The Pitch & The Pace

The Pitch & The Pace

If we intend to teach with multimodal projects we need to also create multimodal projects – so here we are.

I am terrible at design. The worst.

I am also really uncoordinated and this is one of the things about me that made me a runner. It’s a sport that usually requires minimal coordination, minimal multitasking.

Meanwhile, I love music, podcasts, sound-based communication of knowledge and emotion.

This is what I came up with:

“Call for Pacers

I’m making a podcast about the non-traditional ways we learn and teach concepts and critical thinking. And running. Over the years as I’ve ran with friends, I realized that I’ve learned a lot about life. Running helps me sort through my life, de-stress, process college courses, and let the thought-reel run its course, while I run my course. And when I run with my GPS watch and heart-rate monitor I get all this data, I compose (sort of write), record and create something as I run.

So I want to interview you on my podcast about either:

Concepts you’ve learned through running or while running that applied other places


What do you think of your GPS watches as a composition? How does looking at the data tell a story as well as how long, far, and fast you went? When and why do you run without it? (or do you?)

Or both!

I have a special microphone to wear and record the interview as we go for a run together, but a traditional sit-down interview is also possible. Contact me for more info.”

Example 1 Screenshot 2015-11-09 13.14.36 Screenshot 2015-11-09 13.15.15I want to explore running as a way of knowing and I like the versatility for the audience in podcasts and podcasts is one of the ways I learn new things, particularly things outside of my field. A lot of podcasts have websites with visuals of some kind available – sometimes it’s mostly a home for the mp3, sometimes it’s complimentary to go with, sometimes it’s merely a transcript of the words being heard. All this is to say, they are always multimodal.

Runterviews Modes and Structure


I will interview other runners to see how and when and if they’ve had experiences of knowing and something a bit less academic-y: the GPS watch as a composition and in general, scrutinizing its role in runner’s life. I have already completed one run-terview.



Sample soundbite – this is a recording of a recording so the quality is not representative of what the end product will sound like.

I ask, “how many years have you been running?”


I’m going to have a section examining my process all along the way. I’ve already recorded some on process.

As I discovered on my process recording run on Wednesday, November 4th, it’s empowering to think about my running as a way of knowing – Freire’s concept of the Word, versus the World.

*I’m bad at math. I’ve been running for 18 years, not 12.

I think that exploring multimodality and my own way of knowing would help me to successfully implement multimodality for my students and to be a better teacher.

I’m also working on putting together the idea and/or story, of how running is the thing that is most present in my life that was also a part of my life when I was younger, and a devout Mormon. Writing, running, and music are the things that carried over to my post-mormon era. If this doesn’t come together in time for the final project it’s still working toward my dissertation in some fashion.

I plan to have complimentary visuals to go along with my podcast that is also spatially oriented. If you are familiar with Linda Russo’s work you will recognize parts of the structure: mapped, hyperlinked paragraph


Hanging On

The wind could blow
( and did )

But hair would hang on
( in place )
tenaciously –

Because of The Pound Store orange-metallic

It cost two Pounds (actually), something
so regular,

Cheap even. I still have the can; it’s
Empty now,

Yet every event me and my girls used it, we were
bullet proof-

Empty now, I keep it still – moved

I can’t find that hairspray again

Can’t keep hanging on to
empty for

So I guess I’m letting go
of something…

I don’t know, but I’m certain it’ll
leave more


It snows while it’s raining,

then rains while it snows.

But this year only in spring

no winter,

though it hardly matters

when I’ve locked myself away.

I’ve sectioned and divided,

organized all that makes me,

And stack gently all the taped up boxes.

You never know, though, when I’ll

Surprise you.  I may just pop out,

all sparkling, shining, ready to go,

Like long, lost, friends

and you can have it all.

Toxteth: a bit disconnected, began writing it before I found out the results of my internship application

My life is pretty ridiculous and overwhelming right now; it’s so unbelievably fabulous that I cannot imagine how I got so lucky.  I’m anxious to the verge of tears, I’ve got at least one thing going on every hour of the day.

It reminds me of my prep days leaving for Liverpool.  I was finishing a summer session math class, aka math accelerated.  It’s not a great idea for someone of my math capabilities, or lack thereof.  (I got a ‘C’)  I was also moving out of my apartment, into storage/the apartment I live in now with my cool cloned roomy.

I remember leaving my take home final with future roomy to drop off to my professor after spending most of the day hauling things in and out of a U-haul truck, then heading to the bars for my send off party.  I rode my bike home (and drunkenly did not make it over the last curb—it’s on a hill, don’t judge me) to my emptied out apartment and slept on the floor with my bags packed for Liverpool.

