Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Got up. Left for Keystone. Dropped off my bag, assured it would be taken care of and waiting for me at the campsite. We parked the car and headed for the opening ceremony. Mom was amazed by all of the people, the people in pink ready to walk half the day or all day. We were doing it for people like her. She cried, I hugged her. Then she spilled her coffee down the front of her white shirt. Some lady was up on the stage. Pink. In front of a very large screen, leading us in a warm up. Not quite awake, we did it anyway. We listened to inspirational speeches and cried some more. Every three minutes. That’s how often someone is told they have breast cancer. Every three minutes someone involved in the walk would get a banner to wear stating just that. Every three minutes. Then we were off and walking. One big mass of pink people, mostly women, some men.
One mile. I held back tears the first mile. Then the first pit stop, filled up my water bottle and gave the empty to a man with no bottle. Potty time. The lines were long for the port-a-pots. It must have been a half an hour. I stood behind a girl with long blonde French braids and stared at her white scalp. Surely that would burn. Burnt scalps suck, especially when they peel. So, I asked if there was sun block there, down that perfect part of blondeness. Oh, yes, Mom had applied gobs this morning. Was I walking alone? So was she. I agreed to walk with her, if I could keep up. We went to the bathroom with 400 people. We decided it would be faster if we just didn’t lock our doors. Then went on our way to join the walk with the other 1100.
We talked about jobs, life, families, who we were walking for, everyone was walking for someone, it said so on the signs we pinned to our backs, moms, aunts, grandmas, I walked for my mom and you and me. The line of walkers was long and impressive. And pink. I wonder how many miles we stretched. We were cheered on by cars driving by, bikers, people on balconies, a cow and his milk maid, gruff men with motorcycles in pink furry hats and feather boas and random people along the way. The crew on bikes checked on us, and cheered us on as well. Cars had clever saying painted on their windows, teams had cleverer names. We stayed together until lunch, sat together. I left my backpack with her while I got mole skin for my blisters. I never heard of mole skin before this weekend, but I will always remember it fondly. My bag was still with her when I returned.
We walked together the remainder of the first 13.1. We bitched about the biker on the road who wanted us to walk next to traffic, so he could ride on the right. We came up with more creative words of encouragement. Instead of “Good Job” they could have said, “Go Boobies” or “Cancer Sucks”. She slowed down with me on the uphills. She told me I was doing good, she had had her doubts that I would be able to keep up. She took a picture of me on her phone at the 12 mile mark, so I could send it to myself. I never did. We wondered who marked to last .1 mile, because it took ten minutes to walk it. But we did it, we made it to camp. If we wanted to walk another 13.1 the first day we had to get medical clearance. I was proud to have finished the 13.1. She went on to do the next 13.1, I found out the next day. We were supposed to meet at dinner.
I waited an hour and a half for the chiropractor to break my body in many places, I found out the next day it was well worth it. I got a tent and my bag. Did I have a tent mate? I didn’t know. I took a shower in a truck, best shower I ever I had. I walked 13.1 miles and raised 1800 dollars to take a shower in a truck. I got my blisters taken care of. I ate hot food, and everything but the meatballs and butter container were compostable, so I ate the meatballs, but not the butter container. I said bye to Mom, and went to my tent. I heard one girl, talking to her tent mate, say she was going to get a massage, how much do you think it is. I shouted without even sticking my head out, “It’s totally free!” she was excited. I wrote and drew (It’s going to be a good painting). I brushed my teeth and took out my contacts at the truck with the showers in it, it also had sinks. I sent Angelo a text message- Get me a bottle of wine for tomorrow, please. Then another-Call me when you are done with dinner. He did. Thought about going for seconds of dinner, and fell asleep with my headphones in.
