Chapter Two – The Morning

[Chapter Six]
[Chapter Five]
[Chapter Four]
[Chapter Three]

Much like the Marines, the three of us had accomplished more by 10:00am than most people do in an entire day. And by more, I mean that we sat on the porch and ate roast beef and onion sandwiches, chips and dip, and drank cherry beer for our second breakfast at 9:30am.

My morning began at 6:00am when the sun started shining through my curtainless windows. I was eager to get outside and take some photos of the lake, and hoped I might run into some local wildlife, like a fawn or a rabbit with a can-do attitude.

I didn’t find any deer, but I’m pretty certain I saw a baby wolverine sitting atop the burnt out remnants of a previous bonfire.


It was damp and cool outside, and as I sat on the pier to get some photos of the mist hovering above the lake, I heard the call of a loon.

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I could live here, I thought. I could lead a simple rural life, roughing it here in my 5 bedroom, 3.5 bathroom cabin with stainless steel appliances and satellite TV. Keep Manhattan, just give me my countryside.

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After our first and second breakfasts, we were ready for some exploring, so Dee handed Natasha and me some life preservers, pulled out the two kayaks from the boathouse, and told us to hop in. Nat hadn’t kayaked in a very long time, and was a bit apprehensive at the start.

“I’m gonna tip over. This is totally wobbly. How do I steer? I can’t make it turn! Where’s Jenny? Jenny! Slow down – I can’t even see you! This isn’t going where I want it to go. How do I make it go that way? Jenny!”

“Nat. I haven’t left the dock yet. Look behind you.”


Dee was giving me some last minute instructions, since I was in her mother’s high-tech kayak.
“Okay, so yours is built for speed, so be sure not to leave Nat behind. And if you tip it over, there’s an air pump in the bottom that you can use to flip yourself back up.”

“Flip myself back up? Air pump? What the hell are you talking about?”

“Don’t worry about it. You probably won’t need it.”

Dee-Dee told us that we needed to head for the shallow channel that fed into the neighboring lake. She said it was the best area for kayaking because boats couldn’t get in there. As we started off, Dee pointed in the direction that we would find the channel, and then headed back to the cabin to read her book about dragons.

“Just head toward that buoy! But don’t get too far into the middle of the lake, or the wind will tip you over!”

Despite all her initial theatrics, Natasha quickly eased into the rhythm of kayaking, and was soon passing me up.

“Right on, Nat! You’re totally getting the hang of it now.”

“I know. I think I feel the call of my people.”

“Well, you are 5% Cherokee. Hey! Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?”

“All of them.”

After about 20 minutes of paddling around the edge of the lake without finding anything resembling a channel, I started to get concerned.

“Which way is the channel? Did we pass it? Dee told us to aim for this buoy. Why did she lead us astray? SHE’S PROBABLY IN THE CABIN STEALING ALL OUR MONEY RIGHT NOW!”

“No, I think it probably has more to do with the fact that she lost her glasses over a month ago and thought she was pointing us in the right direction.”

“Ohmigod you’re so right! What the hell were we thinking letting Mr. Magoo drive us 400 miles into the wilderness?”

“Okay, the channel has to be around here somewhere!”

“You’re 25% Cherokee – can’t you track where those other kayakers went?”

“I sense their presence.”

After kayaking across the entire lake in search of the channel, we decided to give up and head back. It wasn’t until we were almost to the cabin that we realized that the channel was only about 100 yards away from the dock. We eventually made our way through the shallow channel and back to shore, where it was Dee’s turn to test out her kayaking skills.

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“Don’t go too far, Dee! Isn’t it time to get our fishing licenses?” I yelled. “We’re still going fishing, right?”

After Dee got back from kayaking, we all piled into the Suburban and drove off to a bait shop in the nearby town.

The store was empty except for the woman in back, stocking leeches.

“We’d like to buy some fishing licenses.”

“All right – so how many days do you want them for?”

“Just today.”

“What? One day? Well… I’m afraid the shortest I can sell you is four days. Now Michigan? Michigan sells a two-day license. Heck, I think Minnesota might even have a one-dayer. Not sure about that though. Don’t know why Wisconsin only has the four days. Can’t you girls call in sick to work?”

“I wish!”

“All right then. Are you girls from in-state?”

“No, Illinois.”

“Oh boy. That’s where they getcha. It’s those out of state licenses that’ll kill ya. Aw boy. This is going to be expensive. You sure you’re just gonna fish the one day?”

“How much will it be?”

“$24 each. That’s one expensive day.”

“Well, maybe we’ll try to get in some fishing tomorrow before we leave.”

