physical types of non-glamorous America
Tuesday, October 21 2003
Edna the Cat hasn't been seen since the night of Clarence's arrival. At first we figured maybe she was off on a pout, but now it has a been a few days and it is beginning to look like she's suffered the same fate as Noah. Could our cat karma get any worse? That crazy woman Jody, the would-be animal rescuer who kept Mavis locked up in a closet, is apparently overwhelmed by the new responsibility granted to her by the yahoos who acquitted her during her animal abuse trial; she's been calling up people (including us) asking if we're interested in adopting our foster animals. That's the one bit of good cat news: that we'll probably be allowed to keep our highest-maintenance, most cantankerous cat.
Early this afternoon I drove Frank and Lisa out to a car rental place on Albany Avenue so they could "hire a car" for the purpose of touring the Catskills. For Frank and Lisa, it was a solid introduction to the physical types of non-glamorous America, the kind of folks one finds peopling the towns and villages that are not New York City or Los Angeles. The guy presiding over the filling out of the car rental agreement was enormously fat, but it was a strange kind of overweight because he looked like a normal guy outfitted in an unconvincing and poorly-tailored fat suit, the kind worn by Gwyneth Paltrow in that celebration of the "inner anorexic," Shallow Hal. Even more disturbing in appearance was his son, a guy whose forehead so closely approached his cheekbones that it was difficult to see his eyes. We didn't have to talk to him long before we realized that, though plenty sweet, he was retarded. As the guy handling the paperwork went off to try out Frank's second credit card (the first one was refused), Frank glanced around the dismal little rental office and saw a large poster celebrating the USS Niagara, a ship that had scored a victory against the British Navy during the War of 1812. "You people sure are nice in person," observed Frank (in reference to all the Yanks who had volunteered their English travel stories), "But I look around on the walls and everything is about the time you kicked our ahrses!"
Frank doesn't have a driver's license and doesn't know how to drive, but even Lisa had a little trouble familiarizing herself with the car. She'd apparently never driven an automatic before and wanted to know what to do in the absence of clutch.
After Frank and Lisa drove away (presumably safely), I went and fetched some supplies with which to redo the LED disco ball lighting system, whose prototype has been working imperfectly. The prototype did have a number of good features I wanted to continue, such as a gooseneck made of thick copper wire allowing me to point it any direction I want to. But other things had to be abandoned, such as the use of pre-printed generic circuit board (blank perfboard made more sense in this application), and the use of common resistors for groups of LEDs (these tended to overheat at the currents generated). Only later did I discover that most of my problems were the result of using 12 volts where I thought I'd been using five.
In the evening Frank and Lisa returned from an outing around the Ashokan Reservoir, where they'd actually done some illegal swimming (the air temperature was in the 60s, but the water still held a lot of the heat of summer).
Later Frank cooked us all a wonderful dinner of stuffed manicotti and yams. I could tell that Frank was something of a real gourmet, and likewise he noted that Gretchen had set up the kitchen in a way that indicated the presence of gourmet talents (i.e., the knives were sharp). But not all gourmets were created the same. After he was done cooking his fabulous meal, Gretchen was alarmed to discover that Frank had used about two cups of extra virgin olive oil. Also, Frank tends to be a little clumsy, particularly in a setting as complex as a kitchen. As he walks by a counter full of bottles, bowls, and plates, they all seem to start wobbling at once. Cats and dogs underfoot had better watch out, because his feet have an incredible talent for seeking them out blindly. Even dishes across the room aren't immune from Frank's destabilizing force field. A kettle full of tea water on the stove leapt to its death while Frank was a full ten feet away, its plastic handle shattering into four pieces on the floor. (I managed to fix it with Super Glue and model cement.)
Clarence sitting next to the east windows of the dining room, overlooking the fall colors.
That's Edna's yellow bowl, but she's been gone for days and now Clarence is eating from it.
Now you can see the Hurley mug and the Vermont maple syrup,
the latter a gift of my old housemate John.
From left: Lisa, Frank, and me.
Lisa and Frank.
Later on we all hung out together in the living room drinking the port Frank and Lisa had brought. Frank told us that port was one of the few beverages it was customary to pour for one's self, since it was usually drunk after dinner while all the servants were cleaning up. It was also, he said, common for the men to drink port by themselves, away from the women. We inadvertantly preserved that custom as well, as the conversation divided into one between Gretchen and Lisa and a far nerdier one between Frank and myself. Later the womenfolk left and I managed to scrounge up a very tiny bit of marijuana that had been left behind by another guest much earlier in the summer.
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