far too much writing, far too many photos

runswithscissors


Saturday, August 31, 2002

[Continued from last entry]

As I headed down Mass. Ave, approaching Haskell Street, I could feel something internal cranking up, an anticipation of some kind, mostly having to do, I think, with deeply mixed feelings re: moving my life up to northern Vermont at the end of this last year. I've been down this way two other times in the last four months, both times coming into Cambridge via the same route, both times feeling that sense of anticipation on approaching Haskell. On those occasions, I felt a pang of something on actually passing the street -- regret, longing, melancholy. Nearly 20 years of this life passed during my time in Cambridge, enough time to cover several different lifetimes, accumulating history, experiences, good memories. This time on driving by, turning a quick glance down the street's orderly progression of older houses and tree-shaded sidewalks, the anticipation evaporated, sans melancholy, etc. Life's moved along. The passing days feel great, the coming days hold the promise of more of the same.

From that point on, Mass. Ave. becomes more urban, heading into Porter Square, one of the city's main points of transit, stores and restaurants, with a resulting concentration of people and traffic.

The apartment I'm staying in is on Arlington Street, on the southern outskirts of Porter Square. A lovely, comfortable, old-time city apartment in a large, old-time city apartment building, a long brick structure of several stories, long enough that it has two front courtyards, each with an entrance to the building. A kind of edifice I remember from visits to relatives in New York City during my childhood years -- gracious, well-built. A kind of place I wouldn't mind living in.

So. Yesterday morning, I had to get up early to bring my car in for maintenance. I awoke with part of a David Bowie song going through my head, a verse of "Moonage Daydream" from the Ziggy Stardust album, repeating itself over and over:

Keep your 'lectric eye on me, babe
Put your ray gun to my head
Press your space face close to mine, love
Freak out in a moonage daydream, oh yeah!

(Lyrics by David Bowie)

Where did it come from? Why that song, that verse? Who the hell knows?

I drag myself in and out of the shower, I do the shaving bit, pull on some clothes, go out into the morning (blinking with bleariness), find my car -- all the time with Ziggy zipping through my head. I turn on the radio, find WMBR, the M.I.T. student radio station. A song by a band I'm not familiar with is playing, the Bowie fragment in my head gets replaced with:

I don't get no satisfaction,
All I want is easy action,
Yeah!
Hey, hey, hey!

I drop the car off (Yeah!), take a long walk from the Arlington-Somerville line into Davis Square, passing stores and restaurants like:

Divine Signs
Complex Hair Design
Yum Yum -- Chinese Cuisine
Skin Skedaddle -- Skincare Clinic

(Hey, hey, hey!)

According to dictionary.com, BTW, the definition of the word 'skedaddle' is To leave hastily; flee. Would anyone actually trust the care of their skin to an outfit whose name is synonymous with 'skin leave hastily'?

The day begins gray, I go to lunch with a friend down by the waterfront in Boston. I leave there, the sky suddenly clears, the hours pass.

Last night, my friend Woody and I decided to go over to East Cambridge, another working-class section of the city, this one settled by Portuguese. Cambridge Street, the main drag that runs from west to east through the district, features many Portuguese restaurants and bakeries, neither Woody nor myself had ever been to any of them. I lived here nearly 20 years; Woody was born in Cambridge. This shameful gap in our local experience needed to be rectified.

We find a likely-looking place, we sit down, they immediately bring us plates of black olives, feta cheese, bread, other finger food. Three acoustic guitarists play Portuguese numbers. The waitresses are from Brazil and Portugal, all looking like the kind of woman I got used to in Madrid. The woman waiting on us brings me a bottle of Portuguese beer, a good lager, clearly a first cousin to the Spanish beers I became accustomed to having with dinner in Madrid. Two huge salads arrive, followed by large platters of pork, potatos, vegetables. I'm eating, I'm watching the activity around the restaurant, I'm listening to the Portuguese being spoken by various diners. I'm thinking, damn, I'm back on the Iberian peninsula -- no wonder it all feels so good. Woody let me talk about Madrid some, something that -- surprisingly, to me anyway -- most people here don't seem to want to hear much of. I'm thinking I'll be heading back to that amazing city come November or December, I'll stay for a while, as long as I can manage. That's what I'm thinking now, anyway. We'll see what happens as the coming weeks unfold.

Today I'm off to spend the afternoon and evening with friends, one of them a smart, wacky, rebellious character who's fun to hang with. I may not be back online again 'til I'm back in northern Vermont, tomorrow night or Monday. Or whenever.

rws 11:29 AM [+]

Friday, August 30, 2002

Yesterday: I made the drive south to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where I'm staying in the home of friends who are in Provincetown for a couple of weeks. (Yes, they know I'm here. I even have keys, so that I didn't have to crawl in through the laundry room window. A good thing, as that room has no window.) Also staying here: another friend, him occupying the more responsible position of housesitter. So here we are, two males squatting in the lovely home of two absent females (no, we're not snooping through their belongings or going through their underwear), having a kind of small-scale, grown-up pajama party. Except I don't wear pajamas. And we're not jumping up and down on the beds or gossiping about anyone or staying up to all hours carrying on in coltish, carefree ways. After I arrived, we went down Mass. Ave. Boca Grande, where we pigged out on piles of decent, cheap Mexican chow and blabbed about life for an hour or two.

But I get ahead of myself. (Cen one actually do that without rupturing the laws of physics?)

Rain came down in northern Vermont yesterday, a gentle, steady watering of thirsty land that intensified as I headed south. By the time I-89 crossed into New Hampshire, the weather had gotten more serious. By the time I reached Manchester, it had morphed into something wild, the sky opening up, sheets of rain whipping down as I approached Boston, wiping out visibility, forcing traffic on the Interstate to slow down. When I exited the highway, it finally began to let up.

Getting to Cambridge from I-89 takes me along several miles of surface roads, first through Medford (local pronunciation: MEH-fuh), then Somerville (local pronunciation: SUM-uh-vul) and finally Cambridge's northern edge where I turn on to Massachusetts Avenue (local name: Mass. Ave.) and head south toward Porter Square.

It's a strange area, that part of North Cambridge. Once extremely working class, now in transition, the buildings along Mass. Ave. mostly old and tired-looking, the stores and restaurants mostly less than attractive. Billboards, concrete, not many trees. Power lines for the trolleys that run to and from Harvard Square run above the road, ending at a large town lot where the trolleys get parked and repaired. Kind of a bleak-looking area, to my eyes. Few of the buildings stand more than one or two stories tall until a mile or so along where a large Catholic church thrusts itself up. A big structure, with bells (or an amplified recording of bells) that rings on the hour and half-hour -- dark tan, kind of blockish yet with an element of something Moorish in its design. All of which gives it the look of a huge mausoleum.

Beyond the Church is a small row of stores. Immediately beyond them lies Haskell Street, location of my final Cambridge address. Across from that is the Pemberton Garden Center, a long splash of green during the warm season, and Kate's Mystery Books, a Cambridge landmark -- an old Victorian house turned into a book shop that deals only in mysteries, new and used. Some of the windows are painted over with silhouettes of figures in attitudes suitable to mysteries, the front yard is planted profusely with flowers and greenery, just shaggy and wild enough to suggest gentility gone to slightly troubling seed. The bookstore itself occupies most of the first floor and consists almost entirely of floor to ceiling books in lovely old dark-wood shelves. The first time I wandered in, I found it disorienting, unable to put my finger on why until I realized there was no visible office or access to an office. Just books and a small desk where someone sat and did the money thing. Then a section of shelves to the rear of the store swung open and I spotted the office back there. Through a secret passageway -- how cool is that?

But I blabber.

[continued in next entry]

rws 6:30 PM [+]

Tuesday, August 27, 2002

This evening, almost exactly 48 hours after finding myself in attendance for an increasingly heated political, er, discussion [see yesterday’s entry], I went to an event in support of one of the candidates who were the subject of the discussion. Not for the politics, though, I’m afraid. I went because one of my neighbors was doing a reading at the event.

The happening took place in Plainfield, the next town over, in the Town Hall, an understated building situated on Route 2 with the words "Town Hall" emblazoned over the front doors.

Though Plainfield covers a fair amount of real estate, the village itself is modest, much of it spread along Route 2. A small river also slices through the village, parallel to Route 2, pooling up behind a dam of sorts with a small spillway off to one end that permits a stream of water to fall to the rocks below and meander away. The single well-known feature of the town is Goddard College, a small, free-spirited institution that's had an impact way out of proportion with its size and lifespan. An institution that's recently run into hard financial times, has been preparing to close down this autumn, though efforts were still underway in these last months to raise the millions needed to remain in operation. A few days back someone told me that a corner had been turned, that some higher officials were being replaced for paying excessive attention to lining their pockets instead of to keeping the school viable and that the college may actually remain open, but that may be only hearsay.

The reading took place in the Town Hall auditorium. The auditorium, as in town halls found in many New England villages, occupies the second floor of the building, looking like an elementary school auditorium. Stairs rise from the first floor to the second on the room's street side, a small proscenium stage faces the space from the opposite side. The stage curtains were closed, folding chairs had been set up in vague approximations of rows. An armchair and a lit floor lamp sat together on the floor in front of the stage.

When enough people had assembled to constitute a decent showing, my neighbor sat himself in the armchair, spoke briefly in appreciation of the candidate, then read a chapter from a work in progress. It seemed clear that it was a piece in progress -- meaning not polished -- but it was involved, with emotional depths, comic touches and situations complex enough to be satisfying. Complex enough to have me wanting more when the reading stopped.

It's a teeny state, Vermont, just a little bitty place squeezed between northern N.Y., western Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Quebec. Population: 600,000. Burlington, the largest city, sports a population of around 60 thou. Really, just a speck on the map compared with most other states. I don't know if it's because there actually are herds of writers tucked away out in the hills or if it's because the population is so small and the writers maintain a high enough profile that simply seem overabundant, but they do seem to be present in high numbers. An inordinately large amount of writing gets done up here, maybe 'cause there isn't much else to do during long stretches of dark, gray, wintry months. And lots of people read and show up at readings. A nice part of the Vermont picture, that.

