One More Time

I have been blogging for five years now.

In September of 2008, when I was a high school senior who fancied myself enough of a writer that I thought I should do it publicly (still not sure if that was a good idea), I started my first blog.  It was drama-laden and iffy at best in the adjectives department and still exists if you really want to go there.  But don’t think I’ll be providing the URL.

Actual picture of high school me in an actual marching band uniform.  I look like such a baby.  I wish I could go back in time and warn myself not to take Intro to Statistics.

Actual picture of high school me in an actual marching band uniform (I’m on the left). I look like such a baby.  So naive about the ways of the world.  I wish I could go back in time and warn myself not to take Intro to Statistics in college.

In September of 2011, I began my second blog upon departing for a semester in Salzburg, Austria.  I only posted about a dozen times on that one, since I was, you know, living my grandest Sound of Music daydreams.

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In December of 2011, back from my travels, I decided that I didn’t want to return to the high school Blogger blog, and anyway, I had a new goal in mind: I was resolved to blog once a day, every day for the entire new year.  Thus Eight Days a Week was born on WordPress.  When that year ended I stuck around for another year, blogging about whatever struck my fancy.

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In September of 2013, I decided to start yet another blog.  My last, I fervently hope.  I have long wanted my blog to be its own website, to have a higher level of creative control, to have a chance to join blogging communities, and to interact with blog readers on a larger scale.  Additionally, while the name suited my original project well, Eight Days a Week no longer describes what I’m trying to do as a blogger and writer.

So, I’ve moved.  One more time.

Don’t think for a moment that this changes much.  Goodness knows I’ll be writing the same goofy sagas and literary rants as always.  Also, as I mentioned before, my posts from Eight Days a Week have transferred over to the new blog, so the gang’s truly all there.

Although it’s not really goodbye, I want to take what feels like a solemn moment to thank all of you for reading, for following, for liking, for commenting.  Thanks for not rolling your eyes when eye rolling was more than justified.  At least, thanks for not rolling your eyes where I could see you.  It has meant a great deal to have the support of fine folks such as yourselves.

I hope that you’ll follow the link below to the new blog**, where an introduction is waiting:

http://www.hollyinspec.com

**Please note that if you’d like to continue to receive my posts in your email, you’ll have to resubscribe at my new blog (link above).  I will no longer be posting on Eight Days a Week.  

Ole and Lena and a Salute to September 11th in Moberg Park

The marching band clicks off a warm-up in the park across the street.

Barb and I watch from the window, commenting on this flag twirler’s blue hair, that one’s skinny jeans

(which keep the eighty-five degree temperature contained around the skin of his calves)

(a vacuum seal of sweat and leftover summer tan)

Closing time, Gordy retells an Ole and Lena joke for me:

“Ole and Lena are sitting in a restaurant, surrounded by young couples in love … ”

The veterans come marching up the street, hiding their limps and holding high the colors.

We watch them come, as the saxophone players wet their reeds the trombones utilize their spit valves the flutists shuffle but are prim and ready

and the band director’s neck muscles tense and his arms begin to raise

The veterans have arrived at the gazebo without incident.

The EMTs fall back

Folding chairs whine as the crowd rises to honor the flags, but mostly the veterans.

“one young man says to his young lady, ‘pass the sugar, Sugar.'”

The band director waves his hands in mysterious signals.

And suddenly, miraculously, the Star Spangled Banner plays.

“Another young man says to his young lady, ‘pass the honey, Honey.”

I put a hand over my heart, a trick I picked up at Gopher football games because I never had a hat to take off like the men.

“Lena says to Ole, ‘why don’t you ever talk to me like that anymore?'”

A few cars, stopped at the Schmidt Oil stoplight, direct honks toward the flag,

and somehow, they fit in with the song as it ends with an untimely squawk.

“Ole replies, ‘pass the tea, Bag.'”

The band director shudders visably, but we clap and clap.

