he who dealt it
Sunday, January 23 2005
setting: rural Hurley Township, Ulster County, New York, USA
Somewhat more than a foot of dry fluffy snow fell during the night, the biggest snowstorm yet of this season. Such a thing normally wouldn't be much of a problem, but this morning Gretchen was to be a guest on WDST, the local independent commercial pop radio station based in Woodstock. On Sunday mornings when nobody listens they have a talk radio program, and occasionally that show is given over to the least marketable of all radio formats: poetry. So Gretchen had to get up bright and early and somehow find a way to get the truck out of our driveway. I joined her in the anti-snow jihad and it only took us about twenty minutes to render it sufficiently clear. Once Gretchen was gone, I went inside to listen (partly because I wanted to make sure she made it okay).
The preceding program was an interview with a holistic healer who gad website called Alterlife.com, though the host accidentally referred to it as Afterlife.com. The holistic healer did something that I absolutely detest: she made grossly inappropriate use of a scientific phenomenon she'd never made any effort to understand. She said that the "energy" in the human body follows the laws of "quantum mechanics" and "changes states" depending on whether you are happy or sad or whatever. This was inexcusable confusion of macroscopic and microscopic in an effort to cloak her pseudoscience in the mantle of the empirical. If she'd bothered to do a Google search she'd have known that an ordinary MRI scan completely scrambles quantum states in your brain without changing emotions or thoughts it is experiencing.
Sometime in the afternoon there came the arrival of the people who will be housesitting for us during the two weeks we will spend in Ecuador. We gave them a specialized tour of the house to impart all the specialized knowledge necessary to operate the house and care for its four legged residents. This adds up to a surprisingly large body of knowledge. It includes subjects such as cat wet food, dry cat food, dry dog food, the raw egg Eleanor should get on her breakfast kibble and the glucosamine pill that needs to be shoved down Sally's throat every morning. Then there the house's heating system: how to light a fire in the woodstove, when and how to close the flue, the number for the guy who sells us firewood. Also: how to check the level of heating oil in the fuel tank and how to determine if the boiler needs a reset (and what to do to make it happen). This was followed by a brief course on using the upstairs hot tub, followed by a more elaborate lesson concerning the Tivo and the DVD player.
When all that information had been imparted, Gretchen and I drove into the city to begin the first leg of our vacation, which involved positioning ourselves within a striking distance of JFK. Sunday evening drives into New York are usually prey to gridlock, since that is when so many weekenders return. But the snow had bottled up the City's weekenders, even the ones too stupid to know the best time to return, and it was clear sailing. Parking in Park Slope was also easy for some reason; many cars were buried under massive piles of snow though many cleared spaces were available, including one directly across 7th Avenue from Ray and Nancy's apartment, where we'd be spending the night.
Our hosts had cooked a sort of Thai-style dinner for us. But Ray couldn't stay long; he had to sequester himself to grade papers while the rest of us had a conversation that eventually lead us to a web collection of rhyming couplets encapsulating wisdom about the origins of everyday human flatulence. Most of these couplets assign "the blame" to the person who first drew attention to the sudden presence of a foul odor of intestinal origin, although one of them makes the claim that the person using such wisdom to deny the passing of gas is in fact the origin of said gas. Anyway, for some reason I found this web page an incredibly entertaining read, something I did out loud between gasps for air and belly aching guffaws.
Gretchen and I spent the night in Ray and Nancy's guest area, one of the "rooms" near the center of their shotgun apartment. The guest bed was a blow-up mattress with a built-in 120 volt pump.
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