Day 16: Bismarck, ND

Monday, September 14

There were two items on my Bismarck agenda: visit the Capitol and get a massage at the Salt Cave Wellness Relaxation Center. I did not do either of these things. I didn’t leave the hotel at all on Monday.


A truly stunning sunrise, only hinted at by this photo


This was fine.

The tasks that make up my work are generally not difficult or unpleasant. I don’t mind the act of working. I get to listen to podcasts and music, and time hums along, and I make money. But there’s more to work than just the work. Each project has its own psychological associations, its own memory trail, and time is always lost stepping from the world of one project into that of another. This is how a nine-hour workday can end up having just four billable hours. The week of September 14th I worked on 12 projects. That’s a lot of task-switching for a person on a vacation that isn’t really a vacation and resents having to do any work at all. I would like you to pity me and also admire me.

I can imagine you (or if not you, Shaming Voice) saying, “Why don’t you just not respond to these people?” We’re getting there. On Monday, September 14th we were not there.

It was a productive day. I finished a project that had been causing me stress, and it felt good.

It was also a bad day. I was angry with a client (a friend who’d been invited on the trip) for pressuring me to work on a relatively large project while I’d be gone and angry with myself for agreeing to it. I was upset that my writing on the blog was bland, that I wasn’t offering introspection and insight or even bad jokes. I was sad, as a person in need of a massage, that I didn’t make it to the Salt Cave. I felt like I was letting everyone down.


After putting in a full workday I went downstairs for dinner. The waitress looked vaguely like a young Meryl Streep and had two large freckles on her neck, which I found charming. She was young, too young to bring me a glass of wine. She was also funny. She told me that the chef was new and had never made the salad before, so she had to walk him through making it step by step. She was worried it wouldn’t be good. It was good. I asked her if I could interview her later, and she agreed.

Then I went back to my room and cried, really cried hard for a few minutes. It passed through me like a thunderstorm. Afterward I felt much calmer.

An hour or so later I headed back downstairs, ordered a margarita from the bartender, and sat down at the table I’d claimed as my own for the day. I started the recorder and asked the waitress, who was still in high school, about her life and what she liked about North Dakota. Her family had come from California, and things are much better in Bismarck. Her parents have jobs now. She likes working and likes her job, but she has trouble remembering to bring people what they ordered sometimes. She likes her school. She doesn’t do drugs and looks down on the kids who do. The hardest thing about her life right now is that her boyfriend lives in London. She wants to be a marine biologist.

Hotel Art of the Day


Abstract landscape
Probably oil, 11.5″ x 11.5″
Holiday Inn, Bismarck

Hotel Art Score

7/10. This was in the bathroom. It’s signed but I can’t read the signature, and TinEye didn’t turn up any matches on the image. Anyway, I continue to commend this Holiday Inn for its colorful abstract selections.

Art Art Score

5.5/10. It’s not really doing anything for me spiritually, though I think it’s coming from a real place for the artist. It’s not bad.