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Birthday Blather: The List, Revisited
June 2005

[Note: It should surprise no one that most of this Blather was originally written LAST YEAR for my 34th birthday, but the Slacker Hacker never quite got around to posting it. He must have been having a “me” day.]

Good grief… am I really turning 35 this year? Has it really been five years since I started this website? Dang….

As I mentioned some years back, my birthday is traditionally when I take stock of The List. I compiled The List almost a dozen years ago, and, to my continued surprise, I’ve already done way more than I ever thought I’d do.

I was never a very adventurous soul. In fact, until I was in my early twenties, the thought of living “far away” from home – which, to me, was anything more’n a 20 minute drive – was inconceivable. I attended the local community college, planned to attend the local State U., and rarely did anything more wild and crazy than driving out to the Hotel Del by myself one afternoon (which my mom freaked out over, because freeway driving is SO dangerous!). My idea of an exotic meal was anything that didn’t include something from cans, and a “big vacation” was driving with Mom and Gram up to Hanford to visit the relatives.

I suppose it was mostly because I lacked self-confidence, and was easily intimidated, especially considering I also had a wealth of individuals around me whom I let squelch any impulses toward adventure in the first place. “One day, I’d love to go to England,” said 14-year-old Dawn Le Bon wistfully. “Yeah, right,” said Blevins, Stepfather Number Two, launching into a lengthy lecture about how unrealistic it was for me to even consider such an idea. “Maybe someday I’ll get a PhD” high-school-aged Dwanollah said to her Mommy. “Oh, honey, that’s so… expensive.” “You know what I’ve always wanted to do?” Dwanollah confided in her best friend. “Learn Latin!” “That’s stupid!” said the then-best friend. “Why would you want to do that?”

Well. Okay. I guess stuff like that was pretty foolish and unrealistic, wasn’t it? Shame on me. *chewing nails*

Dumb me didn’t realize at the time that maybe the people who kept telling me that any of these dreams and ideas I had were unrealistic, foolish, irresponsible, or just plain stupid were actually even more insecure than I was. Maybe it was up to me to live the kind of life I wanted.

When I was 24, newly single and free for the first time in my adult life, I began making active changes. And as an adult on my own, more things seemed possible than before, without a half-dozen insecure naysayers shooting down any idea I articulated. At one of our Pagan Tea Parties, a couple friends from work and I were suddenly inspired to make up Lists of Things to Do, and my List was as much an assertion for me to “dream the impossible dream” or “be all that you can be” or Revive Ophelia or “Just do it!” or “yes I said yes I will Yes” or whatever cliché you want to throw in for color and texture. I expected I’d come up with, maybe, a dozen things, but once my pen got to scribbling, I was surprised at how much stuff I thought of. I mentioned in my previous Blather that, at the time:

Most of the stuff I put down on my List seemed impossible… or at least pretty exotic and unlikely to happen. Certainly "Have my own apartment" felt as out-of-reach as "Go to Greece." But without listening to my Critical Inner Voice, I listed 112 different things. As of my thirtieth birthday, I’ve done almost 33 of them… and some of them were the things I thought most impossible.

I mean, when, at the time, the furthest away from home I’d been was Las Vegas once, thinking that maybe someday I might travel to, like, Disneyworld felt downright hotheaded.

I started off slow. The first thing I did was #56, “Get more holes in ears.” Because having double- and triple-pierced ears was OUTRAGEOUS! Well, it is if you’re scared of needles, I might add. But I did it. Then I fed a deer at the Wild Animal Park, which, because I hadn’t specified in my List that the deer be, you know, WILD, I decided that counted! A few more things followed as I slowly picked up steam and, when on one of our early dates, I mentioned The List to The Not-Yet-Husband-Type-Man, he was intrigued ('cos he, too, understood the impulse to squelch adventure in favor of being responsible) and encouraging. Less than five years after first writing The List (which remains, on three much-creased yellow legal pages in my current journal), I, Dwanollah, Where Adventure Used to Go to Die, who Freaked Out at Change, had moved all over the country, visited more cities than I’d ever believed realistic, studied in places I’d never thought feasible and, hell, many of the things I’d once thought were sooooo exotic were now, like, everyday facts!

