31 August 2012


The Mitten was a whirl of hugs and weddings and baby necks to snuffle. Altogether very satisfying.

On the way to the Mitten, the entertainment system apparently malfunctioned on the flight from San Francisco to Chicago. I wouldn't know. It was a red eye, and the only thing to do on a red eye is drift off as the plane takes to the air and partially wake up only to shift positions until you have to actually wake up to stumble off the plane. That is precisely what I did, although I vaguely recall feeling annoyance at the repeated announcements being made about the entertainment system when they had promised to talk as little as possible so we could sleep.

I got an email, however, offering me a free gift because of the inconvenience I suffered on a flight on which directv was unavailable. (Side note: there is approximately a zero percent chance I would pay money for directv on a flight. I bring these amazing items of entertainment with me: books. Also, I have an iPod. And the clouds below provide endless entertainment. I actually switched seats on my flight back from Amsterdam to Newark to sit in a row with non-functional entertainment systems. I had a book, and those rows had empty seats. I value sleep over television to a degree I cannot describe. One can never have enough sleep.)

I redeemed my free gift for a $75 credit toward my next flight.

On the way back to State of Happiness, I got caught in the debacle that was United Airlines last Tuesday. I don't know the extent of their computer malfunction, but I can tell you that it made my flight to SFO just late enough that the doors had closed to my flight to Universe City when I got off the shuttle across SFO at gate number no, we cannot be bothered to maintain in working condition a terminal for flights so piddly and small. (Lie. It was fine, just old.)

The last flight of the day arrived in Universe City just after midnight. My roommate, J., had to work early the next morning, so she couldn't really stay up that late, and I had to pay for a taxi home. I also had to be at work at 8:20 the next morning. It was unfun.

The moral of this story is that United Airlines will give me a $75 credit for their failure to provide me a service that I did not miss and would not have paid to use in the first place, but nothing at all for costing me several hours of my life and actual money that I couldn't really afford to spend, here at the end of the month. Odd.

21 August 2012


I am quite possibly the worst person in the world at packing lightly. I just seem not to know how to do it. I need to have one shirt per day, with an extra or two IN CASE, and several pairs of shoes, and all my contact solution and shampoo, and extra layers in case the weather forecast changes, and, and, and...

You see why I almost always check in a bag. 

Also, I hate carrying things with me. I think checking in bags is the most brilliant invention in a very long time. You just hand them your overloaded suitcase, and you don't have to see it again until you get to wherever you are going. Someone else deals with it. It is worth money to me not to have to drag my world with me through airport after airport. Clearly. Because I pay for it every time. 

I don't even mind the times I've lost my luggage. It mostly comes back, and besides, valuables go in the hand luggage.

My trip to the Mitten tomorrow, though, is essentially a glorified weekend. It seems ridiculous to pay $50 to check baggage for a weekend. That, and I like a challenge. 

I am proud to announce that, after multiple ruthless edits, I will be traveling to the Mitten with only carry-on baggage.

Not only that, but I will be traveling with only the tiny suitcase that I bought in the Netherlands. It is not even the biggest piece of carry-on luggage I own. 

There will, however, be clothing repeats while I am in the Mitten. Note the horror. I am aghast. It is well hidden beneath my pride, though.

19 August 2012


The fair came to town, and because I had a party to go to later, I went a little earlier than the people I was meeting. I haven't been to a fair in a really long time, not a proper county fair with animals. 

I wandered through the goat stable just to see. The smell of goats makes me think of Rwanda. Not only did I spend about one day a week climbing up and down mountains to check out goat stables, but soon after I moved to Rwanda, we imported these goats from South Africa. They came 42 or 43 to a pallet, two pallets loaded in the back of a DC-10. The plane was full of different crates and pallets, almost to the ceiling, and we walked back between them to the space where 85 goats had been crammed almost immobile in cages for about 12 hours as the plane skipped from African capital to African capital. The smell of 85 scared, tired, hungry, cramped goats in the back of a plane was horrifying. I have not quite recovered, even now. Still, I wanted to see them. There were very few familiar-looking goats. Goats in central Africa have ears that stand up (it's sheep that have floppy ears there), and many breeds of goats here seem to have floppy ears. They look all wrong to me.