Photo credit: Chisago City Heritage Association

Photo credit: Chisago City Heritage Association

Airheads

I associate indoor swimming pools with candy.  This I can trace back to my years of swimming lessons at the local high school pool.  After lessons, hair in clumps, skin smelling of salty chlorine, we kids would crowd around the small counter in the lobby.  Lining the wall behind the counter were boxes and boxes of candy.

I remember only fruity, sour candy: Push-Pops, War Heads, Ring-pops, Skittles, and best of all, Airheads.  Every flavor of Airhead, foil-wrapped and glorious.  I preferred the white “mystery” flavor.  Both the packaging and the candy itself was milky white, and so there was no way to know which flavor you had gotten until you bit into it.  Strangely, it always tasted the same to me.  Not quite like cherry, blue raspberry, or grape.  The white had its own chalky, delicious taste.

The candy, eaten while our feet were still dripping into footprints on the floor, seemed to make up for the general trauma of the swimming lessons themselves.  The bobs, particularly, made me feel at the end of each lesson as if I had drowned several times within the forty-five minute window.

Have you ever been exposed to bobs?  They seem extraordinarily cruel to me, even now.  We stood in water up to our chests, and at the instructor’s whistle had to bend our knees so that our entire heads submerged, and then pop back up for a quick breath. This was repeated as many times as possible before the instructor blew his whistle again.  The catch was that we weren’t allowed to use our fingers to pinch our noses.  My poor nostrils exposed, I seemed to inhale a gallon with each dunk.

But when I stopped, when I paused and gripped the tiled pool ledge for even the briefest moment, the instructor–a golden high school boy–gave me a look of utmost disappointment until I felt that perhaps he wouldn’t ask my ten-year-old self to the prom after all.  Then he blew the whistle and the other bobbers sputtered and splashed to a halt.  Some more triumphantly than others, we all climbed the ladder to locker room sanctuary and, if our parents were generous with their quarters, Airheads.

The Killers and Preparing for Departure

Here’s the thing.  Tomorrow evening I shall be attending one Killers concert in Minneapolis.  I’ve talked about going to see the Killers for years: it was this band, you see, that plucked me out of my oldies reverie and forced me to take interest in–heaven forbid–music that people my own age were listening to.  Of course, I still like oldies, but “Change Your Mind” saved me in those days.  It was what I listened to on the bus during my nightmarish first year of high school, when the lime green iPod Mini I clutched was still considered a novelty (I actually remember kids asking if they could just hold it).

Some time has passed since then; now I’m twenty-two-nearly-twenty-three and adult enough to go see my saviors live without a parent.  Imagine that.

Here’s the other thing.  Following the concert, I will be setting off on a road trip of presidential proportions.  Which is my way of saying that I will be visiting Jefferson’s Monticello, Washington’s Mount Vernon, and Washington D.C., among other eastern United States destinations.  There is quite possibly no one on Earth (except perhaps Mr. McCullough) who would enjoy such a trip as much as I will; it’s as if all of my history buff dreams are coming true at once.  I feel undeservingly lucky, but plan to take you along via this blog, if you’d like to come.

We saw the West last summer:

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My word, my hair was short.

My word, my hair was short. (Badlands)

Salt Lake City LDS Temple

Salt Lake City LDS Temple

Let’s go East this summer.

Wild Horses, Wild Horses, Wild Horses

I’m working on an elaborate review of a play I recently saw, and a saga concerning a certain celebrity I may or may not have seen.  In the meantime, I thought I’d post a poem I first read during my sophomore year of college.  My professor for American Literature from the 19th Century Forward (actual course title) is of American Indian heritage, and so she introduced us to several American Indian authors. I remembered Sherman Alexie, whose young adult novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian I had read and loved in high school.  Also, randomly, because my buddy Brandon came through for me, I have Sherman Alexie’s autograph–scribbled on a blank piece of notebook paper–tucked away somewhere.  Anyway, here’s my favorite Alexie poem, mostly because of those last two lines.

At Navajo Monument Valley Tribal School

By Sherman Alexie

the football field rises
to meet the mesa. Indian boys
gallop across the grass, against

the beginnings of their body.
On those Saturday afternoons,
unbroken horses gather to watch

their sons growing larger
in the small parts of the world.
Everyone is the quarterback.

