I had an idea I might do a full-color sketch of the labyrinth I want to put in the backyard this spring, but for various reasons, Thursday turned out to be extremely long and extremely tiring, and I am pretty thoroughly drained at the moment.

It’s supposed to be slippery this weekend — two meetings I was supposed to attend (one on Saturday and one on Sunday) have been called off — so maybe I’ll have time to work on a few projects while I’m stuck at home.


I want one.

I want an iPhone.

Yes, they’re $600.

Yes, I still have a year and a half left on this contract with Sprint, which I signed in a fit of pique after getting jerked around by a Cingular sales rep with an attitude problem.

Yes, my phone already has a half-dozen different ringtones and a built-in Dayrunner.

Yes, I passed up the chance to buy a Blackberry last summer after realizing the service plans were $80 a month or more.

I don’t care.

There’s something charming about a phone that thinks it’s an iMac, and I’m willing to pay stupid money to own one.



If the disciple is advancing spiritually, he is striving to enter in. He constantly turns away from material sense, and looks towards the imperishable things of Spirit. If honest, he will be in earnest from the start, and gain a little each day in the right direction, till at last he finishes his course with joy.
— Mary Baker Eddy

I did something a little out of the ordinary today on my lunch hour: I went out to Hunter Park and walked the labyrinth.

The labyrinth has been out there for about a year and a half. This guy from the parks department came up with the idea to paint the pattern on an abandoned basketball court as a unique way of reclaiming the space. He basically taped it off, painted the labyrinth on there with fog-line paint, and stuck a big rock in the middle so people can stop and rest if they want.

According to a sign at the park, a labyrinth is different from a maze in that there is only one way in and out, and while it has twists and turns — much like a maze — it does not have forks in the road or dead-ends designed to create confusion. There’s nothing to solve. It’s just a long, winding path that goes into the center of a circle. To get out, you simply retrace your steps.

It is impossible to get lost in a labyrinth, and it is impossible to take a wrong turn. You just have to trust the path and follow it patiently toward your destination. If you start looking too far ahead or shifting your gaze to one side or the other, it gets confusing — and a little unnerving. You lose track of where you’re going, where you’ve been, and how long it’s going to take to get there. You start to wonder if you’ll ever get done. You second-guess yourself, wondering if maybe somehow you did manage to overstep the lines and cross over onto the wrong path.

But if you stay focused and follow patiently where the path leads, you aren’t lost, confused, scared, or anxious. You simply are.

There’s a metaphysical lesson in the labyrinth. I’ll let you find it.

You can explore a virtual labyrinth here. (NOTE: Hippy-dippy-New-Agey music that sounds like it came from a “Hearts of Space” broadcast starts automatically when you hit the “click here to begin your journey” link, so turn down the speakers if it’s likely to bug anybody.)

If I can figure out where and how to do it, I want to put a labyrinth in my backyard. I don’t have a whole lot of space, but maybe I can come up with something involving stepping stones. We could certainly use some paths to help us steer clear of the little presents that Scout and Song and Jason leave for us when we’re trying to get to the garden. Might as well make the path interesting and aesthetically pleasing while I’m at it.

I wonder how much Sackrete it would take to build something fairly simple between the deck and the garden gate?


Carbondale After Dark

H.B. Koplowitz’s infamous account of the (literally) riotous history of the Carbondale, Ill., Strip during the 1960s has been out of print for many years.

My friend Jeffrey and I — who have been thick as thieves since the evening we shared a valiant but largely unsuccessful effort to keep straight faces while watching Lancelot spray saliva all over the stage every time he spoke during a performance of Camelot from the front row at Shryock Auditorium our sophomore year — spent the better end of four years searching for copies of the book. Each of us had vowed to make sure that the other one received a copy, in one form or another, as a gift if we ever found it.

In late 2000, Ron tracked down a copy for $60 on Powells.com and bought it for me, just because I wanted it.

I promptly began the painstaking process of typing a few pages at a time and e-mailing them to Jeffrey as a sort of serialized Christmas gift.

Meanwhile, Jeffrey, unbeknownst to me, had tracked down a copy of the book at the Carbondale City Library, Xeroxed the entire thing, and tucked it into plastic sheet protectors for me.

We had a wonderfully O. Henryfied moment that December, when he presented me with his gift during his annual Christmas party. Ron and Jeffrey were the only ones in the room who fully understood why I began laughing hysterically as soon as I tore off the paper and saw the cover (which Jeffrey had also Xeroxed and tucked into the clearview pockets on the front of the binder).

It was a priceless moment — utterly typical of us, and somehow a perfect explanation of what our long and hilarious friendship is all about.

Carbondale After Dark is a fun account of a fun university where I made a lot of friends and a lot of great memories. I don’t know if it was worth the lengths Jeffrey and I went to in our quest to find it after it went out of print, but it’s definitely worth the $19.95 cover price for a reprint. You can preorder a copy online (and get a 20 percent discount and a free poster of the cover) here.


