staci with and i

November 30, 2012

I remember the very first girl I almost kissed. I was 12 and she was 10. We lived in the same apartment complex, but her family had moved in a year after mine. Same kind of deal though, single mom, newly divorced, older siblings. Her name was Staci (with an “i”). She was short and wiry and had shoulder length straight blond hair, the color of corn silk. Her voice was low and raspy, like she smoked a pack of cigarettes a day. But none of us were smoking yet back then.

We rode the same bus to school, but we didn’t much talk at the bus stop or at school. The 2 year age difference seemed gigantic, until the summer came around and all the kids who lived in complex hung out together at the pool, racing each other, diving for rocks we threw to the bottom of the deep end and having epic splash contests, lots of times off the diving board. I swear to god I perfected a can opener that summer that splashed a ridiculous amount of water all over the cement surrounding the pool and if possible, the lifeguard. In large part, because I was trying to impress the lifeguard who I had a huge crush on. She wore a salmon colored one piece, mirrored aviator sunglasses, and had the most perfect deep Coppertone tan. She always smelled like coconut, which at 12, smelled sexy to me. And even now, in the summer months, that smell still gets to me. The lifeguard kept a radio turned on all day and would turn the volume up when Elton John came on or Wings or Eric Clapton’s cover of “I Shot The Sherriff.” It is impossible for me to hear those songs now and not think of summer.

At the pool, Staci was game for anything. Chicken fights, underwater swim contests, who could hold their handstand the longest, who had the best backstroke . . . and on and on.  At some point during the summer, Staci started coming over to our apartment sometimes for lunch. I kind of think she just invited herself and I would make us Spaghetti-Os or ham sandwiches. And we would drink Cokes and eat Pringles and wait out the hour we were supposed to before going back to the pool (so we wouldn’t get cramps swimming) by either watching a crappy soap opera or game show on TV or riding our bikes around the apartment complex. Sometimes I would trail her around on my handlebars up and down our little street, our shorts sticking to our legs, sun making us sweat.

I’m pretty sure that coming over to our place for lunch is how Staci saw my epic collection of Matchbox cars and Hotwheels. I must have left them out on the back patio, where I often built these intricate city-scapes made up of small boxes as stand-ins for buildings and houses and used tiny rocks to outline streets. I was deep into my imagination and my car cities weren’t something I shared with many other kids, but Staci must have been cool about it, because the night we almost kissed, she was sitting there with me while I was playing with my cars. Actually, I was building a small city on the dining room table. And Staci was asking me questions about the city and the cars and all the make believe lives I’d created to inhabit them. She leaned over the table sometimes. Sometimes she leaned close to me and I’d just answer her and keep working away. I remember the overhead light was on, but the rest of the apartment was dark and the dining room window was open and you could hear the crickets outside. When the city was all built and I didn’t have any more stories, Staci and I were just sat there together and looked at it. We were quiet. Her leg was near mine, my arm near hers. She smelled just like chlorine and cherry bubblegum and we kind of looked at each other for what seemed like forever right then, but was probably only a second or two.  Maybe we were kind of smiling, maybe she closed her eyes for a nano-second.  And then through the open window we heard her sister yelling for her. I remember Staci just kind of shrugged her shoulders at me and got up and said something like, “Cool city. See you tomorrow.”


i am going to tell some secrets, in a good way

November 18, 2012

Last night I had drinks with MTB and some of her friends. They talked a lot about running and their magical and intense experience of running Hood to Coast together. It made  me grateful for every intense and magical experience I’ve had with other people that I cannot fully articulate to everyone else who did not experience it. Its a lucky thing to have those experiences. Deeply alive lucky. Also, listening to them talk about running  made me secretly miss running. A lot, weirdly. Especially the parts where you just endure hard shit you didn’t think you could endure.

There are secret Hoosier portals in Portland. Most of them are temporary, like what can happen when I make meat loaf and mashed potatoes or watch an IU basketball game with someone who is as into it as I am. And then there is this diner on Foster and 52nd. The name I’m keeping a secret to myself for now, although A.M. has been clued in, but she is a midwesterner and a good friend so she got it right away. Going there is like going to this diner on the way to the Viaduct in Greene County. Except no one in Portland has an accent.

