Thursday, May 20, 2010

Book review: "Let the Great World Spin"

Lately I've become jaded with the whole NYC-as-the-stillpoint-of-the-turning-universe thing. I've heard just about every story that could be told about Manhattan and its outer boroughs, from Annie Hall to Taxi Driver and everything before, between, and after. I'm tired of reading about life in New York. That is, until I read Colum McCann's fantastic new novel, “Let the Great World Spin”.

Before receiving my copy to participate in an online book tour, I researched critical acclaim for the text and tried not to roll my eyes. Another novel about what it means to be a New Yorker? Just what the world needs, I thought. And that was the mentality I went into reading the book with, which was foolish since after finishing my copy I can honestly say that “Let the Great World Spin” is one of the best novels I've read in a long time and deserves all the acclaim and accolades it has received (it won the 2009 National Book Award and was Amazon's “Best of the Month” pick in June of last year).

It's August of 1974, when the Vietnam War is still simmering and tensions in the city are high. Real-life tightrope walker Philippe Petit decides to walk thousands of feet above Manhattan across a tightrope between the World Trade Center towers, and so he does after practicing for months at his country cabin and illegally rigging up a rope with friends. But McCann's novel doesn't focus on the factual Petit or his tightrope walking feat – it's about the native New Yorkers watching the spectacle above while their own lives tread more or less in chaos.

The story begins far below the tight rope, on street corners in the crime-riddled Bronx and swanky apartments on the Upper East Side. McCann deftly weaves together a dozen or so different narratives – each chapter is from a different character's point of view – from New Yorkers of different ethnicities, religions and socioeconomic statuses. Each character is tethered to the next through tenuous, claustrophobic and often purely coincidental relationships based on occupation and social standing.

The first chapter begins with two brothers, Corrigan and Cairan, raised by a single mother in Ireland. As fate would have it both brothers end up in New York as adults, first Corrigan and then Cairan, who travels across the Atlantic in search of his brother only to find him living in Bronx squalor—with heroin needles lining the street gutters and hookers hanging on every corner. Corrigan has come to New York in search of “a fully believable God, one you could find in the grime of everyday” and he finds it in the hookers he befriends and tries to help, buying them coffee and allowing them to use the bathroom in his dingy apartment. Only Cairan, as a newcomer, can see that his brother's attempts are futile, that Corrigan can not save any of these people, least not himself because he provides until he has nothing left to give emotionally, financially, or spiritually.

From there McCann transports us to a tony apartment on Park Avenue, where the wife of a Manhattan judge sits nervously awaiting a group of ladies – a support group of sorts – who all share a common bond: Sons killed in the Vietnam War. Then the next chapter glides like a panning camera lens to two young artist newlyweds, children of privilege with simmering marital problems, smoking a joint as they race down the FDR and cause a horrific crash that changes the trajectory of a handful of characters in the book, including Cairan, the newcomer to New York City. Pages after there is another narrative, of the Park Avenue housewife's husband who became a judge to try and make the world, or at least New York, a better place only to realize during his first day in court faced with pimps and prostitutes that none of his rulings could ever clean up New York's streets.

For me the most heartbreaking chapter was “This is the House that Horse Built,” where one of the hookers introduced earlier in the book gives a tragic first-hand account of how she fell into a life of prostitution and heroin, and how her daughter eventually followed suit. It was a painful reminder of how poverty and addiction can be gaping, cyclical holes that swallow people whole—people who are past the point of being saved.

The tightrope walker high above all these characters is a metaphor for the lives of not only all New Yorkers, but people in general. Each of us, at least once if not constantly, “walk a tightrope just one inch off the ground.” Though the Twin Towers are now gone, with nothing more than open space where the pinnacles of the modern world used to stand, Petit walking his rope high above Manhattan in the late summer of '74 was and is a reminder of humanity and compassion, courage and awe, then and now. I have to agree with Dave Eggers when he called the book “one of the greatest-ever novels about New York.”

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The myth about marriage and law school

We did it!! Er, I mean J did it. He took his last final two days ago, which means law school is officially dunzo!

