Express Inn- Short for “Expressly Terrible”

A quick update from the road here before I get back on it. I'm traveling again! This time it's Seattle to San Diego (or as far south as I can get before I get lonely/tired of the buzzing my body does after 10 straight hours of driving.) A few quick points before I hit the shower (that's shower stall; no tub here at the Express Inn. It's express, after all. No time for lollygagging in the tub.)

-A friend of mine called the Oregon Coast "God's Country". God must like him some evergreens, 'cause that's all there is out there. I know I'm ready for a change of seasons because all I wanted after all that misty rain and miles and miles of trees was a good old fashioned desert. I wanted to burn my eyes in the sun and not feel an ounce of moisture in the air. I wanted to see desert flowers, and cacti and brown men in dusty shirts. I wanted to hug a horny toad close to my chest, for Pete's sake, and feed it Jujubees. I know this weather has kept my skin looking radiant and all but halted the aging process, but, a girl needs a little coffee with her sugar now and again, knowwhatimean?

-I am trying to roll with the waves of emotion that come with 10 straight hours of driving. There are cycles of excitement (usually right after the morning's first caffeinated beverage) followed by cycles of fear that I'm wasting my time, followed by steering-wheel-pounding-happiness over hearing Iggy Pop's "The Passenger" on my mix tape, followed by fear that I'm using the most inefficient route to get somewhere, followed by unadulterated joy over two-dollar strawberries sold at a stand on the side of the road just when I am getting hungry.

-This trip is unlike any trip I've ever taken. Maps? On my phone. List of hotels to stay at? on my phone. Directions to the nearest scenic outlook? On my phone. Music? On my phone. Friends' numbers and address for long talks/places to send kitschy postcards? On my phone. It's unbelievably convenient. And paranoia-inducing. If I lost that thing? Holy crap. They'd have to heli-port my deflated body back to Seattle and inject me with a serum that makes one believe there is life after being unable to use mobile technology. Every trip to every gas station restroom has me furiously patting down my pockets and checking my purse to make sure I haven't accidentally left my phone on the paper towel dispenser.

More to come!

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Dear Tuesday

Dear Tuesday,
Is it Tuesday already? Dude. You sure do sneak up on me. You're making me look bad, Tuesday. Here I am all trying to be consistent with posting on Tuesday and you go and turn into Wednesday on me.

Dear Oprah,
I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that I would do ANYTHING to be on the show this last season. Can you sense my desperation from over here? Wait. Scratch that. You would never indulge desperation. Okay. Do-over. I am now appealing to my highest self, my Source, my Power, The Universal Life Force that wants nothing but good for me. Oh! Did you hear that? I think the Source is speaking to me! What's that, Universal Life Force? You ALSO think it's a good idea for me to be on the Oprah show at least once before it goes off the air? You see, Oprah? All things are aligning... Now, if you could just do a show on intestinal worms, I would be more than happy to be your guest.

Dear Self That Visited Chicago Three Years Ago and Never Managed To Get On The Show:
Are you just kicking yourself, or what?

Dear Self That Should Have Published A Book By Now,
Would that not have been the PERFECT excuse to be on the Oprah show? Didn't you, at one time, think that you would have written a book so powerful, so world changing, so full of life and wisdom and engrossing characters that the Queen of Bookclubs, Oprah Winfrey herself, would be made to weep? Imagine it! Oprah weeping while reading YOUR book! GAH! How many times can you smack yourself in the forehead with your open palm before it becomes medically dangerous?

Dear Free Time Made Possible By My New Schedule,
You are a double edged sword, aren't you? Allowing me time to exercise and making me think about publishing a book! You sneaky devil, you!

Dear Woman Who Looks Just Like My Friend Stephanie In Zumba Class,
I'm sorry if I stare so much at you. I'm sorry if I have, by now, memorized and can replicate on command the way your arms and legs perform the Cumbia. I'm sorry that I cannot take my eyes off the back of your neatly coiffed head while you sweat and jab the air with your long, lean arms. It's just that you look almost EXACTLY like my friend Stephanie who is living in China right now and sometimes, when I look at you, I miss her with a power that takes me by surprise, and my eyes start filling with tears right there in class. I have to look away and concentrate on my moves so as not to have a full-on sob-fest right there in the middle of the gym floor. Inevitably, though, I go right back to staring and I am sure you have noticed. I'm sorry you have become a sort of surrogate for Steph. I want very much to approach you in the hallway after class and explain myself, but I'm scared of what you might think of me.

