Oops, Zoinks, Needlezooks: Jamie’s Mom Is Here!

Hey Ya’ll! (I said that in Paula Deen’s voice.) Jamie’s mom is here this week, and that means I’ve been too busy to write something for you. So deal with it. SomeTIMES moms are more important than blogs. Get it?

While you wait with joyful hope for the coming of our savior my next blog post, take a look at these shredding pictures taken by Mary Beth Isle, my producer Brandon’s awesome wife. They’re from the 5K FoamFest that a group of us ran last weekend, the most grueling three miles of my life. After running the whole race/obstacle course of mud pits, sand hell and giant wooden walls, you have to slide through this inflatable trough of foam. You’re not supposed to ingest it, but inevitably you do, rendering all your avoidance of BPA null and void. What is foam made of?!?! My taste buds tell me it’s plastic death.

See you next week when we’ll talk about why frozen pizza is an unavoidable evil.

Jeffraaay Cannon emerges triumphantly, lungs full o' foam

Me walking through the second foam run, yelling indignantly

CRAWLING THROUGH THE MUD PITS WHY

Brandon and I "fighting for nobility" through the mud. We were all winners that day.

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Your Burning Facebook Questions, Answered!

Well hello and Guten Fritag to you all! This week, things are going to be a little different. On Tuesday, I asked for blog suggestions via Facebook, and because I liked all three of them so much, I’d like to address them all in a single post, right here, right now. Without further ado, questions.

Amber Peter Hugus is my former high school English teacher and play/musical director. She is generally awesome and has three adorable sons. Amber writes: “A peanut is neither a pea nor a nut. Discuss.” Let’s.

Not only is this an homage to the wonderful and verklempt Linda Richman, but it also calls in to question the element of confusion inherent in many English words. Sure, when you think about it, “peanut” makes sense. The fruit is found within the shell, much like a pea in a pod, and it sure as hell tastes like a nut. BOOM, peanut, answered. But Wikipedia tells me it is, in fact, a bean. This has the possibility to confuse children, adults and even foreigners, and yet, we all accept it as fact. And I would say, because of its name, the peanut is accepted as a nut itself. A simple misnomer has changed the way we think about an entire species of bean. Are nuts better than beans? Were they more valuable in olden times? Will anyone ever truly take the peanut for what it is: A lowly, dried out bean? The world may never know.

KC Andrew Hensley is my friend and owner of my favorite bar in Pocatello, The Flipside. He is a veteran and has a lip piercing. KC writes: “Is Jay walking really such a crime?”

Now, we can only assume that KC is talking about beloved southeastern Idaho news anchor, Jay Hildebrandt. And the way that he phrased his question leads me to believe that Jay has in fact been in trouble with the law for his walking before. But lo! This is news to me. I mean, I guess there was the time Jay was stomping all over that crime scene evidence, and I guess the police would consider that tampering, or whatever. And then there was the time Jay was walking, but while he was walking, he was kicking Karole in the back of the foot. I wouldn’t necessarily call that a crime, but I’m sure it was annoying. I’m no legal eagle, but I assume that Jay walking around isn’t necessarily illegal, unless by walking he manages to do something that is also a crime (like tampering with that evidence!). So I’m going to say, “No,” on this one, only because Jay is usually really nice when he walks. USUALLY.

[Disclaimer: Jay Hildrebrant never actually trampled on crime scene evidence and he has probably never kicked Karole Honas in the back of the foot on purpose. He is always nice when he walks.]

And FINALLY, Andrew Lericos is one of my best friends from college. He is Greek, tangy and his mother is named after a hurricane. Andrew writes: “What ever happened to Ja Rule?”

