Friday, March 10 2006
setting: rural Hurley Township, Ulster County, New York, USA
Today was the day that Gretchen and I would be setting off for Guatemala, but I had a bunch of little things that I still needed to do, including make a web site go live. It catered to a fanbase mostly of jam band fanatics. By "jam band," I mean the sort of band that has broken free of the tyranny of the three minute song and have come to see music performance as an opportunity to lead revelers in a shamanistic group experience. I've never been much of a fan of "jam band" music, partly because I can never figure out when a jam band is tuning up or is just spacing out. It turns out jam band fans are much more obsessed with jam music websites than I have ever been with making one. I couldn't believe all the links and traffic this site already had on the day of its release.
The funniest thing that happened today came after we'd called a realtor to find out about that long, narrow 14 acre piece of property behind our house. Gretchen had seen signage on the road saying it was again on the market. Just this fall it had sold for $25,000, a price we would have gladly paid. So we wanted to find out what the new asking price was, and, if reasonable, immediately expand our piece of paradise. Get this: it was on the market for $139,000. I'm not shitting you. At first we were wondering if we were even talking about the same piece of property.
Later Gretchen was gone when a woman from that realty company called back, though she didn't identify herself as being from the company; that was left to caller-id. Instead she introduced herself as a friend of our uphill neighbor ("Mrs. Greenhouse"), who happens to be even more opposed to that 14 acre parcel being developed than we are. This improperly-introduced realtor then made the claim that the property actually did have a right of way, and that this accounted for the difference in price. I responded that there is nothing about that "right of way" in any legal documents, and that there was no justification for the "quintupling" of its asking price. The only people, I said, who would ever buy that property would have to be distracted New Yorkers who never bothered to look at it. I assured her that this new asking price came as a great relief to us, since it meant no one would be buying it any time soon, "Especially in this market." (It seemed only fair to rub this anonymous realtor's nose in the ongoing burst of the housing bubble.)
This evening Gretchen drove to the Kingston Greyhound station to pick up our house sitters, Doug and Sharon while I was simultaneously doing several last-minute pre-trip rituals. One of these was the illegal duplication of a Spanish-language lesbian-themed Netflix DVD. (My iBook allows us to watch DVDs when we travel.)
After we'd handed our house off to Doug and Sharon and Sally had given us a very sad goodbye from its front door, we drove down to New York. We took our "newest" car (which is actually our oldest), never mind that its check engine light has been on for the past several tanks of gas (a problem that a new set of spark plugs has yet to fix, even though they have made the car run a lot better).
Our destination was Park Slope, Brooklyn, and everything was fine until we approached the Brooklyn Bridge southbound on the FDR. At that point the traffic slowed to a crawl, with Gretchen observing that it was the perfect environment for driving a Prius. "Wouldn't it be funny," I mused, "if suddenly all the cars around us gradually became Priuses, that we'd entered their ecological niche, the land of the Priuses, the place where they go to spawn!" "Please," Gretchen begged of the hypothetically-spawning Priuses, "Spawn a baby Prius for us!" (As you know, we recently had a Prius and sold it because we were dissatisfied with its mileage. But we'd be perfectly happy having one if it could be obtained as easily as a spawned salmon, that is, without spending $25,000.)
As we crawled along in traffic, a woman in a car in the lane to our left stopped beside us and made an urgent motion, the kind one makes when one is alerting another driver to an unseen car fire. So Gretchen rolled down her window, but by this point I could tell the other driver was enthusiastically endorsing our "Impeach Bush" bumpersticker. But this driver had something treasonous to add, "I'd like to shoot that fucker!" Unfortunately, she drove off before I could note her license plate and make the obligatory call to the Secret Service. Even in 2006 it's still possible to get away with such crimes in the hurly-burly of Manhattan gridlock.
In gridlock, you grow unhappily familiar with all the other cars around you. By the time we began to scale the ramp up to the bridge itself, we were placing far too much importance on the fate of a yellow New Beetle that had ignored our attempts to merge in front of her, a merge she owed to the world owing to a merge we'd seen her make. In the end we'd had to merge in front of the person who had let her in, a real gridlock sucker (the Yiddish term is friar) who ended up letting three different cars merge.
Our soundtrack during our crossing of Manhattan was the Beatles' Rubber Soul, an album that Gretchen finds uneven but that I find mostly excellent, despite its early place in the Beatles' discography (both of us agree that early Beatles is uninteresting bubblegum). There are plenty of marvelous proto-psychedelic moments on Rubber Soul, moments that other bands managed to convert into entire careers. It's true that the album has a few weak moments, especially that opening song granting permission to drive a car. Gretchen definitely had a point about the weakness of its uni-note melody. Then again, one could say that its emphasis on rhythm over melody was just another grand Beatles innovation, at least in Western pop music.
Leaving the country and flying out of JFK involves all sorts of crazy logistics best left to someone more logistically-capable than myself. Gretchen had arranged for us to drop off our car with Dave and Michelle, the Park Slope couple with whom we usually leave our car. They came with us for the final road-based American leg of our journey, to JFK. As people go, they're unusually compatible with our sense of humor in that nothing shocks them, yet there is plenty that they find hilarious within the realm that most find disgusting. So, somehow when we started talking about these Spanish classes we'll be taking in Guatemala, inevitably we started imagining a sort of class that is taught entirely during sexual intercourse with a native-speaking teacher, where one learns in the context of orgiastic necessity.
Then later Michelle told us about a fate a friend of hers had imagined for someone with particularly bad karma. It would be to become impregnated with a wheel-shaped formation of conjoined multiplets (all of them attached to one another as a hub at the tops of thier heads). These "children" would, of course, all be profoundly retarded, and thus would all have the informal name "Corky" (after the Down's Syndrome character in the television series La, La, La, La, Life Goes On). Michelle explained that such a human Pangea would be called a "Corky Wheel." We spent a good ten minutes discussing how a Corky Wheel would go about its business in the world, including its probable means of locomotion and to what extent retardation would even matter. "I think Down's Syndrome would be the least of its problems," I mused.
There was a severe complication regarding our flight to Guatemala. TACA, our airline, had, in its wisdom, placed Gretchen and me on separate flights. Gretchen had unsuccessfully tried to correct this error in the preceding days and was now convinced such a correction could be made at the airport. But we had no such luck. Both of our respective planes had been oversold, at least on one or the other of their respective legs, and there was no guarantee that both of us would be able to get on either flight. The guy at the TACA ticket booth (with whom Gretchen was speaking in Spanish) wasn't even prepared to issue me a boarding pass yet for my flight, which would be leaving five hours later. But then Gretchen implied that I was mildly retarded and helpless on my own, so ticket booth dude wrote me a ticket. This allowed me to get through security and see Gretchen off, but then the gate was empty and a Jamaican security guard politely told me I had to leave.
This was just as well, because it turns out that there are many open WiFi hotspots in Terminal 4 of JFK on the insecure side of security. I sat down in a food court full of frisky Asian college kids and sleepy older wine-drinking Europeans and when I flipped open my iBook there were nine accesspoints to choose between. Neptune wanted me to pay but Variq Lounge was wide open and free. Later, in another foodcourt, I used the free nwaworldclubs hotspot. I could spend the bulk of my five hour wait doing what I normally do when I sit in front of a computer.
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