QotD: Scents & Sensibilities

What's the strongest association you have between a scent and a memory?

My father was a pipe smoker.  The photo of him which you can sort of see in this double portrait I took today was taken I believe right around the time my parents were married, six years before I was born, but he looked pretty much exactly like that for the whole time I knew him.

He always wore long pants (even to play tennis) and usually a tie and jacket, he often wore a hat, and he always, always had his pipe in his mouth, or near at hand.

When I was 12 and we were moving, my mother tried to throw out all of my father's old pipes, but I wouldn't let her.  They're still around somewhere, probably in my mom's basement.  I've never done anything with them, because of course they smell terrible–like old, stale smoked tobacco.  They belonged to my father, but they aren't him at all. 

I've never been a smoker, and I generally try to avoid really smoky places unless there's some compelling reason, like good music, to enter them.  But if I smell even the faintest whiff of pipe smoke, I'll follow it.  I'll follow until I find the source, and of course it's never my father, either, even though it smells like him.  But I keep following, perhaps as a result of reading Nabakov–"the following of such thematic designs through one's life should be, I think, the true purpose of autobiography"–and perhaps just out of hope.

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that kind of day

You may be familiar with the book pictured at left.  If you're not, I urge you to make haste to your local library and peruse a copy.  I can almost assure you that they'll have one, probably well battered–WorldCat has lists over 3000 libraries owning copies, and that's just the ones in English.

In my family, we refer to terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days simply as "Alexander days."  Today did not quite approach Alexander level, but it had its moments. . . such as going to talk to Jim, who was painting down the hall in the school, so that he could cheer me up about all the other things that went wrong today, and realizing that I was leaning against a freshly painted wall.  In work clothes.  I think we got most of the paint out, and it was just on a $4 shirt from the thrift store, but it's a shirt I rather like.  It was that kind of a day–an err in haste, repent at leisure kind of a day–the kind of day where all you can say, in the end, is "well, you can't please all of the people all of the time, and some of 'em you're never going to please, no matter what."  And so you might as well go swimming (even if you've forgotten your goggles), and come home and make mushrooms and garlic and pasta for dinner, and a salad from the lettuce you picked the other day, and listen to your favorite talk radio show (a call-in show from Yellowstone Public Radio called "Your Opinion Please"–I can't explain quite why I love it so much, but I do. . . people call in to talk about politics, and books, and road conditions) and listen to some music and look at some pictures and write a little post and pet your cat and read your book and go to bed.

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I've been feeling some indecision about what picture to use as my identifier here.  Today, probably as a result of thinking about Meredith's comment about mp3s for maple syrup on my previous post, I chose this one.  The Vermont t-shirt is one of the last things my father gave me before he died, which is sort of an awful thing to say, since it lends a good deal of bathos to the picture.  But I was actually happy to find this picture when I was sorting through some things a year ago, because I look so happy in it, and I'm sort of glad to see evidence that I was still happy at least some of the time that year. 

My father's family had a summer house way up in northern Vermont, in a town called Enosburg Falls.  We went there every summer, and my father and I both loved it.  My mom didn't like it so much, though that had less to do with Vermont and more to do with her mother-in-law.  We stopped going after my father died, and I've only made it back a few times since.  Someday maybe I'll write about my last visit, in 2004, when I saw my half brother and sister for the first time in 20 years, but tonight it's time for bed.

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chuckwagon dinner, horses, and a little more about me

Last night I went, along with my boyfriend, Jim, and my friends Shane and Tiffany, and the chocolatier, Tim (more on him in a minute), to the Chuckwagon Dinner at the Oasis Motel on the north edge of town.  Basically, it's an outdoor dinner (roast beef, green beans with bacon, potatoes with bacon and cheese–do you notice a theme here?–and salad and brownies and iced tea, lemonade, and water; byob if you want booze) with music and some dancing, as you can see.  This is the only really good shot I got of the dancing, though I took a bunch, and I may post a few to Flickr later.  I'm such a recent digital camera convert that I haven't gotten the whole action shot thing down yet.  (Incidentally, is anyone else having difficulties with the drop down menus when posting photos?  I can't get them to be visible to anything but "the world," which makes me reluctant to post pictures of friends, since my non-online friends tend to be a bit shy about having themselves visible to the world.)

