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family farmbannerWhen I lived in the Midwest, all I could think about was leaving it and the great wide world that was my oyster.  I barely paid attention to the intricacies of what was going on around me, because I just took it all for granted.  When I had been on the East coast for about two weeks, I went to a concert with my brand-new Jewish Friend, and we got to discussing where we come from.

“What did your grandfather do?” she asked.

“He was a farmer.” I told her.

“Mine was a Cantor.”

Then we sat there for a bit, marveling at how completely different our lives were.

“What’s a Cantor?” I asked.

“What did he farm?” she asked.

And therein lives the problem.  I actually had no idea what my grandfather, the farmer, farmed.  We never talked about that, we didn’t spend a huge amount of time with that side of the family, and I just never asked.  I always assumed that my other grandfather was a farmer as well, because he lived on a farm, had a lot of tractors and a huge garden.  Now I’m starting to suspect he was just a hobbyist.

The reason that I keep thinking about all of these things, is because I am friends with a lot of people who are interested in local food.  I’ve been to see King Corn, I’m reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Jewish Friend won’t shut up about The Omnivore’s Dilemma etc.  Then I’m called upon to tell people how it really is, or at least is where I’m from–and I got nothing.  I can certainly speculate, but when people start asking pointed and informed questions, I crumple like origami.

I was talking to a friend the other day about this and she asked what we grew in Cavalier, ND. “Sugar beets, mostly.” I told her.

“How do you get sugar out of a beet?” she asked.  Naturally, I had no idea, even though I grew up eating  beet sugar exclusively, so I changed the subject and told her about how we sandbagged the American Crystal Sugar plant during the 1997 flood.  I could have turned the conversation around and asked her a lot of questions about orange juice (she’s from Florida), but she probably would have known the answers.

My parents were not farmers, so even though farming was a part of our daily lives by proxy, we never really thought about it.  My father helped out occasionally with sugar beet harvest, because the entire town did, but that’s about it.  I grew up sitting on my grandfather’s tractors, not really understanding how they worked–and I still don’t know if he actually used them, though I suspect he scaled back his operation just before I was born.

One person who does actually know firsthand about this is my dear friend Mtanga.  She grew up on a family farm that her brother is now prepared to take over now that he’s done with his PhD–because running a large-scale family farm isn’t just something you inherit, you have to learn something first.  She and I had a brief conversation about urban farmers, and how we are glad that they do what they do, but also annoyed at people coming down on large farms without knowing anything about it.

She said it better than I could, but the point is, I feel like if you want to be a farmer, you should learn the history of your business, learn how others do it, so you can take the good of what they do, try to leave the bad, and ultimately be successful.  The mob mentality of assumption doesn’t do anyone any good, and the attitude that large-scale farms are all evil and destroying the land is just ignorant.  After all, if you assume that the people that grow your food are intelligent human beings (which I would hope you would) why would they destroy their own means of production?

Here’s what the EPA has to say about the state of farming in the US:

There are over 285,000,000 people living in the United States. Of that population, less than 1% claim farming as an occupation (and about 2% actually live on farms). There are only about 960,000 persons claiming farming as their principal occupation and a similar number of farmers claiming some other principal occupation. The number of farms in the U.S. stands at about two million.

What is a farm?

For the purposes of the U.S. Census, a farm is any establishment which produced and sold, or normally would have produced and sold, $1,000 or more of agricultural products during the year. (Government subsidies are included in sales.) By that definition, there are just over 2.1 million farms in the United States.

It has been estimated that living expenses for the average farm family exceed $47,000 per year. Clearly, many farms that meet the U.S. Census’ definition would not produce sufficient income to meet farm family living expenses. In fact, fewer than 1 in 4 of the farms in this country produce gross revenues in excess of $50,000.

According to the 1997 Census of Agriculture, the vast majority of farms in this country (90%) are owned and operated by individuals or families. The next largest category of ownership is partnerships (6%). The “Corporate” farms account for only 3% of U.S. farms and 90% of those are family owned. However, the term “family farm” does not necessarily equate with “small farm”; nor does a “corporate farm” necessarily mean a large-scale operation owned and operated by a multi-national corporation. Many of the country’s largest agricultural enterprises are family owned. Likewise, many farm families have formed modest-sized corporations to take advantage of legal and accounting benefits of that type of business enterprise.

