I’ll Be Here When It All Gets Weird

This post really only works if you scroll down to the bottom and press play before you start reading.

I came home for the weekend for the free food, official start of summer and to pick up my Bonnaroo ticket.

It seems every time I get back there’s less and less here for me.

I finally quit the part-time job I’ve worked here for the past couple of breaks; I’m not sure which kids from my graduating class are living at home for the summer and the big kicker?  When I grabbed stuff to bring home I left my laundry and grabbed my toothbrush and face wash.  I’ve never had to bring toiletries home.

Here my bed is unmade, my winter coats and boots scattered around and thrown on the floor.   I can’t find the other side to my old pair of keds and none of my favorite books are here to entertain me.  Even my library card is expired.

But even though I had to ask my mother for the spare set of house keys and lost my parking spot in the driveway I got to spend hours and hours laughing with my best friend, airing out my dirty mouth, and getting to see and listen to what she’s been up to for the semester.   I got to lay in bed this morning watching Newsies with my sister, trying to figure out what the non-Christian Bale actors are doing these days.   I baked a tray of mint chocolate brownies and had help in making them disappear, and now I’m sitting on the couch, watching shitty television with my mother while my dog begs for scraps of food from our plates.

Wherever I am you will always be, more than just a memory

No, I don’t live here.  But it’s home, homehomehomehomehome on the range.

Yeah, Bon Jovi, who says you can’t go home?

I Come From the Dirt, pt 2

DIRT! is a film that celebrates the soil and illustrates its importance: environmentally, economically, socially and politically.

Whether you grew up with trees and dirt, like I did, or surrounded by concrete and the occasional patch of grass, we are all connected to dirt. Animals, humans, planets, stars, and dirt are all made of the same element. We are literally a part of the land and it is a part of us.

Which is why I can feel the falling of trees in rainforests. This is why when I see images of men with chain saws killing and maiming the earth, I see that as a call to war. When I see the bodies of the dead being carted away to become SkyMall magazines, Fingerhut catalogs, junk mail, and coupons to send to “Current Resident” or “Box Holder” I am disgusted and amazed that this can still happen. I am angry that this is still a thing: people are willing to cut, slash, burn and ruin the soil for temporary farming areas; that in order to compete with bigger businesses, in order to survive, farmers in Brazil are forced to join in this process. I am angry that we can know of the rainforests importance, know that there are undiscovered species of plants inside of them that could potentially help the world out, and yet still be willing to sacrifice those possibilities for a temporary win.

I can’t justify that. I can’t justify not using recyclable bags, not keeping a box for recycling and not buying what I can locally. That’s where it’s at—being aware globally but acting locally: doing the best you can.

That is what DIRT! teaches. “What we have destroyed, we can heal.”

I never used to carry around a pack of Kleenexes, never used to keep the windows closed or take pills daily. Somewhere, I got disconnected and my system reversed. Instead of at school–indoors and stifled by recycled air–my allergies flared up outside. But once again, I’ve learned to sleep with my windows open and let the overhead fan recycle help circulate all that air. I began to eat differently, to get my food from people who connected with the land and cared about what they made and now I’m back to where I was.

I do the best I can, because if you remember:

To give anything less than your best is to waste the gift.

The Sustainable Table–“Eat Seasonal, Shop Local”: just type in your state and the time of year and they’ll instantly pull up a list of vegetables that are in season in your area. Great guide for shopping at Farmer’s Markets.

Dirt: for information on hosting your own screening of the film DIRT!

I Come From the Dirt, pt. 1

During my senior year of high school, every scholarship essay I wrote paid tribute to the “little white house at the end of lane.”  It was the house where I spent the first five years of my life, and whose location, I feel, shaped who I am.

When I think about that house, I think about the “seemingly endless backyard, lit up with fireflies on summer nights” and all the space under the bridge where my brothers would race their remote-control cars up the slanted sides.

Space has always been my constant.  I need it, without it I freak, feel claustrophobic, crave some place where I can stretch out my arms and legs and exist as a point of reference, a tiny dot in a sea of space, instead of a giant trapped inside of an ant hill.

We moved from the little white house to the peach house on Russell Avenue, an hour and a half away from the endless backyard, fireflies and the bridge.   We inherited more space, though; backyards without fences, trees with blackberries whose juice stained your fingers, a single pine tree with enough space to crawl inside and camp out and a Weeping Willow whose leaves would catch the rain—our rain tree.  In the summer time, when the cottonwoods’ seeds would open, little billows of cotton would get caught in our hair, in our trees, in our clothes, cars—everywhere.

I only existed outside; I could breathe easier there.

