Now that the spring semester is finally over, ecology grad students everywhere are fanning out to research sites across the globe in search of fame, fortune, and deadly parasitic infections. For me, this means studying birds in the beautiful rolling prairies of southern Iowa and northern Missouri, where thankfully the parasites are limited to mosquitoes, chiggers, and a diverse array of ticks. And yes, in the the four days since I've been here I have become intimately familiar with all of them.
For the next few weeks I will be living in the glorious Timberline Lodge, overlooking beautiful Lake "The grass is wet...is that a septic tank leaking?!".
Timberline Lodge: a less suitable moniker for this place would be exceedingly difficult. Far from being a "lodge", it is actually a cheaply-constructed addition tacked onto the back of a gun shop (oh, I'm sorry, that's "hunting outfitter") in the little town of Mt. Ayr, Iowa, more than 700 miles from the nearest timberline.
The other researcher staying here thankfully brought a giant fan with her, which we have had going full blast since we arrived, so as not to gag from the overpowering stench of mold emanating from the "bedrooms", really a couple of hastily partitioned sections of a very wet basement. I shouldn't be too down on the place, because after all, there are beds here, with sheets and everything.
Of course, those sheets look like they haven't been washed since 1972. Seriously. I was barely able to bring myself to take them off the bed they were so nasty. And when I did, I decided that I would be better served bringing my own pillows...I really don't want to sleep on something with that much of someone else's blood on it.
I'm guessing it's from bed bug bites. OK, add those to the list of encountered parasites.
At least I can sleep in my sleeping bag, which contains only my own funk. Sure, it's 15 years of funk, but it's somehow not creepy and gross when it's mine. Well, it's a little gross, but at least it's not creepy.
And did I mention the bathroom? Should I? I'll save the gory details, but suffice it to say that I wish I brought shower shoes. And from now on I think I'll leave the lights off. It's just better that way.
Just curious: If you were charging $250 a week (or more than $1000 a
month) to rent out your dank basement with a single bare bulb and loose
wires descending from the ceiling, wouldn't you at least do a once-over
with a sponge? Anyway.
So while I miss d.w. and Chins terribly, I think everyone would agree that having him stay here would not be the most prudent course of action. Especially given his penchant for rolling around naked and stuffing everything within reach into his mouth. We're going to try to spend weekends together, although I have a feeling that means a motel. I should ask the proprietor of the Timberline Lodge if he might know a decent one.
And then again, maybe not.
[Pictures to follow this weekend, when I head back home for Mother's Day (since, you know, I want to have a home to come back to at the end of the summer). Goody goody.]
So I hear that November is National Blog-posting Month, or, for the innernets-speak set, "NaBloPoMo".
Because raising awareness about blogging is clearly the critical
awareness link between National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October)
and National Drunk Driving Awareness Month (December). If we lose our
awareness ability after the hyper-aware, pink-coated month of October,
what happens when December comes and no one is aware anymore?
It will be carnage in the streets, I tell you! Come on bloggers, for God's sake keep blogging! Humanity's awareness hinges on us!
Kind of a fun idea actually, posting every single day for the month
of November. Maybe, if things were different, and d.w. wasn't giving
birth (did I just mangle the subjunctive?) ANY DAMN DAY NOW, I might give it a shot. But I have a hard
enough time blogging regularly as it is.
I just don't need that kind of pressure, 'k?
Coda: Dang. I just used "the Google"
to figure out what else we need to be aware of during the month of
November. Apparently there isn't an "Awareness Gap" after all. November also happens to be:
National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month
National American Indian & Alaska Native Heritage Month
Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Month
American Diabetes Month
Eye Disease Month
National Epilepsy Awareness Month
National Healthy Skin Month
National Home Care Month
National Hospice Month
Temporomandibular Joint Diseases and Disorders
Lung Cancer Awareness Month
National Marrow Awareness Month
Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month
Prematurity Awareness Month
Pulmonary Hypertension Awareness Month
National Adoption Awareness
Religious Life Awareness Month
Manatee Awareness Month
Cancer Awareness Month
Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation Month
National Novel-writing Month
Tobacco Cessation Awareness Month
Motor Meals Awareness Month
National Disability Employment Awareness Month
National AIDS Awareness Month
Reflex Systemic Dystrophy Month
Non-traditional Student Appreciation Month
Foster Care Awareness Month
National Kindness Month
National Woodsmoke Awareness Month
College Awareness Month
Realtor Designation Awareness Month
Crohn's Disease and Colitis Awareness Month
Family Violence Awareness Month
National Beard Month
I suppose I ought not worry about being at a loss for
awareness in November.
