2011 November

November 2011


I’m sitting at my desk at work, obviously counting something very intently.

SHE walks in.

“IT IS BRENSDAY?!?!” (All caps and a proliferation of excited, confused punctuation couldn’t be more appropriate. For every moment she speaks.)

I reply, without looking up, because making eye contact is a repulsive prospect : like gazing into a pair of face-anuses poised over a choking mess of teeth that can’t possibly chew through anything (can they?). I can no longer be bothered to feign interest or kindness after this woman gleefully wooed me with tales of how her backwoods redneck husband has created a population of “eye-less” and “tail-less” squirrels around her house from his backporch shooting range. Her delight at animal mutilation, and a man not even MAN enough to kill a critically injured animal (were these tales true) killed the last give-a-fuck I could muster for her.

I reply, as usual when she spouts a half-sentence of nonsense which has stumbled through her jagged mouth and out into the unsuspecting world, “I don’t know what that means.”

“MY FRIEND BRENDA AT THE ZOO! IS IT BRENSDAY?!?!”

“I don’t know your friend Brenda.”

“BRENSDAY!”

She acts as if I’m an idiot for not knowing her secret dialect. She is a woman so supremely arrogant and stupid that her own mysterious language, cobbled together from the worst aspects of pop culture and always delivered in her “funny voice” (aka “Incredibly Loud, Constipated Old Man”), is the only language that matters, and anyone who does not know it is a fool and requires reeducation.

I count louder, to reinforce the fact that I am counting, and I am not smart enough to count and listen at the same time.

“ARE YOU COUNTING? SHE DOES TATTOOS!”

“BRENSDAY!”

“THERE’S SO MUCH TO DO I’M TWO WEEKS BEHIND I CAN’T DO IT ALL!”

I’m still obviously trying to count, louder and louder. She knows I’m counting – why doesn’t she shut up about her friends?

“IT’S BRENSDAY!”

I leave the room as quickly as I can, before the urge to kick her chair out from under her becomes too great. I go home early. After a co-worker had tried to look up “Steven Hawken’s A Brief History of the World” earlier today, I’d had enough.

Beckie and I couldn’t figure out what we wanted to do this past Saturday. We’d spent a long day napping, poking around at the computer, and trying to discover some miraculous, new, not-too-far-away thing-to-do in the Hudson Valley, but once tag sale season is over, there’s very little in the way of keeping the late 20-somethings entertained out of the house that doesn’t involve some form of substance abuse. Feet get cold, people get cranky, and it’s a long wait until Craigslist starts to flower with all-caps ‘YARD SALE’ blossoms again.

By 4:30, hunger finally motivated us to move and find food. At 4:32, a bevy of sirens and firetrucks were occluding the only exit from the road and out into civilization. Since we were already walking out to the car when the ruckus began, we walked towards a smoking building at the end of her road, within sight of her apartment. Firefighters were dragging hoses around and smoke was pouring from some windows as they were being smashed out by firemen inside and using long poles on the outside. The sound of shattering glass continued for far longer than the limited number of windows in the building would sensibly permit, and the noise had summoned an elderly lady who called herself “Boop” from the far end of the road, where the nice houses live, who believed that things were exploding. This distracted her from her preparations for “Sunday Thanksgiving”. Her puffy billows of white hair doubled the size of her head and made her body look even tinier than it was. She told us about all of the neighbors she knew and kept on making the sign of the cross with skeletal, restlessly alive fingers.

By 6 PM, the swarm of police cars and firetrucks had barely abated, but we managed to slide past and get food. By morning, news revealed that the squat, concrete building attached to the burning house was actually a hydroponic marijuana lab. Which explained the prolonged sound of glass smashing to the floor as glass equipment was plowed over by the sprays of water, as well as the presence of drug enforcement agents in the morning.

In the daylight, the venetian blinds grinned stupidly like broken teeth, and yellow police tape spun around the building, ricocheted off of a barbecue grill in the back yard, and cordoned off all of the interesting from the grey expanses of Route 44 again.