I've actually gotten a bit hazy about which parts of my life are online and which aren't, so, with apologies for any repetitions, here's the "a little more about me" part.

I'm 30 years old, and I live in a tiny town in northwestern Wyoming called Meeteetse.  I'm not sure what it means–I've seen at least three different interpretations, but it seems to be Indian in origin.  I moved here four months ago to take the first full-time job I've ever had.  I spent my twenties going to graduate school (I got an MFA in Nonfiction Writing–one of those really useful degrees–before I went to library school) and working odd jobs and being unemployed and travelling a lot.  It was a good way to live, though it did create a certain amount of debt.  I feel pretty stupid about that part now, but on the whole, I don't regret it. 

I am the librarian here, and a lot of people refer to me that way, as in "Hey–librarian!"  I find it charming, mostly, though some days I wish my identity was a little bigger than "librarian."  But it's such a small place that there's often only one of everything, and so people who have regular jobs become the thing they do.

I don't normally make friends in a new place very quickly, but I have here, which seems like another sign that coming here was the right thing to do.  Shane and Tiffany run the local coffee shop, and they help out with various other work around town–ranch work, fencing, painting, whatever.  Jim, the guy I've been seeing for a few months now, paints and does other handyman work when people can convince him to do it.  Mostly he tries to avoid work.  And then there's the chocolatier, Tim, whom I'm sort of friendly with.  He's a cowboy, but he also makes chocolates.  I'm thinking of seeing if he'll barter truffles for better web design.

Anyway, to get to the horses part (a little out of order), this afternoon I went horseback riding with Shane and Tiffany up in the Shoshone National Forest.  I forgot my camera, so I don't have pictures, but if you've been on my Flickr account lately, it looked much like many of the other hikes I've taken.  Tiffany did take a picture of me on Baby, the palomino, so when she sends it to me I'll post it.  I haven't been on a horse since I was six, so we just did a short (maybe 45 minute) introductory ride.  We still got up pretty far, though–it's amazing how much farther you get on a horse than on foot.  Then we came back down, and Shane, his nephew, and Tiffany's daughter went for a longer ride while Tiffany and I sat around and gossipped.  Tiffany's daughter is ten and very funny.  She was telling me on the way back about her imaginary friend George, and she was delighted to hear that I had an invisible friend George (what can I say–it amuses me).  She told me a long story about George, which I regret to say I've forgotten, but it had to do with moving to Hawaii and the Denver Broncos and the color orange.  Last night at the Chuckwagon dinner she asked Jim if he'd brought his friend, and he said yes, pointing at me.  Today she wanted to know how I'd met Jim (he was one of the people they rounded up to help me move in) and if I liked him (yes).

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Digital Photo Relics

What's the oldest digital camera photo you have on your computer? When is it from? Let's see it!

Not really a relic at all.  I only got a digital camera in February.  The oldest digital photo (actually taken with a digital camera, not scanned from print) that I have is this one, taken by my more technologically advancced friend Felicia in October 2004. 

She was up from Miami to visit her brother in Chicago, and one night she and I and my then boyfriend (who was a vegan) went out to eat at the Chicago Diner, which is a vegan diner, which is better than it sounds.  And they have margaritas.  Mmmm.

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finding my way

So, I just figured out that this QOTD I keep seeing everywhere stands for "question of the day" and is not the initials of some Latin phrase I ought to know but don't.  (I spent four years studying Latin and Greek in college, plus a few other years here and there, but the extent of my ignorance of these matters continues to amaze me.)  What I haven't figured out is where one finds the question of the day.  Clearly, I haven't quite learned my way around this whole Vox landscape yet.

I like it pretty well so far, though.  When I first started putting things online in 1999, I wanted desperately to be discovered.  Nowadays, not so much.  This is a nice sort of compromise.

Now, though, I'm going to go spend a little time in my physical neighborhood.  I've hung my laundry out to dry (on the porch railings, since I haven't gotten around to rigging up a clothesline yet), and I'm off to spend some time hanging out in the coffeeshop.  Then I'll see if the small machine repairman can fix my vacuum cleaner.  O the joys of Saturday!

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hello world, hello voice

I think most of you reading this know me either in person or online, so this may be redundant. . . .

