You can take the girl out of the ‘burbs…

I’ve lived in the city, for the most part, for the past thirteen years.  Prior to that, I spent 18 years in the suburbs.  That is to say: when I turned 18, I gleefully grabbed my high school diploma and got the hell out.  I fled to the second-largest city in my state, a Rust Belt playground of crumbling grandeur in 2004, still years away from any sort of economic revitalization, its post-grunge crust not yet worn off.  I went to coffee shop open-mics and small record stores, I took the subway downtown to ice-skate on a frozen fountain, I wandered the streets and people-watched, relishing the feeling of being a part of what was going on.  I had a blast.

But I missed the trees.  I spent the summers home from college wandering through the lush greenery of my hometown in thrifted maxi skirts, lighting candles in tree forts, chasing fireflies and dreaming to the rhythm of the crickets.  I longed for my college loves to come see this vibrant other world of mine, but few did.

Ever since college, aside from a few rounds of WWOOFing on organic farms, I’ve been choosing to live in the city.  On some level, I pride myself on being an urban dweller, on embracing the diversity of my neighborhoods and participating in the city’s thriving cultural life—but here and there, my suburban roots start showing.

For example:

Every Fourth of July—hell, from Memorial Day into August—the entire West Side explodes with illegal amateur fireworks.  I don’t set off fireworks.  I rarely sit out and enjoy the fireworks.  I sit at home grumbling about the noise and making sure my smoke detectors are in working order.

My next-door neighbors throw a birthday party for a two-year-old with a rented bounce house.  Once the kids are in bed, the party devolves into raucous shouting that lasts far into the morning.  We close the windows and turn up the fan to drown it out and fantasize about living somewhere we can have peace and quiet.

I live next to a vacant house that the owner is presumably sitting on until the neighborhood gentrifies to the point where he can sell it for a profit.  The back door is unboarded, hanging open, and the neighborhood teenagers are sneaking in to do teenage hooligan things, smoking weed and fooling around away from adults’ eyes.  I don’t like living next to it.  I call the City repeatedly asking them to come board it up properly.  Failing that, I attempt to contact the management company myself.  I don’t want to take it upon myself to board it up because I don’t want the neighbors to know it was me who ruined their fun.

The thing to do for fun in my neighborhood in the summer is to cruise around in the loudest vehicle you can find.  It might be an old sports car or a truck without a muffler, or it might be a bicycle with a tiny motor attached—either way, the louder and faster, the better.  Every time one of these speeds past my house, which is quite often, I resentfully pause the conversation or the movie and roll my eyes toward the ceiling, fantasizing about caltrops.

What a curmudgeon.  Apparently my old suburban sensibilities are alive and well: keep up your property, pick up your trash, drive carefully, be respectful of your neighbors and of noise ordinances.  But if you live surrounded by decaying properties, if your own landlord demands rent while refusing to fix things, if your street is full of pot holes and people on your street are selling drugs and it seems like the city couldn’t care less about you or your neighbors, then what do you do?  Toss your own trash out to join the debris at the curb and peel out in your noisy sports car, forcing the world around you to acknowledge your existence for a few seconds, anyway.  Or maybe I’m reading too much into it.

The fact remains that this isn’t how I really want to live.  I don’t think the solution is to change my neighborhood to my liking—my neighborhood was what it was before I moved there, and what right have I to demand it be anything else?  I can try to be less of a grump and learn to appreciate city life more fully, including its noisy intrusions—but making peace with what irritates the crap out of you is no mean feat.  The only remaining option is to move somewhere that is more to my liking, like the country.  But would I really just be capitalizing on my privilege (the privilege of having the option and the means to move and of reasonably expecting to be accepted by new rural neighbors) to go live in a bubble of people who are more like myself (liberal vs. conservative aside)?

That is the crux of what I am asking myself here.