“All right then, so that’s $24 for the license, and that’s it? Just the two buckets of crawlers there?”

“Oh yeah… four dozen should be plenty for us, right Dee?”

“More than enough!”

The entire way home, Natasha studied the 2007 Guide to Wisconsin Hook and Line Fishing Regulations to make sure we understood the daily limits.


Panfish, 25 a day. Walleye, 5 a day. Muskellunge, 1 a day. One a day? Geez. How stingy.”

“No doubt! I’m totally gonna catch 6 muskies!”

“Oh hey! Did you know that it’s currently open season on frogs and turtles? Oh, but get this: It is unlawful to take frogs by firearms or airguns. They take the fun out of everything.”

“Well then what am I supposed to do with all my ammo? I totally wanted to shoot me some bullfrogs.”

“Hey there’s more: It is illegal for anyone to possess more than 600 minnows except licensed bait dealers and residents younger than 16 years.”

“What? Are you kidding me?! You mean that I can’t have more than 600 minnows but some punk ass 16-year old can? This state is a joke!”

“That’s crazy. I mean, a full-blooded Cherokee like you should be able to spear all the minnows you want.”

“I’m just gonna adopt a 16-year old and have unlimited minnows.”

“Nice! That’s probably why Angelina Jolie adopted all those kids. For the minnows.”

As soon as we got back to the cabin, I ran downstairs to change into my fishing pants and my fishing hat, and then ran back upstairs to start loading up the boat.

“I can’t wait to go fishing, Dee! Do you know where we should go?”

“Well, first I’m going to take you guys on a speedy tour of the lake. You should see how fast my dad’s boat can go!”

“And you know how to drive it?”

“Oh, it’s totally easy!”

Up Next: Chapter One – The Journey

Chapter Three – The Fishers

[Chapter Six]
[Chapter Five]
[Chapter Four]

Before we loaded up the boat, I went through our checklist to make sure we hadn’t forgotten anything:

• Sweatshirts
• Worms
• Beer
• Fishing licenses
• Doritos
• Fishing hat
• Camera
• Tackle box
• Sunscreen
• 2007-2008 Guide to Wisconsin Hook and Line Fishing Regulations

It was late afternoon on a calm, cool Saturday – the perfect setting for our fishing expedition. As we all piled into the boat, I remarked at how much bigger it was than I had expected. Whenever I had gone fishing as a kid, we were in tiny boats that felt like they were going to tip over if you weren’t perfectly centered on your metal bench seat. This boat had built-in cushy spinning captain’s chairs and deep hidden compartments and a fancy motor that you didn’t have to pull like a lawnmower to start.

“I want to catch a walleye. Or some perch,” I said.

“Oh, you will. But first I’m going to take us for a spin around the lake,” Dee said, smiling.

As we pushed off the dock, Dee-Dee told us to hang on because she was going to show us what her dad’s new boat could do.

“Have you ever driven this before?”

“Not myself, but I’ve watched my sister do it a ton of times. Don’t worry.”

I pulled my fishing hat down tight so it wouldn’t blow away, grabbed hold of my life preserver, and hung on as Dee sped across the lake. We caught some air as we circled around and drove across our own wake. The wind and the spray were freezing, but I loved it.

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Dee-Dee yelled over the sound of the motor, “Okay – here’s the thing. I need you two to make sure we don’t lose sight of our cabin.”

“Uh, okay, I have no idea where it is.”

“Isn’t that it way over there… with the green dock?”

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“Good. Okay, Natasha’s in charge of knowing where the cabin is. Jenny, you’re in charge of dropping the anchor. I think we should head over there by those trees. My brother had some really good luck fishing there the last time.”

Nat watched the depth indicator and shouted out our stats, “34 feet… 29 feet… 20 feet… 15 feet. 15 feet, Dee! How’s that?”

“Perfect. Drop anchor, Jen!”

Dee gave Natasha a quick lesson in casting while I pulled out the first container of night crawlers. They were particularly squirmy, and I immediately wished I had added “wet wipes” to my checklist as I tried to hook my worm while eliciting minimal ooze.

When it was Nat’s turn to worm up, she first asked if Dee would do it for her, but Dee-Dee had adopted a tough-love approach to fishing and refused to help Nat out. I laughed as I watched Natasha try to bait her hook by laying the worm on the side of the boat and quickly stabbing at it with the hook.

“Okay, I don’t think I can do this, you guys. It keeps wrapping around my fingers.”

Dee-Dee just kept casting and said, “You can do it, Nat. I know you can.”

“Ohmigod I just got a bite! Did you see that? I just got a bite!”

I reeled my pole in and saw that half my worm was gone.

