The Art of Killing Time

 

Is this not what happens at the mechanic?? (Image ca. 1933. Photographer unknown)

Recently, when I was getting the rear brakes replaced in my car, I decided to kill time at the mall across the street.

I don’t go to the mall very often, and when I do, I usually regret going to the mall. But my options were either 1) read up on the different styles of tire treads thanks to the informational signage at the mechanic, a sentence I almost fell asleep as I was typing, 2) eat a two hour lunch at the Melting Pot by myself, a restaurant known for their giant pots of hot cheese, not a great look for someone on her own, or 3) go see what’s samples are up at the mall food court’s Panda Express.

The answer was sesame chicken, by the way.

Continue reading

The Tale of Poseidon and Atlantic Beach Pie

 

A few weekends ago, I went on my first almost-road-trip of 2019 to a small town on the border of Wisconsin and Illinois.

And it….was fine. I’ve mostly had great luck stretching my legs in my corner of the world, so it was probably time for me to find somewhere that wasn’t quite playing my song. That song being “We Are Young” by Pat Benatar.

It’s a perfectly charming, historic Midwestern town. It had a lovely park, a loose connection to a Civil War Era president– not the one you’d think– and a main street being carefully restored as part of the National Main Street Initiative. My favorite street-based initiative! And I think if I spent more than a couple hours there on a morning that can’t be described as “Narnia before the good stuff,” my experience would probably be different. But on that morning, I couldn’t help but sense it’s a town that knows it’s being watched. Knows that tourists know it’s perfectly charming, and will wake up early on a Saturday to drive to main street and see their perfect charming parks and buildings and shops.

I mean…I say the shops are charming. One was showcasing athlete bobble heads and another had a t-shirt in the window that read, “I’ve Pooped Today,” which I generally assume is true of most people?

The more I looked at the shops lining the town’s main drag, the more they reminded me less of an historic town being restored, and more of the stock from my days working at a gift shop. It felt like a Hallmark without the world-weary gravitas.

There was a store for soup mixes, another for novelty t-shirts. One for personalized frames, and another for inspirational wall hangings. Stores that sell both Indonesian and Celtic goods, and one shop called “Poopsies.”

Side question: should we worry about people’s bowels in Illinois? They seem a little fixated.

Then, I saw a pie shop. A local pie shop. The front window showcased shelves on shelves on shelves of candy-colored vintage Pyrex, and like a proper human, when I saw a shop that does nothing but bring the world pie, a gift I cannot repay–though my $4.50 does the best it can– I decided to stop for a slice, ultimately settling on the white chocolate raspberry. I had a book with me, so I ordered a cup of coffee and decided to take a minute to stay out of the cold. Continue reading

I’ll Be My Own Parade.

 

Via Getty Images

I started 2019 by tucking my feet into my slippers, pulling on a large knit sweater I impulse bought from the men’s section at Target, throwing my hair up in a bun directly on the top of my head, and making my usual breakfast: a pot of coffee and two slices of avocado toast.

The process starts by sticking two slices of bread in my oven, setting it to 400. And then I picked out my avocado from their usual spot hidden behind the stand mixer, feeling to see which one is closest in its all out sprint to turning brown. The next step in the process involves scooping out the avocado and mixing it with salt, pepper, lime juice, and chopped red onion, and spreading that on top of the toast from the oven, which at this point has gotten appropriately toasty. Crunchy but not burnt.

I poured my coffee into my favorite mug, from a Ukrainian diner I used to frequent in grad school, mixing it with almond milk, and I found a romantic comedy to watch on Netflix, my heart primed and ready to be warmed. And as I was walking across the room to sit down, I thought to myself, “what a perfect way to start 2019. I’m a great adult and person.”

And then I dropped my avocado toast face down on my carpeted floor.

Standing over the scene, coffee in one hand, now empty plate in the other, the opening scene of You’ve Got Mail starting to play on my TV, I thought to myself, “well, who’s going to clean that up?”

And that’s how I spent some of my first waking moments of 2019 figuring out the best ways to get avocado out of carpet.

When the first of the year comes along, there’s a lot of resolving to be better. Each year, there is a moment where I can’t help but think, “ah yes, *this* is the year I’m going to be great. THIS is the year that I’ll eat less cheese and more kale and my hair will be normal and I’ll only say cool things and I’ll fight crime and save whales and just be very great. And also I’ll take up running.”