Through the last three years of dirty dishes, general clutter, the legal internships and the give-me-attention appeals, we made it. And I have to say that for everything I read online and everything that was told me about How Hard Law School Was Going To Be as the spouse not attending, I can let you all in on a little secret: Everything "they" say is nonsense. If you're married to a law student or an MBA student or anyone pursuing a graduate degree you will be fine. "They" will try to scare you at the beginning, and tell you that divorce rates are exponentially higher for law students, that you'll never see your husband/wife once the law books get cracked, that there will be a higher chance of infidelity (yes, I actually heard this) because of all those late study nights spent at the library or in study groups. Don't believe it. If your significant other was going to cheat, they wouldn't need a library or law school to do it in. As for never seeing your better half, that's a bit of an exaggeration. You will see them...maybe not as much as you'd like, but it's only three years.

Looking back on the last three years, they surprisingly weren't as hard as I anticipated them to be. Before we started this whole law school thing I was a little worried. Not because I didn't believe in us, but more because of all the myths I foolishly began listening to prior to his first semester back in 2007. Suddenly everyone was an expert, espousing wisdom about what life was going to be like for us once he started. I'm here to report that none of it is true. The best thing you can do if you're married to a law/medical/mba/etc. student is to block out all that outside noise.

It is true that certain chores like washing dishes or grocery shopping aren't always so 50/50 when married to a grad student. Unfortunately I'm terrible with chores so most of the time our kitchen sink always had dishes piled in it, and even when I had time to wash them all I still refused since the way I saw it I'd only made half of them dirty, so why did he earn a "get out of jail free" card just because he was a student? Yes, this was my rational. Back when I was a grad student my roommate washed all my dishes I washed my dishes, so what made him any different?

My mantra: "I didn't marry you to be your maid. Either help me or get used to the mess." This was repeated frequently and when he'd eventually finish studying we'd take turns washing the dishes (and came to the conclusion after about semester 3 of this that once he got a well-paying job we were definitely getting a part-time housekeeper).

That's not to say I didn't take into consideration Special Circumstances like an especially debilitating few weeks of finals, crunch time when J had dozens of articles to approve and edit for the Law Journal, or when he'd miss dinner multiple times in a row because he had to stay late drafting some motion for a judge. In special circumstances like these I wouldn't bother him about picking his clothes up off the floor or leaving dirty dishes in the sink. Why? Because I have the exact same habits so really, who am I to judge (oops, did I just admit that out loud?), but also it was just easier picking up some of his slack on my end since he was working his tushie off for the good of our future.

It took me 1.3 semesters to see that J was a special breed of law student: the I-came-here-because-I'm-enamored-with-law-so-I'm-going-to-take-advantage-of-every-opportunity sort of law student. These are the best and worst kind. Best because who doesn't get a little randy at the thought of such ambition and passion for a particular subject? But worst because when your ambitious tigerlily is out interning for judges and on mastheads of law journals and flying across the country to compete in mock trial competitions and sitting in on Supreme Court hearings in his free time just because "it's fun"... life as the law school wife can get a little, well, lonely. Especially the first year of law school, which also happened to be the first year of our marriage (we were literally married two months before he started classes). But that's why I had Lola, good friends, kickboxing, and the neverending task of writing that kept me up many nights long after he'd finished studying and gone to bed -- when he saw I couldn't spend time with him. And even with his schedule, I had to hand it to J. He still found time to spend quality time with me, no matter how full his plate was, and for that I thank him. It was a dance he perfected well over the last three years.

"But what about after school is over," some have asked. "He's going to be so busy in his Real-Life Firm Job. Won't that bother you?" Not at all. I figure if J and I could handle the long periods of time each semester when he'd be gone for 12 hours a day, then his "real-life" career is going to be a walk in the park. Why? Because I recognize he is helping to set the foundation of our family's future and, well, nothing can compete with the stress of a full course-load, internships and extracurricular activities every semester. Nope, not even a Big Law litigation career.

I feel like law school has broken me in and our relationship is bullet proof now. If I -- I mean "we" -- can survive this, then we can survive anything.

Congratulations to my Hoya Lawyah!!!

Commencement is on Sunday; we head out west two days later. Lots more pictures to come.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Should I go to my high school reunion?

So we were minding our own business on our laptop a few weeks ago, working on our second book (we've come into some turbulent writer's block lately, it makes us want to slam our head on the table a few times to jump start our imaginations) when we got an email. Not any email, but the all-too-cheerful "It's been 10 years; it's time for our high school reunion!!!!" mass email.