It’s easy to look at a large farm and its shiny equipment, and assume it’s something that it’s not, but 90% of those farms are family-owned.  People throw around phrases like “death of the family farm,” but that doesn’t really seem to be the case, it’s just that the family farm looks different.

One thing I do know about my family history is that my grandfather quit speaking to his grandson for almost a year because that grandson brought a tractor onto the farm, and that was “not how it was done.”  It’s not how it was done, but that’s how it is done. People need to eat, and farmers need to earn a living.  You can urban farm for the love of it all you want, but understand that a lot of other farmers don’t have that luxury.

shelf480_bannerIt’s now day 24 of living in new apartment, and things finally feel settled.  I’m very much a (though I hate to use this word) “Homebody.”  I have to have a comfortable place to relax otherwise I get very unpleasant.  Upon moving into the new place, Gentleman Caller and I set about creating spaces where we could exist comfortably–i.e. I tackled the kitchen, he took on the living room.  By the end of day one, we were able to eat well and entertain ourselves without moving around too much.

Next, I took on my office– set up my desk, my beloved chair, and unpacked a few boxes.

Gentleman Caller’s office is the room between the kitchen and the livingroom, but every time I wandered in there, he was playing video games or watching the Daily Show or Star Trek.  I started to worry– “What if Gentleman Caller misrepresented himself, and doesn’t mind living a life half-unpacked?  Can I cope with that?”

Answer is–no.  Even though I tried to rein it in, I got a bit bossy at times.  Finally, we sat down, discussed what we needed, and I took a trip to IKEA with Jewish friend, who also just moved and needs stuff.  IKEA was having a shelf sale, and I found one that I really liked, that was the right size, and that was a good price.  Of course it wouldn’t fit into the car.

I came home shelfless and a bit defeated.

Then, as happens in situations like these, Gentleman Caller got an email about some guy selling stuff including a large shelf.  He emailed, and was told that he was first to respond and we could come get it at 7pm.  We went to the house, guy wasn’t there, but the new tenants let us in and we started disassembling the shelf. The guy showed up, gave us a bit of static for taking the shelf apart before he got there (he was ten minutes late, and the shelf would have to be taken apart even if it wasn’t we who took it– he was an asshole); we pacified him with a cool $20, crammed shelf into car in such a way that required I sit half on the shelf and shoved into the smallest corner of the backseat (seriously, it wasn’t terribly uncomfortable, but there was a moment when I wondered if I might not be able to get out again); we took shelf up to apartment, re-assembled, oriented, and Gentleman Caller happily spent the evening organizing his books while I drank beer and watched 30 Rock.

Now, our house feels like a home.  There are no more boxes of things strewn about, impressive titles are on display, and there was room enough on the new shelf for assorted knick-knacks!

apt 015

To look at that picture, you’d think we have no books–but that’s how big the shelf is!  Room to grow!

If I need clean socks; it will take about two days– three if I need a towel, but it probably won’t smell good.  Why am I saying these things?  Because the dryer broke again, and landlady (who apparently STILL doesn’t wash any clothes–I swear, it’s been three months or more), seems unconcerned.

After the religious repairman left, the dryer worked like a dream.  It dried more efficiently than before, made half as much noise, and brought me more joy than I thought possible.

Then it stopped tumbling.

It makes sounds like it’s working, but will not tumble.  This noise fake-out let me leave laundry in there for 36 hours before I realized that it shouldn’t take that many cycles to dry my running clothes, which are designed to dry quickly.  I emailed landlady and told her this– no response.  Two days ago, I re-emailed her and asked again– no response.

Also, it has rained every single day for the last two weeks, so my plan of wash and air dry will not work, it will just result in moldy clothes.  With the current level of humidity, it takes my hair 3+ hours to dry, I’m not taking chances with my towels.

I’m ready to move– officially.

