31 January 2009

made the paper.

Where's Mel?

Who made that great hot pink sign? Hmm?

bear with the donut analogy.

I've been reading a collection of stories called Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri. I climbed in bed to read two and a half hours ago, feeling exhausted, and her poised and constant gazing into the depths of peoples souls rejuvenated my mind (my body is still tired, from what? shopping?) and I just had to write down the title of an inevitable paper that must someday be created (my mind wanders). It's problematic, not knowing my future but knowing that this research would pull me back to Utah, were research a possibility (dark, as of late, I shun all possibilities, allowing only the purgatory of vacation to enter into my mind). Already I feel the tug of Utah and I have yet to leave.

I never expected Utah to become woven in to who I am. I left Washington with the rocket-powered urge to escape, thinking of what awaited me in the intimate terms of ward and potential husband and in the ironically penal description of "doing my time in Utah." (there is no better way to sum up those few months I did in the Seventh Ward). Such language was quickly replaced with the distant vocabulary of the historian comprised of far away events and vaguely titled theories. I too became distant. The shattering of self followed by consuming bouts of tears that somehow glued me back together are as remote to me as the intense spiritual warfare I waged everyday but never fared all that well at. At arms length, I offer you my interpretations as I neglect the private pages of my journal.

Utah has been so elusive. Occasional trips into the mountains or the desert have yielded confused awe; I have no frame of reference to compare Utah's anomalous scenery against. The same with its history. As much as I decry regional exceptionalism, American exceptionalism, or really anyone saying that some place is truly different (HA! there is no truth!), Utah really is the center in a Western donut, it doesn't fit. Preferring Boston Creams, it would seem that Utah is made entirely of pudding.

So Utah is unique, and baffling, and I have been content to write around the strangeness, to dismiss Utah as a character in the story I am trying to tell. Only when I got back from Washington did I even try to engage it, to accept that this embattled jilted territory made of stone and salt and Mormons and not is what I am and to know-- suddenly and strikingly-- the feeling of ownership. The milieu is odd but familiar, even familial.

Leaving is inevitable, but lacking the propulsive feeling, the thought elicits a sense of desertion rather than relief. I daresay that putting my things in my car and driving out of the comforting embrace of the mountains will tear my heart right out of my chest.

30 January 2009

and that's why you don't use a one-armed person to scare someone.

Ever since I woke up this morning the term "gonna teach you a lesson" has been stuck in my head. Immortalized by my favorite episode of Arrested Development, it is an apt description of the major theme of a rally for higher education funding at the Capitol-- "I'm gonna teach those legislators a lesson!" Well we did teach those legislators a lesson, although when we peacefully invaded us their session they tought us a lesson about the fire code because, who knew it, the balconies of the Utah legislature weren't exactly designed to hold 400 bundled up students!* But surely all the kids there learned a lesson about political action and when the budget comes out, we'll see if we actually taught those legislators a lesson. At least they've stopped talking about twenty percent budget cuts, those crazy fuckers.

The real lesson learned today was this:
Don't schedule an interview at the Starbucks at the mall.

Why? Because then you're at the mall, and that section of your budget labeled "shopping" that read "0.00" now doesn't read "0.00" anymore! Gah! The barrage of spring colors at the Gap! Noooooo! I am so weeeak when confronted with pastels!!!!

Pathetic. But my lanta, it is the cutest scarf ever, and the fit of the V-neck cardigans? Don't even get me started.

And while you're not getting me started, don't even get me started on the sublesson of the experience,
Don't go into the Apple Store if you even remotely dislike your PC, let alone hate it.**

You're destined for heartache. I promise.

*But it sure did feel like The Man was keeping us down!

**Didn't buy a Mac yet... but I nearly peed my pants when I saw the Mac Pro HOOKED UP TO 3 FOOT LONG FLATSCREENS. My lanta. WILL SOMEBODY PLEASE LET ME KNOW WHAT MY FUTURE IS SO I CAN BUY OR NOT BUY A NEW COMPUTER?!?!?

could i be any more impressed with myself right now.

kosher salt
salt and peppered beef strips
bit o' flour
egg noodles
a magical savory meal in thirty minutes.

28 January 2009

hog wild.

Ok, so here's something that will blow your mind: A food creation called the Bacon Explosion. My little pork fiend nieces would go nuts over this. The best part of the article is the slide show, in which The Times employs its bourgeois epicurean tone to describe the preparation of "the dish." Mayhem is what it is.