I have been sleeping better. Not every night. But I have noticed a number of nights over the last couple weeks where I’m waking up only once in the middle of the night and usually that’s to take a piss. I’ve not told anyone about the sleeping, until right now. It feels sweet and precious and I think potentially it means something about trust and comfort and having a team or being on a team . . . for lack of a better phrase, I’ve recently been referring to it, at least when I talk to Remy, as heart shit; on occasion I might say serious heart shit.

I have been feeling very Indiana lately. Thinking about home. Having lots of random flash backs. Wearing an unironic baseball hat. Trying to hear if I really do have an accent. For most most folks that means nothing, by “that” I mean, “Indiana.”  Lots of  people I know have never even thought of Indiana and could not pick it out on a map. When I say Indiana to them, its  like inserting a big “blank”  or yawn in the conversation. There is nothing to say. Indiana is no where. I used to have a chip on my shoulder about this phenomenon, which was a super unpleasant experience for everyone. But then I went on this big re-remembering  journey, both an interior journey, but also I traveled home and everything I thought and felt was true. Which was amazing. So now, its just my secret. Yep. The secret heartland in my heart.


morning bike ride and hoosier thinking

November 8, 2012

Early morning, as in still dark out. Lifted weights. Fed cats. Listened to the tiniest bit of the news and remembered why I was glad I’ve not been listening to the news for the last several months. Rode to work in the dimmest light of dawn. Headband, cap and gloves on.  The dark and quiet felt good, though. They almost always do when it’s not pouring rain or freezing cold. Got into my office 5 minutes before 7am. No one else was in yet. The big door to the hallway outside was locked and I had to punch in the secret code. Punching in the code felt official, which in this case is a more fun “official” feeling than serious one; it’s just a code to a door to some offices that in the big picture, aren’t super important. Some secrets feel fun that way. Like if I could find a secret hidden corner on campus that no one ever goes to, under a canopy of trees, so when it was raining I could be outside and mostly stay dry.

Looking out the window at work it struck me that some trees have already lost all of their leaves and their branches look like winter. For a second I thought of trees in Indiana. I thought of walking around IU campus or near the square downtown. And then without thinking, I remembered driving from Monticello to Indy one Christmas when HL and I went home. The long stretches of flatness. The clumps of bare trees. The farm houses. The big quiet before the city. That was only the 2nd time I took a a girlfriend with me to my dad’s family’s big deal Christmas eve party and maybe the first time I spent Christmas morning with a girlfriend and her family. It was sweet and it was family in a good way.

Hmm . . . this is not what I thought I would be writing about this morning, but all of the sudden I find myself thinking of that time and the Lefflers and Sandy in particular. I am sure I wasn’t who Sandy thought HL would be with, but Sandy was good to me when HL and I were together, and I am so glad I got to know her a little bit.

HL and I didn’t have the same Hoosier experience, but we shared a Hoosier heart.

I have been thinking of my Hoosier heart lately, which is a metaphor for a lot of things and maybe I’ll try and write about it later.


another amazing sunrise which somehow led to me thinking about my dad

October 4, 2012

Looking at the Cascade range silhouetted against the sunrise this morning made me think of looking at a picture in a book or a travel magazine. it was a very “this is the northwest – it is stunning” moment. It is amazing that sunrises on the tram, even with 70 people crowded in the cabin, can be so amazing to look at. I know I am repeating myself writing about this, but I can’t help it. How does one stop talking about an amazing thing?

Sometimes, during the thick of rainy season I will try to remind myself that all the amazing sunshine is still right there; it’s just behind the cloud cover. Occasionally, the trick works and this idea makes me feel less desperate for the sun. Other times it makes me feel all “dead duck,” inf act, I’d say almost wretched if I inclined to be dramatic about it, and I want jump on a plane as fast as I can and top the clouds so I can finally see the blue sky again.

