Dance Your Ass Off

Years ago, S and I met Jean, and Jean changed our lives. Jean, if you don’t remember, was our dance teacher. Her  name was not Jean. Jean is the name S came up with when she was trying to remember her name, and it kind of stuck. Ahh, Jean.

The days of Jean eventually ended. However, the days at Jones Beach began. Nights, actually. There was free line dancing at the bandshell once a week. Then the consistent dancing faded away, and then the dancing stopped.

Basically, this story is exactly like Footloose only without Kevin Bacon and the Bible and everything else in Footloose except for the dancing.

I came across the bandshell calendar online the other day and there it was. Wednesday nights. Line Dancing. 7:30.

So on Wednesday at 7:30, I took myself on a dancing date. Muscle memory is miraculous (as are my mad alliteration skillz). I. Danced. My. Ass. Off.

I also made a friend, an older gentleman who turned to me after every dance and said, “You’re good!” At one point, he said it to the two women who had been following my feet, and then he leaned in and whispered something to one of them, and her face was partial shock and she laughed. I’m guessing he said something about my wiggle or my butt. I didn’t ask. He also pointed out to everyone around us how I could put so much energy into the dancing because I’m so young. To that I replied, “Yes, keep calling me young.” I don’t think he got it.

The two women who were following me were really fun. At one point, we wound up facing each other because they kept turning the wrong way, and we just laughed at each other. I tried to help the best I could by changing my spot to be next to them on the wall when they had no one to follow, but overall, I was there to learn, not teach. The “you’re good” guy told me I should be the teacher, though. I like to dance, but I’m not a dance teacher.

Funny, though. My yoga students also ask me if I’m a dancer. Hmm. Yep, I get it. I am soooo friggin graceful.

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Later on, when the dancers who dance year-round take to the floor without instruction and do all the more intricate dances I wish I could do, he found me again to let me know there would be more country line dancing soon. Then he left and came back with a flier for it. I thanked him. Now we’re, like, BFFs.

One dance that the dancers did without instruction is called “Toes.” Without instruction, I got out there and faked it hard. By the end, I almost got it. Almost. I think I got it more than I thought I did because one of the women who had been following me actually came out to stand next to me to see if she could pick it up. It’s not a difficult dance, but if you’ve never danced before, it can be difficult without instruction. I’ll probably spend more than a normal amount of time watching videos to see if I can get it right on my own. It’s in me somewhere. I’ve just gotta find it.

So now I’m readdicted. Every Wednesday evening, there will be a boardwalk and a bandshell and a step-together-step-scuff-step-together-step-pivot-cha-cha-rock-recover-clap-clap-clap.

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I Want To Live At Wardenclyffe (aka More Tesla)

Remember when I went to celebrate Tesla’s birthday last year? Yes, cake and everything.

This year, I took a tour of Wardenclyffe since I can’t go to his birthday. I’ve decided that I would like to live there. Sure there are plants growing out of bricks, and none of the buildings are habitable.

Side Note: Brace yourself. I just looked up the word habitable to make sure I was using it the right way. What has become of my lazy-writer-MO? Oh, wait, I’ve been doing some proofreading gigs. It’s that grammar stuff.

Side Side Note: I still have like five jobs.

Anyway, Tesla! I love him! Here’s why. [All this is from notes I took in 90 degree heat in the blazing sun, so, you know, “facts.”]

The Bauer House

The Bauer House was originally a shoe shop before prohibition. Then it (allegedly?) became a speakeasy. There are tunnels leading out that were probably built to avoid police raids. The last time Telsa came to Wardenclyffe, he sat with the Bauers, speaking to them in German. German, y’all!

Tesla’s Coil

Tesla’s coil uses magnetic and/or electrical fields and can play music when hooked up to a keyboard if it doesn’t first give out so much energy as to render the keyboard inoperable. The first solution to any technology that isn’t working is: Turn It Off and Turn It On Again. I didn’t catch the name of the volunteer running the show here, but he knew, like, everything. Lots of stuff about induction and resonance. We listened to the coil play the theme song to Game Of Thrones.

Did you know that if you play a note on a stringed instrument next to another stringed instrument, the other instrument will play the same note? Yes! Because waves of some sort.