P.S.: The garlic is coming up in our back yard, the ice-cream truck came by on Saturday, I saw a mockingbird in the front yard yesterday, and it’s 37 days to P&C camp. Spring is on the way! Can’t wait until the chorus frogs come back to Makanda. I’ll have to head home for a visit when they do….


Y’know, there are a lot of things I love about my new nephew, but I think from 500 miles away, the thing I get to enjoy most about him is the excuse he provides for me to hang out in toy stores, browse the children’s sections at bookstores, and just generally indulge my innate magpie tendencies.

Take, for instance, the purchase I made on a recent trip to Kiddlestix here in Tulsa. Kiddlestix is a wonderful mom-and-pop toy store that sells a lot of educational toys. I had gone there in search of a Sea-Monkey kit, which I purchased as a belated Christmas gift for my reporters. (C’mon — admit it: You’d love it if your boss bought you some Sea-Monkeys.)

While I was picking up the Sea-Monkeys — which, for the record, hatched on Thursday and seemed to be thriving when I left the office Friday evening — I found the most gorgeous hand puppet I have ever seen.

Hand puppets are a great way to interact with babies. If they’re colorful and have shiny spots on them, so much the better. So of course I had to buy this puppet for Jamie.

Now, truth be told, I probably would have bought the puppet even if I hadn’t had a 3-week-old nephew to entertain with it. But I would have looked like a big dork, buying something like that for myself.

Same goes for the Maurice Sendak books I bought today at Borders. I was looking for something else, but of course I got sidetracked and ended up in the children’s section, where I found a great little set of tiny but complete books that included Pierre, One Was Johnny, Chicken Soup with Rice, and Alligators All Around. How could I resist? I’ll be shipping those out Monday. 🙂

I really want to buy one of these for Jamie next. Or maybethis. Or this.

I wonder if they’d give me a discount if I just called up this company and ordered one of everything they make? 🙂

Buy this CD.

My mom sent me a link to a newspaper article about one of the kids I used to babysit when I was in junior high. Jaimee Paul’s parents used to hire me to come over and hang out with Jaimee and her little sister, Kyle. (WARNING: Music starts automatically.)

They called it “babysitting,” but Jaimee is only a couple of years younger than I am, so I think I was really just there to serve as a neutral third party in case a dispute arose.

The first time I was there, one of the girls thought she heard a noise in a back bedroom. They proceeded to convince themselves that a burglar had sneaked in, so I had to go and check all the bedrooms and closets to make sure nobody was there. In retrospect, I have no idea what any of us thought I was going to do about it if somebody had come in. At the time, I might have weighed all of 85 pounds soaking wet, and I was still 15 years away from my first karate lesson … but since the doors had been locked all night and I hadn’t heard anything, I felt pretty safe in assuming (correctly, as it turned out) that the mysterious sound was just a figment of somebody’s overactive imagination.

In any case, Jaimee was very impressed that I was willing to risk tangling with an imaginary burglar on her behalf, and she decided that this act of bravery merited some combat pay. When her parents got home, she went to great lengths to tell her dad all about it at least three times, embellishing the story with each retelling, and emphasizing that this had been a really, really scary noise, and I had really risked my butt for her and Kyle.

Funny kid. Now she’s all grown up, with a fiance and a CD and a gig singing jazz in a Nashville nightclub and a lengthy resume that includes singing backup for Barry Manilow.

Go check out her Web site. And buy her album. She’s a great singer (OK, so I’m a little bit partial, but look: You can listen to sound samples on the Web site if you don’t believe me), and besides … she scored me a few extra bucks on a babysitting job one night in 1988, so I really ought to return the favor. 😉


By popular demand …

… here’s a picture Ron took of Scout and me this evening so Mom could see my new haircut.


I saw a sign of spring this evening. We lifted our Wal-Mart moratorium briefly because I needed a teakettle to put on the woodstove, and Ron couldn’t find one at Atwood’s. Predictably, Wal-Mart had four different models — none really designed for use on a woodstove, but all cheap enough that we aren’t going to get too wound up about it if they won’t stand up to the rigors of heavy use.

If the one we bought doesn’t survive the abuse, I’ll replace it with a graniteware coffeepot and call it good. The main thing is just to get some steam into the air (our house is getting terribly dry) and keep hot water available at all times so I can make myself a cup of Red Zinger whenever the mood strikes.

While we were at Wal-Mart, I saw a display of sunscreen. When Wal-Mart starts selling sunscreen, spring is on its way.

We also saw some baseball gloves in the sporting goods department … which reminds me: 41 days to pitchers and catchers camp! 🙂


A more convenient truth

OK … so I found this article today in the Christian Science Monitor about global warming, greenhouse gases, and the importance of keeping CO2 out of the atmosphere.

One of the big things that I’m always hearing about is how horrible long showers are for the environment. According to this article:

A 10-minute shower generates up to four pounds of CO2. A 5-minute shower cuts that in half and a low-flow showerhead drops it further.