I'm a librarian in northwestern rural Wyoming.  I've been here for about four months now, and it's fascinating and wonderful, if sometimes very strange.  I'm originally from Iowa City, Iowa and have lived in Poughkeepsie, NY (during college), the suburbs of Chicago (right before I came here), Indianapolis (during junior high; a time best forgotten), and a few months each in San Francisco and Minneapolis.

I love cities, but I also love living now in a town of 351 people, even on the days when it's strange.

Yesterday most people in town were either elated or downcast: hunting licenses arrived in the mail.  The elated had elk tags; the downcast, nothing.  On the 4th of July (a holiday I usually avoid–I used to have an anti-4th-of-July party in Iowa City) my boyfriend (who is a particular fan of the holiday, either) convinced me to spend the afternoon hanging out at the reservoir.  Since that's the sort of thing I feel I never did enough of in my youth, I went, and I had a fairly good time sitting around and drinking beer and enjoying the stillness.  Yet it was odd–many of the other people there had not graduated from high school, or had only barely graduated, but they work in the oilfields and pull in as much as $70,000–more than twice what I make with 1.75 masters' degrees.  I would like to be better at integrating the worlds I live in.

I have some other online presence, most of which you can find via my website, The New Rambler.  But there have always been things I wanted to write about, like the bit above, that don't seem to fit in any of my other spaces.  Perhaps this will be the one where they do fit.

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Papers I Am Probably Never Going to Write

Once upon a time The New Rambler was entirely composed of things I wanted to write about but lacked an outlet for. I still lack an outlet, other than this, but I seem to be rather busier now than I was then. So instead I offer partial list of topics, to be updated as I see fit. . .

Busy Being Free: Freedom and Responsibility in Rock and Roll, 1965 to the Present (or possibly the mid-1970s)
starting with “Like a Rolling Stone,” with its salvo “When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose,” and continuing through such classics as “Me and Bobby McGee” (“Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose“), with particular attention to the works of Joni Mitchell in songs such as “Cactus Tree” and “All I Want

Men in Rock
simply because I’m so sick of reading articles about Women in Rock. “Men in Rock” would be both a celebration and an exploration of the role of masculinity in rock and roll, beginning, I suppose, with Elvis and ending perhaps with Prince, particularly during his “the artist formerly known as Prince” phase

The Romance Writings of Edward Abbey
an examination of the works of Edward Abbey and how they do (and do not) fit into the conventions of romance and erotica, with possible digressions to consider the concept of the romance of the wilderness in the American mind and the works of other writers, such as Terry Tempest Williams, who explore the erotics of place

Not So Happy

I’ve been listening to the new Dar Williams album pretty much non-stop, especially since I got my computer back from Apple. (They even slapped a new keyboard on–my cat had clawed off several of the keys, and they don’t pop back on the way you think they might). I have a stereo, but it, along with most of my other possessions, is in storage–hence this whole computer listening thing. Luckily, unlike my father, I am not that fussy about sound quality.

I am feeling a little guilty because my copy of the album is a copy (though not really guilty, because, as much as I love Dar Williams, I am less than pleased with the music industry) and somewhat more guilty because I’ve realized I like her covers on this album better than her original material. I’m particularly taken with the version of “Comfortably Numb” she does with Ani Difranco.

I was once trying to explain the nature of Pink Floyd and the attraction they hold for certain males of junior high age (and up, come to think of it). I finally said that they had a song called “Comfortably Numb.” That seemed to do it. I always found it overwrought, but I love this version. Perhaps I’m just relating to Dar’s stated intention

The song is a commentary on who we are in the aftermath of the last election, no matter who you voted for. On one level it is about a dream which seems to have died in our society and the ultra convenient numbing I am witnessing these days.

Or perhaps I’m just down. The sun shone today, and on Friday, but other than that it’s been unrelentingly gray here for weeks. I had no idea before I moved to the Chicago area that it really ought to be called–in the winter, at least–the Gray City, not the Windy City. I have one of those fancy lightboxes, and I use it from time to time, but it’s just not the same. The other day I asked a woman here in the suburbs when she’d last seen the stars. “Last night!” she said. “I have glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling over my bed!” It’s kind of like that. Or, as my college friend Theo once said of File Maker Pro, then the reporting system for Campus Patrol: “it’s like a vibrator–it gets the job done, but it’s not the same as the real thing.” Well, perhaps it’s not quite like that. . . but you get the idea.