Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Stranger in a Strange Land

Every so often, I'm struck anew by my strangeness in a strange land. I'm a transplant, and I'm afraid it still shows.

The other day, when it was really cold, I was reminded by the doubled doorway to my office building, and how much I appreciate it. Where I grew up, buildings large and small had pretty much single doorways. But here in the midwest, you enter one doorway, and about ten feet in, you enter a second doorway. When winter hits, you appreciate the second doorway a whole lot.

I finished teaching my evening class last week, and left the office about 9:15 to head to the grocery store for a quick stop. I considered buying a bottle of bourbon to have a nice hot toddy. But, of course, you aren't allowed to buy alcoholic beverages at a store after 9pm or something. You can go to a bar and have a couple drinks, get in your car, and drive on home. But you can't buy a bottle at the store, drive home, and make yourself a drink. I still deep down don't understand this rule (or when it kicks), and I never remember it until I see the ceremonial plastic warning chain in front of the liquor aisles at the store.

Grocery stores in general are very different. Where I'm from, no one gives you a strange look when you buy a couple artichokes. Here, I have to identify them for the check out person, and then I have to explain that they're good, and that yes, I do eat them, and that they're not actually hard to cook at all. Aisles are wider here. So are parking spaces. But local "ethnic" food here leaves a lot to be desired.

When you go to the mall in fall, you can tell the season has changed because the display involves deer stands and not canoes. Every year, I have students tell me in advance that they'll be out of class for the first days or week of deer season. This is normal here. One is advised to wear blaze orange when taking a bike ride or walk on the trail out of town these days.

Where I lived before, people in the movie Fargo made me laugh when they had conversations about snow. Now I've had those very conversations, standing in my driveway, shovel in hand. I don't quite sound like the people in the movie. Yet. But you know the weird hat Frances McDormand's character wears in the movie? I have a hat like that, except without the badge in front. Laugh if you will, but it's nice and warm. People all over town know me by my hat, which is saying something with the winters we have here.

I expect to have some free time this weekend, and I'm planning to put in bulbs. I don't remember people planting bulbs where I grew up, I think because they need more cold to go dormant or something. We get enough cold here and more. I really like bulbs. They give me hope.

I searched out my office bandaid supply this afternoon. I spend from late October through early May every year wrapping one or another finger in a bandaid with a little Neosporin cream because I get these stupid little cracks in the skin that hurt! They get irritated constantly by writing, typing, any old day-to-day activity. This week it's my left thumb. Last week was my right thumb. Tomorrow, the world!


  1. A & D ointment (yes, the one used for diaper rashes) used nightly can keep your hands more supple so that they won't crack. If the cracks still occur, there are many different products on the market which can "glue" your skin back together so that your fingertips don't hurt while they heal. (Yes, I get the same cracks, and yes, this works for me.)

    A really quick way to plant bulbs: clear your ground of debris, throw your bulbs down, and then cover with 4-6" of mulch (shredded bark, etc.). Done! It seems too easy to be believed, but I've tried it for the past 2 years and been pleasantly surprised at the outcome. Prior to this, I'd delay my planting until the end of November, and then be out in the snow trying to dig little holes for each bulb...

  2. Heh. I grew up with double doors (not having one feels very insecure to me - the outside world is too close!), and I grew up where you couldn't buy any booze in supermarkets, so there was something freaky about seeing beer and wine in the supermarket. (That's what packies are for!) However the hunting thing was a new one to me, when I was teaching in Rural Utopia!

  3. That hand problem can suck. I had it too where I was in grad school. The very best way to prevent it is to use udder cream on your hands. However, this can be a little hard to come by, unless you have friends in the dairy crowd. Second best is vasoline intensive care lotion. Keep your hands plenty moist with that stuff and the cracks do not appear. The weather brings very dry air. If your skin is not conditioned to it, then it dries and cracks. Where I was in grad school, even the most macho guys learned that even real men carry hand lotion!

    The CP

  4. I grew up in such a place. And while I hate, hate, hate lutefisk, the lefse is delightful. Add butter and sugar, and you won't even care that there are people in the world who eat rotten cod soaked in lye.

    (The Lutheran church I attended as a kid actually had a "fish room" in the basement, dedicated to the purpose of making lutefisk! Ewww.)

  5. Next the checkout at the local Ace Hardware here you can buy a little can of "bag balm." Works great on cracked hands.

  6. For your hands, make it a habit to always wear your gloves outside... no matter if you feel really cold or not. Reason being is that the cold air holds much less moisture and your warm hands will have the moisture wicked away fast...

    As for lutefisk... sure, it is icky, but lefse's goodness makes up for it.

    If you teach summer, remember that the fishing opener is another holiday, along with deer season, that the college doesn't recognize.

  7. LOL, Bardiac -- Bullock and I have lost count of how many times we've had to identify something to the checkout person at the grocery store!

  8. Thanks all :)

    I use bag balm a lot, but I'll have to try the A&D stuff. I'm not, alas, as careful about the gloves as I should be, probably.

    Thanks also for the bulb suggestion; I have the ones I just got in the fridge now, and am thinking I'll force them, since it's snowing and all. Someday I'll whine about the stupid landscaping in my yard.