“See! I told you we picked a good spot!”

A minute later, I saw the tip of Dee’s pole drop down as she started reeling in the first fish of the day.

“I got a fish! I got one!”

I pulled my pole out of the water, grabbed my camera, and completely ignored Dee’s requests for help as I feverishly snapped photos.

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“Oh crap. I can’t get the hook out. Jen – help me get the hook out. He’s dying. He’s gonna die! Pull his mouth open. Pull it open!”

I removed the hook with minimal aesthetic damage, and Dee immediately dropped the fish back in the water.

“What was that? What kind of fish was it?”

“I think it was a walleye*. Did you see his huge teeth? He had a ton of teeth!”

“I’m glad you mentioned that AFTER you told me to pull his mouth open!”

To celebrate the first fish, we all cracked open some beers and quickly dropped our lines in again. Natasha had gotten the hang of casting, but still was not happy with hooking the worms. We had clearly found a school of hungry fish, because shortly after Dee-Dee’s first catch, I caught my first fish, then Dee caught another, then Nat lost her worm, then I caught another, then Dee caught another, then Nat lost her worm. When Natasha finally did catch her first fish, it leapt off the hook into Dee’s arms, where she cradled it momentarily before throwing it about ten feet straight into the air after it regurgitated an entire worm onto her sweatshirt.

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I started to cast my pole a little closer to a fallen-down tree, which led me to the first of four snags that lost me my hook each time. At one point, I wasn’t quite sure if I had a bite or not, until I reeled in my pole to find that I had caught the first crayfish of the day. I would also catch the second and the third, and really, the only crayfish of our trip.

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The fish were biting so well, in fact, that we started to worry about our worm supply. We bought four dozen, but had quickly plowed through the first 24. These were crafty fish, and I was certain they were employing the crayfish to snip off the worms for a share of the profits.

I lifted my hat up, wiped my brow and said, “Guys, I really hate to say this, but I think we’re going to have to start splitting the worms.”

“Are we really running out?”


“Well, you know what you have to do, Jen.”

“I know, I know. So do I have to pinch them in half, or is there a better way? Don’t you have some scissors in that tackle box?”

”My brother and I always just pull them in half. Just pull on them.”

I wanted so desperately to not be grossed out by splitting the worms in half, but I knew that was not a realistic goal. I grabbed the first worm I saw, held him tightly and pulled, but nothing happened. It just left me with a coating of slime all over my hands and a tightening in my throat. I knew that I was going to have to pinch it in half, so I looked away, pinched it as quickly as I could, and then shook off a full body shiver when green goo squirted all over my thumbs.

“Ohmigod ohmigod ohmigod. That was so disgusting! I have guts all over me. It bled. It bled. You are totally doing the next one, Dee.”

We traded off splitting the worms, until finally Natasha needed one of her own. We were on a strict cut-your-own-worm policy, so she headed over the bucket, grabbed a fat worm, snapped him in half and said, “Huh. That wasn’t so bad. You just can’t look at it. That was way better than hooking them.”

I looked at her in stunned silence.

“You’ve got to be kidding me. It took you twenty minutes to bait your hook, but you just cut that thing in two and it didn’t bother you? Nat, seriously – I will bait your hooks and unhook your fish from now until eternity if you will split the worms for me.”


It was at that moment that I knew that our idea to start a commune in northern Wisconsin would be a success. We all brought our special skills to the team – Nat was the worm-splitter, Dee and I were hook-baiters, Dee was the fish-holder, and I was the fish-unhooker. It was a sort of survivalist assembly line that would have made Henry Ford weep tears of joy.

After catching about twenty fish, we decided to try a new location and work our way closer to the cabin since it was starting to get close to dinner time. I pulled up the anchor, we all reeled in our poles, and Dee started up the motor. Or rather, she tried to start up the motor, but when she turned the key, the only thing we heard was a low rrerr rrerr rrerr sound, like a car in the middle of winter.

She fiddled with a few of the settings on the motor, flipped a few switches, but still no motor.

“Oh you have got to be frickin’ kidding me, Dee! Can you really not get it started?”

“Shit. Okay, I didn’t do anything different when I started the boat, did I? I think I just had these two dots lined up here, and then I turned the key, right?”

“How do I know? I was in the front of the boat!”

She tried for about ten more minutes – unsuccessfully – to get the motor started, at which point we began reviewing our options:

“All right, maybe one of us could swim the boat in to shore. Did anyone wear a suit? I just have my top on.”

“I just have my bottom on,” said Nat.

“Well someone’s gonna have to swim in the nude because I’m not sitting on this boat all night.”
Dee-Dee then suggested that if we got close enough to shore, she could just walk us in.

