Sunday, December 7, 2008

...the Spirit Squads?

If you live in East Lansing Michigan, they seem to be everywhere!  Michigan State University (aka MSU or State) is the life's blood of East Lansing and it seems that the whole town bleeds green and white.

As soon as you cross the East Lansing city line, the typical "City of... " sign lets you know two things, first, that you're in East Lansing, and second that EL is the home of Michigan State University.   Sometimes you see another small sign that says "We Recycle" but that's a different story...

Now if you miss these signs, you can still tell that you're in Michigan State country.  How? you ask.  Well... may be because of the green flags with a giant white "S" that seem to fly everywhere, including all the gas stations. may be because of the hugh green McDonald's may be because of the MSU fan gear that is sold in every store and seems to adorn every desk, like the one at our bank (I kid you not). may even be because you see one of the three dark green water towers here in East Lansing.  (For those unfamiliar with water towers, they are typically a light color to reflect the light) 

No matter where you go you know that, without a doubt, you're in MSU country.   Even the all important flags flying over the main boarders of East Lansing show the priority here: Proudly waving are the the US flag, the State of Michigan flag and (you guessed it) the State Flag.  

We even have our own Hall of Fame Cafe filled with pub grub, big screen TVs and scads of MSU athletic memorabilia.  

The city mood rises and falls with the successes and failures of MSU sports and don't be caught dead wearing Blue and Gold (University of Michigan colors)....

...unless of course you are a UCLA Bruin....

Monday, December 1, 2008

...Snow Throwers and the Men Who Love Them?

Christmas came early to my household.  Today, my husband finally got to break in his snow thrower!   For weeks, the gleaming red and black Craftsman stood waiting in the garage, calm and confident, ready to show its new owner all of the wonders a large gas-powered tool can bring. And for weeks, my husband eagerly waited, checking the weather, reading the manual, anticipating the moment when he could smell the gasoline, start the engine, drop the auger, gun the throttle, and hit the open road (or at least our snowy driveway).  

Ladies and gentleman, at 8 am this morning, my husband suited-up and in the snowy silence of the morning the Craftsman roared to life.

They worked together effortlessly; the Craftsman, as promised, did not disappoint. 

Here are the photos to prove it.


Men and their toys...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

...My Snow Shoes?

Well folks, winter has finally hit, albeit 22 days early (yes I was counting).

As I look up from my computer and out the window, I see snow falling.  Lots of snow. Big fat flakes of snow.  The kind of snow that looks like some cosmic hand is shaking out a universe-sized feather bed.  

We knew it would happen.   

Folk asked us repeatedly before we left sunny LA if we were prepared for the Michigan winters.  Our response was very simple...

"Probably not"

Yes we have snow gear - ear muffs, scarves, gloves, thick coats, sweaters, boots.  Yes, the firewood is stocked and dry, the chimneys cleaned and inspected.  Yes, the snow thrower (we found out they are called "throwers" not "blowers") is parked in our garage gassed and ready. Yes, we have put salt on our sidewalk.   And yes, we have spent the last several months doing minor fix-ups to winterize the house.

But are we really prepared?

Who knows?

I know that we are the only ones that have been dressing in warm coats, gloves, and scarves since early October (which clearly labels us as "newbies").

I know that my husband eagerly awaits being able to stoke up the engine of his snow thrower.  

I know that we now check the weather forecast more often than we check our email.

I know that I won't see the warm sun until April.

I also know that the scene outside my window looks like a Courier and Ives painting.  Four majestic pine trees, their branches frosted with snow, watch over our yard which is now a sea of white.  

The view is strikingly beautiful.  

Especially, as the heat from our floor registers keeps me toasty warm.

Snow, snow, snow...a veritable winter wonderland - but are we prepared?

We'll see.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

...Green Trees and Clean Restrooms

They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Our first impression of Michigan was to be a Shell Station bathroom just over the state line (If you’ve been following this blog, that really won't come as a surprise). Now I know that it’s pretty lame to form a first impression of an entire state from a gas station bathroom, but we had a lot riding on this move, so this bathroom really had to nail it.

Yes, I’m kidding…sort of.

My only visual exposure to this area was entirely virtual. During the past three months I had closed out of an 8 ½ year job, and we had sold the first home my husband and I had ever owned. Yes, arriving in Michigan was the culmination of a long journey, but we weren’t coming home – we had just left it.

As we got closer and closer, it became more and more important to me to actually see something likable in the state where I was going to hang my coat for the next half decade. I kept saying to myself over and over, “Please don’t let it be a disappointment.”

My husband and I held hands as we crossed the state line.

The “Welcome to Michigan” sign is nestled into a heavily forested area. The dryad in me does a dance, the wife and mother in me wonders what the actual city will be like, the navigator in me notes that the next exit has a bathroom. Our final destination was still well over an hour away and, as my husband says, never miss an opportunity to eat, sleep, or relieve yourself. So our first official introduction to our new state would be the Shell Station at exit two. I have to say that I have never seen a cleaner or nicer bathroom.