June Post, Egregiously Backdated

I couldn’t think of anything to post in June that was polished enough to put on the internet.  Here it is, July 21st, and I’m hanging out alone at the beer store listening to Radiohead piano covers and going through old writing on my Google Drive, and I thought, what the hell, I’ll throw one up on here for “June.”  (As with most of my writing, it’s not great, but it’s one of the great truths of my life?)  July post soon to follow, I hope.

To more than one person, none of them lovers:

Would it surprise you to know
that although it’s been weeks, months,
even years since we’ve spoken—
you inhabit my thoughts
like blood in my veins, like breath
in my lungs?
The crossing of our lives left its mark
indelibly upon my soul.
You are the measure
of everything I do,
at every step glancing back
over my shoulder, seeking
your approval.
I can only guess at what you’d think.
I know I don’t cross your mind so often,
but that isn’t the point,
is it?
You hold the match that lights this wick.
I never feel so acutely, painfully alive
as when I’m with you—
and I’m just grateful
to hold my finger
in the flame.


Paring It Down: Reflections while packing to move


Packing in Progress

One week left until we’re out of this apartment.  I’ve moved a fair amount in my adult life, and I’ve grown to enjoy it.  (I mentioned this to a friend recently who looked at me all sideways and said, “NOBODY likes moving.”)  The longest I’ve spent in any one place was the three years I lived in an attic apartment in North Buffalo, and that was also the most difficult move: three years is ample time to accumulate a heck of a lot of STUFF.  I don’t have as much to pack this time around.  Even so, I find that this process is a great time to reflect on what I actually need in my life.

Stuff is a problem.  Life requires stuff.  Unfortunately, sometimes life requires stuff that you don’t end up using very often, and it spends a lot of time just sitting around, taking up space in your house.  I’m sorting things based on a loose rule that whatever I haven’t used in a year needs to go.  (There are, of course, some exceptions.)  But where should it go?  I get frustrated with all this STUFF lying around, but it would be irresponsible to just throw it away.  Material goods are problematic partially because of the duty I feel to steward them.  I try to deal with it in a mindful way.  Whatever I don’t use, I pass on to other people who will appreciate it.  I offer things to my friends, and I take a lot of things to my favorite thrift store, Amvets.  Even they seem overwhelmed by objects.  Their donation area often looks like the aftermath of an explosion.  Nevertheless, I usually see the stuff I donate end up on their shelves eventually.  (Kudos to Amvets for keeping track of it all!)

I always come back to the idea of a Stuff Bank.  I would really like one to exist someday.  It would be kind of like a tool library, but in addition to tools it would just have an incredibly broad variety of random things people end up needing.  Maybe there would be a small fee for membership, but after that it would work like a library, where you can check things out and return them by a due date, and there would be fines for late, lost, or broken items.  There are so many things I only need once in a while that I would be happy to borrow from a Stuff Bank: lawn mower, vacuum cleaner, iron and ironing board, blender, camping gear, pet cages…  Think about it.  Why does everyone on the block need their own lawn mower when they use it maybe once a week?  Why not just have one lawn mower and pass it around?  Because a) the tragedy of the commons, and b) capitalism depends on people buying shit they don’t actually need to keep its gear$ turning.

Packing up a room full of crafting supplies also got me thinking about simplifying my life in terms of the ways I choose to spend my time.  Crafting is a tough one.  I really enjoy making things—these days, mostly cards, crocheted hats and mittens, and nature-inspired jewelry—but I don’t need to keep all the things that I make, and I don’t even have enough people to give them to for holidays and such.  I tried to set up an Etsy and turn it into a small side-business but I’ve only sold two things in the year it’s been in existence.  Attending local craft shows and artisan fairs is more productive but requires a bigger time commitment.  Supplies cost money and you always end up with more than you need, so then it takes up space in your house along with your fifty half-finished projects.  Is it really worth it?  I go back and forth.  I end up crafting mostly in the colder months and spend the rest of the year focused on other things, which seems like a reasonable compromise—for now.

