A while back, my dad supported something he was telling me by relating what happened in a Star Trek episode. (Mom has said that when she was dating dad, he used to talk to her for hours about Star Trek over the phone. She's a little surprised she married him after that. My mom does not watch TV.) I remember the sun coming in behind him through the sliding glass door. Dad sitting at our beat-up wood table, his eyes a little bit wider and more intense, like they get when he has something to tell you, which is... maybe more often than not.

Yesterday, I saw the episode he was referencing for the first time. Captain Jean-Luc Picard and Ensign Wesley Crusher are shipwrecked on an inhospitable moon, and they are dying of thirst, Picard especially so because he's been hit in the head by some rocks. As he's gasping breaths which may be his last, he gives Wesley some advice about the ensign's soon-coming entrance into Star Fleet Academy.

Picard: Make sure you get in touch which Mr. Boombi. He's been there, oh, forever. I gained a great deal of wisdom from him when I was in the Academy. He helped me tremendously.

Wesley: I will, sir. (Captain, you're not going to die!) What subject does he teach?

Picard: He's the groundskeeper.

(And out of a British Picard-admiring woman's mind Hagrid was born.)

I got a little choked up over this scene. What with the provoked memories of my father and his love of Star Trek and of watching recordings of early episodes on VHS tapes and of the unlikely circumstances surrounding my birth, how could I not get emotional? But even aside from that, something in the wise groundskeeper archetype appeals to me.

It might be the comfort and excitement in believing that a person's station in life is not indicative of his character. That the locations of good and interesting people are unknown and unguessed.

It's also a welcome counterpoint to the emphasis on Networking that I've experienced since graduating college. I think everyone seeks personal gain and rewards in friendships--in the case of the big N, career advancement--but I like that sometimes the most rewarding friendships can be the ones who offer no material advantage. My starship captain tells me so.


Take Me Home

There's an odd buzz to how people speak around here. A slight Chicagoland whine, a pinch in their noses.

I had a dream that I was eating dinner with Katrina at a restaurant in Illinois. Compared to the people around us I admired the nice roundness of her voice (round but not overly round, not like Minnesotan rocks-plopping-into-water round) as she raised fork after fork of stuck pineapple and steak.


Dollar Bills

I have this unimplemented idea (wouldn't be the only one) about using dollar bills. I want to take twenty bucks worth of one-dollar bills and distribute them one at a time whenever asked. I would like to see what would happen. Maybe nothing.

Each time someone asked me for money (for food, for fare, the church offering basket, tip jars) I'd give them one dollar. Easy experiment, I just need to do it. I'd be testing limited-but-ready generosity to see if it made any difference in my life.

I have an extension for this experiment as well. I got a load of Roald Dahl books from the library because Mitch loves them so much, and the only one I read growing up was Magic Finger. I read Matilda first. (An aside: when the movie came out I was not allowed to watch it because my parents didn't want me getting any ideas. I might have glued my dad's hat to his head or something.) In it, I found not one but two crisply pressed dollar bills!

My idea is to take an additional twenty dollars worth of Washingtons and put one a piece into the children's books that I think are the best. This, of course, to encourage kids to read. A dollar is a lot to a seven-year-old.

One into Matilda, into Island of the Blue Dolphins, into Venus Among the Fishes, into Maniac Magee, into Holes, into Hatchet, into The Light Princess, into Bridge to Terabithia, into The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and into A Wrinkle in Time.


This American Life

I am somewhat annoyed with myself that I've re-discovered This American Life. I should be listening to the news in French, (considering the rapidly approaching Language Proficiently Test I have to take and the reality that my french skills resemble a rusty, dilapidated attic). Instead, I find myself late to work because I am sitting in my car hoping to finish a story.

I am aware that NPR and This American Life are popular amongst people our age. (I assume I'm talking to a twentysomething crowd.) It is a cure for boredom for many post-undergraduate souls. Young minds fresh from school now realize they must "quit their pretentious things and punch the clock" can finally have their curiosity and need for learning appeased.

My mom used to listen to the show on her old, black radio while she cooked dinner. I would drag my 20 pound backpack to the kitchen table after school and unload my books and binders and folders and textbooks. As I studied Chemistry and my mom made curry, Ira Glass would fill the room with one of his stories. My mom and I talked the other day about how much she cooked when we were kids. I remarked on how awful I was at Chemistry. I blame, (and thank) Ira for both of those results.