[Again, it was hot, I was sweating–yes, I know, I’m always sweating, but this time it was from the heat–and I was following science the best I could, and I’m not a science idiot but I’m also not Tesla or this very knowledgable volunteer and I don’t play violin, so let’s just accept my “waves of some sort” as accurate. Also, I don’t know if I spelled knowledgable right; it looks wrong. Back to being lazy].

Then we moved onto the Van de Graaff generator. It’s the thing that makes your hair stand on end if you put your hands on it. However, humidity can put a damper on all that electrostatic, lit-er-al-ly. So while the VdG generator messes your hair up in a fun way, humidity interrupts the fun and messes your hair up in a not fun way. This is why everyone moves to Arizona. The dry heat.

Finally, someone played the theramin. It’s an electric instrument that works without touching it. The inventor, Theramin, was from Russia and also invented things for ships to help them with navigation. Possibly.

Teleautomaton

Tesla created the first remote-controlled machines. Like, robotics, y’all. In 1898, he presented his teleautomaton at Madison Square Garden to the crowd at the Electronics Expo. Some people accused him of occultism and that bad magic. Some people thought he had a monkey inside his machine. Because somehow that’s more believable than scientific inventions.

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Is there a monkey in here?

Tesla’s Tower Of Power

Tower To The People is a documentary directed by Joseph Sikorski about Tesla’s Wardenclyffe dream. Sikorski offered some insights into the story, complete with sound effects of buildings crashing down when he got to the part about destroying Wardenclyffe. Basically, after Tesla’s friend Astor died on the Titanic, his estate pursued back-rent for Tesla’s living at the Waldorf Astoria and kind of not paying sometimes. Somehow, destroying Wardenclyffe led to getting the money they wanted.

Also, here is exactly what I wrote in my notebook after all that: Telefunken in West Sayville = other huge LI tower.

Discuss and get back to me.

Induction Motor

There were Teslas there. Like, the cars. They look like any other cars but they run on Tesla technology (not monkeys). I don’t know much about cars, but I do know a scooter built for two is the epitome of everything life is meant for.

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Train Spur and Lab Chimney

The train spurred off right to Tesla’s lab. It doesn’t do that anymore. The decorative cap on the chimney is called the wellhead. That’s about all I gathered because I was distracted by the plants again.

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Lab and Tunnels

The lab has tunnels running out from it to where the tower was. These tunnels were to get water and air to the tower and for steel and copper electrical grounding rods.

That does not sound right at all, but these were words I heard. Feel free to continue to play around with them until you find an order that makes sense to you.

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Isn’t it pretty?

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I wanted to get a Tesla pin, but all they had were t-shirts, so I instead donated some money and headed out.

I want to go back, though. There’s something about that place. There are spirits. It hums with something special. So if I could just live there, you know? To soak up all that vibration day after day.

I know. I’m aware that my idea of camping is watching Naked and Afraid while wearing clothes under my ceiling fan. I’m aware that living at Wardenclyffe would mean living without modern day advances like plumbing. Also, I’m pretty sure it’s illegal to live there.

So, here’s the deal. I’ll keep visiting whenever it’s open. I’ll keep taking my notes and writing my poems. I’ll keep falling in love over and again with this inventor. My collection, Tesla, My Love, Our Everything, will one day be complete and published, and then maybe it will win an award, and then maybe I’ll get rich and famous and then I can refurbish the Bauer House and live at Wardenclyffe. That’s the plan.

It’s Summer When

Yoga In Times Square Mind Over Madness. Done!

Summer Solstice in years past have been scorching hot. This year, monsoonish. The class before me got drenched in a downpour. My class saw some drizzling. I wore my socks for part of it. I got to lie down on my back in Times Square once again, and this time, it drizzled all over me, and somehow, that was magic. Catherine Cignac has the best sequences. I try to memorize them as we go so I can take them home with me and luxuriate in them. Another reason the rain was fantastic? No lines! I walked right up and went right in. No waiting around for anything. Somehow, the yoga village afterwards was jam packed, but otherwise, it was so spaced out and roomy. For FREE, we got mats from Aerie, water from Propel, tea from Pukka, and a bag to put it all in.