Before moving to Rhode Island, I lived half my life in Minnesota and half in North Dakota– exactly, but I know nothing about either state beyond the day-to-day and the Minnesota fun facts that were on my single-serving milk carton in the Hallock Elementary cafeteria.  The problem is, that I first moved from MN to ND three days before the first day of 7th grade (also on my birthday).  My MN school taught state history in 7th grade, my ND school in 6th grade.  I completely missed out.

Naturally, I didn’t care because I was in 7th grade and had more important things on my mind.  Interestingly enough, two of my best friends won the North Dakota Know Your State contest, and I’m not 100% sure what the state bird is (flickertail?).  None of this ever really mattered because I lived in ND or MN and no one was asking me about the states because they were from one or both of them as well.

Now I live 1,800 miles away and people are fascinated, albeit in kind of a freakshow kind of way, with where I’m from, and I have nothing to really say about it except that it is flat and cold, I have heard of the movie, and no we don’t all talk like that.  Once I tried (foolishly) to bring up Lewis and Clark, about whom I know shockingly little, and the person was like “Really? Lewis and Clark are significant in ND, why?”

I then had to admit that I wasn’t quite sure, but I was basing the statement on the fact that Lewis and Clark were names of schools and were on license plates so there must be some reason.  I now know that they built Fort Mandan, and picked up Sacagawea there– thanks wikipedia.

I had a hunch that if I moved away I would start to care more about where I came from, and now I do for reasons other than hating having nothing to say when people ask about North Dakota.  So now I’m going to turn into that asshole student from “somewhere else” who only does assignments related to where he or she came from.  I may want to kick my own ass, but if I have to do the research anyway…

September 1 was my one-year anniversary in Providence– though I actually spent the day in New York City. When I recently had a two-hour lunch with Curly-Haired Religious Scholar Friend, she remarked “I feel like you’ve been here as long as I have– three years.” I kind of agreed with her.

How long do you have to live somewhere before you can say you’ve lived there? How long do you have to live somewhere before you can move somewhere else and say you’re from when you just came from, or can you never really say that? I used to know a girl who talked about how she “lived” in Washington state and when I asked for how long, she said “5 weeks”; I knew another girl who said she was from Washington state, but then it came out that she had moved to North Dakota when she was three and had never even gone back to visit.

A year doesn’t seem like that long, but it kind of is. If you asked me if I wanted to go to jail for a year, the answer would be a resounding “no”, but part of the reason I moved to a part of the country I’d never even visited before, is because I was fairly sure that I can handle anything for two years. It’s weird because after I had been here a week, it felt like forever, and then time stopped being something I thought about.

So because I’ve been in a listy mood lately, here’s some of the stuff that has happened over the last year:

