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Location: California

I love paper. Books printed on acid-free paper and bound in cloth turn me on. I'm crazy about bookmarks, and I buy too many stickers. I could spend hours in the build-your-own-greeting card section of my neighborhood craft store. My favorite thing to eat is bread, and my second favorite is fruit. (Mm, pineapple.) I read too much and too fast, and I watch too many food shows (two ways of looking at gluttony). Gloomy, rainy weather calms me and so I can't wait to move out of California, which will happen, sadly, too many years from now to count. I'm vegan, though I haven't managed to eliminate honey from my diet yet. I practice yoga; it's the only way I can keep fit. I have a better life than I ever imagined I would (or deserve to) have, but I do my best to enjoy it rather than feel guilty about it. That's my daily struggle -- and also to be thoughtful and observant and honest with myself.

Saturday, December 31, 2005


There's only one thing I appreciate about airports and that's the opportunity to people-watch. For hours and hours, while I'm waiting for a late flight, there's nothing to do except stare, as discreetly as I can, and eavesdrop on conversations. (The ethical implications of this are too complex to go into now. So, forgive me world, but you are so fascinating I can't help myself).

Conversation in an airport bathroom stall:

Little Girl: I want to get out.
Mother: Not yet.
Little Girl: Why not?
Mother: Because now it's my turn to go potty.
Little Girl: I want to get out. (The lock rattles.)
Mother: Don't open the door.
Little Girl: Why not?
Mother: Because people will see me sitting on the potty. Would you like people to see you sitting on the potty with your pants down?
Little Girl: I'll go under. (There was a meter or so of empty space under the stall door.)
Mother: No!
Little Girl: Why not?
Mother: Because I don't want you to go out there by yourself.
Little Girl: Why not?
The toilet flushed and the two of them got out.

A tall young man with a yellow plastic band on his wrist read Lance Armstrong's War.

At the baggage claim: A woman with a frizzy perm and a travel pouch around her waist dragged one bag of luggage after another from the conveyor belt, muttering and shaking her head. When she was finished, four huge suitcases flanked her on all sides. She put her hands on her waist and waited. A teenage girl walked towards her holding up a cell phone. "Dad can't come," the girl said. "Son of a bitch," the woman hissed. She lunged at a suitcase and yanked at the plastic handle to extend it so that she could roll the suitcase behind her on its wheels. She broke a nail. She paused for an instant to look at her nail. The she kicked the suitcase, knocked the others over with her knees, sputtering all the time, "The son of a bitch, the son of a bitch." Her daughter picked up two suitcases. The mother snatched the other two. Her hair flew into her mouth; she spat it out and careened towards the exit.

An old Asian woman with a face like a porcelain doll's peered up at the flight information screen. Her outfit was extraordinary: a cream and brown paisley dress, a knit scarf with fringes of gold thread, stockings with thick horizontal cream and brown stripes separated by thin strips of gold, and brown shoes with a leather flower above the pointed toe. She was beautiful and strange, like a great-aunt from a fairy tale.

An ancient-looking man with a protruding lower lip and enormous wire-rimmed glasses read The Warsaw Concerto in a crumbling paperback edition that had a lime-green sticker on the front cover: Read and Return, Chicago Public Library. He dozed off a few times but his grip on the book didn't falter.

-- I want to acknowledge that today is the last day of the year and to say that my hope for the New Year is that I will pay more and closer attention to what's going on around me, be more present and aware and compassionate.


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