It’s the kind of delightful insanity that reminds me of what I believe was my second or third day of class in Liverpool.  We began in the classroom as usual.  Our teacher that day was one Mr. S, who you’ve met with Paul in the Pub.

After some class discussion we went with him to Toxteth, a dodgy faction of Liverpool.  “Do NOT come back here by yourself alone, and especially at night,” he said.  We saw rows of houses closed up by the City of Liverpool, in the process of gentrification.  We saw the new sterile housing made available to people who didn’t want to leave their homes in the first place.  There were more shops closed then opened.

Gentrification Purgatory

Little, and not so little, sparks of the residents fighting back show up.  There are two different community centres focused on kids.  There was the Merseyside Caribbean Centre, where I got to meet a fantastic soul, named Patrick Graham.

Meeting Patrick, to me, is proof that I had some good karma credit going on.  Mr. Graham is a poet and playwright, and has his company called, Blackout Productions. I ended up talking to him for the full half hour we were there, and I didn’t want to leave, but as I said before, happy madness.  We had three weeks to experience Liverpool as much as possible, less really, because we took a week to London and another to Antwerp and Amsterdam.

After lunch at a little local place, we went to the town hall to listen in on discussions for the Merseyside/Toxteth community.  They were divided into topics, health and wellness services, education, and jobs.

This is where I met Bea Freeman, a film-ographer.  I was relieved at a woman’s voice finally.  My fourth or fifth day there, I guess I’m impatient? She is fabulous, intensely dynamic and brilliant, but still very approachable.  I’m exceptionally glad I met her, because somehow not being mentioned, AT ALL, is worse then being mentioned in a sexist light, or ways I don’t agree with.  As far as the curriculum was concerned, women’s issues were a non-issue.  Three weeks is limiting.

For my group’s final project I was able to meet up with Mr. Graham and Ms. Freeman again. They made the time for me.  I was impressed.

And speaking of women’s issues, a woman’s ‘proper role’ came up in conversation after a group of us had eaten at a local Caribbean restaurant in Toxteth.  Chip, Props, Samba, Eyes, Sheik, Echo, Mel, Mr. Graham and Mr. S and myself, all ate there together after official class time was finished. He was talking about how men and women were equal but they had their roles.  He comes from a much more violent and scary place than I do, so maybe it makes sense there, but I sure as hell am not nurturing and standing behind my man and having him protect me.

I had Guinness-milk drink.  You could get it with fruit too, but I’ll be damned if I can remember what it’s called now.  It was amazing and Mr. Graham said he makes them at his house sometimes.  I tried oxtail as my meal, which as Chip said, “That is black-people food right there.”  He made me share but only after I gave him a sufficient amount of shit first.

We walked to Ken’s Barbershop, where apparently Samual L. Jackson has gone for a shave.  Chip is also a barber so he wanted to experience a master of his trade. Chip is the type of person that gets people involved in a central activity.  As for me, I was assigned to documenting the event.  In the recording you can here my passive-aggressive quips on masculinity.  Later, in London, we actually had dialogue on the topic that was really awesome.  But me, well, I don’t play so well with others a lot.

I suppose that’s why I didn’t get the internship to return, or one of many of the reasons anyway.  I suppose that’s why after we were done there and in safe territory again, I was off to wander by myself.

Sometimes I need that alone time to digest all of that.  It was a very full day.

I’ll be digesting all the experiences I had in Liverpool for a while I think.  Among the every hour of every day Mon-Friday planned, I am working on a presentation for SSS/Trio/CAMP administrators to illuminate the process and possibilities in University of Liverpool’s three-week, Global Leadership Training Program.

Into the Prefrontal Cortex: A Profile written for English 353, creative non-fiction Fall 2009

At nineteen-years-old I was about to make a really colossal mistake, and did.  I was in a relationship of ten months that felt like it should be over and done with already, but for a myriad of reasons, I still wasn’t.  The guy, we’ll call Boris, was smitten with me and I hated to see him hurt.  I had broken off an engagement, but after a ‘heart-to-heart’ talk decided we basically wanted the same things, to be happy, have fun, play in the outdoors and travel, not have kids anytime soon; and so we ran off to Vegas and got married.  Damnable undeveloped prefrontal cortex.

