Dear Pilot Corporation of America:

Your “G-2” pen sucks. Not only is the design of your “contour rubber grip” so uncomfortable that it hurts when writing, but the ink flow is non-existent. This is unacceptable for a pen that costs over one U.S. dollar. When I buy a package of two pens for $2.95 plus Washington State sales tax, I expect to buy a quality pair of disposable pens. If I was interested in cheap crap, I would buy a ten pack of Bic knock-offs from Office Depot for one-third the price of your two pens. Perhaps you should concentrate more on the comfort and function of you wares than on the dated “new age” design you mistakenly think to be stylish.


Mindy M.

Dear University District Rite-Aid:

You suck. Not only do you not carry my favorite type of pen, but you are also host to the rudest employees in the U-District. Every time I shop in your store, I’m glared at after asking for help, shoved aside while shopping in the aisles, and forced to stand in a long line of angrily huffing customers while your employees avoid the cash registers.

I also hate your store layout and the fact that your checkout counter is modeled after a UFO wedged between two mountains. Where the hell do you think your customers are supposed to line up around that monstrosity of a checkout counter when you only ever have one checker available at a time (if that)? Bartell’s is only a few blocks away, and although they are much smaller and have less of a selection, they manage to have more checkers operating tills than you ever do. Oh, and I forgot to mention that the employees at Bartell’s on the Ave actually smile at me when I walk in.

Agitatedly Huffing,

Mindy M.

Snake Eyes

I’ve been home for a week and a half, and I’m still adjusting to Seattle. I’ve lived in Seattle for four years, and my entire life before that I was no more than thirty minutes away. I spent five weeks away from home and now everything I see is different. The people are less trim, the food is dense and served in immense portions, the nightlife is even worse than before, the laid-back Seattle fashion is now frumpy, everyone seems paranoid that harm will befall them if they look into someone’s eyes, and no one talks to me on the street unless they already know me or they are being lewd.

The only time my eyes meet another’s is if I catch them in the act of sneaking a look at me. After living in Rome where everyone looked at everyone evenly in the eye, it feels like the citizens of this city are shoplifters gauging the employees of their targeted store. Here, people snake their eyes over their surroundings and when they find something interesting that moves and breaths, they stare long enough to be noticed. The split second their gaze is seen and returned, their restless eyes continue to slither haphazardly across buildings, people and wads of gum embossed on the sidewalk just long enough to seem like they never stopped moving.

Multi-Million Dollar Baby

On my third day home, I returned to the daily soul-sucking routines of my life. But unlike two months ago, I didn’t get off the bus and climb up sagging steps to a barn-style rental house. I didn’t sit at a desk facing a wall and located inside a hot and stuffy room crammed with one copier, a fax machine, two computers and a network system for the eight computers, Instead, I entered the looming state-of-the-art facility I had watched grow from plans tacked to a wall in the original 1950’s facility where I worked to the fully realized, multi-million dollar sucking project it now was.

Upon coming back home, my work environs would be different, but I was still unprepared. The massive space I now work in, the poor lighting immediately above my desk, and the way the building manages to suck up any sound made in the “office suite” is hard to adjust to. It’s not only the complete opposite of Rome, but it’s unfamiliar.

There’s No Seed Inside My Chest, Just Loose Words

I’ve been home for a few days now, and every day someone asks me how my stay in Rome was. “It was really fun,” I always tell them for lack of better words. This is almost always received with a moment of perplexed silence and a confused stare. Some people even go so far as to say with incredulity: “you were in Rome for an entire month, and it was just fun?” Which makes me wonder what response they’re looking for. Do they expect me to say something overdramatic with tears streaming down my cheeks? “It was the most amazing experience of my life and I feel a seed inside my chest that has started to germinate into an amazingly glorious flower!”

When I feel the need to justify my description of Rome as being “really fun”, I then say, “it was a very intense five weeks because my professors were slave-drivers.” The response is then a look of shock and a comment to the effect of: “Oh… You were taking classes?” Everyone seems to think that I was spending my days going to the beach, dancing over rolling Tuscan hillsides and idly touring various Roman monuments at my own pace, and while it’s true that I had hoped living in Rome would be a relaxing break from classes, working, and paying bills, my main reason for going was to take intensive classes to improve my writing. The only day I had free to go to the beach and run through over Tuscan hillsides was Sunday- which is not long enough of a day to leave the city, enjoy my destination and return for class early Monday morning. Every day other than Sunday consisted of three to four hours of intensive walking around and paying attention to lectures in the morning; a four hour break to walk home, eat lunch, and do homework; and then four to sometimes five- or even six- hours of evening class in a hot and stuffy room with fans that managed to make the air hotter and windows that opened to vents which spewed out air from the stale pits of hell.

