Early Morning Melodies

I am struggling with a rare bout of procrastination and I hate it. My refusal to procrastinate is honestly one of my only skills as a scholar and I live in fear of losing it. But right now I just don’t feel the inspiration that usually drives me into hunching over my computer for hours. This would be fine—the semester has started and I am teaching and don’t have a ton of writing time anyway—were it not for the fact that I have two conference papers and an article that are supposed to be done in….two weeks?! Jesus Christ I just looked at the calendar. WOW okay.

Finishing my book and then immediately going on the epic birthday trip and then immediately starting school, I am just not in the zone. I’m in a very active, Pentacles sort of zone where I want to do concrete labor. Also my old man just informed me that I end sentences with prepositions a lot, and that it’s irritating, can that be true?? I don’t even know how to notice such a thing. Man, when someone points out a writing quirk you have, and you had no idea, it’s really amazing. My book coach told me I use passive voice all the time and I was mortified, because that’s something I BELIEVED I cared about and would never do. But then typing “ed by” into the dread “find all” function in Word revealed the true extent of the darkness. And now this preposition thing, what’s next, dangling modifiers?? NEVER

Lord I teach writing at the college level and here I am ending sentences with prepositions. Just one of the many things that make me feel like a turd. Is “turd” a fuckin’ preposition??

I’ve read that we’re supposed to say “climate catastrophe” instead of “climate change,” because that “change” is kind of passive, it implies something natural and fine, something that we’ll sort of just have to adapt to, when in reality the world is basically ending and it’s our fault. So lets all make that switch in our lexicons! Doing our part lol. Last night in lecture I asked the students how we can prevent ourselves from submitting to nihilism. They didn’t know what nihilism meant. I defined it. They were like “people feel that way?????” So

My friend gave me 10 pounds of damson plums, which is a lot of damson plums. I googled “preserving damson plums” and there were so many results that were blog posts that began “my friend gave me 10 pounds of damson plums, what the heck am I supposed to do with these?” It turns out there are five things you can do with damson plums and I did 4.5 of them: you of course can make a nice jam; you can make sloe gin; you can make something called slivovitz; you can pickle the plums; and you can make shrub out of the leftover picklin’ brine.

I began with the pickling, which took 4.5 pounds of the plums. You make a thick wild syrup out of vinegar and sugar and spices and then you dump the plums in and let ’em boil for a minute. Then you ladle plums and thick syrup into jars and seal the jars. You’re supposed to let them sit for “at least six months” before eating! To which I say: lol.

Then when the brine was cool I poured it into some decorative jugs I got at an antique store, and now I have shrub, which is a thick medicinal drinking vinegar you can make cocktails with. So far I have not yet successfully made a delicious cocktail with it but I am trying.

Then I made jam, which took another 4 pounds. This was a huge pain because halving and pitting damson plums is a real bear, as they are almost as small as grapes. I did this chore for ages while my old man read me the newspaper and we mercilessly made fun of the vice president of our town council, who is a professional idiot and fool to boot. When the plums were halved and pitted, I poured in many cups of sugar and lemon juice, stirred it into a thick globby mess, then covered it and let it sit for 24 hours in the fridge.

With the pounds of plums that were leftover, I made gin and fake slivovitz. The gin is easy, you just prick the plums, put them in the gin, and add a ton of sugar, and apparently in four months that will become “sloe gin” and you can make things like “dented sidecars” and “sloe gin fizzes.”

Slivovitz is an actual proper fermented wine made from the skins of damson plums. But at this point I was like hell no, so I just dumped the rest of the plums in a jug of vodka and will simply refer to it as slivovitz.

The next day it was time to can the jam! All you do is boil it for ages until it gets as thick as jam. It makes a huge, spectacularly colorful mess, all over your kitchen, the walls, everything. Even though I have one of those splatter guards. Then you pour it into half pint jars and water bath can them. After all that labor it only made 4 li’l jars but at the same time, that’s probably like 2 years’ worth of jam for my family (not big jam-heads, us).

I truly felt the satisfaction of an old timey farm woman. The Lord gave me a bounty of some food stuff and I figured out a way to put it all up. To be fair it is mostly in booze form but still.

You know what I wish I’d done is dried some of them and then tried to bake them into a loaf of bread, don’t you think that would be good? It’s too late now.

Does anyone have advice for what to do if you have a dog you love a lot, and your house gets really cold at night during the eastern winters, and your dog is skinny and short-haired, but also crucially he is too stupid to know how to use blankets or crawl into one of those dog beds with the top on it? Is the only option to bite the bullet and get one of those bourgie heated dog beds that then you have to also worry will catch on fire? All suggestions welcome. It’s just that he’s not getting any younger and I hate thinking of him shivering all night with his achy joints. That’s a young man’s game for sure. One time last winter we tried letting him sleep in bed with us, but we have a full size bed only, and he is leggy and pushy, and it didn’t work for any of us.

Speaking of, I have learned that most adult middle class/-aged people, particularly couples, have beds larger than full size. This has never occurred to me, to get a bigger bed. How did I miss this? I didn’t know this was A Thing. I see now that all these people who sleep in a bed with their partner plus two dogs must clearly have a king or at least a queen size bed. When did they make the switch? My old man and I actually slept in a TWIN for about four years; for us, moving up to the full felt so luxurious I suppose we have never gotten over it. And now our bedroom isn’t big enough for a bigger bed anyway, so I guess that’s that. Anyway the dog can’t sleep with us for a number of reasons, is what I was saying.

I’ve entered the phase in a person’s life where they start waking up naturally at 5:30 a.m. and just getting on up and making coffee and getting to work. I don’t really mind it—I actually like being up in the pitch dark when everyone else is still snug in their beds. Currently it is 6:28 a.m. and I am in a bathrobe. Last night was the first frost and it’s finally getting chilly here. I’m worried about my kombucha, which similarly I think I’m supposed to get a heated mat for. So many heated mats! What did people do before heated mats? I know in olden times women used to sleep with their sourdough starters, to keep them warm. Maybe we just have to start piling everything into the bed with us: sourdough, kombucha jug, dog. It could work!

FYI there is a wood chipping business a couple blocks up from our house and they start wood chipping every day at 6:30 a.m. on the dot, as I now know from my new reverse vampire morning life. 6:30 seems so early, not only for work that causes such an enormous amount of loud noise, but just for work generally. Are there that many woods to chip, that these dudes have to start at 6:30 a.m.?? Anyway there are always articles in the paper about how the neighbors complain but the wood chip guy is like FUCK Y’ALL

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Guess what now it’s a week later and I am awake at 4:30

FOUR THIRTY IN THE MORNING

I lay there for so long thinking “please just let it be 6:00 or almost 6:00.” NOPE

Do you know the Stephen King novel “Insomnia?” It’s about old people who wake up earlier and earlier and earlier no matter what they do, until they’re like going to sleep at 9:00 p.m. and waking up and looking at the clock and it’s 9:02 and they are like “I am ready to die now.” I am scared I am beginning this journey. Why would someone wake up at 4:30? I’ve been waking up before 6:00 for months now but this is a bridge too far, I simply can not tolerate this sort of thing.