The prefrontal cortex is a part of the brain located in, you guessed it, the front.  As with most parts of the brain, this area’s specific function varies—problem solving, emotions, social behavior, personality, but more importantly this part of the brain, “is thought to be involved in planning complex cognitive behaviours” (  Dr. Anne LaFrance, PhD in psychology and employed as a professor and counselor at Washington State University explains that the prefrontal cortex is a section of the brain that more and more studies are showing is responsible for the ability to understand consequences.  Additionally, more and more studies are showing that this ability is not fully developed until our mid-to-late twenties, thus, running off to Vegas at nineteen to get married.  (Not currently married in case you are wondering.)  All this prefrontal cortex business is recently acquired knowledge as a result of an interview I had with an individual we’ll call Chip, though I would like to note that his real name is beautiful and very regal.

I first met Chip in Newark, New Jersey, late June of 2009.  I was a bit wired because of running on my second day of sleep deprivation after a day of traveling for twelve hours to get to New Jersey from Pullman, Washington.  We were sitting in a conference room of the Newark, New Jersey Hilton getting our complementary breakfast and coffee before orientation.  His black hair was perfectly slicked into a ponytail and shone like new piano keys; accenting his face and jaw line was an immaculately groomed short beard.  He wore dark jeans and a vivid yellow long sleeved shirt despite the humid Jersey summer.

As our orientation conference continued, his flawless visual representation of himself made sense.  At one point we were given a list of questions to ask everyone in the room (about twenty of us).  The idea was one of a few activities to ‘break the ice’ and get to know each other.  As I moved around the room asking different people different questions, I approached Chip.   The question I had in front of me read, ‘Would you say you are more of leader or a team player?’ He almost didn’t let me finish the question with his rapid-fire, “Leader.  Definitely,” response.  The group of us, gathered for a summer study abroad program to Liverpool, United Kingdom, originated from a smattering of places all over the lower forty-eight; California, Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Massachusetts, New York, West Virginia, Utah, Washington and Detroit, Michigan, where Chip was born, October 26, 1981.  And not just anywhere in Detroit, it was in the Irvin Gardens, a notorious Detroit project.  He was raised and has lived his whole life in Detroit.

Presently, he attends Marygrove College majoring in psychology and social work.  He works as a Resident Assistant for the college’s dormitories, is a barber and owns his own business that provides publicity and promotes events for other businesses.  He is also working with the Dean on an idea to get programs into the Detroit schools that focus on decision making. Detroit can be a scary place and is deteriorating so much that it made the Times March 2009 issue as the cover article, the last line of the article’s introductory paragraph reads, “Asked recently about a dip in the city’s murder rate, a mayoral candidate deadpanned, ‘I don’t mean to be sarcastic, but there just isn’t anyone left to kill’” (Altman).  Despite this, Chip has no desire to leave; he wants to make Detroit a better place and bring the world to Detroit.  When we landed in Manchester, UK, and I was badgering everyone with the video camera asking, how do you feel, he said, “We got Detroit up in here!” (we were all very sleep deprived) I responded with, “But we’re in England!”  “We have brought Detroit to the UK,” he explained.

Nothing about Chip seems amiss or indicates that he’s ever been anything but content and happy in life. When asked, ‘How would you describe him?’ Members of this study abroad group responded; creative, outgoing, smart, caring, loud, awesome, passionate, real, fun, sweet, opinionated and, “a change—the—world kind of attitude” (InLove, 10/28/09).  Outgoing and smart or intelligent were listed by several different members.  If your house burned down, he is the type of person that could get you laughing and convince you that everything was going to be all right, even as you stood in warm ashes.  But midway through the first week in Liverpool, we were taken on a tour through a ‘ghetto’ area for the purposes of the class.  I’m pretty sure they chose a neighborhood that wasn’t so scary, because well, it was a place we could go and so long as we weren’t by ourselves be perfectly safe.  We walked through government housing and rows of vacant houses.  While I was a bit nervous and very grateful for the safety of the group, Chip was completely at ease, and not just because he’s a solid, formidable if need be, 5’10” ‘black guy,’ who could pick me up on the dance floor like it was nothing.  He walked right up to a local resident and talked with him and his daughter. “That was their ghetto?” Chip commented later, “That was a pretty nice ghetto.” I realize all the scary things I’ve heard about Detroit, Chip must have seen and experienced.  It is easy to forget, because Chip isn’t angry or scary or intimidating, he shows no signs of being hardened from adversities present in Detroit.

