33 in New Jersey
Sunday, April 24 2005
setting: Silver Spring, Montgomery County, Maryland, USA
For Gretchen, a trip to her hometown always must be jam-packed with social engagements, far more than my social circuitry can handle. But I came along with Gretchen, her brother, and our sister-in-law when we all met a friend-of-the family at an Indian restaurant with a buffet. (The baby was being babysat by his grandparents.) During lunch my sister-in-law asked what had happened at last night's seder after they'd left. I told about the battle Gretchen and I had fought to avoid the dessert course, saying we almost got hooked up to feeding tubes.
Later Gretchen took me to another friend-of-the-family, where we sat around and drank artificial ice tea and talked mostly about poetry and other subjects about which I had little to contribute. At some point, though, the subject of "Intelligent Design" came up and I got the chance to say that the vertebrate eye has a serious design flaw that forces everyone with a backbone to view the world through a fog of blood and nerves. We also talked about how language molds our thinking, and how someone who fluently speaks two different languages is really two different people stuck in a single body, since the associations between ideas and words in one language are mostly separate from the associations between ideas and words in the other. (An extreme example of this was given to us by our Polish friend from Eagle's Nest Road; she once told us of a friend who speaks English and Polish and who, in English, would agree to a certain marriage proposal but who in Polish would not.)
Today was the day that Gretchen and I would be driving back to New York. Before we set out, though, we took our dogs (and one of Gretchen's parents' poodles) for one last walk in Sligo Creek Park. It was a cold and clammy day and we figured there wouldn't be anyone else there, but we figured wrong. When Eleanor and the over-eager poodle ran up to some guy with a dog on a leash, he freaked out and hollered at us about how we needed to have our dogs on leashes. Such people are a type, and the neurotic antisocial behavior of their socially-starved dogs reinforces unpleasant personality qualities in both dog and master that might have once been nascent. As we left the park the guy actually followed us at a distance to take note of what house we returned to.
On the drive back home, we encountered terrible congestion on the New Jersey Turnpike and were forced to abandon it for Route 33, a perfectly good surface street that ran parallel to it. As I drove its gently rolling miles of four lane, with its light-but-aggressive traffic, grassy medians, and mostly well-timed lights, I remembered having driven on this particular road once before, probably back in college.
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