December 2007

And I’m ready to go!

Can Ursula make it? Will her wallet REALLY be waiting in Minneapolis? Will the weather hold up? Will the last throes of 2007 reach out with icy annual claws, the final death spasm, and do something unspeakable to her, possibly in Detroit?* Will I pass midnight on the tarmac, forced to choose between a redneck seat-mate and the flight attendant for the traditional New Year’s kiss? Will the Authentic Michigan Love-Stone** set off the security alarms? Will Ben bolt for the outdoors while I am trying to get my suitcase through the door?

Tune in tomorrow to find out, and in the meantime, let me wish you all a hearty “Thank Ganesh THAT’S over with!”

*I once wandered through downtown Detroit, along Michigan Avenue, on foot, unarmed, in desperate search of Sudafed. That I survived is proof that the gods look out for fools and madmen, and I cannot shake the feeling that Detroit is patiently waiting, like a colossal urban cat, for the foolish mouse to return. That Detroit and 2007 may make a brief unholy alliance is a fearful thought.

** “A what, Tom?”

“An Authentic Michigan Love-Stone!”


“A rock.”

“You mean like this rock here?”

“Good choice! There you go!”

“Does it work?”


“I feel like I should demand a certificate of authenticity.”

“I’ll print you up one….”

One of my kid brother Max’s Christmas presents, courtesy of my ex, was The Dangerous Book for Boys. (I wholeheartedly approved this gift.) Max, reading about it, learned that there was a companion volume, The Daring Book for Girls.

“I should get that!” he said seriously. “Then I’d know what kind of skills girls have!”

The sounds of his sister quietly having hysterics and having to be supressed like the guinea pig in Alice in Wonderland were fortunately lost to posterity.

I have a very, very bad mind.

ETA: Further moments in sibling bonding…

I got Max the Lego Star Wars game for the PS2, which he has been playing enthusiastically (you get to hack stuff up with a lightsaber, but they fall into lego pieces, so it’s apparently okay.) We get a blow-by-blow account, as one might expect. He was very upset to find himself playing Anakin.

“I don’t want to be Anakin!”

“Don’t worry,” I said soothingly, “we know you’re a much better actor…”

Later on, as I was writing, I got “Guess who I’m now–I’m–that one guy–you know! With the purple lightsaber!”

“Mace Windu,” I said automatically, not looking up.


I became aware of the sudden loud silence behind me as my mother nobly refrained from laughing at my geekery. Tom didn’t even try.

The sun is shining today, which means that for the first time since my arrival, it’s NOT snowing. The glare off the snow is blinding. (I remember that glare!)

Tomorrow I head back home. While I love my folks, I’m glad to head back–starting to miss my cat. (Fortunately the UP is too cold for ninjas. Even the hardiest prefer to overwinter farther south. The ninja migrations are one of nature’s grandest spectacles, or would be if they weren’t so damn sneaky.*) And my shower. (They have a lovely claw-foot tub, but no shower.) It’s been awhile since I shared one bathroom with three other people, one of them an 8-year-old male with perfunctory knocking skills.

I also find that I miss my apartment, which is…probably not odd, now that I think of it. Having devoted considerable time and energy to constructing my ecosphere (or geekosphere, as my buddy Alan used to call it) it’s probably no wonder. A friend of mine claims that the somewhat neurotic nesting instinct following a breakup has something to do with having control–I think there’s truth to that, but it’s only half the story. There’s also a large element of personal identity involved. Breakups shake one’s sense of identity, and for some of us we throw ourselves into nesting and redecorating in order to define ourselves–I am the sort of person who lives here. So it’s probably no surprise that I find myself longing for the familiar landscape of my living room.

Plus I haven’t shot a zombie or ripped the wings off a harpy in DAYS. (All this non-violent childrearing stuff is for the birds…) And my mother’s tastes in movies tends to the dramatic, artistic, and tragic. We watched “Doctor Zhivago” yesterday. Afterwards, Tom and I were badly glazed from Russian epic overdose. “Here!” said Mom, waving a video. “Let’s watch this one next! It’s French!”

