Lap Swim Musings

Thoughts I have while swimming laps:

1. Remember when I used to be afraid that there was a Great White shark in the pool and that one day it would emerge from the shadowy corner where it’s been lurking for the past two decades and get me?

2. But that can’t happen.  Right?  Right?

3. “Hey Ho” is playing.  I will now hold the kickboard so I can keep my head above water and listen.

4. How many times has my mom lapped me now?  Five?  Does the lifeguard know she’s a triathlete?  Maybe I should tell him so he won’t judge me so harshly for my comparative slowness.

5. I should probably get a serious swimsuit.  The red with blue polka dots was funny the first day, but now I think people half expect me to head for the kiddie pool instead of the deep end.

6. My word I’m tired.  My word I’m going to grip the side and rest while pretending to watch the clock as if I’m taking a scheduled rest.  But really I’m going to rest until I stop panting like a winded rhino.

7. My word I thought I was in shape.  Why is this so hard?

8. I think I’ll have some chocolate when I get home.

9. A small piece of dark, though, because that’s Dr. Oz approved.

10. When did Dr. Oz start running my life?  Oh, when he said that the lotion I was already using was the best kind of lotion.  That was when I decided we must be on the same wavelength.

11.  Maybe two pieces of dark chocolate.

12. I wish I could do a flip turn.  The polka dots must be holding me back.

How I imagine I look while swimming

How I imagine I look while swimming.

How I actually look.

How I actually look.

Chequamegon Books

Friends, let’s talk bookstores.  We’ve done this before.  There was the time when I studied abroad, and ignored things like the Famous Sights of Paris and Munich in favor of their tiny, English bookstores.  Like this one.

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And this one.

There’s also Garrison Keillor’s Common Good Books in St. Paul, which I try to duck into whenever I can (admittedly, part of the draw is hope for a someday sighting of the man himself).

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There’s Half Price Books, which, while somewhat lacking in that cozy bookstore charm, has filled most of my bookshelves because it’s so cheap.

But then there’s my very favorite bookstore, which I had the good fortune to visit last weekend.  I’m only able to go about once a year, as it’s 3.5 miles away from my house, in tiny Washburn, Wisconsin.  Might I introduce Chequamegon Books? (pronounced sheh-wah-meg-an)

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Please note that were you to walk forward down the sidewalk and then turn left around the edge of the building, and were you to continue to walk straight after that, you would find yourself at the edge of Lake Superior after about ten minutes.

I love this bookshop most of all because it’s so familiar to me.  I’ve been getting books here since I was young enough to promise my mother that should she purchase my pile for me, I would pay her back come next allowance.  Chequamegon Books introduced me to Anne of Green Gables, to Betsy Tacy, to the Mary Poppins series.

Most recently, I found the entire His Dark Materials series–in near-new condition–for fifteen dollars. I nearly cheered as the owner was ringing them up, and then, having flippantly declared that I didn’t need a bag and could carry them out, saw that it was raining thick and fast.  So, I did what every gleeful owner of a new set of reads would do: I stuck all three books under my shirt, eight months pregnant-style, and sprinted to the car.

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It’s one of those bookstores that makes you feel intelligent as soon as you walk through the door.  You don’t merely feel as if you’re among readers, but you feel as if you’re among readers who challenge themselves, who discuss what they read, who appreciate the smell of one part coffee one part dust one part yellowed pages as much as you.  It’s not a snobbish place (they do stock the likes of Twilight, I noticed), but it’s a place that makes you want to dive into a classic novel, to scrawl notes in its margins.

Chequamegon Books stacks books horizontally.  It embraces the crammed, the hour search before you unearth the book you’re destined to take home, the handwritten signs, the small wooden chairs placed randomly about should you need to rest while you comfortably browse the lower shelves.

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There are also actual shelf ladders that actually roll across shelves.

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I walked right under this ladder, forgoing all superstition.  Shockingly, I haven’t sustained any major injuries since.  It must be part of the magic of the bookstore.

Chequamegon Books is a peaceful, earthy place, and one of my favorites in the world.

The Gothic Thrill of a Rainstorm Rescue

Note: This incident happened a few years ago, while I was working at Target for the summer.  I found the story saved in a Word document, and thought I should share it on here (everyone loves a good dog story, after all).  I play the clumsy girl in the red and khaki.

A few days ago, I was late for work.  When I finally arrived, my hair was so soaked that it stuck to my forehead in thick chunks.  The top half of my red shirt was wet as well, and my shoes squeaked as I walked down the main aisle toward Pat, who was scanning in Kitchen.

I walked past Kathy, who said “Good morning, Holly,” as she always does.

In fact, Kathy uses my name every single time she addresses me.  It bothered me a little at first, because it seemed as though she was continually trying to prove to me that she remembered my name.  Now I like it, though, because she looks me in the eye when she says it, because when she says my name she makes it sound so solid and important, and because she looks cheerily satisfied when I follow my “Good morning” with her name in return.

