Sunday, August 20, 2023

notes & things | 8/20/2023

Wisconsin, circa 2013

We have crested into the final third of August and the light is beginning to change, maybe not as noticeably as all at once, but that one morning it's startlingly obvious is coming, probably within the next week.  The past couple of weeks, I've been hearing the cicadas around sunset that signal late summer and the sunsets are earlier and swifter  We've had some cooler weather replaced by warmer again, so summer is still firmly summering, make no mistake, but already my social media/YouTube feeds and writing assignment queue's are littered with fall-ish things (like this fun thrift rehab project I wrote about this week.)

This week included not just one, but two movie dates, the first, the second go at Barbie I mentioned earlier, and a Korean action movie revival selected by J that was strange and weird and kind of gross with incest vibes, but a movie is still a movie, and with his new freer schedule, we will be getting to have more date nights like this on the regular--especially promising considering we will be in high spooky season for horror releases very soon. This week, we are taking in the aquarium on its free night, which I haven't been to since the late 90s despite my one-time marine biology enthusiasms.

This time of year always makes me think of the past somehow, which probably has something to do with the start of school and the bygone sense of blank pages. This morning, I was thinking about 10 years ago, a period of time that seems sort of muddy with a relationship that was well past its sell-by date, but also good things like the release of shared properties of water and stars and Pretty Little Liars marathons complete with a very tiny Zelda racing back and forth across the back of the sofa. Late in the summer, we visited my cousin who lived way up in northern Wisconsin, which already had a fall-ish tinge to trees even in late August. We drank overly elaborate Bloody Marys and went antiquing in a tiny town with many stores where I got my prized Roloflex camera for a steal at $10 and several pretty antique postcards. I'd wake up in the mornings on the sofa with my cousin's enormous golden lab sprawled across me. Smallish bears would ramble through their yard from the surrounding woods at dawn. The weekend was campfires and pontoon rides and, perhaps most importantly, both my parents were still very much alive and healthy.  

20 years ago, I was 29 and on the verge of starting my MFA studies, going to overly bougie and posh several-course lunch orientations at the Union League Club back when Columbia was spending money like it had it.  Later, at the meet and greet with other students and faculty, I would feel like I didn't fit in--a feeling that would pervade me for the next four years of study. On my one day of full classes that fall, I kept returning to the Art Institute, which was pay-what-you-can in the afternoons to gaze at the Cornell boxes--still in their location in the old modern wing before the new one was built. A project that would also take four years to finish.  I would take my notes to the cafe across Michigan and turn them into poems that eventually became at the hotel andromeda. I was tentatively sending out the first version of what would eventually become the fever almanac, though it would change a lot before getting picked up two years later. I was still mulling the idea of starting a chapbook press that wouldn't bloom until the spring, but it was a tiny kernel of thought I'd turn over and over in my head while waiting for the bus or working nights at the library's circ desk.

30 years ago, somehow, I was just 19, starting my first year at RC--which was technically my second year of college after transferring, but it felt like I was starting over. I was in love with the tiny campus tucked among the woods and hills right in the middle of the city I'd known all my life, an oasis amid strip malls and parking lots that felt very quaint and un-midwestern. I happily enrolled in philosophy classes and Shakespeare seminars and would hide out in the library lunching on terrible fat-free sliced cheese sandwiches and pretzels because my high school eating issues still had their claws in me. I would dye my blonde hair a dark auburn and it would stay dark for 20 more years. I'd wear long hippie skirts, tapestry vests over t-shirts and bell anklets/bracelets as one did in the early 90s. Sometimes on Fridays, we would drive up to the greyhound track in Lake Geneva and my dad would fund me and my sister placing bets on races we'd never win, but would have endless fun looking at the dogs and picking which looked the fastest. 

I don't remember quite as distinctly the late summer of 40 years ago, though I am not sure if it's a failure to pay attention or just the ravages of time on my memory. In the fall of 1983, I was going into fourth grade but I remember only bits and pieces--tether ball and playing Barbies on the playground.  An ill-advised perm inflicted on me by my aunt that led to many more years of really unfortunate hair choices in photos. It was the one year I was in Girl Scouts before we moved, which was filled with badges and cookies and camps. Also, full renditions of Donna Summers' "She Works Hard for the Money" while dressed like a housekeeper for the talent show, in which at least three other groups of kids did "Thriller.".  I was trusted to walk alone the five blocks to school even though I was only 9 because it was the 80s and I was afraid of nothing. But also I was afraid of everything.

40 years and not much has changed... 


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