And while I’m weighing whether crafting is a good use of my time and energy, I would be remiss not to examine the biggest fucking waste of those resources in my life: Facebook.  I hate Facebook So. Fucking. Much.  I’m pretty sure there’s some kind of demon on the other end of all the wires that feeds on my soul, and Facebook is the straw it uses to suck it out.  Like many other people, I think about deleting my account on a regular basis, but unfortunately I can’t get past how useful it is for certain things like finding out about events, polling your friends, and crowd-sourcing the sex of your house mice or the names of plants you find on hikes.  I think, “Well, instead of deleting it I can just exercise greater self-control by only logging in every few days and limiting the amount of time I allow myself to spend scrolling down the news feed.”  The self-control thing never works.  That damned infinitely-scrolling news feed always sucks me back in, and I always end up feeling terrible about myself after seeing how great everyone else’s life is.  I tell myself I’m being unreasonable, but it doesn’t help.  Facebook: it may not be a waste of space, but it sure as shit is a waste of time and emotional energy.  I’m hoping that when we set up the new apartment, I can find a way to make it really inconvenient for me to use my computer.  My theory is that if I have to go to more effort to get to Facebook, I’ll find a better way to fill my spare time.

Throughout my life, I have found it useful—if kind of weird and uncomfortable—to periodically reassess my values and let go of what no longer serves me, even if it is something that previously brought me much joy.  Most of these practices have been fine initially, but I get too intense and obsessive about them, and they become more of a burden than a benefit.  I can think of several examples off-hand:

When I was in middle school, I would spend all week looking forward to Friday night, when I would be glued to the TV watching ABC’s “TGIF Block Party” programming.  The highlight for me was always Sabrina the Teenage Witch.  After listening to a sermon at Mass about relinquishing worldly things that distract us from God, I chose to give up my favorite show for Lent.  A few weeks in, I realized that I didn’t even care much about the show, and planning my week around catching the new episode was more trouble than it was worth, so I never went back to watching it.  Incidentally, I still feel like this about TV shows to this day: I don’t really like to watch them because they just keep going, and I don’t need that kind of time commitment.

I had a crush on a different boy in my class every year from about ages 10 to 13.  When I was 13, it was a quiet boy at my lunch table who always brought a book.  Since he never spoke, I could imagine anything about him that I wanted to, so I ascribed to him all the personality traits I wanted in a boyfriend.  Then I got kind of obsessed: I would think about him all the time and keep track of when I saw him in the hallway, so I ended up walking to class certain ways to maximize the odds of running into him—things like that.  My life was really boring at the time, so I guess it gave me a way to occupy my brain.  When I came back to school in the fall to start ninth grade, I saw him in the hall one day, and when I got home, I suddenly and consciously decided: no more.  It was pointless.  I was done.

Ahh, Barbies.  I could say a lot about Barbies.  I had them throughout my childhood, and the ways I played with them changed as I grew.  (I feel like someone could do a really interesting psychological study on the ways kids play with Barbies.)  When I was in middle school, I had approximately zero friends, as you may have gathered from these anecdotes—but my Barbies had very rich and interesting lives.  At some point they moved outside and became survivalists.  I made them clothes out of fabric scraps, built them houses and furniture out of sticks and leaves and rocks, and left them out the woods to brave the elements.  I made up soap-operatic storylines about their relationships inspired by my avid reading of Sweet Valley books.  They made “preserves” out of berries and salt mashed together in film canisters, and they suffered the occasional squirrel attack.  (Limbs were lost.)  I had to go out to the woods pretty often to check on the Barbies, move their storylines along, and make repairs to their houses.  It was a lot of fun, but it was very time-consuming.  When I started the tenth grade, just as I had done with my old crush the previous year, I decided that it was time to let this go.  The day I made that decision, I packed the dolls away for good, and their houses were gradually reclaimed by the woods.