Unrelated bonus:
I'm not that into heavy metal but this flow chart is extraordinary.

27 January 2009

who will do it again.

When I went to the nurse practitioner to see about my sleeping problem, she banned me from reading history before bed and prescribed fiction reading. It didn't take long, suddenly reintroduced to the grand world of literature, to get into the works of John Updike (some had compared his book Couples to Revolutionary Road. I like them both for very different reasons). In my opinion, Updike is the perfect writer to read before bed. From what I've read of his work, he seldom leaves you with cliff hangers or chapters that you just have to finish-- in some of his books he hardly even uses chapters. Instead his long, meandering, paragraphs, rich with lyrical imagery just beg to be closed at any time. I like the story topics-- my selections have been his works about relationships in the post-war suburbs-- and the way he sells the comedy of people feeling trapped. I like how he gets into the trouble regular people got into when confronted with sexual revolution and feminism. I have found that I can just read and read John Updike.

So I was a mite sad when I found out that he died today. One of his poems emerged over the course of the coverage that made me a little bleary eyed, not because John Updike has passed but because it really gets at what loss is and what each person in our lives brings to the table.

Perfection Wasted

And another regrettable thing about death
is the ceasing of your own brand of magic,
which took a whole life to develop and market --
the quips, the witticisms, the slant
adjusted to a few, those loved ones nearest
the lip of the stage, their soft faces blanched
in the footlight glow, their laughter close to tears,
their tears confused with their diamond earrings,
their warm pooled breath in and out with your heartbeat,
their response and your performance twinned.
The jokes over the phone. The memories
packed in the rapid-access file. The whole act.
Who will do it again? That's it: no one;
imitators and descendants aren't the same.

25 January 2009

this is news to me.

LEFT HANDED. Who knew The Barack was just a pawn in our diabolical southpawed plot for world domination?

pitifully true to life.

24 January 2009

salt lake, sushi bars and the power of sincerity.

So this afternoon, feeling glum about the direction of the world and the inevitable effects of this context on my own life, I decided to take myself out to a movie. I don't go very often, I have come to find that some times what I really need is to be completely distracted for a few hours. Fortunately tonight marked the opening of Revolutionary Road, a movie based on a book I loved, so there was really no question in my mind that it would be a satisfying evening down at the art filmhouse.

I got there just in the nick of time, just in time to run up and get a ticket, to dash in and get a set. Except. Sundance. Fucking Sundance! Only one cashier was working the regular tickets as the other cashier managed the non-existent line of Sundance Film Festival goers. The regular ticket line, of course, stretched well out onto the sidewalk, past the parking meters, and the first twenty minutes of the movie passed away. Confronted with the reality of seeing a 9:30 showing, I bought my ticket and came up with plan B.

Downtown Salt Lake is something of a ghost town at night, much in the same way it is a ghost town during the day. At night the homeless people seem to fade into the darkness. The few bar goers get straight off the Trax and go into the clubs; those going to the finer restaurants spend mere seconds on the sidewalk as the valets whisk their cars away. Depressingly empty but pleasantly quiet, the deserted old buildings watch as one moves through the unusually foggy evening blissfully alone.

After a pleasant stroll, I made my way to Takashi. Takashi is, for the uninitiated, the finest sushi place in all of Utah. They fly in fresh fish and line up a phalanx of sushi chefs at the bar, prepared for the iminent crush of well heeled natives and visitors pressing into its teeny waiting area. You can't get in without a reservation on Friday night, unless of course, you are patient or are willing to sit at the bar. Sushi bars are a very convenient place for the inconspicoius solo diner, unencumbered by the need for so many chairs.

Seated, a Sapporo beer speedily handed off without the flushed scrambling for ID, I ordered a Magic Dragon roll and contentedly watched the chef masterfully create this extraordinary work of culinary art. My silence was only briefly enjoyed as the commraderie of a bottle of sake flowed along the bar and I was soon overwhelmed by the company of two Outdoor Recreation conference goers. One-- the Director of Marketing-- was in his thirties, the other-- The Quiet Guy-- seemed in his mid-forties, and all the pleasantries were exchanged as these two east-coasters cheerfully made conversation. I started to work on my roll, and as I did, a tanned gentleman in his sixties was seated to my right. He discretely ordered salmon sashimi and, enticed by the beauty of my own feast, a Magic Dragon roll.

Turning to my left, the Director of Marketing is giving me his sales pitch-- identifying me, by virtue of my independent dining endeavor, as an individualist of great taste--about how it's not about product, but about the purity of experience and the clarity.