But what do you do when a year wakes up on the wrong side of the bed? Continue reading

The Almost-Travel Blogger Worries

Since moving to Wisconsin, I’ve never had great luck with airports. I say that understanding that any flight I spend not plummeting through the sky is a flight with greater-than-marginal success, but in the last five years, I’ve experienced what feels like more than my share of missteps.

There was the connection I missed because United didn’t have the staff to unload the airplane I was waiting to board. The passengers sat and watched our plane sit for an hour before someone from the company finally showed up at the gate. I got to spend the night at a Holiday Inn in Chicago for that one, but only after listening to a man ask the woman at the hotel’s front desk about the variety of “adult entertainment” options on the television.

There was the night I spent doing laundry with the hotel’s complimentary shampoo at the sink of my bathroom in Charlotte because after landing, United didn’t have a gate for us, and couldn’t return my bag. Sitting on the plane, staring longingly at our terminal, I obsessively watched the passage of time, calculating with each fleeting minute what feat I’d have to perform to get across the airport to my connecting flight.

“If we get to the gate now and everyone gets their bags out of the overhead bin quickly and I run and I’m not entirely afraid of having a heart attack, I can make it my next gate in time.”

“If we get to a gate now and I vault over the seat and I obtain the power of flight, I can make it to my next gate in time.”

“If we get to a gate NOW and I knock over that small family and I discover that I’m actually an X-Man with the power to teleport and my X-Man name is Brenda, I can make it to my next gate in time.”

And finally, “I’m not going to make it in time.”

There were the maintenance issues where the pilot parked the plane in the far corner of the taxiway, where the airport keeps the recalled pretzels and the bodies of the Hudson News competitors while we waited for someone to come take a look. On finally landing in Chicago, a fellow passenger was now also at risk of missing her connection, and on letting the flight attendant know, the flight attendant said, “ma’am, there are a lot of people on the plane in the same boat.”

This was the point where the passenger says, “I’m not people. I’m a Fulbright scholar.”

If I’d had the presence of mind at the time, I wish I’d added, “I am also not people. I may or may not be a teleporting X-Man named Brenda. Can I also get off the plane first?”

And it started at the very beginning. On returning from my job interview in Wisconsin in 2014, I was forced to spend the night at a hotel thanks to mysterious maintenance issues with the plane– we were never told what they were– the next morning eating a continental breakfast of a dry bagel and grapes next to a row of fake ficuses and a Roman-styled indoor water feature.

I’ve inhaled Chipotle burritos after being kicked off of planes because of delays, not having time to eat dinner between planned flights and not sure when I would be asked to get back on the plane. I’ve careened through airports, wildly swinging my carry-ons in front of me clearing a path, so I stood a chance of making my next flight. I’ve bellowed down terminals to keep gate agents from closing the door because, “for the love of God, I’m coming!”

Growing exhausted with the prospect of traveling, thanks to my track record, sure that I would spend any trip eating Cheez-its from a hotel vending machine while I watched Shawshank Redemption on HBO, I put together a formula that worked pretty well for me.

Step 1: Never fly United. Just don’t. It’s always going to be a bad call.

Step 2: Try, if you can, to get the first flight out in the morning. The more small and inevitable delays that happen throughout the day, the more bottlenecked an airport gets.

Step 3: DON’T FLY UNITED! Do you think this is a game??!

Thanks to this formula, I slowly and without fanfare started making it to my destinations as expected. I stopped expecting surprises, to the great joy of my libertarian seat mate who tried to convince me that Osama Bin Laden was framed and then asked if we could be Facebook friends. I cautiously stopped calculating terminal running times, and expected to get from point A to point B without having to talk to a customer service hotline even once. But on my trip home for Thanksgiving, I deviated from the formula. I wanted breakfast with my family, so I took an 11:00 flight. Continue reading

Gratitude Chapter 2: Shoes With the Appropriate Arch Support

As we established in my last post (Gratitude Chapter 1: Teachers), 2018 has turned me into an actual Disney villain, but because 1) the year hasn’t been all bad and 2) villainous scheming takes time I just don’t have right now, I decided to focus on the things for which I am grateful this year each day leading up to Thanksgiving.

Today, I’m grateful for…

Shoes with Arch Support

Hear me out.

I turned thirty this year. And as someone who did her fair share of fretting about leaving behind a decade, and also as someone who has rolled her eyes at her predominantly younger colleagues bemoaning turning the dreaded *25*, thirty is not actually that bad. As a matter of fact, it’s really pretty good. You’ve never been more autonomous or confident. I’m my most financially secure, and by that I mean, I’m up to my knees in debt, as opposed to my eyeballs like I was in my twenties.

