Black Friday

We were sitting around yesterday, ranting and raving, as usual, about how much we hate Black Friday and how bizarre the whole scenario is. I keep imagining scholars of the future trying to make sense of it:

“Every year they had a special day of quiet contemplation during which they ate turkey, even though it seems that none of them actually liked turkey that much, and gave thanks for the things in their life they were grateful for. This day was also meant to symbolically commemorate a day of peace and togetherness that was supposed to have occurred several hundred years earlier, between their ancestors and the native people those ancestors would go on to commit intentional genocide against. So they ate turkey, complained about it, and went around the table saying what they were grateful for in their lives. Then at midnight they went and stood in great huge lines, shivering in the cold, outside of what were called ‘big box stores,’ in order to be first inside upon the store’s opening in the morning.* On the day after this day of gratitude and quiet contemplation, these stores traditionally offered luxury goods at much lower prices than those goods were usually considered to be worth. Many people were trampled to death in attempting to attain these luxury goods.”

*Stores were buildings in which money** was traded for goods. This was perhaps the most foundational transaction of the late capitalist period

**Money was, most literally, pieces of paper (or, later, numbers recorded digitally in secure computers) that symbolized specific amounts of accrued personal wealth. See Marx, Karl

So anyway, we were sitting around complaining about Black Friday. Then I went to put something in the tupperware full of vegetable odds n’ ends that I turn periodically into veggie stock, and which we keep in the freezer. Imagine my horror! The freezer was completely warm, and, from the looks of it, had been warm for hours and hours, as everything in it was totally thawed out. The refrigerator too was warm. “DISASTER!” I cried.

When we moved into this house we knew the appliances were on their last legs. The fridge and stove have got to be 30 years old. Both are caked in the grime of ages, the kind of grime no amount of elbow grease could ever remove. The stove lights don’t really work. The fridge keeps cool only intermittently and the motor runs constantly. It probably is horrifyingly inefficient in terms of energy use. Also, all the shelves in the door are broken off, so you can’t put anything in the door, which makes for crowded circumstances in terms of vegenaise and ketchup and all the different fancy mustards I invest in. We discovered that replacement shelves for the door are $100 each, for some reason.

Anyway, we’ve just been waiting for the inevitable moment when we will have to buy a new refrigerator. I just surely did not think it would happen exactly on Black Friday, my most hated day of the year!

So what did we do? We immediately drove to fucking Lowe’s. Like, with no discussion. That was how quickly all our tough talk about Black Friday went out the window. It is so shameful yet instructive. There is a locally-owned business called, like, “Manny’s Dented Appliances” that apparently sells fucked-up floor models that people at Sears won’t buy, but other than that we have not been able to find a locally-owned appliance store. What do you do if you need a refrigerator? I don’t know what a more politically-serious person would do, maybe make one out of wood, but we went to Lowe’s. We complained the entire way there, about how slammed it was going to be, how disgusting this was, how much we hated it. We complained about how all the refrigerators were probably sold already, and we’d have to wait 7 weeks for one to get delivered.

Upon pulling into the parking lot, we saw that for starters, it was not slammed at all. Inside, all was cool and calm. Hardly anyone was in there. We went back to appliances and immediately found our friend Gary, who is amazing and who had previously helped us with another sudden appliance emergency (washing machine) that turned into an even bigger emergency when we realized there was only one model currently for sale that would actually fit through our basement door. Gary could not have been more knowledgable or helpful and so when he popped up we were literally like “GARY!!!!!! THANK GOD.”

Gary is one of those people who you can tell just takes pride in doing a good job, whatever bullshit job he’s stuck in (e.g. selling appliances at Lowe’s, a corporate entity I imagine mistreats and underpays him, although I suppose I could be wrong). You know when you have a waiter or barista or dude at the hardware store who just clearly operates under the “anything worth doing is worth doing right” standard, and it’s always such a goddamn delight to have any kind of transaction with them? That’s what Gary is like. Gary has so much expertise and knowledge and is also so honest and kind. He remembered us from months ago when we bought the washing machine (“you guys have that weird tiny basement door!”). We said “we need a fridge but it has to be no bigger than 65 by 28″ and literally without even thinking about it he goes “Okay we have three models that size.” He showed them to us then said the GE one has better stats in terms of not breaking down within the first year, even though it’s cheaper than the other one. We were like “great, we’ll take it.” He goes “what color do you want?” We said “we don’t know.” He said “let me put it a different way–if there’s just one color that we actually have on hand, and can deliver quicker, do you want that color?” we said “Yes.” He went to check and came back and said “we’ve got a black one.” we said “great.” We bought the fridge. He said the next available delivery date was next week but then he put in a manager override and got us free next-day delivery. We said thank you. He said no problem, call him if we need anything else. We went out into the parking lot. “I guess living in America just IS easy and great,” my husband said bitterly and with great scorn and self-hatred.