Someone on the internet says that “women transitioning through midlife” (ugh) often have this kind of insomnia. The long list of possible solutions is all stuff I already do. So that’s that! NEW LIFE

It’s surreal waking up that early for no reason and starting your day. Now it’s 5:30, I’ve been up for an hour, and it’s still pitch black outside. It’s also fun (not) because regardless of what time it actually is when you get up, to the dog it’s always “breakfast time,” so here we are at 4:30 and the dog is doing his Breakfast Dance and I’m like trying to shush and shoo him away from the bedroom door where my poor husband is trying to continue sleeping like a normal person. I give him breakfast just to shut him up; then he goes immediately back into a deep sleep. Currently I’m sitting here in my underwear, wrapped up in a poncho my mom got in Guatemala in 1970. I’m in my office in the pitch black dead of the damn night, the dog is snoring in his chair under several blankets. Feeling okay. I can do this! DO WHAT??

Do:
– write this STUPID paper I DON’T WANT TO WRITE
– email this student back about a question about time signatures they asked me
– stare fretfully out the window into the darkness thinking about all the ways I am failing in my career and as a person

My mom got this poncho on this Guatemala trip that is part of our family lore. She and my dad apparently broke up for awhile before getting back together and having yours truly. This blows my mind, as they really are so sympatico as a couple, and they yearn for one another when they are apart for longer than 12 hours. But apparently they went through a rough patch at the very beginning of their marriage and my mom was like “see ya” and trotted off to Central America with her best friend. She claims not to remember how long they were down there but it seems like it was months. They worked for awhile at a home for profoundly disabled people, they worked as waitresses, they took crazy all-night bus rides along cliffs and dirt roads. And somewhere along the way my mom acquired this poncho. Which I’d never seen before in my life, but then the other day I said “man I wish I had a poncho” and four days later this one showed up in a package. So you always learn new things about people.

One thing that is so charming about parents–mine anyway–is how little they value these wonderful heirlooms that you yourself fetishize and covet. This poncho is such a cool artifact of what is, to me, a very compelling time in my mom’s personal history, and she’s had it for over forty years! But then she’s like, oh this old thing, you can have it, take it to Goodwill if you don’t like it. One time I mentioned flippantly how I would enjoy having her wedding ring after she died and she goes “well you can have it NOW!” and started trying to wrench it off her finger

The stack of unread New Yorkers is ten feet tall. I am getting sick of the New Yorker. I wish David Remnick would honestly just shut the hell up. I’m sick of New York generally. Stop talking about it. We get it, it’s a big-ass city with all kinds of cool stuff going on. It’s also full of shit about itself. What are these restaurants that are in a phone booth and it costs $100 to get a seat and all they serve is local duck eyeballs or some shit. Jesus take the wheel! Every other thing you see in the New Yorker makes you feel like, welp, I guess I hope the world ends sooner rather than later. Some fashion show where everyone looks like an extra from Tommy. Some cutesy blurb about some idiot taking a cab somewhere. Lord. But then right when you’re going to finally cancel your subscription there’ll be some hardcore 20 page article about how intuition works or where chalk comes from and you realize you can never truly hate the New Yorker.

Everything That Is On My Desk Right Now:
– stack of Voyager tarot cards
– small arrangement of crystals and a shark tooth
– salt candle holder
– roughly six post-its with things scribbled on them (“J BA ensemble requirements?” “send review sheet to everyone” “’making the world a better place’ slides”)
– very very truly sad “note to self” written on an index card about how to become tougher at work (“smile and laugh less”)
– stack of French flash cards I never look at but ritualistically keep on my desk at all times
– reading list about “innovation” as a cultural value
– two pads of post-its
– coffee warmer with Titanic replica coffee mug on it
– old piece of paper with “TRUMP THOUGHTS” written on it then a bunch of notes about my project w/r/t the election; notes aren’t super helpful but they are still sitting here and have been for about 2 months
– stack of four notebooks: I use these hardcore Leuchturm notebooks that are made in Germany and I use them for my research notes and currently they are all out, stacked in chronological order, and looking at them gives me great pleasure
– pen
– dish towel
– hairpin
– headphones
– piece of paper with timings for teaching Stairway to Heaven
– stapler
– variety of incense
– owl-shaped incense holder
– New Yorker cartoon showing a bunch of people stepping into coffins and one guy is saying “what do you think of the new cubicles?” which I clipped out because it is an illustration of something Théophile Gautier wrote in 1841
– Used-up scented candles
– My phone
– Stack of unread New Yorkers and issues of Dissent
– My other, less special notebook where I take notes at conferences
– Bell Hooks, Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center
– Angela McRobbie: The Aftermath of Feminism
– Other books on feminism. I’m trying to develop an idea and am supposed to be reading these books but so far I have not been
– Lighter (for the incense)
– My parents’ mailing address on a post-it
– “Tension Tonic” roll-on tincture I got in North Carolina

Posted in Opinion | 2 Comments

The Best Time I Turned Forty

Well! What an age we live in! And by that I mean…MIDDLE AGE!

“Middle age” is such a funny way to talk about being forty because it’s also the term employed to denote the shitty dark plague-ridden period before the light of the Renaissance dawned, a time when almost everyone died in anguish and history stopped being written because there weren’t enough people left to write it or make the paper to write it on even. And now we use the term to denote the period in your life that comes just before decrepitude and death.

But no matter! Because guess what happened?? Ok you’ll never guess:

We have a big August, because our anniversary is the 15th, my birthday is the 20th, and Gary’s is the 25th. Traditionally we have done nothing exceptional to mark this epic ten day period, and this year was shaping up to be no different. When asked what I wanted to do for my fortieth, I thought about it for a long time and then responded that I wanted Gary to sharpen our knives, and I wanted to go out to brunch. For me, this would have been spectacular enough, as despite my pickiness surrounding food and not staying out late I remain fairly easy to please in general (or maybe this is one of those false beliefs you have about yourself that no one else who knew you would ever agree was true). The idea of having sharp knives was truly delightful to me, and I’ve been wanting to go to this brunch place that’s right on the river and that everyone says has a bad menu but you can’t beat that river view.