My neighbor read for 45 minutes, after which the candidate spoke briefly. And then I was out of there. And when I stepped outside and looked along Route 2 to the west, a band of faint yellow still held above the horizon, bleeding upward into a stretch of melancholy blue which quickly gave way to black. When I got out of the car back here, a sky full of stars shone above, the night air had a chilly edge.

August is rolling downhill to September. It's been dry enough here that in some places leaves are already beginning to turn. How the hell did the summer weeks flash by the way they have?

Oh, never mind.

rws 11:41 PM [+]

Monday, August 26, 2002

At the pot luck, two nights ago: once we'd made it through the foreplay (conversation, badminton, croquet, admiring sunset) to the main event (dinner!), a group of attendees drifted to a picnic table maybe 150 feet from the house, the rest went inside, hovering around the kitchen/dining area. After hanging about the kitchen, I noticed the group at the picnic table, J. and I went out to join them. They were deep into conversation about local politics, an exchange that seemed to be heating up. And though they were all good folks, darker, angrier aspects of their personalities seemed to emerge as they talked, the vibe slipping from that of a late summer's eve dinner party into something nastier, more rancorous.

The debate concerned a race for a seat in the Vermont House of Representatives -- a race in which apparently no Republican is running, so that it's become a battle between a Democrat and a Democrat who has suddenly declared himself an independent. Two people at the table were intensely, vociferously opposed to the independent candidate, one expressing it insistently, the other chiming in now and then in a slightly more refined manner. The others didn't agree, disagreement which began mildly, growing gradually less diplomatic, more forthright, more of a match to the tone being set by the other two.

As the exchange progressed, the table came under siege from the insect world, particularly the local contingent of no-see-ums, who must not have eaten in centuries and were apparently spreading the word that fresh meat -- fresh, noisy meat -- had arrived.

So I'm trying to eat a nice dinner, political bile and microscopic bloodsuckers filling the air around me. Until at some point I realized I was being eaten alive. The speed at which I shoveled food into my mouth increased, the idea being to finish up before fleeing back to the house so I didn't seem unfriendly or boorish to the other attendees (who took no notice of me at all since I'd contributed nothing to the debate), while at the same time I flailed at the host of flying creatures that had begun removing bits of flesh from the exposed parts of my body, until I was putting on an amazing display of high speed food hoovering and self-flagellation. And either no one else was being molested by ravenous bloodsuckers or they were so absorbed in political brawling that the wholesale siphoning of blood from their bodies simply didn't register with their sensory mechanisms, because I seemed to be the only one going a bit wild in a nonverbal way.

Finally, meal finished, I rose from the table murmuring pardon-me's and retreated to the house, J. fleeing with me. The folk in the kitchen showed no surprise that the air outside had been fouled with political matters, though they seemed surprised to hear about the invasion of bloodsuckers. The woman of the house ran outside with citronella candles while I remained safely in the kitchen, shoveling down samples of various desserts.

Politics and political conversations -– as Jack Nicholson once said, I’d rather put needles in my eyes.

rws 10:43 PM [+]

Sunday, August 25, 2002

A brief assessment of some major print outlets, sent by a friend in the Boston area -- I have no comment, preferring simply to inflict it on you:

1. The Wall Street Journal is read by the people who run the country.
2. The New York Times is read by people who think they run the country.
3. The Washington Post is read by people who think they ought to run the country.
4. USA Today is read by people who think they ought to run the country but don't understand the Washington Post.
5. The Los Angeles Times is read by people who wouldn't mind running the country if they could spare the time.
6. The Boston Globe is read by people whose parents used to run the country.
7. The New York Daily News is read by people who aren't too sure who's running the country.
8. The New York Post is read by people who don't care who's running the country as long as they do something scandalous.
9. The San Francisco Chronicle is read by people who aren't sure there is a country or that anyone is running it.
10. The Miami Herald is read by people who want to run another country.

*************

At the potluck here on the hill last night: I told a neighbor about the occasional strange happenings that take place here in the house [see entry of August 14], he mentioned that he had seen several examples of what was called a "ghost clause" (and sometimes a no-ghost clause) -- clauses included in Purchase and Sale agreements of house sales which stated a) that the house being purchased was not haunted, b) that should the house turn out to be haunted, the seller would have to prove he/she had no knowledge of that when they entered into the agreement with the buyer, and c) should the seller be unable to prove that they had no knowledge of said haunting, they would have to pay the buyer the full amount of the purchase price. (I assume that meant the house would also be returned to the seller, ghost and all.) According to my neighbor, ghost clauses were a common element of purchase and sales agreements drawn up in earlier times here in New England, as recently as the mid-1800s. Which doesn't necessarily mean that ghosts or hauntings were widespread. It may indicate more about beliefs, attitudes, superstititions, fears and, by extension, the religious atmosphere of the time more than anything else. We're talking, after all, about the region that produced the Salem witch trials.

The family of this same neighbor had a cat which disappeared about three weeks ago. Another neighbor, Maurice (pronounced Morris) -- 80+ years old and a tough old coot -- mentioned that he saw a fisher cat around recently. They're ferocious predators, fisher cats, and when they appear, small domestic animals have a tendency to disappear. We sometimes forget that we're living in fairly wild country out here, where encounters with foxes, coyotes, deer, moose and bear don't come as a big surprise.

After a gray, cool start, today turned out to be yet another spectacularly beautiful day. No humidity at all, temperatures in the 70s, clouds and sun trading off. Wildflowers are everywhere, the crickets and their brethren have been singing around the clock. They're out there in the cool night air right now, still at it.

I have the feeling this is going to be an excellent night for sleep. Time to go enjoy it.

rws 12:16 PM [+]

Saturday, August 24, 2002

During the invasion by my best friend's clan earlier this week, I noticed that the bathtub seemed to have trouble draining. Suddenly, with no warning, having been fine immediately prior to their visit. Yesterday I step in the shower, turn on the water, discover that it had become completely plugged up. I pull out a plunger, get to work on it -- no results. I finally call a plumber that Kit, the woman who housesat here last year, knew -- no one's there, I leave a message, wondering if I'll ever hear back from the guy. I not only hear from him a couple of hours later, he suggests that I try the plunging routine again after I stuff some rags into the overflow slit in the bathtub, thinking I may be able to build up more pressure that way. It works. He offers me employment. I refuse, thanking him, then ask if he knows an electrician so I can get some work done that's been on a backburner for months and months. He immediately gives me a name. Man, that was easy.

This morning my eyes opened early, something that's been happening a lot lately. Early enough that it's just getting light, the birds just beginning to shout back and forth. I don't know about you, but I'd much rather be unconscious at that hour, so I remain in bed, drifting in and out but not truly asleep. Around 7 a.m. I give up, haul my carcass out from under the sheets. I shuffle into the kitchen/dining area where I see a good-sized doe out in the yard between the barn and the house. Deer have done far too much dining on plants of mine this summer, in particular tomato plants and sunflowers planted near the house. The tomato plants are just now coming back from having been a critter's snackfood producing brand new, tender, bright green foliage and blossoms, so I decide to discourage the doe from coming any closer to the house/plants. I knock on the window, she starts a bit, looking in this direction but not taking off. I go to the kitchen door, open it, swing the storm door open -- the doe gathers itself, bolting out of the yard and down the hill in huge, bounding leaps. There are muscles under that fur, and when they're in use, those animals can cover some ground, powerfully, gracefully.

Shortly after that, I'm sitting here at the dining room table working at the computer. I notice something out of the corner of my eye, also in the yard between the house and barn. I look over, I see a thick cloud of smoke, apparently coming from the house, from maybe 20 feet further along, toward the far end of the structure. I jump up, run through the kitchen, pull open the door, lean outside -- turns out the boiler had come on, sending a mass of smoke out the vent as the boiler's cycle got underway. Why? Good question. A week and a half ago a character from the oil company showed up and did the annual maintenance [see journal entry for August 15]. Everything with the boiler should be A-OK. No sign of trouble since then. No sign of trouble before then either. Just like the tub.

Hmmm.

It's been cool here during the last 48 hours, feeling distinctly autumnlike. The sun's going down earlier, coming up later, the August days sliding more and more rapidly toward September. I went to a potluck tonight up here on the hill, accompanied by J. People were dressed for autumn, a lot of the food seemed to be autumn food -- not that I have anything against turkey and cranberry sauce. I love turkey and cranberry sauce. It just feels like someone's jumping the gun. Autumn will get here quickly enough without us pushing it along.

I found myself talking about Madrid a lot at the potluck, feeling a kind of melancholy that I hope did not seep into my voice. I think about that part of the world, dream about it. I want to go back.

In the meantime, life continues here.

rws 4:59 PM [+]

Thursday, August 22, 2002

Excerpt #4 from a novel in progress (© 2002, 2005 by runswithscissors):


We arrived in Oberlin the next afternoon around 12:30, exiting a four-lane highway onto a two-lane that gave out onto local roads. Thin sunlight shone through high clouds as we drove into town; faint, slanting shadows from telephone poles and bare trees flickered across the windshield.

Faded green lawns. Houses, some older and gracious, some suburban, nondescript. Yards mostly raked clean, with leaves clustered under bushes and shrubbery. Some apartment buildings.

A small Ohio town.

We knew we'd reached Oberlin center when the park appeared ahead to our left, the kind of oversized town square that would be called a common back in Massachusetts -- a few acres of grass, tall old trees, memorial statues, complete with gazebo/bandstand. Nice. Quaint.

Instead of turning left where Edith Ohls said the Inn would be, we continued on ahead and did a circuit around the park, past grand old buildings and large new ones, all apparently part of the college, past stores on the south side, finally arriving at the Inn. The Swift found its way into the small front parking lot and into a space. "We're here," I said, killing the engine.

"Thank God," said my boy, sounding like one whose patience with life had grown prematurely thin. I looked back at him, saw a face wreathed with lines of unhappiness.

We'd gotten up and out in time to have a truck-stop breakfast at exactly the hour everyone else wanted to eat. Colin quickly burned out on peoplewatching -- by the time our food materialized he'd become cranky and taciturn.

On the way back to the car I considered calling Steve again or trying my place to see who picked up, but Colin's mood had remained dark enough that hitting the road seemed like a better idea. Oberlin would have telephones, Colin might be happier by that time. I could call then.