I woke up at 11:35, no tent mate, and went to the port-a-pots across the field. There were glow sticks attached to tents and the handles of the toilet doors. But I had a flashlight anyway. I went back to my tent, no tent mate. It was colder now, so I put on pants and a sweatshirt and curled up in the sleeping bag, listening to the people around me sawing logs. All the different types of saws. It was really cold when I awoke around three. I couldn’t get back to sleep. At 4:45 I got up. Every three minutes. There were banners outside of tents, in shoes left out in the night, almost every other tent had one. Breakfast began at 5:30. I trudged to the shower truck and did my routine. Trudged back to my tent and packed everything up. Breakfast, not as good as dinner, but there was coffee. Every three minutes. I got my banner as I got breakfast. We sat in the sun and stretched. It felt good. At 7:30 we were off and walking again.
I walked and walked, by myself mainly today. I talked to people, and was cheered on by the guys gruff with their pink furry hats and feather boas and motorcycles, the cow, his milk maid, kids of walkers, spouses, crew members on bicycles, random people on bicycles and people in cars. They thanked us for walking and encouraged us with all the positive words they had. Just like the day before. At Rest Stop 1 someone said, “Hi stranger”, and it was the girl from the day before. I gave her a hug. Potty. Food. Water. Blisters. I told her to go on without me, she said she’d see me at the next stop.
I saw mom along the trail cheering us on. She walked with me for a bit. I said I couldn’t stop. Meet me at lunch. I met the cow once again. He said to reapply sun block every two hours. He’d had good advice or a back massager every time I saw him. I told his milk maid they were the best cheerleaders, she told me we were the best walkers. Lunch was served by angels, and it was good. Five more miles.
On the way I listened to conversations. One group was going on a picnic and bringing apples, bings, cherries, I don’t remember the rest, but I thought why bings and not beer? One lady was telling a scandalous story about a man being caught in bed by Patti, he was with Sandy, and Patti knew. It was her dad. One group was telling another about the hotel they stayed in and the bar they went to the night before. One lady had a great idea to wear margarita hats next year so the person in back of her would be chasing it the entire way. The cow ran up to me and said I still had to climb up the top of the mountain before I was at the wellness village. I knew better, he told me the truth, a mile and a half. A girl on a bike, one of the crew told us, “go strong wonderful women”. I was almost there. The girl on the bike rode by announcing, under a bridge then up a hill. There were so many people there to cheer us in. I was looking for my mom. I got hugs and high fives from strangers. I did it. I saw my mom and she gave me a hug. There was ice cream, another t-shirt, registration for next year’s walk and I signed up. I got twenty dollars off for signing up there.
We went back to the condo. Packed. Showered. Back to the closing ceremony. Mom talked to everyone. She had been all weekend. She told them she was a survivor and thanked them for walking. She felt bad because she couldn’t walk, bum ankle, bum knee. We walked into the ceremony together, all the walkers, then survivor walkers, crew, volunteers, medic, etc. We cheered each other on. We thanked the sponsors. We heard more stories from survivors and families of survivors, projected on the big screen. We listened to the numbers, we raised over 3 million dollars, and where it was going. Every three minutes. 750 banners were given out over two days. We raised our hands and joined them together. More tears were shed. And we went home.
I never saw my walking partner again. I never even asked her name, she never asked mine, I guess it really wasn’t important. She still has a picture of me on her phone.
I drove home. What a long day, but it felt good. I stopped in Fredrick for gas and the bathroom. Every three minutes. I still had my ribbon on.
When I got home there was a bottle of wine for me. I was happy to be home, but excited to go back next year.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
It’s called helicopter skiing. And I was in. But skiing the glaciers of Alaska was quickly becoming a dangerous prospect as our helicopter scouted out potential summits upon which to land.
“There, over there,” someone shouted from behind me to the guide and pointing his finger to some pimple of a peak.
The helicopter circled the summit twice; the percussion of the whirling blades set off no noticeable avalanches, so it was deemed good to go.
The mountain’s summit was no more than 20 square-feet, so the helicopter only had room enough to slam its skids into the side of the mountain, with its tail end hanging 4,000 feet above the ground. The 6-person skiing party jumped out of its cramped, but strangely comfortable, interior. After the packs, skies, and skiers were all safely huddled on the white-capped pimple, I took a moment to look around.
