2.02.2009

Since You're Looking at This . . .

(Evan, my oldest, following my footsteps -->)

It's almost 11 AM and I'm doing exactly nothing. I'm very busy, don't bother me. I can't answer the phone or take a shower until I get this done. Look at me and you'd think I get paid for all the frenetic typing I'm doing. Damn, I'm important. You would. You'd say that.

When your brain kicks in and reminds you that looks can be deceiving, you will remember that I hate normal jobs and I don't actually have one at the moment. Keeping me busy involves lots of googling, emailing, texting, Rachel Maddow, and twitters and blogs. It isn't that hard to entertain me online. I don't even mind if you end a sentence on your blog with a prepositional phrase.

Here's how it starts: I'm trying to write my Personal Statement for my MFA applications. Think about everything you'd want to include in your reading and writing background. What pivotal events took place to get you to where you are now? What literary light and lovely visions can you conjure up, at least within the framework of three pages maximum, to show your potential and desirability? What metaphors and meaningful stories from your childhood can you poetically illustrate to convince someone to take your money?

In the middle of writing the second paragraph, I'm thinking to myself, 'How did I end up in Montana, anyway?' I remember reading a little story in Outside magazine. The ex was going through some crazy things, as usual, and the outside world was pure, complete chaos. This little story was about fishing in Montana, unsuccessful fishing actually. The fish were so small they were like little trout cookies or something. It was a peaceful, pretty story. It calmed me down and all was right with the world.

I saved the story and re-read it a few times. The ex and I decided, during the chaos, that to leave the state would leave the chaos behind, too. Laugh if you will, but your town is full of people like that right now. We had enough chaos packed up in our moving van to last the rest of our marriage, but but moving opened a door. I wanted to go somewhere I knew and somewhere far away. As far as possible, but familiar. Is there a place where our troubles won't find us? Does that sound like a country song?

I went to Montana State during my undergraduate education. I went there because they had good skiing and I hated the rain at Linfield, where I was at the time. If you guessed I was at Linfield due to running away, as well, you'd be correct. The winter of 1978 was one of the wettest in Oregon and I didn't like my hair being constantly flat, so Montana seemed better somehow.

The winter of 1979 in Bozeman was one of the coldest on record, with high negatives for three weeks in a row. I insisted on running outside, regardless. People wouldn't go outside and there I was, dumb Californian, running. (If I'm not running figuratively, I'm running literally.) I might have permanently damaged my upper lungs as it still hurts to breathe when it's cold. The skiing was great, lift tickets were $7, and the drinking age was 18. One of my better decisions, even if all the deciding factors had to do with teenage vanity.

We moved to Montana, the ex, the kids, me and my little fish cookie story. The author was an English professor at Montana State, it turned out. I felt a twinge of something sentimental when I found out about that. Enough of a coincidence for me. You don't need to tell me to run away twice.

After daydreaming for a millisecond, I googled the professor who wrote the trout cookie story. I couldn't find the name of the story, so I kept googling. Should I make up the name of the story? Does it really matter? I thought I should at least try to find a fact to weave through all this personal fiction.

Once I found the professor, Greg Keeler, I started looking at his website and his accomplishments. What did my other professors and friends from Montana do since I left? I googled them. Some of them were easy to find. Successful people, or at least successful people who like to have their name available, are easy to find. I found a few colleagues who are now professors themselves, in places like USC. A few I couldn't find, like every one of my old boyfriends. Every one, in every state, from Jr. High to Oregon, Canada to California is nowhere on the google. I spent hours looking while thanking God I was spared from another minute with any of them.

Now it's afternoon. I got back to my essay but had to think of more influences. I looked at Amazon.com and Powell's for book titles. You know how that goes: even normal people can spend hours there. I stayed focused, after allowing myself ten minutes to luxuriate in books I wish I'd read, and found what I was looking for. Good girl.

What's in my inbox?

When you have those thoughts it's a good idea not to act on them. I did, and caught up with my full of personality sister and her played-in-Carnegie-Hall kids. I deleted yet another email from Barack Obama, but only after reading it completely and thanking God we have a President who speaks the language correctly. Another email from someone with a link. I followed it to Good Reads.

You know what happened next: you want my opinions on books? That's like running: I can do it without thinking. I wrote about five reviews. Here's one.

Now someone's at the door so I guess I'll finish my Statement later, after a run. I need to get going with my MFA and my life. Charlie and I both like to run, metaphorically and physically, so I'd better focus. Change is coming, I can feel it.

Wonder what stories are in Outside magazine lately?