 

Kicking off a tour of all the museum exhibits I’ve been wanting to see. Done.

Who doesn’t love the 80s? The Nassau County Museum of Art has an 80s exhibition. I was all set for neon vibes all over. I didn’t much neon. Instead, I saw a lot of artists who died too young from AIDS. It was really depressing but also stunning. There was a Jenny Holzer, and I love her work because she uses a lot of words. Added bonus–my friend who met up with me told me about meeting Holzer and that was fascinating.

Bonus Bonus: We went to a bakery afterwards and I FINALLY TASTED RHUBARB and I LOVED IT.

 

Attendance at poetry readings. Done.

This past Monday saw no rain, which meant the Gazebo Reading was on! I went to listen to some good stuff and heard some good stuff.

Sunday before that, I read at Industry. This reading? My new favorite venue. I wanted to buy everything there. Sciency stuff. Quirky stuff. Artsy stuff. All my kind of stuff. Also, they had pretzels. Mmm, pretzels.

So the moral of this story is that everything I do involves some sort of food or beverage.

Happy Summer.

I Walked With Whitman

The Walt Whitman Birthplace invited me to host and read and sign books as part of their Walking With Whitman community reading series and it was exhilarating!

Some things that happened:

I made sure everyone knew it was National Donut Day.

A small workshop of poets introduced each other and read poems aloud using the skills they are developing in the workshop.

First Poet Laureate of Suffolk County and Writer-In-Residence George Wallace introduced me.

Former Poet Laureate of Suffolk County Robert Savino was there.

More than several people who didn’t know me before the reading were clearly trying to find out my age. Instead of asking me how old I am, they were asking all the questions I usually get when I know someone is trying to figure it out. The most obvious one is How long have you been teaching? Usually, I say Forever, which is of no help. Then several people also told me, You’re too young to remember but…. And I nodded because sure, why not still be too young to remember? Which doesn’t make any sense when you think about it. To be clear, I’m not annoyed when this happens. I think it’s funny. I have no concept of age, and I frequently forget how old I am if I’m not in a rounded-number-year, like 50. So let’s call me 50 for now.

Two comics were there and were inviting people to come to a maybe-maybe-not-super-secret-speakeasy that was also a hip hop recording studio. A discussion of this venue led to a discussion that confused Jake Tapper and John Taffer, which I very much enjoyed. Since I had plans for coffee because I may or may not be an old lady or child out past my bedtime, I had to decline checking out the venue, which is a pity because stand-up comedy is one of my favorite things in the world. Also, one of them asked if I thought I was funny, to which I responded, Yes, I’m hilarious.

[Sidenote: During one of the year-end student readings, a student from another class asked me if I do improv because I’m funny. Who needs the potential flopsweat of improv when you’ve got a captive audience in a classroom?]

As usual, I held court because I. Cannot. Stop. Teaching.

Christina M. Rau reading

Photo by George Wallace

The open mic included the musings of Tom D’Angelo, Russ Green, Mary Healey, Dan Brown, and several other poets who were simply wonderful souls.

As usual, I made a crazy poet face.

Crazy Poet Face

Photo by George Wallace

The band 1 Step Ahead played, and they are brilliantly talented and everyone should book them for everything.

The Q&A was basically me mentioning 2001 A Space Odyssey about 2001 times.

There were snacks. I ate grapes. They were good.

I ran out of copies of Liberating The Astronauts. Never before have I seen such an engaged audience and sold that many books. Poetry! Is! Lucrative! (not really, but it’s nice to not have to carry back home such a heavy bag of books).

[Sidenote: if you would like a copy of For The Girls, I,  WakeBreatheMove, or Liberating The Astronauts, check out my books page for information on how to do that. Are they sold on Amazon? I have no idea, but instead of Amazon, maybe order from the small presses or from me directly.]

I am so grateful to WWBP and the people who came out to share an evening of words and music.

WWBP Reading 1

Photo Courtesy of Robert Savino

Graduating Every Year

It’s like a Harry Potter convention every year. Before Harry Potter, graduation was simply graduation. Now, it’s like Who Looks Like A Wizard In Their Graduation Garb?