Throughout high school and into college, I kept wall calendars.  At first I just wrote upcoming events on them, but as I found myself trying to use them as a record of what I had done on previous days, I started editing them retroactively.  This evolved into writing down everything I had done at the end of every day in a weird sort of shorthand to fit in a tiny square.  I did this for SEVEN YEARS.  I became really attached to the idea of having a written record of everything I had done on every day of my life—just in case.  I would frequently look back at past years’ calendars to see what I’d done on this date back then.  Sometime in college, though, I decided I was being ridiculously anal-retentive, and the effort it took to keep up with this weird practice was not worth what I was actually getting out of it.  So I let it go.

More recently in my life, I’ve realized that I can get really obsessive about researching the history of local buildings.  I’m willing to spend hours upon hours combing through old newspapers and city directories to find information about the lives of people who used to live where I or my friends live now.  It’s interesting, and I enjoy it, but do I enjoy it enough to justify the MASSIVE time expenditure?  Mostly the answer is no.  Maybe on some super rainy, cold, boring day, I’ll delve into the history of my new place of residence, but I’m not really chomping at the bit to do it.

Finally: pet mice.  I really got a kick out of keeping my house mice as pets over the winter.  However, I ended up with five separate mouse cages in my house that each needed to be cleaned once a week.  It was insane.  I freed the house mice in early April, thinking that I would miss them and would probably adopt a real pet mouse now that I had all the supplies… but so far, it turns out that I don’t miss them at all.  Despite all of the enjoyment they brought me over the winter, from my present vantage point, keeping pet mice just seems like a huge waste of time.  It surprises me sometimes how quickly my feelings about things can change—but when it comes to simplifying my life, once I decide I’m done with something, it turns out, and I am really, profoundly, well and truly DONE.

This is pretty key to my life philosophy: sometimes there is value in quitting things boldly and spectacularly, with no warning and no remorse.  Society often discourages us from being “quitters.”  It’s easy to fall prey to the sunk cost fallacy, thinking that we’ve already invested so much time and energy into something that we really ought to follow through—but we don’t have to.  There’s always a choice.  In big ways and in small, sometimes dropping everything and turning on your heel is really the best thing you can do.

I think I have always had certain ascetic tendencies, perhaps as a result of my strict Catholic upbringing.  When I was eleven or twelve, I gave all my toys to the Goodwill, taking Matthew 19:24 to heart: “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”  (Of course I missed them later, and then I felt guilty for missing them.)  I wore the same cargo jeans and hoodie for an entire semester in college, then wondered why I couldn’t get a date—ha.  I periodically guilt myself for indulging in tea and chocolate since they cost a lot, have to be imported from far away, and are purely for pleasure (not actually necessary for existence).  (My compromise is buying only fair-trade and buying much less of them than I would if I wasn’t buying fair-trade.)

For many years, starting sometime in college, I’ve gone through cycles of dressing to be noticed.  I don’t mean dressing sexily, but rather wearing bright colors, crazy homemade bellbottoms and hippie skirts, and braiding feathers and ribbons into my hair.  It was an attempt to break through the natural invisibility cloak of my overly-reserved personality by non-verbally signaling, “Hey, I might be interesting!  Please talk to me!”  I can’t say that it ever had much of an effect.

I gave a lot of those clothes to Amvets this spring.  My strategy is shifting: these days, I find I would rather be comfortably camouflaged.  I slouch around the city in cargo pants and loose shirts in neutral colors.  So far, I haven’t had to deal with any of the usual unwanted curbside comments in this attire (Smile!  Hey beautiful!  Lookin good!).  (I realize people might do this with good intentions, but mostly what I want in public spaces is to be left alone.  I’m not parading around town for strangers’ pleasure, and I don’t give a shit whether they approve of my body.)  Am I making a concession to a misogynistic society that views women first as bodies and second as people?  How would I dress if I didn’t have to worry about anyone else’s reaction?

