hot Springs, though, your frosted chain hair just gives you more shine.

When we left Lava, we stopped in Soda Springs, Idaho, to see the world’s only manmade geyser. It spouts on the hour every hour. The geyser and visitors center share a parking lot with the Dog House bar. One of the observation decks was decorated with a wooden nativity scene and a tinsel star of David. John and I had some time to kill before the next eruption, so we shared a pint at the Dog House and looked at the taxidermy deer heads and the dollar bills taped to the wall like bricks, each with a handwritten message, many of them documenting the passing of a birthday or success in consuming a specified and impresive quantity of alcohol. One dollar bill near the Michelob mirror posed a question that’s been heavy on my mind: WITHOUT FAMILY, WHAT DO YOU GOT?