I don’t have any hard-and-fast rules for doing stuff from The List, but, every year around my birthday, I love looking it over and seeing what I did over the past year. I’m closing in on 60 now! Dig the latest:

See Simon and Garfunkel in concert (Nov 17-18, 2003, Jan 2004). Damn. Back in ’94, I never ever ever EVER thought this one would happen. I mean, how often had Paul and Artie had drama and swore they’d never be in the same room again? But Simon and Garfunkel is one of my all-time favorite musical groups, and the thought of seeing them live was a wistful yet deeply passionate wish. I wrote it down on the list, never taking into consideration the drives of nostalgia, or, if you’re a cynic, sheer avariciousness. You know what that means? Reunion tour! Cynicism aside, the first time I heard, ‘waaaaaaay up in Nosebleed, their voices blending together live and in person, I started bawling. I know, I know… but I stood there mouthing the words to “Old Friends” along with them, the autumnal scent marijuana filling the air, tears streaked my face and I just shivered with the magic of it. Neither one of them on their own is nearly as amazing as the two of them together, and I relished every note. And, I might add, I sang along with EVERY SINGLE WORD (except for “Hey Schoolgirl”) which made my mommy very, very proud indeed.

Get a PhD in Lit. No, I’m not there yet, and for the last two years, it looked like I might not make it… unless it was for one of those “Get your degree online!” type of places. Yeah. When you have 200 people trying to get one of five spots in a competitive grad program, no one seems to care if you have one published article to your name. It’s brutal. But this year, I was finally, finally accepted to a great program, and’ve been working my ass off. Call me Doctor, bitch! And sooner than expected, too, because I just got permission to do my dissertation as a 2 nd year. Yay, me! *checks Zoloft supply*

Write and publish a book : Out of sheer stubbornness, and frustrated after Round Two of rejections last year, I thought “why wait”? I have an untapped critical subject, and the time, resources and help to do it. So my offices of late have been a mess of photocopies, labeled file folders, antique books, creased paperbacks with scribbled notes, Post-Its, and various Inter-Library Loan request sheets. I have three chapters down, four almost done, and three more to go. Lordy. The nice thing is, with our unexpected move to Milwaukee, I was within driving distance of the libraries I originally would have to’ve budgeted research trips to, which was a welcome coincidence!

Do the Laura Ingalls Wilder Grand Tour (South – Summer 2001). Yeah, I did the Southern leg of it a couple years ago with The Husband-Type Man, but this year I’m hitting the Western sites as part of Book Research this summer. So not only should I get to finally check out Walnut Grove, Burr Oak, Pepin and DeSmet, but it’s tax deductible, too! Woo! And now I have the added bonus of visiting Betsy, Tacy and Tib stuff at the same time.

See Ireland . Mom was depressed. She’d been laid off work last year when her company was sold and, in her mid-fifties and struggling with fibromyalgia, the thought of Résumé Rigmarole was beyond disheartening. Luckily, we got an unexpected bonus, so I bought her a passel o’ meds, and booked a trip to Mom’s dream destination. (Remember, of course, that Mom doesn’t travel; after all, I had to get my lack of adventurousness from someone! She’s gotten better in the last couple years, because she can’t always wait for me and THTM or Sugarbear to be in Southern California, so she’s gone to Philly and NYC a few times, and up to Seattle to visit Sugie.) But she still said “Someday I’d love to see Ireland” with that same unspoken “but I know it’ll never happen” on the end.

Fuck that! It was gonna happen, and it was gonna happen now!

Within two months, I’d planned, booked, and arranged. Mom, on the other hand, didn’t seem to think it was really happening. First she went through the “I don’t want you spending that much money on me” bit, complete with occasional Mommy Crying Jags, which lasted about 6 weeks. Then it was the calm and rational “I know you’re busy right now, and it’s not convenient to just take off like that.” “Bullshit, Mom. There’ll never be a better time. I already have our tickets. Read the guidebook I sent you and go get your passport!” By the week before our flight into Dublin, Mom wasn’t sleeping at night, was one crucial step away from catatonia, and could barely breathe, too afraid to even consider the trip a reality, even when we were sitting in the airport waiting for our flight to board.

CAPTION: I think Mom got a little lonely being so far from home….