While I felt a palpable sense of relief (no pun intended), we weren't really at our destination, not just yet. We got back on the road and for the rest of the drive we were treated to the sight of trees, deciduous and evergreen, lining the interstate, guiding us in.

That was really my first impression of Michigan, tall green trees and blue skies

As I thought about it, perhaps we were coming home.

Friday, July 25, 2008

.... the Warner Brothers artists when you need them?

When you drive 2300 miles in five days, stuff happens.  If you're me, weird stuff happens (witness the ghost in our car's air conditioning).  

The Scene: We are getting back onto the interstate after another delicious meal at the Golden Arches, when I hear a loud CRACK.   I was getting out the maps and not looking at the road (I navigate, my husband drives).  So when I do look up I see this on our windshield  (the pencil is there to give you scale).

After another Edvard Munch moment, I shout to my husband "what the h*!! happened?" and after he talks me down from the car ceiling, he fills me in.   

The Facts:  Just after we made the turn onto the highway, a rock rolled up (up mind you) from the road and smacked into our windshield.   

What are the odds?  Before you answer you need to take two other things into account

1. We were in Albuquerque 
2. We had just made a left turn (I kid you not)

Like I said, stuff happens.  If you're me, well, it's bound to be unique.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

...the Linguists?

As Los Angelino's we are quite at home with exotic-sounding names, like "Cahuenga," (pronounced kah-WENG-ah) and we often laugh at out-of-towners who pronounce Wilshire as "Will-Shyer" or Pico as "Pye-co."  What I love about driving across country are the other unique place names you encounter.

My personal, all-time favorite is a place called "Holy Moses Wash."  This is a very large arroyo on the road into Arizona.  When you look around, it's easy to see how it got its name.  You can actually imagine an enormous wall of water headed your way, hell-bent on wiping you off the face of the map.

Ok, I'm sure "Holy Moses" was the compromise name, but you get my meaning.

The drive across was full of these gems:
  • Little (and Big) Lithehedren Wash (New Mexico)
  • Prague, Oklahoma
  • Albatross, Missouri (I wonder if they are Monty Python fans?)
  • Rio Puerco
Rio Puerco?  Yes, the Pig River.  This is a fairly large river in Northern New Mexico.  No, it doesn't look like a pig, or smell like a pig.  According to, this is really an idiomatic expression referring to the muddiness of the river (yes, it was pretty muddy).  You cross over it several times on I-40 and each time we did, we couldn't help but smile.

I wonder what those in Prague, Oklahoma would make of Cahuenga?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

...Comfort Zones?

Some might consider leaving a solid job, selling a house, and moving clear across country as simply expanding your comfort zone.

Most would just consider it crazy.

I think that expanding our comfort zones help us move beyond the now. We don't grow by only doing what we know, do we?

"You must be the change you want to see in the world" - Ghandi

You don't even have to pick up and move clear across country....

Friday, July 18, 2008

...we in this Land of Enchantment?

June 2008

After the whole Hot House Flower thing, you may have the impression that I'm not a big fan of the desert. I can see that words like "barren" and "hell" would tend to leave you with that impression, however, you might be surprised to learn that Northern New Mexico would appear on my top 10 list of places to live.


I truly believe that the western have of Northern New Mexico is the most beautiful area in the Southwest and arguably one of the most beautiful places in the country. It may not have majestic snow-capped mountains, sweeping coastlines, or venerable old-growth forests, but there is an elegant simplicity here. You see it in the panorama of mesas silhouetted against crystal blue skies, in the red-streaked cliffs, an in the sun-drenched plains of greens and golds.
I am not a photographer, but here is a sample just from the interstate.

If you haven't ever been, go. It isn't far and there is plenty to see and do. New Mexico is referred to as the Land of Enchantment, and if they were talking about the northern part, they were right.

And there were no signs about Driving Friendly...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

...are the Bathrooms?

June 6, 2008

Texas is an interesting place, and for the most part I do mean that in a positive way. A couple of very strange things though.

First of all, aside from the usual mile markers and speed limit signs, there are two signs that appear very regularly along Interstate 40

"Don't Mess with Texas"


"Drive Friendly, the Texas Way"

"Don't mess with Texas" could simply be an admonition not to litter, or speed, or break any other traffic laws.

"Drive friendly, the Texas way" puzzled us.

Just how friendly were we supposed to be? Did this imply cozying up to the cars around you or were we talking more of a give-folks-their-space kind of driving? If we are giving folks their space, isn't that more stand-offish than friendly? Isolationist even? I guess they mean simply not being a rude driver, but if I followed the first sign about not messing with Texas, then I would hardly consider being rude.

These are the kinds of thoughts you have after driving over 700 miles.