I am going to recommend some stories for you to check out. Because I don't want to ruin the story for you, I'll list a potential mood/thought you may have with an episode that compliments your current state. It's like a wine and cheese pairing for the brain.

You are in a whimsical mood with a short attention span

You want to meet Javert's reincarnation.

You feel like watching a soap opera but don't out of principle.

You got drunk last night and may or may not have done something stupid.

You feel guilty for not recycling and giving a dollar to the homeless man you always see.

You feel like reading a book but you aren't sure what to read.

You find yourself interested in what history textbooks should (but won't) say about this time in your life.

You want to laugh at a dead baby joke. (a mild one)

You are discouraged and don't want to be encouraged.

You want to listen to Fleet Foxes, "Helplessness Blues" and would enjoy a slapstick commentary on politicians.

You are driving from portland to seattle and you want to laugh and cry in the same story. (This is a fairly subjective feeling, but work with me here.)

I hope this satisfies you for now. Thank you Arcade Fire and Eric Eddy for the idea behind one of my sentences. I'll be listening for more. Let me know of any you enjoy.



I talked to Lindsay on Skype yesterday. She reminded me of an ideal we subscribed to starting around middle school; we decided that in college and out in our twenties we would live on Ramen noodles, tuna sandwiches, and other dollar-a-day type fair.

It's a romantic ideal, in my mind, and Mitch and I need all the help we can get paying off those student loans. Drip coffee black or with half and half, eggs, cheese, milk, bread. No cigarettes. Cheap (well, cheaper) beer. Taking sack lunches or granola bars into the city. Gin and tonics from home in water bottles on the train. Going to the park for fun. Cheap to free. Thrift stores.

The idea being able to beat the system -- does anybody else think in teenage language like that? because I haven't been able to get away from it -- denying advertisements and consumerism and all that demands more time to more work to make more pay to buy the things it says make a life. Houses. Clothes. Cars. Bigger and better.

The strategy is to take the other side, the spending less money instead of making more, and being happy doing it. Some kind of modern asceticism for no religious reason. Showing that we can have freedom (again with the language that I should be too old or too educated for. I should be jaded against words like "freedom" but they exist in an encampment in my brain. Turreted and sending flaming arrows against any attempt to remove them.) from material baggage and unnecessary spending. So that when the time comes, we can get up and leave: to travel, to quit, to move. (Lindsay and Mat moved all their possessions inside a compact Toyota.)

Stubborn. Something to prove.



I put the van into park. The rain drizzled. Two girls bust open the van doors.

"I hate this fucking club!"

that was the first thing Amber said as she jumped into the van.

Mandy responded, "you owe me cup-o-noodles Annie, this is all your fault!"

Earlier that day I handed them a plastic bag filled with a few dollar bills and twelve quarters. I wrote a note and stuck it with the loose change. The note read, "Bus Fare Money for Health Clinic."

Amber and Mandy took the wrong bus. They asked a friend at school which bus to take. The friend said the 245. They should have taken the 271. It was now 5:00pm. Amber and Mandy first got onto the bus at 2:30. They wasted the entire afternoon on the bus. They missed their appointment and didn't get free birth control.

By the time I put pressure on the gas petal it was very clear that every unfortunate event from the moment their feet left school grounds was my fault.

I conveyed my apologies and asked for the change back.

Mandy playfully responded, "You don't deserve to get the money back. You owe us big time."

A dear fried once told me that the main problem with the education system has little to do with the techniques or strategies of the educators. The fact is many students don't care. Their apathy is the problem. The students are the problem. The way in which they think or act is extremely misconstrued, yet we try to 'meet them where they are at' and 'acknowledge all of their feelings as truth.'

I turned on the radio and drove them home.


The Job Search

In the city, there was a group of pigeons sleeping behind a wrought-iron fence on Clinton Street.

The odd thing was that it was 8:30 in the morning, the sun well up, and plenty of people were walking past on the sidewalk. And I usually see pigeons pecking around somewhat individually, not being communal or affectionate.

They were sleeping in! Heads tucked backwards into purple and grey feathers. Their breasts two straining lumps of bone.

I had a job interview on the seventh floor of a building overlooking Lake Michigan. I took heels in my purse to change into after the walk from the subway. I felt impressed by how thin the line between nothing and everything is.