I walked past Maria, who commented on my wet shirt.  “What happened?”  she asked.  “It’s not even raining anymore!”

“I know,” I replied, hesitating, “but there was a dog on the highway, and I stopped to bring him home.”

“What a do-gooder!”  I heard Maria exclaim behind me, but I was already moving toward the next aisle, not knowing how to explain more fully.  I’ll try it here:

It was about 6:40 in the morning.  I was on my way to work.  Red shirt, khaki slacks, name badge, What You Missed In History Class podcast.  I had just turned on to the highway when I noticed a large reddish dog standing by the shoulder.  My first thought was that the dog was from my neighborhood, and that his name was Buddy.  My second thought was oh Lord he’s going to run out in front of a car.  My third thought was blurry, because I found myself pulling over and jumping out of my truck, while in complete disbelief that I was actually pulling over and jumping out of my truck.

Up ahead I could see Buddy weaving in and out of traffic.  He was literally chasing cars.  On the highway.  I couldn’t tell if he was having the time of his life, or if he was scared to death, but I certainly knew that he was going to get hit any second.  I began to scream his name, but I could barely hear myself over the roar of traffic.

Just then, a car pulled up beside me.  The man inside rolled down the window and motioned toward Buddy, then toward me.  Then he spun around and drove off down the road, to where Buddy had disappeared amongst cars filled with caffeinated businessmen and moms on early morning shopping missions.  I quickly got into my truck and followed, turning onto a side road where the man had turned.  As I got out of my car a second time, I saw that Buddy was now lying on his side on the shoulder.  The man was squatted next to him, his hand on Buddy’s head.  I rushed toward them, wondering frantically if Buddy was dead, if I was going to have to be part of a roadside scene in which the actors are blurry eyed and messy instead of shining and composed.  I worried, as I hurried, about how I’d take it.  I worried about how Buddy’s owners would take it.

The man looked up as I neared, and said quickly, “Don’t worry, he’s okay.  He’s just scared, I think.”

“That’s good,” I replied stupidly, gazing down at the dog.

Sure enough, Buddy was breathing.  His long red fur moved up and down in big huffs, and he looked at me with as much gratitude as I’ve ever seen in a dog.  He’d had fun, but he was ready to be helped home now, thank you very much.

And then, because I realized the man was looking at me expectantly, I explained: “Oh-he’s not my dog.  He’s my neighbor’s dog.  He lives right down the next street.”  I checked Buddy’s tag to verify.  An address a few blocks away was printed clearly upon it.  Buddy was not a first time runaway.

Since the man already had his own dog in his truck, I offered to drive Buddy home in mine.  Clutching the still-trembling dog by the collar, I ran across the road to where I had haphazardly parked my vehicle.  The doors were locked, and through the streaked window, I could see the keys resting innocently on the seat.

I went back—Buddy still in tow—to explain to the man what had happened.  He started to offer me a ride, but his own dog was in his car with him, and I suspected it might be easier just to walk, rain or no rain.  So, we set off down the street, a bedraggled parade of me in drenched red-and-khaki; Buddy, who had the good grace to maintain an air of humility; and driving behind, the man and his dog.  I wasn’t sure, honestly, why the man was still following.  I wondered briefly whether he doubted I—who had locked her keys in her car—could manage to successfully deliver a dog, whether he wanted to make sure his part in the heroics wasn’t left unmentioned, or, most likely, whether he also appreciated the break from the mundane and the gothic thrill of a rainstorm rescue.

My back hurt by the time we reached Buddy’s house: I hadn’t dared let go of his collar for fear he would bolt toward the highway again, and so had to walk with a hunched shuffle.  But it would be worth it, I was confident.  Perhaps I’m simply not as “good” as the good Samaritans I read about in newspapers.  They always say that they never thought about a reward, never thought about the end result.  They just did what they felt was needed.  But I of the racing thoughts imagined as I walked how wonderful it would be to reunite Buddy with his family.  I imagined they’d explode with relief and happiness and gratitude.

In actuality, the reunion consisted of me knocking on the door of a big brown house at the end of my street, the man standing on the porch behind me.  Three children answered, staring up at us with curious eyes and parting so that Buddy could run between them into the house.  Their parents came forth eventually, and we explained what had happened.  They didn’t seem surprised.  As I suspected, Buddy was not a first-time runaway.  The owners didn’t seem very grateful, either.  Sure, the tears and profuse thank yous I had envisioned were definitely unnecessary, but over the course of our five-minute conversation, the words “thank you” were not said at all.

So, the man and I left.  We were both a little stunned at the cold reception, although we didn’t say so.  We said goodbye, and then he drove back toward the highway, and I hiked home for the spare key to my truck.