Hey Andrew, great question. Ja Rule was insanely popular in and around the time when MTV’s Spring Break was in its heyday. He added the rap vocals to such classics as “What’s Love? (Featuring Jennifer Lopez)” and “I’m Real (Also Featuring Jennifer Lopez).” The point is, he really liked Jennifer Lopez. He probably did some other stuff, but we’re not really sure what that is. Ja Rule was the white person’s answer to 2000s gangster rap. Maybe 50 Cent was a little too jail yard workout tape for you, maybe you didn’t really feel like DMX spoke to your feline side. Well, Ja Rule was there to pick up the slack.

But he dropped off the face of the earth sometime when time forgot, and we only really remember him when someone writes a blog post, like the LA Times blog, “Ministry of Gossip.”

In July, the Ministry wrote: “Ja Rule was sentenced Monday to more than two years in prison for failing to file tax returns for three years. The rapper, real name Jeffrey Atkins, had begun a two-year prison sentence in June after pleading guilty to a 2007 weapons-related charge.”

So he’s been in jail! BOOM. Answered.

Well everybody, this has been fun. Thanks to Amber, KC and Andrew for all of your questions, and if any of you other Loyal Readers out there want me to take a crack at your queries, feel free to post them in a comment or on Facebook. If not, next week will just be about my childhood again. See ya then!!

Where the Summer’s Sounds Will Take You

Some days, I walk around my life like I’m listening to an NPR piece. Every sound, every clink of the keys in the bowl, every woosh of a car going by, motivates your next thought. And it works with sight, too. The sun highlighting chinks in a dirty windowsill reminds you of waking up in a car 15 years ago. You get it. Lately I’ve been doing this in the context of the most inescapable thing about now: Summer.

The sun fills up the car with light on the way to work and suddenly I’m in the passenger seat, my mom’s pointy knees poking out behind the steering wheel under taut, tan skin. She smells like hairspray or lipstick and the windows are down because the A/C never worked in this damn thing anyway. She is beautiful and strange and wearing jean shorts. We’re listening to Tom Petty driving to a clothing expo. My brother and I will chase each other through the racks of fabrics, hiding quietly against the cool metal until it’s time to go get Happy Meals. We’re very close to collecting all of the Beanie Babies.

Back in my car, a song that sounds like Pearl Jam (but ends up being Matchbox 20?) comes on the radio. Now I’m looking at the giant silver boom box on our deck. The wood is bare — it doesn’t have carpeting or an awning over it yet. My dad, skin yellow-brown and freckly, ties a bandanna around his curly hair and pushes the mower in an arbitrary yard. It could be anywhere, it doesn’t matter. He always smells like sweat and is simultaneously grilling. He lets me take a drink of his cold, silver Coors. It tastes like gasoline smells. There will be hot dogs, and they will have bacon on them.

Then I’m upside down, the grass swaying below me as I swing alone, waiting, the blood filling up my eyes. My left foot is stuck in the grooved black plastic of a playground hand ring and I wonder if I’ll die here, my neighbors and family completely unaware of my absence until it’s tragically too late. It’s quiet and strange: How can I be the only person outside in all of these interlocking backyards? Don’t people live in packs for a reason? A neighbor finally comes out, joking to me in the language of a “Peanuts” adult. He grips me around the waist, takes off my shoe and lets me plop to the ground.

When does your butt stop sticking to plastic? It’s never, even if you’re not 8 years old. I peel myself off of the green plastic covering my Nunnie’s porch glider and go inside. I lay on her brown carpet, the same as I have in my apartment now, and talk into the fan, the same as I do in my apartment now. My brother comes to get me so we can catch toads in the rocks in her backyard before Nunnie calls us to the backdoor to give us meatballs on forks.

I’m back at my kitchen table, looking across at Jamie, eating cheese and crackers feeling the sun bleed through the blinds. We hear the knock of a hammer on wood above us — they’ve been doing construction on the roof for weeks. We go back to our conversation about which one of us is less annoying, at our table, in our apartment. Or are we in the woods by the creek? That knocking? It’s just the sound of a new tree fort being built. Club 2000. It’s supposed to be the biggest one yet.