Before long we'd crossed from Pennsylvania into Ohio, where highway signs bore names like Akron, Cincinnati, Cleveland. I played with the radio for a while, finding nothing of interest until a weather announcer started talking about the lake effect and possible flurries.

"What's the lake ‘feck?" Colin asked.

"I think it means they get more snow and rain than they would otherwise because of all the moisture that comes off the lake."

"What lake?" he said, looking around, sounding genuinely puzzled.

That stopped me. Lake Huron? Lake Ontario? Shit. There are five Great Lakes, right? Or is that the finger lakes? "Ehh, er, ahm," I hemmed, "I'm not sure. The lake. Lake Erie maybe." We'd just made it through Pennsylvania, I was pretty sure we'd passed highway signs mentioning Erie, Pennsylvania.

This is why I'd be roadkill on a game show. Ask me a question like Colin's when you actually want the answer, my faculties seize up, squeezing out the informational equivalent of pocket lint and sawdust. But try to get me to quiet down when you'd like some blessed peace, that's when the useless information gushes forth.

Oddly enough, snow began falling lightly right then, descending in sparse swirls, swept before a breeze. "Is that the lake ‘feck?" Colin asked.

"Could be," I answered, masterfully vague.

"But it did this yesterday. Were we near a lake then?"

"Well, we were in the mountains yesterday. The air's colder when you're up in elevation."

"Is the air colder near the lake?"

"Maybe. Lots of moisture, lots of wind. And it's further north."

"Uh-huh." He stared out at the late autumn display, having gotten nothing of substance from me, his attention drifting somewhere internal and sad.

"Hey," I said gently, "what's going on, buddy?"

"Nothing."

"You sure?"

"Yeah." He showed no annoyance at my questions, also showed no pleasure or appreciation. Didn't show much of anything. How the hell do I get on the short list for Father of the Year when I'm half the reason my son's life is in a sinkhole?

We drove in silence after that, getting off the interstate southwest of Cleveland to head south. Sunlight broke through clouds, the sky showing patches of pale blue as the flurries tailed off.

After climbing out of the car in Oberlin, we stood for a moment, me scoping out the environs. A breeze blew, cold and disrespectful, riffling hair, making Colin fidget.

"Let's go, Dad," he mumbled.

I put a hand to his back and gently drew him along with me, moving toward the Inn's entranceway. "Let's go," I agreed. The warm air inside enveloped us comfortably, the woman working the front desk -- Melissa, according to her nametag -- devoted smiling attention to Colin as we checked in, which he enjoyed shyly. During the process, I discovered we'd be paying a paltry $50 a night for a room -- a BAH-gen, as they might say in Cambridge. Melissa, a hefty, mid-height, 20-something bruiser with a nice smile, said we looked tired, and booked us into a room on the third floor where we would supposedly be the sole tenants. The third floor turned out to be the top floor. Three whole floors -- the big city.



[See entries of 5/24/02, 6/15/02, 8/13/02 and 12/28/02 for further excerpts, or use the links located in this page's right-hand column.]

rws 1:43 PM [+]

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Written yesterday, Tuesday, around 4 p.m.:

My friends -– Grey, Maria and their two daughters (Georgiana Rose, 4 years old; Madeline, 1 year 3 months old) -– drove into Montpelier two hours ago, leaving me time to clean partially-chewed children's food off numerous surfaces and reflect on the home invasion that commenced with their arrival 24 hours ago.

I will state right off the bat that, as far as I know, I have in this life produced no kids, in large part due to me having my hands full with my own, er, actuality in my earlier years. The mere thought of trying to raise one or more little souls while my own life wobbled along on shaky legs makes me want to offer profuse, heartfelt thanks to the universe for not putting me in that position. So I'm a stranger to that particular country, the land of parents and kids. Every now and then representatives from that principality come calling and I'm given a glimpse of existence there, after which I find myself wanting to fall on my metaphoric knees to give further thanks. 'Cause I'd be a godawful parent, I think, at least as a full-time gig.

So my guests arrive, my house is suddenly busy with people, strewn with other humans' possessions. Two kids have taken over much of the space. The older child, Georgiana, won't talk to me, won't look at me if I'm looking at her. If she has something to say, she whispers it in a parental ear. If I say something nice to her or ask a question, she maintains a determined stare at some other point in the room or out a window. The younger one, Maddy, is in full force-of-nature mode, motoring around the space tirelessly, pulling on any handle she can find, opening any closed cabinet door, closing any open one, removing any item that catches her eyes from tabletops or storage spaces. She developed a circuit: around the kitchen, investigating whatever caught her eye, then through the dining room, stopping at a cabinet to try to grab two answering machine cassette tapes stored there before anyone could stop her, then to a kleenex box to grab two or three tissues, rub them against her nose, drop them to the floor. After grabbing another tissue or two, she'd continue into the living room to a small fountain I have there, marveling at the water, putting her hands in it and displaying wet fingers to anyone glancing in her direction, a wide open-mouthed grin plastered on chubby-cheeked face. Then over to the stereo cabinet to shut the glass door (which unfortunately needs to be left ajar if the equipment's in use to prevent overheating, since the cabinet has no real ventilation in the rear)(how's that for brilliant design, huh?). A minute or two of smearing her hands all over the glass, studying it closely, then she'd continue deeper into the living room to stuff a used kleenex between the cushions of the couch, maybe stop at the shelves that hold cassette tapes (from the pre-CD era when I actually listened to cassette tapes), grab one or two to take on her travels. Then back into the kitchen door to begin the cycle all over again or down the hall to the bathroom, bedrooms or large rooms at the other end of the house, currently being used for storage, before returning to the kitchen.

Once in a while an adult would disrupt that routine to direct her attention elsewhere, take her outside, change her diapers if necessary. She's a sturdy baby, that Maddy, consuming an impressive quantity of food to maintain her current hefty physique and rigorous level of activity. She's also the first toddler I've ever met who snores.

Meanwhile, Georgie -– beautiful, bright, almost five, reminiscent of my niece at that age (also beautiful and bright) -- had rediscovered a pack of crayons I keep here for visiting young ones, which Maddy quickly noted. Between the two of them, they maintained near-constant possession of the crayons, Georgie generally using them as crayons, Maddy as a combo talisman/worry-bead kind of deal. I'd find crayons scattered around the living space, put them back into their pack, a minute or two later little hands were tossing them under furniture again.

Two full-time jobs, these kids -- sweet, funny, full of developing life, but full-time jobs. My buddy Grey gets up early, works long days away from the house, then returns home to help with the kids. Maria told me he falls asleep reading to Georgie before her bedtime. I can see why.

With all of that, you'd think I'd be glad to have the space back to myself. And I am. At the same time I miss all that life, that energy. When they left earlier today, I guided them through a network of dirt roads to Route 2 where they headed east to New Hampshire. The first thing I noticed upon my return to the house was how quiet it was, how empty it felt.

It's an interesting life, filled with contrasts and seeming contradictions. I would not trade it for anything.

******

An addendum, written today:

When I went to bed last night, I could hear Maddy snoring in the bedroom across from mine. This morning she was up at dawn, running from one end of the house to the other, heavy, rambunctious steps fading into the distance then rushing back, accompanied by wordless sounds of toddler joy. Tonight when I hit the sack the only soundtrack will be cricketsong drifting in the open windows. Right now that's sounding pretty good.

rws 9:48 PM [+]

Monday, August 19, 2002

Last night I drove back from the central part of the state as dusk crept in. I don't have sunset views here at my little fiefdom -- the sun gradually disappears behind trees and the top of the hill, I miss whatever show the last light brings. For that matter, I didn't get to see many sunsets in Madrid -- same story, with brick and concrete replacing trees/hill. When I get the opportunity to see a real display, I soak it up.

Route 89 cuts through a tremendous expanse of beautiful land -- green mountains, long winding valleys, wide vistas. It enters the state at White River Junction, stretching across the Connecticut River, continuing west, gradually curving north and continuing toward that point of the compass until Montpelier where it bends west-northwest again, toward Burlington. I've driven it many, many times, yet it remains fresh and wears many faces, depending on the season, the time of day, the weather.

Yesterday evening, well into the protracted northbound leg of the drive, I came around a long turn where the western sky became visible and found that expanse nearly bisected from west to east by three or four rows of long, narrow clouds. Arranged like parallel strips, but broken, a bit ragged. The sun had dropped behind the hills, the clouds caught the slow final stretch of direct light, and they shone, a brilliant deep pink color, almost flamingo pink. But concentrated, intense, insistent. They shone, nearly electric, though for some reason not casting the kind of glow that colors the land below. Nothing reflected it back, nothing pulled focus from the intensity of their light. Above them, extending off to the east, rising to tremendous heights, stretched thunderheads, slate gray, containing the occasional burst of lightning, the only light that could compete with the clouds.

With time, the clouds paled, the thunderheads loomed larger, flashes of lightning becoming brighter, more distinct.

There's nothing like a spectacular sky at sunset. It's a miracle I managed to stay on the road with all that distraction.

I blabber, I know. I'll stop. Friends just arrived to visit for a day or two -- my best friend, his wife, their two kids. Their 1-1/2 year old daughter Madeline is beginning to dismantle my house, so I should probably go take preventive measures. Wish me luck.

rws 6:40 PM [+]

Sunday, August 18, 2002

Today's activity: a field trip. To east-central Vermont, to visit J. Drove down I-89, got off at exit 1, took local roads through Quechee (home of the Quechee Gorge and hordes of tourists), Windsor (original state capital), through the longest covered bridge I've ever seen to a beautiful national park based around the house and grounds of the sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens. But I'm not going to inflict thoughts about art on you right now. I just want to mention some signs spotted during the drive.

First, a mile or so along a narrow, winding two-lane (the Quechee-Windsor Road) I passed a dirt driveway that appeared to lead to lots more dirt. To one side stood a crooked wooden sign with the following hand-scrawled legend: Grandpa's Gravel Pit -- Now Open.

Two or three miles past that, a dirt road intersected the Quechee-Windsor Road, disappearing quickly into overabundant greenery. According to the street sign on the corner of that intersection -- keeping in mind this is in land-locked Vermont, with nary a lake, pond or puddle in sight -- the name of the road: Ocean View Drive.

