On pollution and Michael J. Fox

Today I face the rare opportunity to think about Michael J. Fox. I might be tempted to feel, after searching the internet for a video of him pretending to surf in a werewolf outfit, that I'd be good for a day AT. LEAST. That I'd be all set.

And yet.

For weeks I've had a scan from my 1986 Camp Joy journal saved on my desktop. I just took a peek, which revealed the results from an interview I conducted of a girl in my cabin, who I happen to remember as Laura P. since she was also the girl on my soccer team, swim team, and bus.

In addition to a kiss-assey paragraph about how Laura P. is generous, helps others in need, always laughs at jokes, and is generally "neat", I answer the next question - How Is This Person Like And/Or Different Than You? - with a full pantsload of shit. I don't remember being an obsequious, fawning child but I'm so far up Laura P.'s ass here that it's painful.

"We are alike because we both like steak, have a dog, want to meet Michael J. Fox, and we both want to stop pollution."

The steak and dog parts? Sure. But Michael J. Fox and pollution? This is clearly a foreshadowing of the social dynamic that would hit us girls the following year, when in 1987 we left our relatively egalitarian Montessori elementary school for the backstabbing clique of junior high, which Laura P. just happened to control.

And APPARENTLY little Ronckytonk was gearing up to play along, which meant liking things like LP liked, like Back to the Future and Family Ties, and wearing too much blue eyeshadow for about two years when all of sudden I didn't care anymore and started looking for nicer friends.

And polluting the earth as much as possible.


Silver bullet valve caps

I biked to this park at the end of my street and sat on the bleachers behind the baseball diamond. I looked around and listened to the accordion oompa of ranchera music from a parked car and to the faint sound of traffic on the 5 behind the trees.

I admired Electra against the backdrop of Griffith Park and felt mighty pleased. With little things like halter tops and sunblock and later, at the bakery, by the lady in the bright purple eyeliner and big floppy hat. She gave her piroshkis back to the cashier with huge bites taken out and then turned to me, opened her eyes wide, and confided in stage whisper that THE BEEF IS SPICY. I've always liked crazy people.

At the park I noticed that I wasn't the only one feeling upbeat.

Someone else left some love for Jesus during their visit to the bleachers.

This may have been the same individual who drew a nun without considering the countless numbers of baseball fans who would, in the future, cover the nun's face with their asses which isn't very nice.

I tore myself away from this image by focusing on pressing matters like whether I need 8 SPF or 15 SPF for my shoulders, a good diversion until my eyes fixed on what is by far the most hallowed detail of my pimped-out bike, the silver bullet valve caps.

Silver bullet valve caps aren't prim like the granny bell, or practical like the rear rack, or pretty like the cream and tan frame.

Silver bullets are for movies from 1985 where Michael J. Fox did handstands atop the wolfmobile and crippled Corey Haim raced his hotrod wheelchair down the highway before killing the preacher-werewolf. Stuff that comes in really handy sometimes.


Crying for personnel reasons

I have this thing for organizing and categorizing that's been fairly well established. I make lists.

I recently discovered the "Stickie" application on my computer and now have an electronic to-do list. I like my dishes washed. I love to drop off bags of clothes at thrift stores. Cleaning out and paring down. Scraping together six pennies to pay the balance on my latte. Deleting read emails and going paperless on bills.

There are, of course, blind spots. I didn't use to wash the inside of the water bottle I drink from every day. EVER. For like a year. It had been suggested to me that this was disgusting but I just laughed. It wasn't until several people together observed the algae colony inside the rim, demanded to know what the hell was wrong with me, and ambushed the Nalgene with a wire brush and bleach that my fetid little container had her first bath.

Ditto on the car I drove that one year. I didn't own the Ford Escort as much as killed her by driving her as far and often with as little care as possible. I was much more attached to my bicycle and so treated the Escort as a science experiment; I encouraged her to rot, just to see exactly how it would go down.

The only time I remember taking the Escort to the shop was after I drove her sideways over train tracks and folded her undercarriage like an accordion, something the mechanic said he'd never quite seen before. The one working headlight, one working windshield wiper and gummy interior weren't a problem for me. When it became one working tire, I donated her to the homeless shelter.