Dear Chase Bank,
I could write paragraph after paragraph about how much you suck for charging me twenty five dollars a month just to have a stupid checking account with you. TWENTY FIVE DOLLARS, Chase Bank. As a matter of fact, I just did. And then I erased it. Know why? Because you are not worth my time. I just did the sensible thing and moved all my money to a new bank. You can't see me right now, but I am flipping you the bird. I'm sure everyone reading this who is also getting charged fifteen bucks here and ten bucks there to bank with you is ALSO flipping you the bird right now. So, consider yourself the recipient of the largest bird ever flipped by the Internet.

Dear Cannonball Adderley Record and Earl Grey Tea,
You are the most perfect breakfast combination I can think of.

Dear Spring,
Your procrastination is even worse than mine. I shouldn't have to wear a sweater in April, Spring. You know this. So please hurry it up. The tomato starts, Spring, they long to be outside, and off my windowsill. The pea vines that are winding their way around yarn I have strung up to my venetian blinds, inside my house, Spring, they are confused. They know something is not right. Think of the cucumbers, Spring, that are bursting out of their little yogurt cups packed with soil. They long to spill out over the driveway. Forget me, Spring. I have gotten used to your heel-dragging ways. But think of the vegetables, Spring. Think of the vegetables!

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SLO, Day 3 + 4

In honor of Holy Week, y'all, I'm giving up procrastination. I'm doin' it for Jesus, yo.

Day Three was for bike rides through the vineyards. Victoria and I were, a little, um, hung over from the night before, so getting an early start was not easy. As a matter of fact, if it were up to me, we would have skipped the vineyards and the bikes altogether and stayed in bed eating cheese puffs and watching cooking shows on the hotel TV for the day. Luckily for me, though, Victoria is a mother of two and doesn't take bullshit from anyone. I was up, with my bed made, standing at attention by 9 am because I was afraid she might tell me to stop my bellyaching and yank me out of the room by my earlobe.

We slogged our way through breakfast (it's hard to pack in the protein you know you'll need for later when all you want to do is throw up). Undeterred by our condition, Victoria reminded me that when the endorphins kicked in, we would be so glad we didn't quit on ourselves. Boy, was she ever right. Still, it was hard to hear. You see, I'm not an endorphin junkie. The most thrilling athletic thing I've done recently is to stand on a kitchen chair to water a plant up high. I've never been involved with team sports, and I've had to quit running because my knees have gone from well lubricated machines to piles of kindling. So, the prospect of biking up hills at nine a.m. after a night of heavy drinking sounded downright...well, stupid. But, I had to put aside all the stories I tell myself about my body's inability to do hard work and I hoisted myself onto that saddle, tied my skirt in a knot, and I rode like the Devil himself was at my back. And I LOVED it.

Our First Glass

We stopped at the first winery we came to. We sampled some delicious white wine and we put our feet up and let the warm breeze dry the sweat from our brows. By now, the nausea had passed and I was definitely in endorphin territory. I took pictures of olive trees because it was warm and OLIVE TREES! were growing on the property. Just like CITRUS!


Being a thoroughly city-fied kind of gal, barnyard animals have always seemed like exotica to me. Horses and cows are just so outsized and foreign to me. My perspective gets blown standing next to them. I mean, have you seen a horse's HEAD recently? Just the head, y'all. They're the size of the upper part of my body. That kind of thing frightens me just a little. Sheep and goats and their body parts too: they're just straight up from another planet. We passed a field of horses and when we stopped to take a water break, they came right up to us and put their enormous heads right up against the fence. Naturally, I had to take a picture.


There is something deeply satisfying about the symmetry of a planted field. Small scale vegetable gardening has always appealed to this need I have for straight lines. Maybe it's because growing things from seed is such a crap shoot. You never know if things are going to come up. Seeing things in tidy rows that appear perfectly straight from every angle is great compensation for the prospect of enormous failure. I still marvel at rows of corn and peas on every roadtrip through farm country. Grapevines, inherently knobby and unwieldy, appear especially hard to plant in straight rows. Maybe this is why their formation is even more awe inspiring to look at from a quarter mile away.

Symmetry and Grapes

Symmetry and Grapes II

There is a little phenomenon that happens around 2 pm every day in the area around SLO. The wind picks up. It lasts about an hour or two. Do you know how hard it is to bike INTO a headwind like that? I kept thinking that if I could just attach my jacket and a few other choice pieces of clothing to my handlebars, I could actually be pushed back up the hill we were trying to bike down. Seriously. It was hard to bike DOWNHILL, the wind was that strong.