I honestly have no idea.  I can’t even conceive of such a situation.  It’s like asking, “What would you want if it weren’t for all of the outside influences that contribute to how you view the world?”  No one can know that.  I do know that I feel comfortable with this boring and pragmatic approach to fashion at the moment because it allows me to do what I want and to pass unharassed through public spaces.  It also, perhaps, gives people less information about me visually, so to know anything about me, they’d be forced to talk to me and connect on a human level.  I feel like I’m dressed for the journey, a wandering pilgrim on a quest with no time for frippery.  I’m trying to narrow my focus to what’s important to me right now: reading and writing, spending time outdoors, connecting with friends, and incubating plans for later hatchment.

Winter to Spring

So, winter’s finally over.  I returned from road trippin’ with plans to spend the winter in Buffalo working some part-time job that wasn’t too loathsome and making the most of the weather by skating, sledding, snowshoeing, and crafting cozily indoors.  I had forgotten that:

a)  it can take a while to find a part-time job that’s “not too loathsome;” the ones you find quickly usually suck;
b)  climate change has been making for some dud winters where snow is in short supply and the world is just dark and gross; and
c)  I kind of hate this apartment.

Because I was holding out for a job I wouldn’t hate, I didn’t end up with a decent level of employment until mid-March.  I started working at a beer store a couple days a week in January, and in March I started part-time at the public library as a senior page.  The two jobs together have been working out pretty well.  It can be challenging to balance two rotating schedules, but having multiple jobs brings to my work life a refreshing sense of variety, and the flip-side to working weekends is that I feel less stuck in the old M-F 9-5 synchronized rat race.  I had been planning on traveling or WWOOFing this summer, but since I just started the library job, I’ve decided to stick around Buffalo for a while longer.  I have vague plans to start a new degree here in the fall, and it would be nice to be able to hang onto a part-time job while going to school.

The apartment problem is getting solved through a fortuitous rent increase!  Even though I have never particularly liked this place, I was willing to keep living here because it was stupid cheap, and I couldn’t justify giving that up for petty reasons like bed bugs, mice, minimal natural light, and an antique gas stove that shoots flames out under the oven door when lit.  (We definitively got rid of the bed bugs over a year ago now, don’t worry.  I’m much more willing to tolerate mice, of which I caught ten this winter.  They now live in various places where people probably would not like me to be releasing live mice.)  So our landlord suddenly announced that he was going to raise our rent by at least $200 starting June 1, and we figured that if we were going to be paying that price, we could probably find an apartment we liked better.  And we did!  R. and I are moving about ten blocks away, closer to some parks and the river and less than a block from his soon-to-be work site.  For the same price our landlord wanted to charge us for this place, we’ll have a big southwest-facing balcony, windows on all sides, and a washer, dryer, and dishwasher in the apartment.  I’m super stoked and ready to move right now, but I still have to wait til June.  In the meantime I’m starting seedlings and planning a container garden for the balcony.

So things are looking up.

There was one other reason the winter sucked.   Continue reading

March Post

I tried writing something to post in March, but I didn’t like any of the things that I wrote… probably because I don’t like any of the things I’ve been thinking.  I’ll try to come up with a real blog post soon.  In the meantime, here’s the best thing I’ve stumbled across on YouTube lately: an exquisite performance by The Band, and purportedly the last time Levon Helm ever performed this song.


Winter sneaks up on you.
You’re crafting,
watching Netflix,
drinking tea,
hoping for a snow storm,
still anticipating those days
of stark beauty
and coziness.

You think you’re fine.

Unexpectedly, the first warm day comes—
birds sing,
buds swell,
the smell of damp earth rises
all around you—
and you feel yourself start
to thaw in places
you didn’t know
were frozen.

You realize
you were never okay.

How much of your life
have you spent hibernating
without knowing it?


