Saturday, February 25, 2012

Estate Sale

On my Saturday morning constitutional I walked past a house having an estate sale and my voyeurism tendency kicked in. How often do I have the chance to look through someone's house and stuff without them inviting me over or me just letting myself in? ;)

Browsing other people's most near and dear possessions quenched my bout of  voyeurism but also left me feeling sad.  Having never been to an estate sale I didn't realize that it literally meant everything is for sale. There were even pictures for sale of the people who, I can only assume, lived in the house. Who would buy those? Much of the stuff was still in closets or seemed barely taken off the wall and put on a table. These people's lives had been so exposed.

I associate estate sales with death, mainly of old people or sudden, tragic deaths. I hope when I die my family will just send my stuff to DI or Good Will and not open my house up for people to come riffle through my things. Despite my indignant rant they did have some great stuff. Here are the things I would have bought had I any money with me:

  • A Cole Porter LP
  • A MoTab Sings Christmas Carols LP
  • An 8-Track player
  • Portfolio-like books of Cezanne and Van Gogh, with prints
  • A few scarves
  • The July 1982 edition of National Geographic

Thursday, February 23, 2012

LOVE of Music

Many of you already know this, but I LOVE music. I LOVE music in the sense that I am annoying to talk to about music; but not in the sense that I am up to date on all the latest artist or know everything about every band ever. When I find an artist or a band I like, I REALLY like them and will follow them for years. I’m one of those people that if I wasn’t so inhibited I would be that annoying person you are standing next to at the concert swaying to the music with my eyes closed.  For now I try to keep that confined to my house and bedroom. 

Music is a balm and a coping mechanism. Music offers me the same familiarity and safety a security blanket offers a toddler. High energy situations and stress in my life are usually accompanied by a large dose of The Strokes; sad and lonely times require a few hits from Regina Spektor or Andrew Bird. Then there’s Bon Iver, who I will listen to anytime, anywhere, no matter my mood.  However, my music-listening hobby can have side-effects, a particular song, album or artist will suddenly and unexpectedly overwhelm me with memories.

Today I was listening to some M. Ward Archives on NPR as I was doing other work. A song came on from his Post-War album and the next thing I know, instead of thinking about the impact of maternity care practices on birth costs, I’m back in Cheyenne Wyoming at my brother and sister-in-law's house sitting on the twin bed they bought me trying to figure out what I should do with my life. Ironically, I can listen to the latest Bon Iver or Santigold and have the same experience, the only difference is the bed I’m sitting on now is in Atlanta:)

I know this phenomenon is not unique to me. I also have had similar experiences reading, but I love that a 3-4 minute song can conjure up a perfectly melded experience of time, place and situation that I will never be able to visit in person. I don't mind that the memories aren't always happy.

So I leave you with a cover song that I LOVE

M.Ward’s cover of David Bowie's Let’s Dance

Sunday, January 8, 2012

National Parks: Part II

I am not much of historian and think sometimes that I should write a letter to Richard Lyman Bushman for his advice to the novice historian. Much of the history I learn feels distant and disconnected from my personal life. Recently, I made an interesting personal connection while watching to the history of  Grand Teton National Park on the Ken Burn's National Park Series

Yellowstone was the first U.S. National Park, established in 1872. If you are a fan of national parks then it's a good thing that Wyoming was not yet a state, otherwise Yellowstone could easily have been a state park, like Yosemite started out or not a park at all. Years after becoming a park more and more people took notice of the beautiful jagged mountains south of Yellowstone, and in 1908 the Teton mountains themselves were made a national forest.

I have vivid memories of sitting in the front room of my grandparent's house or out by my grandpa's extensive garden watching cars go up the highway, a road that if one continues to drive 45 minutes east will wind along a beautiful reservoir and by taking the right forks in the road will land one in Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park.

While sitting in my grandparent front room or by the garden I have listened to numerous stories told by my grandpa. Grandpa, being a farmer, talks and thinks of land the same way most people talk and think about the weather, which means daily. (Don't worry the weather is also a common topic of conversation, especially for a dry farmer). Many times these discussions elicit not-so-friendly comments about how certain neighbors, the government and oddly, the Rockefellers are affecting local land prices. Growing up and even now I have not been involved or much interested in real estate nor the factors that change prices. I always thought my grandpa's statement a little odd, but after watching this National Parks series, I realize grandpa's statement may not be off the mark.

According to the NPS:
  • The original Grand Teton National Park, set aside by an act of Congress in 1929, include only the Teton Range and six glacial lakes at the base of the mountains.
  • The Jackson Hole National Monument, decreed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt through presidential proclamation in 1943, combined Teton National Forest acreage, other federal properties including Jackson Lake and a generous 35,000-acre donation by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. The Rockefeller lands continued to be privately held until December 16, 1949 when impasse for addition to the national park was resolved.
  • On September 14, 1950, the original 1929 Park and the 1943 National Monument (including Rockefeller’s donation) were united into a “new” Grand Teton National Park, creating present-day boundaries
After congress set aside the original 1929 land including only the Teton Range and six glacial lakes at the base of the mountains, John D. Rockefeller Jr. who thought the park should be bigger with an unobstructed view from the valley, was quietly buying up land in Teton Valley. He hoped to add it to the park. But Wyoming's was a state by now and an intense state-federal battle began.  President Roosevelt sought to expand the park despite local resistance. Eventually, a compromise was reached to bring more land under protection and gave us the Grand Teton National Park we know today.  But it also resulted in Wyoming being the first "state" (OK so it wasn't a state yet) to have a National Park (Yellowstone) and the only one that by law will never have another one created. As part of the  Teton's compromise the Federal Government agreed to never again use the Antiquities Act (the act used to create National Parks) to protect land inside Wyoming.