But you do marketing, I ask, so how do you sell without selling out?

The Quiet Guy pours us all a shot of sake. The Director of Marketing ensures me that it's about a discerning, adventure seeking personality and finding truth and here's my card and you should email me when you have that moment outdoors-- I'm not trying to hit on you-- it's really about the truth.

I assure him that I am a post-modernist and I don't really think about truth.

Vigorously he tries to pursuade me that truth and purity and business somehow make totally realistic bedfellows. I concede that he is something of a capitalist spiritualist evangelist and The Quiet Guy pours me another shot of sake after I tell The Director of Marketing that I think what he's telling me is bullshit. They are drunk. I return gratefully to my roll.

The Tanned Gentleman compliments me on the selection, as the Magic Dragon roll really was a heavenly delicacy. As it turns out, he is from Florida and spends 300 days a year travelling to sell products to oil companies. I tell him I am a working on a Master's in history and he says, well I'm sure your dad wonders this, but what will you do with that? And I tell him that given the state of the world today I really don't know, and we fall into a discussion of the state of the world and he makes sure I know why gas will by 300 dollars a barrell by 2011 and that diesel is so expensive because of regulation. I don't know where it came from, but somehow-- Florida, deregulation, business-- I bring up Mitt Romney, and don't ya know this guy was a Mitt supporter. I have got conservatism down.

Leaving, he reminds me that as a guy that was once on the Howdy Doody show and lived to see a man walk on the moon, as a guy who has seen every oil boom and bust, he's never seen anything like this. His parting words to me reemphasize the genuine concern about America's affairs that he's professed; he has the sincerity that the trite Director of Marketing lacks. He says,

You are cute as Christmas and I hope you get a job.

I hadn't expected to meet people; I hadn't expected to find such solidarity at the sushi bar. I emerged from the midst of this strange spectrum of contrived nonsense and real feeling buoyed by the heartfelt candor of a stranger. That man made my day.

The movie was good but rendered inconsequential. On a night that I intended to revel in my solitude, It is good to realize that I need people.

23 January 2009

blingee.com changed my life.

As Utah's higher education system (and my future) seem to be going down in flames and I am struggling to get caught up after having missed basically an entire week of life, I thank my lucky stars that I can turn to the magic of the Internet for consolation. Why?

Because art is easily accessible and heartwarming.

Because people use it to publish hilarious, skillfully written critiques.

Because this is possible:
tacoma bicycle chic
Create cool Profile Comments

I can't believe I just spent thirty minutes on that... but with a side of Diet Coke and brownie sundae, I'm feeling a mite better.

22 January 2009

three nice things.

1. Goofy-- Kermit the Frog vs. Christian Bale

2. Happy-- The Utes Marching Band got accommodations and marched in the Inaugural Parade.

Pride of Utah indeed!

3. Affirming-- President Obama's statement commemorating the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

21 January 2009

dawn of a new era.

Greetings from Off The Radar, a magical place where one navigates the University Healthcare system, dabbles in prescription narcotics and makes phone calls to ask "should my face be swollen?" Pumped full of pain meds I am feeling much better, if only the meds wouldn't make me so tired, but I think I am back on track to Rejoining Daily Life. I do think it's fun to get to talk to my family every day though, I will miss that.

Here's a nice post from Dooce today. I sure do like her writing, and this little bit gave me the warm fuzzies. I should be specific, non-narcotic warm fuzzies. Narcotic warm fuzzies put me to sleep.

Getting a new President wasn't completely lost on me yesterday, and the feelings I have about it probably deserve their own post, but really I'm playing th
e "I'm on drugs" card and am considering just posting this link to the How Completely Adorable Are Sasha and Malia Slideshow. Because really, all I could think yesterday was "Does J. Crew make those pink coats in grown-up sizes?" Sasha Obama is my style icon.

Though really, the parents are a class act:

And now that this is turning into an Obamalove post, here were some of my favorite snippets from yesterday:
"We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness."

"The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works."

And pretty much the entire benediction given by Joseph Lowery, a co-founder of SCLC.

I think this image pretty much says it all.

19 January 2009


The album of the moment is Billy Joel's 1976 album Turnstiles. I already had half of it by way of The Essential Billy Joel, but Turnstiles has given me pause. The Stranger certainly has a lot more finesse (and remains one of my top all time albums), but I like the brooding grit and experimentalism of this album-- I think it's more searching and sincere. It speaks to me right now.

