A Salute to Vienna

Having suffered through a few early morning wake ups in a row, all I wanted to do after work today was lounge on the couch and wait for SNL.  So be it.  I’ve brought pillows and blankets from my bed.  I have technology–laptop, phone, remote control–within arm’s reach.  I have Old Dutch pretzels.  I have a water bottle for the inevitable moment when I start to shrivel from the saltiness of the pretzels.  Ruby is at my feet chewing the squeaker out of her stuffed skunk (that’s an odd sentence).

On TV is, of all things, A Salute to Vienna.  It is “a music and dance gala concert showcasing the musical heritage of Vienna.”  And I’m enjoying it immensely, even though I’ve already forgotten enough German that I can only listen dumbly.

Photo credit: salutetovienna.com

Photo credit: salutetovienna.com

Every so often, as they tend to do, the PBS folks break in and ask me to donate sixty dollars so that programs like this might remain on television.  Their cause is a noble one, but I have to say that they should consider changing tactics.  Instead of politely, humbly asking for our money, perhaps they should try threats.  Like, “if you don’t call in RIGHT NOW the principal soprano will appear in your living room and blast a high C until you produce your wallet.”  Or, “Remember your little three-week Keeping up with the Kardashians marathon last summer?  Gee, I would hate to let slip about that to your friends and relatives…”

Beyond inspiring brilliant fundraising strategies, A Salute to Vienna is making me remember when I was in Vienna myself a few years ago.  Particularly, when friends and I stood in line for hours in order to get 4 Euro parterre seats for the Magic Flute at the Vienna State Opera.  Despite parterre translating to “standing room in which you may fight over velvet-topped railings to lean on.  Tough luck, Holly.  You should have worn more comfortable shoes.”, it was a beautiful night in a beautiful city.

Wiener_Staatsoper

Heck, maybe I’ll cough up that sixty dollars.

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Birthday: 23

I awoke on this, my day of birth, to darkness and quiet.  It was five-thirty in the morning, a time I prefer to sleep through unless I’m doing something particularly important such as going to the airport or being born.  I was born twenty-three years ago around five-thirty in the morning.  I was ten days late, which is a little more characteristic.  I suspect that I wished to avoid the great spectacle of emerging into the world for as long as possible, and then perhaps decided all at once to get it over with.  Perhaps it was getting uncomfortable in there.  Perhaps my lower back was twingy even in utero.

It was just too magical that I randomly woke up twenty-three years later so close to the time when I was actually born, so of course I wasn’t going to go back to sleep.  I tugged a blanket off my bed and wrapped it around my shoulders as I staggered to the living room couch.  Ruby was there, dozing on the rug.  She summoned some enthusiasm to greet me, and then settled back down.

The sun began to rise.  A thick orange stripe appeared from behind the tree line, padded above with grey sky and below with grey lake.  The bright globe at the middle of the stripe seemed to burst before my eyes, coloring the leaves of our backyard ash tree.  The stripe lightened to peach and then to pale yellow.  Orange flecks fell onto the lake, tracing a path from my window to the sun.  And then it was over, or at least I stopped watching because Ruby whimpered to be let outside.

Mom and I went to church later in the morning, where we were prevented from leaving our pew at the end of the service by two elderly barricades who had knelt to pray for the next person to die in the parish.  We couldn’t interrupt, so we stood still and considered vaulting over the shorter of the two.

Then came the all-important Vikings football game.  I feel asleep briefly in the second quarter, but was roused at halftime to help Dad remove a dead mouse from its dusty mausoleum in an air duct.  Because sometimes, even when you’d like to prance around in a plastic tiara that reads “it’s my birthday, spoil me,” dirty jobs have to be done.  And decomposing mice have to be discarded.