PDDD

Because my general disposition lends me to wanting to leap off of a bridge every day, it has become difficult to come up with a good, new post. Exit polls show, Readers are more inclined to enjoy posts about my slow triumph over an especially difficult baked good than my deeply emotional — albeit highly developed — chagrin over looking like Kirstie Alley.

Exhibit Ew

Usually I do spend my days in an un-air-conditioned Jeep/apartment/taco truck overhang looking at Facebook albums of my friends’ digital SL-faRis across Europe while contemplating how miserable I’ll be until I get to fall asleep again, but today, several things happened today that made me say, “Cool.”

Last week I walked in to my local driver’s license center to exchange my PA license for an ID ID, a mere seven months after I was legally required. Not only did I run into the PIO who I’ve worked with the 10 months that I’ve lived here — who curiously eyed my Pennsylvania license — but I was also surprised by the Idaho written driving test, which I did not realize was a requirement to operate a motor vehicle in the land of potato truck spills. Needless to say, I failed it.

Today, however, I walked in after an hour of last minute studying in Jamie’s office, and I had to skip only five of the 40 questions to pass. Some call me brilliant, I call me Brilliantany.

Jamie and I celebrated with celebratory Gyros and curly fries, served to us by our new Greek friend Andrew Katseanes. Did I secretly pretend he was my old (and best) Greek friend Andrew Lericos? Yes I did. And in that way, I got to see an old friend today, who also served me food. Double bonus.

Later, I was driving back to work in a bit of a hurry while trying to decide which lane to be in to best beat out the other six cars on the road. Traffic, oy! I stayed in my lane, which seemed slower at first, when all of the sudden an errant motorcyclist jumped from my lane to the next, breezing me to freedom — sweet freedom! I made my hand into a gun and shot lasers at those dumb slowsters as I flew past.

Laterlater, my live truck operator Dave and I were sitting in our air-conditioned news van and he told me about how teenagers in the Ukraine are randomly murdering innocent people with hammers, just because they want something to remember. I am not in either of those categories of people. Awesome.

Then! While I was getting ready to do my live shot, my producer asked me if I liked liverwurst and mayonnaise sandwiches. I said yes, of course, and we agreed to start an LWM Sandwich Club. Community!

Thenthen! While I was in between live shots, my car-less friend Joe TZ walked across the street from me and said hello. He was difficult to make out at first because during nighttime shots I stare into a very bright camera light that obscures my vision and consequently his face, but I figured it out by his distinguished jawline. It was a fun coincidence AND I got to see ANOTHER friend. That’s two in one day! Can’t beat them apples.

I came home to cheese, chips and salsa and a used magazine mailed to me by my Dad outlining the fun you can have in Park City, UT. Jamie played me “Basic Space” on vinyl and we moved one of the fans into the bedroom.

I can’t sleep now, but I’m chalking it up to all of the happiness my heart feels over a pretty damn decent day. PDDD.

Gah-night.

How To Watch Your First Friend From a New Place Move to an Even Newer Place

Run late. Give her a hug. A big hug. Listen to her cry a little bit. Feel that it’s not quite that time, even though you probably could.

Go into her apartment. See the place where you spent one of your first drunk nights in town now completely empty. Watch her move into the bathroom and start ferociously packing and scrubbing. Ask her if she needs help. Hear her say, “No I got it.” Remember what it feels like to say that when you’re standing in your still-grimy bathtub, anxious, exhausted and scared.

Listen to her indecision: “Do I throw this away?” Answer an empathetic, “You can always buy another!” Watch an old soap dish get thrown into a trash box and later, pulled back out.

Get a little bored.

Start to poke around. “Do you need these clothes folded?” “Do you want this stuff cleaned?” “Where do these shoes go?” Find a bunch of food in the refrigerator. “Hey do you know there’s still a bunch of food in here?”

Pour everyone glasses of Franzia. Eat discovered Peanut M&Ms. Make small talk with other moving friend, Don. “So where are you from again?”