There is no thin man in a big hat
writing down all the names
in two columns: winners and losers.

This is the eternal football game,
Indians versus Indians. All the Skins
in the wooden bleachers fancydancing,

stomping red dust straight down
into nothing. Before the game is over,
the eighth-grade girls’ track team

comes running, circling the field,
their thin and brown legs echoing
wild horses, wild horses, wild horses.

My Favorite Shakespeare Play

The very first play we read in my Shakespeare class was Romeo and Juliet.  I was disgusted to see it listed on the syllabus, and huffed about the assignment with others in the class.

“But we read it in high school!” We exclaimed in mock-polite whispers,  “We discussed every scene at length, we watched the old version of the movie and then the Leo version.  We giggled when our teacher ran up to the monitor to cover up Juliet’s naked chest in the old version (although my high school teacher forgot, and couldn’t fast forward in time.  Poor Mrs. Stark.  She fueled many a cafeteria discussion that day).  We read scenes aloud, and acted them out in groups of three.  What else can we say about it?  It’s terribly romantic, and terribly tragic, but we have absolutely nothing more to say.”

But then I finally settled down on my bed, heavy Riverside Shakespeare in my lap.  And I began to read.

And, as you’ve probably suspected from the beginning of this post, I found a few things I hadn’t noticed as a sixteen-year-old.  I found that Juliet is far more aggressive than Romeo in hashing out the details of their union.  She utterly dominates the balcony scene; she is far from swooning against the rail.

I found that we might think of Verona as a sick city.  It’s not just the quarreling, it’s not just this certain couple and these certain families; the entire city is in a state of ruin.  There is plague, there is lack of faith, there is a gloominess that seeps up from the streets.

I found that I was disgusted by the adults in the play.  These poor kids are all of thirteen and sixteen, wading through strife and first love and big decisions, and they have no one to turn to.  Even Friar Lawrence, who is their supposed ally, cannot do more than give them a secret marriage and drug Juliet into a coma.  Furthermore, when he finally decides to get his act together and venture out of his cell, he is too late.  Romeo has slain himself, and Juliet has just awaken, understandably aghast.  And what does dear Fr. Lawrence do?  He runs!  He hears the guards coming, and he runs, advising Juliet to flee too as an afterthought.  Of course Juliet doesn’t, and therein we find our tragedy.

I found, finally, and perhaps most importantly, how very beautiful of a play it is.  Half of the romantic language we spout on Valentine’s Day is from Romeo and Juliet.  It is the first and last word on the subject of love.  Everyone knows it, and everyone wishes, in some small part of themselves, that their lives could be as struck with passion.

“It is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden;/Too like the lightning, which doth cease to be/Ere one can say ‘It lightens.'”

“O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!/It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night/Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope’s ear”

“What, drawn, and talk of peace!/I hate the word as I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee”

English majors are fond of asking one another what their favorite Shakespeare plays are.  You get an approving nod if you say Hamlet or Macbeth, a fond grin if you say A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and a round of impressed applause if you say one of the histories.  No one ever dares to say Romeo and Juliet.  For, as I’ve said, that’s a high school play.  I myself have been saying Hamlet for four comfortable years now.  But perhaps, having rediscovered the tragic lovers; having written a long, rambling blog post; having sworn that the world simply cannot do without; I will finally get up my gall and be truthful:

My favorite Shakespeare play is Romeo and Juliet.  And I am not ashamed.

Election Eve

Four years and four months ago, I arrived in Rome, Italy with my Girl Scout troop.  I was seventeen years old, had never been out of the country before, and was suddenly being led from terminal to terminal by my troop leaders, flanked by my equally bewildered friends.  What stands out in the blur of sensible rolling suitcases and duty-free shops is a certain train station we spent an hour in, waiting for our hotel bus to arrive.  We leaned against the grimy tile, too tired to gush or take pictures.  Suddenly, a passerby, hearing our accents, flung both arms into the air:  “Barack Obama!  Barack Obama!”  he shouted, his Italian accent thick, his voice jubilant and echoing.