The first tree to go was in the backyard.  Too close to the power lines, it had grown too large, had become a threat.  They cut the branches away until it didn’t exist.

Next was the Weeping Willow, they used the road as an excuse—its branches were cumbersome.  They cut them away too, until it lost its name.

Soon, everything was altered for “ease of use.”  In our front yard, a tree barely out of its youth, whose branches were so low we could easily climb them, was cut down to a stump.  The blackberry tree had its branches loped off one by one.  We strained to the reach the fruit, balancing on our toes, then jumping, until finally they were out of reach.

My best friend, Archie, lived next door.  I know, Archie.  As in, Archibald.  As in, “Are you sure this was in the mid-90s?”  Believe it.  It was our destiny to be friends: Beatrice and Archibald.

We built forts in our trees, talked to the Weeping Willow, and climbed the pine tree— peeking out through its branches at more of the city than any other six-seven and then eight-year-old had ever seen.  We ate the honeysuckles from the grass and sat in the shade, making up games and stories.

When school would start in the fall, I would sniffle and sneeze all through class, unused to the stale air and brick walls.  At recess, I picked up honeysuckles from the outskirts of the playground near the street, but my teachers would swat them away.

“We can’t eat that, they put chemicals in the grass.”
Our lawn had to be perfect and green, if only in color.

Archie moved when I was in the third grade.  Everything was changing then; home, school, friendships, landscapes.  He stayed an extra day in town to say goodbye to me—the previous day his mother and siblings had left but I had been at the mall with a friend.  We sat outside under the trees, made promises and said goodbye.  It couldn’t have ended any other way, or in any other place.

Which is why I can’t just say that I love the outdoors, can’t just say that I care about trees and the environment, I have to explain it like this.  Because I grew up alongside a Weeping Willow, my sweets were blackberries and I learned to climb before I learned to ride a bike.

I come from the land, I come from dirt.


I woke up yesterday morning and ran a 5K in Olathe.  It was Girls on the Run, a character building ten week program that aims to enhance the self-confidence of young girls through running.  The program promotes healthy lifestyle and self-respect through goal-setting, teamwork and communication with others.

I was a running buddy; my job was to be there every step of the way.

“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”

The best life lessons I have learned have come through my high school track team.  Being surrounded by coaches and people who believed in my abilities more than I did, whose encouragement and words seemed grossly overestimated to what I felt I could do, who waited for me at the end of the finish line and no matter what, said good job and always always ALWAYS brought up the good points first.

“Die, Vampire, Die” is a song from [title of show].

“A vampire is any person or thought or feeling that stands between you and your creative self expression”

The song tells us that vampires can come from the outside world—“You’re doing it wrong; so-and-so did it better; yadda-yadda-yadda.”

Or, they can come from the inside.

They can be those voices in your head telling you that you are not that great, that you are nothing special, never will be and never can be.

“It’ll wake you up at 4am to say things like:
Who do you think you’re kidding?
You look like a fool.
No matter how hard you try, you’ll never be good enough”

Why is it that if some dude walked up to me on the subway platform
and said these things, I’d think he was a mentally ill asshole,
but if the vampire inside my head says it,
It’s the voice of reason.

And when that voice comes up, that’s when you have to drive that stake through that motherf—er’s heart and yell DIE VAMPIRE DIE!

That is what I was there to help with—the yelling, the murder of the vampire.

We ran through the Garmin headquarter parking lots, Olivia and I, and she wanted to stop.  She laughed, “I can’t do it, my legs hurt.”

They’re supposed to, I said.  That means you’re working hard.

I’m not one for cruelty, if she were clutching her side, wheezing and crying I would have thrown her over my shoulders and ran her to the nearest water station, but she laughed.

Three years ago, I was intimidated by the other girls running beside me for the 100M dash at the last qualifier for our regional track meet.  My time had qualified me to compete against them for a spot, but I didn’t think I was good enough.  Before I crossed the finish line I gave up and smiled.

What a joke, I thought.  I wasn’t ever going to make it.

Bob, a family friend, was at the meet that day.  He took pictures of everyone, including me, but I didn’t see them until later.  Bob was old fashioned, he didn’t use digital, had to actually go and wait for his prints to develop.

He gave me my picture from my 100, told me I was “grinning like the Cheshire cat,” that I couldn’t have been trying.  I brushed it off, but it bothered me that it was so evident; my weakness and failure on display.  One girl, who ran in the slower heat before me, had made it to regionals with the same time that had qualified me to run with the “fast girls.”

I didn’t care about the race, still don’t, but I do care about the attitude, and that was the lesson learned.  Never again would I let reason dictate what I was and wasn’t capable of doing.  Never again would I let that vampire talk to me like that.