Not that we didn't have fun in high school. We had many Wonder-Years-meets-Saved-By-The-Bell moments from those four years. But that's just it. They were only four years of our ever-amazing life, where nothing particularly noteworthy happened (if you don't include watching your best friend get hit in the face with a baby carrot that came flying across the quad at lunch one day, courtesy of a varsity baseball player out for blood who apparently had terrible aim in his attempt to hit the surfer near us. Needless to say we don't think the guy ever made it to the pros.) Oh and also high school was where we first met J freshman year through our best friend (the best friend that later got dinged by the flying, killer carrot). We were good friends with J for almost two years until we thought it'd be funny to play a nasty (but funny) prank on him that involved trash in his backpack and well, that was the end of that friendship (until he found me 8 years later. But that's the Story of Us, not this.) Confession: We loved playing mischievous pranks on everyone back then.

Other than that high school was a blip for us. A blip that happened 10 years ago, and that we really have no ties to (we stopped talking to all our friends from high school right around the time we graduated and realized -- while taking college English courses at night our senior year -- that people in college were so much more open-minded, intelligent, and cooler. People who actually cared about the classes they took? Oh, the novelty of such an idea.)

We suppose the best way to make a decision about this alleged reunion looming ever larger on the horizon would be doing the mature thing. We're going to make a list of reasons for and against, like adults do. (Adults do this ... right? *crickets.*) Pressing forward...

Reasons to attend reunion:

Hrm. Nothing comes to mind at the moment. Drawing a blank.


Still blank...

Oh yes, J wants to go. Don't ask us why.

Reasons to not attend reunion:
  • Tickets are $65. Yup, $65, which means for the two of us it would be a 130 bones. Not that we couldn't afford it, but personally when I see $65 I don't automatically think "Oooh, oooh! I can't wait to run out and buy my reunion ticket!" which, now that I think about it, probably doesn't include anything more than a two-drink ticket minimum and regret. Yes, regret. Why? Because when I see $65, I think 10th-row seats at a Rush concert, not "high school reunion".
  • No offense to anyone attending, but they're basically strangers to us. Why pay $65-$85 (depending on when tickets are purchased) to hang out with a bunch of people we didn't care about 10 years ago, much less now?
  • With the advent of Facebook there is no point for reunions anymore. We can all see what we're up to and how many babies and husbands and affairs each of us has had, so there's no element of surprise in guessing who might have invented Post-Its, or what that nerdy Sandy Frink-esque guy in computer class ended up doing with his life. All that info's online.
If there's one thing we've learned since high school, it's that we had much too brash and saucy of a personality to have ever gotten through those four years without being misunderstood more than once. And we feel at any reunion we'd be misunderstood once again. Like some fascinating hybrid of Daria and Quinn Morgendorffer (it is possible to be both, we were living proof), we strutted through our four years under many guises:

The "Clueless" phase: We remember the very first time we saw Clueless, kind of like when people remember where they were when Kennedy was shot. It was 8th grade, we went with one of our (then) best friends and her mom to Cinema 9 in downtown Santa Cruz. It took mere minutes until I was completely, utterly hooked. A revolving closet! The ability to manipulate teachers' love lives for higher grades! And the plaid, oh the plaid! We were just coming off our "My So-Called Life" phase so the pleated plaid mini-skirts were an excellent transition from our Kurt Cobain-esque flannels to something more prim and ladylike. We stocked up on these and short babydoll tees with plaid hearts embroidered on the chest. Fashionable things like that. Oh and this phase is what also kicked off our love for chunky disco-style platforms that we'd wear with our skirts and tees to school for some God-awful reason, as though we were attending a rave at 8:40am on a Tuesday, tottering across the parking lot from the school buses in the coastal fog. We were so cool.

The hippie phase: We foolishly thought our freshman year that we were, in fact, a direct reincarnation of John Lennon himself. (Don't ask, we have no idea. All we know is there were many birkenstocks, flower head wreaths and coke-bottle sunglasses to be had.) We felt grossly misunderstood by the general public.