My friends eventually arrived. I tracked them over to the pig races. Pig races. Seriously. We watched one heat. I have no idea how they got those pigs to run, but I am assuming that the pigs expected some kind of reward. We did not see the reward. 

A bunch of big cats (tigers, lions, panthers) were lying listlessly in too-small cages. We left that as quickly as possible and headed for the rides.

I think I had kind of forgotten how motion-sick I get. I can handle going upside down. I can handle rollercoasters. It's that circular motion that gets me. And the only non-circular ride was one that just went up and around in a loop of steel, but the operator had stopped that one and climbed part-way up the inside track and was hitting at something with a hammer. 

We went on a circular ride that spun you sideways and upside down (I could scarcely enjoy it because half-way through I realized that I needed to be hanging onto my earrings if I didn't want to lose them - one girl lost her sunglasses, and two people lost phones). I still felt sick when we got on the high swing that swings you in a circle high above the ground. I might have enjoyed the view if I hadn't been trying to figure out whether I felt more sick with my eyes open or closed. That jolt of almost falling near the beginning wasn't so fun, either. (You know you are a boring grownup when you start to worry about the safety of the fair rides. I catch myself imagining that they are maintained by bored roadies whose only diversion is drugs and alcohol. And I may not be wrong.)

I had ginger chews in my car, though, and I went straight for those on the way to my other party. Sweet relief.

16 August 2012

lovely hot

For the first time in five summers, State of Happiness is having a proper August. A proper August consists of weeks of 90 degree F weather, and we finally have one. 

I, for one (possibly the only one in this state), love it. Finally, finally we have weather that does not involve lugging a jacket to every single place I go. I am reveling in it. I will gladly take the intolerably warm car after it's been sitting for hours in the sun if it means that I don't have to be cold ever, at all. 

I hate being cold.

I love being able to get up, put on a dress, and march off to work. 

Oooh, ooh! The best part? Walking out of the air-conditioning into the blast of heat. 

This does not apply to my house, of course. J. and I cannot be bothered to pay for air-conditioning. Cold air costs money. Instead, we just open up some windows at night and I try to get up early enough to close everything up and keep things cool in here. This works, sometimes. It has so far kept it to a maximum indoor temperature of 87 degrees F, which is abysmal, really, when the high was 93 today. Six degrees is not exactly victory. Oh, well. We are never home, anyway.

I kind of want this weather to go on forever. (The appropriate response is: move to Liberia, where it will go on forever!)

14 August 2012


If you had told me, c. 1995, that I would one day wear dresses without being bribed and/or coerced, I would have laughed at you. When my grandpa died in 1996, I bought a one piece pants... thing to wear to the funeral. I can't even explain it. Like a jumpsuit? Sort of? I could barely be talked into a dress for an occasional dance at school.

The me of the mid 1990s would be appalled at the me of 2012, who wears skirts and dresses by choice. In fact, right now I wear dresses or skirts every day. I can't remember the last time I wore trousers, other than for fighting class or activities occurring in the woods. 

What I have discovered, other than just a general enjoyment of dresses that Tomboy M. could not have imagined, is how easy dresses are. It's just one piece. You just put it on, the one piece, and there is no fretting about keeping your shirt pulled down or whether your shoes are the right height for those pants or if your clothes match or whatever. It's done. One item of clothing, and you can go. (Only possible in the summer, of course. I love summer.) (Obviously undergarments are a different category. I am talking about visible clothing.)

I am not ashamed that I particularly like a flowy or flippy skirt. There is something so satisfying about the feeling of a skirt flowing about one's legs. 

I really like being a girl.