I was late for work that day, and when I arrived my clothes and hair were still wet.

Kathy didn’t notice, but Maria asked me what had happened.  I didn’t know how to explain properly, so I didn’t.

I simply walked on toward Kitchen, where I began aiming my PDA laser at labels for cheese graters and garlic presses and wine openers that resembled Swiss Army Knives in their complexity.

Buddy, I hoped, was resting on a large pillow somewhere quiet.  I hoped that he could learn to ignore the faint rushing sound of cars on the highway.  Most of all I wondered, smiling to myself, what he would have done with a car once he’d caught one.

Not Buddy, but our own Ruby when she was still small enough and quiet enough to be a lap dog.  I thought this post needed a dog picture.

Not Buddy, but our own Ruby when she was still small enough and quiet enough to be a lap dog. I thought this post needed a dog picture.

Home for the Weekend

Typical Saturday at home, complete with:

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1. Spotting Fabio at Whole Foods.

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2. Generally drooling at Whole Foods.  How I love this place.  I would have taken a better photo of the salad bar or the fresh meats, but people were starting to eye me with suspicion.

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3. Lunch at Cossetta’s, where I hid from the parking lot attendants, hoping they wouldn’t remember the time I took up two parking spots with my massive truck, and then ate/talked for two hours with friends while remaining blissfully aware that “the girl with the massive truck” was being paged over the speakers.

4. Dessert at Garrison Keillor’s Common Good Books, which I evidently frequent.  Just kidding about the dessert.  Not kidding about this book, which I giggled over, but couldn’t actually justify buying, mostly because it’s a ‘show’ book more than a ‘read from cover to cover’ book.  What I did buy was Keillor’s Good Poems for Hard Times, because I love Good Poems, American Places so much.  I’ll admit that I’m a little afraid of poetry.  Have been for years.  It’s getting better slowly, but I still appreciate a good anthology, because someone else has already claimed that the poems inside are respectable and worth reading.  I feel free, then, to go around quoting this Robert Bly, or that Walt Whitman, confident that what I’m quoting is profound and beautiful.  Or, at least Garrison Keillor says it is.  And who’s going to argue with that?

5. Walk across the frozen lake with Mom and Dad.  And Ruby, of course, who galloped about, sometimes taking a rest to walk in the snowmobile tracks behind Dad, sometimes veering to sniff at an abandoned fishing hole cut in the ice or a piece of log jutting above the surface.

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In other news, I hiked smugly after taking this shot, convinced I had captured something pure and lovely and perfectly lit.  And then I saw the smudge of finger in the corner.

The Tempest

I am currently sitting on the third floor of the library.  I am smug because I managed to snag one of the comfy chairs.  I am full because I just polished off my lunch of orange and homemade chicken soup.  I am focused because I’m reading for Feminist Theory.  I am tired because I chose the Downton Abbey finale over sleep last night.  I am slightly uncomfortable because there is a woman I’ve never seen in my life taking pictures of me from a few shelves down.

This is awkward.  She just moved around to my left and is taking some more.

Okay, it’s all right: she finally introduced herself.  She’s part of the University Relations team, taking photographs for the UMM website.

Welcome to my life, friends.  And you thought Kim Kardashian has paparazzi problems?

In other news, Morris is under yet another blizzard warning.  Not knowing this, I walked to school this morning (not that there were other options had I known) through 33 mph winds. That was fun.

What was fun was that at one point in the walk, I passed my friend Andy.  Not bothering to peel the scarf from his face, he shouted through it a quote from Shakespeare’s The Tempest:

“Hell is empty, and all the devils are here!”

In Which I Am Unflatteringly Honest

There’s a party going on downstairs, one that smells like Argentine steak and wine instead of beer and cigarette smoke.  The voices are happy to be reunited after a long Winter Break, they’re giddy talking about what they’ve done and what they will do.

And I, concussed, am up here by myself.  Uninvited, and thus trapped.  There’s no way out of this darn house for me except to go down the stairs, which open up in the middle of the dining room, which is right where everyone is.  I can’t think of anything more pathetic than for the third housemate to tiptoe out into the rain, past everyone who is having fun and spearing hunks of beef with water-spotted forks.

This is not one of my finer moments.

Anyway, I wouldn’t have anywhere to go.  Few people are back in town yet (classes start Monday), and a casual walk would quickly be rendered miserable by the rain and the cold.

So I’m up in my tower, reading book after book and casually keeping tabs on the voices wafting through the vents.

This really hasn’t been the most flattering post, but as much as I’d love you all to believe that I’m some kind of superstar, getting myself into pickles, even of a social nature, is sort of my forte.  Also, I’m cranky and tired and frankly needed to write this down or go crazy and rampage through the party wearing sweatpants and my Gatsby crewneck.