Life Among the Never-Winged

Once upon a time I was writing a book called, "Just Another Love Letter", about angels behaving badly. Now I just quietly ask myself each day, "What the hell am I doing?"

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Location: The Rocky Mountain Empire, United States

My friends always knew I was going to hell. My only hope is that God likes good jokes and bad redheads.

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  • Sunday, December 30, 2007

    Fragile Things

    The parentals made it in safely, obviously. Thank you for your concern.

    * * *

    Things are going well. Very well. A pleasant change from my visit out there. My dad has settled into retirement now, I think. He's using us as guinea pigs. He'll be cooking a meal for 18 people in Tuscany this spring,so he's trying out recipes. Brioche stuffed with mushrooms, pine nuts and herbs. Roasted Brussels sprouts and artichokes in creme fraishe (I HATE Brussels sprouts but had three helpings of the stuff. Incredible.). Fried Cajun eggplant (old family recipe) with pork tenderloin in a raspberry and wine reduction sauce, which wins my vote. I've been acting as sous chef and taking notes. But the best part is that the boyos have been sous chefs too. They are really getting into cooking. Jack made mashed potatoes last night, and Declan made the fried eggplant tonight. My dad affectionately says to one or the other, “Hey, good job little chef.”

    It's nice, this change from last spring.

    * * *

    This vile cold continues. Last night I coughed until three, when I finally woke up enough to get up and do something about it. I drifted off then, and sometime after that briefly awoke in that warm, floaty place that only the right type of cold medicine and a shot of whiskey, honey and lemon can take you. The night-fears that normally nibble away at me only got a mouthful of fuzz for their trouble.

    * * *

    This afternoon I read a few short stories from my battered new copy of Gaiman's 'Fragile Things', then without meaning to, I took a nap. I just couldn't help it. The bed was soft, and warmed by sunlight. The boyos were downstairs and oh so quiet, and there were three other people in the house to watch them.

    Napping is so out of character for me that I spent the time dreaming several nap-related dreams. In one, I dreamed that while I was napping my parents were randomly taking food out of the refrigerator and dumping it into a casserole for dinner, and the top ingredient was jam. Then I dreamed that the boyos had gotten into something that they weren't supposed to while I was asleep. Finally, I dreamed that I woke up in October.

    So when I did finally wake up, I was quite disoriented, remembering the old Chinese adage about the Buddhist monk dreaming he was a butterfly, then awakening and wondering if he was a butterfly now dreaming about being a monk. It didn't help when I wandered out into the kitchen and saw that the Christmas candy (Frangos!*) on top of the refrigerator had transformed into a bag of Halloween candy.

    I stood there blinking up at the purple bag of chocolate Jack-o-lanterns, then back down at the counter. Which had a new jar of raspberry jam sitting on it.

    Apparently while I was asleep, my parents had gone to the grocery store to pick up a few things, one of them being raspberry jam for the aforementioned raspberry and wine sauce. And the oh-so-quiet boyos downstairs had been quiet because they ran across the bag of leftover-from-god-knows-which-Halloween candy. My mom found them halfway through it, and confiscated the bag.

    Even when I sleep it seems I can't sleep.

    * * *

    Other than that it's been pretty normal around here.

    * * *

    The red balloon from the picture of the mantel has become a sort of pet. It's lost most of its helium so it floats midway in the air through the house, following currents of warm air from the fireplace. Turn around, and it's floating right behind you. It's...comforting.

    * * *

    Alongside 'Fragile Things', I'm reading 'Harpo Speaks!'. I used to love Harpo when I was a girl, because he seemed so sweet and innocent and mischievous, so faun-ish. Now I love him because when he was fourteen he played piano in a whorehouse and thought nothing of it.

    I never realized how similar he was to Anton LeVey. He is so going into Salazar's character.

    * * *

    Ok. Bed.

    *The Frangos were actually from my mother-in-law to my parents. Ha ha. Some of you are probably laughing right now.

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    Tuesday, December 25, 2007

    Maybe She Went Off with Esereth*

    Merry Christmas, all.

    I'm back out of my cave for a while.

    The darker days, the longer nights. There's a reason mankind has always celebrated the light, or Light, as some would have it, and not wrongly. It's the lead-up that kills, the stress bearing down like an incoming snowstorm over the mountains. What surprises will the family pull this year? What would make everyone happy? What can be done without breaking the bank?