[y’all I can’t get paragraph breaks to show up beyond this point! I don’t know why. Sorry it’s just a block of text but…maybe it’s better that way]

On the 15th, our anniversary, we began our day by running very cool middle aged married person errands, namely, we drove to another town to pick up a rug we had had cleaned. I was very excited to get the rug back and put it down and see how it looked, but instead when we got home my old man threw the rug on the floor in a pile and suddenly said “do you feel like going on a trip?” I could tell from his stupid face that he was pulling one of his surprises on me—perhaps four times in our life he has suddenly sprung a surprise trip on me out of the blue, most recently at Christmas when he told me to pack a bag and then we drove to a cabin by the sea in Maine and it was simply delightful—so I said YEAH! He told me to pack a bag. I assumed we were going to a cabin in Maine again, which sounded great to me, but when I asked him how many days I should pack for, he said SIX! That seemed like a lot (<--foreshadowing) but I accepted it. When he plans these surprise trips I must let myself go slack and pliable, and simply trust in the good instincts of my husband and in his ability to tell me what to do so that I will not be uncomfortable later (e.g. to pack my mouth guard). He also said I should pack a swimsuit. I had barely begun packing when suddenly the doorbell rang. It was our nice friends Luke and Sarah, and when they came in I could tell by their faces that they knew where we were going! This had all been pre-arranged. It turned out they were driving us somewhere, and taking the dog to boarding school. What on earth! I assumed we were going to the airport at this point, but we didn’t. Instead, we drove to the train station. While waiting for the train, Gary told me to cancel all the appointments I’d made for the coming week. This was awkward because our entire department was preparing for an epic move which was starting the very next day, and which we were all supposed to present for. Almost every member of our enormous faculty was moving offices and studios, we were taking over a whole new wing of our building, a variety of large men were coming to move like 50 pianos around, it was going to be a total disaster. Luckily, I had packed up my office and clearly labeled everything ahead of time, because I am a nerd. Still, it felt weird to just suddenly bail, and have to email our overworked staff being like “well I have to go on a fun trip, so please move all my shit for me,” but I did, and they were nice, and ultimately I brought them some presents and I just have to hope it’s okay, karmically speaking. As I’ve said, it was all out of my hands. We got on a train bound for New York. Gary told me we were going to spend six days in New York and then come home. This was the first of many times he would artfully set me up to be just slightly weirded out before revealing that what he had told me had been a lie; I enjoy going to New York, but for six days?? I find New York pretty overwhelming and, to be frank, gross, especially in August. And why had he told me to pack a swimsuit? “CONEY ISLAND??” he said in disbelief, “EVER HEARD OF IT???” Okay! I got into it! It’ll be great, we’ll get bagels! We’ll see some comedy! He had insisted that I not bring the book I wanted to bring (China Miéville’s history of the October Revolution) so I was stuck on a five hour train with no book, which annoyed me. It turned out however that even here there was method to his madness! See below God, I have to start skipping stuff or this will be a thousand pages long We stayed with our friend Jamie, hence the method/madness, because Jamie is a Fancy Book Person. Not only did she immediately bestow upon me a literally 1,000 page Richard Holmes biography of Percy Shelley that she said she’d been meaning to give me for two years and that we laughed and laughed and laughed about, because honestly, it’s bigger than the bible, and my hatred of Percy Shelley is widely known. I can’t wait to read it. But not only that, but then the next day (after Real Fuckin Brooklyn Bagels) we went to all these cool-ass bookstores and bought more books. So now in my backpack I had the aforementioned Shelley Tome (which for the rest of the trip I kept accidentally calling the “Byron Book,” which cracked my old man up because this is the same exact slip-up that reveals Bad Michael Fassbender to be malfunctioning in the most recent Alien movie, a plot point we both found very dumb, also why did Ridley Scott have Fassbender—-who is profoundly fluent in German, as we all know from his positively bravura turn in the great Inglorious Basterds--mispronounce “Richard Wagner” while emphasizing the correct pronunciation of “Das Rheingold”??? I truly want to know because this was obviously a conscious decision, clearly made by Scott and not Fassbender, and I don’t get it, like if American audiences are stupid enough to not understand the name “Richard Wagner” when correctly pronounced, why are they smart enough to not freak out with confusion at DAS FREAKIN RHEINGOLD, which, when said correctly, sounds like somebody coughing up a bunch of phlegm, God protect me but it’s the truth), a memoir by Cookie Mueller, the weird-ass book about angels Karl Ove Knausgaard wrote before My Struggle, and this cool collection of essays about life-changing musical encounters that I thought (wrongly, as it turned out) would be good material for this class I’m teaching. My commitment to actually reading the Byron Book never left me, and I continued carrying it throughout this whole adventure, despite having several opportunities to simply mail it back to myself, and even though I can now report that at no point did I read even the first page of it. Now it’s all battered and looks like it’s been heavily read. Boy I can’t wait to learn about Percy Fuckin Shelley when I finally crack it! THAT SON OF A BITCH It turned out we were not spending six days in New York; in fact the very next day we went back to the train station, and this time boarded a SLEEPER to Chicago! What next? “Chicago is where we fell in love,” my old man informed me, as though I could ever forget such a momentous experience, falling in love with my future husband sitting in Rob’s van all night in front of a punk warehouse in Chicago. He had braces and had just had massive facial reconstruction surgery and his face was all numb; I myself was sporting an extreme cold sore. Nonetheless we “made it work” (<--euphemism for frenching). As we settled into our cozy train car he said we were going to hang out with our friends Bill and Cole, because we were apparently on a tour of Landmarks Of Our Love—Bill had been influential in getting us together in the first place, back in 2002 or whenever it was, and served as Guest of Honor at our future wedding thus. Mainly what he did was simply tell each of us that the other one was interested in frenching; it is amazing what a huge service such an act can be. God bless Bill. He was also very supportive in the aftermath of us falling in love, withstanding multiple barrages of self-involved monologuing from each of us and responding with calm certainty that “everything [would be] fine.” We only found out that he was serving this purpose for both of us much later; I’d thought I was the only one talking to Bill about my Love Feelings. So we met up with those guys and saw their awesome house and their hilarious dog, and saw Bill’s new venue and cried single tears of pride, and learned about nursing from Cole who is a full on nurse, a job I am fascinated by and have a lot of reverence for, and ate tacos, and slept in their guestroom. Then got up early the next morning and went BACK to the train….only to take it to….the airport??? WHAT NEXT At the airport he revealed that we were flying to Los Angeles, which, again, is a city I somewhat famously dislike, so I was kind of like…okay…but guess what, I got into it, because I Am Game, plus my brother lives there and I always want to see him, etc. I assumed this would be where we used the swimsuits but reader I was wrong. We hung out with my brother and watched a movie about Bill Paxton becoming schizophrenic and forcing his young sons to murder people with him. My brother gave me my birthday present, which was a bunch of products you use to care for your cast-iron cookware; certainly the most middle aged present I have ever received and I thank him for it. He also gave me forty dollars. The next day my bro had to go to work, so Gary and I walked miles and miles, through all my old haunts, down to the boardwalk and pier, where we rode the ferris wheel and got novelty key chains made for our nice friends who had taken Franklin to the kennel and who kept sending us pictures of things they were doing to take care of our house in our absence, including literally mowing the lawn without being asked, and moving my fermenting pickles into the fridge, and other such things. That afternoon, he informed me