“Or we could always paddle. See if there’s an oar in there – I know my dad has an oar in one of these compartments.”

“One oar? What the hell good is one oar gonna do us? Look at the size of this boat! Do you have any idea how long it’s going to take us to row it in with one oar? Here’s an idea – Nat – wave down that boat over there and see if they can tell us how to start the motor.”

Natasha started waving her arms at a passing boat when Dee shout-whispered, “DON’T WAVE AT THEM! They could be crazy!”

“Dee, you’re not worried about them being crazy, are you? You’re just embarrassed that we’re stranded in your dad’s fancy new boat.”


“So you’d rather we all die in this boat than risk your reputation as a master outdoorswoman? You and your damn pride are gonna get us killed, Dee!”

Nat chimed in, “Yeah… why are you so prideful?”

“You’re so full of pride! Pridefulness is a sin!”

At that point, we all burst into hysterical laughter and I said, “Fine! Give me the damn oar. But just so you know – we’re not done fishing! Natasha did not split those last eight worms in half for nothing. We’re going to fish and row our way back in.”

Rowing this boat back in required a masterful display of teamwork – two strokes on the left, a smooth handoff, then three on the right, then four short bursts on the left, pass the oar, two long strokes on the right, and so on, all while monitoring the depth to make sure we didn’t run into the rocks.

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“We need a work song. Who knows a working song?”

Michael row the boat ashore, Hallelujah…

“I was thinking of something more like, I’m working on the chain gang, chain gang, chain gang…

By the time we finally made it into the cabin, I was covered in worm guts and fish blood, and my arms and lower back were burning from all the rowing.

“Okay, as soon as I get done washing worm slime off me, we need to prepare our feast!”

“And maybe there will be something good on TV – we totally deserve some wine and a good movie tonight!”

“But first you have to call your dad to find out what we did wrong.”

“No way!”

“Dee – what if we screwed something up, or drained the battery? You can’t not tell him.”

“I’m not telling him. I’ll ask my sister – she’ll know.**”


“But I do know what to get my dad for his birthday.”

“What’s that?”

“Another oar.”

*It was a rock bass.

**We didn’t have it in neutral.

Up Next: Chapter Two – The Morning

Chapter Four – The Excess

[Chapter Six]
[Chapter Five]

By 7pm Saturday we were all wearing pajamas, eating Pecorino cheese on crusty French bread and drinking wine. I was in charge of firing up the grill while Dee-Dee prepped all the food she brought for our dinner. Over the next two hours, we ate:

• Filet mignon marinated in soy sauce and garlic
• Grilled broccoli
• Steamed zucchini
• Corn on the cob
• Mixed salad with goat cheese, oranges and pine nuts
• Crostini with garlic and olive oil
• And s’mores

After we polished off the second bottle of red, we all settled in front of the TV to watch a movie. Dee-Dee’s parents installed satellite TV in their cabin, so it took me close to 20 minutes to surf through the 189 channels of sports and the 45 Spanish channels to finally make it to the movie channels. As it turned out, there were three different stations that played nothing but The Hills Have Eyes and The Hills Have Eyes II all day long.

“Hey – The Hills Have Eyes is starting at 9:30. Let’s watch that.”

“Dee. We’re in a cabin in the north woods. We have no cell phone reception up here. There’s a 12-foot tall carving of an Indian with an axe standing next to the fireplace. If you honestly think I’m going to watch a horror movie involving people trapped in the middle of nowhere and being murdered, you’re out of your frickin’ mind.”

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“Why are you such a baby, Jenny? Scaredy cat.”

“Yeah, we’ll see who’s a scaredy cat when you wake up with Chief Slit-Ur-Throat hovering over your bed tonight. Oh, here we go! Let’s watch Less Than Zero.”

“Ugh! That movie is so depressing.”

“No it’s not. It’s good. It has Robert Downey Jr. in it. We’re watching it!”

[…20 minutes later…]

“Okay, are they supposed to be just out of college or high school?”

“High school.”

“Who drove vintage Corvettes, wore designer suits, owned giant houses and openly smoked crack at parties when they were 18?”

“Nat totally did.”

“Shut up, so did you.”

“It’s true. This movie really takes me back.”

[…30 minutes later…]

“Ohmigod! Why is there so much sex in this movie? What am I even looking at – is that his back or his stomach?”

“And who actually believes that Andrew McCarthy has had sex? Please.”

[…20 minutes later…]

“Oh – I remember this part. Robert Downey Jr. almost OD’s.”

“Uh, that’s the entire movie.”

