Monday, July 23, 2007

Breaking the News: Mom, Dad & Andrew

After several 6 day work weeks, last weekend I had three consecutive days off. One day to recuperate, one day to wait out the brunt of a nasty stomach virus that has been making the rounds, and one day to drive out to my mother's house. After a tour of the new vinyl siding that has replaced the old wood portions of the house, we climbed into Dad's truck and headed down the mountain to the small Mexican restaurant. Snacking on chips and bean dip, Mom and Dad started asking if I wanted to find a better job. "Actually, I kind of have some exciting news." My Mom looked down when she heard this. I told them about Grad school and Alaska. They were both excited and happy for me. Andrew, who had been distracted by our surroundings, suddenly put his arms around me.

Mom said that she had spoken with my sister the day before. My sister told her she was mad at me. When my mom asked why, she replied "I'm not at liberty to say." My mom tried to think of a secret reason Jess would be mad at me, and decided the most likely scenario was that Mike and I had eloped. Jess, she supposed, was mad because she had not been able to be the Maid of Honor at my wedding. This strikes me as a really strange concept, but with a cousin getting married this weekend and another recently becoming engaged Mom probably assumes I'm not far behind. Actually, Jess was tired of being a secret keeper and wanted me to tell Mom and Dad about Alaska.

Surprisingly, Mom said she will want to visit. "I missed my chance to see Japan."

After dinner, we drove back up the mountain and Andrew gave me a tour of his tree house. I recorded his tour with my digital camera and promised to send him a copy soon.

Nana called while I was there, and I told her as well. "That's a far piece," she said.

My reply: "Yes! I'm so excited."

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Where I'm Coming From

A few scenes and thoughts from my current place in Athens, Alabama.

Hair Mechanics & Bujinkan Martial Arts
There is a large open field behind this establishment. I had hoped to see people doing handless cartwheels and slicing through blocks of ice with their bare hands. The students of Bujinkan must need more room than the small building to practice their art. I have never seen anyone go into this building. And do the Hair Mechanics specialize in 1950s greaser styles?

Yesterdays Welcomes the Destined

A View from beside the front porch
When Mike and I moved into the Mouse House (a nickname Dad gave it, because it is very small and cozy), I imagined myself soaking in the summer from the front porch. With a glass of sweating iced tea in my hand, I'd muse about life and write stories and poems at a steady pace. Not so. I started working 2 days after we moved in, and since I work the night shift I rarely have a chance to enjoy the sun.

Another goal of ours was to beautify the outside of the house by planting lots of flowers. These sunflowers are the only ones that made it into the ground. They've gotten so tall, but no flowers yet. I hope they bloom before we leave.

The Shed at Sunset
The grass was dry and cracked beneath our feet for most of the summer. And then last week, with only 3 days of rain, the grass shot up to nearly 2 feet in height. The neighbors had been eyeing our private jungle, wondering when we were going to mow it. Mike spent 2 hours on the lawn mower, and now the yard is full of large grass clumps. We're going to have to rake the excess grass away, and probably trim the yard again, before we have our giant Moving to Alaska yardsale in two weeks.

* Thanks to Mike for the pictures of Hair Mechanics/ Bujinkan Martial Arts and Yeterdays.*

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Book Musings: Coming Into the Country

Coming Into the Country

Coming Into the Country

by John McPhee
ISBN: 0374522871
Cover Price: $15.00 (Trade Paperback)
My Price: $1.00 (Huntsville Friends of the Library Bookstore)
Pages: 438

My library's copy has yellowed pages and the spine is broken in several places. In the small used bookstore at the entrance to the library, I found a gently used copy for $1.00. It is paperback, has a small mushed area on the bottom of the spine, but is full of crisp and clean pages.