we had “plans” at 6:00 and I should take a shower. He told me we were going to “an Old Hollywood murder mystery dinner” in Pasadena. Yet again I was weirded out. I don’t want to do that shit! And I KNOW my BROTHER doesn’t want to do that shit! Pasadena? Murder mystery dinner? He told me we had to change into costumes when we got there. I was like…..Jesus Christ. He kept saying “it’ll be memorable!” which was certainly true. So my brother came home from work and I asked him, suspiciously, if he knew what we were going to do. “Some murder mystery dinner thing??” he replied. So I felt it must be true. We got in the car and drove for a thousand hours but then pulled up outside just a normal house, at which point I knew probably what was actually happening, but was still extremely delighted to walk in the door to be greeted by all my LA friends yelling SURPRISE and turning on Bob Seeger’s “Old Time Rock n’ Roll” and putting on a slideshow of pictures of me throughout the ages and putting a birthday hat on me and giving me a pile of presents (exfoliating scrub; “life begins at 40” card; signed YACHT band photo, etc.). I somehow IMMEDIATELY became drunk, like within 3 minutes. I still think it was because of how hard I was immediately laughing. I love my friends so much for so many reasons but one of them is how SILLY they are, how willing to play and be playful. No matter how much time has passed there is always immediate uproarious laughter and I can not get enough. I got drunk and they told me riddles that I was unable to solve even when they started putting the answer to the riddle right in the riddle itself. We stayed at Rob and Jenny’s beautiful home and in the morning (my actual birthday) we were greeted by the screaming of a red tailed hawk perched directly outside the window. RAPTOR BLESSING. Yes sister hawk, in my 40th year I will be a fierce-ass predator! I will tear the skin from a duck with my fingers!!! After coffee we went BACK to the damn TRAIN STATION and got on yet another sleeper train. WHAT NEXT This train was bound for Portland! And, we were on the train during the eclipse, which took place the next morning, and we were at 93.5% totality, which is not too shabby considering only four days previously I had not a thought in my head of seeing any part of the eclipse at all. We watched it from the observation car of the train, with a bunch of other passengers. Gary had procured eclipse glasses weeks earlier for this very purpose, so we were all set. On the observation car were two guys from the Klamath history museum who apparently get on the train at Klamath and give a guided tour of the ride, pointing out landmarks, telling historical tales, etc. One guy was the color commentator and the other guy knew all the facts. So the one guy would be like “In 1920 there was a huge fire that burned down this whole forest! How much of it burned Rob” and Rob would be like “eight million board feet of lumber.” They also did trivia and handed out candy. When the eclipse started, they went off script and just googled stuff and announced it: telling us what a solar eclipse is, how often they happen, etc., urging people to share their glasses. It was truly great. The eclipse was weird and interesting; I would have loved to be outside for it, to feel the vibes. Everything got dark and weird. We heard from friends who were in totality that they all had basically religious experiences, crying and screaming and such, which sounds so amazing but I did not have that experience, being at only 93.5%. Still, it was a cool thing to wake up to the morning after one’s fortieth birthday: the world ending In Portland everyone was out of town for the eclipse but we did get to see a few buddies (Alex, Sasha, Sarah, Josh, Jessica, Calvin, John) and eat at my favorite restaurant on all the earth. Then the next day we went TO THE AIRPORT. Gary said “this is the last destination, I promise” and he said things like “where we’re going will seem weird to you at first, but I promise it will be fun.” At this point I was prepared for anything, but once again when he led me to our gate and I saw where we were going, I was just baffled. Because it was: Anchorage, Alaska. What a random place to go! At the same time, I once again was totally game, having never been to Alaska. I immediately was like, maybe we’ll see a moose!!! But then after awhile I could tell he was lying and that he was concealing something big, so I demanded to see the boarding passes. When I looked at them, all that was written on them was the airport code—OGG—which didn’t sound like Anchorage to me, so I googled it. MAUI!!!!!!! For fully two years I have been saying I want to go on a “traditional beach vacation” and “just relax” and specifically that I would like to see Hawai’i before I die. Every time, my old man angrily says that that’s “the stupidest thing [he’s] ever heard” and that it will “never happen.” He’s been long-conning me! He planned this shit MONTHS AND MONTHS ago, and spent all this time setting airfare alerts and booking and rebooking all the trains etc., while simultaneously asking me what I wanted to do for my birthday and making it all seem boring and like he had no plans. I screamed and screamed!!! FINALLY THE SWIMSUIT WOULD BE PUT TO USE!!!!!! Please also note I still had the Byron Book in my fucking bag, now about to carry it across the sea, where, I assure you, I again failed to read even the first page of it, despite continuing to legitimately want to. MAUIIIIIIIII I never thought I’d be one of those people who is all “ooooh my life is changed” and “Maui is so spiritual” and all that, but honestly it was incredible and like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. I don’t even know where to start. It’s SO beautiful, and I am someone who grew up in a notably beautiful location and wasn’t all that jazzed about it. But it was like nothing I’ve ever seen. It was like a cartoon of paradise. We arrived, rented a car, drove to a B&B, and went immediately to the beach. This beach was not some famous beach, it was just a random little beach clearly used mainly by locals, many of whom were tailgating there when we arrived. And yet it is also the most glorious beach you’ve ever seen in your life! The water is crystal clear, the sand is white as snow, and all along the beach there are these enormous sea turtles just sleeping, with sunbathers sprawled amongst them like no big deal. This is just a normal boring beach to these damn locals, can you imagine? I crouched by a sea turtle and looked right into its sleeping timeless face; I saw its flipper; I could have touched its back were I to be so rude. I dove in the sea. I normally do not swim in the sea due to my crippling phobia of sharks and/or being swept out to sea and drowning horribly. But somehow here it felt so good and right and fine so I just went for it. That night as I tried to sleep my husband stayed up late reading a tourist magazine aloud and prodding me (HONEY DOES THAT SOUND FUN). But in the morning it turned out this had been time well spent, because he’d found out about this crazy app that works via GPS and that you can use to guide you along the famous road to Hana, this wild narrow mountain road with 600 hairpin turns and a ton of one-lane bridges that is the only way to get from one side of the island to the other. It’s a tourist thing to do, so it’s jam-packed with jeeps and convertible mustangs, interspersed with periodic locals in beat-up trucks with surfboards sticking out of them who are just trying to get to work, one of whom (the local, not the surfboard) called my husband a “dumbfuck” and he was right to do so. Anyway there are a million cool-ass things to do and see along this road—waterfalls you can swim under, fruit stands, hikes, incredible views of the crashing sea, an old church that is the only thing that survived some epic tsunami in the 50s, etc. And even though it’s this huge tourist attraction, nothing is really marked and there’s no signage and hardly any parking along the way. So this guide app proved immensely helpful. You just drive along and periodically this guy suddenly starts talking to you: “Around the next bend, you’ll see a hole in the ground to your right. Pull up to the NEXT wide place in the shoulder, get out of the car, and walk back to the hole. It’s a lava tube! Go on in, and see some stalagmites. Don’t worry, there are NO BATS.” He also crucially tells you stuff you can skip. “Up here on the left you’ll see a bunch of people parked and walking up the hill. There’s a cool waterfall up there. But honestly, it’s not that great, and there are better ones up ahead, so if you want to, you can skip it.” IT RULED. He also tells you about Maui’s history, its indigenous myths, etc. We also felt the voice actor was sort of hateful, which we appreciated. He was so over the top, it could only have been ironic. “HEY MAN, THERE’S SOME KILLER GRINDS AT THIS TACO STAND! MAHALO!” By the end of the trip we were very irritated with him but at the same