“I would totally nurse him back to health. He just needs someone like me to take care of him. I would be just like Jami Gertz, but without the sleeping with Andrew McCarthy part.”

[…28 minutes later…]

“Wow. Great movie you picked, Jen. Now I can have nightmares about vomiting, bloody cocaine noses and prostitution.”

“No kidding!”

“Yeah. So… I guess I just didn’t remember quite how bad it was. Sorry ladies!”

“All right. I’m going to bed. We should all get up early so we can go for a walk in the woods before we have to leave tomorrow.”

“Sweet dreams!”

Up Next: Chapter Three – The Fishers

Chapter Five – The Woods

[Chapter Six]

As much as I wanted to get up super early on Sunday, my body just wouldn’t let me. My lower back was tight, my wrists wouldn’t bend, my sides ached. When I swung myself out of bed and stood up to fumble my way to the bathroom, I felt a sharp pain in both calves.

Eventually, I made it to the kitchen just in time to grab the last piece of cherry kringle before Natasha and Dee-Dee came out for coffee.



“How’d you sleep?”

“Pretty good, but I had crazy nightmares. Why’d you make us watch that horrible movie, Jen?”

“I don’t know… I guess didn’t remember it being quite so depressing. Or so dirty.”

“No kidding.”

We didn’t talk much that morning, but just lounged around the patio sipping coffee and eating toast and cereal as we took in the view of the woods. Even though we still had a few hours left before we had to head home, I was already feeling sad about leaving. We never got to swim, and I was so excited about trying out the swimsuit I bought at TJ Maxx for just $12. It was an irregular, and I was pretty certain that it would disintegrate after about the second time I wore it, but I really never go swimming so it was kind of a novelty for me.

After finishing our coffees, we started to clean up the cabin, pack our bags, and load up the car so we’d be ready to go. Through yet another amazing display of teamwork, we got the cabin in perfect condition with an hour to spare, so we decided to take one last walk through the woods. Nat and Dee-Dee powered ahead of me as I searched for the perfect walking stick.


“Hey! Wait up!”

“Hey Moses. What’s with the staff?”

“It’s for balance. And so I can point at things.”

“I see.”

“And fight people, like J.J. Evan’s dad did in The Beastmaster.”

“Oh, okay.”

”And pull you out if you fall into quicksand.”

“Got it. Great.”

I found a few wild raspberry patches along the way, but they had been pretty picked over, probably by the chipmunks and deer. As I reached into the brush to find more berries, our conversation turned to poison ivy, and whether or not we knew how to identify it. I was pretty sure that it had three leaves, and red veins underneath, but I had to admit that I’d never actually seen it in real life. The fear of poison ivy, coupled with the fear of ticks kept us on the trail for most of our journey.

At one point, Natasha grabbed my arm and pointed toward the woods.

“Cool! That tree totally has a face – look Jenny!”

tree man

“Oh yeah! Very cool. You know, I think I just read something about how you’re not supposed to look at the faces in trees. They’re tree spirits – some people believe that they steal your soul.”

“Now don’t tell me that. Why did you tell me that? I don’t want to know that. Geez.”

“Look, Nat. I’m just telling you what I read. I looked at it too, so now it has both our souls. Let’s tell Dee-Dee to look at it, too.”

“Good idea.”

“Hey Dee! Come here! Come look at this tree face so it will steal your soul.”

“What, are you nuts? I’m not looking at that!”

“Nat and I both just lost our souls. If you want to live on our commune, you have to look at it too.

“I need to not look at it, so that one of us still has a soul and can save both of you.”

“Whatever. You’re so out of the commune.”

“Don’t worry about it, Jenny. Dee-Dee and her pridefulness wouldn’t have been able to save our souls anyway.”

“No doubt.”

As we wandered down the path, we came to a dead end, where the path was blocked by a fallen oak. We ventured down the hill a bit, to a lush area of the woods where we took pictures of each other in senior class poses – praying hands aside cheek, studious fist on chin, casual lean against trees.

We saw that it was time for us to head back and begin our long journey home, so I grabbed my walking stick and started up the hill. As we strolled along the path, I tried to prove I could live on a commune by pointing out the various types of trees we were passing.

“Seems like most of this forest is maples, isn’t it? Well, and birch. Yeah. Lots of birch.”

“That’s an oak, though, right?”

“Yep. And I love all these baby spruces.”

We were getting close to the cabin when I lifted up my walking stick and said, “Hey Dee-Dee – what the heck kind of tree is that?”

“Which one? Where… OH DAMN YOU JENNY!”

“AH HA HA HA HA! Dee-Dee looked at the tree face!”

“YES! Nice one, Jenny.”

“Dammit! I totally looked right into his eyes!”

