Friday, June 30, 2006

summer scrapbook

What Margo is drinking:

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Isn't she pretty? Aren't I lucky to have a friend who just happened to be in Europe the week of my birthday? So it's a little bit poisonous, but so is TaB.

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What Margo is reading:
It's summer, so I let myself read some books I'd been snobbishly resisting for a long time:
1. The DaVinci Code. I held out for a really incredibly long time, but when Lisa over at The Great Whatsit wrote about her friends' incredible DaVinci Code miracle I couldn't resist one minute longer. At first I made a stupid, predictable fuss about how bad the writing is, but then I got sucked into the plot and I liked it. I really liked it. I love Marian stuff. I even got out my Big Book of Goddess and remembered when I was an undergrad and thought Joseph Campbell counted as literary theory. That led to my stunningly sophisticated first published article, though one that, surprisingly, didn't make it onto my cv: "Geraldine as Victim of Patriarchal Oppression in Coleridge's 'Christabel.'" Good stuff. And in a great book. You can order it any time you'd like and they'll print up a copy and send it to you.

2. The Secret Language of Bees. Loved it for a few minutes and then hated it. I think I'll teach it in a unit in intro. to women's studies about Mammy figures and how great it is when African Americans take time out from their lives to educate lost and fragile white teenage girls about their true potential. Yeah, I'll pair it with To Kill a Mockingbird and A Member of the Wedding. It'll be swell. Jeezus.

I started The Lovely Bones next and got about ten pages in before I said NO. No. Can't do it. GF says "get past the rape and dismembering and then it's a really nice story about a dead girl." I guess, but I'd been telling myself that once school was out I could read The Magnificent Ambersons, and I really wanted a fun turn-of-the-last-century middlebrow book so I could both read for pleasure and soak in gender ideals of my research period. But now, 2/3rds of the way through, I know exactly how it's going to end (no, really, exactly: I peeked) and I want off this ride. It sucks when the Orson Welles character ruins his mother's life. GF is trying to get me to read what she says is a really fun, pulpy historical romance, The Other Boleyn Girl. We'll see.

What Margo is Watching:

So You Think You Can Dance. Heidi and Benji are both originally from my home ward (Mormon for parish). I haven't seen Benji since he was a toddler, but I loved his grandmother and his mom and his aunt--when I was a kid I thought they were the tannest, most sophisticated women I'd ever met. His mom was my cheerleading coach. Heidi I'd recognize anywhere, since she's looked exactly the same since she was born and a lot like her older brother, who played Patrick to my Auntie Mame in high school. So go Heidi! Go Benji! Go Mary Murphy, the judge whom I find oddly intriguing.

I'm listening to stuff, too: The new Built to Spill, You In Reverse (loved it so much I sent copies to my sisters); Colossal Yes' Acapulco Roughs; The Jessica Fletcher's Whatever Happened to the Jessica Fletchers?; and Plastilina Mosh's Tasty + B-Sides. I wish I had known about this band since '97, when they released their first album. I can't believe how much of my life I've wasted not listening to them. Mexican-jazz-thrasher-new wave-speed music. If you listen to them on the elliptical machine while you watch The Gilmore Girls with the subtitles on, you will have a very nice afternoon.

Friday, June 09, 2006

beware the ninth of june

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Today is officially my unlucky day. Not that anything bad has happened so far today, except for my NYT not being on the doorstep this morning. But in the past, this has been a bad, bad day.

On June 9th, 1982, two days before my thirteenth birthday I rode my bike to school, instead of getting a ride from my neighbor, as I usually did. I was riding to school because I had permission to leave school at lunchtime and ride to my elementary school, where there was a retirement party for my third grade teacher. And yes, I was one of those students who, much beloved by teachers, if not by classmates, got invited to those sorts of things. I was running late. Later my mother said she felt the promptings of the Holy Ghost telling her to put my bike in the back of the station wagon and just drive me to school, but she ignored it. Funny thing, the Holy Ghost--he's a hindsight kind of helper, more of a guilt-bringer than a help-giver. When she heard the sounds of an ambulance a few streets away she had a feeling it was me. When the neighbor who would have driven me to school showed up at the front door holding my bloody retainers wrapped in kleenex, she knew.

