Tundra, Day 1

Well, it’s not really day one, but how can I be expected to record the first day until it happens? The skinny: I’m in South Dakota. Sioux Falls, generally and Brandon, precisely. This counts as my first time journeying to the Great Plains as a destination (been through Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, etc. on the way to CO). My knee-jerk impression of the place as I stepped off the plane was “this place began as an outpost and still is one”, but in spite of that “out on the rim of civilization” feeling the people here seem friendly, if vaguely questioning of their choice of locale this time of year.

Megan had heavily briefed me regarding her father before I arrived. My resultant impression was that he was an absent-minded man but kind, or at least had so much on his plate (per his design) that often details spilled off, painting him as “flighty” to the uninformed observer. As we walked out of Sioux Falls’ tiny airport, Dave’s green Honda CRV came into view, zoomed  past us, and parked at the other end of the platform. I smiled.

Dave’s a funny guy, no stranger to self-deprecation and a spinner of yarns, which is endearing. He took us to Monk’s, an artsy little bar that I HIGHLY RECOMMEND you visit if your life ever drags you to Sioux Falls. They offer a crazy good craft beer selection and satisfying sandwiches and pizzas which employ above-average ingredients. I met the fellow who owns the place, too. He’s a superb furniture maker whose end products honor the material from which they’re made: sturdy wooden tables, tree core-and-copper headboards, mixed-media statues…all of them expertly crafted and saleable. So Monk’s was a success and we took a quick tour of downtown.

Does the word “quartzite” mean anything to you? SO MUCH QUARTZITE! Sioux Falls clearly has an abundance of it, as evidenced by the several building edifices composed of it and the odd, hulking blocks of it that are sprinkled along the sidewalks. Sprinkled along the sidewalks? Yep. Just hunks of quartzite crowned with metalwork art: swine, horses, buckin’ broncos, and other, more abstract things. This is a people who have more of the mineral than the world demands and thus proudly use it as urban decor, not unlike the residents of Bedford, IN, the “Limestone Capitol of the World”, efface everything with limestone and generally are “of” the rock. Let’s hear it for rocks and the folks that love them!

The Meyers are buying a new house  in the All Saints district of the city, which they are part of “by one house”. The homes there are spacious, well-adorned, and presently capped with snow. Theirs was built in the 1930s. Treasures include hardwood floors, a half-finished basement, two fireplaces, and what look to be ten-foot ceilings on the ground floor. The second-storey master bedroom is approximately the size of a small warehouse, with three south windows and a pair of west-facing windows in the closet. They stole it at present market conditions and happily, once things right themselves, it will appreciate rapidly in such a fine neighborhood. Tomorrow we’ll be moving in.

Today Megan is frantically trying to close out Fall semester. Her anxiety about the chance that we’d miss our flight ebbed on our safe arrival and now is back full-force as she scrambles to complete her resume. Today she applies for an unpaid internship with NPR (either in LA or DC), and is fearful of under-representing herself on paper. I am staying clear of the whole thing.

My MO is to relax. The end of this semester took everything out of me, and I’m now relishing in my total lack of responsibility for what happens during my days. I’m just about to finish the Fall ’08 issue of Zoetrope, Francis Coppola’s literary mag. It feels like a good ol’ boys’ club, but loving short stories as I do, I cannot stay mad him. Gems in this issue are “Fort Apache” by Alan Heathcock and Eileen Chang’s “Lust, Caution”. Interesting factoid: Chang spent 27 years writing this short story. /cringe

So finally now I’m not avoiding writing due to the burdensome nature of doing it for someone else and am just piddling around, making myself happy. After Zoetrope I’m rereading “The Hobbit” as it’s one of the books we’ll be checking out in my Children’s Lit class next semester. Oh, sunny days. I’m also going to begin doing character sketches for my next short story, which I’d like to complete before Spring semester begins. I was accepted into Samrat Upadhyay‘s W401, the highest-level undergraduate workshop IU offers, and I want to hit these next two out of the park. Admittedly, it feels really good to not dread the sound of my fingers on the keys.

Aside from writing, I’m taking a lot of photographs and doing a lot of general maintenance that I couldn’t cram into my schedule in the last month. The good photos are going up on my flickr page and the rest I might put up on my Facebook as a kind of photo-journal for the trip. The rest is just cleaning up my computer, installing CS4, paying a butt-load of bills, and trying to rethread ties to all of the people that I’ve shelved to pursue dreams. One day, I will learn to balance everything, but until then it seems like I’ll remain unfed, unshowered, exhausted and myopic, all toward improving my writing.

The road is long but so am I.

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