The first night in Liverpool, we somehow managed, in our jet-lagged state to stay up until 3 am (local time).  I’m not sure if this behavior refutes or supports the prefrontal cortex theory, either we were being completely daft or completely aware of the fact that this was probably a once in a lifetime event for us.  I showed him the collection of travel quotes I’d found before this excursion.  One of them by William Least Heat Moon, “What you’ve done becomes the judge of what you’re going to do – especially in other people’s minds. When you’re traveling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.” I said how I was loving this opportunity to be who I was right there and then.  Chip was quiet for a bit, then he said, “Yeah.  I like that, yeah.”
“My earliest memory?” Chip clarifies.  I am sitting with my digital recorder laid next to the phone, the phone on speaker for the interview, because we aren’t in Liverpool together anymore, it’s October.  I’m in Pullman, Washington and he in his hometown Detroit, I wonder what Detroit looks like in the fall and tell myself I must remember to ask him before the interview is over.  I tell him “Yes, your earliest memory,” and he says, “Well, it’s kinda sad, is it okay if it’s a sad memory?”  I tell him that I’m sorry to hear it, but of course it’s okay.

His first memory is when he is about three or four years old.  He says the details have been told to him as he got older, but he remembers, it would be a very difficult thing to forget.  His mother was trying to leave her current boyfriend who was verbally and physically abusive.  This man put a shotgun in Chip’s older brother’s mouth, “I think it was a 12-gage,” he says.  The man told his mother if she left, he’d blow her son’s head off.

Chip has five siblings from different parents.  He says this is pretty common, and that he isn’t very close with any of them, which is also common from what he’s seen.  “There’s a lot of single parenting,” he says.  It’s a structure that seems damaging overall and is something he hopes to see improve, but it’s difficult if you’re say, a 28-year-old trying to make a good life for yourself and others, and simultaneously be a parent to your 12-year-old son; that is exactly what Chip is trying to do.  Listening to the depth of tone in his voice while he talks about his son is an intense experience.  Chip realizes he has to dedicate as much as he can to his education, if not all of himself, and also realizes how important having a good male parent role model is.  He’s a man with experience in how damaging not having a dad around enough can be; he understands because his dad wasn’t always around, because so many of the people he knows don’t even know who their dad is, and because the ability to see and weigh consequences of his actions has fully developed.  This is in part because of his age, and in part because of a program he participated in while in prison.  The news of his son, Dominique, came to him via letter, while he was in the first year of his prison sentence, at age of 16.

Chip doesn’t remember a lot from elementary school, although one thing he did remember was one of the worst beatings their school had seen; a boy was beaten with a lunchbox.   In junior high he wanted to fit in just like any of us do at that age.  He began selling marijuana to enable him to dress to fit in; for himself he skipped school and smoked weed to pass the time.  The first time he was arrested was for truancy.

During this time he met the mother of his son.  She was twenty-seven years old.  Before he went to prison it was understood that she was going to get an abortion, a sad relief, who is ready to be a parent at 16?  Especially if you recall that your prefrontal cortex is far from finished in development at this age.  Chip didn’t know all of this at the time, of course.  He wasn’t able to fully  weigh the potential consequences when he had his younger brother assist him in a carjack, either.  All Chip had for a weapon was a broken bb gun, he stole a car with it, was arrested, and sentenced to 2-10 years in prison.  “Isn’t that too young?” I ask, “I thought you couldn’t go to jail until you were 18.  Before that, it would be some sort of juvenile detention center.”  “Not in Michigan,” Chip explained, “You can be locked up as young as twelve.  My cell mate was 14.”  “What are they trying to accomplish?” I wondered, to which Chip explained the corruption in the legal system in Detroit, how it was in the interest of corrections officers to have prisoners.  There aren’t a lot of people that would want to help someone in a situation like Chip’s.

Chip served the full ten years because of bad behavior.  One of the first times he was written up it was for smuggling alcohol, he spent 120 days in the hole and years were added to the 2 year minimum.  Despite this, he finished his G.E.D., became a certified carpenter, a barber, and towards the end started taking classes like C.H.A.N.G.E, and strategic thinking.  These courses changed his life, he says.  They taught him, helped him to realize that he would rather be disrespected by a cell mate and take it, then punch him out and spend 120 days in hell, and longer in prison altogether.  There wasn’t this kind of education available to him before, and it wasn’t taught to him at home.  And now, his prefrontal cortex was ready to take it all in.  Chip snuck into the strategic thinking class to take it a second time.  These are the skills and courses that he is working on getting into the schools of Detroit.  Maybe if that kind of thing were in his schools, things would have turned out a little differently.