Remember how my knees crack like dried twigs and my thigh muscles consider standing on a chair the equivalent of running the Boston Marathon? Yeah. So, I do this thing whenever I find myself on a bicycle with a long road ahead of me. I sing to myself. The same thing over and over and over again. It becomes a sort of meditation so that I can take my mind off how much pedaling SUCKS when I'm low on energy. Last summer, after I fell in a sinkhole at the park and had to pedal home in the dark with my leg oozing blood, I sang "Pushin' Up My Baby Bumblebee" over and over again. I can't remember exactly what I was chanting while I pedaled with all of my might into that wind (I think it was the opening theme to "Dallas"... or maybe it was "Sweet Home Alabama"...) but it got me back into town thankful that I had pushed through the pain.

Taste the Rainbow

Day Four of my trip to San Luis Obispo included a quick bus ride to Pismo Beach. Points have been awarded in the categories of Most Gorgeous Bus Ride I Have Ever Been On, Cleanest/Best Smelling Bus I Have Ever Been On, and Best Destination For The Price.

Hi, Mom, Pismo Beach 2011

I do love me some ocean living, I do.

Dan, Victoria's husband, endlessly teases me about being a most-of-the-time vegetarian. He thinks my mamby-pamby pacificism and my aversion to cold weather would all be cured if I just eat more red meat. "Just once", he pleads with me, "Just once I want to see you eat a hamburger". I don't know if it was the morals-and-values-scrambling euphoria of being at the beach, or if I thought my vacation should end with a toast to Manifest Destiny and the industrialization of American meat packing, but I very suddenly and urgently needed to have a hamburger while we were at the beach. It was positively delicious. I can't remember if Victoria took a picture of me chowing down on that lunch for evidence, but, Dan, I raised a Cherry Coke to you and licked my fingers clean afterward.

The bosom of the Pacific

I also took a picture of pigeons on the roof of that burger-slinging joint. You know. For posterity.

Pigeons and Pismo

The water was freezing, but that did not stop me from sticking my feet in. I always forget how rejuvenated I feel after a day at the beach. I spend so much time in sweaters and boots here in the Northwest. Sometimes it feels completely strange to have my ankles exposed. (I'm working on correcting that self-imposed Puritanism.)

Sign in Pismo

So, my feelings about Days Three and Four of vacation? Jazz hands and boners all around, y'all.

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Dear Tuesday

Dear Office Max,

I'm writing because there is something seriously wrong with the way you do business in my neighborhood and I think you should know about it.

I came in to your store tonight hoping to shop quietly, without interruption, and without the heartless "hellohowareyou?" issuing from the cashier nearest the front door. I know your strategy, you see. I used to work retail myself. I know that "greeting customers" is actually code for "theft prevention". The idea that making someone feel like you've "seen" them is going to somehow dilute the meth coursing through their veins and deter them from stuffing fourteen wireless mice down their pants to sell on the street for cash is some pretty optimistic thinking. But, hey, you keep at it! To be honest, I used to think that you actually cared about making customers feel welcome at your store. Office Max, there is only so cozy I can feel in a 20,000 square foot airplane hangar lit with giant fluorescent lamps. No amount of friendly greeting at the door is going to confuse the issue. It's still a warehouse. A warehouse full of objects just on the brink of obsolescence who wait patiently like Corduroy the Bear to be taken home and loved. I might as well be stocking up on ammunition or plane parts or frozen swordfish steaks. Let's just call a duck a duck, shall we?

When I walked into your store tonight, I had my phone headset on. Yes, I was that guy, talking on my phone while shopping. But, you see, that's my right as a customer: I have a right to shop with my earbuds in if I want to. I thought yours was a store that embraced headset culture. After all, all your employees wear them, no?

I was asked by no less that four different employees if I needed help finding anything. FOUR. And they all talked RIGHT OVER the conversation I was having on my headset. No apologies, no "Excuse me", absolutely NO acknowledgment that I was on the phone. Nothing.

