51 Mellow Yellow
In seventh grade science class, we studied drugs. Hard drugs. We were each assigned a drug (mine was LSD). We zealously researched its scientific name (Lysergic acid diethylamide), type (semisynthetic psychedelic), solubility (fat), cultural reference (Huxley, Leary, Beatles), and most useful of all, street names (Acid, Window Pane, Electric Koolaid, Blotter, Doses, Tabs, Trips, Purple Haze, Sugar Cubes, Paper Mushrooms, Rainbows, Smilies, White Lightening, Mellow Yellow).
52 Glacial Tint
I’m stranded at my father’s house, what Joanna calls “the Greenway Inn,” on Greenway Avenue, way up in the West Hills. It snowed all night and is snowing now. Seven, ten, thirteen inches. Never in my life has it snowed this much in Portland. When I describe the white carnage to people in Connecticut and New York, they are not nearly impressed enough. They think Portland is like I think Denver is, snowy, cold, mountainous. I was shocked when I finally visited Denver and it was flat and sunny.
55 Treasure Isle
A color like the banged up Pyrex bowl we got from Second-Hand Rose, the roadside junk store in northern Minnesota on the way back from the cabin we rented a couple summers ago with Marc and Esther. The ladies at the checkout blessed us and wrapped the little bowl in five layers of newsprint.
But the bowl is bluer. And white on the inside. Slightly translucent with a blue cast — the way some people like to describe skim milk.
56 Magic Moment
Freshman year, Dan and I tutored at a local junior high school. A sophomore named Sascha coordinated the tutoring program. Each of us had a secret: Dan was fulfilling the community service requirement of the MIP he’d picked up in Denver over the summer. I was in love with Dan. Sascha, who walked us over to the school each week, was covered in terrible bruises. She had shiners, a swollen lip, purple welts on her arms. Some days, she had a slight limp. She never mentioned it. This continued through the fall. Dan and I grew worried but didn’t know how to ask, didn’t ask. After winter break, Sascha quit the program, Dan had done his hours, my ardor was cooling. I never saw Sascha again. Julie knew her a bit. They were on the rugby team together.
57 Cool Melon
Only three times in its hundred-year history has the Crayola company changed the name of a crayon. Prussian Blue became Midnight Blue in 1958 and Indian Red was renamed Chestnut in 1999, both in response to requests from educators. In 1962, the company voluntarily changed Flesh to Peach, partially in response to the U.S. Civil Rights Movement.
61 Watermelon Pink
In certain Brooklyn bars, many liquors come infused: Thai chili-infused vodka, vanilla bean-infused rum, candied ginger-infused bourbon. This is a pricy inversion of a trick from high school, where we infused many things with cheap liquor: whiskey-infused Diet Pepsi, grain alcohol-infused Jell-O, and the classic vodka watermelon.
Watermelons were most often treated this way on car camping trips out the Sandy River or down to Bend, wherever there was a stream to sit by and an afternoon to kill. The boys would hack a watermelon in half, float it in the icy water to cool off, and dump in half a handle of Dubra or Bukoff or Kumchatka. The melon’s heavy pink flesh could take a fantastic amount of additional liquid. By the time the melon was cold, the alcohol had trickled to every sweet cell. We used spoons if we had them. I still love watermelon, but I can’t stand vodka.
62 Freesia Purple
Sonia had dry, mousy hair and big bright eyes. She wore boots with pointy toes, tight stonewashed jeans, and pale ribbed turtlenecks. She was one of the tall girls of junior high, so we shared a moderate sense of sisterhood and played on the same basketball team. But she was boy crazy and rode horses and always looked startled. She wore makeup. She took dance instead of gym. Sonia was girly. I thought my tallness put dancing and horses and boys out-of-reach. I was too mortified to experiment with applying pastels and open, innocent expressions to my face, choosing instead to be ironic and good at math.
64 Shoreline Green
I wore a silk teal suit at my Bat Mitzvah. From Ann Taylor. The shoulder pads were between the lining and the shell, so if I’d wanted to take them out — I didn’t — I couldn’t. If Hillary Clinton had had a Bat Mitzvah, I like to think it’s what she would have worn. That powdery greeny-blue, if there had been a giant Tiffany’s box on the bima, it would have looked like it sired me.