Steep, rocky cliff banks marked most of the faces to this mountain. “Instant death . . . ” I thought as a blast of cold Chugach air blew in from Port Valdez, ". . . should I chance to fall down the wrong side." At that moment, I looked down the face that we’d be skiing. I remember thinking to myself how I was never more afraid in my life--and probably--never more alive. We dove in, one-by-one, triggering no avalanches, over snow-filled couloirs, among green-glass glaciers and soaring bald eagles, through three-feet of undisturbed Alaskan powder, to rejoin the group again, now, more as proven skiing buddies than 60-minute-old strangers.
Dear Queen and King Boobernackle (aka my parents),
Sitting here in my high tower, found near the Pit of Death and in the center of the breeding ground for our pet dragons, I have had some time to think about where I would like my life to go. Once again, the electricity is out up here—probably another mishap with a baby dragon that hasn’t yet learned to control its hot breath of fire around our electrical lines---and once again, I am left to stare at my unusable Playstation 3 (I was just about to beat Lego Indiana Jones, too), Mac, television, cordless phone (since you STILL won’t let me have my own cell…as if I would call that brainless Prince Ken Charming!), and treadmill. Because staring at these now useless items was only depressing me, I thought I may distract myself with the view out of my window. Yes, it is a bit dreary here near the Pit of Death, where you send the evil-doers of our kingdom, but across the horizon I can see trees, fields, and even some rolling hills (with the help of my binoculars, of course). And it was after taking in these majestic views, that I realized how I need to get out of this horrendous tower.
Now, I understand that you are worried about me being in the real world because of the way I look. I assure you that I will do some research before I walk into the world wearing my usual ball-gown and jeweled tiara. I realize that the common-folk probably don’t wear tiaras, so I can always exchange that for some pearl barrettes—no one will suspect a thing. I have also already had my seamstress sew an extremely gorgeous evening gown for when I am to be released into the real world. Upon doing some preliminary research from books I have had read to me by our maid, Mary, I think that the quant town of North Dakota may suit me very nicely. Mary insists I would really enjoy it there, and even though I find Mary a bit on the ugly side, this bit of advice was really nice on her part. She said that the excitement of this
Anyways, I just want you to know that I deserve my independence, and I am willing to do this extra research in order to accomplish this. Please let me know via email (although I have to send this by bird because of aforementioned electrical outage); I am already beginning to pack my trunks!
Your lovely daughter,
The fairest in this land (and probably several others as well),
Princess Barbie Boobernackle
to be taken
under the tongue
and rolled around.
There is a richness to me,
a flavor like fecund soil.
Let me slide past your lips
as ice cream leaves the spoon
cool and slow.
I’ll melt in the middle
and saturate the sides
of your speech.
Maybe take a small bite;
move it to the back row to chew.
Feel the afterburn
like green chile,
the arousal of your mouth.
—by Anne Colwell, CSUWP 2008
Monday, June 23, 2008
PRESS, PRESS, PRESS...I haven't written fiction since elementary school :)
Although I always expected Becca’s tardiness whenever we met, I begin to scan the restaurant for her uniquely bright long blonde hair. The place is busy; almost every table is full of chatting couples and families on this cloudy Saturday afternoon. While the sky hasn’t yet started with the cool summer droplets we depend on to clear out the
Breaking my gaze out the window to my left, I scan back through the restaurant and am surprised to see the waiter standing quite close to my right side with an inquiring look on his face. Slightly dipping my head, I give him a somewhat confused (while also slightly annoyed) side glance from the top of my eyes.
“Yes?” I ask as I wonder how long he has been standing there.
“Would you like more tea?” he responds, fluctuating his voice in a manner that indicates he may have already asked this question once.
“Yes….yeah, please,” I reply softly, slightly embarrassed at my rudeness. He nods and begins to pour the tea. I add, “I’ll order once my friend arrives” indicating towards the empty chair as if I need to explain why I am currently alone. The waiter smiles, and I am pleased to see that his left cheek slightly dimples when he does so. I can’t help but reciprocate the smile, imagining my goofy face smiling back like that of a love-drunk teenager. I am suddenly horribly self-aware of my heavy limbs and awkward position. My posture is slouchy, and I sit up. I can’t quite tell if the waiter is cute, and as my body heat rises, I wonder why with age I haven’t become more calm and confident when it comes to flirting. I am almost thirty and still flirt like an awkward high schooler. My mom had promised that this nervousness would diminish the same time my acne cleared up, my braces came off, and my 80’s bangs grew out. Clearly she had higher hopes for me.
