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.

I had it wrong


What I saw: it was dark, and my alarm hadn’t gone off yet. The cat stretched out along the length of my body with his two front paws pressed gently on my chin. I was up early to drive the Bacon Provider to the train.

Late fall dawn, Bedhead Hills

What I did beforehand: dreamed about fence-building, and getting knocked over by an eagle.

What I wore: tiger t-shirt (“I just chugged four beers!”), TomboyX flannel jammies pants, insulated waterproof Irish boots, big parka, fingerless mittens.

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Who went with me: my husband of thirty years. 

How I got a ticket: the last speeding ticket I got was about ten years ago. I was driving home from a part-time community college teaching job and failed to check my speed down a big hill past a familiar speed trap. Or maybe it was a couple of years after that, on 520 westbound, with the Graduate in the car. That time I was thinking about how bad things were, but also how much worse they could get. About this I was not wrong.

Why I saw this show: every minute I spend driving someone somewhere is another minute I don’t spend wondering why I’m here.

Where I sat: behind the wheel, listening to Tommy Wieringa’s “These are the Names.”

Mom & Dad, 1970s Xmas

Things that were funny:
the other day when we got our Xmas tree, I started thinking, as I do every year, about my mother’s thing about Christmas. Her name was Sarah, and she would have been 76 today. When I call my brothers on Christmas, they will say, “Sarah Christmas!” to me. My cousins, my mother’s sister Mary’s kids, may text me, “Sarah Christmas,” too.

According to my Aunt Mary, and both of her kids and both of my brothers, the reason we say “Sarah Christmas” is because when Mary was only 3 or 4, she heard people saying “Merry Christmas,” and understood it to mean, “Mary Christmas.” And she felt, in fairness, people should also say, “Sarah Christmas.” I checked with Mary and both of her kids and both of my brothers about this story just the other day. Because, you see, I was writing down why we say, “Sarah Christmas,” and somehow I knew the story differently.

The way I understood it, it was my mother who wanted people to say “Sarah Christmas,” not Mary. It was my mother who wanted it, because she was jealous of her younger sister. 

Now, I have always thought this, as far back as I can remember. And I think I am wrong about this. Mary is still sharp as ever, and she remembers. Both her kids remember. And both of my brothers.

So, why did I remember it wrong? Did I learn it wrong? Or, was it that I was too distracted and impatient to listen to the story when I was little, and I never bothered to get it right? Or, did my mother tell me that in secret? Or, did I invent that version, to fit my outlook on my mother?

Mary on the left, Sarah on the right, with their Daddy

Things that were sad:
I will never really know why I got it wrong. 

Something I ate: a mix of Bob’s Red Mill Honey Oat Granola and Nature’s Path Heritage Flakes with Stonyfield Farm organic 1% milk, with a large spoon.


What it is: something I will not argue I am right about, nor is it something I will revise my thinking about. It is, as they say, what it is.

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Who should say it: all of us. We should all say “Sarah Christmas.” 

Things that were not funny: on the way to town, we saw a black car sitting on the shoulder of the road. Sometimes the local police wait for speeders under the nearby bridge, so I thought maybe it was just that. 


What I saw on the way home: I got a better look at it on my way back. The ground was all torn up from the skid, and its front bumper was gone. It had spun and wound up perpendicular to the road. Only the dense brush had held it back from falling backwards into a ravine.

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Truth and Barbecue Sauce

I am still of two minds about many things, like requiringvaccinations, or eating dogs, or the Westboro Baptist Church, but I’m not undecided about the Internet right now. Right now, I am still thinking the Internet is awesome. The Internet makes communities for people who would otherwise have none, and that’s great.

Of course, Facebook is on my shit list at this moment, but one thing I’m liking is Laura Olin’s Everything Changes newsletter. It appears in my email a couple of days a week. It is usually short. It is often different. The past two days she has asked simply what I’m thinking about. Not just me, of course, but me and everyone else who subscribes and responds. She will collect the data in a few more days, I think, and present it back to us, her readers.
The day before yesterday when I opened it I had just looked at a picture of a jar of homemade barbecue sauce and I was still thinking about barbecue sauce. So that was my reply, “barbecue sauce.”
Yesterday, I was closing Twitter, and glanced at a picture of that state senator who compared women to inferior cuts of meat, and someone had made a graphic with him and a rack of ribs smothered in barbecue sauce so when I glanced at my email again and was asked the same question, my honest reply was, again, “barbecue sauce.”

The thing is, I don’t even really like barbecue sauce very much. I mean it’s ok. It has its place. I certainly do use it when I eat ribs. But I don’t keep it around to put on fries or sandwiches or anything. If I have some in my fridge, it’s leftover from the last time I made ribs.
But now I’m dwelling on barbecue sauce, so my mind leaps to the staple of my teenage years: barbecued chicken.
My mother did not enjoy cooking. Really, my mother resented cooking. She had a book called the “I hate to cook cookbook.” She served Spaghettios for dinner without apology. We regularly had creamed chipped beef on toast. She cut the Carl Buddig processed meat with scissors to make it. We ate canned peas.
We had a gas grill, built in, next to the house, out near the patio. It was surrounded by ivy on the ground and climbing the walls of the house and a walkway to the side porch. Somewhere I have a picture of my mother holding the tongs and a bottle of barbecue sauce, standing next to the grill. I took this picture. She is tilting her head and giving me a cheesy grin. Someday I might find that picture again.
The grilling of the chicken was a regular event. It was the one thing she seemed to resent less than chicken piccata (hammered thin with fury and served over brown rice), or spaghetti (in a red sauce that had slices of carrots but no garlic), but I’m pretty sure flank steak was still easier. Nothing really justifies how much barbecue chicken she made. Maybe she was just trying to get outside.
One time, the cylindrical base of the gas grill rusted through suddenly, right at the bottom, while she was barbecuing. She opened the lid to turn the chicken and the weight of the lid sent the whole grill groaning backwards. My mother said that the chicken all fell into the soot-blackened lid, and burning gas flames shot twenty feet into the sky. I can see it all vividly: the blackened, half-cooked chicken breasts, Mom snatching them with tongs and putting them in a Pyrex dish. I can still summon the scorched ivy on the side of the house.
The truth is, I’m not sure I was there to see any of it. Why do we remember things that happened as if we were there?