Before I began reading, I made a decision. This was going to be an interactive book. Most of my books are still in their original, great condition. But every now and then, I find a book that pulls me to highlight passages, print notes or definitions in the margins, and bookmark pages with brightly colored tabs. There were several benefits to taking this approach with Coming Into the Country. Interacting with the text kept me alert during long night readings. And if I happen to use this book in a class, I will already have key passages pinpointed. This is a book I will definitely read again, so I can use a different color pen for future readings and compare future notes with the passages that resonated with me before I ever entered Alaska.

The language is wonderful. It is so fun to read. Never having been to Alaska before, I have no idea how closely these observations mirror reality. But the words are lovely either way. Some samples:

pg. 54-55. They (game trails) were highways, share and share alike, for caribou, moose, bears, wolves - whose tracks, antlers, and feces were strewn along the right-of-way like beer cans at the edge of a road.
pg. 212 When you drive along an old back road in the Lower Forty-eight and come upon a yard full of manufactured debris, where auto engines hang from oak limbs over dark tarry spots on the ground and fuel drums lean up against iron bathtubs near vine-covered glassless automobiles that are rusting down into the soil, you have come upon a fragment of Alaska. The people inside are Alaskans who have not yet left for the north.
pg. 409 I profoundly wish it were winter. The country has seemed more friendly to me then, all the bears staring up at the ceilings of their dens. The landscape is softened, in illusion less rough and severe - the frozen rivers flat and quiet where the waves of rapids had been.

This one is going in my suitcase.

Overall: Yes!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Breaking the News: Work


Several months ago, my father worked the weekend night audit at a small, independently owned motel down the road from his apartment. After he decided it was too much to have his regular job and the weekend job, he quit the motel. The girl they hired to replace him slept through the audit and ran up long-distance phone bills on the office line. So when I moved to Huntsville, they hired me on the spot.

It's not a bad job. It's perfect for writers or people who stay up all night using the internet. The only complaint I have is that sometimes the male guests think that I am part of the hotel package. I wonder if this happens at all hotels/motels/inns, or just the ones with cheap rates. I've been thinking I might try to make a mini-comic zine out of the whole crazy situation, and call it "Motel'inn", or some other crappily clever title.

Today I put in my notice through the Manager's preferred form of communication - a letter left on her desk. It is pretty mundane, but I thought I would post it here so I can look back two years from now (when I am writing a blog entry that is actually about living in Alaska) and be very glad to no longer be in the Dark Times, Part III.

Hi Ms. Elaine & Ms. Mary!

I have been offered a position teaching English Composition at the University of Alaska. The University will pay me a salary & will pay for my tuition. I am going to be in the graduate creative writing program, working on my Masters of Fine Arts.

I will be leaving Alabama on August 15th. I would like to have around a week before this date to finish packing and visiting family members. If it is possible, I would like to request that my last day of employment at The Inn* be August 8th, 2007.

I know it is hard to find someone to work the weekend night audit position, so if it would help please rearrange my schedule as you need to. I would be more than happy to switch to working weekends, and/or to help train my replacement.

I apologize for the short notice. I was not sure until recently that I would be able to accept the position.

I have enjoyed working at The Inn*. I promise to send a postcard from Alaska!


Jenni Moody

And for complete documentation, my handwritten letter:



* The Inn isn't the real name of the motel. Since I'm still working there, I thought it might be best to leave it anonymous.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Alaska Excitement!

This week we bought our plane tickets from Alabama to California, so now we have our main travel expenses covered. As I let myself believe that all of this is actually going to happen, I get more and more excited.

Other things that have heightened the Alaska Excitement:
  • Help from Alaska Bloggers.

    • I have an awesome reading list (thanks to Brett!).

    • I know what a Toyo is (thanks to Mary and Theresa!!)

  • Reading Coming Into the Country.

    • I am split between wanting to read it all right away and not wanting the book to end. It is such a good book.

  • Power Haircut

    • For the last few months I have been frustrated with my hair, pulling it back in a lax, low-lying bun. After a while, I began to feel like an unfortunate animal had taken up residence on the back of my neck and died in its sleep. No more! I present my freshly cut hair, shorter than I have ever had it before. It feels wonderful.