I talked to A. late last night…

…her last night in Montana before leaving for the research site in Arizona early this morning. The picture above shows the baggage she brought with her last summer to the same site. Last summer she was a temporary researcher, though, and was only responsible for her own gear. This year, she is in charge of the temporary researchers and all of the equipment needed for the summer’s work, so there is quite a bit more gear involved. She has spent the last week packing, and, this morning, if all goes according to plan, a convoy of three Chevy Suburbans will pull out of College Town for Arizona.

When you think of all of the awful things that convoys of Suburbans could be involved in these days, it’s kind of nice to think of three of them tootling down the highway full of bird scientists and camping equipment. (And one gun, of course. These people aren’t fools.)

Last night was the final class of the semester in my writing program. I wish I’d had the wherewithal to chronicle the class as it unfolded: it concerned “syntactic revision,” which meant much time spent devising “parallel, complex appositives” and “summative modifiers” and the like.

I even learned how to diagram sentences, which wouldn’t be worth mentioning if I hadn’t also learned why I should bother: because diagramming a sentence gives you a surprisingly accurate visual means of understanding the balance and relative heft of the expression of whatever ideas the sentence concerns. That said, I haven’t yet been tempted to do any of it on my own. I suspect that few other MA writing students encounter classes like this one, and it’s been a valuable experience. It came at just the right time for me and I could almost go so far as to say that the whole program will have been worth it, even if I don’t end up transferring to another program out west, just for this class.

So now that my class is over, the summer looms unrestricted and up to me (outside of work, that is), which is good, because there is a lot to get done in preparation for the move and for renting out this house. In the next few days I’m going to cook up an exhaustive list and share it here, particularly the steps I’m taking that are required by tenant law here in Baltimore, as record and as a resource for others.

Renting is looking doable, though, especially after showing the house to a couple whom A. met through volunteering at the Aquarium. They are interested in ending their lease on a place in Bel Air, where one neighbor plays bass-heavy music at a volume that causes their bed to move, and where the upstairs neighbors sound as if they enjoy a hobby of moving cement blocks while wearing clogs. The couple said that they are definitely interested in the house, although until I see a signature on a lease and on a deposit check, I’ll consider this interest purely theoretical. They’ll need to give their current landlord notice soon, so I hope to know more within a few weeks.

This week, I’m having some improvements made to the house. An electrician is coming tomorrow to ground some outlets, and a plumber is scheduled for Saturday to, among other things, install a new water heater. The only other major job is a new tub insert; I’m still researching this subject, and it’s a confusing one, so if anyone has any ideas…

My father arrived last night to spend a week here at the house while he keeps a couple of medical appointments scheduled with his longstanding doctor in Silver Spring. (My parents recently moved to West Virginia, although it’s a more complicated situation than that: my mom is still working at a school near Silver Spring and staying with friends to finish out the year for various reasons, including honor and a more favorable retirement package.) And tomorrow I’m speaking to students in the American Studies department at my old school about how they can best follow my career path. (Ahem.) So it will be a busy week.

Edit: I am informed that only one Suburban departed today. The other two will follow later. A truck pulling a trailer also departed today but traveled separately, so there was no convoy of bird scientists after all. Sorry.

Rough Morning For Someone

I’ve long been a proponent of never ever ever going barefoot in Baltimore, easily the filthiest city I’ve ever seen (and no, I haven’t been to India, but yes, I have been to the Dominican Republic, Belize and New York City). This morning, on my way to work, I was provided a fresh reminder as to why barefooting in Baltimore is a bad idea: in addition to the usual generalized grime and galaxy of gum stains I see every day, I also walked past a puddle of fresh vomit next to the low brick wall outside the Waverly 7-11, where the Jehovah’s Witnesses sometimes sit. (Not an uncommon sight in this junkie-riddled town, by the way. Vomit, I mean, not Jehovah’s Witnesses. Although…)

So I was fascinated by the sight that greeted me in the ATM lobby of a bank on St. Paul Street in Charles Village. A barefoot woman in her middle 20s, otherwise dressed for work in white button-down shirt and tan pants, stood at one of the two ATMs. I thought she might have left a pair of painful high heels in her car while running in for some cash. As I inserted my card into the other machine, hers made a scolding beeping sound. She wrenched her card from the slot with obvious impatience and turned to go.

Behind us waited a young man in a dark shirt and suit, no tie, glamorous longish hair falling around his face. He and the woman seemed to know each other.

“Not enough?” he asked, with a smile.

She skidded to a stop and made a show of controlling a sharp remark by taking a deep breath.

“Good morning, Omar, how are you?” she asked. Her tone was frosty.

“OK,” he answered, slowly. “How are you?”

“I woke up without my shoes, I don’t know where I am, and I have to get to work.”

“Are you OK?”

“Yeah, great,” she said, as she shoved open the door and walked quickly away down the sidewalk.

By the time I emerged she was out of sight. While I waited for my bagel at Sam’s, I had much to think about. The woman’s lack of surprise at encountering this Omar fellow suggested that she was in her neighborhood, but, if so, wouldn’t she have had access to shoes? Or did she own only the one pair? Also, given the circumstances, why not call out sick? This might make a bad impression, sure, but a worse one than arriving without shoes? Perhaps she worked in a cubicle, I thought, and stood a chance of not being spotted after she’d made it to her desk.

Mulling all of this over, I realized that the woman had looked slightly disheveled. Although her clothes were clean, the strands of her hair that had escaped from her loose ponytail suggested that she’d been to bed at least once since the last washing and brushing. And her inappropriate tone and detached manner – not to mention her curt rejection of someone whom it might have made sense to instead latch onto as an ally – suggested that she was still under the influence of whatever chemicals had helped her get into this fix to begin with.

I spotted her again as I left Sam’s. She was just coming out of the small grocery store two doors up, carrying a white plastic bag, still barefoot. She crossed the street and took up a cab-hailing stance on the opposite curb. I watched her disappear into a downtown-bound Yellow Cab.

I have a feeling my day will go better than hers, but of course you can never be sure.

Zuzu vs. Laptop

I wonder if I have to worry about Zuzu taking some sort of action against the laptop, which it’s pretty clear she resents when she finds it taking her accustomed place on my, well, lap.

Last night, while sitting on the couch watching The Office, I was working on a map of the neighborhood I’m going to give to prospective tenants. I used Photo Booth to snap this laptop-eye view of Zuzu glaring at her competition while standing tensely by my side.

It’s probably good that I keep it on a high, high shelf when I’m not using it.