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Days

Dear Diary: A Few Hours Later

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Dear Diary:

I’ve scrubbed the pressure cooker, eaten some delicious ham-and-white-bean soup, and have a few minutes now to finish up this entry about that Saturday last month when nothing much happened. You know me: it’s not a “nothing much happened” kind of day until I’ve written 5,000 words about it. No wonder you’re always bulging at the binding.

When last I left you, I’d just loaded up on coffee and Trader Joe’s–both providing respite after the sequined-t-shirt-storm that was Macy’s clearance.

As I pulled onto I-35 and pointed the nose of the rental car northwards, I eyeballed the radio and rued the lack of an iPod port. Not only had I found a piece of dog food rolling around the floor of the car when I picked it up from Hertz, the upholstery reeked of stale cigarette smoke. I daresay the Hertz people didn’t truly respect the $13/day I was throwing at them.

I could deal with the dog food (ate it!) and get past the smoke smell (lit a cigar!), but being limited to the radio for three hours on a Saturday afternoon in Minnesota qualified as genuine hardship. Most of my state-mates would be delighted at the prospect, as Minnesota Public Radio offers up some fine fare–all the car talk, thoughtful interviews, dinner-party downloading, ironic wits, and “used to be called Speaking of Faith but now called On Being” shows that white people with incomes over $50,000/year could want.

And, of course: there is that Garrison Keillor show.

You know the one.

Where all the children are above average.

With the sound effects.

Fiddles.

Rhubarb pie.

Folksy shit.

It’s a household eye-rolling joke between Byron and me that we can’t turn on MPR during the weekend without being assaulted by (all you rabid fans, please read assaulted by as allowed the pleasure of) the signature tickling of the ivories that opens A Prairie Home Companion. We actually compete to see who can slap the change-station button first, to find relief  in whatever inane pop tripe Iggy Azalea is currently shilling. It’s the closest to violence my beau and I have ever come: knocking fists as we scramble for the dial in an effort to escape “It’s been a quiet week on Lake Woebegon…”

You know how it went, then, don’t you, Clever Diary? It was actually okay for the first hour of my drive north, when I was still within range of the Twin Cities. There were urban-ish choices (men’s voices yelling “Concrete! Factories! Graffiti!” punctuated by the sound of breaking bottles) which allowed me to avoid the Garrison.

But then, there’s a halfway point, right around a town called Hinckley, and in that sad, rural technological Bermuda Triangle, radio waves go in, but they don’t come out.

Static, static, and fuzz, only interrupted by eerily crystalline sound bytes of “It’s been a quiet week in Lake Woebegon…”

For twenty miles, I slammed “Seek,” hoping not to hear a fake ad from the Catchup Advisory Board (the name is spelled that way as a compromise between the two common words, ketchup and catsup) each time the blur of numbers on the dashboard halted. No such luck. It was all “catchup,” all fiddles, all Guy Noir, all Powdermilk Biscuits, every time I hit the button. There were five stations playing the same drive-me-up-a-frickin’-wall show.

Now I know that Prairie Home Companion is the creator of many treasured moments for the upper-middle-class pasty people, Diary. Fans find nostalgia and comfort in that program, the same way you provide those things for me. They love Keillor’s homey storytelling and the whimsy of clip-clop hoof strikes like radio programs used in Ye Olde Depression Era radio showes. Abstractly, I see how all the predictable beats of that program constitute companionship for multitudes of listeners.

The problem is that Keillor’s predictable beats don’t align with the ones drumming inside my head. Oh, Diary, as you know from years of observing it, my interior is not set in Lake Woebegon, nor does it care to take a pontoon ride to that burg’s shores. The sounds inside my head are staccato; the landscapes of my mind are riddled with well-worn ruts and dangerous divots; the people who live inside my skull scrawl the word COZY in blood on a piece of cardboard, let the blood dry, and then chase Garrison Keillor around Main Street with it, bashing his shoulder blades while screeching “NO. MORE. STORIES. ABOUT. THE. 4TH. OF. JULY. AND. THE. CHATTERBOX. CAFE.” In my milder moments, I’m a softie cornball, but still not the right kind for “the little town time forgot, and the decades cannot improve.” My softie cornball moments involve a desire to see Rick Astley wearing a trench coat and singing “Never Gonna Give You Up” as I trim my bangs in front of the mirror at midnight while contemplating how a re-boot of television’s Full House might not be a bad idea. Then I check the pantry for Twizzlers.