On Sunday, we once again poked at Craigslist, and found something.

´╗┐ON SALE LARGE ESTATE OF ANTIQUE DEALER INCLUDING A LARGE AMOUNT OF ALL TYPES OF ANTIQUES, AN IMMENSE AMOUNT, 15 LARGE BOXES OF ANTIQUE COSTUME JEWELRY, NICE COLLECTIBLES AND LOVELY ANTIQUE DOLLS. ALL NEGOTIABLE. ALSO BIG BUILDING SETS, GI JOES, BIG WOOD SLEDS ALL VERY LOW PRICED FOR THE KIDS, AS WELL AS BIG OLD POWER TOOLS, QUALITY MEN’S SUITS, BIG WINTER JACKETS, AND A 1,000′S OF ALL KINDS OF NICE ITEMS. CHRISTMAS GIFTS REASONABLY PRICED AND NEGOTIABLE!!!!

ITS COME AND BROWSE AT YOUR LEISURE.

CALL 845 632 XXXX TO ARRANGE A TIME TO COME VIEW THESE ITEMS. EVERYTHING IS NEGOTIABLE AND WE GIVE YOU NICE JUICE TO DRINK.

FIND SOMETHING WONDERFUL. WE HAVE TOO MUCH TO KEEP.

We called, and set up an appointment to sift through boxes at noon. We discovered that this house was only a few houses away from where I once purchased a Space Shuttle pinball machine from a guy who called himself “Jim Pinball”.

We were escorted up some wooden stairs as a man named Charlie watched football, brought box after box to his low coffee table, and cut the filters off his cigarettes with a pair of black-handled, steely scissors. His son is the top nanotechnology student in the world, and Charlie worked for GE for 18 years before retiring, “doubling accounts” every year and maintaining a “90% retention rate” and other business words. He gives “Mexicans” bonuses and takes them out to dinner when they help him paint and refinish floors – but also believes that they should be shot as they cross the border illegally after a certain, as-yet-undetermined date. He wore a knit cap the entire time he was inside, and when he followed us out to his car.

When we were lamenting the high cost of living in the Hudson Valley, I mentioned that I take graphic design jobs to make ends meet, and was subsequently accused of being the reason that his friend, who coincidentally came up with the idea for Fudgie the Whale, was canned from his job : young kids willing to work longer hours for less money. While I reassured him that the real problem with making a living as a graphic designer is competing with hiring people overseas with a lower cost of living and generally less concern about quality of work, I don’t think that he was convinced.

The dissonance between crates of costume jewelry (which he never gave us a clear answer about the origins of) and a case full of Hummels and rare china sets, left-wing politics and football was unsettling as we creaked on his leather couch and I began sweating through my jeans. I came away with a handful of free brass pieces which will eventually turn into rayguns, and Beckie with a few interesting odds and ends. Charlie knew what he had, even if we had no idea what we were looking at – the names of certain makers, types of metals, how to test them. No one was pulling one over on Charlie – especially those “Jews” who came last week and was very rude to him because he asked fair prices.

Dusty wooden floors and a bearded son who went to study at Starbucks as we sat there, and the tinny strains of opera playing somewhere, somewhere from the depths of the house. No mention of a wife during the two hours we spent on his couch, but words edgewise weren’t really to be had anyhow.

I guess we really didn’t need any. Charlie had us covered.

There were two or three months about two years ago when everything felt good. There was a feeling of infinity, of accepting the place where life dropped me, and of possibility, of running and walking at the same time. The idea that anything was possible, and that I could do or be anything, was very liberating. Especially because it enabled me to be okay with who I was, which is something I’ve never been able to do.

I don’t know what aligned to make this possible. Nothing had changed. In fact, I was recovering from one of the worst defeats of my life. Maybe it was the contrast between terrible and mediocre that I was experiencing, and that elation was only relative to itself – but I think it was more than that.

I remember it precisely : it felt like fresh air, like space. It haunts me almost constantly. I want it back. This feels like starving : an angry stomach and an angry brain seething constantly is no way to live.