time we were just really pleased with this app consumer experience and will recommend it to all our friends. Hana is this tiny little town surrounded by crashing waves, lava rock, and palm trees. It reminded me of where I grew up—this totally bonkers natural environment, but then the kids are just at school learning math or whatever, it’s normal to them. I also enjoyed imagining the equivalent of me as a child, growing up in Hawai’i. I grew up in a ski resort but I never really liked skiing and felt forced into it and was very ungracious about it all. And in my town, skiing and snow is all anyone wants to talk about, so you have to endure these tedious detailed conversations about powder and weather conditions and bad decisions the ski company has made in deciding to groom the black diamonds etc. And you are like, Jesus Christ, I want to go home and read my Stephen Kings! Also I was (am) awkward, and wore glasses, and just generally had a hard time up there, surrounded by all my classmates who would go on to become World Cup skiiers and shit. I like to think of the equivalent kid growing up in Hana, just not that interested in surfing. Just like, holy crow, give it a rest, who cares about “the swell,” I’m trying to read this book about outer space! While growing up in the most absurdly glorious beautiful natural environment imagineable and just kind of being “over it.” What a terrible nerd! And yet I empathize passionately with this fictional child I made up in my imagination. After sleeping on friends’ floors and on trains for over a week, here we had the first and only luxury accommodations of the trip: a full on condo by the sea, with a kitchen. The bed was right in front of these huge sliding glass doors that opened directly onto the lanai which overlooked the sea; we slept with it open and all night crashing waves and sea breezes wafted over us (well, the breezes wafted over us, not the waves). In the morning we woke up and watched the sun rise from our bed, and it was my old man’s birthday! Now he too is #pushinforty, while I an now actually #livinforty. We ate a whole room full of fruit. Here is the fruit we ate: - dragon fruit: you cut this open and it’s as deeply purple as a beet, flecked with tiny black seeds. Tastes kind of like a kiwi. A purple kiwi. Turns your poop red just like beets - three different kinds of banana: red banana, apple banana, ice cream banana. I FINALLY ENJOYED BANANA. The bananas you get on the mainland are garbage, fuck them all - starfruit: like a wet pear - pineapple: amazing when fresh, we ate an entire one On the way back from Hana we additionally ate: - guava - this other thing I never heard of before and can’t remember the name of, that also tasted like a wet pear - Oh I forgot, on the way TO Hana we stopped at this coconut shack and ate an entire fresh coconut. A lady hacks it open for you and gives you a straw, and when you’re done drinking it she hacks it in half and gives you a bent butter knife that you use to scoop out the insides. When you’re done you give her back the knife and throw the husk on a huge pile on the ground. She had two dogs who slept through the whole thing. She wore her machete on a belt around her denim miniskirt, and she was barefoot. Everyone in Maui is barefoot and shirtless nonstop, clearly there are no rules regarding footwear. It was awesome - We also got PASSION FRUIT, the winner for me. We stopped at a roadside stand and this guy with huge red dredlocks had this wild array of fruit on a shitty old card table. Everyone we met in Hawai’i felt like an ex-pat, they all have these stories like “I grew up in New York, and I was a stockbroker, then one day I realized FUCK THIS and now I sell fruit on the side of the road and surf every day bro”. This guy was just hacking fruit open and giving it to us and saying things like “it’s amazing, it just grows right out of God’s beautiful earth” and we were like I KNOW RIGHT???? When I said I’d never tasted a passion fruit he cut one in half and said to “do it like an oyster shooter,” then when I started to slide it into my mouth he yelled “OH MAN HERE IT COMES!!!! IT’S GONNA BE INTENSE!” and it was. It’s like a slimy wet mass of weird jelly with huge seeds in it, and it tastes like nothing you can possibly imagine. It tastes like ketchup tastes to that girl in that young adult sci-fi book who gets herself turned around in another dimension and when she comes back to this dimension ketchup tastes so spectacular she can’t stop eating it; it was like that - More red bananas We went to a red sand beach you have to climb along a cliffside to get to, and it was wild, deep blue water and waves crashing over these rocks, and people from every nation of this great earth diving together. We went to a white sand beach where I swam without my glasses and got really pounded by waves and had sand in my hair for days. There was a golden retriver just diving like a full seal into the waves, then he’d swim out to where his man was standing and the man would hold him in his arms while the dog just looked around like nbd just a golden retriver living his best life It was funny living the beach life, the all-day-swimsuit life, because it really drove home the extent to which my old man and I are Not Beach People. I felt like every human soul in Maui was tanned, lithe, beautiful, extremely comfortable in a swimsuit, and knew how to do things like properly shake the sand out of their towel without getting it all over everything. Every beach we went to, by contrast, we were beyond the whitest shade of pale, awkward and doughy in our bathing costumes, walking hesitantly into the sea and getting knocked over by waves like a toddler while flailing and crying out in surprise. The idea of actually standing up on a surf board is utterly beyond my ken. Even sunbathing I feel I’m not very good at, I get immediately hot and burned and don’t know what to do while I’m lying there. It was so great. We went into another mode of existence and just rolled with it. At one point we went to an arboretum and we were the only people there and I washed my butt in a stream, because there was so much sand in my swimsuit from the aforementioned wave-pummeling that it was stressing me out. There were guavas and bananas just all over the ground, at one point I slipped and almost fell on a fuckin’ guava, it’s that idyllic in this place. We went to this amazing national park on Gary’s birthday and it was FREE that day for unexplained reasons, and we hiked past all these waterfalls and pools and guava trees and through a bamboo forest and we saw many birds and a great giant banyan tree and Gary recorded the clacking of the bamboo on his phone. One night we got tiki drinks and nachos and then walked over to the beach and there were all these locals watching their kids rollerskate at an outdoor roller rink, again with the waves crashing two feet away. One day we drove up to the top of Mt. Haleakala, the enormous volcano that comprises most of Maui. You go from sea level to 10,000 feet in one 40 minute drive; it was bonkers. Then you’re up far, far above the treeline, gazing down at the clouds and weather patterns that lurk infinitely far below. The air is cold and clean and completely silent; the ground is red and black rock and sand as far as you can see, and speckling the view are these immense cinder cones. You can see paths stretching into the infinite distance. We saw a great huge owl flying quietly. We hiked down into the very crater of the volcano, down and down through the silent red sands, past all these hardy alpine silver plants that only bloom once in their lifetimes. We walked along the lip of a cinder cone and stared out into the distance, to where we knew the ocean—obscured by clouds—must lie. It was so awesome. On our last night we watched the sun set over yet another white sand beach and it was declared the greatest trip ever gone upon. Then we ate pizza. The next day we flew back to Portland, saw Jae and Katy who were finally back from the eclipse, and ate tacos. Then we got on a red-eye flight to Newark, landed in Newark, took the train into Manhattan so we could buy a dozen bagels at the good bagel place, then caught another Amtrak back home at last, and were picked up at the train station by our good friend Luke, who had Franklin with him, who had literally lost ten pounds and looked like absolute hell. We all went home and slept for 20 hours. And my pickles turned out great. I still can’t believe it. I truly left so much out of this recounting and still it took a million words to impart. Ultimately we were gone for 2 weeks, and I had to at one point go to a thrift store and buy a bunch of clothes because I’d packed so weirdly (multiple pairs of pajamas, but no sweater and only two pairs of socks, e.g.). I have a nice husband. And now I’m forty and I don’t give a shit, it’s great. About to learn a whole lot about Percy Shelley. Then I had 5 days to write two syllabi and set up all these guest lectures, but who cares

