Today in May

This May, in the Second Year of Our Pandemic, 2021, was especially long. Certainly, it was a lot longer than May of 2020, of which I have no memory whatsoever.

I do not have any tattoos, but if I were to get a Commemorative Coronavirus Pandemic tattoo, it might be this:

A friend who lives in Europe told me recently they are anxiously still awaiting their vaccine. (Between writing the first draft of this post and publishing, I am happy to report they’ve now had their first jab).

The day before, I saw a Facebook post from someone I know here in New York who complained that “the whole world is brainwashed” above a posted graphic saying, “the unvaxxed have to wear mask to protect the vaxxinated.”

I am disturbed and haunted by it.

I can unfollow this person on FB, but I will still see them in person and regularly in real life. Someone with pets! You know, beloved animal companions, vaccinated for rabies, distemper, and West Nile?

One of my brothers is taking a break from social media; he’s missing out on the vaccine selfies, the proud graduation photos, the puppies, the ads for washable rugs and knitted sneakers, the hot takes, the old memes, and the bad news.

My mother was the sort of old school reader of books about social courtesies who believed that good manners dictate that one not point out another’s bad manners. The 21st Century extension of this rule is that one might abstain from commenting on a bad take.

I try.

The bad take in question had some enthusiastic support from friends and family (insert cringing noises here), and some genuinely concerned replies from mutuals, who hate to see a seemingly nice person humiliate themself on a rude, science-denying, loud, public fart.

I scrolled on, closed Facebook, and tried for days not to think about it.

I have not stopped thinking about it.

The brainwashed believers in a coronavirus pandemic? Includes me, and every other intelligent person I know. Brainwashed people with advanced degrees. Vaccinated as soon as they were eligible. Helping people in their lives find appointments. Anxious to get 80% of America vaccinated. Brainwashing isn’t real, but science is.

The vaccinated people still wearing masks? Me, at times. My husband, too. Out of a desire not to expose people who haven’t gotten their shots yet. Out of habit. In deference to 27,504 hospitalized people in the U.S. Out of a desire not to make anyone else uncomfortable. Out of an abundance of caution. In memory of 594,051 dead Americans. As an example.

The meme they shared? From someone who is getting attention for their contrary takes (with an extra grammatical error to own the libs). From someone who could be themselves vaccinated. Definitely something that we could use a lot less of.

I wish I could stick with my instinct to ignore the post. I record it here for my future self. To remind me of the time when the vaccine was becoming more widely available, when still not everyone had it yet, when it wasn’t something you could just ask each other about, when it wasn’t clear if enough people were going to get on board, when we didn’t know if we were ever going to be getting past some people wearing masks and others disliking it.

My brother who has gone off Facebook is happier without it (for now).

Me? If no one in my life is going to graduate from something soon, maybe I’ll have to make some puppies.

10 Years and 2,892 miles

The second worst thing about someone new finding out that my husband used to work at Microsoft is hearing from the person again, and, you know, they’ve been meaning to ask him about this problem they’re having with Excel (which he never worked on), or Word (ditto), or Outlook (ditto), or Windows (which he certainly did work on), or a printer driver. Device drivers don’t seem to be all that much better now than they were in the era of dial-up modems and dot-matrix printers, which is when I started using a PC, but that’s my opinion and there are probably a lot of men on the internet who would like to tell me how I’m wrong about that. As for Microsoft programs that my husband did or didn’t work on, I will say this: we use Apple products now. Furthermore, the Bacon Provider has spent his pandemic weekends writing Apple Watch and phone apps, mostly relating to the weather. What I say is, “Have you tried turning it on and off again?” because that’s what he always says to me. Ok, really, what he says is, “Have you tried soap and water?” because that’s shorthand for, “Have you tried the first thing you probably should have tried?”

The third worst thing about someone new finding out that my husband used to work at Microsoft is being asked if he knew that guy, the brother of your ex’s college roommate, who like, worked there in the 90s. Anyone who worked there for any length of time only reported to despicable creeps (except for maybe that one decent guy in Research), and so they’re all still suffering from the post-traumatic stress. Or they’ve blocked it all out. So, no, it was a big place, anyone you know who knows someone who worked there, that person they knew? We don’t know him.

This week is the tenth anniversary of my husband’s departure from Microsoft. He was the last of the four original Xbox founders to leave. He worked there 18 years, and if you look online you might be able to find a copy of his resume floating around out there, or piece one together from articles about him. He did a lot of things there. I wish he had kept a little album with one of each of his business cards. Things being how they are now, normal business travel and the customary exchange of business cards seem like rituals of a lost age. In the ten years since Microsoft, he’s had some very good work experiences. He continues to be focused on what he’s doing now, and what’s coming next.

