on public spaces

On Saturday, I was waiting at Trax (public transit) when a guy came up to me and starting talking to me. I was reading my book, but he either didn’t see that or didn’t care, and kept telling me I was attractive, he liked my dress, and other such statements. He ignored my verbal and non verbal hints that I would rather be left alone, until I explicitly said it. At which point he became offended and told me to learn to take a compliment. Sigh.

The episode left a bad taste in my mouth, even though nothing really happened. It made me both roll my eyes and feel highly uncomfortable. Why do some men feel the need to comment on and value my appearance, and why do they have to do it in such a way that they’re crowding my space? This guy stood in front of me, effectively blocking me from standing up and moving away. I mean, it was light out and there were other people there, so I didn’t feel threatened or anything, but it’s ridiculous that I have to think about things like that in the first place, right? And the other day, I came across this drawn post about this very issue. It’s steeped in feminist language, but if you’re either familiar with that or can get past it, I think it does a useful job at explaining how no, women are not just being “sensitive” when they complain about harassment in all its shapes and forms.

I’m still relatively new to things like this–until I lost weight a couple years ago, I was more likely to get comments on how I shouldn’t be eating whatever I was eating or wearing whatever I was wearing than these semi-creepy comments framed as compliments, or the glances that go on a little too long, or the myriad other uncomfortable things that can happen when you’re female in a public space. And I’m not sure what to do with it. How do you let men know you’re not interested, you just want to read your book, and your body is not theirs to comment on? I can handle the characters on public transportation that just want an audience and a friendly chat, but interactions like these leave me stumped and uncomfortable.

and that is why I love reading

On Thursday, I went to a lecture at the Salt Lake public library about James Audubon.

Screenshot 2014-08-08 17.01.15The City Library has a copy of The Birds of America, with 435 life-sized, hand-colored aquarium prints featuring 497 species of birds. After yesterday’s lectures, I could tell you a lot about both Audubon and the way the books were produced, but I’ll resist. You can always go read the Wiki entry.

The people at the lecture were mostly members of the Great Salt Lake Audubon Society, with a few other bird watchers mixed in, and me. No, I haven’t suddenly become a bird watcher. I went because I read  and loved Okay For Now, in which the folios play a big part. Months ago, I stumbled upon the library’s copy, which is under glass on the fourth floor, immediately flash-backed to Okay For Now, and spent fifteen minutes poring over the illustration. When I saw the lecture announcement, I decided to attend. And that is why I love reading: one chance encounter with a YA book and there you go, I know more about Audubon than I would ever really want to.

currently checked out

This is my current library shelf.

photo(6)

As you can see, it’s a healthy mix of Young Adult (Beauty Queens, Open Road Summer, Me Since You, Eleanor & Park), cozy mysteries (including the terrific avian-themed Meg Langslow series), less cozy mysteries (Murder at the Library of Congress), adult fiction (The Storied Life of AJ Fikry, The Wednesday Daughters), memoir (Delancey), and even one vampire novel (Shadow of Night). There might even be a historical romance in there, too, but don’t tell anyone. My hold list is just as eclectic: Landline, The Butterfly Mosque, Cop Town, and The Book of Life. What can I say? I like variety.

I get most of my book recommendations from Everyday Reading, Modern Mrs. Darcy, and plain old Goodreads. But that doesn’t mean I don’t need more. After all, the library lets me check out 100 items, and here I am, sticking at a paltry 19. So tell me, what should I be reading?

meet the parents

So the first time I met L.’s family, I think they asked me three questions between all of them. (Not an exaggeration, by the way. I think it was: where are you from, what do you do, how did you meet L.) They are conservative, reticent people, but good and nice people all around. The lack of third degree was fine by me, anyway, since meeting my significant other’s parents, siblings, etc really brings out the social anxiety in me. (As if it’s ever far beneath the surface, ahem.) Also, L. and I did the meet the family thing crazy fast: we had not been dating very long when he was planning to go to Boise for a long-scheduled visit, and on a very last minute impulse, I came along. He sprung it on his mom via text (it’s debatable whether she even knew I existed at that point) but they were all gracious enough to not make a big deal out of it.