This may be one of his most beautiful songs:

I like the questions raised in this song:

Poignant stuff.

getting excited for inauguration day.

One of the highlights of my yesterday-- in addition to getting a few pages hammered out (2,000 more words to go) and baking the best brownies of my life (and getting a visit from a Provo friend who loves brownies too!)-- was catching the last part of the Lincoln Memorial concert for Obama. I hope they'll put the whole concert online in better quality, but for now, I'll post my favorite part: Garth Brooks. Really heartwarming, I love America type stuff.

UPDATE: They will be live streaming it on HBO.com again today at 1pm and 11:30pm! Cool!

18 January 2009

pleasant art for a sunday evening.

I was so happy to see these new prints up by Christopher David Ryan. Tranquil and lovely.

16 January 2009

check it out.

After a shit week, I was delighted to find that a picture of my hot butt made it into the Western History Association newsletter! I wonder if I can put that on my c.v.?

I do like that there's photographic evidence that the Utah people weren't mingling AT ALL.
Because we have all the awesomeness we need, naturally.

10 January 2009

greetings from the sick den.

Well here I am, back from a miserly two day and night slog through a personally unprecedented bout of fevers. Today I've been on the mend, doing exciting things like consuming foods other than juice! Who knew half a can of clam chowder could have such restoring effects? Meaning of course, I only watched one movie today and only spent seven hours in bed after waking up. But hey, that's progress.

Ok, enough self pity, here's a bit of a round up of the things I missed the past few days (is being sick like being on another planet or what?):

I think this is badass. A map of the US featuring each state's motto. I love this because well, I love America and me and BB were just talking about state mottos last week.
Cheers to the artist Emily Wick. I really hope she does a print of this piece.

Here's a fascinating story entitled "Who Would Jesus Smack Down?" I am still baffled as to:
A) Why anyone would need to tell hipsters they are God's chosen people. Don't they already think that?
B) What this guy's wife thinks of her submissive role.
C) Jesus isn't man enough?! (or as my bff put it, "[he] thinks Jesus was Rambo?!?!?") Oh Diety, I think my gender historian head just exploded! Deliverance, por favor!

A childhood friend posted this article on facebook and one of his friends posted links to related articles from The Stranger (Seattle's alt weekly) here and here. The comments are worth reading; The Times article begs for supplementary materials. Calvinists in Seattle, the ultimate oxymoron. Consider my mind blown.

And speaking of blow, I would be remiss if I didn't link to this article on teen cocaine use by Charles M. Blow. Obligatory chortle at the inadvertant pun.

Whew, that was exhausting.

07 January 2009

a lovely, clear utah winter's day.

Rocking the new pannier at the library. It took a little getting used to, but I'm easing in to see how many books it takes to become to imbalanced. 5 was good, I'll try 10 next time.

hefty tabernacles.

Ok, so this morning I got up at the crack of 8:30. To punish me for getting up early (hey, before nine o'clock is a really big thing for me), my bedroom door locked behind me as I headed towards the bathroom. Stranded in my bathrobe (I was like "really? REALLY?!"), I made some calls to housing and they said they'd send somebody over. Lucky for me I keep all the dirty clothes in the bathroom and I never do laundry so I could actually put something on when the tall drink of water maintenance guy showed up (you know what? maybe not lucky me. maybe I should've left the robe on! it was my cute one) and within fifteen minutes I was back in my room looking at my long and daunting to-do list. Crisis resolved!

However, the lockout was fortuitous: I caught this great clip of the Colbert Report featuring Utah's most ridiculous congressman, Jason Chaffetz (you'll recall he was taking his cot to Washington), getting his ass kicked at leg wrestling and saying things like, "You're not the boss of me, Nancy Pelosi." Awesomeness.

05 January 2009

there's got to be a moral to this story.

I had a lovely Christmas break. Once we got that pesky holiday out of the way, it was truly a magical and fantastic communion with my family and my home city. My bank statement reads like a laundry list of Tacoma's finer teriyaki joints (with all other transactions involving some kind of booze purchase) and my camera runneth over with cute pictures of the Beloved Little Ones. Once I managed to get out of Salt Lake, it was a rather idyllic visit. But just as visits are nice, it is also nice to come home to see what's in your mailbox and how dead your plants are and what your thesis chair has done to your draft (I have not checked any of those things yet).