Later, in White River Junction, Vermont: the only visible legend painted in huge white block letters on the slanting roof of a store probably catering to tourists: 25000 GIFTS -- WOOLEN WONDERLAND. The name of the store? Got me -- could be 25000 GIFTS. Or WOOLEN WONDERLAND. There were no other visible legends anywhere on the building.

As they used to say in catechism class, it's a mystery.

rws 10:46 PM [+]

Friday, August 16, 2002

Two quick items:

1) A friend pointed out the latest entry in the weblog that Wil Wheaton keeps at his website, in which he describes his experience of finding out that his cameo in the forthcoming Star Trek movie was cut. It's actually a nice piece of writing, and an interesting window into the person and the situation.

Thanks to Kristen for the heads-up on that one.

2) Two brief articles from Seven Days, a weekly alternative newspaper out of Burlington, VT. Both articles appear in the News Quirks column ("Odd, strange, curious and weird but true news items from every corner of the globe") of August 7.

-- In the German town of Aachen, police were called to investigate loud yells coming from a local forest. "We found a 25-year-old man who said walking into the forest at night alone and screaming as loudly as he could was his way of dealing with the stress of everyday life," police representative Paul Kemen said, noting that the man's screams had prompted neighbors to call police three other times. When the man learned he faces a fine of $75, Kemen said, "that stressed him out again, but officers told him not to go [into] the forest this time."

-- When two men at a wedding reception in Columbia Heights, Minnesota, began playfully tossing watermelon rinds, a security officer asked them to stop. The men responded by shouting obscenities at the guard, who called police for help. Officers were greeted "by an uncooperative group that shouted obscenities and refused to leave," according to a police statement, which noted the guests "encroached on the officers, causing the police to fear for their safety." Officers summoned reinforcements, until as many as 40 squad cars from eight police departments had arrived, sending dozens of officers and at least one police dog into the crowd of 100. After restoring order, police arrested the groom's father, Dennis Draack, and either other guests. Newlyweds Jeff Draack and Nacole Blum weren't arrested, but canceled plans for their honeymoon.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I find myself chortling at such news items, then wondering if I should be concerned about that.

"...playfully tossing melon rinds...." -- is that a classic turn of phrase or what?

rws 5:31 PM [+]

Thursday, August 15, 2002

An addendum to yesterday's entry:

Lately, for some reason, I've been talking to various folks about the house and the strange happenings, in part just from the sheer amazement at finding that kind of entertainment taking place in my living space. So it's been in my thoughts.

Yesterday afternoon I'm on the phone with a friend. I'd told them some about what's been happening in the house –- if nothing else, it's a real conversation piece -– and I hear, very suddenly, a noise from downstairs. Sharp and distinct. Loud. Louder than most of the odd noises I hear around this place. Far as I knew, I was alone here, so I immediately headed downstairs to see what was up, telling my friend about it as I went. (God bless cordless phones.) I open the door to the laundry room, I see movement, I could feel my heart rate increase. Someone I don't know is in there. A guy. He turns around, I remember I had a 2 o'clock appointment for the annual furnace maintenance, I see his tool kit, my heart slows down. I'd left the garage door open, when he pulled up the driveway by the garage he walked in and knocked on the inside entryway, which opens into the furnace room. Getting no answer (me being upstairs on the phone), he tried the door, found it open, stepped inside, saw the furnace, started setting up.

Comedy: it's everywhere.

We get to talking, me and the furnace guy. Turns out he was born in this town, has lived in the area his whole life, knew the folks who built this house. Which means he knew the woman who took the header down the stairs and joined the choir invisible. He couldn't remember their last name, I didn't press him. I've learned enough.

************************************

I recently came across some notes made in my last day or two in Madrid and during the trip back.

For instance: at the airport in Madrid the plane was parked way the hell away from the terminal, they loaded us into buses to take us to is. A long, circuitous route, through a tremendous amount of airport traffic -– trucks, buses, miscellaneous funny-looking service vehicles, carts pulling trailers. I stared out the rear window, checking out the scenery. And noticed that several vehicles had been trailing our bus through all the twists and turns it took. The small truck immediately behind us had a teletubby hanging from the rear-view mirror. The purple teletubby. Hanging by its neck.

Madrid's been in my thoughts these last few days. I'm aware I never finished the final entry I wrote from there [see entry of 3 August] -– I intend to pull myself together and dig into that. I'm also going to write up whatever I can decipher of these notes I found. Which means it'll all be showing up here sooner or later.

Be warned.

rws 10:25 PM [+]

Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Well. I am not making the following story up.

During my 20 or so months in Madrid, I had someone housesitting here. A good person, a hyper-conscientious woman named Kit. Capable, consistent, reliable. Not given to flights of fancy. After she'd been in the house about a week, she experienced something many might consider pure nonsense.

The house: long, rectangular -- the kind of building that might be called a raised ranch. At this moment I'm sitting in the top floor at the eastern end of the building, the end containing the main living spaces: the kitchen, the dining room, the living room -- three conjoined rooms more or less arranged in the shape of a U. A hallway begins at the inner corner of the living room, running straight down the center of the house from there, away from the main living spaces toward the building's west end. At the point where the hallway abuts the living room a stairway begins, descending to a landing and the front door. From there a second flight of stairs extends down to the lower level of the house. You don't need to know anything about the lower level just yet.

Back in the upper level, the hallway stretches away from the living room, passing first the bathroom on the left, then two small bedrooms, situated across the hallway from each other. Kit stayed in one of those two bedrooms, the one to the front of the house, facing the amazing view this place has. That's all you need to know about the top floor.

So. About a week into her stay here. Nighttime. Kit's in bed, the light on. Reading, thinking. The house is quiet. Until Kit hears the sound of footsteps ascending the stairs. The bedroom door is six feet or so from the stairs, the footsteps did not sound distant. A second person was in the house, climbing the stairs, approaching the top landing, the hallway, Kit's room.

Kit lived alone here. That night she had locked the outside doors before heading to bed. No one else should have been in the building, no one should have been coming up the stairs.

After a moment of confusion and frightened surprise, Kit got to her feet. The footsteps stopped. She hurried out of the bedroom, turned on the hallway light, turned on the stairway light. No sign of an intruder, no sound of anyone moving, nothing. She may have gone downstairs to check the door to the garage, finding it locked, just as she had left it. She went back upstairs, turned out the lights, got back into bed. The sound of feet ascending the steps began again.

This went on for a while -– she'd get up, the sound would stop; she'd go back to bed, it would start up all over again. Finally, she had a talk with herself -– she knew no one else was in the house, she knew that whatever was going on couldn't hurt her. She managed to settle down, eventually fell asleep. The next day she found no sign of anything out of the ordinary in the house. The next night the footsteps did not return, she never experienced them again. She never told anyone about the experience, including me.

Shortly after my return from Madrid, I lay in bed one morning. Alone in the house, early a.m., all the outside doors locked. Somewhere off in the house -- sounding like it came from downstairs -– a door closed. Not slammed -- closed with a solid, firm impact. I felt it more than heard it, if you know what I mean, the way you can feel when someone walks from one room to another in a lower floor of a house, the way you can hear a door close. Feeling the vibration of it through the floor, through the bed, in addition to the distant sound. My eyes opened -- I lay still, listening. I got up, went downstairs, found the door to the garage locked as I'd left it the night before. The other doors on the lower level –- to the bathroom, the toolroom, the guest room, the large rec. room where the coal stove sits in front of the fireplace -– were all open, exactly as they normally are.

This was early April, still late winter here. No windows were open, no errant breeze was at work anywhere in the house.

Kit stopped by a day or two later to drop off her set of keys. In passing, I told her about the door closing. She stared ahead as I spoke, then shifted her gaze to me, the words tumbling from her mouth, telling me about the footsteps on the stairs. She then said that Mo, my downhill neighbor (a relative term here -- Mo's house sits almost quarter mile away, across the road from the extreme downhill corner of my plot) had mentioned to her one time that someone in this house had fallen down the stairs and been killed. First I'd heard of it. This house is 30 years old, during its three decades it's had several owners. I had no idea who the original owners were, neither did Kit. We puzzled over the story a bit, then dropped it.

Every now and then I hear odd noises in the house. Not the refrigerator, not the furnace, not the water pump, not something outside. Not the house reacting to the long hours of direct sunlight or cooling off at night. Nothing big, nothing threatening or truly creepy. Nothing that feels malignant. Just odd, clear, distinct sounds, every now and then -- the kind of sounds that another person might make, the incidental sounds produced by someone else in one's living space. It gets my attention, makes me wonder.

I stopped in to say a quick hello to Mo and his wife Kay today. Mo's lived in this town his entire life, his family has been here for generations. He and Kay have resided in their small house for most of their nearly 60 years of marriage. I asked him about what he'd told Kit, he confirmed the story: the wife of the first couple to live in this house -- a woman named Mary -- had fallen down the stairs and been killed. I told them about Kit's experience with the footsteps, which came as news -- Kit is much closer with Mo and Kay than with me, but had never mentioned it to them. Maybe because she expected the kind of reaction Kay displayed: disbelief. I told them about the door closing, about the odd sounds I occasionally hear around the place. They laughed nicely at it all and didn't really seem to know what to say, though Kay appeared to find the death that happened here a touch mysterious –- Kay had been in this house once and didn't think the stairs covered enough distance to be lethal in a fall.

So there you have it. I seem to be living in a, er, haunted house. Not a highly active one, not a disruptive one (I've never experienced anything as dramatic as Kit has) -- mostly polite, well-mannered. Inoffensive. But still.

Who knows -– there may be perfectly logical explanations for it all. It's possible. I haven't encountered them yet, but that doesn’t mean they're not out there.

In the meantime, the summer goes on, the days slipping rapidly by. The house feels pretty good in the middle of it all. That's all I care about.

rws 10:52 PM [+]

Tuesday, August 13, 2002

Excerpt #3 from a novel in progress (© 2002, 2006 by runswithscissors):


Evening fell slow and soft, the twilight stretching on, the clouds clearing away as we headed west. The terrain changed from the grand, wide expanses of valleys and mountains to tighter, more condensed ranges, covered with trees, evergreens and bare deciduous softening the outline of rises and crests against the last light of the day. Later on, the ridges spread out, flattening into low, rolling land. Farm country.

