heck of a week

Yesterday marked the first sustained downtime I’d had in a while. It’s been a motion-filled, blast-and-a -half kind of week.

Last weekend was Baitcon. Kate, Jeff, Glen, and I all carpooled in Glen’s car, chatting on the way about relationships and being in high school and books we’ve read. I succumbed to temptation after seeing Glen’s Ben and Jerry’s coffee ice cream shake, and ordered my own, insisting to the woman behind the counter that since there was only one size available, I’d pay the regular price if she’d pour me only a “small” cup’s worth of coffee goodness. (A wise choice, as it turned out – while awesomely tasty, even the small cup of the caffeine/dairy/sugar trifecta had me bouncing around the inside of the car.)

As we got off the Thruway in upstate NY and started following the egregiously bad directions from the BC website, we saw something which simultaneously drew and horrified us: Burger King is now selling “Chicken Fries .” I know, I know, it’s too easy a shot to make. Giant multinational corporation squeezes mostly deflated zit of creativity, and what pops out is factory-raised chicken remnants shaped into long rectangles and dressed up like french fries. We had to try them. They were pretty much what you’d expect from 1350 mg of sodium, 470 calories, and 31 grams of fat , to wit: greasy, crispy, and lacking in the buffalo sauce promised in the shiny ads we goggled at while waiting in the drive-thru lane. I hopped out of the car to run inside and get the sauce, only to find the interior of the place completely devoid of customers. We’d been waiting in the drive-thru line when we could have just walked inside to get our (and I’m going to say this again, in case the full horror hasn’t reached you yet) CHICKEN FRIES.

(Now that I think about it, CHICKEN FRIES is only the fast food equivalent of the same creative recycling process that’s produced shows like L.A. Doctors or The Lion’s Den. Can’t think of something besides Los Angeles, doctors, or lawyers? No worries! How about a show which features only doctors’ malpractice lawyers… in Los Angeles! Call me up, folks, I’ve got a thousand more permutations like this, and surely one of them could make you money.)

Sufficiently greased and caffeinated to tolerate the 7 false turns we made trying to follow the increasingly opaque directions, we arrived at Baitcon as dusk was falling, set up our tents in roughly the same field of ferns we’d put our tents up in 5 years ago, and started figuring out the important things – when we’d make our ice cream and what the mosquito situation was.

We had a fun time, overall. The stream was ball-retractingly cold, but after 5 or 10 minutes of standing calf-deep in it, we could tolerate it enough to wash ourselves down with it. Kate washed her hair by laying down on a rock and dipping just her head in the water, looking for all the world like a mermaid or some stream-bound siren. Kate’s orange-basil sorbet came out a little too sweet and a little weak on the basil, in my opinion, but has the potential for greatness. My “Bridge over the River Chai” was okay on flavor, but since I ended up freezing just the whole-milk base I’d made the chai in, the texture was way too icy. Next time a couple of egg yolks and/or some heavy cream would help a lot, I think. (Also, not quite sweet enough.)

The band played one really solid set in the cool of Saturday evening. We’d decided to avoid our usual too-long deliberations over what to play when, and had put every song we intended to play (22) onto day-glo index cards and let the audience pick them. It worked really well – some of the kids picked cards, and some of the adults, as my whim dictated – and then we had a break between sets. JB got on the mic, talked about some ice cream logistics, and welcomed everyone to Baitcon 17. “And look!", he said triumphantly. “It’s not raining!”

30 minutes later, we were frenziedly packing all the band gear back into the truck before it got soaked by the sudden thunderstorm. Let this be a lesson to anyone announcing favorable weather conditions through a live microphone.

Left fairly promptly the next day, got back to Glen’s house, and put a fresh battery in my long-ailing motorcycle. Found myself oddly nervous about riding, having not ridden in a year and a half, and made a decision to leave the bike at Glen’s until I’d verified whether or not it was still not charging its battery. Glen and Kate and I went down to Blue Ribbon for some barbecue (we’d left BC before we had a chance to have Tamar’s barbecue lunch) and then Kate and I drove home. (the previous weekend we came down to see Elvis Costello and Emmylou Harris, so driving home from Boston twice in one week seemed like a lot.)

