Monday, February 27 2012
Back in her early 20s when Gretchen lived for a time at Hidden Villa, a demonstration farming project at the south end of Silicon Valley, she found herself spending a lot of time with a group of second cousins in San Jose. They became a sort of family-away-from-home for her, and she's had great fondness for them ever since. We've visited them at least once, and they (either the parents or the children) have visited us on occasion. Today both parents, the daughter, the daughter's husband (Sten), as well as their seven-month-old baby (Harvey) all drove up from New York to spend five or six hours with us on the one day Sten had off from his usual grueling 18-hour-per-day schedule. Gretchen had prepared an elaborate meal of French onion pie, asparagus soup, vegan cæsar salad, and cobbler to celebrate the patriarch's birthday. I'd cleaned up the house, but I don't know, once the guests arrived, I didn't really have much to add to the conversation. Some people I relate to with ease, and others push my inhibitory buttons. Usually such people seem vaguely cold or otherwise unfriendly, and I find this happening regularly with a certain kind of friend-of-Gretchen. She loves them, but I'm just going through the motions. (Happily, this is not true of any of our Hudson Valley friends, with the exception of one couple whom we rarely see.) Mind you, I tried to hang out and participate, but Gretchen commented later that I'd reminded her of "the way you used to be early in our relationship."
Part of the problem, as I saw it, was the baby Harvey. Usually Gretchen can barely contain her contempt for babies, particularly the kind that don't result from adoption, but she's made a real effort in this one case to bless the production of this particular biological baby. She'd been talking him up even before he arrived, as if to convince herself that she had it in her. Mind you, Harvey was plenty cute and reasonably well-behaved, but, once he arrived, I just wasn't feeling it. To the extent that I was expected to fake the funk, I couldn't. Still, I'd make faces at the kid and he'd smile back, so maybe I pulled it off.
The other problem was work-related; I have a remote-development gig with a firm in Manhattan, but my point of contact there is notoriously hard to reach. I'll send him repeated emails that he will ignore, and at times he ignores instant messages as well. But today I finally got through to him in my request for another project, which is very important given that the last project is done and I can't justify billing for it anymore. So there I was in the living room trying to get Trillian to work on an Android tablet so I could stay in contact without having to run up to the laboratory every fifteen minutes. I never convincingly got Trillian to work, by the way, and all that focus on an interactive device probably didn't play well with the relatives, or, more importantly, Gretchen.
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