Chip has been out of prison for two years.  He tries to have as much of a relationship with his son as he can, having not known him for the first nine years of his life. He’ll graduate and earn his bachelors degree in May 2011 and he wants to go on to get his doctorate.  He writes poetry and performs spoken word.  Chip attends church every Sunday and in August he played a part in a modern adaptation of the bible story of Cain and Able.  I couldn’t be there unfortunately, but in the pictures he posted to his Facebook account he is looking as sexy and charming as ever.  His shirt is a loud and angry orange and red plaid shirt, chosen no doubt to fit the character he’s playing.  A well-groomed beard against his beautiful brown skin is just as I remember and his big brown eyes still have that up-for-anything glimmer.  From the pictures and from what Chip told me while we were still in Liverpool, I imagine the crowd is small, and the stage smaller.  the corwd fills the seats to capacity as does the actors and props on the stage.  Chip takes the stage solo, at the beginning of the play, My Brother’s Keeper, to perform a soliloquy that I had the privilege of hearing a sneak-preview recitation of.  I bet you can’t tell he’s nervous, or that this is his first time ever acting, and you definitely can’t tell he served 10 years in prison.  The part he plays? Cain.

Chip is a very likeable guy, but sometimes his exuberance was bit hard to take.  Within a week of meeting him I discovered I liked him much better when he wasn’t telling me about women as equals, because it involved the caveat that men and women had different, specific roles they needed to fill.  I don’t think separate but equal works in any social structure.  Telling me I needed to come to Jesus didn’t go over so well either.  I explained to him that as an ex-mormon, I had had my fill of Jesus, (and gender roles for that matter).  The infuriating part in all discussions on such topics was Chip’s lack of close-mindedness and disrespect; he’ll never concede on the belief that Christ is the way to happiness and salvation, but he will engage about the topic without condemning the other person to hell.  Chip is passionate about his believes but he isn’t ruled by them unquestioned.  After an insightful discussion on religion and gender or how they sometimes intertwine, we would agree to disagree and share our poetry or go out for an awesome wine-filled dinner with members of our study abroad group instead of arguing and getting angry.  I like to think our prefrontal cortexes went on a date, because maybe they, maybe we, realized the consequences of being around someone so different from the other was ultimately a good thing; maybe Chip and I were all that we appeared to be, just ourselves, even with the past that could beg to differ, because we were long past car robberies or eloping to Vegas.

“A lot of people would be angry at the world after being what you’ve been through Chip, how is it that you are not?”  I asked Chip, shouting just a bit to make sure my voice carried through the speakerphone.  “What good would it do him?” he responds, “Nah, anger’s not going to do anybody any good.” He tells me how he focuses on moving forward, and that he sees anger destroy people a little too often.  Someone who has a positive attitude after being through all that makes me take a good, hard look at myself.  The ability to live a life that doesn’t carry around hate is a pretty valuable attribute.  So I asked in a survey of the Liverpool group what they thought his best trait was.  The responses included, his positive attitude, he brightens your day, when he cares for someone he is very passionate about it and his infectious laugh.  But perhaps the hardest and most impressive part of all, “He is himself,” (Spaz).

Bus Stop, Bus Go

This piece was written for my English 353 class, creative non-fiction.  Some of the content is repetitious to a previous post on here, but hopefully ya’ll enjoy it.

A Travel Essay by Edie-Marie Roper

The Wheatland Express is an airport shuttle, named for all the golden hills of the Palouse. Or rather, a company that bought a few fancy buses and then overcharged because students without cars to get to Spokane or money to fly out from the tiny airport in Pullman, Washington.  For now, $45 one-way is still $60+ cheaper than flying in and out of the little commuter airport. The shuttle-bus rattles and rumbles its way down Stadium Way to take a left on Grand Avenue.  These are two of the three roads that make up Pullman, a little college town of about 27,000 people, (depending on who’s doing the rounding) and approximately 18,000 of that number are college students who leave every summer, just like I’m doing now.

After boarding the bus the driver goes through the obligatory niceties:

“Where are you flying off to?”


“Wow! What are you doing there?”

“A study abroad program.”

“In Liverpool?  What do you study at school?”

“Creative writing.”

“Well…neat.  Sounds fun. Can you believe how hot it is already at 10:00 am!”

“Pretty crazy.”

“Yup.  Sure is hot.”

He’s finished talking, much to my relief.  I hate insincere, meaningless conversations.  I turn to watch the castledom of red brick campus called Washington State University disappear around the bend in the road leading to Spokane, the next biggest thing for almost 2 hours, population 462, 677. I recall the first time I rounded the corner coming the other way; it was actually quite breathtaking, especially the clock tower.  The clock will allegedly shine white instead of red at night when a virgin graduates from WSU, it ticks the time away until I graduate, and regularly declares the cranky, “Why-do-you-not-inheritantly-know-how-this-public-transit-system-works” bus drivers, as tardy.  Unfortunately, I’m the one that walks awkwardly and late into class, not the bus driver. And it’s not as if they could give you a note like they do in grade school, the Pullman Transit would have to kill a lot of trees if they did that.