The Bacon Provider’s Work From Home Office, ca 2021

When he resigned from Microsoft, it was cause for celebration, and since then it feels like several decades have elapsed, not one. The move from the west coast to the east coast was hard. It took years for us to figure out where to live. And, we are both still smarting from the sale of our beloved Seattle house; it was perfect, as was our neighborhood, and on my visits back to Seattle I have not managed to be able to get closer than a few blocks away. People ask if I would go back to live in Seattle if I could, and sometimes I say I’d like to go back to Seattle, 1999.

I miss that house. I miss having three wild, barefoot children storming out the front door, brandishing sticks. I miss our neighbors. I miss the spectacular summer sunshine. I miss the months of rain. I miss walking to restaurants. I miss the wide sidewalks, and the trees, and the grass that’s green ten months of the year. I miss my friends there—even some of the ones who forgot about us the minute we left, and haven’t so much as texted in the ten years since.

Our current house in Bedhead Hills, New York was a compromise, but all houses are compromises, be it on price or location or features. We’ve been in this house long enough that I no longer think of it as Mrs. Gardenwinkle’s 80s museum. It is our house. We fenced the yard. We replaced the gutters, and the furnace. We lived through remodeling the kitchen and all of the bathrooms. Soon enough we will need to do more things, because houses require constant attention or they fall down.

I am very much enjoying our current backyard and the small new patio. I now have a big umbrella for the old table that was once on our back deck in Seattle, and I can paint in the morning and drink coffee while the dogs run around the yard picking up ticks. Fellow likes to lie down on the stones underneath me, and was there, panting, when I wrote this, this morning. Eggi was there also, and certainly these two dogs are some of the things that are in my life now because I live here, and if I lived someplace else I would have different dogs or none at all.

I was interrupted and had to take the dogs in. They came to spray for ticks. They use cedar oil, and come twice a year, and I’m not sure it works. The ticks are terrible here. Every spring feels like, oh, man, the ticks are really bad this year. Any ticks is bad. I found one on the wall in the kitchen last weekend, just chillin. Fuck that guy. He was hard to kill.

I am distractedly deleting emails as they come in, hiding with the dogs in my bedroom, with the lights on low. The AC is on even though it’s only May. We didn’t even have AC in Seattle. Or ticks.

I still don’t miss overhearing certain names or the word “Microsoft” in restaurants. Ah, but I haven’t eaten in a restaurant in over fourteen months. Everything is supposed to be getting back to normal, but for that getting back to normal, we are all counting on you, and you, and you to get vaccinated. Also, you.

Captain is snoring. Eggi is on my left. Fellow leaves his corner at the foot of the bed to insert himself between Eggi and the pillows. I sneak another look at Eggi’s vagooter; we are expecting her to come into season again soon. My stomach growls. What are we doing about dinner? Last night we had sushi delivered. We cooked a lot less in Seattle, didn’t we. Yeah, well, this kitchen is better. Much better.

The Mixtape That You Made

When I get in my car and stick the charger cable into my phone, connecting the technologically outdated ten year old car with the state of the art Apple iPhone, the one thing I can count on is that if a connection is made, what will play is the song 1989, by the band Clem Snide. The opening line is, “Tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 1989.”

This is a song I can play all of, in my head, without hearing, just by encountering part of a phrase like “I guess it’s not that funny, but I’ll say it anyway,” or “the joke is that the stereo just ate the mixtape that you made.” And if I could figure out how to delete it from my state of the art iPhone I could remove it, and make some other song the one that gets picked first all the time. 

Because of the pandemic, the Bacon Provider has gone from traveling regularly for work to traveling never for work, and so I see him in person, on weekdays, in the middle of the day, making coffee or tea in the kitchen, and this is the new normal. And you know what I found out? He gets Johnny Cash songs stuck in his head, as well as the Cure, and now, thanks to my shout-singing that one Clem Snide song, 1989.

Plays automatically in my brain. As I recall, an excellent selection for driving too fast.

How are you marking your pandemic anniversary?

We are making maple syrup. 

At this point we were pretty sure this was a maple tree.

I had my last meal in a restaurant March 9, 2020. It was lunch. In retrospect, I wish I had had a glass of wine. At least I had dessert. 

I had my last acupuncture appointment December 13, 2019. I frickin love acupuncture and when twenty minutes of solitary deep breathing in that tiny, warm, dark, windowless room with twenty-one slender needles stuck in my limbs while I lie listening to new age whale-song music seems like less of bad idea, I’ll be back on that jam. Like butter on hot toast.