Obviously, my gripe about PHC doesn’t stem from some sort of superior taste. I have terrible taste. I was genuinely worried when Marie Osmond fainted on Dancing with the Stars. I swear by Arby’s roast beef sandwiches, and do not get me started on the glory of their potato cakes. On more than one occasion, I’ve worn a plum-colored top with a purple skirt. Just the other day, I put on striped capri pajama pants (and I realize this example could stop here, as it’s made its point) and then was possessed by a Spring Cleaning bug that made me empty a huge drawer in the kitchen and tote it out to the back yard, where I spent five minutes wiping the crap and crumbs out of it with a heap of wet paper towels. There I squatted, a spectacle for the neighborhood, scrubbing away remnant cumin, wondering if maybe I should’ve put on underwear beneath my clown pants.

So it’s not that I’m better than A Prairie Home Companion. Just different. My beats are pounded on a drumline 6,945 miles from Lake Woebegon.

My beats did stick twirls when, after hitting the radio’s “Seek” button one more time, the airwaves finally provided a bonanza: the classics station.

Diary? Remember how we went and saw Barry Manilow? Remember how Rush’s Geddy Lee took our elbow and saved us in Macy’s clearance? Remember all those other ecstatic entries I scribbled in you in the ’80s–about seeing Black Sabbath and Loverboy and Blue Oyster Cult and Quarterflash? ‘Member?

The classics station is friends with all those people. And all those people, from Loverboy’s Mike Reno to Black Sabbath’s Ronnie James Dio, would not deign to toss Garrison Keillor the scarves from their microphone stands. They are a very exclusive club, the artists on the classics station, snobbish in the best possible way. They have two rules: 1) No brown M & Ms; 2) No Garrison Keillor.

By landing on the classics station, my internal beats found a home. I cranked the volume until the tinny speakers in that $13/day rental car shook the smoke right out of the upholstery. I felt my ears pin back against my head when The Cars sang “I guess you’re just what I needed.” I lost my mind when the Steve Miller Band’s “Space Cowboy” came on because it was a damned gift to be reminded that I’m a picker, a grinner, a lover, and a sinner– except not when cars passed on the left, at which point I had to act overly casual and like my mouth was moving because it was chewing gum and not because it was whistling “WHIT-WHOO” along with Mr. Steven Miller.

By the way, Diary, I really love your peaches and eversomuch want to shake your tree. Guard your bloomers!

Free from Woebegon, in the full flush of rocking out to tunes from my formative years, I took a happy moment to raise my face to the sky and tell God I wish she existed so I could praise her for the sunshine. Pleased by the sentiment, Non-Existent God whispered back, “I wish I existed, too. If I did, I could have stopped millions of senseless deaths carried out in my name. What a bunch of dumb fucks, trying to ride on my coat tails.”

Driving the next 50 miles, I sorted through mental images of God’s coats (my favorite: the one made out of chicken wire, cling wrap, and Jesus’ beard clippings) while my voice strained to keep up with Messieurs Crosby, Stills, and Nash.

And then, Diary, I was home. As I parked behind the house, the back door opened, and out came Byron, his jeans stuffed into Wellingtons in an act of righteous cuteness, ready to help me carry in bags of groceries and weekend-away luggage.

You know how you have about 70 pages devoted to youthful heartache and wishing for some yummy boy to like me?

I won’t be adding to them. All that mournful nonsense ended when Byron came along. I found the yummy boy, and he likes me.