It wasn't a devastatingly serious accident, but it was a messy one. I was crossing a big street at the light and a car turning left drove into me, pushing me several hundred feet. I remember thinking how heavy the car was, and also that this was my fault, because I had been right at that pushing off the ground into a full ride point, not walking my bike across the street, as I had been taught. My bottom lip and my knee got ripped open, and as I stood up, blood everywhere, all I could say was, "We don't have any money, I can't be hurt." The woman who hit me was a total mess and I remember trying to tell her that it probably wasn't too bad. When the paramedics got there I tried to refuse treatment, because I knew it would be too expensive. They assured me that insurance would pay for it, and so, when my mom came running around the corner a few minutes later, that's the first thing I told her, as I lay strapped to a wooden board, getting loaded into the ambulance. Of course we didn't have health insurance. I'm not sure how my mom paid for it.

I had to get stiches in my lip and I couldn't bend my left leg for several weeks. I still have one of those weird knee scars on it; it looks like a pale eye. I can't bear to have anyone touch it--it feels like the equivalent of hearing fingernails on a chalkboard. When I went back to school later that week, limping, lip all swollen and stitchy, a long scab running the entire length of my nose, and resumed my job as salad bar cashier, lots of kids asked me if it was true that I had been raped. I didn't even know what that meant.

On June 9, 1987, I was driving on the 405, on my way home from an audition in Anaheim (can't remember what the play was--maybe Bye Bye Birdie?). Just as I was approaching one of those big, curving freeway overpasses I thought to myself--"Wow. It's June 9th. Five years ago today I got hit by the car. Wouldn't it be weird if something happened today?" Just then the trunk of the car in front of me, which wasn't closed all the way because they were transporting a sofa, bounced open and a sofa cushion flew onto the road in front of me. In that quick, slow moment of the accident I knew that I couldn't swerve, because I'd go off the overpass, so I gritted my teeth and kept going forward. The sofa cushion wrapped around my back axle and made the car fishtail from one lane to the other, coming to a dead stop sideways in the lefthand lane, looking out over the traffic below.

The cars behind me came to a screeching stop, thankfully. I restarted the car and tried to back up. Nothing. I put it into drive and tried to move forward. Nothing. Someone got out of their car and started yelling at me to move my car. I said "I can't. It's stuck on a sofa cushion." The angry man insisted I wasn't trying hard enough, so I got out of the car and let him have at it. While he tried in vain to move the car, I looked underneath it. From the back axle hung shredded cotton and fabric. Someone told me the police were on the way; someone handed me a car phone and I called my mom and tried to explain where I was and that she needed to come and get me. It's harder than you'd think to describe where you are when you're on a random freeway overpass, and even harder to find that overpass when you're coming from the opposite direction.

Everything worked out okay. I wasn't hurt and the car was fine, once a mechanic had pulled out the cushion. But five years later, on June 9, 1992, I didn't leave the house.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Nothing is Dangerous or Sexy When You Drink it in a Denim Jumper

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(photo courtesy of

Yes, Dr. M(mmm), there is a connection between the first half of my last post, about Tab, and the second half, about reconnecting with some friends from my undergrad days at BYU this weekend. College Roommate and I drank a lot of diet coke when we were friends. I'm not sure what it's like now, but when I was up to the "Y" we drank diet coke constantly. Not the caffeine-free stuff they sold on campus, but the real stuff, which you could get anywhere off campus, at mind-bogglingly cheap prices, in dangerously copious amounts.

Really, drinking diet coke was about all my friends and I did my first year of college (remember, we couldn't/didn't drink alcohol), beating out apparently less-compelling activities such as reading, studying, going to class. Our favorite place to buy it was Hart's, a convenience store across from our freshman dorm, and later, a quick walk from the humanities building, where I spent all of my time my last few years in Provo. Hart's had the best diet coke by far--way better than Circle K, whose fountain was so syrupy that it tasted more like root beer than diet coke. People drink soda compulsively in Provo; the entire back wall of Hart's was a soda fountain. You could get anything, even red cream soda. And of the two diet coke fountains at Hart's, the one on the left was much better than the one on the right. But you couldn't just dispense it: you had to pump the spout, so that you'd get an even distribution of soda water and syrup. We used refillable mugs, like the one pictured above, which cost about a quarter to refill, and we went about three times a day. That means we were drinking 96 oz of diet coke per day. Which meant we knew all the best gas station bathrooms up and down I-15, Utah's main highway. It's kind of weird to think that we built our lives around diet coke. Weird and embarassing, because I almost flunked out of college my first two years.