I had my last haircut in a salon November 18, 2019. The stylist ignored me and spoke to the other stylists while he worked, and dried my hair in the particular kind of long, smooth, loose waves that I would love to know how to do myself but cannot seem to master. Today my hair is so long it gets caught in jacket zippers and chair backs. It is so heavy it works its way out of ponytails. It is entirely too long, just like the pandemic itself. I might wake up tomorrow and cut it all off myself.

From my brother

The thing about mixtapes, though, if you ever gave me a mixtape, I probably still have it. I even have a few mixtapes that you didn’t give me, but you left them in the Bacon Provider’s car when he took you to the Snow Bowl that time you went skiing with him, or you popped into my boombox while we drank Mooseheads out of my dorm fridge and I never gave it back.

Ten years ago this month I started to have an inkling that our time in Seattle might be ending, after 18 years, and I set about giving away piles of old toys and thirty-one cartons of books and a small mountain of obsolete technology garbage. I follow some people on Twitter who are really into old tech, and I regularly admire the their efforts to restore the crap that used to take up room on the shelves in my basement. But when it came to the cassettes, it was another story.

From my other brother

The handwriting from my friend K on the copy she made me of the then-rare Nilsson’s The Point or her annotations on Lou Reed’s New York, or my other friend K who made me a tape of several Elvis Costellos and a greatest hits of the summer of 1982, or the splendidly varied mixes created by my brother C stopped me. They weren’t especially large, or numerous, and they were made for me.

The label is in my handwriting to disguise the fact that this mixtape wasn’t mine.

My favorite mixtape as I recall was one that lived in the Bacon Provider’s college wheels for as long as he had that car, and it had to be rescued when we traded in the Mazda. It was a Maxell, C90, the kind that played and played, and while it had two Bob Marley albums crammed onto it, it also had some Sugar Hill Gang and ended with a fragment of a song that I can’t quite remember. If we can find four working AA batteries we might be able to play this tape on one of the only pieces of obsolete technology the Bacon Provider saved. 

Does it work? Dunno. We’re looking for batteries.

Dog Doo

Vizsla in the kitchen, seen through the chairs

The house is quiet and the dogs are put away for the night. Fellow woofs gently and whines, twitching and paddling in his sleep, gently rattling the bars of his kennel, and then is quiet again. I am finished deleting emails, ignoring spam phone calls, and looking at TikToks until my phone runs out of juice.

It snowed again last Friday, and some more on Saturday, and so by Sunday when I was putting on my snowshoes to walk the dogs in the woods, it was somehow a little bit fresh and exciting again. Even the Bacon Provider set aside the barometer/altimeter iPhone app he works on on weekends to come with us.

His snow boots were with mine in the back hall. His snowshoes were on a shelf in the garage. He found a hat he could use in the closet, but where were his gloves? Didn’t he use them to dig out his car on Saturday? He grabbed a pair of insulated work gloves instead.

And we jollied Captain into coming along.

The original layer of deep snow is now several weeks old, and I am glad I checked the backyard for poo before it fell. I have done my best to dig up the dog shit in the yard as it has been produced, but there are three of them, and they eat two meals a day, and hot poo sinks in snow and the snow re-freezes overnight, and then you have to chip it out again. It’s nasty. It’s necessary. It’s part of owning dogs.

If you are thinking of getting yourself a pandemic puppy, go forth with the knowledge that your dog may bring unconditional love to your life, should get you to go outside more often, and comes with drool, barking, and probably more poo than you bargained for. A dog trainer I knew many years ago used to say, “Barking is one of the functions of a dog;” it is something I think about almost every day. Pooping is another of the functions of a dog. Also, you will regularly examine your dog’s poo, and find out how they’re doing, and also that they’ve been eating cat turds, or toilet paper rolls, or sticks.

As we dug out the snow by the gate so we could leave the yard, I told the Bacon Provider that going into the woods with two dogs off leash was harder than going into the woods with three dogs off leash, because three is a pack, and the old one will stay with you, and the other ones will keep checking in; but when there are just two dogs, they go off together and make bad choices (barking at the neighbors, chasing deer). Of course, I was full of shit.

All three of my dogs return on recall (which is why it is ok to take them out of the fenced yard and into our woods). But, they are not perfect and neither am I. So I headed into the woods, and right away I had to redirect Fellow who was headed in the wrong direction, and by the time I got to the bottom of the hill, Eggi and Fellow had run past me and the Bacon Provider pointed out that Captain was not with us. Almost without stopping or turning around (you have to make a small circle in snowshoes! If you try to turn on the spot you will almost certainly fall over), I declared with all the wisdom of the dog expert of the house that the dog would follow if the Bacon Provider would stop looking back to see if he was coming. And again, though this is usually true, it was, in this case, not true.