Dinner and dessert, as per tradition, were at the birthday girl’s request.  I chose ribs (we’re entering those last few precious days of grill-conducive weather, after all) and this cake.  Amy went off to college a few weeks ago, the skunk, so poor Mom and Dad were left to harmonize a happy birthday by themselves.  Luckily, musical expectations are low in my family clan.  I opened presents, the contents of which I will likely detail in Friday Favorites, where I can be openly materialistic.

This year’s birthday was a little different from last year’s.  But as always, I felt the satisfying weight of another year’s worth of lessons and discoveries.  I’ll try to use them wisely.

Summer Enjoyment

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of moping around the house.  A fair amount of job hunting.  A decent amount of neatening the large amount of stuff which is the culmination of 22 years of residing in the same room in the same house.  A satisfying amount of going out to enjoy summer.

Since I don’t really want to talk about the moping (more of a private journal topic), and I shouldn’t talk about the job hunting (in case potential employers find me here and wonder why I’m bragging about my prospects online), and I would be wise to leave the home organization talk to those who know what they’re doing (the fine folks on HGTV and TLC), I’m going to talk summer enjoyment.  Enjoy:

An oriental poppy from my mother's garden.  I like to claim that these flowers grew from seeds I planted years ago, but it's much more likely that they were bought, fully grown, from the Home Depot garden center.

An oriental poppy from my mother’s garden. I like to claim that these flowers grew from seeds I planted years ago, but it’s much more likely that they were bought, fully grown, from the Home Depot garden center.

Is anyone else more than a little disturbed by the Old Navy mannequins that "greet" you as you enter?  Luckily, two sisters wearing matching (I was dressed first, I swear) denim outfits were there to complete the group.

Is anyone else more than a little disturbed by the Old Navy mannequins that “greet” you as you enter? Luckily, two sisters wearing matching (I was dressed first, I swear) denim outfits were there to complete the group.

Como Zoo afternoon.  I can never decide which animal I like best.  Not the zebras (I just couldn't resist posting a zebra butt photo).  Probably the orangutans.  My anthropology professor used to tell fantastic stories about orangutans who learned to do laundry with village women in Borneo, and would go out every morning with the women to scrub and wring.  I suppose it's a little sad to think of a wild animal doing human laundry, but I can imagine how lively the event would be: women chatting, laughing, splashing, orangutan right in the midst of it all, washing a pair of pants.

Como Zoo afternoon. I can never decide which animal I like best. Not the zebras (I just couldn’t resist posting a zebra butt photo). Probably the orangutans. My anthropology professor used to tell fantastic stories about orangutans who learned to do laundry with village women in Borneo, and would go out every morning with the women to scrub and wring. I suppose it’s a little sad to think of a wild animal doing human laundry, but I can imagine how lively the event would be: women chatting, laughing, splashing, orangutan right in the midst of it all, washing a pair of pants.  Sorry for the long saga on the zebra butts photo caption.  

My endlessly athletic mother completed the High Cliff Triathlon last weekend.  We had to leave the house at 6 p.m., but even at that hour, I could appreciate Lake Winnebago.  And the comfort of my lawn chair and sweatshirt in comparison to the athletes' hard bike seats and wetsuits.

My endlessly athletic mother completed the High Cliff Triathlon last weekend. We had to leave the house at 6 p.m., but even at that hour I could appreciate Lake Winnebago. And the comfort of my lawn chair and sweatshirt in comparison to the athletes’ hard bike seats and wetsuits.

Hiking by the St. Croix river.  The Gentleman Caller and I did some illegal climbing so that we could sit on mossy boulders and dangle our feet in the water.  Well, I dangled my feet in.  Truthfully, I think the G.C. was more concerned about the spiders that were flying through the air, trailing gossamer strands of web behind them.  I will say no more.

Hiking by the St. Croix river. The Gentleman Caller and I did some illegal climbing so that we could sit on mossy boulders and dangle our feet in the water. Well, I dangled my feet in. Truthfully, I think the G.C. was more concerned about the spiders that were flying through the air, trailing gossamer strands of web behind them. I will say no more.

