Thursday, September 25, 2014

Hi, My Name Is

A couple weeks ago, I boarded a bus home from work, as I am wont to do.  It was crowded, and I ended up crammed into the very back. Across from me sat a guy in his mid-20s who had just returned from a year serving in Afghanistan and was severely disappointed in everyone who dared look at a smart phone during this ride.  If you're wondering how I could possibly know that much personal information about a stranger, it's because he told me.

Sipping what I can only assume was liquor from an obscured can, he started his tirade with a Malcolm X-like "Look at yourselves!" before going on a loud public shaming spree.  We shouldn't be on our phones!  We should be having conversations!  This isn't what society's about!  We gotta have community! We gotta talk to each other!  We gotta make connections!

Ironically, his outbursts prompted me to do exactly what he was railing against.  I averted my eyes and tried to disappear.  Nobody engage him, please nobody engage him . . . . nope.  Idiot next to me chimed in with an argument that people used to read newspapers on public transit, and how was that any different?

"Come on, man!  We ain't talkin' bout newspapers.  You know that's just propaganda!"

I had to admire his conviction.  He was like an overly aggressive, anti-establishment motivational speaker who was dropping knowledge on us.

"You should talk to people!  Say hello!"  He then started gesturing at random people sitting around him.  "See this guy?  Introduce yourself!  Maybe he knows something you don't!  Maybe that lady over there marched during Civil Rights!  Maybe that dude's been through something that you don't understand!  Like this lady over here . . ."

And he pointed squarely in my direction.

"She might be a fuckin' . . . nuclear . . . geophysicist!  You don't fuckin' know!"

I was torn.  On one hand, I'd been singled out, and I hate attention.  But on the other hand, he thought I looked smart enough to be a nuclear geophysicist.  So . . . I called it a wash and simply smiled back.  Hey, man.  Let's find some answers.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Fight It!

I found this on the back of an envelope at my parents' house recently.

I don't have a good chronological reference for this piece of ... let's call it "art." Whatever my grandfather's malady, it appears that I wanted to send him my best wishes, along with some very wise advice that I felt the need to repeat three times.

I also drew an example (or maybe a continuum) of wellness and what seems to be a mountain range with people falling into chasms. I have no explanation for this illustration, but I welcome any and all suggestions for what it might be. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Fair Play

Oh!  Hello there.  Fancy meeting you here.  I can't believe you're even on this site, especially after I abandoned you without so much as a fond farewell.  My apologies.  Well, it's good to have you back, and it's good to be back.  I'll do my best to make sure returning was worth your while.

We begin with a story inspired by the recent conclusion of the State Fair (if you're a close friend, there's a strong chance you've heard this one . . . nearly two years of archived information will naturally result in some recycled tales).

I've now lived here for 11 years, and I've been to the Great Minnesota Get Together five times. The first was a very quick trip with my first roommate, who basically bought me cheese curds and then took me home.

The second was the day after I'd moved into my first solo apartment, when I severely underestimated how sore I'd be from hauling boxes up and down four flights of stairs. I spent the day wishing I could curl up in a fetal position in the Miracle of Birth barn. Who would notice? The 4-H kids. They'd rat me out, those savvy rural bastards.

The third time was so packed and hot that I didn't last more than a couple of hours. My friend and I, soaked in sweat and absolutely fried, toasted with 1919 root beer: "To a great State Fair.  (glug) Now let's get the fuck out of here!" 

By the fourth time, I'd learned some important lessons. I was rested. I was ready. I was wearing proper shoes and plenty of deodorant.  This was the year I discovered, to my surprise, that the Fair was actually bearable -- nay, magical -- on a weekday in the evening.  It was still quite hot, but the crowds bore less resemblance to an impenetrable, red rover-esque wall of death.  

Maybe it was the extra personal space, or the calming night air, or the fact that I'd been strolling about with a delicious beer, but apparently I felt that life was good enough to risk on the midway.

I know what you're thinking. "Cotonee, why on earth would you voluntarily board a contraption that was cobbled together by carnies just days before?" And to that I say, I didn't just volunteer.  I PAID to do it.

I'm blaming it on the lights.  They were so colorful and delightful.  I'd just been whisked across the lovely, glowing fairgrounds by the Sky Ride cable car, and I was still in one piece.  So when my friend said "roller coaster," I thought it was a brilliant suggestion.

The ride we chose sat four people to a car.  When it was our turn to board, there were two kids, a boy and a girl, roughly 10 years old, already seated.  My friend slid in first and was promptly shouted at by the ride operator until we switched places. (Evidently strange men aren't allowed to sit next to children, but strange women are just dandy.)

Crammed into the tiny car, we took off.  It wasn't particularly fast or high, or even alarmingly rickety. The kids were in good spirits, and I was having a great time. What I didn't realize, however, was that the coaster cars swiveled.  So when we hit the first big turn in the track, we whipped around, hard, about 180 degrees.

At that moment, in my terror, I forgot that I was supposed to be the adult in the situation.  I yelled, at the top of my lungs and with total conviction, "Ahhhhhhhh . . . we're gonna die!"

That's right.  Instead of calmly reassuring the kids next to me that everything was going to be fine, I not only confirmed their mortality but announced their imminent demise.

Everything was NOT going to be fine.  Their giggling and chattering quickly turned into high-pitched screams that didn't stop until the ride did. And even then, as we rattled to a standstill, their expressions told me that this park was no longer amusing -- the experience had been both a literal and figurative eye-opener.

So that's how I unintentionally traumatized two innocent children during what still remains my best State Fair experience to date.  Suck it, seed art.  I'm out there changing lives.