We eyed her warily. “Is it…happy?”

She considered. “It’s beautiful…”

Tom and I exchanged glances. “I think I have a copy of Mad Max somewhere,” he whispered. “My hero!” I cried.

Still, it’s been a great trip. Mom showed me a silkscreen technique that I can’t wait to try (great, ANOTHER medium I wanna fool with…) which I can probably do on my kitchen floor and which uses water-soluble pastel-crayon thingies. I am awash with ideas. My brain is scream “ARTARTARTART!” If I were at home, I’d be breaking into the art supply store with a crowbar.

I have consoled myself with a couple of Little Creature pen and ink pieces, probably from my recent Gorey exposure. And my mother took about a hundred photos of me yesterday–a gallery requested some figurative work–so I wandered around the house trying not to smirk. (I ALWAYS smirk in photos.) I fear to see what might come out of it. “Girl in Red Dress, Looking Bored.” “Girl in Red Dress, Looking Vague.” “Girl in Red Dress, Smirking Involuntarily.” Wandering around a house in Calumet in mid-winter, barefoot in a short-sleeved dress, ain’t warm, but I owe the universe modeling karma, ever since a dear friend back in college posed for me, in high summer in Minnesota, in 90% humidity, wearing PVC pants. Greater love hath no woman.

Everything would not remotely fit in the suitcase. I am mailing two boxes back home. I have acquired a handmade quilt (my stepfather actually did a bunch of the quilting, to my continuing awe) a WWII kimono, a small library of books on bread and print making, enough weird soap to scrub myself raw for the next six months, the loon decoy, and many other random objects.

And now, Tom is making something called a “dutch baby” for breakfast, which I view with either fear or anticipation, I’m not sure which.

*They can occasionally be attracted to feeders, however. Leave out sushi and small, elegant bowls of green tea. The Common Ninja is the most likely visitor, but in some areas, the Greater Spotted Ninja can be spotted lurking in the foliage near feeding stations.

I had a dream last night–one of those anxiety dreams where you’re back in high school, and you can’t remember where your classes are or which order they come in and it’s finals and you didn’t study.

And then I thought “Wait just a damn minute. I’m thirty years old. I graduated from college a decade ago.”

It lost a certain amount ofangst after that, so apparently my brain got pissed and had to pull out all the stops, and have a friend call me because there was a rattlesnake in the house, and I didn’t know where she lived, and I kept misdialing 911, and then I lost my car in the parking lot and then she called to say the snake had bitten her, and she was paralyzed, but not to worry, she’d manage somehow. “I’ll be right there, really! Can you mapquest the directions?” I asked, fending off the rapist who had chosen that moment to assault me. “I’ll have my general assistance dog do it…” she said, and then I was distracted by a salesman who was selling pet rocks with little name-tags that read “More Rational Than Thou.”

It was probably for the best that my mother came to wake me up at that point.

One of the best things about Effexor is that pretty much all the cigars are just cigars.

Okay. The Keewanaw Peninsular in winter is bloody amaaaazing.

The snow on the trees is like every Christmas card you’ve ever seen, squared. Robert Frost would slit his wrists. Bev Doolittle could hide a whole army of piebald elephants in it. It’s incredible stuff. Birch trees everywhere, looking pale and papery, fir trees covered in great blobs and globules of snow. We drove by Lake Superior, where the water was grey and the sky was grey and the waves rolled against black rocks, with white snow and immense fringes of icicles. The ice that piles up on the rocks is the palest blue-green, the exact color of–well, to eschew romanticism in favor of accuracy, it’s the exact color of Daquiri Ice sherbet from Baskin Robbins. Since it provides the only color in a completely monochromatic landscape (with maybe a hint of deep earth red at places along the shore) it’s a gorgeous effect, as well as giving one a vague craving for ice cream.