    And now that The Day is here, some of the stress has blown off, and I've got a minute to put my thoughts together. Bear with me; I have a hell of a cold, something that tiptoed behind me out from the Heart of Darkness and pounced like a hedge lion** a few days ago.

    But there have been a few bright spots too.

    We spent a magical couple of days with the Clowncar-Hux fambly, making gingerbread houses and talking into the wee (whee!?) hours after the kiddos finally(!) fell asleep. We are all at crossroads of one sort or another, mostly dealing with career changes/evolutions, and it's good to talk to someone and get a bit of perspective. It's also nice to talk to another adult about things other than children.

    Despite this vile illness, which I hope I did not pass along, I managed to keep from being Inert Hostess the next morning. I wish I could have held out 'til that night, when Jo came over. I sat mostly inert in front of (one of her gifts to the boyos) inertly but happily clutching the gifts she gave me – my first scrubs and a stethoscope. They made me cry, they did. She's the best gift-giver ever.

    And I've added seven pages to JALL and I like all seven of them.*** I've added three beyond that, and I don't like those. They will not be staying.

    The snow is falling outside. We have a nasty baby blizzard going while I sit in front of the fire and type this.

    That alone would constitute contentment, however, my folks are out there somewhere on the road in Nebraska and they are heading this way and I worry, worry, worry. I've talked to them several times today. So far the weather has held, but outside of Kearney the skies were turning dark and dirty. I'm afraid they will try to drive on through. There should be signs posted on the Western edge of Oglalla, Nebraska saying, “Beyond Here There Be Dragons”. The only thing Eastern Colorado has going for it over Mars is slightly more breathable air. If they pass Sterling, my folks will be committed to driving through the Wasteland. There is Nothing Else Out There.

    Once they are here, I'll probably be crawling back into the cave. I say this to break it. If I tell you I won't post, then I will. They are staying with us through New Year's. The house gets verrrry small. I hope my dad is in a better mood than this summer. That's an understatement.

    It's still snowing. The light is failing for today.

    Update: My folks made it to a hotel in North Platte. The storm caught them quickly; everything was fine, then it took them an hour and a half to go nine miles. They passed car after car off in the ditch. Tomorrow they'll cross the Eastern Plains, weather-willing.


    ** Reading 'The Shining' for the first time has not colored my mood for the better. Holiday Greetings from the Overlook Hotel!

    ***All work and no play makes Dancehall a Nancy boy.... All work and no play makes Dancehall a Nancy boy ....

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    Thursday, December 13, 2007

    Not Much To Report

    Like this guy, I've fallen off the face of the earth to work on JALL. I like what's hitting the page.

    Having been passed over by the Christmas Spirit this year, I had a strong craving to celebrate Hanukkah. My latent Jewish blood is surfacing, I guess. So we lit the Menorah and I made potato latkes and read the boyos a story about the Maccabees. Craving satisfied.

    Last night we sold our decrepit but real-slate pool table for $125 and two t-shirts. Mine has an Andy Warhol-style Christopher Walken print and O's features a print of Charles Bukowski with 'Ladies Man' printed under it. Because that's the kind of people we are.

    In about 45 minutes I'll be headed into the Heart of Darkness boyos' classroom as a volunteer. I guess this means I have to find matching socks. The stomach flu is in the air. Pray for me.

    I still don't know my final grade.

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    Friday, December 07, 2007

    What I Learned in Biology

    Glucose is the driver of life. It's the sweet stuff our bodies consume on a molecular level. Sugar molecules serve as part of the backbone for DNA. On a molecular level glucose is made of a ring of six bonded carbons.

    Figure 1 -- Glucose ring of six bonded carbons

    Somehow, I got in with the cool kids. There are six of us who sit around a big table and quiz each other before class, and BS between the quizzing. The youngest is twenty, the oldest is in her early forties. There's me, there's my lab partner Lily Page, there's Pre-Physician's Assistant Angela, there's Abby the Artist, there's Nan the Nurse and there's Not My Major. Tonight we BS'ed a lot. Loudly. With much laughter.

    Abby: I just want to tell that big idiot to shut up!

    Me: I'm going to tell him you said that.

    Abby: Somehow, I don't see you doing that.

    Me: Yeah? Watch me!

    Angela: I bet you floor people outside of class. God you're funny.

    Lily Page: Oh, yeah, uh-huh.

    This went on for an hour. I don't remember everything that was said, but I remember laughing at every god-damned thing these women said.