Apparently some of the Rockefeller's posterity must be meddling again in the local real estate, and grandpa's stories are more than just the reveries of a retired farmer.

Here are some pics to show it is a real pretty place, is it any wonder rich people would want to move there and drive up land prices:)

Saturday, December 31, 2011

National Parks: Part I

This last month I watched Ken Burn's The National Parks: America's Best Idea and loved it. I'd seen some of it a few years ago but this was the first time I've watched it beginning to end. It is a hearty 12 hour endeavor and I did over a few weeks, but it was worth it.

A few years ago I decided to make some lifetime goals. One of these goals was to visit every National Park (NP) in the US. I already had a good start, being from Utah and having a parents who must have loved NP --or were just cheap-- because it seemed we visited a NP every family vacation whether we wanted to or not.

Even though I may have complained on a few of those trips, I love National Parks, in idea and actuality. They may be the only form of federal government involvement some members of my family and I will ever agree on. It is easy to get caught up in owning very tangible and proximal items like electronics, cars, clothes and real estate, these things usually belong to one person or a family, we don't have many opportunities to experience what it is like to have ownership and responsibility for communal goods.

I recently visited two NP in Florida, the Everglades and Biscayne.  Each park has it's own beauty. The Everglades are like the where's Waldo of National parks, keeping one ever alert i hopes of glimpsing a Heron, Anhinga, Alligator or some other wildlife. Whereas the Western parks of my youth demanded great hikes and quiet contemplation as one looks upon God's natural temples.

National parks are filled with people from all over the US, the world and from every walk of life. I have met people both from the US and other countries with whom I have very little in common but can talk about the grandeur of delicate arch in Arches NP or the acrophobia inducing Angel's Landing of Zion NP. Talk to Europeans who once they know you are from Utah want to re-live their trips of Arches, Bryce Canyon and Zion's to you. A national park is a place where I and a Latina teenager from Florida can stand side by side and watch in wonder an alligator on a log staring at a turtle. It is a communitarian experience that people from the entire political spectrum can appreciate. 

Everglades: If you look real close you can see an alligator



Glacier: Brother Mike and I on a sibling bonding hike. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Without a car no more

I made it a whole week without a car. I've felt real blessed--I have to use that word is it such a Southern word, do you know how many times I've heard "bless her heart" and this time of the year "have a blessed Christmas," What wrong with the word merry people?-- to have so many great friends who were happy to give me rides. In all, I got 10 rides from 7 people in 5 days. When I finally picked up my car Friday afternoon I was glad to be back in the drivers seat.

I was surprised at how well I did without my car, a blog post by by Dan Ariely about Flying Frustrations reminded me of this. He shares a story about how a two-hour flight to Chicago ended up taking 6 hours due to weather. Knowing myself, I was surprised that I didn't have more frustrating moments like this. The only one I can recount was upon learning how much it would cost to fix dear Regina. So while I definitely had to adjust to others schedules and had some of the idle moments Ariely talks about, my trick was to always carry a book with me.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A week without a three.

Think about what you do when you are in a car by yourself... do you listen to the radio, talk on the phone (I don't recommend this but understand if it happens), make mental lists? I mainly listen to NPR and if I'm driving during the classical music hours then I listen to my ipod. Not that I have anything against classical music but the voice of the DJ sounds like she also works for a 1-900 number--sometimes it makes me a little uncomfortable.

Well this week everywhere I went was with someone and usually when I in a car with someone we chat, and I had some great chats. I decided to count up how many different people have given me a ride this week, it adds up to 6 so far. That means at least 6 conversations. It's been nice to have a little more informal human contact in my life. I have enjoyed learning more about the people giving me a ride.

Here's a few things I've chatted with people about:

  • The absence of official dietary guidelines for children 0-2 years old.
  • Birth control.
  • Musical talents, or lack thereof. 
  • The fact that one of my coworkers husbands stayed home and cooked Thanksgiving for his neighbor who has cancer while his family went to New York.
  • More than I ever needed to know about Sons of Anarchy. 
  • Someone who got married on 11/11/11.
  • HBCUs

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A week without a two.

If you ever need a ride just ask me. It's only day two and feel like I owe the whole world a ride to somewhere. 

My perception of time has changed over the past 2 days. Having a car means I decide when I come and go. Even to the extent that I can get very stressed if I am not out the door or at the office at certain, almost arbitrary deadlines I set for myself. 

Depending on someone else for transportation has lessened this stress and anxiety. For example, today my ride was supposed to pick me up at 8 am. She called and said she had to talk to her son's teacher and get gas. So after 45 minutes of waiting and another 15-minute stop at Star Bucks we arrived at work. Usually this would be a very stressful experience, but I took it in stride and used the time to practice my banjo. 

Being so dependent also means I feel like a pre-driving teen, bumming rides all the time. This feeling was not lessened by the fact that had to ask no fewer than 5 people for a ride home. It wasn't that they couldn't give me a ride but that I wanted to find a someone leaving as close to my normally-scheduled-departure time as possible. As I trudged out to my rides car laden with books and work so I can telework the next few days and explained how to get to my house, I was glad my coworker didn't ask if I had any homework or my adolescent feelings would have been complete. 

Here is a random stats from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics:
  • From 2004 to 2008, the median age of automobiles in operation increased by 0.5 years and reached 9.4 years.
This stat only means something to me because after I found out about my car I had to decide whether I wanted to pay for repairs or get a new car. My car has relatively low mileage but is coming up on it's tenth birthday, putting us right at the median. I just hope Regina (that's my car's name) will make it through this to have a many more years and become an outlier. Here's picture of what she looks like in case you forgot (however, my car has a ski rack making it look all the cooler).