Watch her get flustered when the bathroom is finished and she moves into the bedroom, only to find the small heart-shaped tin of her mother’s cremated remains. “What do I do with these?” she asks. “Don…?” you call through the open door.

Help Don move stuff out to the car. Wonder if everything will actually fit. Be generally skeptical.

Finish off more wine. Laugh with more mover friends. Feel bad for feeling a little tipsy when you see her getting worried or sentimental.

Step out to check just how much space is left in the trunk. Catch the stars in your periphery, and feel the stillness of an instance alone amid a moment of change. Remember what it feels like to be the center of that moment, and realize now that this is not for you. Reposition yourself on the outside. Remember what you would want to hear, how you would want to hear it. Remember what it feels like to say goodbye to something meaningful. Walk back into the apartment.

Swallow and skeptically tell her she might have to ship some shit. Shove down the tops of suitcases, harass zippers and renegotiate backseats. Realize everything’s gotta go.

Silently Swiffer the last of the linoleum and watch her check every closet, every drawer. Throw away the last of what’s left.

Help her shut off the last light and shut the door. Take a picture of her in front of it.

Take whatever she wants you to take and shove it in your own car. Watch her realize that there might not be enough space, but feel adamant that everything has to go. Watch her make it work.

Stand at the bottom of her stairs for the first and final time and hug her. Hear her start to cry and know that this is when you will, too. Don’t try to hold it back. Tell her she has nothing to worry about, that she’ll be great and that if she does anything there like she did here, well, how could she go wrong? Tell her you don’t know what you would have done without her, or what you will do now that she’s gone.

Don’t tell her that she’s the closest thing to home you’ve had since you’ve been here.

Watch her hug Don and try to take a picture. Realize when it’s time to drive away. Wave goodbye from a rolled down window as your drive away.

Roll it up. Cry.

Take whatever she gave you and put it in your own place. Remember she’s gone. Wonder if you could have done anything else. Say goodbye again to yourself.

Drive home. Feel the quiet of the night creep through the cracks in your car. Feel alone. Feel quiet. Remember her.

The El Herradero Taco Truck Is Back or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Pull Over For Tacos

Today, a glorious thing happened. I got off the weird highway (I-86, the one that goes east-west and has significantly fewer points of entry than I-15, the obviously superior and much more accessible north-south highway) in Chubbuck. Hungover and craving Taco Bell, I turned right.

It was in that instant that a glint of a sun beam off a buzzing hunk of shining metal leaped into my retina, AND LO! Serendipitous to my craving for Mexican cuisine, there she was: The El Herradero Taco Truck.

Real Latinos Enjoying Real El Herradero

From the depths of the belly of the beast that is Idaho winter, she had triumphantly returned. A beautiful thing I learned to love upon moving to Idaho, the taco truck — much like many other creatures — goes into hibernation for the unforgiving winter months. It is unfortunate, but all the more splendid once they reemerge in the near-spring.

With a firm grip on the wheel, I cut across three lanes of Yellowstone Avenue traffic (so, nothing, but) to slide into the Walgreen’s parking lot. Though my car was still covered in slushy snow crud, the sun was shining and it felt like maybe, just maybe, winter’s brown frown wouldn’t last forever.

I was ushered to the truck by the songs of beautiful, beautiful Mexican angels that must live in the speaker system of that metallic goddess. I ordered my $5 three taco meal, complete with rice, beans, pickled jalapenos and a Diet Coke. I had to get cash from the Walgreens to pay for it, so incidentally I also walked away with a bottle of wine, but that’s more for your entertainment and less of an integral part of the story.

Carnitas tacos, rice, beans, pickled jalaps. And radishes.

I took my Styrofoam treasure chest, sunk into my car, pushed the seat the whole way back and ate alone. But this was no sad occasion mis amigos, oh no. For when I looked to my right, there they were, another car of folks, seats back, bellies expanding with the delicious magical gas created by re-fried beans. And on down the line! Car after car, belly after belly, indulging together. Sure, we were separated by our roll cages, but it didn’t matter, because with the love of an El Herradero taco truck lunch, we ate as one.