“Uggg. Hey, Kari…Sorry I’m late, but I’m finally here, I really don’t have an excuse, and you know me, I’m always late, did I say ‘sorry’ yet?” Becca rambles her usual obligatory monologue in a whirlwind of clothing and brightness as the restaurant lights reflect off her always perfectly combed blonde hair. Removing her jacket, she turns to the waiter, “And I’ll have a dry Beefeater martini, please. Vigorously shaken and with two olives.” She says the word vigorously in a manner that shows she is extremely serious about this part of her order, while she neatly adjusts her jacket over her chair and fumbles through her large bag of a purse.
I smirk as I watch the waiter glance at his watch and then in my direction. “That’s my cue to switch to wine…How about a glass of your Sauvignon Blanc?” I respond with a devious smirk. The dimple returns as I watch him nod and leave, writing down our drink order as he does so. I catch myself watching him walk away, taking careful detail of the way his other cheeks (the ones without the dimple) delicately move with the slight sway of his hips. His pant legs seem to me to be the perfect length and his walk seems to say that he is both confident and adventurous. Sighing aloud, I watch him stop at another table to remove some dirty plates and again the dimple returns. “That dimple alone must double his tips,” I think, catching myself once again smiling like that uncomfortable teenager of my past.
“Am I interrupting something?” Becca smirks, slightly looking in the direction of the waiter as a smile grows across her lips. I laugh, although I am conscious it may have been closer to a giggle, but Becca doesn’t seem to notice.
Immediately, Becca begins filling our table with amusing stories from her office. Her delicious tales are half the reason we meet every other weekend for lunch; her hilarious accounts fill my hunger for laughter every time.
Although I truly have no idea what Becca is actually paid to do at work, she has a real skill for not only story-telling but giving people nicknames. In college we practically stalked QdobaBoy (Qdoba being the local burrito place across from our dorms and Boy meaning their late-night delivery guy), and then in our spinning class there was Visor who was this intense, but also super-sexy, instructor who always wore a visor despite the fact that we were in a windowless, dim, indoor cycling studio.
The same goes for Becca’s skills in naming her office colleagues. There is Grandma the super-sweet phone receptionist who even occasionally bakes cookies for everyone on special occasions. Then there is Slinky, a guy from another department, who Becca constantly catches in their section of the building, peering over cubicle walls as he slowly saunters by. Becca insists that he may secretly have been hired to spy on employees and report back on which are working and which only check email or stream videos all day. Whether it’s true or not, Becca admits her productivity escalates when she spots him in their area. And, of course, there’s Verde. Verde is Becca’s work crush. A guy with whom she flirts, and who apparently has some of the deepest colored green eyes Becca has ever seen. I have, of course, never met any of these characters, but I have an inclination that I could identify every one of them if I ever showed up at her work.
This week was an especially flirtatious one since for the first time in the two years Becca has worked at her job, her boss, Hairy-Back-Mary, (who is not hairy, but in fact a major beast when necessary), was out of the office on some business meeting in London. Apparently Becca tortured Verde with mischievous sticky notes and inappropriate emails over the entire week. “They were quite creative,” she added with a sly smile and light laugh, and evidently they were, because Verde responded to each and every one with even more creative answers.
Becca said her week went quite smoothly without Hairy-Back’s constant micro-managing. And with her extra time, Becca had tailed Slinky to find out exactly which department he worked in, yet unfortunately his pace was too slow for her to naturally follow and keep an eye on him. This, of course, only solidified her theory of him being a spy. Overall, though, she was productive and had some fun for the first time at work. “Needless to say, I am already dreading this upcoming week. I’m sure Hairy-Back will make up for her time gone by coming into my cubicle to go over everything I did wrong with last week’s paperwork,” Becca adds, rolling her eyes.