We arrived in Salt Lake about ten minutes late. Usually Southwest flights are kinda fun and cheerful, in large part due to the staff. But tonight, man, we had these two dudes running the show-- straight dudes-- and they were, I kid you not, the most non-plussed stewards ever-- they were surprisingly all business and quite vigilent about not using your iPod during the descent. So that was weird, but whatever, right? I was still riding high on the beer and Lifesavers (I haven't had them in forever and they were amazing!) and Vogue magazine I'd acquired at Seatac.

So then we land, and then we wait on the tarmac for ten minutes because the other plane at the gate hasn't pulled out yet. NO BIG DEAL, right? (that was my best effort at foreshadowing right there). Then everyone goes to carosel one and bags start coming and nobody's pipcking up their bags, and this goes on for like forever before we are told that in spite of the screen showing our bags being at carosel one, they are just starting to come up and my bags were naturally, nearly last. Ok, so I'm a mite josseled by this but whatever, I'm going to go pop on the bus and then the TRAX and then come home to my cozy warm den of smiling Chinese roommates. I decide against taking the shuttle because really, I can ride UTA for free and what do I really have to do to tonight and really, really, I could spend that same wad of cash on a feast at Bombay Kitchen tomorrow (I can't wait). And really, seeing how much money I pissed away last year when I looked at my annual expenditures I felt a mite resolutionish about spending more smartly. So I go to wait for the bus.

I am an experienced rider of public transportation to the airport but had not included into the equation:
1. I usually never check a bag and tonight I had two checked bags.
2. Busses run with less frequency at night.
3. It was twenty degrees outside.
4. It was twenty degrees outside.

I mean really, all I had were visions of chicken tikka masala and onion naan and maybe even some saagwala and definitely some of that mint chutney (which makes it a Star of India fantasy) and they might have, maybe, gotten in the way of my judgment. BECAUSE WHEN IS INDIAN CUISINE EVER A BAD DECISION? Ok, so anyways, I go outside to discover:
1. The bus just came five minutes ago.
2. It's twenty degrees outside
3. There is really no warm waiting area that isn't blocking a doorway and isn't miles away from where the busses pickup.

And I'm like, "well, what's 45minutes? I don't have any big plans!" And about ten minutes in I'm like "why didn't I just ask somebody for a ride?" but at this point it's snowing and cold and I'm like you know, hellbent on being cheap and self-sufficient so I wait and wait and wait and eventually my fingertips shrivel up but really, the bus will come at 7:50-- I landed at 6:20-- so I just sat there hanging out because it didn't feel absurd at the time but in retrospect, WTF, MELANIE?! Anyways, the bus didn't come and then it finally did come at 8:00 and finally, somehow, someway, after it meandered all the effing way around the periphery of downtown, I got to the TRAX station and got on the wrong train but then I got on the right train and then I get to my stop and I'm like, "yeah! I did this!" and then I proceeded to pull my luggage through the accumulating inches of snow to the bike elevator, because really, who wants to pull 60+ pounds of dirty clothes and whatever up three flights of stairs?

I get in the bike elevator, relieved. I am so close, just a ten minute walk away! I push the button. I'd been steeling myself for this to happen because I thought if I did, it wouldn't happen, but no, really, the bike elevator went nowhere and finally, finally I start to yell obsenities because the door won't open to let me back out. And then it did, and I began my long brusing ascent of the stairs. I look forward to seeing the polka-dotted evidence of my battering attempt on my legs and hips tomorrow.

I made it to the bridge. I felt aggitatedly exultant, pulling my luggage along the unshoveled sidewalks in the truly courageous fashion of a Mormon handcart pioneer. Ahead loomed a slower walk than expected and I was kind of reaching that point of just moving, like the time I got dumped and determined that the only thing to kill the pain would be to go running for two hours when I hadn't been training that much-- just one of those instances when you just check out and move. Anyways, I decide that the uphill walk will be easier if I walk backwards (what can I say, I want a tight butt) and who do I see but my favorite, seriously FAVORITE of the Chinese classmates-- this is the guy that speaks the best English and is the group leader and is just so stinking nice to me (rather than trying to get me drunk or telling me that eating chicken feet will improve my skin)-- and he offers to pull one of my bags and together we walked back.

As it turned out, all of his buddies had taken the shuttle back from their class but he chose to walk, LUCKY ME! So my Chinese Savior and I chatted as we traversed the snowed over sidewalks. My roommates greeted me with big smiles and a loud welcome and really, everything worked out in the end even though it seemed so dramatic at the time.

I'm going to go take a bath.

The End.