Friday, August 31, 2007


While driving through a beautifully terrifying lightning storm on I-70 in Kansas, i found myself thinking this way:

Maybe the reason there are so many fanatical religious people in this state is because Kansas really has a god--a wrath-filled, old-testament sort of god, who hates everyone here.


All of my fingers have been tingling nonstop for about six hours. I did just complete a drive to and from the beach, so i figure it might be from prolonged contact with a vibrating steering wheel, but would any reader have any other ideas as to what could cause me to frequently encounter this?


I saw a production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch recently in Charlotte--pretty well done but obviously with a limited budget and for a limited, fringe audience.

*interestingly, Charlotte made a real ass of itself ten years ago when they decided to cut (and nearly eliminate) arts funding after disapproving of a local production of Angels in America for its apparent endorsement of homosexuality. The Tony Award-winning play was described by council members as depicting "perverted forms of sexuality" and the board, ignoring public outcry, decided that they couldn't endorse this sort of depravity and voted to only allow funding to approved theatres on a per-production basis. (see Britain's 1737 Theatre Licensing Act) This move, naturally, most directly harmed theatre education programs and deeply impeded the city's progress toward recognition as a "world class" metropolis.
Seeing as Hedwig not only ran, but ran without stirring up an angry mob, I think Charlotte's come a long way recently toward joining civilization.*

The show's performers were quite talented, but the production quality was diminished by inexpert sound mixing and equally amateurish lighting design (really, people with lines ought to be visible unless there's a good reason otherwise). While i feel no compulsion to try and spark interest in Charlotte theatre (honestly, around here, the folks who have any desire for entertainment where no helicopters blow up and no gigantic, sweaty men bash into each other while chasing a ball around are already In the theatre seats) i nevertheless feel bad for this area's pathetic audience size and negligible public funding. Increased public involvement would improve production quality as more money attracts more professional designers and technicians.


I've been typing for a while now and the tingling has abated. Comments?


The links referring to Charlotte's 1997 Anti-Gay legislation are old news, yes, but are still worth reading. If anything, they're a benchmark for progress, though the fact that politicians felt comfortable publicly announcing that "if I had my way, we'd shove [homosexuals] off the face of the earth" as recently as 10 years ago is so appalling its funny. The theatre referred to in the articles, Charlotte Rep, folded in 2005 from lack of funding. Banking capital of the south can't afford a decent arts community.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


I'm back in South Carolina and damn, i forgot what 100°F, 100% humidity felt like. and what it looks like when bugs kamikaze-dive into your windshield. and how Loud nature is. did you know bugs make noise in their spare time? I'd gotten so used to the high-altitude cool dryness and quietude i completely forgot that the south is absolutely not at all anything like that.
I got out of the car and my eyes immediately started watering and my sinuses stopped up like they were desperately trying to close the blast doors against invasion. There's all this...flora here.

On an interesting note, all of the sealed bottles in my luggage crunched and squished on the drive down from 9,000 feet to sea level. the altitude change did a similar number on my ears. I wonder, if you dropped a lightbulb out of an airplane at cruising height, how long would it fall before it popped?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Thor's Back Yard

Today i went to Garden of the Gods, a truly beautiful rock formation near Colorado Springs. It was most tranquil. And to think, until i was invited, I'd never heard of the place. Next time i'll come with climbing gear.

"Balanced" rock. Looks crazy precarious, right?
Until you notice that some poor park manager has to come out on a regular basis and maintain its natural majesty (and keep it from rolling away) with a bit of concrete as erosion tries to take its course. Several large rocks were also supported with brick columns where people tended to walk. I felt cheated.
Some big rocks, some clouds. you know how it is.
We made a friend on the drive down along a dirt ridge road through a national forest. Click to enlarge.
Some more crazy geological balancing acts--though these ones looked genuine.
A small shrub-growing sunflower. It was posing for me.