I turn around to face my current bus driver, watching the spring green rolling hills of lentils and wheat flick by through the windows like an old animated film.  It’s pretty, but I’ve seen it all before, I lean my head back, closing my eyes.  I think how nice it will be to be on adventure where mundane things like riding the sweaty, sticky bus, after fumbling for your student id, even though it’s obvious you are a college student, don’t happen. Seriously, I’m standing with a group of people wearing backpacks at 11 am, in ‘Go Cougs!’ sweatpants and hair done to look messy, and the driver thinks I’m trying to sneak a free ride to work?  Even if you are flipping burgers, the place requires a uniform, and most employers require something a little more formal than sweatpants.

But I’m leaving on a jet plane and all those everyday kinds of things, like riding a bus, will cease to exist for me, if only for a little bit.


It was an uneventful travel once I got to Spokane.  I flew to Seattle to New Jersey where I spent the night and met up with my fellow students and companions for the next three weeks.  We all flew the 6 hours over the Atlantic together, landing in Manchester, home of the 1960’s pop band, The Hollies. “Bus stop, bus go, we stay love grows, under my umbrella…”


The sun is low in the sky but not yet coloring the horizon with sunset.  Today was an uncharacteristically hot and sunny day in Liverpool, accourding to the locals.  It’s too bad because I enjoy the rain, but I also do not mind the light layer of sweat mixed with humidity on my skin as I shift from foot to foot on the curb of Bold Street.  I watched down the street, in the wrong direction, looking for the bus and made a startled jump as the brakes on the bus hissed and screeched next to me from the other direction.  It’s the Merseyside 80A route I’ve been told will take me back to my dormitory, or at least I think so—the sign up top the swirling teal coloured bus says ‘80 Speke’.  There are a few locals to board the bus before me, which is lucky because I’m fumbling with my change, reading closely the print on the metal. It’s directions more than a label really, though I never thought of that before with my native country’s currency.

“Uh, one student?” I say, but it sounds like a question.  He gives me a printed out stub piece, change from my two pounds, and a strange look at my timid, obvious American self.  I wonder what he thinks of Americans?  What stereotype has he subscribed to?  “This bus goes to Roseland, right?” I ask.

“Roseland?” he repeats.  It sounds strange to him how I say it and vice versa.  “Yeah, it goes to Roseland.”

“Thank you.”

“Sure, cheers.”

I sit down on 1990’s style multi-coloured upholstered seats, fiberglass and sturdy; with effort the bus goes.  I’m shown a new city that is somehow bright and dreary at the same time through bus windows, riding sideways, not unlike Seattle really, (THE city of my home state) though I’ve only been there a handful of weekends in my life. I watch the inner-city bustle of Liverpool evolve to posh tree-filled neighborhoods to suburbia to an open flat landscape.  Merseyside means a sort of county or state combined with a regional reference, (the River Mersey), equivalent to us referring to New England, I dare say.  Liverpool by itself has 435,500 people, but the Merseyside region populations 1, 365,900.  It’s about a half hour bus ride to get from downtown where the University of Liverpool campus lies to the residential halls in Roseland.  Incidentally, the word posh originated from this area in the 1700s, an acronym for Port Out, Starboard Home, the really nice and expensive cabins stayed in on a ship to or from India.

From the road I could now see clusters of suburbia in the distance and it felt oddly familiar.  It felt like patting your head while rubbing your stomach or turning a cartwheel leading with the opposite hand than you usually do; I was in a foreign country, I didn’t know the currency, speak or dress the same or even understand people most the time, it should be more different, shouldn’t it?

I figure out it reminds me of being outside of the Salt Lake City, or Spokane airports—the two that I’ve spent the most time at in my life thus far.  And then the terrible part, an airport does indeed come into view.  I’m either on the wrong bus or I’ve missed my stop. The brakes sigh and I read on the John Lennon Airport, “Above us only sky…”

“This is the last stop, love,” says the bus driver.

“Oh,” my face is red and I’ve got an anxiety knot in my stomach, “Didn’t we go to Roseland?”

“Roseland was about a half ago,” he says.

“Oh, I didn’t know.” My voice sound vulnerable and shaky; I walked around all day still sleep deprived from residual jet lag and already partying my nights away, I feel like I could cry, and mortified.

