We Browns are the road-tripping experts. Every year at Christmas time we drive 21 hours from Colorado to my grandparents’ house in Indianapolis. We’ve also taken a road trip to Maine, New Jersey, South Dakota, New Mexico, a couple other places. And there are always those drives to and from Spokane.

I mean, we know how to bring enough food and manage to not smash the sandwich bread. Some rules. You stop to fill up every half tank of gas. When going down mountain passes, you put on the AC and put the car into second to save the brakes. You go about five mph over the speed limit, and you repeatedly profess your worry about the bike rack.

Mitch doesn’t know the rules.

When he drives down mountain passes he puts the car into NEUTRAL.

“Mitch! slow down.” As we careen towards a curve.

“Well, I can’t slam on the brakes now.” Zoom past truckers and deer and construction workers. Just coasting, the engine doesn’t grab the wheels at all.

He explains to me that he just drives to his comfort level. This while my adrenal glands are swelling by precious micrometers. I can see us spiraling out of control, rolling at least twice. I can hear my mom crying when she finds out about our tragic deaths. And Mitch is all relaxed.


When we are just outside of Yellowstone (“Mitch! slow down. There’s wildlife around here.”), Mitch thinks he sees some elk or something off the left-hand side of the road. He stops and kicks it into reverse. As he’s looking over his left shoulder, a black bear crosses the road from the right. We almost backed up into the poor thing.

The bear’s just on the other side of the road, and Mitch gets out of the car. He lets in a cloud of mosquitoes.

You don’t get out of your car to talk to bears.

I’m not sure Mitch knows anything.



I (Annie) think I'll put aside my own blog and continue with Amy. It is more fun that way.

Recently I've found myself replacing French words and grammar with lyrics from Justin Bieber and Superchick songs. You haven't heard of Superchick? Umm.... well, you clearly haven't been spending your days with Evangelical Christian girls 5-10 years old.

Yesterday I let the girls I babysit make a movie with my computer using Photobooth. It was titled, "The Girl Who Didn't Have Any Friends, EXCEPT for the Girl Who Offered to Be Her Friend Part One, Two, Three, Four, and sure enough, Five."

I went for a run today and ran into (not literally, thankfully enough) the mom of one of my best friends in middle school.

"Oh hey Annie!"

Huffing and puffing, "Oh hey, how's it going?"

"Great, so you are done with school now?"

"Yeah, I finished in January, but I just moved home, and now I'm applying to a job with Americorps to help pay off my loans."

"Oh great, what did you major in?"




"Well, good luck!"


I continue on the run, listening to "Break your Heart" by Taio Cruz & Ludacris.

Do I have the guts to say that I debate with a five year old boy named Benjamin everyday single day whether or not he's gone potty? (PS, I love this kid. The family adopted him from Haiti, and over the last two years we've started to trust and love each other.)

Or that when I play barbies with the girls they always show one boobie of the mean girl (barbie) so all the other barbies know she is bad?

Do I have the guts to say that the last time I laughed really hard was when the five year old (potty debate opponent) put ketchup and mustard on his ice cream cone and said, "ummm this tastes gooood!!"

Or, even worse, that even though I pretend to be super concerned with my loans, the first thing I did after getting paid from my nanny hours of going to the zoo, visiting science museums, playing in lego wars, cleaning up bloody noses, (i'll stop now) was purchasing every season of Sex and the City?

No, not really. But I do love it.


The Difference between Dreariness and Appeal

Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels. -Kate Moss

In a Core 350 lecture, Mike Engram (I think) dropped the quick fact that our society’s ideal beauty is a woman 15 pounds under weight.

I went to a training appointment at the Y yesterday. Bjorn, the best trainer at the Valley Y and maybe in the world, had me do a body-mass index test and a cardio test. He talked about how a healthy body-fat percentage for 23-year-old women is 21-33%. Women with less than 20% body fat can stop menstruating and are at risk for osteoporosis.

I would love it, of course, if society’s ideal woman... er beauty was at a healthy weight, in a healthy body fat percentage, but she’s not, and it doesn’t look like she’s headed that way. And every little girl knows by the age of seven when mom says it’s more important to be beautiful on the inside, mom’s bullshitting her.

And besides, what are a few missed periods? Functioning reproductive organs—who needs ‘em? And Kate Moss has that eating dilemma worked out for us. I’ve only got this one life, and I want to be important, noticed. I want to be that girl that turns heads and has guys buying her drinks and talking about her. What good is bone density? I’d rather be stooped at 35 and be able to look at pictures of my hot 23-year-old bod at the beach than be what? Healthy? I’ll have enough other stuff to worry about when I’m old—like wrinkles—than to worry about silly bones.

Why not me? Why shouldn’t I be the girl on the magazine, on the TV, the hotty I hear my friends talking about? It’s not even like I have to do something. I just have to not eat.

Or, of course, I could exercise. My friend explained drunkenly to me that the reason I have a boyfriend was I ran 30 minutes on the treadmill per day. She only ran 15 minutes so didn’t have a boyfriend. The really popular girls were the ones who ran 45 minutes.

And for what weight loss can’t do there are always the wonders of modern medicine. Tom Wolfe weighs in:
Well, why should any woman wait—wait for what?—when the difference between dreariness and appeal is just a few centimeters of solid tissue here, a line stretched out there, a little body packing in the old thigh, under the wattles there—or perfect breasts? The philosophy of ‘You only have one life to live, why not live it as a blonde?’—that is merely the given. [...] And why stop short of the perfect bosom? Why do people talk about ‘the natural order’? Such an old European idea—one means, well, the wheel violated the natural order, for God’s sake, holt and cold running water violated it, wall ovens, spice bars, Reddi-Tap keg beer and Diz-Poz-Alls fracture the natural order—what are a few cubic centimeters of silicone?