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THOUGHTS AND IMPRESSIONS UPON ATTENDING MY FIRST REN FAIRE; THE HOAX AND OUR AUTHORIZED BIOGRAPHY OF DAVID BECKHAM; FINALLY, WHILE CELEBRATING OUR NATION’S BIRTH AND AGAINST ALL ODDS I INDEED GET A PIANO

We went to a Ren Faire. I can’t believe I’d never gone to one before! It seems vaguely up my alley, as I am extremely interested in medieval and renaissance european history, although I have always been uncomfortable with role playing. They had a forest trail (confusingly named Sherwood Enchanted Forest, so I was unclear whether it was full of faeries or whether we would be pretend-robbed; as it turned out, it was both) and you walked along it and throughout the forest were all these people basically playing pretend, like pretending to be sprites or wood nymphs or bandits or whatever else. E.g. I saw one lady who was barefoot and wearing sort of a tattered minidress made of leaves and vines and she was skipping joyfully around a tree and beckoning dramatically to passing travelers. I would like to know more about these people, their motivations and what kind of pleasure this gives them. Their faces were intense; a lot of them were REALLY inhabiting the space, expressing puckish wonder as they pretended to commune with nature spirits. You were supposed to go up to these people and give them a feather and then they would give you glitter. I stood and watched one faerie stand alone on a stump and do mystical dancing for awhile. I do not think these people were on drugs; they looked very wholesome. Role-play stuff always kind of gives me hives but I was thinking about the different ways we find to escape our presently-existing realities and this one seems no worse than any other and probably better than a lot. I’ve also been reading about immersive theater which can be a means of encouraging group political awakening and although this certainly was not that it was interesting to think of it within that tradition. At one point as I crept through the woods I looked over and there was a guy in full black cloak and hood wearing a very elaborate skull mask with twisting horns and carrying a staff and right as I saw him through the trees he turned and looked right at me.

I was very interested in the haziness of the historical concept on display. The official font and iconography of the fair was pretty clearly drawn from some point in the English Renaissance (or, more accurately, from movies about the Renaissance) but in terms of the actual eras different people and elves and theater troupes seemed to be inhabiting it was really a mixed bag. There were musical consorts playing music from many different eras, including a bagpipe group that was playing straight-up contemporary rock music (“do you think they had syncopation in medieval tymes?” I asked my old man. I actually don’t know! I don’t think Western Europeans had syncopation in the sense of using syncopation to construct a regular rhythmic pulse, which was what these bagpipe guys were doing. Then again, they loved hocketing, which is super complex syncopation, but was it in support of a rhythmic pulse ever? God now I’m suddenly thinking about the history of cultural constructions of rhythm and realizing how little I know about rhythm. I will have to ask my colleague who studies Renaissance music. I’ll report back, I’m sure you are all dying to find out. Or maybe one of you knows the answer, if so do tell). The food also was all over the place, but I guess that’s to be expected (e.g. giant roasted turkey leg you eat like a medieval king; mead; wood fired pizza; quesadillas; budweiser). Some people were dressed in vaguely Renaissance appropriate garb although I was also thinking a lot about social position and how that did NOT come into play in people’s costume choices. Like a 60 year old woman in the 1600s would not be wearing one of these off-the-shoulder dresses with the epic push-up bustier, unless she was a prostitute, I imagine. There were also a lot of lady pirates though which I thought was cool and who knows, perhaps accurate. But then other people had gone further back than the Renaissance and were fully medieval, in monk’s cloaks or heavy shapeless woolen tunics. One group was barefoot and in loincloths (“must be Polynesians or something” said Gary) and were selling decorative water fountains for your home or office. And then within all of this period stuff there were also people dressed as sexy cartoon animals, which, why do THESE two things go together?? I get why you’d go to a Ren Faire wearing a cloak and actual dagger but what does a sexy cat with neon blue hair or like a guy in assless chaps with a perky fox tail poking out the butt have to do with Olden Tymes?? The role-play stuff was periodically somewhat poignant, when the undercurrent of erotic fantasy jarred awkwardly against all the middle-aged dads in khaki shorts eating fried dough; one guy was wearing an enormous tiger head and as he waited in the pizza line a drunk man yelled AREN’T YOU HOT IN THAT THING? And the tiger man simply regarded him without speaking, conveying an impression of wounded mystification, like, am I hot in WHAT thing, this is simply my real head sir, how dare you invade my fantasy space.

The horsemen were pretty firmly Renaissance-era though, and they were also amazing. That was something else interesting, which was the incredible skills on display. These horse people! One guy came riding into the jousting arena standing on the backs of two galloping horses, which he then led in a series of complicated loopty-loops while everyone yelled. Since we don’t live in Renaissance times when such horsemanship would win you the favor of a Lord and a sack of fine gold, how and where do people learn such stuff? Our friends were speculating that they’re just “local horse people” who make extra money doing the Ren Faire horse show, but the skills on display at this thing would take ages to develop and I don’t think just any old horse person could do it. Like riding horses full-tilt at each other with big-ass lances and shields and hitting each other dead center and then whipping the horse around in a tight turn, flinging the lance into a hay bale, grabbing another lance out of the ground and immediately spearing it through a ring tossed high in the sky by a squire, then grabbing a sword and knocking off a bunch of dummies’ heads? Where are they practicing this stuff? It was awesome

There was also a woman who put on a show with her trained cat that I at first scoffed at and then became legitimately awed by.