Once everything had been toted inside, we set to unpacking the groceries from TJ’s–pumpkin seeds and trail mix promise brain health, so I’m stuffing some between your pages now, Diary. At the same time, I needed to catch up with what I’d missed in my absence, notably Allegra’s having been put into a race at a track meet earlier that morning. Her high school is big, and the talent on its team runs deep; thus, we didn’t expect that she’d be running at any of the “competitive” meets. However, through a confluence of events and missing runners, the coach decided to have her run the 1600. That’s a mile, Diary. I know math has never been your strong suit. Remember all those times you still thought it was 1982 when we were well into 1983? Duh.

Because I love my daughter, and I love watching running, and I love teenagers being strong, I had requested that Byron and Paco record Allegra’s race. Holding a bag of trailmix in one hand, I squinted at the little screen on Byron’s phone and watched my baby girl–tall now for a baby–turn in a 6:43 mile. Only in a select young people’s meet would a 6:43 mile put her at the back of the pack. Fortunately, all the rest of us, those not in high school, know that a 6:43 mile shines all the mirrors with vinegar and a loud squeak. Leaning over her shoulder, staring at the video on phone, talking through her form on each of the eight laps of the tiny track, I grinned like dancer in “stand battle” on the riveting cable program Bring It.

You can call me Selena. But NEVER call me Sunjai.

When the video was over, Allegra admitted, “I wish I could do it again. Because now I know I could have been running faster from the start.” Fortunately, I was able to put her performance in context and tell her that if someone offered me $10,000 to run one 6:43 mile, ever, I would have to respond with “Could I please have another challenge? One that’s feasible? Something like eating 643 snickerdoodles in 6:43?”

Patting my tall, strong, fast girl on the back, congratulating her one more time, I snagged eyes with Byron and asked, “Naturally, because I’ve been home for five minutes, it’s time to head out again, right? We need to go get Paco from his pal’s birthday party at the water park and then head to the Kia dealership to pick up our half-repaired car there [parts had been ordered] before caravaning to the Hertz store to drop off the rental car?”

Yup. Down the road we drove, pulling over to grab a soft, moist Paco from the water park and shout a prayer to the Tiki god that dumps a massive bucket of water on 30-pound preschoolers every three minutes: “Please, god of this scummy water park, protect our son from staph infections and pink eye. And may none of his toenails fall off in the next six months.”

While Byron sacrificed a snack stand chicken patty sandwich on the Tiki God’s altar, I drove next door to fill the tank on the rental car.

Diary. You know me and cars.

I not so smart.

After four minutes of attempting to find a button to push or pull–something that would pop open the gas tank cover, I gave up. Damn rental.

Instead, we drove to the Kia dealership and retrieved our car. Now in two vehicles, we pulled over at a different gas station, so Byron could help me find the gas tank button.

He walked up to the rear of the rental car, touched the flap covering the hole to the gas tank, and pulled it open. Manually. ‘Cause he a man.

As I watched him handle the car’s gassing up for me, I took a lace fan out of the glove compartment and fluttered it around my face. My, my. I do declare.

In quick order, we returned the rental car, returned home in our so-so Kia, and listened to our stomachs growl. Mine was actually growling for a beer I’d brought home from The Big City, a place where workers in breweries yelled “Concrete! Factories! Graffiti!” while breaking bottles. First, though, I wanted to unpack the dirty clothes from my bag. Checking on the laundry situation after a few days away, my suspicion was confirmed: no one had touched the stuff in my absence. Retributively, I tossed all their whites and reds into a hot water load and pushed the button reading “Mix these suckers HARD.”

An hour later, the kids had eaten, and I managed to be passively supportive of Byron and Allegra as they headed out in search of Northern Lights. Settling into the rocking chair, sighing loudly as I pulled a fleece blanket over my legs, I told Paco that, of course, he could stay up late and finish his Pokemon battle. I mean, what if Clefairy was about to triumph over Charizard, at long last? Who am I to get in the way of long-simmering Pokemon grudge matches? Just as I got comfortable, I realized that we adults still needed to eat once Team Borealis returned from its mission and that the pot of water in which to boil cauliflower still needed to be turned on. Oh, Diary, my problems ran deep. I was very nearly woebegone. Except no–Keillor! Ptui!