Thursday, August 09, 2007


last night I started digging through the archives of the webcomic XKCD in Firefox, one tab on the comic, one tab on Wikipedia, and every time i didn't get a joke, i looked up the reference. as of now, i'm 120 comics in and i've looked up about 15 science, math, and computing terms, people, and processes and have a vague notion of what they are. I'm fairly certain my notion will remain vague, too--i don't think i'm going to to enroll in grad school just to get a few jokes.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

piave vecchio

Everyone has their own quirky relationship with food. i was considering my own at the grocery store today and i decided that food makes me happy. but more than that, the very prospect of food makes me happy. i enjoy driving home with a trunkful of edible items, knowing that they are mine and i can eat them whenever i want. and that's not to say i then go home and gork out on everything i bought and lie around the rest of the day in a food coma--i put everything away, taste the dairy products to make sure they're good, and then typically walk away, safe in the knowledge that i will not starve for another week. i like Looking at the food. i'll spend any number of minutes looking at the grocery store displays of imported cheeses and gourmet olives...and buy neither. i'll compare the labels on two different types of pasta sauce and put both back. i could wander the aisles for days, without even bringing my wallet, and just appreciate what i see.

well, i could if i had access to a Trader Joe's or a store with an appreciable organic section. most of the time i spend reading labels its out of sheer curiosity--what kinds of chemistry went into this? how many ingredients can i pronounce? how much effort went into making this look, taste, and smell like tomatoes without actually using any tomatoes? what's the point?

i don't take comfort in eating, but for some reason, i really like groceries.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A Local Adventure

“Gin tonic?”

“I forgot my wallet.”

“I’ll start you a tab. C’mon.”

“Nah, not tonight.”

The bartender looked hurt--an expression he’d mastered through years of practice on suckers who tipped well after just one more drink. Still sulking pointedly at me, he began to twist the lid off a coffee carafe.

“Oh fine. A cup of coffee. Black.”



He grinned then, his dark eyes twinkling, and began to slowly release a dose of hour-old java into a tumbler. He leaned in, conspiratorially close, and spoke in a rushed whisper while he poured.

“So i saw you with--”

“Bo, we Work together.”

“Come On, you know she--”

“I promise, there’s nothing going on between us.”

He winked, disbelieving, and said for the company at large, ”Sure you don’t want a shot of something in this?”

I rolled my eyes and looked over at a couple a few seats closer to the door. I recognized the girl as a bartender from the only other joint in town that wasn’t predominantly a casino. Her left ear had been tattooed uniformly blue, though she was known to claim for anyone who asked that it was marbled with patterns in green and turquoise. The guy i didn’t know, but from the fact that she was hanging off of him like a loud, wiggly leech, i guessed they were involved. He glanced toward me, a look of resigned tolerance in his eyes, and I smirked sympathetically.

Blue-ear turned round, grinned drunkenly at me, and shouted as quietly as possible, “we’re crashing a party. You’re coming too.”

My smile of greeting quickly dissolved into the furrowed brow of confusion and embarrassment. They have parties in this county? What on earth is this girl’s name?

“Oh yeah? Where is it?”

“Up the mountain. In the campground. Friends of mine--good people.”

“Then why do we have to crash it?”

She smiled knowingly and turned away, regarded the lit cigarette in her hand with some surprise, and took a drag. Bo offered me an olive, but a quick estimation of the manner in which its briny flavor would mingle with the coffee on my palate led me to hastily refuse it. The bartender again pretended to take this personally and wandered off. I sipped my drink.

A hand grabbed my wrist and a drop of lukewarm coffee flew out of my glass. My self-proclaimed hostess had upended her martini into her mouth and, slamming down the empty stemware, tugged my hand and hollered, “Come on!” Seeing little choice, i drained my cup, waved to anyone who might be nearby, and followed my arm out the door.

We all climbed into the guy’s jeep, her clutching a brandy snifter that she’d filled with flowers plucked from a window-box to “make it legal.” The front passenger door was broken, she giddily explained, because she had been holding it open while he backed up and it smacked into a street sign.

“Its up here a ways,” she said, gesturing vaguely toward the windshield. We followed a main road up the mountain until it turned to dirt, then dropped down to one lane. The headlights illuminated nothing but trees and the next hairpin turn as the jeep trundled around the mountain in a generally upward direction. After listening to a few minutes of her of idly chattering with herself, i picked up that her name was Cheryl, and his Justin. After taking enough left turns to convince me we’d gone in a circle twice, we passed two campers and rolled to a stop.