With continued encouragement, Captain did eventually catch up to us, and we did manage a couple of laps of the snowshoeing trail I’ve been maintaining. We did a bit of exploring of the part of the woods that is normally the wettest and thus the least explorable. Under the snow the ice had melted, so we were walking over frozen mud and open water. This is the part of the woods where the skunk cabbage grows; last year it came up in March.

When we got back up the hill to the gate, we found the reason Captain had gone back to the yard: he needed to poop, and had wanted to get back into the yard to do his business.

Now in the past I would have finished by saying something along the lines that we can all relate to Captain’s predicament, because who doesn’t prefer pooping at home? But these days, who goes anywhere?

So, instead I will end with include pictures I took when I was brushing their teeth.

Covid 19.21.3

Every day still blends into every other day.

It is Monday. The cat is hollering. I have pilates. I go upstairs to the room that has space for the yoga mat, but I forget my computer. I’ve forgotten to wear socks. I am scrolling through my email from the instructor looking for the Zoom link. I am late. Two days later I have pilates again. It is still as if I never left the room.

It is snowing. It is sunny. It is rainy and windy. The power goes out. It takes two days to come on again. We panic about the propane. It is sunny again, but very cold. We walk in the woods and see fox footprints. There are two piles of fresh dog shit on the side of the road and they aren’t ours. My bag is full, but I pick up one with the end of the bag, above the knot, and then try to get the other, carrying it awkwardly and spilling it in the road. We dance around it.

Captain

Our neighbors at the Tennis Party house have a huge new generator. I have never met them. Maybe someday they will introduce themselves to my husband, who looks like he is someone. I have reached the age of invisibility.

My other neighbors are back. They were in Florida for a couple of months, but now I can hear their children playing in their yard. Then they are gone. Maybe they are just inside.
It is still yesterday.
It is almost tomorrow.
It is again today.
In April I asked, “How far are we from the end?” I am embarrassed by this question now.

The Wednesdays of January were rather extra: insurrection, impeachment, inauguration, investor revolution. Now it is February but it’s like still last March.

It is Monday, 3:30 pm. I see school buses out on the roads and I want to scream. How many more people have to die for us to do what it takes to stop spreading the virus?

It is Saturday.  It is 10 am. It is quiet. I believe it wasn’t always this quiet but I don’t really remember. I am thinking about eating, not because I am hungry, but because I am bored. It feels like I am in 4th grade, and I am alone in the kitchen, standing barefoot in the pantry, looking at the food. I will eat three bowls of Cap’n Crunch.

I am in the sewing room at 10:45. I’m not really doing anything, but I am sewing little strips of fabric together. I might keep going, and I might toss it in the bin. The clock in the sewing room is stopped. It isn’t really 10:45. It is always 10:45. I can stay in there as long as I like, because time never passes in the sewing room.

Forever 10:45


Airplanes pass overhead and I think about the people inside, drinking plastic cups of diet soda and going on ski vacations.

It snows again, and this time the storm lasts two days and it’s enough to snowshoe in. The dogs sink in the deep snow, up to their chests. I refill the bird feeders and do it again two days later. My efforts to keep the steps clear of snow are another joke.

It snows again. I dig out the gates and take the dogs for a walk in our woods. The wetlands are frozen over, ice buried under two feet of snow. We can explore areas that are normally too wet to get through, and scramble over the dry stone wall. We stop and watch a single car drive by on the road. I call the dogs and we head back up the hill.

It is Thursday. I have a dentist appointment at 1 pm. I get a ride to the station and take the train into the city. There is almost no one on the train, but everyone has a mask on. I am wearing a (washable, homemade) cloth mask over a (precious but disposable) N95 mask. I make eye-contact with a man who reaches into his backpack and adds a second, fabric mask to his N95 mask. I am for a moment not invisible. If one more person decides to start wearing two masks because they read this, because they—like me–wanna stay uninfected until it’s their turn for the vaccine, then this blog is worth my effort.

At Grand Central, they’ve put up lot of scaffolding and there are people but no real crowds. Even when you know why it’s so quiet, it seems too quiet. At the dentist they have a device to shower my masks with UV rays while they clean my teeth. My teeth are ok. Nothing seems ok. The dentist and I agree that everything seems so weird. I take the train back to Bedhead Hills

I sit in the kitchen listening to the sounds the dishwasher makes. The unusual bottle-filling noise. The spinning noise. The noise like towels in the surf. The noise a griffin would make as it puked up a hairball. The oven timer goes off. The bread is ready.

It is Sunday at 1:30. I can’t find the new gloves I bought. You know the ones? The ones I put a hole in, the first time I wore them? I don’t know where they are; they’re in a pocket, in a trans-dimensional jacket, in an other-worldly closet, lying in a heap on the floor, tangled with singleton shoes. I find other gloves. We walk. 