“I’m sorry love, I thought you knew where Roseland was cause you mentioned it,” he seems genuinely empathetic and sorry, as if it were his fault.  I shake my head,

“No, sorry, I meant to ask you to tell me when were there.  I’ve only been here just two days,” I say. He tells me this is the last run of this route for the day but that I can catch an “A-T-A” that’ll take me there and where to wait for the bus and some other helpful instructions that don’t really sink in—he’s difficult to understand—because despite its similar population to Spokane, people are as friendly as a small non-college town in the US where everyone has known you since you were yeah high, only less nosy.

I took the quick fix from the John Lennon Airport on account of being exhausted and confused.  I didn’t know then that Liverpool has close to 2,000 bus routes, so even though they come every half hour just like in Pullman, you always have at least two different routes to get you where you need to go, every 15 minutes or less; you aren’t really screwed if you miss the bus in Liverpool like you are in Pullman, but then again, you wouldn’t very believably be able to blame your tardiness on the busses in Liverpool either.

My cabby came with a killer Scouser accent.

“Waryagoon?” he says.

“ What?” I ask.

“ wAR ya goin?” he repeats.

“Ooohhh,” I respond.  I should’ve figured as much, I mean isn’t that usually what a cab driver first asks you?  I tell him where I’m going, twice, with elaboration until he says he probably knows where to take me and drives off.

“ sosya earloong?” he says.


“owloong yastye ear?”

“Oh yeah?  Mmmhhhh.  Cool.” I respond, still no idea what he said.  He laughs and tries again.  Apparently I didn’t manage the right response for whatever he said, and Scousers, native born and bred citizens of Liverpool, sometimes Liverpoodlians, are known for their distinctive, impossible to understand accents throughout the British isles—as I would verify from a very cute, much easier to understand Irishmen later on in my trip.

“Next time yoo take a taxi jus tell em Carnatic,” he says when we finally arrive at the living hall.

“What?” I said

“Carnatic, they’ll know that over Salisbury.”

“Oh.”  I paid. What the hell he was talking about? I find out later there is a huge sign at the vehicle entrance: Carnatic Halls.


The first day of real classes at the University of Liverpool and the fourth day in the country, our fearless Leader, Zoe, herded us like giddy grade-schoolers about to take a field trip, from the bus stop onto the bus itself.  Later, after classes we are released on our own, responsible for getting back on the right bus. Turns out there are close to 2 million riders a year, and anyone of those 2 million on the street that you ask has a high probability of being able and willing to assist in getting you home.  This time I got back to the bus stop, on the corner of Mulberry and Myrtle, and correctly boarded the “A-T-A” or as we’d pronounce in ‘American,’ A-D-A, 80a.


I am standing in the rain just outside the Bold Street bus stop shelter.  I can see a few people trying not to stare at this and I am trying not to stare back.  I’ve never seen someone wear neon heels when it wasn’t for Halloween.  I realize I’m staring and look away. Hand in my pocket, I roll the readied bus fare around, pressing the straight edges of the fifty pence underneath my fingernail.  A fifty pence piece is lighter and larger in circumference than a quarter, and unlike any currency back home, is shaped like miniature stop sign.  I don’t realize that I’ve become so accustomed to the currency here, that in a little over a week when I get US dollars out of the ATM in Newark, New Jersey airport, it looks ridiculous, like fake play money.

I breathe deep as an influx of breeze rises from its stop and go flow, carrying cigarette smoke and essence of fish my way.  I’m trying to quite smoking.  I wonder if I have time for a cigarette.  I look left down the street of boxy little cars rolling lazily down the road, the nightlife hasn’t picked up yet.  I looked the wrong way again.  Oops. No wonder people stare. So awkward, I think, not yet knowing that when I get back to the states, it’ll take me a day to remember to look the correct direction again.

I wonder if the gray sky and gray streets make it seem more yellow than it is.  The crosswalk screeches it’s safe to walk, be-be-be-be-be-be-be! God they’re so annoying.  I’ll never get used to them.

The rain picks up, switching from the misty drizzle to an outright pour and I smile because I love the rain, which anyone from Liverpool, or west side Washington for that matter, would think a little nutty.

I see a girl staring at me that just cross the street, her cigarette smoke dancing seductively in front of me, swirling my way, sneaking out from underneath her polka-dot umbrella on the breeze.  I remind myself that I’m trying to quite smoking.  She is wearing a neon orange shirt with a short, short skirt and six inch heels.  When I stare back at her she looks away.

I smile as the bus pulls up.  It’s one of those double-deckers that I haven’t had a chance to ride yet.  I hand the driver a pound and fifty pence.

“One student,” I say and grin as I take my ticket and ten pence change.  “Thanks!”


I giggle at myself for being so excited to ride the bus.  And it isn’t that different of a feel or view from the top level.