Graduation garb is pretty silly. The faculty gather in the basement of the newly renovated Coliseum (here, renovation means they painted it a fresh gray) along with the graduates. All the graduates wear gray caps and gowns (so they kind of fade into the gray of their surroundings). The faculty is a mismatching cornucopia of colors and textiles.

The really fancy PhD people usually deck themselves out in heavy robes, some brandy red, some black, some deep blue. Most of these robes involve velvet. George Costanza would be in heaven. They get to wear beret-like hats that are like velvet beanies with a tassel in lieu of a propeller.

I wear a judge-like black robe (gown? it’s really a robe. otherwise, this would be more like prom and I’d need special underwear) with a zip up front. Okay, I’m pretty sure they all have a zip up front. Anyway, there was that one time I thought the sleeves were sewn shut and I fought with my robe in the parking lot until I realized the sleeves had wings and the arm holes were in a different part of the robe. Yes, I have several college degrees, and yes, robes are complicated.

I don’t get a beanie hat. I get the same hat the graduates wear–the square flat piece of fabric-covered cardboard attached to a half-head-condom with a widows peak. This year, I could not find my hat so I simply put my hair in a little messy bun because that’s somehow equivalent.

Some grads and faculty rock the medallions. I have two. One is an ODK honor society medal. Hmm. You know what? I have no idea what the other one is. Maybe next year, I’ll look at  it. Some faculty wear these huge Chancellor’s Award medals. Some students wear medals, too. I don’t know what they are either, but I think some are honors society or graduating with honors.

Then the faculty all have hoods. Your definition of hood is probably the generally accepted definition of a hood–that head-shaped fabric attached to tops that you can put over your head. That’s not the case here. In academia, a hood is a long, sometimes velvety, usually colorful piece of fabric that you wear around your neck to choke yourself through the entire ceremony. It comes with a little loop in front that you are supposed to loop over a button on your shirt. If you’re not wearing a button-down shirt, then you get to try to not get asphyxiated by your own outfit.  In past years, I’ve been able to loop through my gown’s zipper, but I’ve done that too many times and the loop is warped, so this year, I kept tugging on it instead.

I had my shoulder bag with me, which proved a challenge. How to carry a bag without looking like I was carrying a bag? I wanted to have some sense of decorum. But then I looked around and some faculty looked like they were ready for camping, so I opted to carry it low and have my winged sleeve cover it up halfway.

And so after standing in the big gray room for about an hour, we lined up and moved into the hall where we stood for ten minutes. Then we moved and stopped again for a few minutes. Then we proceeded onto the floor under the bright enough to blind you spotlight so we could be projected up on the big screen. Instead of filing into rows, we had to walk in a big circle around the chairs and up the middle and then file into rows from there.

Then the students came in. Instead of having their names called as they walk across the stage to get their diploma, they get their names called as they come in and walk around in a circle. They hand their name on an index card off to whoever is calling out the names, and they walk in, and then sometimes people in the audience cheer.

This procession of names takes about an hour. No one knows when to sit or stand. It’s kind of like church only in church it’s clearer when to sit or stand. Church also has a kneeling option. Seasoned faculty sit as soon as the procession gets to ten names. Less seasoned wait until 20. Then there’s a very scattered whack-a-mole production of sitting and standing and whispering, “Do we sit?” Eventually, we are all seated, and some of us are doing crosswords, some are reading, some are looking at phones, but all the while, we are cheering on the students we know.

Once the last student proceeded in, we all gave a cheer and stood for all the grads. Then we sat. Then the admins started their procession, so we stood for the admins. Why? Because decorum means standing when people proceed in a circle unless the procession is an hour. The person on campus who is in charge of facilities was the mace bearer. Or is it mase barer? I don’t know. What I do know is that instead of church, now I felt like I was in temple at a bar mitzvah when they walk the Torah around. This is my main memory of attending bar mitzvah ceremonies, and I have no idea if it’s accurate.

After the admins got to the stage, we all sat. Then we all stood for the Pledge of Allegiance led by the salutatorian. Then we all sat again.