It is Friday around 7 am. I feed the dogs and then the cat. The cat has a dining nook far from the kitchen so he can eat in peace. On my way back to the kitchen I grab the paper from the front walk. In the kitchen I do the KenKens and then I write down what day it is. I look up the latest coronavirus data and write that down, too. Then I take a picture of it, and I post it on Twitter. The same four people “like” it; they don’t like it at all.

Back in April I thought it was remarkable that there were about to be a million known cases of the coronavirus in the U.S., and the next day there would be almost 60,000 dead Americans. It might have been remarkable. But it wasn’t. Now there have been more than 27 million cases and almost 470,000 dead Americans. Back in April people were talking about what song lyrics you could sing so you washed your hands long enough. Back in April people were looking forward to kids going back to school in the fall. Back in April the CDC was unclear about whether people should be wearing masks.

It is Tuesday at 10:30. I take Eggi to dog class. I bring three pieces of string cheese for her and only use two. I eat the other one in the car. I think about stopping for gas, but there are two many men at the gas station and the only one with a mask is wearing it around his neck. I drive on.

Last fall, I read somewhere that the prediction for New York was a wet winter but no snow. In the past week we’ve had a spectacular amount of snow, and more is expected. We already live like we’re snowed in: every grocery order includes staples, so we are always prepared.

Eggi comes into season and we have to send Fellow away for a few weeks. While he is gone the older dogs sleep and sleep and sleep. When he comes back, I take pictures of the pets all together to make a valentine.

I send valentines to girlfriends in five countries.

Two rooms away the Bacon Provider is working. Long hours, all on calls and video calls. Even with the doors closed I can hear how it’s going. I creep around like there’s a room full of high school juniors in there, taking the PSAT. I sneak in with a fresh cup of tea, placing it next to him and taking away a half-empty mug. Captain slides in behind me, and settles on the office couch.

It is Tuesday at 5:45 pm, and I get a text from a friend with pictures of freshly baked bread and a question about rye flour. My experience with sourdough goes back a few more years than many people, who picked it up during the pandemic. I am happy to offer advice. I light the candles on the kitchen table for dinner and use the last match in the box. Tomorrow we will realize we are out of matches, and go through the pockets of coats in the closet in search of matches from restaurants we went to in 2019.

It is 2 am. I dream the war is ending. We are just trying so hard to keep everyone together. There are still bullets flying from time to time, but if you crack open the door and call out, real loud, “Hey! Be cool! It’s over; it’s over! Stop shooting!” they do stop, for a few minutes anyway. But the thing is everyone is so used to shooting and being shot at no one knows how to stop and stay stopped.

 It is today. It snowed again last night. I wake up with another headache. It is a new day, but it feels like the same headache.

More Losing

So when Eggi won a major, she qualified for the Westminster Kennel Club Show, and about 10 days before it we had planned to do one last weekend at the Big E. I drove the truck because the Bacon Provider had taken my car to Vermont for a meeting. Eggi and I set off after dinner on Friday night, and it was a cold, dark drive, but the pickup seemed fine. In the morning we had an early start, since were first in the ring at 8 am. I started the truck early to let it run and warm up,. It was only 2F. I loaded Eggi, checked out of the hotel, and hit the road.

We’d gone about a mile when the engine died. With no engine the behemoth had lost its power steering, so I had to throw everything I had into the steer to pull over into a parking lot . I had no trouble restarting, and assumed the problem was the extreme cold. Or, like, it was an alternator thing. I still had time to make it to the show, and it was only about 15 minutes away. I let the truck run about 15 more minutes and hit the road again.

The engine died again.

I wrestled it into another parking lot (this time it was a veterinary practice that wasn’t open yet).

It was clear I was not driving even the few miles from  here to the show. I texted all the interested parties (my husband, the breeder, my handler). No one could make it to me in time to get us there. The Bacon Provider suggested I get an Uber. I sent him a photo of the corn field I was looking at.

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My handler suggested I call AAA.

AAA said they’d have a tow truck to me within the hour. Not in time to get us to the show, but I didn’t have another option. I texted my son and his GF and they said they’d come get us.

An hour passed. The truck was running, with warning lights about the battery not charging. I felt like I was right about it being the alternator. We were warm enough, and out of the way of traffic. The veterinary practice opened. Techs arrived, followed by patients and pets. No one asked if we needed help.

I checked with AAA. The time of arrival had changed. Another hour passed.

I heard from the breeder. Eggi’ sister Vivva had won enough points to finish her championship that day. My kids texted that they were an hour away.

Towards the end of the third hour, the truck started to get cold. It was still running but the fans weren’t blowing. The temperature outside had risen to the mid-20s. The gauges on the dash were no longer lit. I got Eggi out and walked her around. The tow truck finally arrived. 