My hair is very thick and very curly. Up until five minutes ago, it was also quite long. It is not possible to take a five-minute shower when you have long, thick, curly hair. It is not even possible to take a 10-minute shower when you have long, thick, curly hair. Throw in a big helping of split ends, and you’re talking about a minimum of 15 minutes just to rinse that tangled mess.

Ron and I have been arguing for two years about what length my hair should be. I keep saying I want it bobbed. He keeps saying, “No! I like it long!”

After reading this article this morning, I decided that while most self-respecting hippies would agree that long hair is a must, most self-respecting hippies would also acknowledge that the environment is far more important than some personal fashion statement. And if those figures in the Monitor are right, every five minutes I spend in the shower puts two pounds of CO2 into the environment. That means that my long, thick, curly, heavily damaged hippie hair was responsible for about four pounds of CO2 per day. That’s 10 minutes per day, 365 days a year. I spent the equivalent of two and a half days rinsing shampoo out of my hair last year, which shoved 1,460 pounds — almost three-fourths of a ton — of CO2 into the atmosphere. We won’t even talk about all the chlorine involved in purifying the water I used to rinse my hair, or all the chemicals involved in treating that water once it went down the drain and out to the sewer plant.

Confronted with those facts, Ron agreed that maybe it would be OK for me to have my hair trimmed a little bit — “but no less than shoulder length.”

I handed him the scissors.

“Here,” I said. “Cut it to whatever length you think is appropriate.”

He took off somewhere between six and eight inches, leaving me with the exact haircut I wanted: a bob that falls somewhere between my chin and my shoulders.

I don’t look as hippified as I did a few minutes ago. But I think I look pretty good … and best of all, I no longer feel as if my hair needs its own Terrapass to compensate for its existence.

Now, if I can just get that cycling thing down, maybe I can do something about the environmental impact of my daily commute….


Hell on wheels

I have been a distance runner for three years, and I know for fact that The Wall is located somewhere between the drinking fountain and the concession stand at River Parks, which translates to something like the 23-mile mark on the Oklahoma Marathon course … so I want to know something:

What wiseacre hauled The Wall out to Red Fork and dropped it in the middle of Southwest Boulevard this evening? I ran smack into the bloody thing a half-mile from the end of what was supposed to be a perfectly nice 5.5-mile bike ride this evening.

I realize that cycling and marathoning are two very different sports. And a girl obviously has to train a little more often than once a month in order to see any sort of progress in a new sport. And yes, in retrospect, I suppose it is probably not entirely accurate to refer to three cream horns as “carbo-loading.” But still … in all the running I’ve done, I have never actually hit The Wall. I’ve only seen it three times, and I can guarantee you it wasn’t sitting in the middle of Route 66, five miles from my starting point.

Ah, well. At least I seem to be getting the hang of using the gears. (It probably helps that I drove Ron’s car — which is a stick — to work this morning.) And I did manage to pedal all the way up the 41st Street overpass once this evening, which I consider a major accomplishment. I had to stop and walk halfway up it on the return trip, but that’s OK. The grade is steeper from that direction, and that was right after I started to feel wallish. And I had to walk up the hill from both directions last time … so I’ll take progress where I find it.

Tiring as it was, it was kind of fun to ride down 66 this evening. Running would have been easier, but I’m not keen on jogging at night. I should probably get over that — I’d have much better finish times if I didn’t use darkness as an excuse to blow off training runs — but the last time I ran by myself in the dark, it was both surreal and terrifying, and while I’m grateful for the experience, it’s not one I really care to repeat. I feel safer on wheels.

If my headlight would quit eating batteries like they taste good, that sense of safety would probably be justified. (Got any ideas, Roger? I think the cold weather is draining the battery, but I’m not entirely sure. If you’ve got a product and/or battery recommendation, I’d love to hear it.)

In any case, I had a pretty good ride, and that little encounter with The Wall just gives me a primo excuse to have a bowl of leftover chicken and dumplings for dinner. 🙂


Fire! Fire! Fire’s cool!

Red Fork to Mitchell: We have fire!

Anybody who saw me stand in the middle of the Luna Cafe with a spark tester in one hand and a ruby-glass cherry in the other during the 2004 Illinois Route 66 Association Motor Tour knows what this means.

Anybody who didn’t witness that doesn’t need to know what this means. All you need to know is that today marks the beginning of the end of a project that has been hanging over me for the better end of three years. Today, I can begin the process of relearning an art medium I studied for a year and a half in St. Louis. Today, I can knock the rust off, practice things I haven’t attempted in years, and start the long road toward completion of a project I promised out in 2004 but never had a chance to finish.

Bill Fernau was right: When beginning any project, you should never give an estimate of the completion time or cost, because invariably, it will cost twice as much and take three times as long as your best guess.

If my best guess is correct, Bill will be just about right on both counts.

thinking that there’s no better way to start 2007 than by finally keeping that New Year’s resolution I made in 2005….