For about seven years now, a door in our kitchen has been slowly getting coated with New Yorker cartoons. It is possibly my favorite work of art in our house, in part because William, Gabrielle and I have each contributed to it. Sometimes we clip out a cartoon every few weeks, sometimes a few months go by, but now, the door is nearly entirely covered with scotch tape and clippings.
This past weekend, we were at a cocktail bar with friends when my husband winced.
“This is the second ZZ Top song they’ve played in the past 10 minutes,” he muttered.
“Not a fan?” our friend Mark asked.
“Oh sure, I was a fan — 40 years ago,” William said. “I’d like to be a fan of something new. But ZZ Top follows me everywhere I go.”
This was not the first time I’d heard this complaint. And I actually can see the merit in the argument. Scan the radio and it’s not going to take you long before you hear Billy Idol belting, Heart crooning, or Jethro Tull tulling. Like it or hate it, classic rock is alive and well in 2019.
A long, long time ago, I can still remember seeing that silver sports car sitting in the parking lot.
I had just gotten out of Politics of Poetry, a three-hour, monster class that finished at 8 p.m. It wasn’t a happy time in my life, as graduate school spawned record-high self-doubt in my brain, but I do remember feeling relief that the class was over for the week.
As I walked, I noticed it was suddenly spring, with cherry trees blooming and the evening silver with the dregs of daylight. I reached American University’s gravel parking lot at the edge of campus and then made my way to my trusty Ford Escort, for which I still have so much fondness. I opened the door to my car, sat inside it, looked out the front windshield. And that’s when I saw the silver sports car sitting directly in front of me.
It contained the man who would become my husband.
For the past few years, I’ve been on a reading quest to try to fill the many gaps that exist in my relationship with literature. It has resulted in a useful experiment, one that has taught me a lot about reading, writing and how to accept my limitations.
It started when Gabrielle had to read The Scarlet Letter in, I think, grade 11. Because the Canadian literary curriculum includes a lot of books written by Canadians, this book had never been assigned and I’d never taken it upon myself to read it on my own. But with Gabrielle wading through the rather dense book (especially that intro), I figured I’d give it a go.
Of course, Gabrielle finished the book in about a week. I, on the other hand, took about two months.
I could kiss whoever it was who decided snapdragons should be called snapdragons, couldn’t you? Talk about a sweet and spicy bite of language, right? So poetic and, yet, so accurate. I mean, even with my limited exposure to Game of Thrones, I can easily see that they look like they have a dragon’s head.
How could they possibly have that shape? Must be a good bit of magic, I suppose.
A few weeks ago, I was talking to a very bright woman who used to work in admissions at Centre College. Part of her job was reading admissions essays from applicants to assess if they would be a good fit for the incoming class. She told me the best essay she ever read was about a kid cleaning out the frozen yogurt machine at his summer job.
A day later, I came across a very interesting statistic from Pew Research Center. Their researchers had found that just 35 percent of 16- to 19-year-olds had summer jobs in 2017. Compare that to 58 percent in 1978.
At once, I thought of all of the great personal statements that would never be written because teens were spending their summers bingeing on Netflix instead of clocking into work. And then it made me think of how sweet a summer job really can be.
I got my first job at age 15 after Dr. Gene Kaprowy marched his daughter into Medicine Rock Café and asked to speak to the manager. The request produced a leggy blonde named Loralyn, who asked if she could help him.
“This is my daughter,” my dad said. “You should hire her. She’s a hard worker.”
Mortified, I stood there like a deer in headlights, only able to process that my dad was suddenly, inexplicably speaking in short, declarative sentences.
“Give her your resume,” he said to me.
I shakily handed over a nearly-blank piece of paper, the contents of which were my GPA and the phone numbers of a few moms for whom I had babysat.
Loralyn looked down at the paper, appearing to inspect it carefully. Then she looked at me and squinted.
“Can you hustle?” she said.
It’s been six weeks since I’ve written about getting my hair cut off. If I’m honest, I feel relatively pleased with myself that I haven’t mentioned it in 42 days, given how much space it occupies in my brain. But the look I was sporting after I woke up this morning was enough to make it impossible for me to stay quiet any longer.
To catch you up, I cut off all my hair in February, much to the disapproval of my hairdresser. My intention was to look svelte and European. Instead, I look like I have a dollop of whipping cream sitting on top of my head.
Several realizations have taken place as a result of my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad decision.
First, the most immediate problem: bed head. Whew, I had forgotten how real a phenomenon this is. I mean, I’m sitting here right now, and my hair looks like a claw lying in wait to attack. The more my hair grows out, the bigger and more menacing it becomes. The other morning, I actually thought I heard it growl. I’ve definitely heard it hiss.
This week represents the last of my four-part experiment of writing on location. Once again, I am sitting in the car with the laptop on my lap. Once again, I’m not parked directly in front of the place I want to go, lest I be misconstrued as a stalker. For I could stare and stare and stare at the place I want to go to today for hours.
A few weeks ago, we arrived home from a weekend getaway to a note from our incredible dogsitter, Meg. It had been a stressful way home as our flight was canceled in Chicago due to a freak spring blizzard, and we’d had to rent a car and drive home instead.
But, as always, Meg’s update note was laying on the kitchen counter with its nearly-otherworldly penmanship:
“I hope you had a great trip. There is a little treat for you in the fridge.”
Week No. 3 of Canuck in Kantuck writing on location.
OK, full disclosure: I am not actually writing inside the Verizon Wireless store. Instead, I am in my car in the Verizon Wireless parking lot, but not parked too closely to the door because I don’t want them to think that I’m crazy or, worse, plotting. Instead, I have a rather soulless view of the nearby Lowe’s.
Anyway, let’s back up.
On Saturday, I dropped my phone while attempting to put it in the fanny pack I wear when I walk the dogs (don’t judge).
I drop my phone on the floor by accident so often that I didn’t even think of it, just placed it in my pack (don’t judge) and Tilly, Fitz and I went on our merry way.
When I returned home, I saw that my phone was dead. So I plugged it in and tried to restart it.
That ingenious attempt didn’t work.
Long story short, my phone was irretrievably broken, and I needed a new one.
Week two of Canuck in Kantuck writing on location! Insert flamenco dancer emoji (my favorite one forever and ever) here.
I am sitting in Minneapolis airport after a lovely Easter visit with my family. It is 8:30 a.m., which meant a painful 4:15 a.m. wakeup in Winnipeg. I will go ahead and hazard the guess that it meant the same for a lot of people around whom I’m sitting, which makes it doubly, possibly triply impressive how loudly the guy in front of me is talking on his phone.
There are many, many subjects upon which you could comment when it comes to airline travel. In fact, watch Netflix comedy specials enough and you’re hard-pressed not to listen to a comedian complain about his or her time spent in airports.
But how people behave with their cell phones while traveling merits a whole podcast. Possible even a Planet Earth episode. And certainly the remainder of this column.