Early Morning

Today I was up before the dawn, likely due to some suspicious skittering in the vents that I at first attributed to branches tapping at my window.  My phone lit up on my nightstand: it was my gentleman caller, texting to say that he had made it home.  In foggy delight that we were both somehow awake at 4:45, we chatted for a little bit.  I panicked about the shuffling–a mouse, undoubtedly–and attempted to discern, with moral support via text, whether or not the little creature was confined to the vents or diving in and out of second grade spelling tests under my bed.

I read for a while, then, still Michael Perry’s Truck.  After fifty pages of hunting tales and cab painting and descriptions that otherwise seemed not so far from what I know, having spent most summer weekends of my life in Wisconsin, I turned out the lamp.

My window lit a pale blue box against the dark, rodent-conquered room.  I heard the wind pick up, an inhale preceding the hollow sound of millions of leaves brushing against one another.  I could see the leaves move if I craned my neck, using the pillow for leverage.  Somehow, being able to see the leaves even as I heard them made me think that I could possibly get back to sleep, mouse or no mouse.  In the way we learn when we are very young, now that it was daytime, the demons had shrunk considerably.

There was a whine from the kitchen.  Ruby, perhaps hearing the ruffle of pages turning, had decided to begin the morning ritual of whimper, pace, gate rattle.  She’s very polite about it, even going so far as to adopt a look of, “Why, good morning!  Fancy you being awake at this time, too!  Shall we go for a romp outside, since we both happen to be up?”  I let her outside, pulling on a fleece as I followed.

She bolted for the weeds at the edge of our yard, preferring this morning to do her business in private.  I trudged up the driveway for the paper.  Ruby came running back, orange plastic “log” in mouth.  I tossed it for her a few times before she became distracted by the business of a neighborhood dog, deposited in a neat pile in the grass behind the garage.  She was only coaxed away by my promise of breakfast.

After the panicked realization that we were both locked out of a sleeping house at six a.m., and after some–thankfully brief–fumbling for spare key, we both settled down in the kitchen again.  Me with the thick bundle of paper, Ruby with a bowl full of kibble and another bowl of water which she sloshed into her food to create a textual masterpiece.

It’s six-thirty now.  The mouse has gone back to his nest of old clothes in a corner of the laundry room.  The sky has lightened enough to reveal another overcast, fifty-percent-chance-of-rain day.  Ruby has settled back onto her large pillow, waiting for me to quiet down so she can commence her mid-morning nap.  I think I’ll follow her example on that one; it’s much too early for me to be awake, anyway.

Things I Learn at Work: Polly Pocket Edition

Do you know Polly Pocket?  The ones I first remember were the tiny, hard, plastic ones.  They were the size of a thumbnail and lived in little cases that when shut, looked like thick makeup compacts.  When open, they made a house, complete with a cradle that rocked, a kitchen door that opened and shut, and a toilet seat that could be left up or put down.  There were wee rooms, all with round dents in the floors where the Pollys could snap in and thus stand upright by themselves.  Later on, the new Polly Pockets came out.  Similar to the ones around today, they were much bigger and came with rubber clothes that could be pulled on and off (not with any small effort, I might add).

A woman I work with, Melanie, told me this morning at around six a.m., when I was still bleary-eyed and walking with Clydesdale steps, that she has collected Polly Pockets for the past twenty years or so.

Melanie is, I’m estimating, in her mid to late fifties.

She told me, as we sliced cardboard into ribbons with our box cutters, that a year or so ago, she passed off her collection (she estimates $500 worth) to her niece, who was at the time pregnant.  The understanding was that her niece, Scarlett, would give the Polly Pockets to her sister, Careen, who has two young daughters.  Careen’s girls could play with the dolls for a few years, and then when Scarlett’s (then unborn) daughter was old enough for them, they would be passed back to her.