  • One year of library school is over, my GPA is excellent, and the end is in sight
  • I’ve had three jobs and a long stint of unemployment, which is a lot to cram into one year, I think.
  • I found a wonderful hairdresser who has big plans for my head
  • I found excellent mechanics for both bodywork, and internal car fixings though it is unfortunate that I’ve had to deal with both of those things in just one year.
  • No sales tax on alcohol in Massachusetts!
  • Visited NYC, Boston, Maine. Montreal, etc.
  • Had many superfun adventures including, but not limited to: hiking in purgatory chasm, Moby Dick Marathon at The New Bedford Whaling Museum, Museum of Work and Culture in Historic Woonsocket, Gaspee Days, walking tour of historic churches in Providence, Soundsession etc.
  • Slept on a rock in Central Park and discovered that I can still summon up amazing reserves of stamina when it’s important
  • Finally went to the beach!
  • Painted (or rather, had parents paint), furnished, and decorated my apartment in a way that is very pleasing to me, and didn’t spend much money doing it
  • Free cable!
  • I have the most ridiculous and therefore best Graduate Assistantship ever that not only pays my overpriced tuition, but also a nearly livable wage
  • I’ve eaten lobster, crab, and littlenecks for the first time and almost enjoyed all three though I really don’t get the appeal of littlenecks. They taste like nothing except what you put on them, and have the consistency of extra-slimy hardened rubber cement. So I now know that I dislike them, and I love to have opinions.
  • Finally have quasi-professional job that allows me to wear skirts and dresses as much as I want so I can legitimize buying these items and actually wear them instead of them languishing in the back of my closet
  • I now know what happens at the end of the Babysitter’s Club series: MaryAnne Spier’s historical house with the secret passage used in the Underground Railroad catches fire in the middle of the night. It was later determined to be an electrical fire. Thankfully, everyone gets out safely including her tiger-striped kitten, Tigger, but the house and all of the family’s possessions are completely destroyed. Kristy’s family (her step-father is a millionaire, an actual millionaire!), takes them in while they get back on their feet. Though the situation is a very emotional one, MaryAnne, who is brought to tears by nearly everything, simply cannot cry. How powerful.
  • Found out that Watson (kitty) is asthmatic, which is tragic, but a little bit hilarious since it doesn’t really seem to bother him and he makes the cutest wheezing noises.
  • I finally found the Wal-Mart that is right by my house but I could never see it because it’s behind the giant Home Depot. This is very handy when I need some kind of last minute item that I forget to pick up when I do my other household shopping– cat food, garbage bags– but problematic in that I keep going there all the time and now recognize a lot of the cashiers, but still cannot find my way around the place. Also, I really hate Wal-Mart, but it’s just so handy.
  • Taught screenwriting workshop to teenagers at the library, which made me feel like a bit of a fraud since I haven’t written for the screen in quite a while, but had fun, and they told me that they liked me and learned a lot.
  • Jewish Friend gave me a gunlock, which I have no use for, but is totally hilarious to own, and has taught me a bit more about safety with firearms.

My parents are coming to visit in July. For five days I will have three extra bodies (two of them large, male bodies) crammed into a very hot apartment, three extra people using my shower, and three air mattresses taking up all of my floor real estate. It would be an understatement to say that I’m a little apprehensive about the whole thing, though I am looking forward to free meals (not from Tim Horton’s).

What makes me most apprehensive is the miscommunications we’ve had already in planning this trip. First they were coming in May, but my brother’s work got in the way. Then they were talking about July and asked if there were any dates that didn’t work for me. All I said over and over and over was “end of June through beginning of July, I am going on vacation, I am unavailable those dates. The rest of the whole summer is up for grabs but end of June through beginning of July is off-limits.”

Then I get an email from my mother saying that they’re planning to arrive July 4.

In the subsequent phone call she inquired about the black-out dates on my calendar, and I told her, and I had told my father 1/2 dozen times “I took the time off to go to ALA conference in Anaheim, but that fell through, so now I’m going somewhere.”

“You don’t know where you’re going?”

“Well, we (my Jewish friend and I) were going to go to Montreal, but she doesn’t have a valid passport right now, so we’re re-planning things. If it doesn’t work out that she and I can coordinate schedules– then I’m going somewhere by myself. I have to go somewhere this summer.”

Of course she asked me to switch the days off to coordinate with when they are visiting, but I refused, then she asked, “really, you’d go somewhere all by yourself? Aww.”

This brings to mind another pair of incidents that came one on the heels of the other recently. I was in a class and we had to group up with different people than usual. So I got to meet a couple women from the other side of the room (the room divided itself, rather handily, into the young side and the old side). One of these women had mixed up my friends Mary and Lisa and asked Lisa why in the world she moved all the way to Rhode Island from Texas.

“Actually,” Lisa told her, “I’m from Connecticut, Mary over there is from Texas. But Andria moved here from North Dakota.”

The woman’s jaw dropped and she gaped at me in a way I’ve never experienced before.

“Why did you move here?” she demanded.

“For library school.”

“Had you ever been here before? Why did you pick Rhode Island?”

“No, and because it sounded pretty.”

“You’ve got balls of steel, girl!”

“Erm, thanks ?”

And then she followed with a question that I never thought I would ever in my life hear, “But how do you meet single girlfriends?”