Eventually, the unsuccessful Lights Hunters came back, the boy finished his Pokemon battle and went to bed, and my favorite time of day arrived: dinner plus drink plus watching a show with my beau. We settled on the Turkish couch, hip-to-hip, dug into our cauliflower, and laughed at Tina Fey’s impersonation of Marcia Clarke in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Dear Diary, both Byron and I would like to lick the make-up off Tina Fey, no matter the costume, so it was a rollicking half hour for us, only made better when I realized I still had ice cream cake left over from my birthday and that it might be wise to pour a glass of wine to help me mull over when eating that cake would be advisable.

It was 10 p.m. My yummy husband was yawning. My soft, moist, pink-eye-free boy was snoring. His strong-legged sister was checking her Instagram. The kitchen was full of fun treats. I’d sung with Steve Miller. It had been a phenomenal day.

As I opened the fridge and pulled out a bottle of white, I thought of you, Diary, and all the memories you’ve recorded for me, preserving the minute details of a half-formed life on your pages. And, Diary? You know I love you, even though you embarrass me in public, but I have to admit I had an epiphany there, that Saturday night in front of the fridge:

as much as I treasure the time capsule of my adolescence that you represent, particularly when you provide nuggets like this one

"The Blues Brothers is on t.v. I made popcorn & I'm taping John Cougar on King Biscuit."
“The Blues Brothers is on t.v. I made popcorn & I’m taping John Cougar on King Biscuit.”

–there’s no time like the present.

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Days

Dear Diary, Thirty-Three Years Later

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Dear Diary:

Me again. Hey, so I visited one of your predecessors a few weeks back, and, boy, did that totally bitchin’ trip back to the early 1980s reaffirm my love for Rush’s lead singer Geddy Lee; since then, my Spotify’s been cranking “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice” ’til a thin trickle of blood dribbles from my ear and down my freckled cheek.

That glance back in time also reminded me how no one, back in 1982, really knew Barry Manilow was gay–but now, 33 years later, Barry’s gotten married! To a guy named Garry! So they are Barry and Garry! And that hurts me a lot! Because imagine if my husband’s name were Hocelyn! And we only found out about Barry and Garry’s union because Chrissy Snow from Three’s Company talked about it on a gossip show! As it turns out, Barry met Garry a couple of years after I saw him in concert, so I’m thinking I still had a shot with Barry when he performed at The Metra in Billings, if only I hadn’t been seventy-eleven rows back and toting boobs! Clearly, it was only after something deeply internal in Barry realized “no Jocelyn for me” that he felt free to embrace the Garry!

Basically, Diary, you remind me that things change while remaining the same and that I’ve evolved over the years so as not to be, as Geddy would put it, “ill equipped to act, with insufficient tact.” He also told me to “put aside the alienation and get on with the fascination”–wise words!–and so if you’re not doing that yet, Dear Diary, I recommend you get on with it. The fascination, I mean.

Anyhow, I’m so glad you’re here, in the present with me, now; I have lots to report because a few weeks ago it was Saturday, and nothing big happened.

I’d been down in Minneapolis for a couple of nights to participate in the annual “delegate assembly” for the faculty union. I KNOW: I still can’t believe I’m a member of a union, either. Unions were so profoundly not a part of my upbringing that I am floored every time I remember I’m a worker who enjoys benefits and protections thanks to collective bargaining. Here’s an interesting development in recent years, Diary: unions are under attack by certain conservatives, such as the google-eyed hand-puppet who governs Wisconsin, dismantling unions within their states and opting, instead, for something called Right to Work. I won’t go into the details of Right to Work here, lest they get your pages in a flap, but here’s one tidbit to give you a taste of the issue: corporations love Right to Work states, and workers in Right to Work states make approximately 10% less than in union states. So, you know, I was at a union meeting, mostly because the union covers the cost of my hotel room, and there are a lot of episodes of Chopped that need me to watch them, but also because I savor the spectacle of parliamentary procedure in action (this year’s highlight: it took an hour to defeat a motion to issue a thank-you to a retiring administrator, after which the registered parliamentarian overseeing the discussion began pulling out her eyebrow hairs, one by one, with terrifying deliberateness).