For that race, the vampire won and I lost.  And I wish it was, but it wasn’t the last time I let the vampire win.

Olivia told me her goal at the beginning—less than 33:32, her time from the year before.  I started the stopwatch when we began to run and I held her accountable.

And she was great–more determined and brave than I would have been at her age.  My vampires were too loud then, too lecherous.  But she laughed after a little more than a mile.  She was tired, prime vampire time, but I couldn’t let them win.

I told her to look behind her and trace the route we had already run, to see how much ground we had covered.

Along the way, the GOTR organizers had chalked phrases like “YOU’RE AWESOME” and “YOU ARE STRONG.”  We flew over them, one by one, and I repeated the words to her, wanting her to understand how powerful she was, in both mind and body.

I gave her a point where we could stop.

“Get to the curve and we’ll stop for thirty seconds.”

Grace period.

Thirty seconds became fifteen, fifteen became ten.

Kansas humidity set in, she had forgotten to use her inhaler before the race, the sun was too bright, we were sweating beyond belief and fatigued.

Then we were in the shade, looping around the same path we had breezed through earlier, but it was harder than before.  Our feet were heavier, everything felt like it was pulling us down, slowing us down.

Don’t let me hear your feet, I told her.  If you’re running correctly, you shouldn’t be able to hear your footsteps.  If you’re running incorrectly, it will just make it harder.

Her steps lightened and she moved over the familiar path, the chalked words of encouragement now smeared beneath our feet.

I didn’t tell her to run when she saw the finish line, she sprinted, without a word, into a sea of pink shirts and cheers and I followed her lead.  She killed every single vampire out there yesterday, every girl did.

Prefonatine’s words carried me through the last one-hundred meters of my relay, encouraged me to grit my teeth and aim for the platform—“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”

I will repeat that until the day I die, because it just may be the only lesson worth learning.

don’t know much about history, pt 1

Passing a class is not the same as learning from a class.

Whoa, right?  Duh.  We all know that.

The first semester of my freshman year I took an English course titled “Fun With Ancient Rhetoric!”–the exclamation point was included.

We talked about Cicero, Marc Antony’s famous Hearts speech, Plato and other shit that was the antithesis of fun.  There was a lot of crying, wailing and gnashing of the teeth that semester.  By the hand of God and a well-timed study group, I ended up wading through that material and ending the class with an A.  Talent, I thought, but in reality the professor was old and basically gave everyone an “A for Effort.”

I didn’t realize that though.  I thought I was brilliant, unconquerable, bestriding the narrow world like a Colossus.  My western civilization course taught me that I was wrong.

I didn’t get the old writing, didn’t totally understand its importance.  Yes, I had been impressed by the fact that these ancient rhetoricians gained respect and high positions in government based purely on their persuasive speech.  It could have been a wink and a gun or a disarming smile and Cary Grant good looks.  It could have been anything, it just had to work.

If you were a sensationalist, you got the results (ie: KILL CAESAR); if you were rational, you got it all (ie: YAY MARC ANTONY, yadda yadda yadda–we’re easily convinced in times of crisis).

The point is, what is it that you are hearing and seeing, and what reactions does it incite in you?  Why?

Once again, it’s the whole “This is water – liberal arts educations aren’t teaching what to think but how to think in a more considerate way”- Be awake, be aware- thing.

And I have to be honest, I understand the point but sometimes I don’t have the time.  Actually, throughout the school year I rarely had the time to do more than skim through the assigned texts.

My summer reading is devoted to making the time and working to understand it all.  Starting with World War II, the “tragedy of reason.”

What is the point of scientific development if it can only teach destruction?

What is the point of logic if it can help someone justify mass extermination?

Starting with John Keegan’s The Battle For History, progressing to Mein Kampf, ending with Profiles in Courage because I’ve got time and I have to actually earn that A, even if it is in retrospect.

get lost, get found.

I’m too cerebral.  I can talk myself out of anything, plan my life around “good ideas”, remember the laundry, finish the milk before the expiration date.

I want bad ideas, I want to make stupid mistakes.

I want to stay out until one on a school night, drinking and singing karaoke at a bar downtown.

I want to flash the lead singer of a band,

spend every cent,

buy plane tickets based on the airport,

wear the wrong shoes for the right place,

cut my hair too short,

say the wrong thing,

only fill the tank with enough gas to get halfway there,

spend time without my phone in a foreign city,

lose track of the hour/day/time,

get lost,

get found.

I want to rasp into sober cryptology and say something dynamic but tonight is my laundry night.