When I leave home for as little as a few days, I check the dates on all the dairy products in the refrigerator and throw out any produce that stands the teeniest tiniest chance of wilting. I pay bills, answer letters, and check in with my prison pen pal to see how his appeal is going.

When I'm in a full-blown categorizing frenzy, I can go a little Beautiful Mind on myself. I can totally imagine being busted by someone walking in on me while I mutter and pace in a bathrobe, fists full of highlighters and pens, scribbling lists and arrows and flowcharts on index cards tacked to the walls. This morning I found the index cards I made last year while trying to convince myself to study for the GRE and apply to grad school.

I have hundreds of cards of vocabulary words and remedial math definitions that I copied out - painstakingly, methodically - and then couldn't make myself study. A few weeks ago I threw the GRE practice book in the garbage but those index cards? I don't know what's more painful: Seeing them litter up a corner of my otherwise-organized room or throw away so many hours of categorical labor. I'm considering taking them to the high school down the street and selling them to an overachieving nerd in the parking lot.

Back at my parents' house in Cincinnati, I decided to clean out my old closet and I recognized another of my blind spots: Shoes. Really, do I want the Hush Puppies that I bought in Chile in 1994 solely to fit in with the stoners I was camping with, shoes that I did not then and do not now find attractive? What about running shoes from the high school track team? And the cheap rubber booties I save in case I go rafting in Texas again? Seriously.

I also got into the box that my mom keeps in the attic, full of stuff she saved from my childhood: stories I wrote and pictures I drew, photos and mementos. I looked through the box and came away thinking a couple of things:

1. It's nice that I have childhood memories of anything besides writing reports because that's apparently what I did ALL THE TIME. The box bears evidence of non-stop report writing and the report subjects vary widely: Ferns. Lungs. Peace. Ballet. The Devonian Period. Neanderthals. Mesopotamia. Indians. And, of course, lists. On riveting themes like what color hair my family members have and what I had for lunch.

This spellbinding journal entry from Camp Joy gives readers a captivating look at what went on in my cabin on that Wednesday night:

Aine is crying for "personnel" reasons

Rolanda is hooting like an owl

Juanita is hanging her coat on the rafter

Sunny just popped her head up - The End

The whole thing makes me wonder if I somehow didn't notice that the girls were also whispering about how creepy Jessica was staring and taking notes on them again.

2. I must remember so much because I was writing everything down all the time. I did a lot as a kid but it seems like I did even more writing about what I was doing.

3. I am, now, so who I was then.


Clear plastic pumps?

This thing happens when I'm planning to move where I'm FINE. I'm calm and I'm FINE. I'm not stressed, at least not any more than usual. Everything's cool. No biggie. How many times have I done this? Whatever!

But one day I might need to go into a room, shut the door behind me, and slide my back down along the door frame. I'll sit crouched on heels, elbows crossed over knees, head hanging, overwhelmed. Normally this would be my bedroom, though bathrooms work really well, too, with their tiled psychiatric unit vibe.

I can't focus on anything EXCEPT INTERNET SHOPPING.

It happened when I left Seattle for New York. I channeled all of my moving anxiety into eBay and found myself profoundly and inexplicably pining for big fake turquoise jewelry and a pair of clear plastic pumps. I shit you not.

I was housesitting at the time and spent several days hovering around the computer, monitoring my bids, and tore myself away only to heat up something from Trader Joe's and to take the three Siberian huskies to the dog park.

Yesterday it took me two hours longer than it should have to leave the house because I first had to search online for the perfect combination of messenger bag or backpack to match every article of clothing I've ever owned.

I thought I'd found two bags I liked on the Zappos website and was poised to enter my credit card information when I remembered something: A teal and chartreuse dragonfly print shirt that I haven't worn in five years.

Both bags clashed with that shirt. Never mind that EVERYTHING, except maybe the backs of closed eyelids, clashes with that shirt and that's why I never wear it. Never mind that I had to make an appointment with a tax accountant, change banks, compare shipping rates for sending all my stuff to California, and research medical insurance. Never mind that I had only slept for four hours.

The point was that my future was wound up tightly with a shirt that hasn't seen daylight since 2002 - that and my ability to take advantage of free overnight shipping.