On the Saturday in question, I got up at 8:30 a.m., having listened to drunken colleagues splash red wine on the carpet outside my room until 2 a.m. That’s the suck of getting stationed next door to the Governor’s Lounge (aka “social suite”) for a couple of nights at a work conference. I didn’t actually mind staying up that late, to tell you true, because it afforded me an hour’s obsessive watching of the hypnotic Lifetime network program called Bring It. Diary, this reality show follows groups of “hip-hop majorettes” as they train with over-the-top coaches and compete against rival troupes. That night in my hotel room, by the time the Dancing Dolls got to the final Stand Battle against the Divas, I was wishing my beloved Geddy could pop in to the gym to advise the girls and coaches that “glittering prizes and endless compromises shatter the illusion of integrity.” Sadly, his lesson would be lost on thirteen-year-olds who throw eyeball shade at competitors while doing the splits between two chairs.

At any rate, despite a short night’s sleep, once I woke up that Saturday morning I had more than enough energy to grab the remote and turn on HGTV, salivating at the thought of houses being flipped. I had to settle, though, because Love It or List It was on. Before I could pour a cup of water into the coffee machine, I was embroiled in the quandary of a couple whose lovely view and rotting deck left them craving a better view and a sounder deck. By the time I was wincing at the powdered creamer drifting into my crappy coffee, I was ready to have Geddy call the couple and blast their self-absorption with a quick “How can you be worried about your deck when ‘the hypocrites are slandering the sacred halls of truth’?”

It wasn’t even 9 a.m., and already I’d watched people with too much money bitch about their lot and had a mental visit from Geddy Lee. Oh, Diary, it was shaping up to be an amazing day.

Slamming my coffee, I headed down to the fitness center to rollick on a treadmill with a television attached to it. Racking up some miles, I did an interval workout, bumping up the speed during the commercials since few things make me want to run like my butt’s on fire more than an ad for hemorrhoid cream. After some satisfying sweating, I hopped off the treadmill with a flourish–always the key to a successful dismount. As I moved to the weights, a kind 70-year-old man perched on a bike observed, “You certainly were exercising vigorously!” Thanking him, I noted, “I have a friend named Geddy who might have described me thusly, ‘Daughter of a demon-lover/Empress of the hidden face/Priestess of the pagan mother/Ancient queen of inner space.'”

Hoisting a twenty-pound weight towards the ceiling, I added, “But he’s one for words, that Geddy. You can just call me Ancient queen of inner space for short. ‘K?”

All too soon, Diary, I fluttered my fingers adieu at my bike pal, coyly patted my butt like it was burning, and returned to my room for a shower before checking out. When I opened the door, I noticed the message light flashing on the room’s telephone. It was good news: my friend Kirsten’s phone charger, which she had left behind when she checked out the day before, was in the possession of the front desk, so I needed to stop by on my way out and grab it for her.

Oh, Kirsten, Kirsten, Kirsten. Tsk, tsk. Don’t forget your stuff at the hotel, Silly! Where’s your head, Goose?

Just before noon, I zipped my bag shut, stroked the television’s face fondly, and headed out, in the process leaving my phone charger and brand-new tablet on the desk next to a take-out menu.

Never fear, Protective Diary, I had a carefree nine hours before I realized they’d been left behind, and once I did, it only took repeated phone calls and ten days before they made their way to Duluth.

My mind wasn’t on chargers and tablets, you see, for I was aiming my car towards the second-largest mall in the state. Why head straight home when I could stop and gape at suburbanites while eating teriyaki chicken and noodles so offensive that the chef would literally have lost his face if he’d served it it in Japan? Also, I was needing a new racerback sports bra and figured a good pawing of the clearance at Athleta and Macy’s might yield a bargain.