But despite the class hours and the requirement to sit still in a room on sharp Ikea chairs in heat-decayed air, I lived a life free from the drudgeries of habit and comfort and enjoyed a city unlike any I’ve seen. I was able to live in that city for a month and see beneath the ancient patina of massive monuments into a world invisible to those who visit for a small time. I spent hot Sunday afternoons eating gelato on fountain steps facing an empty Pantheon, weekday afternoons lounging and writing in a dark bedroom shut against the heat, and early mornings running over uneven cobblestones and yelling greetings to pink-eyed merchants watering plants and scrubbing windows. I also enjoyed many warm evenings sitting on the concrete banks of the Tiber River drinking wine and tequila, my drunken eyes trying in vain to track the quick movements of bats darting under and over a pedestrian bridge.

Last night, while waiting for a second pitcher of margarita slush to appear, a friend asked me to tell him the worst things I experienced in Rome. I was able to answer him with the three worst memories of my trip in a matter of minutes. Another friend became irritated and asked why we were talking about the negative aspects, and my friend answered: “because it’s obvious most of her trip was fun, and that it would take too long to talk about all of the cool things she saw during her month there.” And as absurd as it may sound, he’s right for now. Maybe later, as the memories of Rome become less vivid, I’ll be able to tell someone that my trip was more than “really fun”. But for now, if you ask me how my trip was, don’t be surprised when I answer, “it was really fun.”

Liorat No More

My dog, a Liorat no more

As of today, my dog is officially no longer a Liorat. The poor thing was subjected to constant humiliation the month I was gone as Tyler brought people over to laugh at her unfortunate circumstances. I don’t doubt that he treated her like a freak-show attraction and charged a fee.


Things I miss from Rome, in no particular order of importance:

1. Eating gelato on the fountain facing the Pantheon
2. Being able to walk anywhere I need to be in less than twenty minutes
3. The monks chanting on Sundays in the church connected to my apartment
4. The accordion boy
5. The sounds of street musicians wafting through open windows
6. Real pizza
7. Gelato of any flavor imaginable
8. Fresh mozzarella (it’s indescribably wonderful)
9. The ability to buy fresh market fruit every day but Sunday
10. Street vendors
11. The chatty waiters who try to get customers from those walking by on the street
12. Siestas
13. Strong mixed drinks, even though they taste like shit
14. Cobblestones, wobblestones
15. Pretending I’m a German or Canadian tourist when bitchy
16. Glaring at the asshole Americans who think I’m German and don’t know English
17. The game of finding working Bancomats (ATMs)
18. Trying to strut sexily and having no one laugh because they think it’s the cobblestones
19. Walking into traffic like a real Italian and having the tourists dumbly watch cars stop or swerve around me while not honking

I’ll return one day, but damn, I’m glad to be back in Seattle.


I’m in Rome, and have been since my flight landed on June 15th. I’ve seen a lot of monuments, learned about those monuments, and endured countless days of heat and black dust and torturous lectures that never end. It’s been fun for the most part- even the living in a six bedroom apartment with twelve people and two semi-working showers with small hot water tanks. I’ve had my bad days, my homesick days, and my pissed-off days. But I’ve had more good days than bad, homesick, or pissed-off, so I’d say it’s been a good experience so far. I have ten more days before I go home.

I’ve been writing about my experiences everyday, most of which I’m still working on putting online. I have very little time, and I made the mistake of having a grand plan to create a special Rome section for when I was here. It took me awhile to smooth out the details of my Rome section, at the sacrifice of not being able to put a lot of entries into the blog. I plan to slowly work on this until I leave, or possibly even after I leave. So, if you’re interested, check out the archives in a week or so.

For now and until I return to Seattle, here’s the ugly link to my Rome section:

Invisible Fireworks

Today is the fourth of July, both at home and where I am now.

At home, it’s 5 A.M. At home, no one is there. Tyler, who lives with me at home, has taken my dog with him to visit his family. I hope he brought her special food with him. I hope he remembered to water my plants- or that it’s raining at home. I left home and came here to become a better writer. At home, I didn’t write enough. I procrastinated, even though I love writing, and would blame homework and working and the need to nap on my lack of writing. These are probably partly the reason, along with other things like not seeking inspiration and not feeling intelligent enough or talented enough or interesting enough for other people to want to read what I wrote. I don’t have to have an audience- I do write for myself- but I wanted to have an audience. I needed feedback, and compliments- things to fill the void of having grown up with a father who instilled a great sense of insecurity in me and of losing a mother who combated that insecurity every day by gracing me with genuine love and pride. I spent three years of my life seeking a surrogate father figure. Then one day, I realized that you can’t shop for a surrogate parental figure by wandering around and hoping to find a retail store specializing in your preference of personality. Now I’m in the market for self-infused security by improving a skill that I always fancied I had to some mild degree. But in order to know if that skill is improved, I needed an audience of some sort. I needed someone to show me what I did that was wrong and what I did that was wonderful. The audience I choose was a group of writers of all levels converging at a territory of amazing depth and layers; a place that will always retain a certain unfamiliarity no matter how many times one has visited it.

