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Friday, November 6, 2015

Well That’s One Way of Keeping Warm

 The sun, having heard that Minneapolis has cast furtive glances at its stockpile of cozy sweaters and corduroy pants, has cooled in her affection for us.  The temperature drops daily, and the citizens of Our Great City rub their hands together, exhale hotly onto their exposed fingertips.

Summer!  I sunburnt once this year – just a little bit! – and I never did get a tan.  There is nothing I can do about it now. 

We head to the cookbooks.  Indian, Thai, Mexican, anything where the tongue can be fooled into thinking that it may have struck out on its own, perhaps flown off to somewhere warm, where dark-eyed men with enterprising moustaches offer bowls of fragrant happiness…

Three jalapenos, the recipe said.  Seeds are optional.

Optional?!!  Say no more, my good man.  Any time a recipe suggests “optional” to me, I suggest that it does not know who it is dealing with. 

I chop and core three jalapenos.  Keep their little seeds.

It’s not long after that, whilst brushing my hair from my face, that I notice my cheek is burning.  And my left ear.  And the right side of my chin.  And the center of my chest.  And a portion of my forehead.

And it occurs to me, something I read about wearing rubber gloves when dealing with jalapenos…

But!  These were grown in Minnesota!  Surely a little home-grown veggie wouldn’t burn like one grown in, say, Texas?

For a bright woman, I am surprising stupid at times.

The red splotches on my face will burn for hours.

I made salsa to remind me of summer.  And just like that, summer is back.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Long Time No See! What Are YOU Doing on This Floor? or The Bathroom’s Where Now?

The bathroom at work, for the next three weeks, is on the 54th floor.

Coinciding with this is the introduction of an espresso machine, mere yards from my desk, on the 53rd.

To further layer these events, the bathroom on 54 requires a security badge, both to get in and out of the room.

You see, we here at Acme Gravel and Grommets take our security very seriously.  Sure, you claim to be yourself on the way in to the bathroom, but can you say the same on the way out? 

Can you? 

Can you prove it?

The cries of those who get in on the tails of others and are now stranded, card-less, are piteous.

I consider all of this from my desk, late Thursday morning.  Tweaked on espresso, I simultaneously compose an e-mail, take a soapy toothbrush to some of the last file folders on the planet, and, wide-eyed and twitchy, plan my next trip to the bathroom.

There’s something about having to walk down a flight of stairs and then further in to the bowels, as it were, of another floor for something so simple as relieving one’s self that makes one pause.

Wait too long – as all American office workers do – and you may find yourself doing an interesting and potentially undignified dance.

We take for granted the little things, don’t we?  Heating.  Tarred roads.  Rooves and/or roofs.  Plumbing. 

I check the ceilings for cameras.  In a world of self-locking bathrooms, perhaps the simultaneous arrival of both the updating of the bathrooms and the espresso machine are a test of some sort.  But of what?  Project management?  Spatial awareness?  Bladder control? 

Shaking a clenched fist at the ceiling, I vow to endure this latest first-world problem.  Like one-ply toilet paper and lotion that smells like lavender, not the geranium I prefer, a bathroom one floor down is really nothing.

Still.  I shall shake my fist.

And like my pioneering foremothers, I shall rise to the occasion. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


Did anyone else hit the sidewalk, hard, last night?  Or was it just me?

Yep.  Straight off the bus -- and with plenty of witnesses! -- I pushed my right knee, and then my left hand -- into the cement.

That's not how walking down the street in the city looks in the magazines.

Writing has been suspended for a day or two.

Bruised in Mpls,


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Cats Bearing Gin and Tonics

The lighting at Jimmy’s is dim.  The bar itself is occupied by four men, all sitting separately.  The booths and table are empty, save one of four women howling with laughter.

The corner booth is ours.

I arrange my things: purse, hat, scarf.  The air in Jimmy’s still feels as if someone might light up a cigarette, someone might put  Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” on the jukebox.  As if someone’s long-lost love may walk through the door.

Liza Bean Bitey, symmetrically striped animal of the feline persuasion and general bon vivant, angles a slim paw at the bar, and a woman with sharp eyeliner and sharper eyes makes a bee line for us.

Cats are notoriously good tippers.

“What’ll you gals have?”

“Two gin and tonics, Carla,” Liza Beams at the waitress, “and plenty of limes.”

Carla winks – winks! – and heads back to the bar.

“You are something,” I say.

Liza Bean.  “I are indeed.”

Carla returns to the booth with two gin and tonics and a small bowl of cut up limes. 

Liza Bean offers a folded ten from between curved claws.

We busy ourselves with our drinks.

The cat coughs delicately.  “Pearl.”


We look up from our decimated limes.  Liza Bean stirs her drink with a casual nail.  The ice cubes shine like wet glass.

“You don’t come around.”

I inspect my drink.  Yes, it’s all there. 

“I miss you,” she says.

I look up.

“I miss the way you sat around in curlers.”

I stare.

“I miss the way you’d pretend to throw a treat and the way we’d watch Dolly dash about the room looking for it.”

I smile.  “Remember that time you yakked on the rug and I cleaned it up?”

The cat leans forward, wraps tiny smiling black lips around the glass’s straw, pulls in a respectable amount of cocktail.  “I remember you saying, ‘what, you couldn’t have stayed on the hardwood?’”

We laugh.  One of the women at the other table begins to sing “Final Countdown”.  A man at the bar shouts encouragement at one of two TVs with a game on.

Liza Bean leans back casually, arches her back, casually licks her should.  “You know, Pearl, we should do this more often.”  She holds her glass up. 

