On Not Flying to Hawaii

I could be the waitress
in the airport restaurant
full of tired cigarette smoke and unseeing tourists.
I could turn into the never-noticed landscape
hanging identically in all the booths
or the customer behind the Chronicle
who has been giving advice
about stock portfolios for forty years. I could be his mortal weariness,
his discarded sports section, his smoldering ashtray.

I could be the 70-year-old woman who has never seen Hawaii,
touching her red lipstick and sprayed hair.
I could enter the linen dress
that poofs around her body like a bridesmaid,
or become her gay son
sitting opposite her, stirring another sugar
into his coffee for lack of something true to say.
I could be the reincarnated soul of the composer
of the Muzak that plays relentlessly overhead,
or the factory worker who wove this fake Oriental carpet,
or the hushed shoes of the busboy.

But I don't want to be the life of anything in this pitstop.
I want to go to Hawaii, the wet, hot
impossible place in my heart that knows just what it desires.
I want money, I want candy.
I want sweet ukelele music and birds who drop from the sky.
I want to be the volcano who lavishes
her boiling rock soup love on everyone,
and I want to be the lover
of volcanos, who loves best what burns her as it flows.

Alison Luterman


Desperado, why don’t you come to your senses?

While I was just running down Government Street (attempting to run in this horrid heat is more like it) a man in an SUV starts honking at waving at me from a nearby parking lot. Thinking I must know this person, I wave back. He continues honking, I wave again, and then throw my hands up and just smile, not knowing what else he expects me to do. He proceeds to pull onto Government Street and STOP his car. He smiles and rolls down his window on my side, asking "Hi, how are you?"
I shake my head and say "Fine," as I continue walking.
"Where are you going?" he asks.
I reply, "HOME." At this point, he has stopped traffic and cars behind him are laying on their horns. He pulls forward a bit and then stops again.
He yells to me, "I'm going downtown to the bars!!" with a huge smile. He finally drives off. Needless to say, I took a shortcut home. I have a feeling a J. Beam or J. Daniels had a little something to do with his Sunday.


A good day of rugby…

I love my rugby boys. After a few car bombs, everyone shows they care.


My Dell Technician

For the longest time I have been intrigued by people watching while trying to figure them out. This led to the best game that was developed in bars, finding the most unique person you could and telling their story. I’ve run into many people who do this as well. It’s really fun to see how far you can take it and who can create the most interesting “life.” What this all leads up to is that I find it intriguing to find out as much as I can about people from their appearance and actions. Wherever I am, I am constantly forming stories about the people that I see in public; all are possible characters for a novel I could write some day. In short, I love to observe.

Yesterday, I came in contact with a character that flew me for a loop. He was like some living cliche.

My laptop was fried this past weekend in a lightning storm. Never leave a laptop plugged into a phone line unless you want a fried motherboard. Fortunately, it is still under warranty with Dell and they instantly ordered new parts and let me know that a computer technician would be contacting me soon. Sure enough, Friday afternoon, I got a call from a meek voiced individual that asked me to make an appointment with him. He was very unconfident as to whether he would be able to get to my computer that day, but had me call back later. Upon calling that afternoon, we both decided that Saturday afternoon at noon would be more convenient.

After arranging my morning around the technician’s arrival, I received a phone call from him at noon. In saying hello, and how are you, he responded quickly that he was tired. Okay then, I thought, this guy is an honest man. When he began asking me as to whether a 2:30 appointment would work for me, I was confused. “But didn’t you say you were coming at noon?” I asked. His response this time was that he lived in Lillian, which was an hour away. I couldn’t figure out how that was an appropriate answer, but whatever, I would take what I could get at this point. I proceeded to make use of the time I had to be at home and clean. I became pretty inspired and rearranged furniture as I cleaned. By the time the technician arrived, I was in the last stages of my “summer” clean.

The technician (I never did get his name) was the epitome of a cliche when expecting a computer technician; he was dressed in grayish blu,e polyester pants, a few inches too short, and a thin, short sleeved, white button down shirt. He had thinning white hair that started halfway back his head, and huge, thick  glasses, in which he would tilt his chin up and look out of at an angle.

I towered above the man; I expect he was only 5’5” at the most.  He instantly came in and got to work after I gave him an area to work at my kitchen table. I let him know I would be cleaning if he needed me, and I got back to work.

Now’s where it get’s weird. I finished cleaning in the other room, and made my way back to my kitchen to check on the computer. He had the entire thing broken down and was inspecting the parts. I started asking him if he was going to be able to fix it and he showed me where the modem had fried the motherboard, leaving a black scorch mark. He then began suggesting various products that I should buy, such as a battery-powered surge protector, and other things that I knew I would never purchase. I eased my way back into the living room to continue dusting as he kept talking. He ventured into the topic of the people who’s computers he had been fixing. There was a serious problem with this conversation though; he was a very quiet mumbler. I could only grasp bits and pieces of his sentences. Virtually, I was trying to piece together these words to understand what he was trying to say. I probably watched him with my jaw dropped as I couldn’t believe that he actually thought I would be able to understand ANYTHING he was saying. It was obvious that this must be a constant problem for him. The few times that I did ask for clarification by saying, “Excuse me, or even to be so blunt as to say “I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you,” he would instantly pipe up and clearly speak. Then slowly reverting back into his quiet mumble.