The Aaliyah phase: Herein we dropped our hippie duds for more BET-style garb. It was sophomore year, when Missy Elliot in her inflated trash bag outfit was so cool and it was totally normal for WASPy kids to act like they knew exactly what kind of hardships Tupac rapped about in "All Eyez On Me". In a foolish attempt to be as amazing as Aaliyah, we too donned baggy, ill-fitting cargo pants kept up by drawstring, tiny tank tops, silver wire armbands, and lots of glitter makeup on our eyelids (that clear goop from Claire's with the overstated glitter flecks, don't pretend you don't know exactly what we're talking about.) In this phase we listened to lots and lots of rap, hip hop, soul, and pretty much anything that was considered "hood", was featured on "Yo! Mtv Raps", or had ties to either Keith Sweat or 112. (Note: We still listen to hip hop, but back then we didn't yet have the refined palate for music that we have today. Back then owning "Mtv's Party to Go" cds made us very, very cool in our book.)

The rockabilly/punk phase: Following our love affair with black and white camo, we decided that rockabilly everything was amazing after checking out a punk show downtown with friends. So we tossed our baggy cargo pants for tight, straight-legged, dark denim jeans (cuffed at the bottom, of course), bought faux "nerd" glasses and a pair of black leather shoes with red leather flames on the toes, only listened to punk and ska, and swore by anything affiliated with James Dean, "Rebel Without a Cause", and leopard print. Our favorite thing to do was go downtown with friends every weekend to check out punk and ska shows and now that we think about it these formative years were what shaped much of our musical tastes today.

And somehow, after all those extremes, we ended up finding ourselves our first year of college and never looked back. Now we are (seemingly) normal at first glance. But for us, that was high school in a nutshell.

What were you all like in high school? Was I an anomaly or was it also a time for you to dabble in different identities, trying to find the best one? Bottom line: Would you go to your 10-year reunion?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Weekly highlights

Flawless, yet oh-so-flawed.

When people name favorite style icons the answers are always the same:
Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Carrie Bradshaw, Mayim Bialik from Blossom (depending on whether you, too, were a fan of the giant-sunflower-on-hat craze. You weren't? C'mon, it was the early '90s, everybody wa--. No? Oh... *quietly puts sunflower hat in bottom dresser drawer*). Around these parts we love our Audreys and Graces but the real woman after our own fashion-obsessed heart is none other than Anne Bancroft -- specifically Anne Bancroft as Mrs. Robinson. I still (silently) shriek in delight when I spy Mrs. Robinson's fabulous giraffe print slip she cavorts in at the Taft Hotel, or when she glides in and out of scenes swathed in enough leopard to fill a Tiki bar two times over.* And this, after I've seen the movie, oh 3,492,784 times. But I've never seen it on the big screen...until now. Yes, The Graduate will be playing at the AFI Theater here next week. This is the kind of news that gets unicorns pooping rainbows, people.

(*)The wardrobe, though well done, is not the main draw for this film. The story is simply told brilliantly and no other anti-heroine is as tragically flawed as Mrs. Robinson. That alone makes it one of the best.

Now I don't know what to be more excited about:

-That fact that we're moving in less than two weeks back to a land where the general population is healthy and tan and people actually smile because it's sunny and pleasant pretty much year 'round, which makes needing a sporty convertible as necessary as a Real Housewife needing her Xanax (this is oddly starting to sound like Sweet Valley High, hello Bruce Patman!), the beach is never more than a stone's throw away as are the mountains and "The Hills" and zomg LAS VEGAS, and, best of all, one's cup can continually runneth over because this strange and special land accounts for 90% of America's entire wine production. Seriously.


-The fact that The Graduate will be shown on a real movie screen. In a real movie theater. And I will actually be alive this time to experience it (curse you 1967, I wasn't yet a thought in either of my parents' heads but now I can exact my revenge. Kind of.) I'll wear my ostentatious leopard coat to this screening and make loud, spurious claims like I don't know how to drive a European stick shift, that I majored in art in college, and that old Elaine Robinson got started in a Ford. This should embarrass J sufficiently enough while concurrently satisfying my eccentric itch.