Here, it’s 2pm. Here, I am completely alone. Everyone I know, who came from Seattle to Rome, has gone to visit a famous beach. I hope they brought sunscreen with them. I hope they find cool things to buy and have lots of fun. I stayed here instead of going to the beach because I was tired and depressed and wanted to write. Instead of writing as much as I’d like to, I only get one day off a week- Sunday. The rest of the week is consumed with seeing monuments, museums, and churches, and having to learn the facts about all the monuments, the artwork in the museums, and the churches. After walking around for hours, I have a scant amount of time where I’m expected to write something brilliant to share in the evening. I’m tired of not being able to write anything, save for something brilliant that I am expected to write in two hours during the hottest part of the day where all I want is a cold shower followed by a long siesta. All of the brilliant stuff I write is starting to sound the same to me. Some people write brilliant poetry, others write brilliant snatches of a story. What I write is neither. I follow the daily writing assignment to some mild degree and write a descriptive piece about something abstract that is turned into something solid through so much description I doubt everyone else understands the words I read. I spend hours lingering over sounds and defining details in what turns out to be one small notebook page of writing. During the evening session, everyone stares blankly at their journals when I read. I have to announce when I’m finished, otherwise they would continue to stare downwards blankly and stale in the heat. Sometimes I receive a generic compliment before we move onto the next writer.

Right now, it’s probably cool and cloudy in Seattle. It might even be raining. It’s the Fourth of July, which means it will either rain or be overcast for most of the day. A lot of people hate it because the weather prevents firework displays from streaking across a cloudless sky and overpowering the cold pale stars. Here, it never rains. It’s dry, hot and humid, but there are never clouds in the sky and never cool droplets of water to wash away sweat and clean the air. The heat makes everything stale faster, especially energy and minds. There is no cool relief to wake the senses, to keep things from rotting. There is no water to quench dry skin and minds. The dirt is black here, and it creeps and snakes through angled alleyways and over faceless buildings on wisps of wind where it streaks across white linen or khaki cotton and mingles with the sweat dripping from foreheads.

To Capture the Moon

I often see the most beautiful and intriguing things while confined to a bus or car. It frustrates me because I want to sink a strong picture of what I see into my mind. I want to taste it, smell it, hold it, own it- to be able to call it up in all its sensory details at my whim. But there’s always a pane of glass between me and the object I want to possess- a reflection of yearning in my eyes and of the bus interior painted over the outside scene.

Earlier tonight, on a the grueling return bus ride from two short stops in Tuscany wine towns and one longer stop at a villa, I bent down to retrieve a pen I had dropped to the bus floor and on my rise upwards the moon captured my vision. It had been hidden behind plastic that was pulled down to shade the bus driver’s eyes from the white Tuscan sun. But there it was from my new point of view- a painted moon of brilliant golden pink. The moon possessed an inner brilliance I wanted to capture; an otherworldly sheen that I have only experienced when seeing the gilded halos of Fra Fillipo Lippi’s paintings. My hands automatically twitched towards my camera, but I quickly remembered that a pane of glass sheltered by a plastic blind was between me and my moon. Eagerly, I noticed that the road ahead curved slowly away from the moon, and I waited with head bent down and eyes locked on the moon until the bus began to curve and the moon appeared in my window. I scooted over to the window then, almost pressing my face up against streaks of sun lotion smudged against glass.

I wanted that moon. I wanted it’s colors on film, on paint, in whatever way possible. I didn’t care how I captured it, but I wanted it. I wanted to crush pearls and gold leaf together and mix them with pale pink pigments that I would swirl into a spiral-stroked circle on a canvas painted purple. I wanted the bus to stop, to run across the freeway and dive into the waist-high fields with a professional camera and tripod.

But when the moon passed over the Tuscany wheat fields and over barns and old villas painted with the dry earth tones of Italy, I knew that it would be just another flat paint on canvas; just another inspirational photograph hung in a dentist’s office with christian verse typed in fake calligraphic font below.