When I opened the door I was taken aback by the utter darkness and quiet we’d driven into. I gave my hand an experimental wave in front of my face and found it invisible. Only when i walked around the back of the vehicle did i see the modest campfire a few dozen yards away, illuminating a few human forms.

“Fuck you! Fuuuuuuuuck yoooooooou!” came from my right, and startled, i turned to see the dim outline that was Cheryl making lewd gestures and pelvic thrusts toward the small knot of people by the fire. She would continue with outbursts of this kind throughout the night, each one met with a grim sort of resignation on tolerance. A small, round figure detached itself from the picnic area and bustled toward us, but not before I heard the comment, “oh god, she found us.” from the table.

I was introduced to a forty-something mountain woman named Heidi who smilingly offered me a drink and tried to ignore Cheryl while she shouted profanities into her ear. She ushered us toward the campsite, where I was introduced to Dinah, Betty, and John, all somewhere between forty-five and seventy, who graciously offered me the remnants of their spread, a space at the table, and drinks. I could tell that the party had been winding down for quite some time--the food had been put away, the fire had not been stoked, and i saw the remains of paper plates smoldering near the edge of the pit. Our arrival was, quite obviously, not entirely welcome.

I tried to make the best of it. Dinah, a smallish curly-haired woman who seemed jovial, struck up a conversation with me. After the usual pleasantries it was only a matter of time before I mentioned I worked for the opera, which elicited a groan from the party at large.

“We don’t Like the opera. Its why we’re all up here in the summer.” she explained.

My look of astonishment prompted her to explain further.

“You’re noisy, you’re rude, you take our parking spaces and take over our bars. You invade our town, and we don’t enjoy it. But we know how much money y’all make for the town, so rather than get y’all out, we leave.”

Fidgeting with my jacket, I muttered something about how that wasn’t necessarily true for everyone--there are some nice people down the hill, but she waved it off.

“Honey, I’ve been living up here for fifteen years. After the first summer we learned to just head for the hills until y’all go away. No offense intended.”

Offended, I attempted to change the subject, but was left at a loss. Cheryl took the quiet moment as an opportunity to shout obscenities at the world, breaking off near the end into a bloodcurdling scream. I covered my ears. Catching Dinah’s eye, I commented, “and I thought the sopranos were bad.”

“What, don’t you sing?”

“Oh no, I work in props.”

“Oh! Why didn’t you mention it?” she smiled and gently scolded, “i don’t mind working people.”

I smiled and nodded in what i hoped was a friendly manner while she nattered on about the value of a day’s hard work. Next to her, quiet until now, John piped up.

“Where’s the rum?”

I spotted it in front of me and handed it over before starting to pour myself a vodka-lemonade. He took it without looking at me and cradled it in the crook of an elbow.

Dinah and I got on to chatting about local events and music while Betty fussed over the table, putting pickles and olives in baggies and stacking paper plates. Behind me, Heidi and Cheryl cackled, Cheryl somewhat hysterically, while Justin’s presence was only noted by the glowing orange end of his cigarette.

“Where’s the rum?”

John, still cradling the bottle and beginning to look indignant, gave me a meaningful look, as though I was hiding it from him.

looking straight at the bottle, I replied, “Oh, I thought I handed it to you. Is it not on your side of the table?”

Dinah patted his arm and said, “oh look! Here it is!” She pulled the bottle out of his arms and placed it on the table in front of him.
He stared at it, dumbstruck, before turning to her and asking where the coke was. I winced when i saw he had an unopened one in his hand. Dinah, smiling, patted the top of it and offered to open it. As she was getting her fingernails positioned, Betty came behind her and tersely shook her head.

“My husband is done drinking tonight. Isn’t that right, hon?”

John seemed not to hear her and grabbed the rum bottle again.

I began to sip my drink rather quickly.

The conversation turned to me--Dinah seemed genuinely interested in where I came from and what I did. After explaining the rather transient nature of my lifestyle and emphasizing the fact that I was an honor graduate who spent a good chunk of her time sweeping floors, John piped up again.

“Well no offense intended, but you’re just a baby! Moving all around, workin, when you should be growing up, with your momma.”

Offended again, I changed the subject to Cirque du Soleil and hoped it would stay there. Cheryl began throwing random items into the fire. Heidi’s smile looked painful. Justin seemed to be absorbed in studying his burning tobacco. Dinah became excited at the mention of Cirque and began describing the set to me, moments after I mentioned that I’d not only seen it, but had a backstage tour.