”Now it has all our souls. Ha ha.”

“You suck.”

“You were never gonna save us anyway.”

Natasha and I laughed about our collective soullessness for the rest of the walk back. After a final run-through of the cabin to make sure that lights were all off, doors were all locked, and garbage was all emptied, we hopped in the car and started our trip home.

“Hey Dee! Can we stop for lunch at that Paul Bunyan place?”


“Mmm… I don’t think we should. They’re really just known for their breakfasts. Besides, my dad told me about this place in Minocqua that had really good food.”

“Is it far? I’m kind of starving.”

“Not too far, and it’s all highway driving so we should get there in no time. And he said the sandwiches there are great!”

Call of the Wild – An Up-North Saga

If I begin with the end, I will have to tell you about the killing. But I suppose that is how it’s meant to be, and so that is where we’ll start.


In northern Wisconsin, also known as Michicanada, when you order a sandwich called “Pulled Beef and Brie,” what you have actually just requested is an entire pot roast on bread.

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Chapter Six – The Killing

We were on our way to a neighboring town to grab a hearty northern Wisconsin lunch to fuel us for the five-hour drive home that lay ahead. Natasha was in the back seat, reading The Economist. I was in the passenger seat, scrolling through my photos from our weekend at the cabin. Dee-Dee was driving a 4-ton Suburban at 65 miles an hour, singing along to the 70’s station.

“Aaaaamy… whatchoo wanna do? I think I could stay with you, for a while, maybe longer…“

“Longer if I do!” Nat chimed in, without lifting her head from the magazine.

We all continued, “Amy, whatchoo wanna do-“


I looked up. “What the hell was that?”

“Oh god, oh god. I told it to pull up! It didn’t pull up!”

“What was it?”

“I don’t know… it looked like a rubber chicken. It just came flying out of the trees. It was flying so low…”

“You hit a rubber chicken?”

“No… I don’t know. It looked like that other bird we saw earlier. Why was it flying so low? I told it to pull up but it didn’t pull up!”

“Okay, first of all, maybe in your head you told it to pull up, but you certainly didn’t say anything out loud. And second of all, it’s a bird and we’re in a car. Did you think he would understand?”

“What did it look like?”

“I told you – a rubber chicken. But its head was red. It flew right in front of your window, Jenny – how could you not see it?”

“I was looking at pictures! Oh, Dee. You killed a woodpecker?”

“No – it was big. Really big. Woodpeckers are little.”

“Not if it was a Pileated Woodpecker. Oh my god – you totally demolished a Pileated Woodpecker! I think those are endangered!”

Still not looking up from her magazine, Nat said, “Sounds like natural selection if you asked me. What’s a bird doing flying across the highway that low anyway? Not very smart… if you asked me.”

“I need to stop somewhere.”

“Dee, we’re almost to the restaurant – let’s just keep driving until we get there. I’ll check the car for guts when I get out, I promise.”

We pulled into the restaurant and Dee stayed in the car while I hopped out and looked for anything resembling a beak. Fortunately, there was no visible sign of the death. I flashed the “all clear” sign to Dee-Dee, and we all filed into the local eatery.

We sat down and quickly realized that we had chosen the old person restaurant, which meant that the menu consisted almost entirely of cheese-covered meat. Nat and Dee both ordered the BBQ Pork Sandwich topped with smoked Gouda, and I pushed my boundaries by ordering something called “Pulled Beef and Brie.”

While we were waiting for our lunches to arrive, Dee-Dee could not stop talking about the bird. “I really don’t think it was a woodpecker. It was enormous – I think it was like, a duck. A red-billed duck, or something. Give me some paper – I can draw exactly what it looked like.”

We handed her a pen and paper, and she began to draw.

“Okay, so its head was red, and kind of spiky like this… and then this part was all black… and then its legs were skinny and hanging straight back like that.”

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[click to enlarge]

“You’re just drawing a rubber chicken.”

“No – that’s what it looked like! I told you! Okay, but then let me show you what it looked like on the side of the road after I hit it.”


“No, just wait… so it was kind of like in a circle like this… and then the head was sticking out there… and the feet were kind of curled up in a ball.”

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“Dee, we’re about to have lunch, you know.”

“I just wanted you to see it.”

“Okay, Dee, I’m telling you – that’s a Pileated Woodpecker. You know – just like Woody Woodpecker? You killed Woody Woodpecker.”

“Ugh, I feel sick. Are they really endangered?”

“I’m serious – I think they are*. I feel like I remember reading something about how they thought they were extinct, but then found a pair of them somewhere… something like that. You may have just killed off the species.”