    DNA molecules are held together by weak hydrogen bonds.

    Figure 2 -- Weak hydrogen bonds

    And then there was a moment. This is Abby's last class, ever. Not My Major and Lily Page are not science majors, so this is it for them. I'm taking A&P, Angela's taking Bio 2, Nan's still picking out her next classes and they might not be at this college. We all felt that camaraderie slipping away, just as it was really getting fun.

    However, the sheer number of hydrogen bonds makes DNA remarkably strong.

    Figure 3 -- DNA coiled tightly before undergoing cell division

    I'd forgotten about this part of school. This camaraderie. We were all different – at different stages of our lives, with different backgrounds, different goals, different values. But we were at this time and place bonded by the challenge of this class.

    Other classmates came around, mostly with questions about the homework. 'What'd you get for number twelve?' We obliged. Then someone was standing behind me.

    'You typed up your homework answers, huh?'

    It was Mark. Now a while back, Abby told me that she overheard Mark say to our instructor, “Tell me. I've got the highest grade in the class, don't I?”

    And she said, “No. Actually, you don't. There are two people ahead of you.”

    He wanted to know who they were. Of course she didn't tell him.

    But Abby had a pretty good idea of who they were.

    Mark also makes a Very Big Show out of finishing his tests quickly. And everybody knew that He Finished His Term Paper REALLY EARLY.

    Anyway, I once tried talking to Mark and he looked at me like I was rat sperm smear.* Now he was smiling down at me.

    “Um...yeah, I typed it up. To spare Denice from reading my handwriting.”

    “Yeah. I typed mine up too. So.” He looked from me to Angela. “I asked Denice if I had the highest grade in the class and she told me there were two people ahead of me.”

    Yup, just like that, WHUMP, his dick out on the table.

    Figuratively, of course.

    Angela and I looked at each other. And smiled.

    Angela said, “Really? Hmmm.”

    “Wow,” I said.


    In the following silence, Mark rolled back and forth from his heels to the balls of his feet and back again.

    “So what's your grade?” he asked Angela.

    “Well, now...”

    “What's yours?” I asked Mark.

    “Oh, um, I don't know, like...101%, something like that.”

    “Ah,” I nodded. I looked back at Angela. “You know, I think the point is that you challenge yourself, right?”

    “Oh, yes! I mean, what does it really matter, how anybody else does?”

    “Like running your own race...”

    “Yes. Beating your own score...”

    And so we slapped his dick until it wasn't on the table anymore.

    Figuratively, of course.

    When the cell is ready to divide, DNA helicase breaks the hydrogen bonds between base pairs.

    Figure 4 -- In a quick event, helicase severs hydrogen bonds.

    Lily Page finished her test. She whispered, 'bye, guys' and left. I waved without looking up. Since shes my lab partner, I had her email address.

    The test was tough.

    Just the way I like them. I need to get my ass kicked now and then.

    I felt like this:

    Figure 4 -- Mental Construct of Nancy Dancehall

    This test was more like a battle, and less like harvesting wheat, which is how I felt about the lab practical.

    I don't know if I beat my last score. I don't care if I beat anyone else's.

    In DNA, nitrogenous bases pair up according to structure. Thymine will always pair up with adenine, cytosine with guanine.

    Figure 5 -- base pairs align.

    Across the room, Angela finished her test. I still had three questions to go. I finished them and hurried out after her. I just caught her in the parking lot.

    “Hey! What'd you think of the test?” I shouted.

    “Not bad!” she answered.

    We talked about the structure of DNA. I asked about her twins, and she asked about mine. Then I asked if she ever wanted to get together sometime. And she said, “Yeah!” and consulted her schedule. We exchanged emails.

    This is big. I make a new friend (in person) about once every two or three years.

    And now I'm feeling Just. Like. This.**

    *It's become like Tourettes for me.

    **Bonus points if you can name the literary reference in the song.

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    Tuesday, December 04, 2007

    One Down

    My lab practical (final) tonight was blindingly easy.

    Which was a relief, since my instructor said the Monday/Wednesday class bombed it.

    Guess what I got to look at under a microscope. Again.

    There were two bonus questions:

    1. Why did the chicken cross the road?

    2. Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

    One of my classmates didn't get them so she left them blank.

    *sigh* Kids these days. This is the future of medicine.

    Finished my paper. Finished my lab book. One more final to go. After that I'm finishing the book.

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