But many other skills were on display as well, for example spinning yarn, roasting chickens with a homemade spit, cheesemaking, blacksmithing (there was an on-site forge where you could watch men in tunics hammering on shit while confusingly a woman in sexy leather gear and animal horns watched them and yelled encouragement), archery. There was a guy selling beautiful wooden bows and arrows! There were guys putting on swordfighting demonstrations. I kept thinking about the Dies The Fire series of post-apoc novels where the only people who survive the apocalypse are dark military guys and Ren Faire people. And the Ren Faire people immediately found a new society based on like vague Wicca stuff mixed with Tolkien, and they are very successful because they already know how to drive a horse team and card wool and tan leather and shoot arrows and shit.

I bought a decorated human skull and I ate fried dough. My husband drank a thimbleful of mead that he pronounced “sweet.” I saw a man drinking out of a straight-up drinking horn, and it looked badass. A group of goth teens passed by and I heard one of them say “see, instead of rednecks, it’s white nerds,” which also made me wonder about the alt-right component of these things. On its surface it seemed very gentle and fun and extremely welcoming to all kinds of people but I bet also this is the kind of shit those alt-right guys love. They are after all essentially nerds, just mean ones. They love all that stuff, all that creepy excalibur white european fascist fantasy stuff. This made me sad. However although I did see a guy wearing an NRA shirt I did not see anything I recognized as white nationalist so who knows.

I did see:

A middle aged man dressed sort of as a wizard, who was walking around with a dragon puppet on one hand, which he was manipulating to look very “real” and to which he was talking very sincerely. This mystical mage with his dragon familiar, speaking of spells and dark magick! In his other hand he held a long, gnarled, Gandalf type staff. But then as I watched, his cell phone rang, and he answered it, holding it between his ear and his shoulder and using the hand with the dragon puppet to hold his staff, such that the dragon was just kind of smushed up against the staff, forgotten, while the guy was like “yeah? Yeah ok” into his phone

As I was walking past the jousting arena where horsemen were yelling into headset microphones to get the crowd amped up (“GOOD PEOPLE! DO YOU CHEER FOR SIR WILLIAM”) a man in a monk’s tunic walked past me and he was squishing a plastic water bottle in his hand and looking at it in wonderment and then he said to himself “Aye! ‘Tis crinkly!”

We took refuge from the blasting sun of the jousting arena and went to sit in the shade by the spare horses. After awhile one of the squires came back there leading the horses from the arena and although we were the only people back there he yelled “MAKE WAY FOR THE STEEDS!” and then he said “in truth ye should not be back here.” So we left

A man selling pottery gave me a small metal dragon figurine and tried to engage me in pretending it was a real dragon that had just hatched. I told him I was happy for him and that it was cool.

A wildlife organization had a bunch of raptors on display and I got very sad watching the raven who was bored and agitated. There was also a very tiny wood owl who was staring wide-eyed at a giant hawk next to it. What a weird life animals have in the modern age.

Anyway

Last night as we lay peacefully abed, trying to sleep but instead discussing capitalist logic and how it rears its head everywhere even in conversations with loved ones, even in our own predilections and perceptions, and getting more and more wound up, we then tried to calm ourselves back down by talking about our favorite film, “The Hoax,” which is about a man (the titular The Hoax (pronounced “Tay Ho-axe”)) who pretends to have interviewed Howard Hughes and writes an authorized autobiography of him even though it is all a scam. All jokes about the title aside, this is a true story, the man’s name is Clifford Irving and he had the chutzpah of a thousand medieval warriors to do what he did. “It was a different time,” my old man protested, meaning, I suppose, that no one could use the internet to somehow disprove Irving’s wild tale; furthermore, Irving was clearly banking on the hope that Hughes was too far gone in his descent into madness to even be aware that a book had been published. Which, sadly for Irving, turned out not to be the case. I encourage you to watch The Hoax starring Richard Gere as The Hoax/Clifford Irving (“Clifford Irving IS……THE HOAX”) and even more so “F for Fake” by Orson Welles if you are interested in this bananas tale of fraud and tomfoolery. Clifford Irving is still alive and not in jail, which I feel represents a great triumph and he should probably be our president.

Still, it is totally shocking when you think about it, how easy it would be to fabricate somebody’s biography without their consent or knowledge and then pass it off as real. Why doesn’t this happen more often? Why hasn’t someone published a book of interviews with J.D. Salinger or somebody like that? If Salinger protested, I mean, how could he PROVE you had never interviewed him? It’d be his word against yours. Really it seems like it would only take just a bit of forethought (e.g. actually buying some plane tickets and traveling a couple times to Salinger’s town, which ticket stubs you could later produce as evidence that you had visited him).

We started laughing so hard, imagining doing this. Who would we try to profit off of in this way? Salinger would be a good one. It would also be useful if the person were probably dead but unverifiably so, like poor Shelly Miscavige or something, except that would be a stupid move because the cult-that-shall-not-be-named would have you killed. But then we started laughing harder, imagining doing it as an obvious joke–not intending anyone to think it was a real book. Like, not doing any research and just making it up. Ten years ago I think you could have made a million dollars writing such a fake joke biography of Banksy, for example, and it would be great because you know he’d probably think it was funny and wouldn’t sue you; it would just add to the ambiguity and mystery.

We finally settled on David Beckham. Somebody very famous, not reclusive at all, somebody who has given a million interviews that you can easily find on the internet and disprove everything in the book, somebody currently alive and in full possession of his wits, who seems like basically a pretty nice guy, and who would probably not understand the joke. It would be amazing. It’d technically be a novel, but it would never acknowledge itself as such; it would simply be a made-up biography of David Beckham. The cover would be a straightforward photo of him, à la all celebrity memoirs. It would be kind of like “Being John Malkovich” only it would seem to be earnestly non-fiction. But we would do no research whatsoever; we wouldn’t even read his Wikipedia page. The book would obviously be written by someone who knew almost nothing about soccer–we’d use the word “soccer,” for example, even when supposedly directly quoting him and other Brits–and nothing about Beckham’s life. We’d make up dialogue in an awkward British idiom that would have no relation to his actual speech patterns. “I was born in Leeds in 1965. Me mum was a washerwoman and I never knew me da.” The soccer talk would be extremely vague. “I got the ball from my teammate and kicked it down the field. I scored a goal. I scored the most goals of all. My team beat the other team in the big soccer competition.” We also decided the biography would also just be about Beckham’s lifelong desire to be a famous movie actor, and would focus primarily on all the film cameos he’s done; soccer would be sort of secondary, something he did to make money even though it wasn’t his real dream. The book would be called “I, DAVID.”