Somewhere in there Colin conked out again. I'd been wrestling with a couple of maps to see how we were doing -- always a good idea when driving at high speeds in dim light -- and was surprised to discover how much ground we'd covered. It looked like it might be possible to make it all the way to Oberlin that night. Assuming Colin would stand for that kind of torture. And if he wouldn't, if we slept over in a motel somewhere, Oberlin would be an easy hike from there.

If someone had told me a week earlier that I would soon be fleeing to Ohio in a rented car with my son to pump an elderly woman I'd never met for details re: my long-absent father, I would have advised them to seek drug counseling. Just goes to show. Life has fiction beat hands-down.

The light thinned enough that I had to turn on the Swift's headlights, which spotlit a roadside sign advertising a truck stop. It read (I swear this is real) "Emlenton Truck Stop -- Home of America's Worst Apple Pie." What the hell is up with that? Are people so bored that the prospect of a genuinely wretched slab of pie is something to look forward to? And what do they do to make it so rank?

Sometime after the last daylight had faded, Colin came to. I heard the faint sound of body movement and glanced in the mirror to find him sitting straight up, watching the dark world outside sweep by.

"Hi, buddy," I said.

"Hi," he mumbled.

"How're you doing?"

He raised a hand and rubbed his face. "I have to pee," he said. A tired, unhappy voice.

"Me, too. We'll pull off at the next exit and find somewhere to stop. How's that?"

"Okay." Mumbled, so it came out "Mmkuh."

A few miles up the road, we caught an exit ramp that brought us to a two-lane. A gas station lay a good stone's throw off to our right, the building behind the pumps long and low, the windows empty of signs or products. The pumps were lit up enough to indicate being open for business, but only about half the lights inside the office seemed to be on. A house sat off the near end of the building, one or two windows there illuminated warmly from within. No other dwellings or structures could be seen in any direction.

No brand name on the pumps, no signs of any sort on the canopy overhead. Nothing to indicate amenities, nothing to entice a lingering visit. Just the necessary facilities to vend petrol and take your money. I assumed that last part, since it's the usual arrangement.

I filled the tank, standing out in piercingly clean air, a light breeze clearing away the faint odor of gasoline. Opening my mouth to breathe, a bracing sensation of cold extended most of the way down my windpipe. Winter seemed to have arrived in this part of the country. I had a feeling that if there were sunlight I'd see rows of cornstalk stubble stretching away in the surrounding fields.

When I'd finished with the pump, I went around to Colin's door and waited while he got out and tried to shut the door. A buzzer in the car quietly asked him to try again. "Don't worry about it," I said. "We'll be right out." He ignored me, opening the door then closing it with all his 46 pounds behind it.

I took his hand, we crossed the short stretch of blacktop to the building, stepping into a small foyer. The place looked like it might have once been an old-style service station. The original garage area had become the convenience shop where a young 20ish woman slouched behind the register talking on a phone. The foyer must have once been the office, but apart from the remaining architectural basics, no tokens of the earlier gas station remained. Just a white wall to the rear with restroom doors. Near-featureless austerity, like a petrol-pumping monastery.

Stepping into the lavatory, on the other hand, was a return to an earlier time, from the tiles on the floor and walls to the urinal, sink and fixtures. All the way to the condom dispensers mounted on the toilet partition. Two of them, looking to be classics from the 50's or early 60's, with what appeared to be the original text and illustrations. It was the pictures that caught Colin's eye. The first: a man and woman in coital embrace, sitting up, the woman facing us voyeuristic pigdogs, clearly experiencing intense, almost painful transports of sexual whoopa-whoopa. "New and exciting!" the text read. "Arouse her animal passion with Savage Ecstasy Textured Condoms! Raised ridges!" The neighboring dispenser sported a lurid illustration of what appeared to be a giant, pink blimp fitted out with two alarming sets of long, stiff whisker-like protrusions angled dangerously forward like pink lances. "Original French Tickler!" the text read in large, overexcited letters. "You've heard about them! Here they are! The real thing -- not a gimmick!"

"Dad, what's that?" Colin asked, staring in rapt, startled concentration.

"What's what, Col?" Me pretending to be preoccupied at the urinal, hoping my boy's attention would move to his own bodily functions.

"That up there. What is that? Is that man and woman having sex?"
"'Are' they, Colin. When it's more than one person, you say 'are', not 'is.'"

He refused to be diverted. "Is that what they're doing? Having sex?" So much for the modesty and propriety of the heartland. Sex education never sleeps in western Pennsylvania.

"Yes, Col, that's what they're doing."

"Why is that up there? Do women use this room, too?"

"No, this is just for guys. The women's room is next door."

"Are they making a baby?"

That stopped me. In part because I'd never heard him ask that question before, but also because he'd belonged to the realm of babydom not so long ago. "Well, no," I answered after gathering what wits were on hand, "not if they're using a condom. That's what that machine is selling."

His turn to pause. He stared at the machine, then spoke in a different tone, working hard to put concepts together. "What's a connom?"

I remembered right then that we'd come into the men's wankhole without paying for the fill-up. Whoops. "Col," I said, finishing at the urinal, "I have to go pay for the gas. Go to the toilet, okay?"

"Okay." Still staring, frowning slightly as he tried to make sense of this unexpected batch of input.

"Col," I said, pushing him gently into the toilet stall, "let's go." He closed the door without saying anything, I hurried out to the main room of the store.

The young woman behind the counter still had the phone plugged into her ear, a half-smile on her face. "Yeah," she murmured, "but he don't give a damn about her. He just wants to...." Her eyes fastened on me as I pulled up. "Hold on," she told whoever and set the phone down, looking at a pump read-out. "$9.50," she said. I handed over a ten. She diddled the register, the cash drawer opened, she slipped the bill in, gave me two quarters in change. I said, "Thanks," she said, "You're welcome," then picked up the phone. "You there?" she asked. "Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Yeah."

Colin hadn't emerged from the men's funworld yet. I paced a small, leisurely circle, scanning the store area. A couple of shelves held loaves of bread (white), a few boxes of breakfast cereal (corn flakes, sugar frosted flakes, chocolate sugar bombs), ketchup, mustard, Karo syrup, a pile of snack cakes. The cooler had some milk, some soda, a container of so-orange-it-must-be-radioactive juice drink. Someone's idea of the basics, I guess. All other surfaces lay stark and empty. No car-care accessories, no papers or magazines.

Colin appeared, blinking into the light of the store as if he'd just woken up. I went to him, taking his hand. "Let's go, buddy," I said, gently moving him with me toward the door.

"Excuse me," the young woman called from behind us. We turned. "A couple of our kittens are under your car." I stared, uncomprehending, then looked out at the Swift. Sure enough, a kitten sat crouched in front of the near rear wheel, another little head poking out from behind the first, both of them maybe four, five months old. I looked back at the woman. "Just be careful is all," the woman said.

"Okay," I said, turning Colin around and heading back out into the brisk Pennsylvania night.

"Look, Dad," Colin said, pointing at the kittens, who stared at us from under the car. I released his hand, he moved quickly toward them. They immediately disappeared under the car, reappearing a second later from beneath the rear as if shot by a tiny cannon. Clearly wanting nothing to do with us. They stopped a short distance away, one staring back at father and son, the other sniffing around in another direction for a moment, then turning and jumping on its companion. A moment of hyperactive roughhousing, then they burst apart, running a few steps in different directions before stopping to watch me and my boy. I went to the car, opened Colin's door.

"Let's go, buddy," I told him. He reluctantly got into the Swift, peering back around toward the kittens after I'd closed the door. I glanced over at the teeny felines as I went around the car, found them still observing me. They watched my feet move, their heads bobbing slightly as I walked. Not very smart, kittens, but they pack a lot of entertainment value.

Back in the car, I pulled out maps and opened them to read by the lights above the pumps. Time to figure out how much more roadwork Colin would put up with and make a plan.

"Okay," I said, turning back toward Colin, holding a map so he could see the layout, "here's the poop." He gave a glance of disapproval at my descent into scatology, then looked down where I pointed. "We're here, I think. Pretty much out in the middle of nowhere." My finger circled around the exit on the interstate we'd gotten off at. "It'll probably take two more hours to get to Ohio, then another two to three hours to get to Oberlin."

"Why are we going there again?"

"To talk with that woman I told you about at lunch. Remember?"

A mumbled "Uh-huh."

"What do you think? You probably don't want to go all the way there tonight, do you?" He shook his head. "How hungry are you?"

"I don't know."

I retrieved one of the water bottles from the floor. "Want some of this?" He nodded, I handed it off, he tipped it up to his lips and drank. When he'd finished and had the bottle positioned on the seat between his knees, I said, "How about this: we'll go for a while more, then we'll find a place to stay for the night and track down a meal somewhere. That sound all right to you?" He nodded, stretching around to try and spot the cats. They weren't in sight, I got out to make sure they weren't under the car again. They were, and flew out from under the rear bumper when my feet hit the ground, streaking off together to disappear into the darkness around the corner of the house. I got back into the car to find Colin's face pressed against the passenger's side window, staring after the kittens. "They're gone," I said.

"I know," he responded, belting himself in. A minute later, we were rolling back onto the interstate, headlights extending out ahead to create a pool of illumination that slid along the road before us, diffusing up into the dark air. Cars went by in the left-hand lane, all with Pennsylvania plates, probably on the way home from work.

Life in the Swift quieted down again. Colin sat silently in the back seat, looking off into the dark countryside, lights from the occasional house sliding by. Thinking about god knows what -- family weirdness, couples coupling, kittens he could be petting.

My thoughts returned to Sheila.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

[See entries of 5/24/02, 6/15/02, 8/22/02 and 12/28/02 for further excerpts, or use the links in this page's right-hand column.]

rws 8:42 AM [+]

Monday, August 12, 2002

I've been sleeping restlessly since my return from Madrid. Why? Good question. Not sure. But I found myself awake at 3:30 this a.m., and after as spirited an internal debate as I could muster at that godawful hour re: getting up to check out the Perseid Meteor Shower, I finally surrendered, hauling myself out of bed, managing to find my groggy way to a window on the north side of the house. There's been morning fog here most of this summer, this morning was no exception -- stars shone above, but everything more than halfway down the dome of the sky remained obscured by mist. So that the two or three shooting stars I witnessed were brief, unspectacular, underwhelming. Bugger.