So did my friend. She took a year off between sophomore and junior year, the same as me. Only she worked in an Ann Taylor in San Francisco, and I worked for my dad's pneumatics and hydraulics business.

First I was the receptionist. "Hello, P & H. How may I help you?"

Then I was a secretary. Then I was a secretary and accounts payable. And payroll. And accounts billable. And benefits. And then receptionist, too. What I didn't know when I went to work for my dad for a year, was that his company was going bankrupt and he was involved in a bunch of lawsuits. As he laid people off, I had to take over their jobs. That sucked, but not as much as it did when his employees still worked there. They HATED him, and they didn't trust me because I was his daughter. But because I was his daughter, my dad showed me no mercy--no favorites in his office, you know. He hated everyone equally.

It was the worst year of my life. I got a second job at a gym and spent the evenings I wasn't working there, working out there. I taught myself how to lift weights using those big, glossy Joe Weider books, with Gladys Portuguese or Joyce Vedral. I used my refill mug at the WaWa around the corner from work. I lied and said I was going to Philadelphia for church, where they had a special parish for "young adults" (how else are you going to mate the ones who didn't go to BYU?). Really, I was exploring the city.

My friend's year wasn't much better. I'm not sure when she went back to school, but when she did she didn't go back to BYU.

The weekend spent with CR and family was perfect. We had perfect weather, the city was filled with music from the Gospel Fest, and as we walked through gardens and around fountains, and under bridges, and yes, drank big, ice-filled glasses of diet coke with lemon, we fell in and out of conversations easily and naturally. As gf reported on her blog, their daughters were smart, sassy, and completely wonderful to be around. I loved them instantly, even though being with them made me a little sad, because they reminded me of other brilliant and amazing children I've loved and lost contact with in my peripatetic life.

In the comments on my last post bw described Tab as dangerous and sexy. I love that. It's saucy and so, so queer. But Diet Coke is just sad and personality-sucking, gender normativity posing as transgression.

My friends told me that while Hart's is still a Utah chain, the one across from the dorms is gone. RIP, Hart's Food and Gas, University Avenue, Provo, Utah.

Friday, June 02, 2006

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I'm done teaching for the summer. Finally. I still have a week full of meetings and end-of-the-year events, but mostly, I'm almost free. I know this in my bones because I'm starting to feel that slightly overwhelmed feeling of unstructured days ahead, and work mornings slept-through, and the sinking feeling that I just didn't get done what I needed to get done this summer.

One of the things that has gotten me through the end of the quarter, and made office hours my way favorite part of the day, has been my renewed appreciation for the quite possibly dangerous, but every bit as good as I remember it being, Tab. How can you not love a soda that comes in a pink can?

Remember how the sacchrine stays on your lips, so that a half hour after you finish the soda you lick them without thinking and there it is, that sweet, peppery flavor?

A couple of friends from college, one of whom was my roommate for a long time, are in town tomorrow and I'll be spending the day with them and their three daughters. Now, I'm not in touch with any of my undergraduate friends--we might have drifted apart over the years anyway, but my leaving the church and coming out definitely expidited the process. And that's about me as much as them--I ran to the other side of the country and immersed myself in grad school and tried to get as far away from my former self as possible. The closest to Utah I've been in over a decade was a campus visit at UN-Reno, and just the sight of the Wasatch Mts. filling up the horizon, all dusty and brown, and looming and huge, made my heart feel clutchy and pangy and panicked.

I'm kind of scared. But I really loved these two people. They weren't a *they* when I knew them; they married long after college, in their late twenties, which is kind of rare in Mormon culture, and seem to live a really low-key, joyful, tumbley kind of life. So we'll see. They tell me that their daughters are impossibly girly-girls, which amuses and exasperates them, as neither of them cares about stuff like that; they think I'll get along with them famously. I hope so. I think so.