“And the stage is set up so that its right in the middle of the tent--the audience is on both sides. Crazy.”

“Yeah, that’s called a Courtyard stage. You don’t see it very often.”

“Yeah! And they did this thing with a midget and balloons...”

“Where’s the rum? My wife hasn’t fed me all day. Said she was gonna make chicken. Never had no chicken.”

Betty, sealing up a bag of sliced onions, said, “chicken is tomorrow. Tonight we had pork.”

“Well why didn’t you give me any?”

I glanced toward the fire where a badly-thrown paper plate still bore the residue of a barbecue picnic--a greasy spot with some gristle, a few neglected baked beans in their brown gravy, little smudges of cole slaw and corn. I thought of my grandfather and looked away.

“We’re going!” A yank on my wrist. Cheryl held me at arm’s length while i downed my fairly weak drink and tossed the ice in the woods. Heidi hugged me, saying “it was very nice to meet you, um... Girl.”

“Heidi, it was a pleasure.”

I followed the dynamic duo back to the jeep, Cheryl screaming like it was going out of style, and hoped we’d be off toward town. Halfway out of the campground, however, Cheryl told Justin to head toward Nevadaville.

“I wanna show her my parents’ house.” she said, as he turned away from the light and comparative civilization of Central City. “I lived there for two and a half years, eleven years ago. It doesn’t have power or water, but my parents asked me to keep an eye on it after it was broken into. So I moved in. I moved in with my dog, two cats, and a sawed-off shotgun. And yeah, I didn’t have a shower so I took a bucket down to the culvert some days and used a sponge and yeah, i didn’t smell great, but, y’know, if you’re gonna judge me on that i don’t have any patience for you. And I Know they told me not to use that culvert water but what was I gonna do? I boiled it before I drank it, anyway. I didn’t see what the big deal was. Justin baby, gimme a cigarette.”

Central City’s streetlights now hidden by half a mountain, the only proof I had we were still on a road was the occasional glimpse of a upward curve from my perch in the back seat. The jeep was tossed around by the haphazard arrangement of clods that made up the only link between Central and this ghost town. My tolerant smile briefly turned into a grimace as my imagination suggested that they weren’t just taking me out into the middle of nowhere to show off a house. I was trying to reassure myself that this Penn and Teller-esque duo was the harmless kind of crazy when Cheryl became coherent again.

“Justin’s daughter died recently, so if he seems like he’s being a jerk that’s probably why. If it bothers you, though, just kick him in the kidneys. Baby, gimme a cigarette.”

She wedged her toes into the space between his chair back and seat, causing him to jump and nearly drop the car’s lighter in his lap. He passed her the lit Parliament and she rolled down the window, rested her smoking hand in the corner, and promptly forgot about it.

“The house is just around here. Slow down. Off to your right. Stop--look.”

Justin held the brake but, to my relief, did not park the car. We peered out the passenger side at a surprisingly beautiful two-story Spanish-style house. The windows and doorways were all arched, the roof was tiled, and I saw what could have been a balcony overlooking the overgrown gardens in the moonlight.

It took me a moment to realize Cheryl was actually speaking to me when she pointed past the line of the chimney at a small rectangular structure that could only be an outhouse.

“And that, see there? That’s where they found a three year old girl after she’d been missing for a month. Of course nobody used that anymore at the time so nobody looked until the bugs showed up. Even I didn’t use it when I was living here without plumbing, not after that. Its probably haunted, y’know? Hell, the whole town is haunted. My dog was always seein’ things, barking at nothing out here...” my attention trailed off.

Justin put the car back in drive and it was only a few feet before I recognized where I was for the first time in two hours. We rolled toward town and a part of me was prepared to tuck and roll out of the back seat if it came to it, but Justin spoke for the first time all evening.

“You live in Opera housing?”


“I’ll drop you off.”

He pulled up outside of my house.

“it was a pleasure to meet you.”

“You too.”

Cheryl hugged me like i was an old friend she hadn’t seen in decades and called me a whore.

“Fuck you too!”

I jumped out of the car and waved while they slowly rolled away.