This question perplexed me to no end. I wanted to indicate Lisa, sitting to my left, and say “She’s a girlfriend.” And also assert, “Single or not, I don’t have a very elaborate screening process.” But I was really wondering if she was asking me where to find girls to go clubbing and trolling for men with or something. Do people really do that? Also, she’s a rather tired-looking elementary school teacher, does she do that? What the hell is this conversation about, is she really asking me how to make friends?

“Well, what do you do on the weekends?” she asked.

“Well, I work all week, so on the weekends I do homework and…” These are questions that are very hard to answer. ‘On alternating Sundays I go to pub trivia, occasionally I see movies, or go to parties…’ I mean really.

Thankfully, the professor asked us all to regroup, so I got to shrug off the rest of the grilling, but I was given her phone number along with the offer “I’d love to show you around Providence.”

So that was weird.

Then the following day at work I was having a nice conversation with someone who I genuinely like when she said, “I hope you’ve managed to make at least one friend since you’ve been out here.”

By this point, I’d been in Rhode Island for 7 months– is she kidding?

But I don’t really think that people want to hear that you have a full social calendar and are, in fact, beloved by many. This seems to be a product of never having left a place, and never having had to make friends, although I’m still baffled. Does the woman who asked me where I find single girlfriends actually not have any, or did she just want a new technique? I’m a bit disturbed by the fact that these people seem to picture me sitting home alone, longing for the prairie and the friends I left behind– but that’s their shit.

I am a scandalous woman.

I rolled into Providence on September 1, Labor Day weekend. It was a rather odd way to start live in a new city as businesses had limited hours, and after a ridiculous time of trying to negotiate the narrow, full of people roads during Waterfire on Saturday night, the city seemed to empty out Sunday morning while I slept in. I was so overwhelmed and dazed from being in the car for three days, that I didn’t care about much of anything.

So Human Traveling Companion and I walked downtown every day to get the lay of the land, coffee in the morning and beer in the afternoon, etc. En route to what was called “Downtown Arts District” when I moved here, now is called “Downcity Arts District” (why? why? who cares?), I walk by a rather non-descript Pentecostal church . It’s not a pretty church, like every building in my neighborhood it has a chain-link fence, and it looks like it was designed for some other purpose, but the people who go there seem to have some of the most fun I’ve ever seen.

Not being of a religious persuasion myself, I really don’t know much about organized religion. I took “World Religions” as an undergrad, but that covered mainly the non-christian religions of the world outside of America and Europe. Frankly, aside from having a friend of family in the town one grows up in, I don’t know how people know anything about these other Christian denominations. I know that this church is Pentecostal because there is a sign on it.

Anyway, when I had heard the word Pentecostal before, it was generally referring to the more strict, skirt-wearing religions (correct me if I’m wrong). The people who go to this church do not fit the descriptions I’d previously associated with Pentecostal. They’re all African-American, most wear these all-white outfits complete with a kind of hat one might use to deflect the sun at the beach– and they feast.

For two days they were inside the chain-link, in what looks like it should be a parking lot eating, and dancing, and generally making merry. There are tents set up, and giant silver buffet dishes– it’s very elaborate. In the late afternoon, things would be quiet and we’d see a couple people setting up, but as soon as the sun set– the revelry began. It was a sight to behold, and made me feel more positive about religion than I possibly ever have.

Then they vanished.

Since September 4th, I have not seen anyone going in or out of that church. The sign is still up, I assume they haven’t moved, but I just don’t know. I looked forward to walking by their celebrations, or hearing the whooping on nights when my windows are open, but I didn’t get to, sadly.

The other day though, I walked by, and there were two men in the faux parking lot/party space looking like they were making plans of some kind. So I don’t know if the partying Pentecostals are coming out of hibernation, but I certainly hope so.

It’s that time of year again where I really, really want to go on vacation. As a result, my travel documentary watching has gotten a little out of hand (again). I was at friends’ house on Monday for dinner and the hosts were telling tales of far-flung locales and trekking up mountains. My contribution: “In Indonesia, for a nominal fee, you can watch a pack of Komodo Dragons eat a goat.”

Host replied “That’s true, have you been?”