The conversation quickly ventured into this man’s life story, all mind you, as he gracefully reassembled my laptop. There were times when I just stood in the doorway to my kitchen, trying my hardest understand what he was saying, and other times when for five minutes at a time I would simply reply with an “uh huh,” as he rambled on, never missing a chance to explain more.

Yet, like my other conquests to create stories about strangers’ lives, there was no need with this individual. I believe that I may have learned more about Mr. Technician that I know about close and personal friends. For instance, after being born in Wisconsin, he followed his parents to Lillian, AL. His parents only paid 54,000 for their 2,000 sq. ft. home, but will get 250,000 when they sell it. His dad is a selfish man, who does not give his mother any money to live on. She must beg for things. Just like she begged for her son’s false teeth after he got them knocked out at a young age, but after agreeing to pay for the teeth, his father spent the money at a tavern. “Excuse me?” I asked at this point, thinking that he had said the word, Tavern. “He spent the money at a tavern,” he repeated again. So his teeth were not properly fixed until he was twenty-six years old.  That’s a long time to go without teeth, I thought to myself.

He went on and on about his father and his rather unpleasant personality before moving on the topic of spiders. “Was cleaning limbs….ex-girlfriend’s house…. being nice…. never thought….didn’t know for four days… brown recluse.”

He mentioned being bit by the spider and having a chunk cut out of his back, more about spiders that I didn’t grasp, and then onto snakes. Someone’s dog, a tough one, got bit by a water moccasin, but lived. From there he began telling me about all that he had been through in life. Several times it was mentioned that he had four surgeries, a shoulder, I think, thought I didn’t dare ask what for or due to what injury. I do know he worked for UHAUL and was in an accident, was electrocuted at another job, and lost three million dollars in the stock market crash of 2001 (?).  His first wife cheated on him after he took care of her while she had ulcerative colitis. Cheated on him with a counselor, whom they had camped with. In my mind, I wanted to ask if it had happened on the camping trip, but I didn’t dare.

The one thing that was said that made my heart hurt for him was when he mentioned that his son died at the age of twenty-one.  In all of the mumbling that was going on, I wasn’t sure at first if that is what he had actually said, and I didn’t want to broach that subject with him. But he did bring it up again while on the subject of why he hates guns.  He said that his son died in a hunting accident. His best friend had shot him. I was floored and didn’t know what to tell this man, other that I was sorry. That story led into his story about when he was shot.  During the first part, all I heard was “Jeffery Dahmer.”

At this point, I’m thinking this could go one of of two ways. First, this could be a very interesting story, or second this could be his lead in to where he comes at me with his computer tools. He proceeded to talk about being underneath a car in Milwaukee and someone shooting him as he ran away. After he was done, I asked, and “What about Jeffery Dahmer?” He explained that this all happened the same time that Dahmer was living in Milwaukee. Darn, what a lead in.

By the time he left he was beginning to ask me questions about myself. I started to feel a little strange. Is this normal for him to tell his life story to someone, unrequested, and then get the person’s story in return? How would I deflect this? Thank God he was finished before I had to give him too many one word answers for his questions.

And then he left. As he walked out the door, he continued to tell a story of his daughter texting three boys at one time, but I asked him to save that story for the next time…


My Summer Reading List

It’s finally here, the time of year when I am absolutely free to read. It’s something that I feel that most people take for granted. When I hear that someone is reading in their spare time, or god forbid, is one of those teachers whose class does not warrant grading, so they spend their free time in the teacher’s lounge reading, it stirs such envy in me. Reading is something that I feel is a gift to me. So many people I know, and students unfortunately, hate reading. They can only read newspapers or magazines. They want the facts and that’s it. Books for me take me out of my world. They give me the chance to see someone else’s life from the luxury of my own couch. And they have made my life that much sweeter by helping me to appreciate simple things.

Sometimes during the summer I start off with a trashy novel.  Not necessarily a romance novel…. but rather something easy to read. You know, a pool book. The kind of book where you can be interrupted fifteen times by kids screaming for their moms to watch them on the diving board and still know exactly what is going on in the book. It’s like giving your brain a break. Instead, I’ve chosen a deeper book to begin with, one that I’ve been meaning to read for a few years: The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion.

It’s a nonfiction novel about the author’s journey through grief after her husband’s sudden death. It’s a book I gave my mom for Mother’s Day a few years back. I had written her a note on the inside that was a little bittersweet. Apparently this book was developed into a play that was on stage in NYC. I had intentions of going to see it with her the next year. We never did. I guess that doesn’t mean we still couldn’t….

Here is a list of my summer reading:

When the Elephants Dance by Tess Uriza Holthe, the story of  a Phillipino family in hiding during WWII.

The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood. I loved her novel  The Blind Assasin and picked this one up in hopes it would be just as good.

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner. This book was purchased for me by a professor while we were visiting Seattle. I never read it and it fell by the wayside. He said it was one of his favorite novels.

You Shall Know Our Velocity! by Dave Eggers.  This is another book that I picked up years ago and never read it. Since then I’ve become more familiar with Dave Eggers, though never having read A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.

If I get through all of these I think I am going to go back and read my two favorite books,  I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb

and Beach Music by Pat Conroy. Both are books that I adore but read so long ago that I need a refresher.