Meanwhile, the weather here these last few days has been hot -- low 90's each day, made liveable by the temperature's immediately droop to more humane levels when the evening sun drifts down behind the trees. Hot days, cool nights -- a combo I can live with. Today the heat brought humidity with it, intense enough to render the air hazy, the haze dense enough that any hopes I had of spying some earthgrazers this evening are shot. Buggerbugger.

The only other time I've ever tried to get an eyeful of the Perseids: several years back, also in Vermont, during a ten or twelve day stretch when I housesat at a place out in the middle of nowhere. The house sat on a dirt road way the hell off in the hills and hollows west of Thetford, hidden from the road by foliage, the property in a natural bowl, completely sheltered from outside eyes. An interesting place: belonging to a family with something like seven kids, three cats, a dog, a sable, a rabbit, a turtle and a good-sized trout pond stocked with rainbow trout growing more ravenous by the day ('cause I couldn't find anything to feed the poor buggers except bread). A long deck flanked the morning side of the house, providing a fine spot to hoover down a leisurely breakfast, maybe soak up some pre-noontime rays, taking a moment now and then to commune with Albert, the family dog, who generally flopped by an occupied chair, knowing that the chair's occupant would scratch his belly and tell him what a good boy he was. (And he was.) Gardens flanked the deck, well planted with flowers that attracted hummingbirds which the smallest of the three cats attempted unsuccessfully to catch.

A stream cut through the middle of the property, parallel to the house, providing a constant background soundtrack of water running over gently-descending rocks. Trees lined either side of the stream and a bridge arched over it about midway along its transit through the property, providing numerous spots to pass afternoon hours with a book.

The trout pond came equipped with two huge inner tubes, suitable for carrying human bodies around the pond, hands, feet and butt in the water. The trout (being ravenous) developed a tendency to nip at fingers and toes in the hope they might be edible, ensuring one wouldn't doze more than a few minutes at a shot.

A beautiful place. An excellent spot to get in touch with one's inner lazy bastard.

My brother and sister-in-law showed up at one point and, this being mid-August, my brother and I talked each other into getting up at an unspeakable hour to take a gander at the Perseids. Which we did. And we saw some. But the night was cold (not unusual in August), the mosquitoes -– undeterred by the temperature -– attacked every square inch of my exposed flesh, and I was enjoying the nights of that portion of my stay less 'cause I'd voluntary decamped from the master bedroom to allow my brother and sister-in-law the use of the house's only truly sizeable bed, relegating me to small, uncomfortable teenager's rooms, strewn with clothing, CDs and miscellaneous stuff. (The bed I finally settled in -- crammed into a cubbyhole small enough that I couldn't straighten my body out -- had a large poster hanging over it, a big, ugly, dayglo-colored thing that read "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil 'CAUSE I AM THE BIGGEST SON-OF-A-BITCH IN THE VALLEY!") And the simple truth is I'd rather be asleep at 3 or 4 a.m. So I didn't enjoy the display the way I might have if someone had been considerate enough to schedule it at 9 or 9:30 p.m.

But that was then. This is now. I'll give the meteor shower another shot. I'm sure it will be worth the suffering effort. Easily, without a doubt. (Isn't there some way to videotape the damn thing? Oh, never mind.)

rws 9:07 PM [+]

Saturday, August 10, 2002

I am living about as idyllic a life as my teeny brain could imagine. Up in the Vermont mountains, summer at its peak. The days mostly sunlit, usually with at least a slight breeze, cicadas droning in the trees during the warmer hours. Out behind the house the yard rolls off toward the barn, then to the line of trees and undergrowth beyond which mark the property line. Bright red raspberries have come into their time in that undergrowth, so that any trip in that direction brings an opportunity to pick a few, toss them in my mouth one at a time. In front of the house, the yard gives way to the downslope of the hill, covered thickly with foliage and wildflowers, providing cover for critters. Off the near end of the house, the east end, stands a windbreak, a line of 11 or so fir trees -- a major hangout for birds during the course of the day. Off the far end of the house is the driveway, a 150 or so foot track that leads to the town road and the forest beyond. Insect sounds rise from the grass all around the house, my soundtrack of choice as summer leans gradually toward the days when nighttime temperatures begin to fall and leaves turn.

A little over a week ago, I mentioned here that the crickets had disappeared during my two weeks in Madrid, leaving the place eerily silent, apart from a few other insects singing quietly to themselves in the grass. Yesterday I heard my first cricket since my return eleven days ago, and have heard more since. Which led to a theory re: what happened: 2+ acres of grass gets cut here –- a lot of mowing for one person, several hours worth of work. I usually break it down into sections, which means anywhere from an hour to an hour a half of work for a few days in a row. The grass is usually dense with insect life, the mowing tends to wipe out enough of it to leave it quiet for a day or two, until bugs from other sections of lawn filter in and their sounds gradually reach the pre-slaughter level. A housesitter stayed here during my absence, a conscientious, hard-working woman named Kit. Kit mentioned that she did all the cutting in one day, meaning she singlehandedly wiped out all the lawn critters, leaving behind no crickets to carry on the usual singing, no grasshoppers leaping to get out of the way as I walked through the yard, no nothing. It's taken this long for enough critters to filter back in to get the soundtrack going again.

Mystery solved.

I thought about all that as I walked out to the road for the mail earlier. The Town recently re-graveled/graded the road, leaving a few sizeable rocks off to the side which I've been thinking of collecting and using around a flower bed. I leaned over to heft one of them, a big bugger, see if I felt like lugging it back to the house -- tipping it up revealed a toad crouched in a depression underneath, blinking up at me in the sudden light. I put the rock softly back down, continued on my way.

Yesterday morning: don't know what came over me –- got up and went out to a yard sale. During the warm season here they're everywhere, like dandelions, many running for two days. I saw an ad in the local weekly ad-rag for a several family 'do a ten-minute drive from here, found myself seized with the impulse to go. At 9 o'clock, I parked my car on a country road amid a cars lined up on either side of the lane, got out, followed the sound of the frenzy. What had been billed as a "lawn sale" had actually been crammed into a garage, which meant the crowd of vultures who showed up to pillage and loot shuffled stiffly around, packed tightly together into not much space, brushing crankily against each other as they cast a cold eye over the pickings and pawed through tables of dreck. Within fifteen minutes, most anything of any worth had been hoovered up by hot little hands. Me, I managed to grab a Nils Lofgren CD, a sturdy pair of shorts and a good-sized chunk of rose quartz (don't ask me why re: the quartz -– one more example of impulse buying). The total: $1.50. Not bad, but worth racing out first thing in the morning? Hmmm.

Later in the day, I happened to glance out the living room window where I spied a hawk -- a big one, probably a red-winged -- a few hundred feet away, at just about the level of the window, circling lazily in the air currents above the valley that channels Route 14 north and south. As I watched, it slowly gained elevation, moving gradually toward the house.

A couple of summers back, a sharp-shinned hawk made its home in the one of the taller trees that define the uphill property line here, nesting about as far away from the house as the red-winged hawk was when I first spotted it. That sharp-shinned hawk was a voracious bugger, a fierce hunter that homed in on the songbirds which hung out in the windbreak off this end of the house, little colorful critters used to hanging out here due to the bird feeders that get put out from September through May. Within a couple of weeks the hawk had killed or driven away most of them, leaving a strange silence in their place. (That goddamn silence again!) I began a campaign of driving it off whenever I found it flying around the house, throwing open a window or stepping outside to make loud noise, and in all of that I discovered that the one sound which really seemed to have an effect was a sharp handclap, done twice, a second or two apart. Done right, it sounds enough like a gunshot that the sharp-shinned hawk immediately bolted.

It showed up again this last May, I took to bothering it any time I saw it so that it quickly made up its mind to head off to a friendlier neighborhood. As I stood outside yesterday, watching the red-winged hawk circling slowly above the house, I began the hand-clap thing, producing two of them, over and over. That predator was too big and too bad to display any nerves, too cool, too, er, unflappable to give any sign that the jerk standing outside the house below bothered it. But as I persisted with the handclaps, it altered its course, coming out of the circles and gliding slowly off to the west, disappearing over the trees on that part of the hill and out of sight.

After that the day slowly clouded up, remaining overcast during the night, wiping out any possibility of getting a gander at the meteor shower. The characters at the National Weather Service claim tonight will be a good night to take in the show -- clear, mild, no moonlight to speak of. I may pull my little bod out bed and check it out. We'll see.

rws 4:36 PM [+]

Friday, August 09, 2002

Hey, I just realized this journal had its one-year anniversary five days ago. For over a year now, I've been boring the bejesus out of a select group of blog surfers with far too much writing. Woo-hoo!

This misbegotten bugger began in Madrid. It's currently being written in northern Vermont. I'll be mighty curious to see where I am a year from now.

*************************

Went into Montpelier last night for a movie, returned home after dark. There are few houses out here, and none nearby. It gets truly dark, especially with the new moon, like last night. Stars filled the sky, the milky way in the middle of it all, stretching from the northeast to the southwest. There's nothing like that kind of nighttime display.

Tonight the Perseid Meteor Shower begins cranking up. Recent nights here have been cool, almost cold. Crisp, clear, even a bit autumnal. I may have to drag my little body outside in the early hours to check out the show.

Or maybe not. We'll see how I feel come the wee hours.

rws 10:01 PM [+]

Thursday, August 08, 2002

[continued from previous entry]

We opened our lawn chairs, settled down to eat. People of all ages streamed in, mostly families, the elders looking like folks who might have attended a happening like this in the late 60s. Blankets were spread out on grassy ground, lawn chairs set up, coolers and picnic hampers opened. Sounds of conversation all around.

The performance began when monster loudspeakers lurking in the woods behind us commenced blasting music, blasting which continued for the next 90 or so minutes. The play, it developed, had no dialogue. The company acted out archetypical scenes having to do with immigration to this continent -– the thrust of the piece was what the program called 'the immigration crisis' –- the music provided the backdrop for it all.

