My dog had a tumor removed from her leg. I saw her this past week because I went home to my parents’ house (an 18-hour car trip). She’s small for a Lab-Rottweiler mix and has pretty brown eyes and floppy brown ears. Her back leg is shaved from the surgery, and she has a funny-shaped bald spot on her rear. The vet couldn’t get all the cancer, though, it’s spread too far. My parents won’t put her through chemo: too expensive, too painful, and she wouldn’t understand.

My dad, Lindsay, and I took Littles to City Park in Denver. We threw the tennis ball, and she sprinted after it. Sometimes she’d barrel role while trying to pick it up. She got down on her front quarters when I held the ball, her tail in the air. My dad told us to take it easy on her, and we stopped playing fetch before she wanted to. She held the ball in her mouth and rubbed it on Lindsay’s leg, leaving puddles of drool and dirt on the denim.

That night, when my dad and I got back from dinner and a movie, Littles couldn’t move. Her muscles shook when she tried to stand. Worried it was the last night I would see her alive, I lay on the wood floor with her, me on my side arched around her back. All of her friends have died: Sonja (Airedale), Sunny (Aussie), and Jazz and Dixie (German Shepherd-Labrador). Old dogs.

The next morning she was entirely better. Dad and I took her for a walk on the Intemann Trail. When we got to the creek she jumped down into it, biting at it with her mouth. She lay on her belly. She came out and shook water all over me; then she rolled onto her back and wagged with her whole body in the dirt and fallen aspen leaves.

Once, at the Y, I gave a tour to a man who was curious to see the inside of the building. We walked slowly. It was hard to find relevant talking points about the Y — his children were grown, he walked with cane (eliminating basketball and the climbing wall). When we breached the double doors of the pool deck, went into the air hot with chlorine, he looked at the bobbing water of the lap pool and said, “My wife would have loved this. She was a beautiful swimmer.”


Tonight is Nick's birthday and I have to make 100 cups of jello and 50 cupcakes.

Despite the implied connection of these two facts, my tasks have nothing to do with Nick's birthday, (other than it almost prevented me from buying him a beer at Teddy's bar on 65th and Roosevelt).

My cups of jello and cake are for my jr. high kids, which is another story all together. Stay tuned.

Teddy's belongs in a Coen brother's film. The wooden walls hold three televisions, pool sticks, coat hangers, and a vintage portrait of the beloved president. The spotted ceiling makes you want to throw pencils at it to see if they stick. The jute box seems to be stuck on a modest mouse and a johnny cash album. I imagine a male character opening the door, kicking the snow from his boots as he makes eye contact with the bartender whose been pouring his drinks for eighteen years. He grabs a beer, remains alone, and thinks. The scene is depressing, inviting, and humorous all at the same time.

Nick, Erin, Stephen, Jeremy, and I drank beer. We played pool. I failed miserably. But I did make a very important discovery. Apparently I've been playing pool left-handed the whole time and I had no idea.

Throughout our conversations of flying kites, med school interviews, Broadway shows, and why I was fiddling with four types of jello boxes in my hands, we paid our tabs and walked to the door.

I looked over to a table near the front window and found my character.

He was sitting in a corner by a window, pen and paper at his hand, eyes fixed on me. He was old and dirty. He smelled like a pack of cigarettes. His two front teeth were rotten and his hands were soiled. He had the most beautiful blue eyes.

"Whatcha doin?" I asked.

"I'm writing a poem. I've been writing for 25 years now." His wayward response made it clear he assumed I was drunk.

He wasn't quite sure what to make of me. I cannot blame him for assuming as much. Typically a girl like me would not approach a guy like him. I wasn't bothered by this reaction. It made sense in a way. He on the other hand, was drunk. His words flowed together gently and slothfully. To my delight his suspicion of me suddenly drowned in his whiskey or curiosity (or both) and did not keep him from continuing the conversation.

"I like this girl you see. I've had a crush on her for a long time. Her name is Crystal. I am writing a poem about her. This first half is before I kiss her, and then after I kiss her, and I will kiss her some day, I'll finish the rest here." He brushes the paper with the dirt of his hands. Four long, scribbled, and reworded stanzas consume the pre-kiss page. For some reason he already started the first stanza of the "post-kiss" section of the poem. I decided not to bring this to his attention. I was preoccupied with the shock of his response. I felt like I was talking to my jr. high kids again.