Cottonwood buds.

Reflections On The Road

PART I: Journal Excerpts


My road trip journal & sticker collection.

Monday, November 21, 2016, Treasure State Hostel, Bozeman, MT
          From Spokane this morning, I started driving down Ye Olde I-90 and found myself in Idaho almost immediately.  Was driving in and out of mountains all day, through rain and a little snow.  Was staggered by their beauty, as always.  Even pulled over right on the I-90 to take pictures a couple times.  Saw at least one other guy doing the same.  I feel a sort of kinship with fellow travelers who pull over when awestruck by the sheer beauty of the landscape.
          I was also amazed by all the different kinds of conifers covering the mountains.  They reminded me of something.  It tugged at my brain until I could name it: When I was in grade school, for choir concerts they would put the whole class up on risers, tallest in back and shortest in front, so every proud parent could see their child’s tiny face peeking through the crowd.  Aww, trees—I’m so proud of all of you!  And proud to call this turquoise planet my home.

Conifers near Wallace, Idaho.

Thursday, November 24, 2016, AirBnB in Sioux Falls, SD
Regarding Yellowstone—
          Approaching the park and exploring within it, I was overcome with a sense of awe, of reverence, of sacredness.  In the car I was playing Josh Groban’s first album all the way through, which I haven’t done in a long time, and as I listened to “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” when I could get past my queasiness toward Christianity, I felt that the song was very suited to the landscape.  It has a kind of power and an… epic-ness to it.  And I thought, if Jesu is the joy of man’s desiring, then what is the joy of my desiring?  I thought about how I have teared up at every national park, I who suck at outward emotional expression, who can only cry by cutting onions.  And the answer that came to me was: Wilderness.
WILD (untamed) ER (increasing) NESS (the state of)
Wilderness: the practice of fostering what is untamed.
          I called my mom later on the dark drive to South Dakota, and she told me that when she was a kid her family went on a western road trip, but they mostly went to Catholic shrines instead of national parks.  I thought: the national parks ARE my shrines, and this drive my pilgrimage.  Alleluia.
          I have never in my life felt more patriotic than I have on this trip.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt “patriotic” at all before.  But, let me say this: I love my country.  And by that I don’t mean its laws or its government—I mean the land itself, and the people who care so deeply about the land that they have fought to preserve it for future generations.  And the thought that I might have gone my whole LIFE without witnessing these wonders is terrible and preposterous to me now.  This year, I know what I am thankful for: all of this.  For all of the slim possibilities that converged to allow me to be HERE, under the crazy stars, among the Crazy Mountains, breathing with the bison.

Bison close-up.

Friday, November 25, 2016, my friend’s apartment, Pleasant Prairie, WI
On the road, I feel hyper-sensitized, alive and awake and aware in a more profound way, and small interactions can shake me to my core.  At times I am seething with emotion, cruising down the highway, letting every song resonate through me.  It occurs to me that I’d like to redouble my efforts toward my old challenge.  I am so much more than I manage to appear.  I want to exchange some of this reserve (which I have in droves) for courage and vulnerability.

Crossing Montana.

PART II: What I Did and What I Learned

If you ever find yourself with a car and not much to do, I highly recommend driving off to random places.  There’s so much to see!  Everything is an adventure!  If I didn’t have a car I might have considered crossing the country by train, but the nice thing about driving is that it forces you to stay aware of everything around you, so you’re able to appreciate even subtle changes in scenery.  Before this trip, my mental map of the United States was pretty roughly sketched out:us-map-pre-trip
It’s difficult to picture places in detail when you haven’t actually been there.  Now, I have sights and sounds and people and experiences to fill in a lot of that space.  Reading about it isn’t the same as going there and being able to make your own observations.  For example, I went to Tucson specifically because I’ve read a lot of Barbara Kingsolver, but the Tucson I met wasn’t much like the one in her novels.  (A lot of time has passed.)  If I hadn’t gone there, I would have gone on picturing the Tucson of the 1980s.