We climbed into the cab. Eggi sat on my lap. The shop was a six minute drive from the spot where we waited. The Graduate and his GF arrived to pick us up while I was giving the shop my contact info.

 

The next day I took Eggi back to the show, where she took second in her class. Her other sister finished her championship that day. 

 

One of my new friends, a very successful breeder of pointers, told me that even with a really great dog you lose more than you win. 

On Monday we went back to pick up the now-repaired truck. The shop said it was a frayed serpentine belt.

Thursday Schooling

 

I arrive at the horse show in Vermont just before the horses do. It is raining vigorously. There are just two client horses coming with the commercial shipper, and I watch from inside the barn as they are unloaded. I lend a hand stretching a tarp over our hay. I step in to help carry a big box of tack.  I unwrap my horse’s legs.  The show groom tells me where I can find scissors to cut the twine that holds a bale of hay and asks me to give a couple of horses a flake each. She also confides that this is her last show with our barn because she is giving notice on Monday and moving to a new job. I don’t want it to be true, so I quickly decide I must have misunderstood her. I want to wait for my trainer to show up with his horses before I get on, but I can lunge. Gidget stands quietly for a quick grooming and I walk her to the lungeing ring.  

She reacts to the new place, giving the rain-gorged creek her most crooked parrot-eye, answering the whinny of another horse, letting a passing tractor blow the wind up her skirt. The show facility has a new lungeing area, shaped like a rectangle on three sides and curved like a bean on the fourth. I’m clumsy with the gate latch. I walk Gidget into the center of the lungeing ring, into the bend in the bean, and stop her to adjust the side reins, which are new, so I’m guessing at what hole they should be on. I remember to walk with her in a large circle, showing her the situation counterclockwise and then clockwise. Gidget settles into working on a circle, trotting and then cantering, with me in the center. A big truck blasts by on Route 106, and my mare celebrates with a buck and a fart and a surge of galloping with her tail straight up. I hold on. I get her back to trotting, and then ask her to walk. I stop her and adjust the side reins again and take Gidget over to the other side of the ring shaped like a rectangle on three sides and a bean on the fourth,  making room for our trainer who has arrived with his horse.

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Didn’t it rain?

A friendly staff member of the facility comes and asks how the new footing is. We tell him it’s good. He explains how the lungeing area ended up shaped like a rectangle on three sides and curved like a bean on the fourth. We both finish and go back to our barn to take off the side reins. 

We get on and ride into one of the show rings, because this is what everyone does on arrival day at a show. The same friendly staff member comes, shouting and shaking his fist at us, saying that the ring isn’t open, and we’re gonna ruin the footing, what with the rain. I go tour the property instead, letting my horse see everything I can. She snorts like a crocodile at the dairy cows at the farm across the street. When it’s time to put the horses away, I think about when the friendly staff member had almost finished the new lungeing ring and had three straight sides of fencing up and someone came along and told him that people want a curved shape for lungeing. I wish I could picture him farting and running or snorting like a crocodile, but I can only see him raising his eyebrows or shaking his fist.

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I think Vermont is still one of those places that we’re supposed to write poems about. You’ve got time to, if you live there, because mobile phone coverage is spotty at best, and high speed internet is a rare and prized luxury.  I lived there in the eighties, before I cared about the internet and I still wrote poems regularly. My poems were about the biting black flies in the mountains and the crabby yankees who were my neighbors in the city and no one ever read them. Then I got a paying job, and threw myself at adulthood, and (mostly) stopped writing (but especially poems).

Gidget marched around the show ring six times over the next few days, and by the last trip had mostly gotten over the creek, and the tractors, and the too-fast trucks. The cows will still be there next year. I did not misunderstand the show groom, and I will miss her.

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I got more x-rays

What I saw: x-rays of my foot, six weeks and two days after surgery

What TV shows did I watch beforehand: Bojack Horseman, all of Breaking Bad, all of Better Call Saul, seasons 7 and 8 of Doctor Who, 10 episodes of the Magicians, two episodes of Halt and Catch Fire, all of Alias Grace, all three seasons of Broadchurch, season one of the Crown (three times), 13th, two episodes of Godless, Mudbound, half an episode of Rake, two episodes of the Indian Doctor, all of the Handmaid’s Tale, 6 episodes of Brooklyn 99, one episode of Gravity Falls, and probably some other stuff.

Something I ate: fries and bubble tea and hot and sour soup that we can get delivered.

What I wore: the bear sweater. Did I tell you about it?