Four years and one day ago, I was a senior in high school.  I was old enough to vote by two months, and did so early in the morning, just after the polls opened.  Although my small town was (and is) primarily conservative, I wore my Obama t-shirt to school, and tried to ignore the raised eyebrows aimed at me throughout the day.  I watched the election on TV that night, watched the blue spread across the country.  And then I wrote the following blog post:

HOPE is a Four Letter Word

A quote I heard on the news right after Obama was announced as the winner, “Tonight I am forever proud of my country.” That’s how I feel. I’m just very proud to be an American (cue in patriotic theme music).

These results are especially cool because I voted. For Obama. About three and a half hours ago. I remember back in fifth grade when I went to this tiny private school, my friend Mara figured out that for the 2008 election I would be the only one in the class old enough to vote. I remember feeling really special, but not really understanding what it meant to vote. It’s just a very strange feeling to have an event predicted when you were eleven actually coming to pass.

Already on facebook the bashings have started. I’m not really surprised, but I just think it’s so sad. You know, if McCain had won, I would have been disappointed, but I wouldn’t have sat there and pouted about it and insulted him. I (hopefully) would have learned to respect him as the leader of my country and I would have prayed that he bring about the change America desperately needs.

Anyway, I guess that there are always Debbie Downers, and some of them will probably come around, or at least keep their negative crap to themselves. We can only hope.

Not very well-written, but the sentiment is one I hope will repeat in my post tomorrow: I want to be proud of my country and my state.  I want to enter the workforce a committed, protected citizen.  I want to run through train stations yelling, “Barack Obama!  Barack Obama!”   I want my LGBTQ friends to be shown acceptance and justice, not hatred and discrimination.  I want Voter I.D., which will spend excessive amounts of money battling a ‘problem’ that doesn’t actually exist, to be off the docket forever.

I also wouldn’t mind going back to Italy.

Third Time’s A

This is what happens when I venture out in public:

I went to gas up my mother’s minivan this evening.  Drove up to the pump, got out, walked down the side, and promptly noticed that the gas tank wasn’t there. It was on the other side of the van.

Embarrassed, I quickly got back in and pulled around to another pump.  Got out, walked down the side of the van, and realized that I had done the exact same thing again.

By this time absolutely certain that the cashier was cracking her gum and smirking at my struggle, I ducked my head and tried for a third time to park on the correct side.

You know what they say about the third time.

On the drive home, I sang “Sweet Caroline” loudly.  I drove past my high school and smiled because I don’t miss it there one bit.  The line of headlights behind me alerted me to the fact that I was going ten miles per hour below the speed limit.  I accidentally re-smashed a road-killed possum.  And then I arrived home, where my parents were waiting.

Fall Break is a wondrous thing.

Ray

I can only think of a few ways in which we might honor a writer of Ray Bradbury’s caliber:

We might walk miles around the town of Morris, seeking dandelions to make dandelion wine, which of course correlates to his novel of the same name.

Upon reaching the campus greenhouse, we might write “RIP Ray Bradbury” on the grimy windows, using childish finger letters.

The greenhouse door might be left open, and we might enter, look around, and then attempt (and fail) to noodle in the coy pond.

We might find a patch of wild plums, and rescue a few branches from tent worms’ egg-speckled gauze.

Still hunting dandelions, we might stumble upon a small bird, hopping pitifully near the road.  It might be molting, covered with rotted hunks of down and patches of sleek new feathers.  Failing to locate a nest, we might carry the bird far back from the road, name it Ray, and wish it luck.

We might remember, finally, that The Martian Chronicles saw us through high school Modern English, a class populated by easy A seekers, sleepers, and potheads.  “There Will Come Soft Rains” reverberated like a promise on the gummy concrete walls, and we knew, even as the teacher fast-forwarded through the sex scene in the old “Romeo and Juliet,” that things would be better someday.