“No, I just watched a travel documentary about it.”

Now, I don’t want to go watch Komodo Dragons eat a goat (certainly I wouldn’t pay for the privilege), but it would be nice to hang out in Indonesia (or anywhere, really) for a while. I know this time of year does always get to me because this is when I was in England two years in a row, and various spring break destinations other years– but it seems too, that I tend to surround myself with adventurers. That’s cool, I wouldn’t have it any other way, but it makes me jealous. So, Best Friend by Proxy (BFbP): I’m glad you had fun in Bali and Thailand; Boss lady: I’m glad Granada was lovely, Hosts from Monday night dinner: I loved being able to try a bunch of weird-ass food, and I WILL come visit you in Jakarta– try and stop me.

In other culture shock news, I now live in the most Catholic state in the Union– who knew. Also, not caring much for organized religion, who knew that it would affect me? Yesterday was St. Joseph’s day. I didn’t know there was a St. Joseph, but apparently he’s Mary’s husband– father of Jesus, makes sense that he gets a day. He’s the patron saint of workers and Sicilians (interesting combo). Presumably, he’s had this day as long as I’ve been alive, but not being Catholic, and not being one to learn about saints, I had never heard of him.

Yesterday, I got schooled in Italian pastry. Rhode Islanders love their pastry as evidenced by all of the Dunkin Donuts in the state, and the fact that they all seem to do brisk business, but Italians, apparently have pastry needs above and beyond that of the average Rhode Islander. On St. Joseph’s day, you must eat zeppole, which is a cream filled pastry (I have one sitting on my counter, but wasn’t hungry enough to eat it last night– I’m such a heathen).

I shouldn’t be totally surprised because I’m sure a lot of these people don’t know what lutefisk or lefse are… maybe. I honestly have no idea where the pastries I ate growing up even come from because my dad’s family is Norwegian, my mother’s is English, Irish, Swedish, and Bohemian, and Minnesota and North Dakota have a lot of Germans and Icelanders.

Maybe what I’m reacting to is just the fact that I came from the land of Germans, Norwegians, Swedes, and Icelanders to the land of Italians, Irish, Portuguese, and Cape Verdeans, or maybe I’m reacting to the fact that the bloodlines in this state seem to have mingled less and there are distinct communities. Although Mountain, ND is apparently the most Icelandic city in America, and I got schooled on Italian pastry by a woman who admitted that she is neither Italian nor Catholic, and she had also made Irish soda bread.

So, this week I have eaten, as far as food I had never eaten before: Irish soda bread (plain and with raisins); Kimchee; some fermented tofu that I don’t know the name of; a fermented rice dessert that I don’t know the name of, but the liquid tasted like sake (which makes sense), I have a zeppole at home, and a pot-luck on Saturday (who knows what I’ll find there!). I guess even though I’m not traveling abroad, I’m still experiencing new cultures and trying new foods– and watching tons of travel documentaries.

I lived in Providence for about 2 months with only a chair, TV, and bed. Finally, schedules were co-ordinated, a U-Haul was rented, and I got stuff. In one day, I got a sectional couch, table and chairs, desk, and lounge chair with bamboo on it. The table was a bit rickety, but when one is unwilling to spend money– one deals with these things. I dealt with it by making the table into something different

I use my desk as a bedside table, so I turned my table table into a desk, This required that I pull it apart, unscrew the metal bits that hold two side of a table together (to add the leaves, you know), break off the wooden dowels (that hold the leaves in place), and move one leg from the unused half of table to the new “desk” table creating a tripod-style desk. I set it next to my windowsill, and it makes a wonderful, quirky little desk that I never actually use. It’s pretty amazing. Everyone who has seen it has been quite impressed (or pretended to be), most people don’t care one way or the other, and one person said “that’s the dumbest fucking thing I’ve ever heard of, what is wrong with you?” I say– jealous?