What I'll say about the piece is this: a) the performers worked hard, exerting themselves physically in one way or another just about the entire time; b) the cast included a number of kids, one of whom looked to be about three years old -– they did a great job, maintaining focus and working hard through some complicated staging (the three-year-old was adorable); c) great soundtrack –- with the exception of one or two numbers, I'd love to have it on CD.

At the end, the entire audience got politely herded through the woods behind us to a small lake where a shell of a boat, containing a few candles, drifted slowly across the water. It slowed, drifted to a halt about halfway across. A bullfrog somewhere along the shore broke the silence with a loud, impolite sound or two. The cast, a quarter of the way around the lake from the audience, bowed. End of show.

Hmmm.

There were no lights set up around the clearing where the performance took place, so it had to be finished before darkness fell. Between the clouds, the remaining sunlight and the blue, blue heavens, the sky remained a spectacular distraction during the entire show, to the point where I often found myself with my head back, staring at it. Sizeable dragonflies put on a display throughout the proceedings, flying back and forth above the crowd, occasionally descending to make a leisurely, nonthreatening pass several feet above our heads. Nature, at times, upstaged the performance pretty effectively.

So there you have it. Vermonters carrying on in the name of art.

***********************

I subjected myself to a haircut today. Given the mass of hair that had collected on my head, the time for shearing had clearly arrived. My 'cutter is the woman who owns Acme Hair in Montpelier. As genuine and irreverent a character as you will ever stumble across. In her late 50s, sections of her hair dyed pink and orange, with a loud voice that frequently breaks into laughter. Her shop can be found on the second floor of a building on State Street, a mere two blocks from the State House -- in a bowl hanging outside her door she keeps candy and prophylactics, both male and female, free for the taking. Inside the door, more prophylactics, along with leaflets about AIDS. Around the shop: a few hand-drawn signs ("SORRY ABOUT THE PRICE INCREASE -- PLEASE DON'T GUILT ME! IT'S THE COST OF DOING BUSINESS!"), a few shelves of hair products (heavy on the hair dye), loads of tchotchkes and photos, including a signed Bill Clinton photo and a bunch of Marilyn Monroe pix clustered together in one corner. And her big cuddly black doggie.

She says she's been dealing with physical problems, has decided to sell the business, and is actively looking for a buyer. Next March, she heads across the country to her town of origin, a small burg in the San Joaquin Valley in California, to take care of her 91-year-old mother in the family house. The house is paid for, she'll have disability income and won't have to work. This, she said, will leave her plenty of time to (a) take care of her mother and (b) give away prophylactics and clean needles.

Montpelier is going to lose some serious local color when this woman takes off.

And the haircut? Turned out pretty well. Short. Real short. That'll change -- my hair grows like a house afire. (Now there's a saying that make no sense at all.)

*********************

A bumper sticker seen in Montpelier:
THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE AREN'T THINGS

Hmmmm.

rws 5:26 PM [+]

Tuesday, August 06, 2002

Today: one of those days when I was up and out early, didn't get back to the house till mid-afternoon, and once here found my body didn't want to run around or do anything that felt even vaguely like work.

Saw a half-rainbow during the drive into Montpelier this morning -– so vivid it seemed unreal. By the time I'd turned onto another road, it had become a complete rainbow, a long, low arc, shining against drifting gray clouds. Rainbows tend to be commercially overdone, I think -- sentimentalized, overused. And there's a reason for that, for the overuse, for the way they show up on all sorts of banal inspirational products: because the real things are amazing. The colors in this one were brilliant, almost luminescent, and when I began the descent into town, this phenomenon of moisture and light stretched across the entire downtown, from the small valley on the south side which follows the gentle winding of the Winooski River over to the north side and the houses that trail Rt. 12 out of the village toward the Worcester Mountains.

Clouds and sun traded off until early afternoon. Since then the day has been mostly gray. Once in a while, light rain, almost mist, passing briefly through. Low, dark clouds brush the mountains as they blow across the valley from west to east. Now and then bits of blue sky peek through. As I write this, the sky to one side of the house is gray, featureless, extending over the house itself so that rain is falling outside of every window. Off to the other side, where the valley extends to the north and winds out of view, blue sky and high white clouds stretch from west to east, the clouds above the house breaking into dark tatters and trailing off.

I've been hanging out with a nice woman lately (J.). Two nights ago I found myself down in central Vermont, sitting with her in lawn chairs, a couple of hundred of people ranged around us on blankets or in folding chairs, everyone's attention on a goofy, earnest, well-intentioned political screed in the guise of an outdoor theatre production.

The Bread and Puppet Theater used to host a similar event every August on their land up in Glover, VT. Freaks, hippies, lefties of all stripes, Vermont families (with kids, picnic baskets, lawn chairs), and large numbers of unclassifiable weirdos came from all over for the do, which lasted Saturday through Sunday, I think, usually climaxing in a procession and performance in the wonderfully, bizarrely creative and grandiose Bread and Puppet style. Meaning comedy, darker ramblings, puppets (from small and manageable to the enormous), oversized masks, mysterious/cryptic passages, politicized allegories, music -- all tossed into a blender, then staged with energy and visual flair.

The event of two evenings ago wasn't quite up to that. In a way, it's unfair for me to pass any kind of judgment on it in that I tend to have little interest in political spews these days, from any part of the political spectrum. On the other hand, I put in many years working in the theatre biz -– both acting and writing, actually making my living at it during some stretches -– so I can't help noticing production pluses/minuses.

J. and I hooked up in the town of Norwich. I left my car in a parking lot, we drove to the event in her Jeep, down winding Vermont roads through beautiful country (country more genteel, less wild than my part of the state, the kind of land Frodo Baggins might feel at home in), the roads becoming progressively narrower, changing from asphalt to dirt, until we finally turned into a field being used as a parking lot. From there, we followed a grassy path that gave out onto acres of rolling land, a natural, sprawling bowl whose sides angled gently up to the enclosing pine woods -- thick stands of old, stately trees that stretched up into a blue evening sky across which feathery mares'-tails clouds drifted.

[continued in next entry]

rws 7:54 PM [+]

Monday, August 05, 2002

It has been extremely, almost extravagantly beautiful here since my return from Madrid. Vermont is at its finest -– in my humble, ignorant opinion -– from July through October. I would expand that to include May and June except for the whole blackfly thing, which impacts life in surprisingly concrete ways. The joy of being able to walk outside into ideal weather, in some of the most beautiful country on this planet of ours, free of teeny winged bloodsuckers, is almost beyond my ability to describe. Deep. Transcendent.

The nutbags at the weather service have been claiming there's a real possibility of rain this afternoon, so I dragged myself out at a reasonable morning hour and cut the grass on a section of land I refer to as the UFO Landing Pad -– a flat, circular expanse slightly down the hill from the house, maybe 30 feet out from the northeast corner of the building, overlooking the valley as it stretches away in both directions. During the warm season here, insects spring to life with a concentrated overabundance that is nothing short of awe-inspiring. Unless one doesn't care to have spiders and teensy flying critters finding their relentless way into one's living space, in which case it's annoying or unnerving. But they're everywhere, and the lawn is densely populated with noisemakers of all kinds, flying and hopping in every direction as one disturbs their little lives with human footsteps. Pushing a lawn mower through that produces a scrambling of little critters trying to get out of death's way that reminds me of certain shots from the original Godzilla movies, the ones when the big lizard is taking a stroll through downtown Tokyo and the camera has assumed God-Z's point of view, looking down at the running masses in the street trying wildly to get out of the way of big oversized dinosaur feet. Over ponderous, menacing soundtrack music and Godzilla's overstimulated roaring can be heard the screaming of tiny voices, going, "Augh!! Godzillaaaa!! Godzillaaaaaa!!!" I look down at the crickets, grasshoppers, etc., streaming off in every direction from the advancing Mower of Death, I swear I can just about those same tiny voices crying, "Aiiieeee!!! Godzillaaaaa!!"

And speaking of crickets: if you've read this journal's entries from the past week, you may remember that during my first day or two back, a mysterious silence reigned here, as if the locals were all stunned at my return. Speechless or grieving or expressing pouting disapproval. Far fewer birds than normal spouted off, virtually no insect song rose from the grass. Everything quiet save the occasional breeze in the trees. Normally, at this point in the summer, the insect noise has grown from soft and intermittent to a continuous stream of sound with the conversation of crickets riding atop all of it in an intense, chiming blizzard of back-and-forth chirping. That's what it's usually like. And right now? Not much of anything. Oh, there's been some recovery –- other insects have filled in some of the vacuum, mostly critters that make soft chirring and whirring sounds, a kind of gentle, ongoing late summer noise I like. But no cricket music.

The thing is: I know they're out there. I've seen them during the past week, especially this morning, as I pushed the lawn mower around. They were in there among the hordes fleeing the Blade of Doom, crickets of all sizes, lots of 'em, from teeny buggers to big, fat suckers. So why aren't they making any noise?

Also missing when I got back from Madrid: the robins, a group who had been here in pushy, joyful abundance when I left on July 14th. My little hilltop fiefdom includes 2+ acres of mown lawn, and at any given daylight hour, several robins could be seen hunting amid the short grass. During my first couple of days back: none. Not one. A couple of days ago two showed up, now and then I hear one or another of 'em sounding off. But nothing like before.

This is normal for the end of August. Not for the beginning.

Hmmm.

Meanwhile, yesterday morning I stumbled outside to discover that someone, during the nighttime or early morning hours, had made a meal of most of my tomato plants, sucking down every single green tomato and about half of the branches and foliage. Leaving me eight sad, stalky survivors of a brutal vegetarian feeding frenzy, drooping against their tomato rings in stunned disarray, half their previous size. And -- as the Ronco refrain goes -- that's not all: two of the three sunflowers I'd planted beside the tomato plants also got hoovered down. The only thing that saved the third was that its blossom had already turned brown.

The perpetrator? Could have been a groundhog -- there are two or three of them that maintain summer homes around the house). Could have been deer -- the gluttonous buggers pass through the yard on a fairly regular basis. When I first moved here and planted some young, diminutive maple seedlings in the stretch of ground between the house and the gravel road, each successive morning revealed fewer and fewer leaves remaining due to critter grazing. Until I enclosed the seedlings with chicken wire.

I situated the tomato plants and sunflowers right near the house, just 12 or 15 feet away from the building itself, not far from the kitchen door, a place that sees a lot of human activity. Working on the assumption, I think, that proximity to people would discourage critters from chowing down.