Natasha stirred some Equal into her iced tea and shook her head, “And I say again – it’s nature’s way of weeding out the dumb ones. Why do you think they’re almost extinct?”

“Nat! When did you become such a hard-ass?”

“Look – this weekend taught me a lot about survival. I’m not the same person I was two days ago. I don’t think any of us are.”

“You make a good point. Ooh look! Here comes our food!”

“Oh my god… is that mine? Who let me order the pulled beef sandwich?”

*They are not endangered. I was thinking of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker. Dee-Dee would have to make a few thousand trips up north to put the Pileated Woodpecker on the endangered list.

Up next: Chapter Five – The Woods

Dress for Success

I’ve had to have some difficult discussions with my cats lately, mostly about how they never help out around the house, and how I feel like they take me for granted. So while I’m up north trapping bald eagles this weekend, I have asked them to start looking for jobs. Doesn’t have to be anything full time, but just enough to start bringing in a little pin money for catnip and the fancy clumping litter they can’t seem to live without.
I didn’t think they were actually serious about it, until I walked into the bedroom and found them trying on interview suits. I actually cried a little when I saw them all dressed up – I was so proud. And I really like that Podo isn’t boxed into gender stereotypes about how women shouldn’t wear ties to work. I think she looks classy, kind of like a young Katharine Hepburn.
class act
Kodo preferred the slightly askew, devil may care look.
crooked tie
So when I get back, not only will I have skinned my first bear, but I may also come back to a three-income household (fingers crossed). Wish us all well!

Wilderness Lodge

This is what defines me as an American: this weekend, my friends Dee-Dee, Natasha and I will drive close to 800 miles roundtrip to spend a day and a half in northern Wisconsin. Fourteen hours in a car for 36 hours in a cabin.
And I couldn’t be happier. Only in America does that seem like a good idea.
But want to know the funny part? I’ve been watching the weather, and a cold front has come in, so it will probably be too chilly to swim. I gave myself a bikini wax for nothing. NOTHING!
I may just decide to parade around my living room in my swimsuit, like it’s the Miss Universe pageant. I will make small signs that say “9.7” and “9.5” and set them in front of my cats who are part of the international judging committee. They probably won’t want to give me a “10” because they are afraid I will get big-headed. I hate those stingy cat judges.
In case the 800 miles doesn’t quite sink in, let me illustrate:
Yes, we’re pretty much driving to Canada for the weekend. Traveling always puts me in a list-making mood – what to bring, what to eat, what to do, where to go – so I’ll finish off with a list:

  • Dee-Dee said there are eagles there. She promised me an eagle. I want to see an eagle.
  • Everyone laughs at me when I say I like to go fishing. I think this is because I’ve never gone camping, and I refuse to sleep on the ground, and splitting worms in two makes me vomit, and I want to call a veterinarian when a hook gets caught in the fish’s mouth, but I’ll show them all. I’ll catch me a fish. Maybe a perch. A nice skinny perch.
  • If I don’t get to fish or see any eagles, I will still probably be totally content, so long as we have wine, bread and prosciutto.
  • Dee is bringing wine, bread and prosciutto.
  • I just took a sip of my wine and a fruit fly flew out of the glass. I totally don’t even care. I mean, really – how much can a fruit fly drink anyway?
  • When I was at Target this past weekend – you know, when I bought the Nad’s – I also bought a hat that was on sale because I said to myself, “This looks like a fishin’ hat.” If I had some lures, I would put them in the hat.
  • When Dee and her sister were at the cabin earlier this summer, they were in a boat in the middle of the lake and decided to jump in for a swim. A few minutes later, they discovered that they didn’t have the upper body strength to pull themselves up and it took them an hour to finally wrestle themselves back in, bruised and battered.
  • I have been doing girl pushups all week just in case.
  • If you don’t hear from me by Tuesday, please send some rescue dogs to the Upper Peninsula.