We stopped at Lake Bailey, which is frozen solid now and covered in snow, and Tom and I shuffled a few hundred yards through the snow to check out a broken line of coyote tracks. The view of forest and hillside covered in snow was incredible. The silence was incredible. My mother’s attempts to photograph things through the window of the moving car…well, perhaps not so incredible, but we give her points for effort, anyway.

Also, I have eaten a pastie. Most of us probably know pasties as the things used to cover stripper nipples, but in this case, it appears to be a local dish, rather like a dry pot-pie in a thin crust. A kind of Yooper calzone. The crust may be more or less leathery, and the interior contains meat, onion, potato, rutabaga, and so forth. (What this may say about the size and consistency of Yooper stripper nipples–Christ, try saying that five times fast–is open to debate.)

…I kinda wanna try etchings, now.

This is dangerous. I am loaded down with books on screenprinting and intaglio printing, because of course I NEED another medium to fool with.

Still, the fine linework in the etchings is so gorgeous. My folks have the stuff to do drypoint, so I may try it this weekend and see what I can come up with (if anything!)

Now, to find someone in Raleigh with a press…!

Here’s a link to Tom’s Bread Recipe!

This is the bare-bones version and really only useful for people who know how to make bread already, I suspect, and are familiar with the process and the lingo. Once I’ve done it a few times, if I can do it successfully, I will post a more idiot-friendly version for the rest of us!

Also, for my own future reference–Famous Grouse blended scotch, next time I’m at the liquor store.

The wind is bitter cold today, and it’s snowing a fine particulate placeholder snow, nothing really meant to accumulate, a snow just there to remind you that hey, you’re in the Upper Peninsula, and what in blazes were you thinking, anyway?

Cruised around Calumet today. It didn’t take long. There’s a couple of surprisingly good galleries here. One had good realism and bad abstracts, and one had bad realism and good abstracts. I find this amusing. Someday when I have scads of cash–and a house–and more wall space!–I’m gonna buy a really good abstract painting, just to remind myself that it can be done. Then I’ll hang it over the bed or something. (The space over the bed at home is the only empty wall in the house. I can’t figure out what to put there. Past experience has taught me that a banner of Digger proves distracting to gentleman callers–“The…staring…at…me…”–but the large blank wall is galling. Perhaps I will get ambitious and buy several large blank canvases and do bad abstract art on them myself. Or maybe I should just buy more a few more barong. Heh heh heh. At least the barong have a charming leer. Well, I find it charming….)

Hit a souvenir shop. Bought copper jewelry. Almost bought more Zuni bear fetish earrings. Refrained, with difficulty. (What is it with me and the little bears?!) Found those cool copper-dipped filligreed leaves, in earring form. Succumbed. Copper is their big thing up here, lots of old copper mines.

I had hopes that I was going to go back with less net stuff than I came with–after all, I was bringing lots of chocolate and some Christmas presents up!–but between the present recieved, the loon decoy, the books I needed to pick up, the inevitable swapping of clothing now that my mother and I are both size 10s… Which is a sad commentary on the laughability of women’s sizes, by the way–I’m nearly a head taller, she’s exceeeedingly well endowed and falls out of anything that would be almost absurdly conservative on me, and it is only in a deranged fashion world that we should wear the same size–but now I have a rather nice red linen dress that I’ll have to find someplace to wear. But anyway, god only knows how I’m going to fit it all in the suitcase, particularly after I bubblewrap the loon. Some of it may have to get mailed.

I always get the urge to make art when I’m up here. I think it’s a critical mass of art in the house or something. We’ll hope I retain it once I get home…

I am mellow.

We killed the Irish whiskey last night, but there’s still rum! And enough christmas candy to choke a horse. And it’s snowing the serious, steady snow, the snow whose only business is to pile up as thickly as possible. It is snow with a work ethic. Apparently one cannot reach the compost heap without snowshoes. I am impressed.