Dudes. Almost three whole weeks. First we went to Wales, to check out Hay-on-Wye, one of those places Mom heard about on some travel show. Kick ASS! I scored butt-loads of books I needed for my own work, and we stayed in a 17 th Century inn. Then, back to Dublin for a two-week tour around Ireland. “Is it real yet?” I kept asking Mom when we were standing ‘neath Bunratty Castle or looking out over the three lakes of Killarney. Yeah. We saw Ireland. Oh yeah.

Taste Dom Perignon . Me and THTM had Something Really Big to celebrate, and we popped a celebratory bottle with friends. We toasted, sipped, and… well, it tastes pretty much like champagne. Not nearly enough difference between the cheaper stuff to impress me, and believe me, I have a cultured palate: I can totally taste the difference between Coke and Pepsi.

Have a bathroom with a giant bathtub . Ahhhhhhh!

See Paul McCartney live . Ooooh! Just scored tickets to Sir Paul for November! *squeee!*

Stay at the Hotel Del Coronado . The Husband-Type Man surprised me with this one on our last anniversary. We sneaked down to San Diego, saw NONE of our family or friends, and spent a long weekend basking on Victorian porches, reading, flirting (him, not me. I don’t flirt), and making plans for the coming year.


CAPTION: Hi, there, Cute Boy! Wanna see my room key?


  • Visit Switzerland.
  • Visit France/Paris.
  • Sit at a sidewalk café in Paris.
  • See the Alps.
  • Take Eurail.

Yet another THTM Surprise.

I’d decided against doing a summer semester this year, after an insane first year PhD program. We’d thought about going to visit friends of ours in Tokyo, but, well, they came to Vegas for THTM’s Birthday Bash, got a little too friendly with the bartender, and, as a result, are expecting what is now fondly known as “Party Foul!” right around the time we’d be able to visit. So scratch Japan for now. Ever since Foot-In-Mouth Eric and his wife got back from their honeymoon in Germany and Belgium and brought a whole bunch of AMAZING chocolates with them, THTM’d mentioned taking a chocolate tour… you know, checking out places known for chocolate, questing for the best chocolate experiences, and, in the meantime, exploring some of the cities that, in a few years, might be home to two more American expats. Combine that with some Duran Tour Dates, and THTM created a MONTH LONG ITINERARY for what he dubbed “The Chocolate Duran Tour.” Well, I guess nous avons le chic pour faire ça ! And on top of all that, THTM bought his dad a ticket to join us for part of the trip, to thank him (he’s an architect, the FavFiL is) for doing all the plans on La Casita’s remodel, so we get to drag Pa around Paris! I’m getting so excited I should be in a Mommy-like state of near-catatonia by the time the plane boards!

Live in a bungalow with bougainvillea. So, we got bilked out of it back when we tried to buy the place in Santa Monica, pre-Mansion. But, upon returning to LA from Milwaukee, we scored a 1927 bungalow that actually used to be owned by a small-name actress for forty-odd years. White stucco. Tile. Fountains. Lemon and orange trees. And yes, bougainvillea!

Camp. One of THTM’s oldest friends got married at the end of ’02, and he and his new wife decided to quit their jobs and travel around the world for, oh, 18 months before settling down! With their Lonely Planet guides and backpacks, they set off, starting in Australia, hopping up to Asia, and making their way west. They kept suggesting that we meet up with them someplace, but I don’t think they really believed we’d do it. But we did. Summer 2003. In NAMIBIA, AFRICA! Where, I might add, THTM and I – two decided city folk – did not go on some cushy pre-packaged they-do-it-all-for-you “safari,” but instead did the real thing with just our two friends; we pitched tents, unrolled sleeping bags, sponge-bath’d, cooked over campfires, trekked, scouted, and listened to hyenas scrabbling around our campsites at night. Camp?! With the sound of elephants trumpeting and a Southern Hemisphere star-filled sky, we camped for over two whole weeks! Whodda thunk it?

Pet a lion or tiger. How about a cheetah? This stop at a cheetah preserve was one of the highlights of our safari in Namibia. But to make it kosher with The List, I also petted a lion cub at the MGM in Vegas a couple months later.


CAPTION: Yup. Me. Petting a cheetah. In Africa. HOLY SHIT!



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