The second strange thing was the complete lack of rest areas with facilities. Where were all the bathrooms! I have driven across the country many times and I can tell you that that is truly an anomaly. What is in great supply. however, are ranches. I'm quite sure that cattle land is given a much higher priority in Texas than rest area bathrooms. Being confirmed carnivores, Max and I are OK with that. We did have one thought though:

If we relieved ourselves on the side of the road would that be considered messing with Texas?

Monday, July 14, 2008

... the Air Conditioning Vents?

"On Pins and "Needles"
July 5, 2008
Miles traveled: 150
Fingernails bitten: 10

Those who know me know that when I'm planning anything I make lists. I even make lists of lists. As I'm planning a drive through the California/Arizona desert, my lists included items that can only be chalked up to paranoid worry:

"What if we run out of gas?"

"What if we get four flat tires?"

"What if a dust storm comes up and buries our car?"

I know... tThese worries completely ignore reality. But without them I wouldn't be the Angie you know and, if not love, at least tolerate. Still and all, I really am a belt and suspenders kind of gal, which is why we are traveling with OnStar, AAA, GEICO roadside assistance, cash, traveler's checks, credit cards, and cell phones.

To thine own self be true.

After weeks of planning and, of course, fretting, the day of the trip finally arrives and I take on a striking resemblance to a racehorse in the shoot: stamping, snorting, and ready to run.

So with a 2360-mile car trip ahead of us, why am I so freaked out about this first segment?

Two words: desert heat.

I'm what you would call "climate-challenged." If it's over 75, I'm too hot and if it's under 72, I'm too cold. My kind and wise husband endearingly calls me his "Little Hot-House Flower."

You have to admit that's far more flattering than simply calling me "High Maintenance."

I hear you ask, "How is Miss High Maintenance Hot-House Flower" planning to survive the Cold-Hot-Humid Midwest?"

Two words: climate control.

Which brings me back to my chief worry about the first leg of our trip - the strip of arid wasteland between Victorville, CA and Flagstaff, AZ:

"What if we loose our AC?"

Now our car is almost two years old, has never had an issue with the AC, and is very well maintained - what me worry?

Damn straight. There go 10 fingernails.

The drive is smooth out of LA and through Barstow. We get on to Interstate 40 and, as expected, the outside temperature rises (all captured in glorious real-time thanks to the thermometer in the rear view mirror). That's when I notice our AC doesn't feel as cold nor does the airflow feel as strong.

OK, not panicked yet.

I figure it's getting hotter outside, so let's just turn up the fan. Suddenly, our vents belch out a plume of ice crystals and now the Hot-House Flower is about to look like Munch's The Scream.

My husband remains as cool as can be. "No worries" he says. "We'll stop for lunch in Needles and if we need to wait out the heat of the day, we will." Like any other distressed plant, I sit back and conserve energy, hoping relief will come before I wither on the vine. Luckily, the AC has regained some of its cooling ability as we roll into Needles, California.

Lovely Needles.

I have always thought "Needles" was a fairly apt name for this city. After all, "Barren Patch of Hell" would probably be too long and "Hell" was already taken by a city in Michigan. We see the Golden Arches looming off the interstate like an oasis and pull in for lunch and climate-controlled air.

After lunch we got back in the car and, with a sense of dread, kick on the AC.

It works just fine.

It blows cold, no restricted airflow, no plumes of ice. It's just like the hiccup before had never happened.

At this point I figure my car simply has a sick sense of humor (either that or two secular humanists has just received Divine Intervention). It was then my husband remembered a similar problem with the AC in his office. The diagnosis was a frozen condenser. If that was the case here, he reasoned, then the 111 degree furnace of Needles seemed to have thawed it out.

OK, maybe Hell's Little Half-Mile has it use.

In climate-controlled comfort the Little Hot-House Flower bloomed and we continued on our journey...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


July 5, 2008. Miles traveled: 0

When moving it always amazes me how unique trinkets, favorite books, and colorful shirts all loose their special light and become just a part of the morass waiting to be moved from one location to another. I always reach a point in the moving process where I look around at all of my beloved things and utter in a deep breathy voice eerily like something from an Omen movie, "Throw it ouuut. Throw it aaaaalllll out!"

No, I'm not ranting on the wanton display of capitalism inherent in the collection of things, and yes, I am thankful to have things to move. I would just like to point out that the late great George Carlin was accurate was in describing unpacked items as "stuff" and packed items as "sh!t" I mean seriously, look at this mess below stuffed into our car. Is it not a proverbial pile of it?

The kick in the butt is that I no longer have any memory where anything has been packed. After packing to sell the house, packing to move the household, and packing to get across country, I have absolutely no idea. In fact a sure way to send me into a irritated snit is to ask "where is …?" Truth be told, I'm really irritated at myself. As an organized person (I am a true Virgo that way) my total amnesia simply floors me. After all, it's my stuff, I packed it, I should know where it. My poor husband, an eternally patient and wise man, has simply stopped asking.

So now packed to the gills with our pile of "I have no idea" we are ready to set out on our cross-country trek to Michigan.

Just don't ask me where anything is.
a blog of exploration, discovery, and recovery