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Cross-Country Drive in Lists, 10 Years Later

5 May
In the Badlands in 2009

In 2009, Michael and I drove west from Brooklyn to start a new life in Seattle. I was beginning the MFA program at the University of Washington, and we were ready for a new adventure in a region neither of us ever thought we’d live in. I documented that first cross-country drive in a list of lists here.

Nearly ten years later, we felt the pull to come back east; in April, we packed up our things and now we’re in Chicago, starting the next chapter of our lives. But of course! We had to take another cross-country drive, partly retracing our steps but also seeing lots of new things. And herein is a list of lists for our second crossing:

  • Mileage: Approximately 2400
  • Days: 9
  • Start point: Seattle
  • End point: Chicago

Parting image of the Pacific Northwest: Wet roads, sopping dark evergreens.

Cities stopped in to eat and/or sleep: Ellensburg, WA; Spokane, WA; Missoula, MT; Bozeman, MT; West Yellowstone, MT; Jackson Hole, WY; Rock Springs, WY; Laramie, WY; Cheyenne, WY; North Platte, NE; Lincoln, NE; Omaha, NE; Des Moines, IA; Iowa City, IA.

Detour: Petrified Ginko National Forest

Notable Spokane radio: Developing a trauma-informed perspective, on Native America Calling

Rivers crossed: Cle Elum, Columbia, Coer D’Alene, Clark Fork, Boulder, Jefferson, Missouri Headwaters, Madison, Gallatin, Snake, Buffalo, Hoback, Little Sandy, North Platte, Medicine Bow, Laramie, South Platte, Platte, Blue, Missouri, West Nishnabotna, East Nishnabotna, South Raccoon, North Raccoon, South Skunk, North Skunk, Guernsay, Iowa, Cedar, Mississippi, Fox.

Fauna spotted: bald eagles, hawks, bison, elk, alpaca, orioles, cardinals, starlings, geese, hundreds of horses, thousands of cows.

Best smelling city: Still Bozeman, ten years later. This time, instead of pine trees, it smelled of apple and smoked pork.

Most public service announcements about meth: Still Montana, ten years later. “Ask Me How My Gun Went Off.”

Most fun billboard: “Rock Creek Testicle Festival,” also in Montana.

Most awe: Western Wyoming.

Aw!

Best business name: Pickle’s Discount Mattress in Rock Springs, WY.

Promising overheard dialogue in Rock Springs: “I used to listen to Morning Joe, but I can’t anymore. I just wanna know what’s going on. Don’t rant at me!” This jived with our similar feeling of watching Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC for half a minute. Maybe we can turn it all off? Then again…

Notable Nebraska radio: Christian homeschool radio on social media and the “Pakistinian-Israelite Conflict”

Scariest downtown on a Sunday: North Platte, NE, mostly boarded up and closed, save for Hometown Cash Advance, Cash n’ Go, and a dollar store.

Scariest Victorian home to visit at dusk when no one’s around and the horses across the street are all staring at you: Buffalo Bill’s home, also in North Platte.

Notable Iowa radio: Agritalk. Regarding leaving the TPP: “Was the juice worth the squeeze?”

Happiest lunch spot: cheeky Gazali’s in Des Moines, IA, where we ate garlicky chicken shawarma after several days of burgers burgers burgers.

Unicorn in our Iowa City hotel room, with an excerpt from The Glass Menagerie

Best town name: What Cheer, IA.

Most adorable stop: Iowa City.

Most roadkill: Illinois 😦 Intestines coiled in the street like giant fusilli. My next novel will be a horror novel.

Notable Chicago radio that filled me with glee: Cardi B. on Polish-American Radio. Brr!

Bright Spots of 2016

21 Dec

della_tramutatione_metallica_sogni_tre-a184

From Della tramutatione metallica sogni tre by Gio. Battista Nazari, 1571

Dang it. Despite world affairs being horrendous, I’m going to relish some good things that happened in 2016. First, I achieved my goal of obtaining 100 rejections (106!). If you’re not getting rejecting 90% of the time, you’re not aiming high enough–so goes the wisdom from Creative Capital. The fruits of this labor paid off with eight publications. Here they are, plus other goodness. (Find the zoetrope!)