Here's the thing that is most maddening about being asked if I needed help while I was clearly talking on the phone: your stores are all signed appropriately. You get maximum points for way-finding. All stores like yours are laid out the same way. Seriously. If you've been in one, you've been in them all. I know where your freaking pens are. Why? Because they're located in the pen aisle. Your paper? In the paper aisle. The other reason I know where everything is? Because I come in to your store A LOT. I do lots of office supply purchasing for my clients, and I frequent your store because it's close to my house. (Guess that whole asking for my zip code thing all those years in a row really panned out, huh?) Anyway, your employees KNOW who I am. They know I NEVER need help shopping your well-signed store. They also know that when I DO ask for help, it's because I can't find something. It's not for lack of looking either. It's because you don't sell what I'm looking for and I hold on to the hope that perhaps you've stuck the letter openers in the upper stratosphere of your shelving and I can't see it. Even with 20,000 square feet, you still manage not to carry certain office supplies. How is this possible?

I can only presume, based on the number of times I was asked if I needed help, that your average patron has the approximate intelligence and grabbing capabilities of a herd of blind walruses. I'm sorry that this is the case, but you might consider training your employees to be able to discern a blind walrus from, say, a young woman clutching a shopping list and pushing a shopping cart very determinedly towards the pen aisle.

I've been in the store over the past five years dozens of times with checks from my clients. Only today, because I had a printer in my shopping cart, did one of your employees call a manager over. Yes, the check was written for a large amount. I get that this requires some theatrics, some furrowed brows, some serious squinting at my driver's license, the check, my driver's license, the check, my driver's license. I get that this might even require your employees to use their - gasp!- headsets! Most visits, your employees are teasing each other using these devices, giggling while they ring me up over some inside joke being transmitted through their earbuds. They're not paying attention to checks or IDs. Most of the time, I have to remind them to scan my "rewards" card (rewards which have NEVER been issued, I might add). But tonight, I was treated like I'd just been caught trying to traffic a shipping container full of Russian prostitutes. Your concern, Office Max, for your bottom line, is laudable, but I give you an F for your performance.

Another area you fail miserably in? Your ability to listen. Against my better judgment, I asked one of your stalkers/employees for help with your printer section. Your employee, though I specified I wanted a duplexer in the machine, but was not interested in wireless capabilities, pointed more than once to machines that had wireless capabilities, but no duplexer. I chose to ignore this. When I finally decided on a machine, he pointed to the spot on the shelf that should have contained the box for said printer, shook his head disapprovingly, and told me he'd have to get one from the back because the "dummy before him" hadn't replenished the one he'd sold. Was this my cue to shake my head disapprovingly as well? Should I have tsked tsked and suggested that the "dummy" be given a demerit? If so, I failed. I just stood there a little dumbstruck.

Your see, even on my worst days working retail, I followed the Rules Of Working Retail. Oh yes, Office Max. I know all about the Rules. I used to sell nearly obsolescent shit for a living, too, you know, and I know there are Rules. The First Rule? The CUSTOMER is the enemy. Not your coworkers. Retail is a battlefield. Breaking ranks is grounds for court martial (or at least being snubbed in the breakroom). Why would your employee call his fellow comrade a "dummy"? Is this the look of the new Big Box Soldier? Has our individuality superseded even our most basic instinct to not foul the nest? Do your employees not honor the retail rules of engagement?

Another sticking point, Office Max: your lack of motivation. Your same insurgent employee then asked me (these are his words verbatim) if I "really wanted the printer" before he "went through the trouble" of getting it from the stockroom. Forgive me, Office Max, but, um, is it not your job to SELL MOTHERFUCKING OFFICE SUPPLIES? Is it so much "trouble" to keep the shelves stocked? Perhaps I am mistaken about how supply and demand work. I am under the impression that when you have something shiny to sell, you put it out on display so people can ogle it and blindly hand over their wallets. This ensures you can get rich and that I take home a cheap plastic printer that will undoubtedly break in five years. I'm holding up my part of the deal. The least you can do is put your shiny stuff out where I can see it.

It's clear my expectations need to be not just lowered, but completely thrown out. Your store is located on some strange vortex where a salutation becomes a repetitive verbal assault, the personnel would rather talk smack about each other than keep the shelves stocked, and "help" means saying "Uh, I don't know if we, like, carry that". So, rather than demand more of you, I'm going to demand less. I'm going to use the time honored method of boycotting your store. And from now on, I'm going to order my supplies the old fashioned way: through the Internet.

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We Can Talk. Or Not Talk.