Doomed to Repeat It

“Hey Dee, it’s Jen.”
“Oh hey! So how’s it-“
“What blood type are you?”
“What? Why?”
“I think I might need a transfusion.”
“Oh god. What now?”
“So… I bought a new bathing suit for our trip next week.”
“Uh huh.”
“And decided to give myself a bikini wax…”
“Oh you didn’t! Did you take Advil before hand?”
“Dee, I’m in so much pain right now. I think I see bone.”
“Didn’t we already go through this once before? I swear I’ve had this exact conversation with you.”
She was right. She had. It was probably six or seven years ago when I first got roped into an infomercial for Nad’s Natural Hair Removal Gel. There was something about the announcer that drew me in – maybe it was her kind eyes or her friendly smile, but I was transfixed by that Australian woman’s story. She invented Nad’s because, as she explained, “me daughtas had veery heery ahms.” To protect her daughters from the cruel playground teasing, she created her very own all natural hair removal product to help them feel better about themselves.
“Eet’s awl natural,” she said, “Mide with honey ind sugah.”
I seem to recall her saying that you could even eat it, but it was a late night infomercial, so maybe I was delirious. I bought the kit, followed the directions, and remember calling Dee-Dee one evening, almost in tears.
“I can’t tear it off, Dee. It hurts too much.”
“You just have to do it. Count to three and rip.”
“I’ve tried that. I just keep getting to three and stopping. I think I need to take a bath to wash it off.”
I’ve always heard that the human brain cannot remember pain, which is obviously a good thing or we probably would have died out long ago. It must be true, because this afternoon when I was in Target and saw the Nad’s kit sitting on the shelf amidst all the razors and shave gels, all I remembered was the part about being able to eat it.
They had even improved the formula, according to the box, by adding nourishing kiwi and soothing mint. I got home, poured myself a beer, and went into the bathroom to begin the process to hairlessness.
I guess my first clue should have been the fact that they now include alcohol cleansing swabs as an initial prep. This is apparently to ward off infection when the first eight layers of protective skin cells are forcibly ripped from your loins.
My second warning sign came when I discovered the consistency of the gel. I seem to remember it being much more liquid, less solid. When I stuck the applicator into the gel, it felt like trying to shove a butter knife into a warm candle.
Australian Home Torture Kit
“Oh, right. I remember – it melts with your body heat as you apply it.”
This was a lie. Not only did it not melt, it actually started to rip out the hair as I was applying it. I tried to warm up the applicator by running it under hot water, but it did no good. It was kind of like trying to spread ice cold butter onto dry toast – tiny blobs of the gel clumped together across my delicate bikini area, leaving bare spots in between.
At one point, the applicator got stuck to my upper thigh and I had to apply a warm wash cloth to remove it. I thought about giving up at that point, but by this time, I was pretty much committed to the process so I decided to soldier on and applied the cloth strips to the gel.
All it would take now was to apply three quick swipes across the cloth with my hand, grab the lower edge of the strip and pull. And pull. Pull the strip. Just pull it. Take the edge of the strip and pull it quickly. Right, grab that bottom part and pull. Now. Right now. Okay, then, on the count of three. One, two, three, PULL! You didn’t pull.
This internal struggle went on for about ten minutes as I sipped my beer and tried to gain the courage to remove the strip. When I finally ripped off the first strip, I screamed a few expletives, but then looked down at the newly smooth bikini area and felt I had made the right decision. Until the blood came. A few tiny beads at first, and then a few more, and a few more. It appeared that I had actually pulled my veins out through my thigh. It was at that point that I grabbed the phone and called Dee-Dee.
”I told you to leave that kind of thing to the professionals, Jenny.”
“I know, I know… but that’s just way too intimate for me.”
“And look where you are now.”
“Seriously. Oh, shit! I just remembered that I have a gynecologist appointment on Thursday!”
“Oh my god! Why don’t you just go for the trifecta and get a high colonic this week while you’re at it?!”
“No kidding! What’s she going to say when I hobble in there with oozing sores on my inner thighs? She’s gonna make me take that Chlamydia test again…”
“I mean for the first time.”
“Well, call me if you start to feel light headed. I’ll have Nat drive you to the ER.”
“Will do. I think the bleeding has stopped, though. And you know, once all the swelling and redness goes away in 6-8 weeks or so, I’ll probably look great.”
“Just in time for your next waxing.”

Potter Pals

Shortly after my nephews ran out of movies to review, they dragged me over to the computer to watch “something sooo funny, oh Aunt Jenny you have to see this it’s so hysterical!”
It was then that I learned that my nephews had recently discovered the sheer joy and utter time-suckage that is You Tube.
I’m not sure if the five – FIVE – videos they made me watch are just funny to the 9 and under crowd, or if you have to be a Harry Potter fan to appreciate them, but seriously. I almost lost my mind by #3.
Then, when I made them stop goofing around on the computer with their silly videos so I could get back to the much more serious business of achieving my personal best on Jewel Quest II, they continued to serenade me with high pitched chants of “Ron, Ron, Ron WEEEEASLEY!”
Like all earworms, the only way to get rid of this one is to let it bore its way into your brain. You’re welcome.

Performance Review

Conversation I really didn’t need to hear at the Starbucks I frequent:
Manager: “So your attendance is good, but you’ve really got to get better at the hand-washing”
Employee who makes my coffee every week: “Yeah… I know.”