I looked on to the side-head of the sunglassed man in the Durango next to me — who was he? Where had he come from? Where would he go? It didn’t matter, for all we really knew is that we had that moment. Maybe that was all we needed.

My eyes fell back out to the vast expanse of the Wal-Mart parking lot in front of me and I wondered how anyone could ever feel alone in America.

Where will the El Herradero truck go? I don’t know, but I intend to follow it.

+++++++++++++++++

[Disclaimer: I know “The El Herradero” reads “The The Herradero” but it sounds better that way and get outta my face.]

It’s After Valentine’s Day And That Means I Can Write About Whatever I Want

All day, I’ve been trying to think of a good post for Valentine’s Day. I didn’t want to write about relationships, and especially being happy about my own, I didn’t feel like gushing. Sure I could tell you how cute and chivalrous and silly Jamie is, but doesn’t it take away from the legitimacy of all those good qualities when you gush ad nauseam?

Tonight, as I was pulling through the Taco Johns drive-thru, alone and on the phone with my mother, I realized this would be my Valentine’s Day dinner. And then they started blasting Toni Braxton’s “Unbreak My Heart” through the loudspeaker — just to make me feel bad? Biting into my Stuffed Grilled Taco¬†¬©, I questioned the moral code of the employees of Taco Johns and pondered posting about how people go out of their ways to make Valentine’s Day miserable.

But I’m taking the high road (Taco Johns).

This afternoon I had to drive to Burley, ID, about an hour away from where I live, and it was taking FOR.EVER. You know how when you drive somewhere you don’t recognize, it seems longer? Well this was somewhere I didn’t recognize, and there was nothing there TO recognize. It was endless stretches of farmland as far as the eye could see, and while a beautiful abstraction of America’s spacious sky and fruited plain, it wasn’t exactly a “time-passer.”

The nothing

The nothing, under a cloud, from the car window.

But like a simple thing that gets funnier through repetition, the more I saw the nothingness before me, the more I was able to think about something.

It went like this: *Look at nothing* I have no blost ideas *look at nothing* I could write about Jamie *look at nothing* Nah, that’s lame *look at nothing* I could write something contrary *look at nothing* Nah, I do that too much *look at nothing* god there’s nothing here *look at nothing* god I remember when I thought I’d move somewhere cool after college…

And then I got it! What I want to say is this (for those of you who like jumping to bold key terms):

For so much of my time on Earth, I thought happiness was a destination you could run to. If I woke up early enough, ran enough miles, studied enough hours and made enough friends, I would arrive at the place I’d always wanted to be.

I thought I set myself up perfectly, but my consistent lack of satisfaction with my current situation has led me to, what some have called, an “existential break.” And that’s probably true. Like Jack Shephard, I found myself grappling with existing somewhere I knew I crashed into, but didn’t believe could exist.

+++++++++++++

At the end of the hour’s drive, I met two families. One lost a son 10 years ago in a car accident. They donated five of his organs to a father from the other family, who was dying of cancer. Today, thanks to that son’s death, that father is still alive, and gracious enough to talk to my TV camera.

Afterward I drove back over the same nothingness, only this time it was dark, and I couldn’t see the same nothing I saw before. I was crunched for time and didn’t have the chance to consider my own mortality, but that wasn’t the point of driving through Nowhere and meeting the Everythings.

The point, I’ll venture, is this: The destinations we dream of don’t really exist. What do exist are just other real places, with more real challenges and more awful alarm clocks. The ones we come from are just as valid, even though we might not think so. There’s no point in self-flagellation because you think you got yourself something you don’t “deserve” — that’s a fallacy. You’re just somewhere you don’t quite recognize, and the more you drive through it, the more you’ll realize why you’re there, and the more contented you’ll be when you leave.