Monday, February 17, 2003

I'm in big trouble tomorrow.

Not because of a dastardly deed, but because I just finished two hours of digging my car out of three feet of snow. I took the shovel from the front hallway and went to work. I made sure that I ate protein for breakfast and had bottled water next to me during the task, so I was able to keep going. We'll see if I can get out of bed tomorrow. I can already feel my muscles protesting, but the hard work felt good. There is nothing that lifts the spirit like getting those endorphines going. Once again, I am floored by my strength. Apparently, so are others. An African-American man who was looking for work shoveling snow said to me as he passed by, "You're tough for a little woman." I wanted to say, "You have no idea," but just thanked him and smiled.

It's really quite beautiful, the chorus of the people who walk the streets looking for work. They carry their shovels and sing outloud, their voices filling the silence with their song of "cars, front porch, sidewalk" as they pass by hoping for a taker, or someone who isn't "tough for a little woman." It reminds me of that musical bit in Oliver Twist when the peddlers are toting their goods, each of their songs chiming with the others and echoing up the rowhouses.

My art class was cancelled for tonight. The city is at a standstill, so I imagined that it would be, but I wanted to be sure so I called my teacher. That's okay, as it gives me more time to work on my homework. This assignment is to create a monochromatic collage, and then paint it. The color of choice is red. The exercise is not to create a killer collage, but to learn to mix color by concentrating on the variations of one color. There are cool reds, and warm reds, and pinks, and purples, all are variations of red.

I'm really enjoying my art class and have seen improvement in just these few classes. I look at things differently and analyze my approach to art much more closely. Ironically, that frees me up to be more creative.

Though I'm frustrated with my job and at times with Baltimore, I have noticed a very important thing. The artist in me is starting to take center stage. She is emerging, and growing in the attention that I've given her. Like my strength, I'm constantly surprised at what I can produce and my patience with it.

Tonight I wallked around the city in search of an open store to buy some comfort food to keep me until things open up. I walked around in the dark, finally stopping an art student who had a bag of food and asking him where he got it. "Rite Aid," he said, "if you're willing to walk."

I was.

I walked down the middle of the street, along with other wayward pedestrians looking for food or just stir crazy after being cooped up for three days. The city looked post-apocalyptic. Silent, deserted, covered with snow and lonely figures like myself making their way down unplowed streets. At one point I came to an intersection with two other groups of people. Like traffic, we were all going our own ways, but obeying the traffic rules. A woman commented on that, and we all laughed. I asked if we needed to obey the traffic signals. Like I said, everyone seems in good spirits and understands we are all in the same place. Our lives have been interrupted, and that has forced us to notice each other. I've met more people outside during this last three days than I have since moving to Baltimore in August. I have nice and interesting neighbors, and I like knowing that.

I made it to Rite Aid, just as the man locked the door. They were closed, but I stood at the door and looked pathetic, and another man let me in. They were the only store open besides a tavern down the street from me and their store showed it. Their merchandise was scarce, but I found what I had been looking for. Stouffers macaroni and cheese, Coke Classic, and some sort of potato chips. I bought Pringles. I also bought ice cream, instant oatmeal, chocolate and film for my camera.

Then, I walked home. Mission accomplished.

Once again, work is postponed tomorrow. Despite my best efforts at digging out my car, if the streets aren't plowed, I am not going anywhere. From what I've heard from the managers, neither is anyone else.

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