This was my first time traveling alone, aside from taking a day’s drive to visit friends.  I planned it a chunk at a time.  The most helpful websites for planning where to go, where to stay, and what to do were:
Roadtrippers – helps you plot out routes and easily see which cities have hostels.  It will even help you calculate how much gas money you’ll spend.
AirBnB – great for finding cheap places to stay where hostels aren’t an option, even last-minute.
Couchsurfing – great for free places to stay and meeting locals, but best to use this one well in advance.
Workaway – helps you find arrangements where you work part-time in exchange for room and board.  If you want to spend a larger chunk of time in one place without spending a ton of money, this is a good way to do it.  (You do have to pay for a one-year membership.)
WWOOF – similar to Workaway but specifically for farms: free room and board in exchange for farm work.  More options during the growing season, and better for rural areas.  (Again, you have to pay for a one-year membership.)
National Park Service – if you’re going out west, you should go to some national parks.  It costs $80 for an annual pass and it is well worth it, as the parks cost between $10-$30 to enter otherwise.

I made this trip in a 2011 Ford Focus.  At various points, I had between 0 and 2 passengers.  I packed:
– a plastic bin full of clothes for all weather
– boots, sneakers, sandals, Crocs (a stupid-looking but oh-so-useful piece of footwear)
– a box full of non-perishable food I kept in the trunk, along with a dish, a bowl, a cup, silverware, and a tiny camp stove
– a cooler that I could fill with ice from gas stations and use as a car fridge
– a tent, which I didn’t end up using since most of the places I went were not very warm
– sleeping bag, pillow, blanket
– craft supplies and books
– stationery and stamps for writing to people
– a bucket full of shower stuff
– a dirty-laundry bag
– a square box of tissues that fit in the center console
– DSLR camera and point-and-shoot camera
– car chargers for phone and iPod
– laptop

My technology use is stuck around 2006, but I have to say that this was one instance where a smart phone would really have come in handy.  When I needed to find a laundromat in Spokane, for instance, I had to punch “Find Point of Interest –> Café” into my GPS to get to a Starbucks where I could hover outside with my laptop in the passenger seat running on battery to use Google Maps.  I made it work, but it was kind of ridiculous.  The GPS, at least, was super helpful, except in northern New Mexico where it got pretty confused, and any time I asked it to help me find a gas station.  I landed at a working gas station about half the time, but the rest of the time it was either a convenience store that didn’t sell gas or a gas station that was no longer in operation.

Before I set out, I loaded up my iPod with songs, made a road trip playlist (which I honed as I went), and downloaded a new audio book.  I figured I would get super bored with all that driving.  Not so!  I only got through about 8% of the audio book.  Most of the time I surfed through radio stations, intrigued by what people were listening to in each place I passed through.  I liked to scroll through all the numbers to take surveys of how many Christian, country, classical, hip-hop, classic rock, and pop stations appeared in each place.  I also pulled over to take pictures so often that at times it was hard to get through a whole song.

Driving alone is glorious.  I pulled off at every “vista point” without worrying that I was annoying my passengers.  I listened to whatever I wanted and had conversations with people on the radio, again, without annoying anyone else.  (Sometimes I listen to things that piss me off on purpose so I can argue with them.)  I also took a bunch of pictures while I was driving.  It’s probably not a great idea, but I was focused on the road—I just held up the point-and-shoot camera, pressed the button, and hoped for the best.  95% of them came out terribly, but at least they jog my memory enough to recall what I was trying to photograph.

I’ve been back for over a month now.  It’s been hard to adjust to the mundanity of daily life again, but I suppose one cannot spend one’s whole life in motion.  On the bright side, I’ve officially kept my 2016 New Year’s resolution: to blog at least once in every month of the year.  Let’s see if I can keep it going!