Man that cat can drink.

Carla appears with two fresh glasses and disappears quickly.  All servers know that cats do not tip for every trip to the table.

Liza Bean squeezes three limes into each of our drinks with a speed that astonishes, stirs them deftly, pushes one toward me.

She leans forward, eyes shining.  “I hear you have a garage for rent,” she says.  “Do you know that Dolly and I are starting a band?”

A band?  Liza Bean and Dolly?  What kind of band?  What will they call it?  Who would pay to see something like that?

And what about Naomi?

Monday, October 12, 2015

“Hi. I Won’t Be In to Work Tomorrow.”

There is a knock on the door.

Lulled into a half-lidded stupor by an afternoon of Celebrity Bowling – a game show from the 70s on just one of the nine fabulous channels received at Casa del Pearl – I rise from the couch.

“Well, look at you,” she says.

Liza Bean Bitey, of the Minneapolis Biteys, steps forward, dragging a brown paper bag.  Former-roommate-now-cat-next-door and current holder of the world’s record in the mouse steeplechase, she leaves the parcel at the door.  Sitting down, she cocks her head, studies me. 

I frown.  “What are you doing?”

“Hmm?”  She looks at the bag.  “Oh, this.”  She chuckles.  “Sunday Funday, ol’ bean.”  She twitches a delicate whisker, shifts her head to stare at me from another angle.  She sniffs the air.  “You’ve been laying on the couch all day, haven’t you?”

“I resent whatever it is you’re saying,” I say.  I take what I imagine to be a surreptitious sniff at an armpit. 

She wrinkles her nose.  “We’ll ignore that.”  She nudges the bag to one side.  “I came bearing gifts, but now that I see you,” she says. “I’ve changed my mind.”

I bend over, pick up the bag:  a bottle of gin, a bottle of tonic, roughly two dozen limes.  I look up at her.  “I always wonder.  Where do you –“

“Are you wearing that?” she interrupts. “I’m going to need you to change.”

I look down at the flannel pants.  “Change?”

“Pants,” the cat says.  “Shirt.  Jacket.  Perhaps a scarf.”  The cat rises, leaps to the back of the couch, where she checks her reflection in the mirror on the wall. 

“I know what “change” means,” I say.

“Oh, Pearl,” she says.  “I cannot, in good conscience, let you sit here looking like that.”  She places a thoughtful paw on her chin.  “There’s the drunken spelling bee at the 331.  There’s karaoke at the Vegas. “  She stops.  “Oh, I know.  What say we go up to the Spring.  We can watch the people sing along to the jukebox.  Maybe that guy with the Tom Petty fetish will be there again.”

“Or the guy that does all that AC/DC.”

“Better yet,” she says, eyes sparkling.  “We go up to Jimmy’s.  We’ll aim for the corner booth, we’ll eat that three-dollar shrimp cocktail they serve.  We’ll catch up.”  She abruptly stands. 

“I’ve decided,” she says.  “It’s decided.  Go get dressed.  We’re going to Jimmy’s.”  She jumps to the floor. 

And you know what? 

The cat is right, dammit. 



The cat taps the side of her nose with a paw.  “We’ll text your boss on the way to the bar.  You might as well call in sick now.”

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Inside of My Mind is a Smooth, Blank Canvas

I’ve lost my notebook.

You know the one, the one with all my brilliant ideas in it.

OK.  Well, they weren’t all brilliant.  I remember the notation I made the day the white guy sat next to me on the bus, only to turn around and commiserate with four seats of black folk that “the white man, man, is just trying to hold us down.”

There was the time I wrote “I see nothing wrong with the word “moist”. 

And there was the time I wrote, apparently after more gin and tonics than were required, “You’ve got it takes.  Figure out what “it” is.”

There was also a grocery list.

And now?  Here I sit, fresh out of canned ideas, left to the whims of a whirring mind and a blank screen.

I shall have to start another, of course.  They come fast and furious, these ideas: thoughts on the proper way to get the cat to pay half the utilities; how much to tip when you get your elbows polished (at least 15%); ideas on what kind of person sits, legs out, on a city sidewalk.

There’s been an uptick in that lately, by the way.

You hear that?  This is where I sigh.   

So unless I hear from you, you may get 200-some words on the time I spent a whole movie de-pilling sweaters.


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Two for One Deal

He’s reaching for the glove box as we pull up to the red light. 

He pulls the coupons from his breast pocket.

“What are you doing?”

He glances from the coupons to the light to the paper-clipped offers he’s taken from the glove box.

“Organizing,” he says.

“Hmm,” I say.

“What?” he says, turning bright blue eyes at me.  “A man’s got to organize.”

I keep my own counsel.

He looks up at the light again.  “No, really,” he says.  “Sitting at a red light is an excellent opportunity to go through your coupons.”

“Maybe for you to go through your coupons,” I say.  “I like to do mine while showering.”

He has the sense to grin.  “Like this one,” he says.  He checks his rear view mirror, then pulls a small piece of paper from the pile  “You see this?  Because we went through the paper this morning, I know this is on sale, limit of ten.  I’m going to get ten at the discounted price, but the coupon I have says buy one, get the second for free.”  He smiles.  “I’ll be swimming in Dr Pepper.”  He leans over, takes my hand.  “Don’t you want to be swimming in Dr Pepper, Pearl?”

I turn to look out the window, mostly to hide my amusement.  “You buys you ten, you gets you eleven.”

He squeezes my hand quickly as the light changes, then puts both hands on the wheel.  We pull ahead.  

He is smiling into traffic.  “Pearl,” he says quietly.

“Kurt,” I say.