And we would also include things in the book like “when this book is published, I will deny everything in it. I will insist that the author is a fraud and that I never met them in my life. But you will know, reader, that my denials are themselves false; everything in this book is the absolute truth.”

If you steal our idea I will hunt you down

Yesterday was July the Fourth, one of my least favorite holidays. Actually I am of two minds on most holidays: I hate the concepts most of them are founded upon and yet I enjoy having a day off work and think it is important for society that such days off be enforced by law. July Fourth is no different. I don’t like: hot dogs, America, patriotism, drinking during the day, fireworks, the way fireworks absolutely terrorize dogs and how you have to sit there listening ot every dog in the neighborhood screaming in fear for two hours. And yet, it’s a fun day off and you can go to the river with your friends and all your dogs. And, I do enjoy a parade. So that’s where I’m at, w/r/t July Fourth.

We had big plans for the day, specifically we were being taken to a secret place by our friends about which I have been sworn to secrecy but rest assured it was amazing. It’s an island you can only get to with a boat (in our case, a canoe our friends purchased on the side of the road for $80), and we went there, and there was no one else anywhere near, and it was silent and we sat on a beach idly swimming in the warm lake and listening to bullfrogs and it was simply delightful. Anyway we were late for the meet-up for this event and as we were driving away from our house in a panic we saw that our neighbor two doors down was having a yard sale, and at the yard sale there was a piano! I yelled STOP and we screeched to a halt and ran over there.

I’ve been, as you know, somewhat stressed out by the need to have a piano in my house combined with my unwillingness to pay a lot of money for the privilege. Pianos are a very weird type of object–so far as I know, there are only two options: spend a lot of money on a good one, or spend zero money on a very bad one. The bad ones are more or less fine for my purposes (I shall never be a Yuja Wang nor even a moderately talented amateur, lets be real), yet you still have to pay $400 to somebody to move even a very bad piano, and it feels weird to spend that much money on such a junker. Plus I was balking at the hassle of setting it all up, all the phone calls and negotiations and I knew I’d have to get the mover to come scout out my house before I even hired him because the piano has to go into a kind of awkward space and I wasn’t sure it would work. Anyway, et cetera. SO, as soon as I saw the piano at the yard sale, I thought, this might be the answer to all my prayers! Or anyway my piano-based prayers. I ran over to our neighbor, Scott, who was sitting there tuning it as I approached.
“I’m in the market for a piano!” I yelled at him.
“You are? Well I’m selling one!”
“My only issue is, can it be tuned to concert pitch? I made a mistake with my last piano”
“Well I’m tuning it to concert pitch right now!” and then he went beep beep beep on a little keyboard he was using to tune it and I yelled RIGHT ON
“If I buy it will you help us move it? We live two doors down”
“Oh, the little bungalow? Sure, I can help you move it. I’ve been trying to get rid of it for ages, I’m thrilled you want to buy it.”
“How much do you want for it?”
“I don’t know. Make me an offer.”
“Uh….$200?”
“Well…how about $100?”
“Okay!”

I asked him to come scout the route and measure the inner hallways with me, which he did. While in our house he informed us that he’d done some carpentry work on it before it was sold. He’s a carpenter–comically, also at his yard sale was a table of the EXACT size and dimensions we’ve been looking for for over a year; finally my old man just built one, but now here was a lovely one all ready to go. “Yeah, you can’t find tables with those dimensions so I just built one,” our neighbor said. NO SHIT! He was also selling all these expansion packs for the game Carcassone, and he was also talking about how he’s been recording birds with a microphone in the morning. So basically our neighbor is my husband, it is very very strange. And we’d never met him before!

He scouted the route and said it’d fit. We went back to the piano and found our neighbor Henry there. Henry is very cool and helpful and just likes to know all about what’s going on in the neighborhood–he’s the one who likes to come over when we are doing yard work and offer us gentle suggestions that are somehow compelling yet unobtrusive. Like he’ll watch you hacking away at a log for awhile and then he’ll go “hey, do you wanna try my maul? It might be better, I don’t know…” and then you try it and of course it’s infinitely superior to the way you’d been doing the chore, which obviously Henry knew because he is a rad old new england man who knows how to do this stuff and you are a dipshit west coast city person who hasn’t hacked at a log since 7th grade when you did it poorly and grudgingly because your mom said you had to. Henry’s also the guy who painted a picture of our house and gave it to us! Henry rules–anyway he’d come over to see what we were talking about. “Do you want me to go get my furniture dolly?” he asked. Well yeah, we sure did! He ran off and was back in a second. “I was worried I wouldn’t be able to find it but it was right where I’d left it!” he announced. He and Scott hefted the piano onto the dolly and we all stood looking at it. “Well thanks for the dolly, Henry,” said Scott, “actually I don’t know what we would have done without it,” which was true. At that point our other neighbor Noel, who, like Henry, is cool, retired, profoundly competent (he recently yelled up at my old man who was on the roof trying to fix a leak to JUST CAULK IT, which totally worked) and interested in neighborhood goings-on, came over to see what all the hoo-ra was about, and he also started helping. It became an exciting neighborhood event–people were on their porches waving and cheering as we went past, and Noel’s wife came out and excitedly watched and yelled encouragement. I of course did not help at all and didn’t even offer to help. I could lift probably 0.002% of the piano with my small doll’s arms so I just stayed out of the way and tried not to yell things like BE CAREFUL and DON’T HURT YOURSELF, obviously unhelpful advice. I was so scared one of these nice men would hurt his back moving my stupid piano; so far as I know this did not happen although they probably would have hidden it if it had.

Well those fellas (plus Scott’s teen son, amiably conscripted into service) just rolled that ol’ piano down the sidewalk and hulked it up the steps and muscled it through the door and carried it through the house and wedged it into the hallway in front of my office, at which point it got stuck. A few timid jokes were made about just leaving it there, but then somebody realized they could just lift the whole damn thing up over the baseboards and then it would fit, which it did. They rolled it into my office and against the wall and Scott played a glissando all the way down the keyboard and everyone cheered. Then Henry and Noel just IMMEDIATELY said “well, see ya,” and left. No big deal, just another day moving a piano down the street for no reason! What cool guys! I’m going to bake them miniature blueberry pies today because our blueberries are ripe now. This truly has been a dispatch from Quaint New England, thank you

Anyway now I have a $100 junky old jangly-ass piano that stays marginally in tune which is all I ever wanted. Now I’m going to learn how to tune it myself using YouTube and a guzheng tuning wrench I bought on ebay. What could go wrong???? (cut to: piano falling over and landing on top of me, completely crushing my entire skeleton)

Well that’s about it for me, enjoy your day

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