I suddenly notice that the waiter has returned. “Can I get you anything else?” he kindly asks.
As with all of my lunches with Becca, I hardly realize where the time goes. We had ordered and drunk two rounds of drinks, eaten all of the bread and our meals. We were now idly chatting at the table that our waiter was probably hoping to quickly turnover.
“Nope, we’re good,” Becca responds with a wink in my direction. Luckily the waiter missed it as he puts the black bill holder down, staring directly at me as he does so. Becca grabs for the bill, “My turn,” she pipes, and I slowly pull my gaze away from the waiter.
“Are you sure?” I ask, trying to think which of us had paid last time.
Suddenly Becca stops. “Hey, Kari…What does this mean? Is this even our bill?” She scans it another second longer, nods and then hands me the bill as she begins digging through her purse. “I’m sure it’s some cryptic message he meant to put on someone else’s bill. But that’s our bill. I always look for my martinis if I ever have a question…” she continues on, but I hardly hear her.
Scribbled in blue at the top of our crisp white bill are the words: “When did you last speak to your husband?” The words jump into my stomach with a twinge before my brain is even able to register it completely. Becca is right, though; this is our bill. To Becca this message seems to mean nothing to either of us, but the question resonates with me until my brain finally comes up with an answer: I hadn’t spoken to nor seen my husband in almost five years.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Jeneanne, you bounce you roll you hop
You paint with the brightest colors the boldest strokes
You were a tree with a smile
The overgrown pixie.
Jeneanne, everyone knew your joy
A college kid to the fullest.
A kid in college
to teach us something.
I wish I knew where you are today
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
It is amazing to me how you can fall into friendship with someone in a matter of minutes whereas you can strive for years to become close with others to no avail. Canadian Carla came into my life with the force of a Tasmanian devil and left as quiet as the surf of the Pacific Ocean on a calm day. She left, however, an indelible mark on my life and my journey that I will never forget.
I was studying abroad in Australia and had recently been abandoned by my pot smoking basketball partner in favor of a more leafy substance. I knew that Carla had mentioned in passing that she would be interested in playing basketball some day. I battled with myself with whether or not I should ask her to play. I didn’t want her to say no, because I disliked having my overtures at friendship being rejected. However, I told myself, I was studying abroad, halfway around the world, and I was not going to be the same girl who waited for things to happen to her. With that determination, I walked up to her door and knocked. Please be home… or not… All of the sudden, she answered the door. I timidly asked if she would be interested in playing basketball. Please say yes… Please say yes… I willed as I waited for her response. “Sure! “ She said with a smile. Off we went, and the rest, as they say, was history. Before I knew it, we were playing basketball almost every day, challenging the Australians to a game of soccer… sorry… ‘football,’ and learning to play rugby.
Even the most mundane activities began to take on an aura of mystery. We decided to go to a soccer game and it turned into an unforgettable adventure of cheering for the wrong team on the wrong side of the stands, followed by a harrowing walk through the creepiest neighborhoods that Canberra, Australia had to offer. We then ran all the way to the movies and slid into the theater just in time for the show. We were alone in our adventure because no one else thought we could accomplish all of our goals in such a short time, but with Carla, you could accomplish pretty much anything you set your mind to.
Carla was the kind of girl who liked to sit in the front of the theater so she feels like she is part of the action. She was the kind of girl that you take to a bar and within minutes you are leading an entire drunken rugby team in song. She was the kind of girl that could convince us that taking a cab the 4 miles between the Sydney Opera House and our hostel wasn’t necessary. Instead, we danced our way back home, stopping in every club and dancing for 30 minutes and then heading to the next club. It took four hours, but was the best walk home I have ever had. If the party started at 9, we were at her house at 8, taking turns performing concerts with hairbrushes as our microphones.
She lived everyday to the fullest, and when you were with her, you did too. Once we got back from Australia we tried to keep in touch, but our friendship eventually fell away. She was a whirlwind, her own type of Tasmanian devil and truly, a once in a lifetime kind of friend.