Tuesday I turned around and went back down for my regular work trip. Took the motorcycle to get inspected and got the big REJECTED slip because the fork seals are leaking. I’ve got 20 days to correct the ($300) problem, in which time I should be able to tell whether or not the electrical problem’s been fixed. If it hasn’t, then my decision is clear: the bike goes to the glue factory. If it has… then it’s a little unclear. I committed to Kate a while ago that once we start having kids I would stop riding motorcycles, so I’ve got a couple of years at least to keep riding… if I want to.

On the one hand, there are times that I just love riding – the smells of fields as I drive through, the curves I set up for – but I don’t ride consistently enough to always feel totally comfortable doing it, and many turns have one split second in the middle of them when my heart leaps into my throat because I’m not completely confident in my lean. If I keep riding, I think I’ll take the MSF Experienced Riders’ course. So then the internal debate becomes whether it’ll be worth the money to get another bike for 2-3 years, and then sell it off… We’ll see.

Spent the week working on some of my new job responsibilities (more on this in another entry, I think). Thursday night it turned out we couldn’t get the band together, so on a whim, Glen and I went to see Ivan Neville ‘s “Dumpstaphunk” at Johnny D’s with Trina, Lang, and Stephanie.

Holy. Crap. The band was awesome. Tight, energetic, soulful, New Orleans funk played by four guys who know exactly what they’re doing – it was the best show I’ve seen in a long, long time. The drummer provided a rock solid framework for every song while simultaneously injecting his own humor and playful fills, the bass player looked like he could kill anyone solely with his mind, and the two Neville nephews (Ivan on keys and vocoder, Ian on rhythm guitar) rounded out the combo. It took three songs for the drummer’s encouraging people to dance to work on any of the audience (98% comprised of “gently swaying white people,” as I mentioned to Glen), but once they did, people stayed out there the whole evening. Glen and I happily stayed through until the end of the final set, and then walked back to his place, filled with great tunes. I was really sorry I hadn’t had a recorder, but etree.org provided a copy of a show they’d done the week before, so I’ve been listening to that a lot.

My car’s passenger window had fallen into the door Friday morning, so I sprang myself from work early to try and get it covered up before the rains came. From the car dealership, I drove up to Exeter to see my grandfather for a bit, followed by escorting my grandmother to dinner in the main dining room (instead of the managed care dining room she usually eats in, which is mostly populated by people who aren’t there, to put it bluntly). Got her new Ceiva set up after a phonecall to tech support. (The woman who answered was audibly relieved to be talking to someone young enough to not be confused by “push the big white button on the back of the picture frame.")

From there, home to New Hampshire, milder weather, my thrilled orange cat, and Kate. A wonderful homecoming. Lazed around Saturday. Sunday, Kate and I got up and had some breakfast (me cereal and rice milk, Kate a south-beach-compliant omelette) and then sat out under the tree by our front door while Carlos and Lucy romped in the grass around us. Sat there for nearly two hours, just talking and breathing and looking around the little valley we’re in. We have so few moments where we’re not going to someplace or coming from someplace, and those two hours of sitting still lent some great serenity to the day.

Then some kitchen cleaning, some playing Halo2 with Luke and Chad, and some sockeye salmon with the ubiquitous South Beach salad for dinner with John and Mike.

At this very moment it’s Monday night, and I’m sitting out on our back porch in the cool of the night, listening to frogs croak in the ponds behind me. My laptop’s keeping me just warm enough, and the muscles I’ve been using to go swimming are tweaking me only slightly. Kate’s inside, having just watched the Queer as Folk finale, and I’m about to go in and join her.

Our lives are so extraordinarily sweet, when we take the time to see it.