The other day I made another run down to Trader Joe's to stock up on my Stilton and Swiss when I passed a California Tortilla proudly proclaiming on a poster in a window that the readers of Washingtonian Magazine had voted California Tortilla -- California flipping Tortilla! -- the "Best Burrito" of 2009. Readers of the Washingtonian: I am disappointed in you. (Herein is where I'm entitled one long, exasperated sigh.) People who live outside of the Southwest/California/Texas, please take note: REAL burritos do not taste like salty footballs wrapped in processed tortillas. Real burritos are so much better. Seeing this "Best Burrito" bit was like voting Panda Express the "Best Chinese Food" in the District. I mean, I love me some Panda, but

As I mentioned earlier this month, J has been MIA (at least in mind) for the past week or so. Boo. But I can't complain, because this is the Last Semester of Law School Finals EVER!!!!!! (No amount of exclamation points could ever convey how ecstatic I am this month, all I'll say is if you laid all the exclamation points out end to end, they'd wrap around the earth about 67 times.) Of course, after graduation he won't actually be "done" because no lawyer can be without passing the elusive Bar, so waiting in California when we arrive will be two 25-lb boxes full of workbooks, study materials, and "fear" which J says they actually try to sell (and he's not buying). Once those boxes are opened he'll be studying day and night for the next two months till he takes the Bar (conveniently!) following our three-year anniversary. Which means no sweeping celebration this year, but at this point I could care less. (Refer to borderline obscene elation re: The Graduate above, and subsequent move West.)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Job satisfaction

"I sit in a cubicle and update bank software for the Y2K switch. See, they wrote all this bank software, and to save space they used two digits for the date instead of four. So, like, 98 instead of 1998. So I go through these thousands of lines of code and, uh... it doesn't really matter. I don't like my job, and I don't think I'm gonna go anymore.

This "day in the life" piece comes from Dors of Whatever Works. Dors is a new bloggie friend of mine who lives in the UK and recently started a new job. I liked how brutally honest this recent post of hers was. It takes guts to be so candid and publicly admit that your new career isn't all rainbows and unicorns:

The first day of work is like your first day of a new school. You are hoping you are going to like the classes, the teachers and your classmates. But in the back of your mind you know damn well that you are just going to have to study a lot of things you don't want to, that all the time that school consumes could be spent doing something so much more fun (like sleeping!) and that you're probably going to dislike a lot of people there.

Same for work, just substitute classmates for colleagues, teaches for bosses, studying for actually working.

Yes, today was my first day. I woke up at 6 am. 6 am! It should be illegal. Against human rights or something. And it is so cold in the morning I could see my own breath (come on, it's spring!), then the train, changing the train, catching the bus. And I managed to arrive there late.

Right. I spent all day long in front of the computer, with my boss by my side, guiding me through the painful process of getting to know their computer software. I was looking forward to every little break I could get. Drinking water, coffee, a blessed soul even brought donuts for everyone today. And lunch time.

It was so much to take in, and the more I did my tasks the more I got confused. So.many.little.details. My under-eye circles got deeper and darker as each hour went by. I finally finished my first daily dose of torture. I caught the bus home, then the train. I slept in the train. I never sleep on trains, buses or airplanes. But I did today, I was exhausted, I even set my alarm so I wouldn't miss my stop.

I came home at 6:30 pm. More than 12 hours of my day. Wasted.

Yes, wasted, because why the hell would my life be improved or become any more significant if I learn how to use a company's computer software? Am I really helping people the way I intended (once upon a time) by processing wine orders and organizing deliveries?

I think some people are not meant to have a boss and a routine and I am one of those. Some will say I'm lazy or spoiled, or both. However I truly think that we limit our life so much by having a stated time to even have lunch. We think of it as normal, but is it?

When I met those actors at the wine tasting I saw people brave enough to just do what they wanted. I envy them. I am a coward. I fear failure.

And if you tell me you love your job and you are extremely happy with it...Well, good for you. I hate you.

(Note: This was written out of tiredness and utter frustration. I do apologize.)

Ed. note: What about you, reader-friends? Are you satisfied with your current job? What would make it better? How important is job satisfaction to you? Have you ever asked "Is that all there is" after a 40-hour work week?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

To the best mama in the whole world:

(My mother and I, sans the brunette locks that would eventually make me a household name.)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

"The time has come," the Walrus said

If we're lucky we'll end up speeding down some deserted two-lane highway on a makeshift moped in rural South Dakota, trying to outwit a maniacal Big Rig driver. It would be very "Dumb and Dumber" meets "Duel".

So I realized when we flew back from Sacramento on Sunday night that we only have about three weeks left here in DC. THREE weeks. I've waited for this moment since September 2007, and for the last three years I've glanced at the calendar on my phone and grown irritated at how many blocks of months were still ahead of us. More nights than I can remember I would pop open a cold can of soda and stand by the fridge, longingly tracing my finger over the all those months left on the kitchen calendar under my Mrs. Robinson magnet. But somehow those blocks of month became strips of weeks, and now what's left are mere standalone days.