Scarlett, however, kept the Pollys in storage instead of giving them to Careen.  When Melanie found out, she confronted Scarlett, who claimed that Melanie had never said anything about them being loaned to Careen.  Scarlett then flat-out refused to pass them on, even threatening a lawsuit.

Eventually, Melanie talked her down, and Scarlett agreed to give the dolls to Careen, who agreed to return them in a few years.

By this point in the story, Melanie and I were walking up to break, each pushing an empty cart.  I asked the most important question of all:

“Did you ever sit down on the floor and play with the Polly Pockets?”

Melanie smiled.  “Oh yes.  I like to set everything up and talk the dolls from one place to the next: the mall, the cruise ship, the RV, the fashion runway…”

The Purple People Eaters

I went to my first Minnesota Vikings football game today.  They were playing the Arizona Cardinals, and it was only 25 dollars to go through UMM Intramurals, and, let’s face it, there’s not much I like more than screaming at men while they tackle each other in pursuit of an oblong leather ball.

I woke up at 6:40, tugged on my dad’s Brett Favre Vikings jersey (aware that I would likely be publicly mocked for wearing it), skipped the oatmeal because I was just too sleepy for that kind of thing, and walked to campus.

The sunrise was lovely.

As was our entry into the Twin Cities

My future workplace?  It’s possible.

We passed a huge tailgating party.

The billowing white Metrodome roof.

And inside. If you can’t tell from the angle, we were in the nosebleeds. So far in, as a matter of fact, that our row was the second highest in the whole place. As in, Edmund Hilary was sitting next to me.

The Vikes won, if you’ll allow me a gloat, and Adrian Peterson had several glamour runs to keep the crowd roaring.

We piled back onto the bus after it was over.  Promptly, everyone’s heads were tipped sideways against windows and neighbors’ shoulders.  I only woke to catch the sunset over Lake Minnewaska.

Old Business and New

Saturday night, I forgot to tell you, I accepted a miniature cupcake from a tray thrust at me by strangers wearing red white and blue and dangling a large American flag out of the window of their minivan.  They had apparently been circling campus for the past hour and a half, because, although we denied them the first time they slid open the door and shouted at us to take a cupcake, the next time they stopped us (we were walking in the opposite direction; Play in a Day was over) we shrugged and chose vanilla cupcakes with globs of orange (or was it red?) icing.

“Are you college students?” I asked them.

“Some of us are,” the boy in the middle seat began, grinning at me from under his spangled hat.  But he was interrupted when another party of walkers was spotted: “Forward!” the driver bellowed, and so forward they went, cheering and letting the flag whip parallel to the speeding van.

The cupcakes, although cold, we delicious, and I think I can safely say that they weren’t poisoned, as I am able to type this post with minimal numbness.

To counteract that potentially poor decision, this morning I woke up at 4:45, struggled into yesterday’s jeans, sweater, coat, mittens, hat, and the longest scarf I could find (for optimum neck wrapping), scooped up backpack and gym bag, and caught a ride to campus.

This week is the first inaugural Mental Health Awareness Week at UMM, and as MCSA is the main planning squad, MCSA (or fifteen of us, at least) met on the Mall at 5:30 to put out the shoes.

It was early, and it was cold, and the sprinklers came on in the middle of the operation.  At one point, Annie held up a pair of women’s shoes: “Look at how huge these are!  Who has feet this big?”

I walked over on my size 10.5 (11 on a poor day) feet.  The shoes were too small for me.

Yep.

Anyway, each pair of shoes we arranged on the Mall (there were 1,100 pairs) represented a college student who committed suicide last year in the United States.

It ended up being a powerful display; the shoes scattered around reminded me of gravestones.  Eerie.  It was fun, however, to watch the sun rise and the students trudge to class and do double takes as they walked past the Mall.  Some decided to cut across as usual, picking their way carefully.  Most chose to circumvent the memorial, instead craning their necks to read the signs we had posted.