What can’t be denied is my body’s growing collection of snaps, crackles, pops, moans, groans, and creaks that seems to have gotten noticeably larger in the last year.

The first time I threw out my back, I ended up trapped in a rotating door in a K-Mart in Astor Place in New York. (It’s a tale as old as time!) Continue reading

Gratitude Chapter 1: Teachers

I’ve been trying to figure out why 2018 feels like I stubbed my toe on the calendar. Why time has long felt broken, and why I, to put nicely, have been such a grumpy rage-monster.

For one, there’s something big and exciting going on in 2019– a trip to Scotland that is eight years in the making– and I’ve lost my patience with waiting.

I think it also doesn’t help that on January first, someone moved in above me, and has proven himself to be an actual trash bag with legs. After six months of waking up at 2:00 in the morning to the walls shaking because of his music’s bass or scream-rock so loud it sounds like it’s coming from my inside my own apartment, I decided to say something about how loud his music is, not to mention the cigarette butts he continually dropped into my plants. His response was, “oh you must be new around here.” My response was, “I’ve lived here for four years, but that doesn’t change the fact your music is still too loud.”

And lastly, I also think there are things that smart people don’t unpack on their public blog. And as I fancy myself, at the very least, a person, I won’t bring that here. (Hint: it’s work stuff.)

But suddenly we find ourselves almost, not quite, but mostly at the end of 2018, getting ready to celebrate Thanksgiving. And while this year has not been my finest chapter, for every night spent deciding if you could go back to sleep after waking up to the trash-bag, based on the stomping coming from upstairs, seemingly learned to clog, there are days spent laughing at pictures of my new niece, days spent seeing nature, and and days spent learning something new. 2018 hasn’t been all bad.

In an effort to stop my progression into actual bridge troll who forces people to answer riddles before they get responses to their emails, each day this week leading up to Thanksgiving, I’ll be posting something for which I am grateful.

Teachers

This week I took a class in scarf-dyeing at a local art studio. The class was full of bubbly and bold older women, bedecked in brightly-colored geometric glasses or aprons printed with assorted animals, some attending with friends, others by themselves, everyone wanting to try something new.

We were there to learn bleeding tissue paper dyeing, using special tissue paper positioned along our fabrics, and soaking it in water and dye set to make wholly unexpected patterns in our scarves.

It’s a process driven ultimately by doing certain steps in certain order for certain lengths of time, and in a class full of students trying something that they’d only seen demonstrated once, the class reached a point where it descended into something a little resembling madness.

One woman wearing an apron embroidered with the phrase “Yummies for Tummies,” asked, “how long do the scarves need to soak again?” Continue reading

“Well Done, Sister Suffragette”

Currently, through commercials on my TV, in my podcasts, and on my Facebook and Instagram newsfeeds, my tailored ads are telling me I should and shouldn’t vote for candidates in North Carolina, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Georgia, and Texas.

Here is a secret: I live in one of those places.

I’m not exactly sure why the creepy algorithms that decide what ads you see cannot pin me down– despite the fact that I love any excuse to yell, “I’M WILY!” And I did actually donate to Beto O’Rourke’s campaign and bought a t-shirt for good measure, so Texas isn’t actually that hard to understand– but I am abundantly aware that there’s an election coming up.

I am so aware that there’s an election coming up. I don’t think I’ve ever been so aware of anything. I am 10 out of 10 aware of this election.

2016 didn’t go the way many of us expected, and the two years since then have been exhausting. And I’m one of the lucky ones to just be exhausted.

Growing up on the movie, Mary Poppins, I learned what a suffragette was pretty early in the game. Admittedly, I wouldn’t realize till my world history class at TC Roberson high school why it was a big deal that “Mrs. Pankhurst [had] been clapped in irons again,” but I knew a suffragette made sure that I would get a say.

For years, that was my image of the suffrage movement. Glynis Johns, playing Winifred Banks, dancing around her house singing about men as a group being “rather stupid.”

But on becoming something resembling a historical researcher, other images starting finding their way in. Here happens to be a collection of some of my favorites. The good, the bad–because good golly, some things won’t ever change–the inspiring, and the funny.

“The Suffragette Bar”

By Walter Wellman, 1909.

This is supposed to be disparaging towards suffragettes, but I don’t know, man. Ice cream, pretzels, an outfit with a saucy print, AND I get to vote? Facebook-mark me as “interested” in that event. Continue reading