Then there was a very odd explanation of how NCC is a SUNY school so we were going to watch a video of someone from SUNY. Up on the big screen (for which we all needed to turn in our seats and crane our necks to see) an odd video began playing with a woman talking about students going to Puerto Rico for aid efforts. Then though I’ve never seen her on campus, she touted her work with students on NCC’s campus. Clearly, this is a moment of [insert particular campus here] but still, there was cheering because, you know, pandering.

The speeches were short and sweet. Both the Valedictorian and the SGA president (I think) spoke. They were pretty great, pointing out the challenges they all overcome to get to where they are. Two honorary degrees were granted. I don’t know if they were honorary doctorates but we are a community college that grants only associates degrees unless you’re in the four year nursing program, so maybe they were just generic “degrees.”

The chorus sang. That was neat. I wish the acoustics had been better for this performance and overall. There was constant noise, people talking in the audience and most likely the grads talking to each other, so it was hard to hear a lot of stuff.

What was loud and clear was when one of the admins called the president to the podium to bestow graduation status on the students. This is my favorite part–the tassel moving. I love it every time!

Then the faculty gets to proceed out first. I didn’t stop proceeding until I got to my car in the lot where I untangled myself from my robe and medals and choker hood to head home, having graduated yet one more time. Congratulations, everyone.

Great Saunter, Almost Made It

When I got home from walking 29.5 miles around Manhattan, I took off my sneakers and went straight into the shower. My feet burned bright red. They looked like two huge sausages, and my toes looked like plump little sausages weening off the huge foot sausages. Pretty gross, right? I thought I’d destroyed them for good.

The human body is uh. may. ZING! My feet were not ruined, but I did have a blister the size of a small child attached to one of my heels. That also healed quickly.

All worth it! S, R, and I met up at Fraunces Tavern along with lots of other Shorewalkers and got started right away. The overcast sky and drizzle here and there were helpful. They didn’t allow for over-heating and dehydrating, which is what happened to me last year. Last year, I thought I was going to die when we found civilization in Harlem on the way up and across, so I went home when I found a 1 train. Starting out this year in much cooler weather was the way to go. Thanks, Mother Nature.

R asked me how fast I thought we walk. I was like, between 3 and 3.5 mph. He decided there was no reason we couldn’t bang this thing out before dinnertime. So off we went. We did stop to stretch a few times and for some bathroom breaks. Because we stayed with the pack, fears of getting lost in the Magical Forest of Inwood faded. Or maybe it’s the fear that kept us mid-pack. We simply didn’t want to get sidelined by a birding experience again.

In keeping up with the pack, we got to take advantage of the snacks along the way. I. Was. In. Heaven.

I was super psyched to see some of the same places we saw last year. I was the same amount of psyched to see new places I’d missed out on when I left at mile 18ish last time. There’s so much more to see after mile 18.

Still, when your feet start to hurt, like really really hurt, there’s nothing you can do. It’s not like a hurt shoulder that you can sort of keep immobile. If you have to walk and your feet throb with every step, you have yourself a serious problem.

As we walked out onto 1st Ave nearing the home stretch, there was a hill. We’d encountered many hills before this hill. I’d met those hills with laughter. The long stretches of bridge after bridge and the paths along the highway that offered nowhere to go but forwards or back to see more highway–these spaces I took in stride, smiling, happy, gushing about how lucky we were to see such sights. This 1st Ave hill nearing the home stretch? I did not meet with such jubilance.

There was a lot of grunting and muttering. I mentioned to S that we’d climbed this hill on our wave walk, and that made me feel better for a few seconds because I’d conquered this hill in 100 degree sweat. But again, hurt feet are hurt feet. I told S I might not finish. She gave me a pep talk. Like a really great pep talk. It almost convinced me.

Then we got into the 30s, and when the map and a volunteer told us to take a left, I was like, I have to Saunter right instead. S and R went off to complete the Saunter, and I went across town to catch a train home. I caught sight of myself in a window, and I looked like an injured hobbit. Going home was a good decision.

Saunter 2019 (11)

I was supposed to teach two yoga classes the next day, but jacked up feet don’t allow for much namaste-ing. I got those covered and spent Sunday limping around. With almost double the distance I completed last year, I was in good shape. Plus, it didn’t get worse. Last year, the pain set in midday on Sunday and lasted well into Tuesday. This year, I wore Fitflops to work on Monday because of the blister but then everything went back to normal. That’s an accomplishment for sure.