How I got the bear sweater: I don’t like shopping, but I do like tigers. I was looking for something with a tiger on it when I found the bear sweater (and also a unicorn sweater). Panicked, I reached out to a friend to ask which one to get, and she wisely advised that I get both. She is a good friend who understands what is important to me. I got her a plain sweater for X-mas. I hope she isn’t reading this.

Why I saw so much TV: I am too exhausted to say.

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What the hell is wrong with me: three weeks after getting my walking cast, I had a follow-up appointment with the doctor. I had to drive the Connecticut to see him, even though I am allergic to Connecticut, and lose all hope for humanity as I pass through the border. You can tell when you’ve left New York because the stacked stone walls along the way go from charmingly tumbled and to obsessively tended. A Connecticut stone wall is tall and set in mortar. I don’t know what they’re so afraid of in Connecticut, but they are prepared to defend themselves against the invasion when it comes. The other way you know is that the pavement in Connecticut is a smooth as the glossy pink bottom of an Episcopalian’s first-born daughter.

Things that were not funny: there was ample parking, though some of the luxury SUVs were parked like the driver skidded in sideways at great speed and leapt from the driver’s seat. One might have asked, “Where’s the fire?”

But we know the answer to that these days (Sorry, California).

The staff wear uniforms and are efficient and polite, which is to say that they are humorless but at least they don’t ask me about the weather (I have missed all the weather these past two months, what with the foot surgery and the walking cast and all, and I do so love fall weather, leaving the house, doing exercise, alas). I was shown to exam room 6 and told to take off both shoes and socks. My plastic cast landed with a cracking plastic thud.

Who should see it: next the nurse whose name is like Penny or Jerry or Patsy or something came in and told me I was going to x-ray. I am disgusted with myself that I can’t remember her name because I can learn the names of 50 people over lunch (this is actually true because I did it once). Nurse Penn/Jerr/Patsy asked if I was weight-bearing yet. I said I wasn’t. So I had to climb down and pick up the walking cast and put it back on and limp down the hall in the crooked way that I do when I don’t have a shoe on to balance the height of the cast. I arrived at x-ray and was passed off to an x-ray technician with a practiced instructional patter that was eerily sing-song but also in this monotone that was hard to understand. It reminded me of that thing, you know, where you see a bunch of words for colors like it says red but it’s actually yellow? There was a question in there about whether there was any possibility that I was pregnant and I didn’t so much say no as say no?

Anyway, she didn’t have a prepared speech for telling me to take off my cast so she said nothing and went to get an x-ray plate. Alone in the room, I sat in the only available chair and took off my walking cast in silence. Then she came back and resumed with the uninflected  lie down and I realized once the instructions filtered down from the air into my ears and through my brain comprehension matrix that I was supposed to get up from the chair and go over to the table using the naked foot that is not weight-bearing and lie down.  I did some unsupported lurching and flopping. Drone Voice put an X-ray plate under my foot and had me adjust three ways and then, at the last possible second, handed me big square lead apron. I knew what to do with it and it was a good thing I did because she didn’t say anything about how to hold it or where. Drone Voice said now tilt your leg and I tried to and she said more and just at the point where she goes perfect it was the moment where it actually hurt to be in that position and I was about to grunt.

Next I had to walk across the room and stand like the gold medalist on the top of the three squishy foam-covered stairs and Drone Voice moved the table closer because she could and while she explained what she was doing and why the words went up and around and flew some circles in the room and slipped out past the illuminated red EXIT sign.

I took my steps up the balance-destroying squishy foam steps and stood for more angles, holding the apron awkwardly around myself, hoping to hide my delicate innards from the horrors of repeated x-rays.

Things that were sad: when I was in high school my physics teacher gave this one oral exam where we each had to walk in and answer one question and then go sit down and wait for the next person and hear them give a better answer. I was asked to tell everything I knew about x-rays. I studied in high school, although the thing then was to be too cool to admit to it, but I remember nothing about x-rays.

What I can tell you about x-rays: they go in a straight line. There was this German guy experimenting with electrical currents through glass cathode-ray tubes, and instead of inventing the computer monitor fifty years before anyone needed one, Röntgen discovered a mystery radiation and punted on finding a good name.

Something I made up about x-rays:  because of the different densities of materials, your malevolence, your damaged soul, your biases, your mistaken preconceptions, and your failures will all show up brightly on an x-ray.

Something else I made up about x-rays:  x-rays are also known as longevity rays and especially good for you and you should get them as often as you can.

Things that were funny: while I was standing on the squishy foam-covered stairs and holding the apron in front of my delicate innards, Drone Voice made a face at me and exclaimed in her perfectly flat voice It’s your bear. It’s peeking out at me. That made my day.

Drone Voice showed me her teeth. I think she took smiling lessons from Sarah “Aunt Lydia” Huckabee Sanders. The bear on my sweater made her day.