then we went out and got drunk and played backgammon and chagrined one another about how easy, pleasant, affordable, and fast our Black Friday appliance-shopping experience had been. Upon arriving home we measured our fridge and realized that the one we’d bought actually was too big and we needed the much shittier one Gary had initially shown us. I called Lowe’s. It was 8 at night. Gary literally answered the phone. “Lowe’s, this is Gary.” “Oh GARY,” I cried, “you’re who I was calling to talk to! We bought a fridge from you several hours ago? We’re the ones with the weird tiny basement door? It turns out we need the smaller one and I’m hoping you remember which one that was.” “I do,” Gary said, “hang on.” He was gone for 5 minutes. When he came back he said “Okay I’ve switched your order and refunded your card and made the new purchase.” “Oh my god,” I said. “No problem,” Gary said.

Lord have mercy

People find ways to be beautiful and touch one another even in our horrible alienating times.

Also it’s instructive to remember how easy political stances are to uphold when you don’t actually have to suffer any inconvenience for them.


Stoked for that new fridge

It’s got door shelves

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Pros and Cons

Pro: I love autumn
Con: I have seasonal menopausal symptoms
Pro: I got medication for these symptoms
Con: The medication doesn’t totally alleviate these symptoms
Pro: There are worse things than seasonal menopausal symptoms, for example constant menopausal symptoms, or having to flee your homeland only to face racist violence abroad
Con: Racist violence abroad
Pro: Soon all humans will be dead anyway
Con: We will be taking a lot of nice animals with us
Pro: I have a nice animal I live with
Con: His mouth smells like dead fish
Pro: He is very dainty and doesn’t enjoy rolling in dead animals as other dogs do
Con: He is so dainty he is a little princess who cries when anything mildly unusual happens
Pro: He barks at intruders
Con: He barks at everyone who comes inside the house
Pro: His bark is very handsome
Con: During a wrasslin’ session he bit my husband on the forehead and left a big bruise
Pro: Bruises usually heal
Con: Bruises can be unsightly
Pro: My husband’s long flowing silver hair covers the bruise
Con: My husband’s long flowing silver hair covers literally every surface of our house no matter what I do or how much he brushes and grooms himself
Pro: My husband is the one who does the vacuuming
Con: The dog is afraid of the vacuum
Pro: The dog can go to hell
Con: There is no hell
Pro: There is no hell
Con: My computer died at the very instant the Tristan chord was finally going to resolve to the tonic and all my students screamed
Pro: This ended up actually being the ideal teaching tool
Con: Everyone felt sick
Pro: That is how you should feel when listening to Wagner
Con: Wagner was an awful human being
Pro: He has been dead a long time
Con: His music lives on
Pro: His music lives on
Con: Music will die along with humanity
Pro: No one will ever hear Mumford and Sons again
Con: There is no hell, so Mumford and Sons can’t go there
Pro: This coffee shop never plays Mumford and Sons
Con: They play “old blues” playlists which means sometimes “Strange Fruit” is playing like it’s normal background music, and I get sick to my stomach
Pro: They also don’t realize that due to putting on this playlist they are also often playing EXTREMELY SEXUALLY EXPLICIT songs, such as “Warm my Weiner” and “Your Biscuits Are Big Enough For Me” by Bo Carter
Con: I don’t understand how to spell “wiener”
Pro: “Wiener” is a funny-looking word whichever way you spell it
Con: I forgot to go to the community spelling bee last week
Pro: The community spelling bee would have been very stressful
Con: I am stressed all the time
Pro: So is everyone else
Con: Everyone is stressed all the time
Pro: Soon everyone will be dead
Con: When a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to be stressed out about it, did it really happen?
Pro: Our apple tree is amazing and beautiful
Con: Our apple tree is way too big and we need to hire an arborist to deal with it without killing it
Pro: We get to hire an arborist, something I surely never imagined myself doing
Con: It will probably cost a million dollars
Pro: I make big bucks as a fancy fat-cat professor
Con: That was a joke
Pro: Jokes make life worth living
Con: Not everyone likes my jokes
Pro: All the people who don’t like my jokes will be dead soon
Con: I will also be dead soon
Pro: I will be in heaven with the angels
Con: That was also a joke
Pro: “You gotta laugh”
Con: “Laugh while your heart is breaking”
Pro: Women rarely have heart attacks
Con: Women have crippling menopausal symptoms that are often difficult to medicate or alleviate with lifestyle changes

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Cider Fest

Oh! But I also forgot to tell you about the Cider Festival we went to last weekend! I mean, I may be filled constantly with career-based anxiety but in other ways I am TRULY LIVING THE DREAM, it’s worth keeping in mind!

As you know, we have this enormous apple tree. We have decided that the best way to deal with our apples is to make cider. It’s the only way to process massive amounts of apples in a timely fashion, plus I am interested in fermentation. We also have to get a chest freezer, but that is another issue.