You know what I learned from my pawing, Diary? Good sports bras sell at regular price, so I just need to pony up and pay top dollar. Also, did you know that there’s a “trainer’s discount” at Athleta? And that if we tore out one of your pages and wrote “Jocelyn is a trainer” on it with very firm print, we could maybe score a slightly cheaper bra? I learned about this discount when I was stuck in the check-out line behind a tiny wall of muscle topped by a blonde pixie cut. This woman had told everyone waiting for the fitting room about how she’d just been to Florida to watch some baseball, and then she told a worker near the skorts about how she’d just gotten back from Florida where she’d gone to watch some baseball, and after that she told the cashier about how she’d just gotten back from Florida where baseball had been watched. It was a damn relief when she finally shut up about her glamorous baseball trip to Florida long enough to tell the cashier that she’s a trainer and would like to use her discount. However, she couldn’t find her official trainer card to prove it, and she sure as hell didn’t have a diary page upon which to forge one (fitness trainers ain’t ‘zactly littrit types), all of which made me hope the cashier would issue a “trainer’s challenge” to this sack of skin bulging with guns and tell her, “I’ll let you have the discount if you drop and bang out thirty plyo burpees with push-ups while I blare a Pitbull song.”

Alas.

Challenge un-issued, the cashier simply looked up the woman’s name in the computer system and gave her the discount. Just as I was pouting “Stupid technology takes away all the fun,” I heard Geddy’s voice, a whisper in the ear of my mind, singing to me of the beauties of modernity: “Invisible airwaves crackle with life/Bright antennae bristle with the energy/Emotional feedback on timeless wavelength/Bearing a gift beyond price.” Powerless in the face of his argument, I took out my phone and tapped out some emotional feedback on timeless wavelength: a text to my husband, telling him I’d be home for dinner.

In thrall to the blonde bit of cut buffness packed into spendy leggings, I followed the baseball-watching trainer out of the store and into Macy’s, whereupon she promptly disappeared, like the panty panel of a leotard up Jane Fonda’s cooch.

Sweet Diary? Macy’s on a Saturday afternoon during end-of-season clearance is nuuuuuuuuuts. Rather than browsing the clearance, I mostly wanted to take pictures of the heaps of intermingled, chaotic blouses, jeans, sweaters, blazers, t-shirts, toddlers, purses, and dresses under the “80% Off” sign. Who could find anything of interest in that mess?

About two hundred women wearing bedazzled sweatshirts, pushing strollers, carrying three pounds of product in their hair and kids named Dakota on their hips. That’s who.

For a long time, I stood there, unmoving, surrounded by frenetic shoppers. Limply, I reached out for a few garments, realized they were Size XS and covered with rhinestones, and let my hand fall back to my hip. Grabbing my elbow, Geddy analogized, “You know how that rabbit feels, going under your speeding wheels, bright images flashing by, like windshields towards a fly, frozen in the fatal climb? That’s you right now, girlfriend. You’re the rabbit, and clearance is the wheels. We need to get you out of here.”

He steered me to the relative oasis of the “Wear to Work” section of the store, which is where Right to Work employees buy Anne Klein dresses, if they can afford them on their limited wages.

Looking around, I realized this part of the store was calm, organized, and shoppable. I also realized I was standing next to a rack of Calvin Klein dresses that were chanting my name. Or maybe my husband’s name, if it were Hocelyn. Either way, he wasn’t there, and I was. It was time to get my “try on” on.

I grabbed a Size 12 and headed in to the fitting room, a place where previous rampagers had left the detritus of their “No” clothing while wheeling out gleefully with arms full of “Yes, yes, yes!” Stepping over the mountains of fabric, I found a spot where I could shed my clothes and wrap myself in Calvin–the nearest thing to Barry Manilow’s arms I’ll ever experience, actually.

It started out terribly.

Yea, I got into the sheath dress.

After that came the despair.

Why? Why? Why had Calvin designed a dress so ridiculously sleek that I couldn’t get the zipper closed over my formerly burning buttocks? Why must the fitting room always hurt?

Sighing sadly while Geddy crooned words of comfort–“Some need to pray to the sun at high noon/Need to howl at the midwinter moon/Reborn and baptized in a moment of grace/We just need a break/From the headlong race”–I stripped off the dress and returned it to the hanger.