I have also discovered that my inner Minnesotan comes out hard when I am exposed to multiple feet of snow, which began with “Uf da!” and went on to distinctly wallowing vowel sounds. It’s also funny how some reflexes are so completely ingrained–the optimal way to knock snow off your boots, with variations for home and car, the scarf wrapping, none of which I’ve done for years and which were waiting patiently in my hindbrain to rise to the surface as soon as I was boot-deep in the white stuff. I could probably even drive in it, but fortunately I don’t have to.

Tom has taught me to make bread via the Tom Method, which involves the use of a bread “sponge” and which takes about half an hour spread out across two days. I have successfully made a loaf under his command. I have instructions–we’ll see if I can duplicate this feat back home. He says it’s versatile and I can add a lot of stuff to it and make cheese bread or herb bread or whatever. I have learned much of use for my story as well.

Went out shopping with Mom and kid brother Max. The cost of living up here is about 30% of the national average, which means that stuff is cheeeeeap comparatively. Hit a gallery/boutique/thing and bought some lovely earrings, a necklace, and a loon decoy with a pleasantly sly expression. (Yes, one of pairs of earrings were more of the Zuni bear fetishes. I AM WEAK.) Some nice little galleries up here in Calumet. (I refrained from even looking at the price of the Haida masks on the wall. I could not get them home. I could not get them home. Yes, they were spectacular, but I could not get them home…) I am very pleased with my loon. He appears to be plotting something. He can plot with the pintail and the manky mallard and the little wooden thingamajig. (At least this collection doesn’t take wall space, and as has been pointed out previously in this blog, is highly useful for drying thong underwear.)

(Although you could probably dry underwear on the barong, now that I think of it, drape it from the fangs, and…hmm. I suspect my barong would find that pretty amusing…)

Annnyway! Hope y’all are enjoying the holidays in whatever fashion suits you.

Well, it looks like the wallet thing is resolved! Yay! I shall fly back, pick it up, and god willing, it will be there and I’ll be allowed on the plane in the first place. The Lost & Found seemed confident. Here’s hoping.

I must, at this juncture, give credit where it is due and say that my ex-husband James was a prince. I was looking in horror at a long stay in Michigan, waiting for temporary ID or the mail or something, and he agreed to meet with Carlota, transfer keys, take care of Ben (my primary concern!) arrange to pay the rent on my apartment (Lacking credit cards, I can’t even pay it from afar!) and overnight me anything I needed in the paperwork department. Part of this was undoubtedly a reflexive-soothing-the-obviously-frazzled-Ursula, of course, but it was really above and beyond the call of duty. Whatever mutual incomprehensibilities led to divorce, whatever stumbling blocks we have encountered, however often I’ve taken his name in vain–I’ll say before Ganesh and everybody, he’s still a damn decent human being and I’m glad to be his friend. (I have a number of friends, many of them good ones, but I think the rarest gift is people whom you can call upon in times of crisis and not feel like you’re imposing horribly. There’s a number of people who would probably be happy to help out if I was up a creek–some even volunteered on this blog!–but the rarest thing is to get friends whom you can call and say “HELLLLP!” and you’ve owed each other so much over the years that it is not an imposition, but one more chapter in a long tale of mutual reciprocity. At some point, they will call you, and you will talk them off the ceiling or pick them up at the airport or hand them your car keys and say “Just take the plates off before you knock over the liquor store this time, m’kay?” We are always in the process of developing those kinds of friendships, but an established one is perhaps the kindest of all human relations.)

In other news, I had the argument with my mother about herbal vs. mainstream medicine again. It was long and protracted and got a little heated. (It is possible I got my stubborness from that side of the family.) Neither of us gave much ground, obviously.

So, uh, if someone would kindly make sciencey noises at me, I would be very grateful. The first person to post Avogadro’s number gets a virtual cookie!

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