So we have been doing some research. We got Annie Proulx’s book about cider-making, which is overwhelmingly thorough. We figured out where we can buy a rad old-style home cider-press that doesn’t use electricity or anything. We are getting set. Then Cider Days happened in our town! This is the kind of shit you get when you move to rural New England! Along with concerned letters to the editor about what happens to all the pumpkins after the pumpkin-carving contest (they are composted).

It could not have been more delightful. I truly felt reborn, like for one day I had been cleansed of my worries, and was just taking such genuine and deep pleasure out of just existing on the earth as a living creature. Then of course I had to go to a MEETING that night (i.e. Sunday, did you ever hear of such a thing), but still.

The festival we went to was in a small town 30 minutes away from ours. By “town,” I mean that it was a series of farms surrounding a small white church that had been built in 1794. We parked in a small field, walked past a single port-a-potty, down a hill, and emerged onto a flat little lawn next to a big-ass barn. There was a broad vista overlooking an apple orchard and a small herd of llamas.

There were maybe 40 people milling around, and five booths. This is what a “festival” in rural New England consists of. It was awesome. The booths were selling cider, cider syrup, cider vinegar, squash soup made with cider, cider donuts, apple butter, apples by the bushel or peck, wool socks made with wool from the llamas, and beautiful hand-carved wooden bowls. There were also hot dogs. And there were real dogs, just wandering around, and people were giving them bits of the hot dogs. Everyone was getting something nice, was the point, even the llamas, who were eating apples.

We walked down to the orchard, where we met a lady holding a crock of crushed apples. She told us the orchard belonged to her 80 year old aunt, who had bought it in the 60s. The orchard is 170 years old. We walked amongst the trees and laid our hands on them, feeling their vibes. The trees were beautiful, gnarled, ancient, and fragrant. Some still had stubborn winter apples clinging to their higher branches; little spots of red in the yellow and orange foliage. “There are ticks,” the lady warned us apologetically.

Back at the festival, we stood around in a small cluster, our backs to a pleasant fire someone had started, around which a bunch of people were desultorily chatting. Then, an angel appeared. Her name was April and she was wonderful. She was perhaps my age (not too young; not too old; JUST RIGHT). She runs a women’s cider-making collective where they all go to each other’s houses and taste each other’s cider when it’s time to rack the cider. Talk about living the dream! April put on a cider-making demonstration that was extremely empowering. Her basic instruction was “don’t worry about it.” She’d say things like “now you can dump some sugar in….or you don’t have to!” or she’d say “I just use a regular old hose but you can buy a fancy one if you want.” People aggressively interrupted her to ask questions that sounded angry, which at first startled me but then I remembered that this is New England and that culturally they don’t consider that kind of behavior rude. “HOW DO YA KEEP FLIES OUTTA THERE???” someone would yell, and April would say “That’s a REALLY good question,” and then answer it clearly. One person interrupted her to angrily say “Well I bet THOMAS JEFFERSON didn’t use that chemical crap to sterilize HIS cider barrels” and April very graciously said “you’re right, I bet he just used boiling water. But I also bet he got sick a lot.” After awhile I started asking questions too–when in Rome, right?–and she answered them all clearly and efficiently.

After the demonstration, she just started opening up bottles of cider her friends had made, and pouring everyone tastes of it. Then other people who had brought their own homemade cider started bringing out jugs and mason jars and old kombucha bottles full of it, and walking around in the crowd pouring people slugs. We’d all been given free commemorative glasses for some reason. At no point were IDs checked, wristbands given, or any other official or legal action taken of any kind. We were just a bunch of grown-ass strangers, standing around a campfire in some old lady’s orchard, drinking apple jack some crazy man wearing a leather jacket had just pulled out of the trunk of his car. Everyone stood around discussing methods, spices, temperature, gravity, and apple varieties. I was concerned because I’d gathered you can’t make good cider out of Macintoshes, which we are pretty sure is what our tree is. However, April said she’s had “amazing” cider made out of Macs, so we are going for it.

After the demonstration, we walked up to her to say thank you. We had as yet not spoken to her or introduced ourselves or anything, but when we walked up her eyes got wide, and she pointed at us, and she said, “YOU’RE gonna make CIDER…….I CAN FEEL IT.” She said we can email her anytime and she will answer all our questions.

I really think she was the greatest person in the world.

Driving home, full of squash soup and cider donuts and cider, and smelling like a campfire in the best possible way, we saw our rosy future. “I’m gonna go to the beer store while you’re gone, and get a cider making kit,” my old man declared. When I get back, we’re going to go buy 5 gallons of golden russet cider from these local dudes, and spend the winter trying to make our first batch, so we’ll be ready next fall when our own tree starts producing again.

It was so great. It made me feel alive and well. People are beautiful and so much of what they do with their time on this earth is beautiful and interesting.





The bartender at this hotel bar keeps asking me if I’m SURE I don’t want some Bailey’s in my coffee. It is noon.

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