The U.S. Civil War has been making recurring appearances in my life. Given the situation in the Arab/African world right now, I've been thinking, (if I'm thinking of war at all) about that area of the world, and not about my own country. But I was flipping through the channels on live TV the other night (something I almost never do) and there was a Ken Burns documentary on PBS. I was hooked within a minute. It was riveting. I had a million other things to do that night, but I couldn't pull myself away. Besides which, Garrison Keillor was narrating, as was Morgan Freeman. And who can resist their voices? Then, about a day later, a friend mentioned the Civil War on Facebook. (whaaa??) Then sent me a newsletter and said I should thumb through their newly released Civil War records to look for my ancestors! (Ah, but doesn't know my people are relatively new to this country). Since I am on a path, these days, of reading into every little thing that would otherwise be called a "coincidence", I'm taking this as a sign that my United States of Being are at war with one another. I think I need my own internal Abe Lincoln to stand up and give a two minute speech to say how regrettable it is that so many had to die to get this whole living as a unified entity right. Or something like that.


I accidentally left an event Saturday night without my phone. I couldn't get it back until Monday morning. On Sunday, I ran the gamut of electronic-device-withdrawal: first I was annoyed, then panicked that it would be stolen, and finally, resigned to the fact that I was going to have to spend ONE WHOLE DAY (Oh! The humanity!) without my phone. I stopped in at one of those dizzying Here, This-didn't-sell-at-the-department-store-so we've-marked-it-up-from-its-department-store-clearance-price-and-shoved-it-on-this-shelf-with-an-egg-slicer,-a-no-name -candle, and-a-frying-pan stores. Doesn't that sound like a bargain hunter's dream store? (and a Type-A's worst nightmare?) I realized about halfway through browsing that I was actually sort of bracing myself for my phone to ring. Seems most things these days are interrupted by a beeping or dinging of some sort, right? But the phone didn't ring. And I eased into this sense of peace I have not known since 1999 or so. It was remarkable.


But Sunday was also the day I had set aside to call all the various financial entities that autodebit my account and tell them that I have officially dumped the jerks at Chase Bank and would they kindly autodebit my new bank account? And I didn't have my phone. I felt like I was missing a limb. The whole part about not having a phone is that you can't TELL anyone via phone that you are missing your phone.
Me: (sighing heavily) I don't know where my phone is.
Burdy: Maybe it's in the house and you just can't see it. Do you want me to call it?
Me: Sure. Go ahead.
Sound of dialing. Sound of silence.
Burdy: Well, did you call the event center to tell them you think you left your phone there?
Me: blink. blink blink.
Burdy: Oh. Right.


I'm spending lots of time these days inside my own head. I am doing what the head shrinkers call "a lot of processing". One of my head shrinkers told me yesterday that I need to "give voice" to stuff I'm keeping in my head. In other words, I need to get out of my head and into my vocal chords. I need to turn my internal editor off, and just let 'er rip. I can worry about the fallout AFTER I've insulted everyone in the room. The important part here, kiddo, they say, is to just say what's on your mind.

So, this morning, I'm having a dream. I'm knitting a sock while I'm having an argument with my dad. My dad is telling me to get a job. I tell him that I don't want just any job. We go back and forth for a while. The anger builds. He tells me I should apply for this one job, this job that seems completely improbable. But you need a degree for that, I shoot back. No you don't, he says, eyes ablaze with fury. And then, in my sleep, I snarl, at the top of my lungs:


I wake myself up and Burdy too. I'm smiling because I feel triumphant! and vindicated! Take that, overbearing dream dad! I'm smiling, too, because I have just yelled at the top of my lungs in my sleep, something I have never done in my life, and holy crap is it funny! Burdy, meanwhile, is trying really hard not to laugh. He spends a few minutes lying very still. He eventually stirs and I open my eyes and stare at the ceiling and start to spell "ophthalmologist" over and over in my head thinking there is some code word embedded in the letters if I just rearrange them. Burdy, unsure if I am fully awake or not, asks me if I remember what I just said. Yeah, I say, impatiently. I DON'T WANT TO BE AN OPHTHALMOLOGIST. And we break down laughing. We laugh for a fully minute. This is going on the blog, isn't it, he asks. And I think for a moment and say no because then I will have to explain why yelling in my sleep is so profound and that I am seeing therapists to help coax all these words out of me and the first thing that comes out of my mouth is "I don't want to be an ophthalmologist".

And then I think: fuck it. I'm going to take the advice of those head shrinkers and worry about what everyone thinks later. So, yeah. I think I'm finding my voice.

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