Maybe one day I’ll complete the whole thing. Or one day I’ll head back to the place where I veered off and simply complete those last three miles. I’m thankful I was able to do so much more this year. I got to see so many more places along Manhattan’s perimeter, and I’m looking forward to seeing even more.

 

AWP Portland, OR Bust (Retrospective)

Here’s a vocabulary lesson.

Conferencing: going to a conference.
As in: I’m conferencing because AWP is in Portland, and I’ve always wanted to go to Portland. By “always” I  mean since I found out about the donuts.

Sidenote: AWP stands for Association of Writing Professionals. Okay, I’m lying and I’m lazy. I’m missing a word. Association for Writers and Writing Professionals? It’s one of those or a combination of the two.

Paneling: being a person that sits at a table and talks during a session at the conference
As in: I’m paneling with other community college faculty to discuss why creative writing programs are growing while overall enrollment is shrinking. My panel went really well. I gave a presentation complete with Willy Wonka and Oprah memes (you can see that and more here: Why They Keep Coming ). Also at my panel, I re-met a guy who lived a parallel life with us both having connections to NCC, Oneonta, and Hofstra. It turns out we were once in the same room talking poetry more than a decade ago. Here we are a decade later, talking teaching poetry.

Tabling: sitting at a table, eating candy, chatting with conference goers, handing out fliers and buttons.
As in: I’m tabling for the caucus and I’m tabling for the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop. Tabling was fun. I got to meet the good folks at Gunpowder Press who shared their table with the caucus. I got to meet and reconnect and share bookish fodder with the writers connected to CWW. I got to get people to sign up for the caucus and for information on future CWW events. And the candy. Oh, the candy.

AWP Day 3 (6)

Caucusing: um. okay, so I asked around and looked it up and I’m pretty sure a caucus is a smaller group with in a bigger group.
As in: I’m caucusing with the Two Year Community College Caucus at AWP. The two year group is part of the bigger AWP group. I think. In any case, I went to the caucus meeting and met other caucusers.

Fountaining: taking oneself on a walking tour of Portland, OR to see all the municipal fountains listed on Portland’s Municipal Fountains website.
As in: I went fountaining the day I got to Portland. It was raining, so I did it in the rain because that’s what people do in Portland. They go about their day as if it is not raining. Otherwise, they wouldn’t do a whole lot because there’s a lot of rain. I found most of the fountains using a list and a paper map. Since I get lost in large parking lots, I was friggin over-the-rainclouds proud that I was able to navigate without getting lost. Wherever I couldn’t find a fountain, I took a picture of where I thought it should be. (You can hover over or click on any photo to see which fountain it is).

Fact: The next three days, it did not rain, and I did this all in the rain when I could have waited and not.

Lyfting: taking a Lyft; closely associated to Ubering: taking an Uber
As in: I’ve never taken ride shares before, but I didn’t rent a car, and public transportation sometimes confuses me, so when the Uber my roommate called for wasn’t right on the corner right next to us when the app said it was, I used Lyft for the first time. As a first time experience, it was not good. At minute intervals, drivers kept dropping out and then a new one would be a few minutes away. Watching them on the map proved to be confusing because they kept coming close to the street we were on and then not turning on the street to get us. Most of them were named Tim. We wound up with a nice driver who told us he came to Portland for the weed business and now he was driving but he used to be a rapper. So, you know, I made a friend because sci fi fem poetry is almost exactly the same thing. Bobbee Papp is my hero.

AWP Day 2 (1)

After that, Lyftying was so much better because they all arrived without dropping out. And then on the last day we were there, an Uber driver almost slammed us into a street car, and my roomie was like, Should I rate him? and I was like, He almost killed us, and she was like, Should I tip him? and I was like, He almost killed us. So no and no. None of the Lyft drivers almost killed anyone.