After the X-ray I strapped my plastic boot/trap/cast back on and limped down the hall to wait in room 6.  The doctor came in, looked at my latest foot x-ray and said, meh, he couldn’t actually see from an x-ray if the damned airplane parts they’ve screwed into the joint have actually fused at this point, so, uh, just wear the cast for about 4 more weeks.

I smiled and acted all cheery and agreeable and ha, ha, ha, I couldn’t tell the difference between this x-ray and the one they took in October but on the inside the words were bouncing around and flying in circles and looking for the red illuminated EXIT sign.

After two weeks, suggested the doctor (maybe because my eyes weren’t smiling), I could experiment with little walking in a shoe. And did I want to go to PT? I told him I’d think about PT (I should have told him that the last time I went to PT the therapist made rape jokes and I hope to never go back to any PT ever).

But anyway I guess in a couple weeks I get to experiment with my foot without the plastic walking cast.

What is the inverse square law: stand back from the source of the x-ray and hold your square apron upside down.

What I saw on the way home: the mortar fell out of the stone walls and I went back to my charmingly tumbled life.

 

I went to the barn holiday party

What I saw: barn friends and Hado at the holiday party.


What I did beforehand: overslept, ate cereal and walked the dogs.

What I wore: very dirty jeans and some other clothes I found wadded up on the floor of my closet, Keen pull-on snow boots, enormous purple scarf.

Who went with me: the Bacon Provider.


Why I saw this show: the ascendence of fascism in America has crushed my already limited desire to cheerfully attend social functions. Nevertheless, a party like this is an opportunity to give year-end tips to the hard-working people who take care of my horses. And to see my barn friends.

Where I stood: in the barn aisle.


Things that were sad: last year when I attended this party I didn’t realize it was all about, so I didn’t have cards and tips with me. It was awkward.  I did bring bread I made, which everyone made a big deal about. That kind of added to my feeling awkward. The other thing that happened last year is I had to have the same awkward conversation a bunch of times about who I was, and how long I’d been at the barn, and which horses I owned, and where I had my horses before that. The third time through these questions I fully flowered, via awkwardness, into an overgrown, surly hothouse  middle-schooler, providing one-word, conversation-stopping answers: two months, two horses, Dutchess County. “Oh,” they asked. “Where in Duchess County?”
And I’d say, “Pine Box,” which they hadn’t heard of.

Also, last year I met the barn owner at this party, and had a conversation with him about cakes or something but whatever I said it was said without knowing he was the owner. I thought he was just some guy. When I found about a few days later that I had been talking to the owner, and not just some guy, I marveled at myself for being so supremely awkward.

One good thing about going to parties where I barely know anyone is I can get away with just shaking people’s hands. On the west coast, I don’t remember even having to shake hands all that often, but here in New York you shake hands with new people and are engaged in this grotesquely awkward air-kissing gesture with people you already know (and sometimes even with people you don’t already know). Some people actually press their cheeks into yours, which feels like a completely unnecessary violation. Others smack you, kiss-wise, on the cheek, which at least resembles something your Aunt Ruthie might have done. Then there’s the two cheek thing, and it’s too, too much.  

So this year, I had to hug my friends and try to dodge the kissing thing, except with the French people, who seem to know what they’re doing and will do all the work so all I have to do is stand there limply, feeling awkward and wait for it to end.

Hado goes for an awkward air-kiss

Things that were funny: I was standing with my friend C. and some other people talking about the bread and someone else walked up to tell me how much they like my bread. Also, I ran into the owner again, and this year I told him how much I love the barn and thanked him. If it was awkward, I didn’t even care.


Things that were not funny: two different people asked me if I make my bread using a bread machine. 

Something I ate: there were home-made linzer cookies, and my husband made me try an inch-long piece of the top of his. It was good, though we thought it should have been rolled just a little bit thinner before baking. I also drank a glass of quite decent red wine out of a red plastic cup. Nothing says “PARTY” in America like a red plastic cup.


What it is: keeping horses is an expensive, labor-intensive business, requiring attentive and careful management. It takes a lot of people, and many hours, and good communication. The work is never-ending. I now understand that regular tips are expected and also some kind of Christmas bonus. This summer I was brave enough to ask some of my barn friends what they tip and was enormously relieved to find I wasn’t doing it wrong.

Who should see it: holiday parties might be supremely awkward, being a weird salad event of tossed religious holidays, crumbled gift-giving, and chopped “being busy,” over a bed of shifting expectations for getting dressed up, but you should go. No one ever says, “Ugh! I wish that awkward so-and-so didn’t show up!”

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What I saw on the way home: Canada geese, headed south for the winter.