65 Sweet Truffle
The other great suit of my young adulthood was the debate suit. It was chocolate brown. Under it, I wore a pale blue polyester button-down with a wonderfully wide collar. I left the shirt’s top three buttons open between rounds and only two open during a debate. I walked from classroom to classroom in brown Birkenstock clogs, taking bigger, bolder strides than the skirt was built to accommodate. The slit ripped again and again, no matter how much my mom reinforced it.
66 Lady Luck
This paint chip smells a bit like money. I wonder if they all smell that way.
68 Mermaid Treasure
This color reminds me of my mother. It’s not anything like the color of her eyes, which are brown. She had a blue car once, a 1986 Toyota Celica, but it was a pale-steely blue. She doesn’t wear lots of blue, prefers warm colors. She doesn’t swim much, in pools or at the ocean. We didn’t have plates or mugs or a tablecloth this color. I look at — look into — this flat deep aqua color and think of her and don’t know why.
I’m on a bus to Washington DC to see Sarah. It has poured cold rain the whole way and feels as if we’re driving through clouds, some kind of nightmare natural no-touch carwash. She keeps calling to ask me where we are, but I can’t see the road signs.
72 Cool Aloe
In sixth grade, I grew six inches and my complexion went all to hell. In the basketball team photo, I tower over the others, my eyes and chin glowing fiery red. Trying to be helpful, my mother took me to the Clinique counter. There, a woman in a sexy lab coat asked me a series of questions and diagnosed me with combination skin. My mother bought everything the woman prescribed: a bar of anti-blemish soap, spot-treatment gel with salicylic acid, liquid foundation, powder, blush, eye shadow, lip gloss, lipstick, all of it packed in elegant pale green boxes, each sized precisely to house the tube inside.
75 Climbing Ivy
ENDOWMENT FALLS 25 PERCENT
Headline, Yale Daily News
80 Clover Brook
In the fall of 2006, spinach was implicated in a deadly E. coli outbreak. According to the FDA’s final report on the outbreak, more than 200 people got sick and three people died. Bagged spinach was pulled from grocery store shelves. People who hated the nutrient-rich green felt justified, even smug. People who fed it to their children to make them grow up healthy and strong felt betrayed. In the end, the bacteria was traced to cattle manure found on pastures surrounding a spinach field in Salinas Valley, California.
81 Exotic Bloom
My parents didn’t hire a photographer for my Bat Mitzvah. Our neighbor, Chuck Saxe, offered to do it. Chuck was a software engineer at Tektronix and an amateur shutterbug. He arrived at the party toting two cameras, four lenses, a tripod and flash. We encouraged him to grab a bite before he got to work. Minutes later, Chuck was quite sure he’d been poisoned by the edible flower in the dinner salad and went immediately home to bed. His wife Harriet left with him, the poor woman had to haul all that gear.
84 Straw Hat
I think I lived in a room, or maybe a whole apartment, painted this color. Is this the color of Julie’s apartment? My sense of recognition is as strong as my sense of disorientation. I don’t like this color, but I know this color, have awakened to this color, watched the sun crawl over it, nailed a picture hanger into it.
87 Desert Sunrise
Grandma Cynthia made a thousand paintings of the Palm Springs desert, the blooming, living scrub edging the mountains beyond the golf course. Early in the morning, before Grandpa Maurice lumbered out onto the green for the first game of the day, she drove into the desert, away from the chilly dew coming off the swimming pools, from the orderly roadbeds of bougainvillea clumped around a single palm, from Gerald Ford Drive, to take the pictures that would become paintings. She wasn’t one of the heroic, romantic landscape painters, in wind and sun, her canvas lashed to the hard earth. Painting was done in the studio, surrounded by treasured views of a hot, alien land.
92 Liquid Blue
Last night, the liquid was gray and white and brown and black and cold. It was below and it was above. It tore the sole off one of my boots and soaked through two thick jackets. It tricked me. It pushed me around. This morning, the liquid is solid. And more treacherous still.
96 Autumn Arrival
In my second grade class picture, I am the only girl in pants. But it’s not like I dressed down. My pants are pale orange and white checked, a daring compliment to my shirt, which is a rayon button-down with pictures of the planets on it. I stand out from the crowd: tall and skinny, a sandy bowl cut, orange pants.
97 Tropical Holiday
Coming back to New Haven on the first off-peak train of the morning. The doors open at Westport. It’s snowing lightly. The computer is warm on my lap, but the blue cast of the screen makes me realize I’m cold. Someone has written OBESE VAGINA in permanent marker on the wall next to my seat.