Doughnuting: eating doughnuts. or donuts. but really, doughnuts.
As in: I rejected Whole 30 to take up the art of doughnuting in the name of Voodoo Doughnut. And NOLA Doughnuts. And planned a few more, but my little body would  have given out to sugar shock, so I settled for some Skout bars and yummy local fare on Mississippi Ave to round out my eating experience. Oh, and some ice cream too. And the very best almond milk decaf latte I’ve had in my life from Dutch Bros. Coffee.

And I was happy.

Bookstoring: getting lost in books on shelves
As in: Bookstoring at Powell’s was super overwhelming. Bookstoring in Another Read Through was less overwhelming, and there was a wine and kombucha and tea tasting there! Books and tea!

Portlanding: taking in all that the city of Portland has to offer, or at least as much as possible when not conferencing, paneling, tabling, and caucusing
As in: Portlanding Is Magnificent!

We’re Spies! Or Are We? If We Are, This Title Makes Us Terrible Spies!

Spyscape!

Being a spy takes risk, critical assessment, composure, agility, and martinis. This is what I learned.

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ONE
I do not like martinis. I kind of knew this already, but I tried again. S wanted a dirty martini, so I got one, too. I took one sip and was like, oh look you now have two dirty martinis. She declined because she wanted to get through the spy thing without careening about. They served good food, too. Butternut squash skewers are my jam, man.

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TWO
I love room-sized elevators. Getting to the exhibit proved invigorating as we watched our mission on the walls of the elevator. I didn’t jump with glee, but I definitely bounced with glee. S pointed out that the glee is not exactly spy-like. True, but still. It’s fun to have a mission!

THREE
I’m riskier than I thought but it’s still not a whole lot. Throughout the exhibit there are games to play and one is risk assessment at blowing up a balloon. Quite honestly, I didn’t even understand what I was doing the first time around. Apparently, when you don’t know that there’s risk involved, you have no problems with risk. Later on when I understood it, I was more careful, and so it averaged out. S’s risk? Same as mine.

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FOUR
I am a good liar. I know when people lie. I can lie to people. However, I could not find my way into the booths to take the lying test. S was like, where are you going? I was like, I’m following the velvet rope. She was like, You’re following the rope backwards–the doors are right here. Oh. Okay. Good liar. Bad at directional logic. As someone who has no qualms in telling people I don’t know my right from my left, this is not shocking.

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FIVE
S and I see movies that we don’t remember. And although S has an incredible memory that’s always been better than mine, I remembered a movie that she didn’t. Ryan Phillippe is in it. Let me back up for a minute. Spyscape is also a spy museum, so there were exhibits and some were about movies that were also about real spies. So there was a thing about Ryan Phillippe that at first sounded interesting to me, and then I realized that I’d seen it, and then I remembered that we’d seen it together. I was like, Yeah, we had to sit in the first row and his head was really large and you made yourself fall asleep because you weren’t enjoying it. S’s response? Oh, yeah, now I remember.

SIX
I’m loud. Even with headphones on, S heard me shouting out answers when we were in a 360 degree spy headquarters, searching for screens that fit the description the lady on the headphones was listing. I had to be loud. The one time I didn’t shout my answer was the one time she told me I was wrong when I was clearly right. While most spying is quiet, sometimes you need to shout. Or maybe get better spy equipment.

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SEVEN
Agility! How agile are we? Only lasers can tell us! My hair kept hitting the laser beams, so my time took a few hits. Both of us were really good at hopping over and crawling under beams. Also, night vision! Actually, according to my spy profile, agility is not one of my top three strong traits, but it sure was fun.

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S taking on the laser beams

EIGHT
Let’s not talk about the logic puzzles. I will say I was able to do the word codes and decoding pretty easily because, you know, letters. As soon as shapes and sequences popped up, I was like, I don’t even know what I’m looking at.

In the end, I found I am an Agent Handler, a manager of agents who provides secret intelligence or operational support. This means I recruit, cultivate, and manage agents with extreme care. Enter Mission: Impossible music here.

All this leads up to how we began the evening: Neither S nor I could get our locker to work. We chose a locker, put our stuff in, and then closed it. However, it wouldn’t close. We couldn’t reset the lock. We also had a hard time opening other lockers. Was this a challenge? Was this the test? Nope, we simply could not use the lockers.

Or could we?

Spies!