As I zipped it closed, readying it for a shopper built more like a trainer, I looked at the tag.

Diary.

In a moment of grace, I was reborn.

Diary.

It was a Size 6.

Diary.

I HAD VERY NEARLY GOTTEN MYSELF INTO A SIZE 6!!!!

Diary, dear, dear, Diary. I was having an amazing Saturday, indeed.

It was so good, in fact, that I didn’t need to buy anything at Macy’s after all. What I really needed to do was grab Geddy, strap his invisible presence into the rental car (long story; you’d be dead before I finished it) next to me, and hie off to the Trader Joe’s, a place so fabulous to this rube visiting the Big City that it almost felt like I’d gone to Florida to watch baseball.

At the Trader Joe’s, I stocked up on Australian licorice and bottles of limeade, tossing a random “speculoos” chocolate bar into the cart right at the end. As he scanned my purchases, the adorable cashier gave me directions to the nearest coffee shop, confessing that his addiction to the stuff ran so deep he had launched a recovery program consisting of a steady drip of tea. Geddy and I counseled him on how to break a habit and urged that he also try sparkling water as a replacement for caffeine, postulating that the textural satisfaction of bubbles might retrain his mouth. (That last sentence is Classic Geddy, inn’t?)

Outside, I packed the car with groceries and, gearing up for the drive home, ran over to the Starbucks next door. There, as she made my mocha, the worker joked about whole milk and three inches of whip cream to the point that I recommended she write a book of barista humor.

It would be a slim volume.

–Oh, dang. Diary? I have to go! Here I am, only part way through my amazing Saturday where nothing happened, and there’s so much more to tell, but I need to go scrub the pressure cooker (Hocelyn loves him some beans!).

Save me a page or two. I’ll be back later to fill you in on the rest of the day. Gad, we haven’t even gotten to the part where I listen to the classics station on the radio yet! Just hum these lyrics from “Tom Sawyer” a few times ’til I come back, to tide you over:

What you say about his company
Is what you say about society
Catch the mist, catch the myth
Catch the mystery, catch the drift

Don’t worry: I’ll leave Geddy with you for the humming. He hates pressure cookers.

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Days

Dear Diary

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Dear Diary:

Let me begin with an apology. I know I’ve neglected you these last few years–since 1985, in fact, when I went to college, and life took off. During my freshman year, for example, I spent at least two weeks giggling over the name Balzac. Then I made some friends, and quite often we were compelled to dance to “Sweet Child of Mine” until 1 a.m. It left very little time for recording my thoughts, unfortunately. As it turns out, reflection isn’t a priority when one is counting down to Steak Night in the cafeteria.

The good news is that, in these lapsed years, I’ve gotten much better about many things: I don’t fall in love with gay men any more; I don’t crank Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” at 5:30 a.m. while applying baby blue eye shadow with a heavy hand; and I’ve figured out a new approach to doing my hair. I fear I erred on the side of “perky” for a few years there.

Joce 80s005

Rest assured, I’m also doing better with the glasses frames, too.

But you’ll never stop me from sporting a sassy scarf, Dear Diary, so don’t. even.

All along, over the decades, even when I was neglecting you, I did turn to you–for sustenance, insight, perspective, and bone-deep mortification. Every few years, as I cleaned out the basement closet, I’d come across you tucked into a jumble of old photos, and I’d crack you open.

Then, even though I was alone, I’d blush as I leafed through your pages. What a moron, I’d think. I did not really, I’d mutter. Sweet mayo on rye, but I was pathetic, I’d wince. What a tragic whiner, I’d judge. I was so sad sometimes, I’d remember, peering at the words through slits between my fingers.

Diary, you’ve been witness to my most-vulnerable self, the aching girl who threw her heart into the world as though others would protect it for her. You saw before I did that this tendency towards abandon was the source of my greatest joys and pains. No matter how often I cried or touched a private part or called a friend a bitch, you never told. Save for the times family members’ wayward hands snaked between your covers, you kept my secrets. You have been the best of friends, for you’ve cradled the worst parts of me, steadfastly, unflinchingly, a testament to agonies and awards, to fumbling missteps and passionate mosh pit thrashing.