My momma and the salesperson talked me into buying this royal blue dress last summer. We had stopped at the mall on the way to the airport for me to fly back to Gone West. I was feeling broke, but the dress was cute and on clearance, and I was persuaded. It took me a while to remember that I owned that dress, this summer, but now that I have remembered, I am very much enjoying it. 

If I have learned one thing this summer, it is that a bright, cheerful dress brings out the compliments in force. Feeling down? Bright dress. Coworkers, friends, loiterers, passersby on the street, all appreciate a bright dress. All will comment on the color, and it will make everyone smile.

08 August 2012


I know I've had a hard workout in fighting class when I drive home and then just sit in my car for a while, trying to summon the energy to get out of the car and go into the house. 

It took a while tonight. I may have even reached for my book. I don't remember.

I don't know if I'm going to be able to get out of bed in the morning.

Usually getting out of bed isn't the problem, actually. It's the stairs at work. I can drag myself up the stairs at home in anticipation of breakfast, but the stairs at work seem impossibly high the morning after a serious workout.

I made the mistake, two months ago, of mentioning to the fighting class instructor that I needed a good hard workout because I didn't have time to run a mile after class, and if I wasn't exhausted, I would have to do it. The entire class has been cursing my name ever since. Even I have been cursing my own name.

05 August 2012

hot and heavy

It was 102 degrees F in Universe City yesterday, and my friend J. and I went to float the river. 

Between the two of us, we'd brought exactly 16 ounces of water. This is not enough water, certainly not for three hours on the water in the blazing sun. 

Clearly neither of us could be bothered with little details like preparation. I did manage not to leave my keys in the glove compartment of his car, though, at the top of the float. That would have been very unfortunate when we got to the bottom, where my car was, and had no ride back. (We did both accidentally keep our towels in his car, which meant that we would have had very wet seats when we got to my car if I did not keep a two-sided blanket in the trunk of my car.)

I made the discovery that sunscreen actually works. (I have always kind of doubted that it could actually keep a person their original color. Prevent burn, yes. Prevent any tanning? No. But I am proven wrong.) Out of sheer paranoia about burning my shoulders that I once blistered in a noon-hour in the sun on the Masai-Mara Game Preserve in Kenya, I applied SPF 60 an hour before we hit the river. While on the river, I applied SPF 50, and then two bouts of SPF 30. I was so effective with the sunscreen that I still have the farmer's tan lines on my arms from the sleeves I wore last week. My shoulders didn't get a lick of sun, despite three hours in the direct 102 degree sun.

When we got out of the river, a guy and girl came up and asked for a ride up to the top. "I lost my keys in the river," the guy said. "She has hers, though." She held up a ziploc and shook it, keys inside.

"Sure," we said, and all piled into my car. We chatted on the way up, about their studies and J.'s hunting plans.

We dropped them off by J.'s car, and J. and I began sorting out all of our stuff. The couple thanked us and walked off further down the road. A few minutes later, they drove by us, in two cars.

Wait a minute.

The funny thing is that I wouldn't have cared. They could had just said, "We didn't plan for a shuttle, and both of our cars are at the top." I would have given them a ride. Why the lies? And thinking about it now, I wonder where their tubes were. Was there more to this plot than I could see?

So then my roommate and I went to a neighborhood block party in a sort of, er. hippie? neighborhood. If by hippie you understand that I mean some classic hippies and some people who view meth use as a daily necessity and some people who believe that living anywhere but under the overpass would be selling out and some hipsters whose only commonality with hippies is a disdain for the niceties of societally sanctioned hygiene.

I was by this point so dehydrated from the three hours in the sun without water that I had a raging headache and I felt sick, so I started buying beverages at every available opportunity. Fruit juice soda, yes, please. Iced tea, thank you. Water, absolutely. Well, whiskey sour if I must.

We finally went and sat down inside a restaurant that lacked air conditioning. "This feels like... somewhere," I kept saying. "Liberia, I think. Or maybe South Sudan. It's all hot and dark and humid, with what might as well be a bare light bulb hanging from the ceiling." I was probably the only person in the joint relishing the heavy, hot air.