There’s no time to wait! My wedding’s on July 31st and if I’m not going to be beautiful then, well, I might as well never be. I’ll have to ask the photographer to try to catch my rib definition through my dress.

Die young, leave a beautiful corpse, right?


The Spoiled Cat

A spoiled cat lived in an apartment in downtown Seattle. The woman who owned this cat fed it salmon everyday and let it lick the extra egg yolk off her plate from breakfast.

The cat slept on the woman’s bed. It was a king-sized bed with a white down comforter. From the cat’s resting place it could see the Seattle Public Library out the window. It was like a holy shrine to books. A glass mushroom cloud lit all night.

In the day, the cat would sit on the windowsill and watch the sea gulls or the men in ties working at desks in the high rise a block over. When the window was open, the cat could smell the Puget Sound.

One day, the woman pulled out her sewing kit. A spool of thread tumbled to the ground and rolled in a furious little circle. The cat pounced on it and before the woman could stop it ate the thread right off the spool.

The cat wanted more. It cried and cried until the woman gave it another.

The cat stopped eating its salmon for dinner and breakfast. It would not lick the breakfast plates. The only thing it would eat was thread. Thread every day, twice a day, in any color you can imagine. The woman would not refuse the cat anything, and she had soon fed it all the thread in her sewing kit.

Days later, when the woman was in class, the cat jumped down from the windowsill and started rubbing itself on the corners in the apartment. It rubbed against the wicker chair where the woman did her reading. A piece of fur from the cat’s right haunch caught on the wicker. It proved to be an exceptionally long piece. As the cat moved the fur lengthened from a centimeter to an inch to a foot to a trail from the bedroom to the kitchen.

When the woman returned the cat was gone. And she found her apartment strung with tabby-colored thread.


Another Old Couple

An elderly couple with accents—could have been anything from German to Russian, that area of the world—came into the Y the other day. They wanted to know about membership and Ashley, my coworker, offered to give them a tour. The woman said, “Give us papers first. I haf been here before.”

This is happening at the front desk in the lobby area. From where we were sitting, you could see the pool area through some floor-to-ceiling windows.

Ashley gave them the packet of information. The woman looked at it and said, “Yes, this is what I want. We come back later.”

They got up to leave.

“I haf been here before. The pool, it is over there?” She points in the opposite direction of the pool, towards the childcare area.

“No, it’s that way. See those windows?” Ashley said.

“Oh, they must have moved.” The woman said.


Story of My Life

If her question [How come nobody ever told us what was important?] is meant to be a neon arrow pointing damningly at our culture, this is a pretty serious book. It’s a pretty serious book.

I read Story of My Life by Jay McInerney recently (thank you Jon Fox). McInerney is an American author who wrote it in 1985. I have part of Vic Bobb’s review of it in italics at the top. (He gave it a B/B+ if you’re interested.) I’ve given STML to Jessica Lung, so if you see her, tell her to get reading it.

The first line is “I’m like, I don’t believe this shit.” Yep, it’s like that the whole way: whiney first-person narrative from a 20-year-old woman spoiled and coked out of her mind living in New York City.

I’ve also read Sex and the City by Candace Bushnell—if you know me at all, this should not shock you. A couple things surprised me about this book. (Vic hasn’t reviewed it... that’s not one of the surprises though.) First, it’s not a novel; it’s not even fiction. It’s a compilation of newspaper columns written by Bushnell. Unlike the HBO series, the women in the columns are not bonded by healthy friendships, there are way more drugs, and it really happened. It was depressing and put me off Sex for at least a week.

But for as much as the materialism, the objectification of people, the days without sleep, the sex, the makeup, and the 100% batshit-bonkery are depressing and morally bankrupt, those things are alluring. I read both books rapidly—I devoured them—for the spectacle.

What’s important to me right now is making life as pleasing as possible. (You can ask Mitch.) If you left me alone with a pile of fashion magazines, a library of books, some Mexican food, good beer, and my bicycle, I’d be completely happy.

I suspect that this is not the correct answer to “What’s important?” But all the right answers I can think of (God, Love, Education, Helping People, Saving the World) quickly spiral into abstractions whenever you get two or more people talking about them. And I’m sick of abstractions.

Materialism. Hey-o.


It was very dark.

Last night I went to Safeway, just before 11, to get Better-Than-Sex Cookies. I had driven Mitch’s car after dropping him off at his house.

Of course, going to Safeway alone late at night isn’t the safest idea. I’m not saying it’s dangerous... just there are safer things I could have been doing. Like reading. There was a drunk-looking man in the otherwise empty parking lot. And it’s dark. The sprinklers were going. I clutched the car keys, but an attempt to attack someone with them might have just made my assailant angrier. Maybe I should have made Mitch go with me, I thought.

When I got back to Mitch’s car, BTS cookies in hand, I checked the backseat twice. (In case I missed the hulking evil man the first time.) I felt a little better surrounded by metal and glass with a gasoline-powered piston-pumping mechanism at my disposal. The first street light I came to was red.

I heard someone yelling.


I checked to see if the doors are locked, but I couldn't find them (the locks not the doors).

It’s very dark, and I told myself that the yelling was just the radio on low.


I spotted a man standing in the grass on the other side of the road. I couldn't make out anything but his silhouette in front of the faintly lit gas pumps. C’mon light, turn green, I pleaded.

And the light did turn green. I gunned it across the intersection and as I did I heard, “Hey, your lights are off.”

And sure enough.