Anyway, when we visited last weekend, everyone (including me) had loosened up a little. I talked more, they talked more, one of L.’s nieces actually came and gave me a hug before leaving (which was really sweet, thank you, M.) Things went as smoothly as you can get a “seeing potential in-laws for the third time” to be. But this Friday, for July 4, we headed up to Soda Springs to hang out with a bevy of cousins and aunts and uncles, and one grandfather, for the day. And heaven help me, I needed all the introvert social skills I could muster to get through that day, as these people? Not reticent at all.

We got up at 4AM to be in Soda Springs around 8, and then headed to the (very small-town USA) parade, which was kind of awesome. It had farming floats, and multiple teams of cheerleaders/dancers/drill squad-ers, and trucks throwing candy, and more trucks throwing candy, and kids running to pick up candy, and a lot of flags. I wore red, white, and blue (it was subtle, but still, it counts), learned that you more you cheer for floats, the more candy they throw you, and that not all cheerleaders/dancers/drill squad-ers can dance and walk at the same time and will back up the parade. Good knowledge to have, obviously. I also learned how useful those years of researching Mormons really were in that the Mormon-speak didn’t faze me, even if I did have to bite my tongue a couple times. All that aside, L’s relatives are really lovely people and welcomed me with open arms. The drive home, however, occurred in blessed silence and it was the best ever.

weekend in Boise

This weekend, L. and I went up to Boise. L.’s nephew M. turned twelve on Friday, and we went out to Cracker Barrel to celebrate (birthday boy’s pick). The wait staff there was a little inexperienced, evidenced by one of them dropping a coke in my lap. (That’s about as cold and sticky and pleasurable as you would imagine.) One trip to the ladies’ room, and a wrung-out dress later, I was fine. The rest of the weekend was nice and uneventful, with lunch in the park on Saturday, a long walk on Sunday, plenty of reading time (I finished this book), and even some time for me to work. It was apparently also enough time to further traumatize the dog. Four car trips in one month? Not her thing.  Sorry, dog.

The cat, on the other hand, is fine, since we left her at home. She’s had the run of the house, she’s shedding like crazy, and since my allergies have been acting up, today I get to alternate between dissertation writing and de-cat-hairing the house. Yay me.

June travels

June 4, I embarked on a 13-day, 5-state journey. (That sounds very epic. I just mean I flew to a bunch of places and drove to others and just happened to cross state lines.)

First up was San Antonio, for the annual Mormon History Association conference. I had a really good time, with good people, interesting conversation, and just enough sleep. I even managed to visit the Alamo.

photo 1

Then came Boise, where L. turned 34 on Sunday and we celebrated with his family with breakfast, board games, brisket and brownies (and some stuff that didn’t start with a B, but why ruin the alliteration?).

Then came Reno, where my dad picked me up, and we drove to Lake Tahoe. After a couple days spent reading and hiking at Ed Z’berg Sugarpine Point State Park,

DSCN1397

DSCN1394

DSCN1411

we drove to the Bay Area, where museums, baseball games, coffee houses and book stores awaited us in San Francisco and Berkeley.

photo 5

this was at Blue Bottle Coffee, but could have been at Peets, Brewed Awakening, Strada, Cafe Borrone, or any other coffee house we stopped at.

DSCN1435

A’s vs Rangers. We were fairly confident the A’s would win, but that…turned out to be very untrue. We lost, 8-14.

photo 3

Father’s Day breakfast near Japan town in SF.

The visit was capped off by a drive to Monterey (with a stop in Salinas to see the National Steinbeck Center) and the Asilomar Conference Grounds, which my dad wanted to check out for a workshop he’s hosting next year. Beautiful.

photo 4

With my father’s nomadic leanings (and, ahem, perhaps my own), being in the same place at the same time is relatively rare. I’m always grateful when we get to spend time together, and this time was no exception. Thanks, dad, for a lovely trip.