To be honest–and if I can’t be honest to you, where can I deposit my frankness? Certainly not on the Midwesterners who surround me. I’ve already had a moment with one of my colleagues who, fiddling nervously with her lanyard, noted, “You certainly say what you think, don’t you?” As she spoke, she looked at the floor, almost as though the rug was channeling the warming comfort of tater tot hotdish bubbling in a crockpot–anyhow, to be honest, you hold not only my hipster memories of mosh pit thrashing. You’ve also saved my earlier accounts of seeing

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Although my excitement about seeing RUSH!!!! In concert! is clear, this entry is also noteworthy as an historic document, for it chronicles that

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Yes, I know I still enjoy a delicious Arby’s roast beef sandwich, Dear Diary. However, I was attempting to direct your attention to the fact that Princess Grace died from brain hemorraging. Even though it’s misspelled, it still killed her, so let that be a lesson to both of us: what you misspell might kill you. Like cnacer or hartt atak.

And as long as we’re recalling my early, pre-mosh pit, days of concert attending, thank you for preserving this moment for me:

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It’s a surprise to me that the Billings Gazette didn’t run parts of this entry in its review of the show, in fact. Despite the unfortunate and random incident of sitting on my glasses (Let ye among you without sin cast stones, but the rest of y’all know you’ve sat on your glasses, too–especially when Barry Manilow comes to town, what with all the leaping out of your seats to tear your bras off and throw them on stage), I very astutely summed up the evening’s appeal: “He is a real performer & he really brought down the house!!” That’s something we call “excellent critical thinking,” Diary.

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Oh, Diary! From concerts to phone calls to French exams to first dates with gay boys, you freeze me in time, providing snapshots of my long-forgotten self.

I’ve missed you–the way you remember the details I forget; the way you reflect my growth back to me; the way you keep me humble. Would it kill you to smudge the embarrassing moments just a tidge?

Last Saturday, an unremarkable day in the scope of life–not like the time in 7th grade when Tiffany Peterson got new Nike shoes with the blue swish, the very style I’d been coveting but couldn’t afford–I found myself writing notes to you in my head. I was driving home from Minneapolis, a 2.5 hour journey, and at the point where all the urban radio stations cut out, I was relegated to the limited options of Northern Minnesota. This meant I ended up hitting the “seek” button every twenty seconds for about 80 miles. Of ten static-ridden stations, five were broadcasting A Prairie Home Companion, and since the keys were in the ignition, I couldn’t use them to stab at my ear holes in an effort to pry Garrison Keillor’s voice out of my head.

Yes, I know you hang out with a crowd of diary friends who adore Keillor and his homespun whimsy. I know they clutch their hearts as they avow their love of his storytelling and the show’s sound effects. You should have a talk with those other diaries, though, chum: I have it on good authority that Keillor fits the textbook definition of “sociopath.” And you know what else? Even if I ignore who he is in real life, I still can’t abide the actual program. Then again, I am a huge fan of television’s American Ninja Warrior. You, better than anyone, know my judgement is magnificently unreliable.

At any rate, as I was driving home, begging the radio to cough up even Katie Perry’s “Roar,” my brain had no choice but to drift, and then it happened: my vibrating neurons wanted to talk to you.

All of this is my way of telling you I’m back. And I’d like to tell you about last Saturday–because it was as special and mundane, as significant and forgettable, as all the other groups of hours that make up a life. It was like the day when I was 15, and I returned some shoes at Payless. Then I called Nancy to ask her if she had gotten her pictures from the Barry Manilow concert developed yet. A day like that, only thirty-three years later.

Aww, but crap. I can’t write about it now–Byron just rang the dinner bell.

…the same way my mom used to ring the dinner bell to call us in from circling the neighborhood on our bikes.

But I don’t need to remind you of that.

You already know my everything, don’t you, Diary?

‘K–more soon!!! I’ll tell you all about how I found the classics station on the radio!!! And they played the Steve Miller band!!!

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