There are still times I think of flying home after my dad died, leaving Portland early on a grey and cloudy February morning, falling asleep and then waking up somewhere over the upper midwest. The sky was so clear, which felt bittersweet, and I stared out of the window, looking down at the typical patchwork of farmland that makes up so much of the midwestern landscape. It was both a sad and comforting thing to look at because I had been ruminating on and writing about that landscape for many months before my dad’s death, re-remembering everything I loved about the Indiana as a place and how it was almost like this metaphor for who I am and how I go about being in the world. I had even gone that summer before my dad died, in large part, because I was worried I was just imagining that I loved the landscape and was kinda scared that I had fallen into a deep and delusional bout of nostalgia, as opposed to having real and true insight. And I’d felt so relieved and affirmed and so like, “yes, I do actually know myself,” to get home and discover that the all the places and things I had been re-remembering still did blow me away in my heart. And that quest, so to speak, was why I saw my dad alive for the last time, about 6 months before the fire.

I don’t know why stuff about my dad is coming up. I don’t feel sad and there’s nothing happening that would trigger it – no special dates, no dreams, no recent contacts with his friends or his other family. I’m not working on the his ww2 letter project. I don’t purposefully look at his photo every day. I even removed his dog tag from my key chain several months ago and as of right this second, I’m not even sure where I put it and strangely, I don’t feel panicked about that. So, I don’t know what’s going. Could it be as simple as the facts that 1) I am amazed that amazing things still happen, and 2) I am truely in my heart amazed by the amazing things? How long does grief last anyway? Do you know you’re done grieving because you cry at your desk over an email from another writer and you can’t stop talking on your blog about sunrises? I thought I was done grieving a year ago, but I can’t figure out why I’m talking about my dead dad now, in the same breath as wonderful stuff, like getting to see the sunrise.

No Comments »

i went home and it was meaningful

May 28, 2012

I just got back from 10 days in Indiana. It was hot and sticky and I saw a ton of rabbits and fat squirrels in peoples yards. My friend Becky almost hit a small rabbit when she was driving. “What should I do,” she said a bunch of times in a row as the little rabbit first went one way and then another, and even though neither one of us could really see the thing over the hood of her Jeep Cherokee, she somehow avoided running over it. I don’t know why I’m telling this story; it’s not something specific to Indiana and I didn’t even remember that it happened until I started writing this post, but I can so easily recall how relieved I felt to look out my window and see the bunny hopping away.

I spent a lot of time with a lot different people and I was more aware than ever of the sound of the Hoosier twang — a definite accent where people say things like Induhnapolis instead of Indianapolis. I pretty much love that twang and can easily slip into myself, given enough time, which I had after a week.  I wish I could keep the accent up out here and not sound like everyone else, but it would take such a conscious effort to do it and I think it would sound forced, which feels like the exact opposite of how a twang should sound. I am imagining effortlessness and not sounding rehearsed and performative. I guess I’m also imagining sincerity and a certain kind of friendliness.

I loved being home this time, even when things bugged the shit out of me or I felt terribly sad, and I wouldn’t trade any part of it in. I hung out with so many of my favorite people and spent time in so many of my favorite places and helped my mom tackle a home project that would have been impossible for her to really tackle on her own and all of it had this mega meaningful feeling, but in an understated and ordinary kind of way, or at least it was not a super showy and self-conscious way, and that captures a part of the Hoosier spirit that means the most to me. I don’t know if I can make that make sense to anyone but me. I can close my eyes and picture the clumps of trees and lush open fields and the sloping highway leading into Bloomington, as much as I can picture the 6 lanes of 96th street in Indianapolis, flat for miles, full of cars and strip malls and traffic lights and utility poles that stretch out to the end of your site line. Indy must have some of the longest yellow lights of anywhere I’ve ever been, which seems much more significant than it is.

I know I’ve talked and tried to talk about Indiana a bunch in my blog, tired to capture what the place means to me and how its shaped me and I am probably repeating myself. Yada, yada, yada. Today I just kept thinking about how there are people in Indiana to whom I belong, which is different from feeling a sense of belonging though not mutually exclusive. Some deep connection that’s grounded in pretty simple things that mostly have to do with “showing up” so to speak.



No Comments »