I know what it might sound like, that I was miserable here and I had no life other than to obsess over my moving date like a teenager obsesses over prom, but it was the contrary. As much as it pains me to admit it I've had lots of fun here, met some awesome people and have more than enough memories with J, with new-found friends, with DC, to tote into the next chapter of my life. But through all those good times the Lola calendar on our fridge was still a lingering reminder that my time here wasn't permanent. As slow as the days seemed to amble along, as slow as the months continued to pass, the calendar eventually tapered and now we're down to mere weeks. I've waited a long time for May of 2010 to arrive and the fact that it's finally here is completely surreal, kemosabes.

Reserving our moving truck last week was what finally made it sink in that we're leaving. Luckily I got an automatic 15% off code on the Budget Truck website and I was thisclose to signing up for their AARP discount but decided against it after a heated discussion with J about how we could totally get away with pretending like we were 60-year-old adults (J, always my ethical voice of reason, talked me out of it only after he called me "crazy" about 300 times. My response: "It's the crazy ones that get ahead in this world."). Never underestimate the power of strategically placed prosthetic makeup and a doctored drivers license.

Without that coveted senior discount, the truck cost about $1,600, including a hitch to pull the car. Now when I first conceived of this plan to drive cross-country, I didn't think it would entail a 16-foot Budget truck with car in tow. Originally we were going to send our mountains of boxes/few furniture items back using a Pod, and zip across the country in our compact four-door, with no more than clothes, a camping stove, a flat of Stagg chili from Costco, and a tent in the trunk. Nothing but Freebird (J), Sundown (me), and Tatonka (Lola -- of course her nickname would be "buffalo" from Dances With Wolves), with the open road ahead of us.

... But then I realized Pods are expensive ($2,000 not including fees), moving companies generally suck (as evidenced by my move to and from Boston a few years ago), and...well...taking pictures in front of Mount Rushmore near our 16-foot truck with attached car would just make the trip thatmuch more memorable. Gas should cost us about $800 total (our steed will be guzzling about 13 miles to the gallon), so our grand total in moving expenses will be about $2,400.

I suppose I should start packing up our casa but the closer our moving date is, the more I'd rather laze on the couch watching Mad Men. This doesn't bode well for the suddenly tight schedule we're on. Part of the problem is J (whose crack-the-whip nature when it comes to work can only be likened to Anthony Quinn as Zampano in Fellini's La Strada) can't currently help pack, and thus as soon as I begin packing I get distracted by some old book or photo album I forgot I had and before I know it three hours have gone by and I haven't filled a single box...though I'm wildly content I found my forgotten bottle of perfume or Afghan Hound notecards. (Confession: I'm a terrible procrastinator when moving is involved.)

J is waist-deep in finals week right now, which surprisingly doesn't bother me at all this semester. Maybe it's because a.) I'm used to it now, b.) we're leaving soon so I could care less what he does, or c.) he's already gotten 5 semesters of practice studying for these types of exams so this 6th semester is a total walk in the park.

Since he started law school I got used to hearing the "finals bell" knell in some far off place a few weeks before the end of each semester -- imagine a muffled foghorn in the distance, stirring me from my sleep -- and I knew that soon J would go into hiding with his books at the library or withdraw into himself here in the living room. This meant the only way I could get his attention to kill a spider, "talk about our hopes and dreams", or listen to my impression of the concierge downstairs was by instant messaging him in the same room since my repeated calls for him to look at me, listen to me, anything, fell on deaf ears. I learned that too much of these instant messages would mean he was headed out to the law library on campus, where smashed spiders and hysterical impersonations were of no concern. (Though I'd still finagle my way into his view by Skyping him. Repeatedly.)

But not this semester. This semester the library is a distant thought as J has barricaded himself in the kitchen and set up "office" at our tiny kitchen table, around a corner where I can't continually bother him in view. According to him I'm supposed to be packing, but I'd rather plan our trip online and figure out which national parks to camp at, which famous, giant balls of twine we should visit, how long we should spend at that infamous Corn Palace in South Dakota, and what time of day is best to photograph Devil's Tower (of Close Encounters of the Third Kind fame). Packing can wait.

I've got a little less than three whole weeks, after all.
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