 

My plans for the holidays including gorging myself on kreplach, cholent, pizza, and rainbow cookies and devouring Donna Tartt’s The Secret History and Paula Fox’s Desperate Characters. Happy winter solstice!

“Don’t Worry” in Moss

17 Nov

ugo-rondinone

Don’t worry about these clowns…Ugo Ronidinone’s “Vocabulary of Solitude” at Rotterdam’s Museum Boijmans van Beunigen.

 

My story “Don’t Worry” is out in Moss, Issue 6.  Here’s how it begins:

Johnny’s teaching math in the fall and we’re on our honeymoon. Venice, Rome, Paris, Amsterdam. A whole month. Sexy sexy cities for sexy sexy times. I planned most of it. He got Amsterdam.

continue reading

I wrote the story on the way home from my trip to the Netherlands this May, after overhearing a tourist at Anne Frank House say of the diary, “it’s just paper.” It’s (unfortunately) been feeling pretty timely this past week. The trip was made possible by the Artist Trust / Gar LaSalle Storyteller Award, which brought me there to research my third novel. I’m forever grateful for that opportunity.

The story will be available in print later this year in Volume 2. If you’d like to hold the story in your hands and support a great journal, you can subscribe here!

That’s What She Said?

3 Mar

Over on the Ploughshares blog, my second writing prompt revels in the wonders of eavesdropping and overheard conversations. Whether you recently overheard some choice nuggets of wisdom or gossip or are  looking to sharpen your ability to write dialogue, click on over to join the fun.

Overheard in the Ladies Room at Pacific Place

2 Jan

Over the holidays, while waiting for the restroom, I overheard this exchange and have been so enraptured by it (read to the end to feel the rapture) that I’m convinced at least one person, if not multiple, could write a short story, if not a novel, from this tender seedling. Please do share if you do!

“Mommy, it’s not coming out.”

“Well,” says the mother, from a neighboring stall, “you don’t want to eat your fruits and veggies. That’s what happens when you don’t eat your fruits and veggies.” Time passes. “Are you ready? Do you want my help?”

“Ok.”

The mother flushes, exits her stall. “Get out,” she says, “so I can come in.” A big brother, about seven or eight but large for his age, comes out, smirking. A gold earring, maybe it’s a stick-on, gleams in one of his lobes. The mother enters the stall. Clucks her tongue. “Why isn’t there a toilet seat cover?” She sighs, loudly.

“Mommy,” the big brother says, face near the closing door, eyes half-closed and dreamy, “I love you.”

If you liked that, here’s another inter-generational overheard, in Florence: https://ancawrites.com/2006/03/30/bargello/

Bargello

30 Mar

I went to Florence in October, after visiting my brother in Milan. “Florence: We’re More than Just the Renaissance” seemed to be the city slogan. Still, I wanted to see the museums. I took a trip to the Bargello, which houses Donatello’s David, and skipped Michaelangelo’s masterpiece all together.

As I looked at him—beautiful, sensuous, conceited—I listened to a British woman (sleek, silver bobbed hair) discuss the piece with her messy redhead granddaughter, freckled and bespectacled, 11 or 12 at most.

“What do you think?” the elder asked.
“I don’t know.”
“Well, how does it make you feel?”
“I can’t explain it.”
“If he were to talk to you, what would he say?”
A pause.
“Would it help if I told you what I think?”
Silence.
“Well,” the grandmother continued, “I think he’s very sexy.” The girl snickered. “And look at how his hand is on his hip. Isn’t it effeminate? I think he’s quite satisfied with himself. And who’s he standing on? What is that?”
“A body. No. A head.”
“Whose head?”
“Another king’s?”
“What’s in his hand?”
“A rock.”
“And what did David use his slingshot for?”
“Oh! Goliath.”
“Right. And look at how he’s standing. I think it says ‘don’t fuck with me.’”

Modern Life of the Soul

23 Mar

Overheard at the Munch retrospective at MoMA:

Mother: What’s wrong?
Teenage Son: [Eyes blank, shrugging] I just wouldn’t put any of these paintings in my house, that’s all I’m saying.

Oh c’mon, what’s a home without a little melancholy, despair, and sexual humiliation?

(Another hopefully-beefier overheard in the works for next week.)

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