I may not use it for desk-type activities, because as much as I’d like to try to be, I just can’t manage to be a desk-type girl  (also, it’s still a bit wobbly). This desk exists to keep my actual table (acquired about one month later) from getting too cluttered, and to hold the two pictures that I can’t quite decide where to hang, but don’t want to set on the floor. Also, I usually set my filer on top of it because I file things frequently (bills, bank statements– I AM super cool), and it’s a lot of hassle to reach down and grab the thing from the bottom shelf of my bookcase.

When I came home today, my desk (half table) was lying on the ground. My filer was on its side and my bank statements were EVERYWHERE. It was alarming, but less alarming because the desk (half table), was completely intact. I had figured a leg popped off or something, signaling the end of my experiment, but it was fine. I propped it back up, and set my filer back on top. Now it’s not only a desk, it’s a source of constant intrigue. Will it fall again?? How far will the bank statements fly that time?? Was their a minor earthquake in Providence that only registered on my desk (half table)?? It’s a testament to my ingenuity and awesomeness that it managed to fall so thoroughly and not break, of course, I’m not going to set my laptop on it.

I expressed to my boss the other day that I need to get a wall calendar. The last time I bought one was two years ago, but I left it hanging on my wall until I left Fargo. Actually, I left it hanging on my wall after I left Fargo because years ago, in a fit of rage, an ex-boyfriend punched a hole in my kitchen wall. Not being a carpenter, or wanting to pay for one, I patched the giant, gaping, conspicuous hole with a combination of spackle, duct tape, and an old poster of a Parisian scene. The wall appeared solid, but over the years started to get wavy. I disguised my handiwork with a wall calendar of more Parisian scenes and called it good.

Naturally, after a year, the calendar went bad. The dates it gave me didn’t correspond with the new days of the week in 2007, and my last-minuteness prevented me from buying a current one. I would still consult the calendar, even though it was still on December of 2006, then I’d remember that it could not give me true information, and get out my checkbook register.

Since I left this calendar in Fargo, and it would be nice to have an accurate one, I decided to suck it up, wait until after the New Year, and then get one (most likely lame) for 75% off at Border’s or some such place. When I told my boss that I needed one, though, she said “Oh, I have quite a few, I’ll bring you in one.”

This is odd, who has quite a few calendars just lying around, waiting to be gifted to a cheap co-worker? So I figured that these were free calendars that her husband’s business gives away, or some that she got free from the bank. Imagine my surprise when she bought in a pristine calendar (still in the plastic) of Monet paintings. I don’t have the boner for Monet that most old ladies seem to, but his work is soothing on the eyes, and in this case, free. I accepted it graciously, and ran it out to my car so I didn’t forget it at work, and hurt her feelings.

A little later that day, I wandered by the circulation desk, and she said, “Andria, I found this calendar in VOGUE magazine, if you want another one.” I looked at it, white background with bright lettering in a variety of colors, and a nice, plump, smiling woman over the words “New Year, New You. alli”

“Isn’t this the weightloss drug that causes anal leakage?” I asked.

Without missing a beat, she replied, “I believe so.”

If anyone is unfamiliar with this product, here’s what it says on the website:

The active ingredient in alli attaches to some of the natural enzymes in the digestive system, preventing them from breaking down about a quarter of the fat you eat. Undigested fat cannot be absorbed and passes through the body naturally. The excess fat is not harmful. In fact, you may recognize it in the toilet as something that looks like the oil on top of a pizza.

Some people would rather poo oil, than be fat. Why am I surprised at all at this?

I flipped though the months and saw that at the beginning of each month, you were supposed to record your weight, then again at the end, doing the math as to how much you lost. For a brief moment I thought hey, that could be kind of fun. Then I realized that while, yes, I have indulged in cookies, fudge, baklava, ice cream, and mixed nuts over the holiday season resulting in my pants feeling a little tighter—once I stop eating all that crap, I’ll go back to normal. Also, I don’t have a scale, so partaking in the dieting adventure that the calendar holds, would requiring me buying something, which negates the joy of a free (second) calendar in the first place.

I passed on the free second calendar and all of its anal leakage propaganda. I’ll stick with Monet. According to the alli readiness quiz, I may not be ready for alli, but I can retake the quiz, or come back when I am ready– to poo oil.