In our town we have an amazingly excellent little Thai restaurant. It sits on a little side street, in behind the carport of a big apartment building. You would have no idea it was there if you weren't looking for it.
It's run by this retired Thai couple whose son is getting a Ph.D. here, and they decided they might as well follow him and enjoy a few years of their retirement by working 12-hour days six days a week in a restaurant kitchen. What I love about the place (besides their magnificent pad kra pow) is that whenever d.w. and I go, we're the only ones speaking English; needless to say, a rarity in Iowa.
So why do I bring it up? It's because of the chopsticks: At first I thought it was just kind of funny. Then I thought they were taking a jab at the Chinese. Now I can't help but think they are making fun of us
white Americans, who eat Thai food with chopsticks, despite the fact that the Thai themselves rarely do.
Well, on Monday d.w. and I made it back from our little weekend
jaunt to Chicago. While we were there we did our part to bridge the
internet/reality divide, stopping by with Samantha from Back to Me,
who is easily as cool in person as she is on the innernets. But that
whole bloggers-are-actually-three-dimensional-sentient-beings thing
sure takes some getting used to.
Yikes. You know you need to get out more when real human contact becomes a novelty.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah. We had a blissfully relaxing weekend
with various college and grad school friends who all somehow managed to
get sucked into the Midwestern vortex from Florida, New York, and
southeastern Ohio (totally not the Midwest -- it's like West Virginia without the inbreeding) upon entering the real world.
Ok, hold on.
I was about to go into one of those totally uncreative "What is it
with people getting sucked into the Midwest?!" rants, but I think I'll
take a different tack. Because really, Chicago is a totally cool place.
For a city so relatively young, I just love how bursting with history
and memory it is. Untold decades of deferred maintenance and outright
neglect have slowed the relentless advance of sterile urban
homogeneity. Train platforms remain creaky, gnarled wood, and the once
elegant, now rusting wrought iron trusses are held together by 132
coats of paint, urine, and hope.
And the apartment buildings! While ascending the back stairs to our
friend's fourth-floor apartment, you could feel the memory of the place
seeping up through floorboards worn to concavity.
But you know, something tells me d.w. wasn't feeling it. That's the
other thing about Chicago: it's got a hell of a lot of stairs when
you're 30 weeks pregnant.
We finally made it to the Iowa state fair on Wednesday, and I must say it was a rather eye-opening experience. I have never seen such swarms of those old-people scooters. And the sad thing? Hardly any were driven by old people. They appear to be far more popular among the morbidly obese. But I digress. Anyway, I thought I'd offer a little glimpse into the fair for those unlucky enough to have missed the excitement. Ready? Do you think you can handle it? OK then:
Are we humble fair-goers really that predictable?
Apparently Iowa never got the memo about fanny packs. But man oh man, that's one patriotic little girl.
Goddamn I wish I could pull off a handlebar mustache. Of course, here I don't think it would be perceived as avant garde or ironic.
For a people so enamored by giant and/or oddly-shaped vegetables, you would think they would actually eat them, too.
I'm sure something separates the first place ear of feed corn from the tenth place ear of feed corn. But I have no idea what. Also, did you know you could get a tenth place ribbon? For feed corn?
Somehow a poster about global warming in Iowa (which I never before realized has an icecap) and a set of felt Christmas ornaments are judged in the same category in the 4-H competition. Not sure about that one.
Even if a poster title makes no sense, it can still get you second place.
I will never brush my teeth again. Also, I just noticed the poster at the bottom. That's either a morally suspect application of biotechnology or one fucked up college dating guide.