"It looks real great!" I said in my little kid voice that I use when I don't know what to say.

"You don't know that. You haven't read it."

"Oh, yes. I guess that's true." I was embarrassed. That was a very silly thing of me to say.

"I have a hard time picking women. I fall in love with the potential of the girl and who she could be, and I forget to see what is real, what is right in front of me." His eyes light up. He takes another sip of his whiskey and coke and is comforted. "I can never see what is real, you know?"

"Yes. Are you going to read the letter to her?"

"Not until I kiss her. I am going to kiss her."

I smile and wave goodbye. He had the most beautiful eyes.


Of Legal Drinking Age

I didn't have my license with me, and Mitch and I were in line at Rosauers with some groceries and an impulse bottle of wine. Mitch placed the items on the moveable-sidewalk-for-groceries and stood in front of me to pay. But I could tell upon approaching that the checker was going to be a douzie. She looked about sixty, and behind her glasses were eyes that meant business, that didn't take any shit from the slightly off-color crowd frequenting her store.

"Can I see both of your licenses?"

This was followed by the "Oh darn, left it at home" conversation that makes me feel like I'm a lying underage delinquent.

Mitch produced his. He asked our checker if she trusted me, and to my surprise she rang up the wine and bagged our things.

"I'm 23," I said. Being helpful. Demonstrating the considerable number of years I've been drinking legally.

"23, huh? If I could be 23 again... You know, I wouldn't. 33, yes. But not 23."

And any number of events, mere moments, can happen that cause lancing pain for years. There's no guarantee for future happiness, but I'm trusting my grocer. I think life's going to get better for us over the next ten years.


Job Politics

People complain about the politics at work: among teachers, in the YMCA, between Emily and her boss. I’ve decided the only way to properly complain about work politics is to insist that the politics are foul, not to bewail the fact that working includes politics. I entered the work force with an expectation for it to be something like school: set tasks and set ways to evaluate people’s performance. Of course teachers didn’t always like me, but there was a semblance of impartiality, grade-wise, throughout.

Emily isn’t great pals with her boss which has given rise to 40-hour graveyard shifts five weeks in a row. All requests to switch ignored.

The new girl at my work told me today that she quit her last job because “it was a popularity contest.”

Unless the job is one that requires a high degree of specialty or skill, and one in which a worker’s ability can be openly tested, (e.g. computer hacker, heart surgeon) there will be nothing stopping the pet favorite of the boss from getting a promotion or recognition or better shifts than someone more competent but less well-liked.

But complaining that these popularity contests exist is like complaining that there is traffic or a line at the grocery store or people living in the apartment upstairs (and banging around like crazy on a Saturday morning, I might add). Essentially that there are other people in existence and more specifically that in daily life we more often deal with people than with things or ideas.

Society is not made up of laws that shan’t be broken, mechanisms, or large inert structures. It is made up entirely of people—people behind every rule and interpreting every rule—and working with those people is largely the stuff of working at anything.

Still they suck. Rumors, caddishness, suck-up-etry, and all other manner of back-biting or falseness come in the door wages foolishly cracked open. But I’ll tell you the best strategy I’ve heard for dealing with it:

When I asked Carrie if the politics between the staff at the school where she’s student teaching were bad, she answered me, “Sure. But I don’t know much about them—I eat lunch with the bilinguals.”

Wise words, mes amis.


a cup of coffee.

"Would you like a cup of coffee?" Jamie asked. Many suburban dwellers would say that she had just addressed the most religious man in town. He sits in front of the Lovejoy Surgicenter everyday. The plaque near its door informs those who pass by that the Lovejoy center has long been recognized as " a national model, offering a level of care unmatched in scope, thoroughness, and sensitivity." In the calender year 2000, the Lovejoy Surgicenter performed nearly 50% of the 7.111 abortions in the Portland Metropolitan Area of Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington counties.