It’s almost ninety degrees already in Pullman, and it’s only ten am.  It isn’t humid and it hasn’t rained at all in almost 3 weeks.  I trudge up the steep hill by the DRA real estate and rental offices; “Leasing all of Pullman!” says their billboard.  No shit, the monopolizing exploiting bastards.  As one of the some 18,000 students captive in the little town guarded by miles of agriculture, I was lucky one of my friends and classmates needed a roommate in a place that had a human beating heart to pay rent too.  Capitalism combined with all the kids with well off parents has racketed the rent prices.

It’s Thursday of the second week of school and I’m just now trying out the bus stop I noticed walking or riding my bike up to campus.  I’m not sure what time it comes to the stop but as I crest the hill, my calves burning a bit, there’s a line of people by the sign-designated bus stop, promising.  Lucky too, because Pullman has a grand total of 25 bus routes, maybe 12 of those running right now, and only one specific one will go down this street.

I don’t bother to watch for the bus; instead I turn up my iPod, “I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself” by The White Stripes is playing. All the students in line are mutually ignoring each other.

When the bus rumbles up I flip open my purple Motorola to check the time: 10:27 am.  I note it, and will miss the bus next week because on the rare occasion that the J-route bus is running on time, it actually comes at 10:21 am to this stop.

I flash my student ID for the bus driver as I walk to the beat of my music to find no open seat, plastic white-beige scuffed chairs and scratched and padded with red upholstery.  Go Cougs.  I try to remind myself the ‘free’ bus ride is a good deal next to the month long summer fares of one pound forty pence—almost three US dollars.  I wonder what our student fees divide out to for each bus ride by the end of the school year.  I don’t know just how many people ride the buses in a year, but in 2000, the number was 1.2 million rides.

I am tired and hot and sweaty and miserable. The bus smells like a locker room’s hamper and ass.  The pole I’m hanging onto because there aren’t any seats left is sticky.  I don’t want to know why. It’s probably sweat from the dry heat that is tanning all the rolling hills of agriculture to gold, and the hands of fellow commuters balmy.

The bus stops with a jerk that stumbles me back a few steps and into some dude somewhere else within his iPod. The dude says nothing to my mumbled sorry.  Neither of us looks directly at the other, because that would be rude, or weird, or something.  Definitely against social protocol.  My eyes dart from the insignificant design on his white t-shirt to khaki shorts, white socks and brown and white skater sketchers, his shoes are definitely the most interesting thing about him.  I think about green neon high heels.  He gets off at the next stop along with a few others freeing some seats.  The bus goes, I sit thinking first thing I need to do before work is wash my hands.  The swine flu epidemic is allegedly alive and well here in Pullman, after all.  Made national news and everything. I wonder if they heard about Pullman on the BBC news, and I hope so.

The Pullman Transit clatters on; I hear some international students talking back and forth in their language foreign and then someone in perfect English asks where they’re from and I remember how the bus ride, the regular everyday drone necessity was an adventure every time in Liverpool.

“I’m from America,” My friend Mikey would say.

“I can tell from your accent,” says the local Scouser going work.

“I don’t have an accent,” Mikey says in a good-natured retort, “You have an accent.”

She laughs.  He seems to have brightened her day, maybe made the bus an experience anew just this one time for her.

The international students on the bus say they are from different parts of China.  Turns out the native taught English for a semester in China close to where one of the international students grew up.  They exchange numbers.  What are the chances?  One in 1.2 million?  I think about how the woman in Liverpool had a one in maybe 2 million chance of running into Mikey and our group that day.

I wonder if the US is as different as the International students were expecting.  I think how not like the outside perception of the US Pullman is, how the bus is more mundane than an adventure even in Liverpool, even though I didn’t see it that way.  When I lived in Salt Lake City, though it was functional, it still was interesting because public transportation seems to attract the crazies.  Pullman’s crazy is a dumb fraternity boy at best.  It’s been disheartening and difficult to be back in Pullman, at the dog days of summer with a fulltime course load and 20 hours a week of work; after Liverpool my real life seems so insignificant.

Yet, when I first moved to this quirky and simultaneously regular place, it heightened all my senses just like Liverpool.  I realize that wherever I go after the Clock tower of Bryan hall chimes a declaration of my graduation, glowing crimson for sure, that it will be me who makes my place in this world interesting, that remains a world traveler even if and while traveling no where in particular or unique.

Someone yanks on cord strung along the bus windows and the red and white ‘Stop requested’ sign pings and lights up, pulling me from one many revelries in a Liverpool reverie.  This is my stop too. One in 1.2 million chance tomorrow that I’ll have an adventure riding from home to work during that space between bus stop, bus go, bus gone.