Silly me. Now I know.

*****************************

Note: Any further additions to the entry-in-progress of two days ago (3 August) will go into that day's entry until the bugger is complete. And then it'll all remain there, pretending that I wrote the entire thing in one sitting.

rws 4:11 PM [+]

Sunday, August 04, 2002

Following is the text from this week's "Life In Hell," a weekly comic strip by Matt Groening (© 2002 by Matt Groening)

He: Would you please kiss me?

She: Say please.

He: Please.

She: Say pretty please.

He: Pretty please.

She: Say pretty please with sugar on it.

He: Pretty please with sugar on it.

She: Say pretty please with sugar on it and a cherry on top.

He: Pretty please with sugar on it and a cherry on top.

She: Now jump through this hoop. (He does so.) Now sit up and beg.

He: (On his knees:) I'm begging you.

She: I can't kiss you now because for some reason I no longer respect you. But here's a treat.

(She tosses him a bit of dog kibble, he gobbles it down.)

He: Mmm! Beef-flavored!

******

Should I be worried that that's been cracking me up?

rws 8:02 AM [+]

Saturday, August 03, 2002

[continuation of yesterday's entry:]

"So. Class. Bank. Then returned home to dump school stuff, cram a swim suit/towel into a bag and flit off to rendezvous with my landlords, who had offered to take me to their club. The plan: I was to catch the Metro out to a station southwest of the city center where one or both of them would pick me up, the afternoon would proceed from there. From my building, I made the hike to la Calle de Fuencarral, one of Chueca's main drags -– the more touristy of the two main drags -– then down Fuencarral past the Municipal Museum to the Metro, where I headed well down into the Earth's crust to catch the subway line I needed, one extending well southwest of the center.

"Part of the reality of Madrid, at least in the two years I've been lurking within the city limits, is that it's growing at an unnerving rate, meaning construction everywhere, aboveground and underground. In this case it meant (I discovered) that due to work being done on this Metro line, the train ride terminated two stops short of where I needed to go. A shuttle bus took over from there.

"One or two statios short of the transfer point, the line abruptly burst aboveground, bringing scenery to contemplate -– dusty green trees; brown, parched grass; hard, brilliant Iberian sunlight. Now and then buildings or a view of a road. At the termination point, all passengers poured out of the train, walked through the station to the street, poured into a shuttle bus, which took us to the remaining stations. After which I found myself standing on the sidewalk by Campamiento, the station final station on my ride. My landlords (Pat and John) waited, I crawled into the back seat of their small car, we headed further west."

[this entry in progress -- more to come]

rws 6:26 PM [+]

Friday, August 02, 2002

Hot, muggy weather arrived yesterday morning, I've been intermittently worthless since then. Unshaven, ragged-looking, hair pointing every which way. Mighty unattractive. (And I give thanks that there aren't mirrors scattered around the house so that I'm not continually catching glimpses of me, 'cause the unnerving, eye-widening moments when I do result in an urge to shriek.) I've gone from a dynamic environment of sound, movement, energy, abundant diversion to, er, where I am -- out in the middle of beautiful nowhere. Why do I get the feeling this may not work?

'Course I could be jumping the gun. I just need more three-dimensional human interaction than I'm getting right now. Luckily there are one or two possibilities for socializing coming up this weekend, and possible connecting via telephone. Maybe that'll fill the bill. Yeah.

A week ago at this time I was in my piso in Madrid (keeping in mind the six-hour time difference), the TV spewing Spanish in the background as I gradually pointed myself in the direction of the bedroom. It had been my last day of intensive language classes with that quirky group -- a good day, full with activity, interesting folks, new experiences. In fact, I managed to scribble the following rundown late that afternoon:

"The last day in class, at least with this current group, went well. No, really. For more than one reason. First, there were only four of us -– smaller, which seems to engender more tranquility. Second, Pietro was back after yesterday's truancy due to car problems. He's an expansive, benign, funny presence and affects the atmosphere. He and I get along fine, which seemed to have a ripple effect. Third, it didn't matter to me how things went -– I was going to enjoy myself. And did. (Damn, I'm good.)

"Last night's visit to the ATM didn't pan out. Neither machine at the local branch of my bank could seem to deal with my ATM card, claiming it was damaged. After class today, I went to the branch where I opened my account, intending to get a replacement card. On impulse, I slid the card into an ATM machine there, suddenly it functioned again. I was a real person once more, able to request money, which I did immediately. The machine seemed delighted to comply, presenting me with euros and sparing me the need to beg/plead/grovel/implore the bank staff for a new card, at least until my return to Madrid, whenever that turns out to be –- October? November? Don't know right now. If there's further ATM mischief, I'll deal then.

"Yet another beautiful day here, same as yesterday. Extremely, almost excessively user-friendly. Hot in the afternoon in that no-humidity way Madrid has, meaning as long as one tends not to spend too much time in full sunlight all is well. Least that's how I experience it. The walls of my apartment are thick, the windows southern-facing but placed to allow plenty of light with no direct sunshine until evening time. Works for me. So while the temperature scaled heights that had some people complaining, my little life felt just fine. Plus, really, I hear someone going off about the heat and my thoughts turn to the outrageous displays of summertime heat/humidity that I'm used to in the northeast U.S. After which my general response to complaints re: Madrid's heat is usually What, are you kidding?

"I spent eight years in a large brick apartment building on the corner of Mass. Ave. and Hancock Street in Cambridge, Mass., in a small one-bedroom dive. Five windows, all in a line along the outside wall –- no cross-ventilation, no A/C. When the global warming summers began showing up in the late 80s, heat waves rolled in, each day hotter than the next, humidity intense enough that the covers of paperback books curled up from the ambient moisture. Two, three, four days of that made sleep impossible -- the building soaked up relentless light and heat during the day, radiating it out at night. I'd get up in the early morning hours, the tiles in my roach-infested kitchen would be unpleasantly warm under my feet, my steps producing a sticky sound. Compared with that, Madrid is out-and-out paradise.

"But I blather...."

[continued in next entry]

rws 5:47 PM [+]

Thursday, August 01, 2002

Well. Didn't get much sleep last night, though it doesn't seem to matter much. I feel clearer, happier and more human than I've felt since somewhere around midday Tuesday, when the long process of crashing began. It's nice to be able to write, talk, prepare food, all that.

I'll be heading into Montpelier this morning for gym, groceries, etc. It's a cute little town, Montpelier -- civil, pretty, at the height of its season right now, plenty of summer folk around. The season will stretch into October, and after the leaves have fallen and the colors are gone, life in the town will quiet to its winter-dreaming state.

It's just a crossroads, really, a town of 8,000 souls. Being the state capital brings it activity and life it wouldn't otherwise have -- between government and a large insurance company, the population doubles weekdays between 9 and 5. By 6 p.m., life quiets back down, the population reverts to its normal size. A small place, really. It'll be interesting to be there after two weeks in Madrid.

Right, I'm off. Later.

rws 7:41 AM [+]

BLATHERINGS

August 2001
September 2001
October 2001
November 2001
December 2001
January 2002
February 2002
March 2002
April 2002
May 2002
June 2002
July 2002
August 2002
September 2002
October 2002
November 2002
December 2002
January 2003
February 2003
March 2003
April 2003
May 2003
June 2003
July 2003
August 2003
September 2003
October 2003
November 2003
December 2003
January 2004
February 2004
March 2004
April 2004
May 2004
June 2004
July 2004
August 2004
September 2004
October 2004
November 2004
December 2004
January 2005
February 2005
March 2005
April 2005
May 2005
June 2005
July 2005
August 2005
September 2005
October 2005
November 2005
December 2005
January 2006
February 2006
March 2006
April 2006
May 2006
June 2006
July 2006
August 2006
September 2006
October 2006
November 2006
December 2006
January 2007
February 2007
March 2007
April 2007
May 2007
June 2007
July 2007
August 2007
September 2007
October 2007
November 2007
December 2007
January 2008
February 2008
March 2008
April 2008
May 2008
June 2008
July 2008
August 2008
September 2008
October 2008
November 2008
December 2008
January 2009
February 2009
March 2009
April 2009
June 2009
July 2009

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .


MORE FOCUSED BLATHERINGS


Travels:
London '01
Pamplona
Italy '03
U.K. '03
Sevilla
Casablanca
Stoke-on-Trent
Barcelona
Québec/Ottawa
Boston/Lisbon/Madrid
Italy '04
Montréal
La Sierra

Events:
Madrid -- arrival
9/11
Emergency Room I
Holidays 2001
Holidays 2002
Holidays 2003
Holidays 2004
Holidays 2005
A neighbor's passing
Madrid -- March 11 bombings
  and aftermath
Emergency Room II
Israeli friend/Madrid Marathon
Madrid -- Royal Wedding
The DELE exam

GONE, a novel:
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10

THE BASTARD CHILDREN OF
JOE ROCCO, a novella:
-- Part 1
-- Part 2
-- Part 3

BURBANK SHRUGGED,
a screenplay:
-- Part 1
-- Part 2
-- Part 3
-- Part 4

Short stories:
Murphy's Wife
Another Autumn
La Queja de Una
  Hermanastra Muy Conocida

Autobiography
-- Personal History
-- Hormones On Parade
-- Accidents, Random Mishaps,
    Personal Problems

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .


OTHER SOURCES OF WHOLESOME ENTERTAINMENT

People/Weblogs:
dooce
foxvox
fudge it
fear not
rebekka
bookslut
802online
idle words
madhaiku
wockerjabby
grow-a-brain
rebel market
letting me be
out and about
kung fu grippe
fanatical apathy
baghdad burning
wfuv's music blog
kexp's music blog
mimi smartypants
between the miles
just a hippie gypsy
the impossible cool
tomato can brushes
vermont homestead
sugar mountain farm

Good Clean Fun:
gizmodo
futurismic
postsecret
dave barry
human clock
mcsweeney's
spaceweather
book-a-minute
internet archive
self-portrait day
my cat hates you
out of context quotes
surrealist compliment
  generator
strindberg and helium

Makin' Musical Whoopee:
last fm
stereo8
pandora
soma fm

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .


ABOUT RWS/CONTACT





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