The convicted man is so busy sitting he doesn't have enough time to fix the sign he holds in his blistered hand. Some of the letters that spell out, "Save You're Baby" have fallen. The dirt and grim that bordered the missing letters still remain, becoming the one thing that kept the letters visible.

Startled by the young voice, the main looked at Jamie and said, "No Thanks, you can never be too careful 'bout except'n things like coffee. It might be poisonous. Don't mean to offend you o nothin'. He replied. "the name's Jack Martin." He smacked his lips and cleared his throat. "I've been sitting here for seven years now. No baby should die, that's just not just. Just not right you see? What about the father? What can he do? He has no choice. His baby just dies. He has no choice." He rocks back and forth in his rusted lawn chair. He looks at the girl for a moment and then stares at blade of grass in the cracked pavement. He was captured by what he saw as if he was watching a memory.

"I see." Jamie replied not sure whether or not to drink the coffee. It was still warm enough to sip. "I would like to ask you a question if you don't mind." Jamie shifted her weight from one leg to the other. She ran her fingers along the rim of the rejected red and green holiday cup from Starbucks. "How are you showing the love of Christ to the clinic's patients?"

Shocked and surprised he broke his concentration that was focused on the ground. He looked at her and replied, "Christ? You mean Jesus? Who said anything about loving Jesus?"


Something Human

We were discussing tomatoes at work.

Some people have strong feelings about them tomatoes, mostly negative too. Ashleigh said her cousins loved them. They lived on a farm and they’d gross her out with their tomato-eating practices. She said they’d eat them right off the plant. That they’d put them tomatoes into their mouths and bite them like you would an apple.

She showed me with her hands how the juice would flow from the corners of their mouths. It’d go down over their jaws and seep into their clothes—tomato blood, placenta, and seeds.


Dream Categories

I finished Douglas Coupland's book, Microserfs, a little while ago. It's about a group of people just out of college who begin by slaving away at Microsoft--completely entrenched in the computer world. They live so much in their brains and in the contact between fingertips and keyboard that the rest of their bodies go sheepishly neglected. They break away from Microsoft to start their own company (the fabulous allure of one point oh) and move in with the main character's parents. I came away with the overwhelming sweetness of friendship, of being brains and bodies and souls, and of taking a risk to create something new.

And anyway, Coupland helps introduce each character by giving a list of his or her seven dream Jeopardy! categories. The seven categories to which nervous contestant so-and-so sighs in relief because heshe is an expert concerning those things. So here is a partial list of the people treasured by the Westovarians:

1. Arsenal
2. Why his preferences for arbitrary things are, in fact, important
3. Hiking in Washington
4. The Internet
5. Nice shirts
6. Dance music
7. The coolness of Levin in contrast to that of Anna K.

1. 90's Nickelodeon cartoons
2. Tolkien
3. Arsenal FC
4. Golf banter
5. The Big Lebowski
6. Speed traps on I-90
7. Sufjan songs

1. Sex and the City
2. Zumba
3. How it's not working with that one guy
4. Ways to abbreviate words
5. Frowny faces
6. Snacks
7. Running

1. Lutheran theology
2. The ins and outs (and what-have-yous) of wearing Chaco sandals year round
3. Parenthetical interjections
4. Jeopardy!
5. Star Wars/Halo/Mass Effect/BSG/Armory Wars/etc. storyline (basically a Sci-Fi geek)
6. Video games
7. Biblical Languages

1. Beer
2. Cats
3. Human anatomy
4. Health food
5. Natural remedies
6. Carnivale
7. Suzanne's sing-song commentary

Please add yourself.


At Cedar and First

Sitting in the Rocket Bakery, trying to write a story about vampires, I saw a man and a little girl walking on the pavement outside. She had a little blue dress with a purple belt and blonde curly hair. He was in green pants and a “Herzog” t-shirt. It was raining steadily, more static than downpour. He picked her up and pointed south, “Look, a train.” He sat her against his chest and crossed his arms over her legs. An aluminum-sided train ran on the tracks above Cedar Street.

The girl clapped her hands against her mouth. A woman brought the man a cup of coffee, and he put the little one down to take it. They watched for a while out in the rain.