blanket of snakes, socks of tapeworm
Friday, December 11 2015
Q & N and their dog Coach Eric Taylor came over this morning, sooned joined by Michæl (of Carrie & Michæl) and his dog Penny, and all of us went for a big walk in the forest, looping southwest of the abandoned go-cart track, then exploring those (only Gretchen and I had been to them before), and heading home on the trail west of the Farm Road and the terraces to its west. The dogs bounded among the trees as always, Penny oblivious to hunting season and the fact that she resembles a dog wearing a deer skin. Back at the house, Gretchen heated up some crumpets and cut up a loaf of banana bread and I made two french presses of coffee, the first caffeine I would be drinking since Sunday. We had a fairly wide-ranging conversation about Jeopardy (which all of us but Michæl watch) with a concentration on recent contestants. During this, it came out that N also watches Wheel of Fortune, which she admitted is for stupid people.
After Q & N left, we told Michæl about Q's brush with literary fame and how it was dashed by a plagiarism scandal. This led into a conversation about the students in the art classes Michæl teaches at the local community college. He says he deals with a lot of plagiarism there, where bad writing comes in several forms: naked plagiarism, plagiarism with word substitution, overwrought writing (and overreliance on a thesaurus), and what he called "book report" writing, which steers clear of opinion and analysis. It turns out that most plagiarism among students is obvious even without the Google search that quickly unearths the original material. Evidently students rarely master the technique of applying verbal spackle around lifted phrases so as to make them blend seamlessly with the sub-par original material in which they are embedded.
When Michæl headed off to do yet more work for his class (for which he earns, he estimates, about $8/hr), he left Penny at our house so she could do something more interesting than being cooped up at his house. Penny soon focused on Celeste the Cat (as she had back when Celeste was a kitten). Celeste was nervous at first, but within a half hour or so she'd decided (or remembered) that Penny is completely harmless, and pranced around the house as if Penny wasn't there, though of course Penny followed her around everywhere.
This afternoon I returned to the place along the Stick Trail where I've been gather wood for the past several days, this time bringing home a respectable 110.9 pounds. The wood in the indoor wood rack is now approaching the tops of prongs that keep it from toppling from the ends. It's been accumulating more rapidly due to balmy recent weather.
This evening Gretchen and I picked up Susan & David from their house and drove to the Garden Caf´ for what turned out to be a nine-person dinner party. The other five consisted of Eva, Sandor, Michæl from this morning, Sarah the Vegan, and Nancy from Old Hurley. We'd brought a collection of SharkBite hot sauce my inlaws had bought me because they know I like hot sauce. But when someone "likes" something, it might mean they are particular about it, the way I am about things like hot sauce and beer. I'd found all the hot sauces in this collection to be too vinegary; indeed, vinegar was the first ingredient for all of them. That's so 1994! But people have different tastes, and I was hoping to distribute them to the friends who like vinegary hot sauce. Yet when it later came time to add hot sauce (as well as lots of salt) to my chick pea soup, I asked our waitress (who happened to be the restaurant's owner) to get me a bottle of Cholula (the house hot sauce, which is much less vinegary and not very hot).
The meal went on for a long time, and I was disappointed by the food. I'd ordered the burrito special, and it just wasn't as good as a burrito I can make myself in the time it took the kitchen to prepare it (although it didn't fall apart as quickly).
Later, we all went back to Susan & David's place for what would be the largest social gathering they had hosted there to date. The work being done on their house isn't finished yet, and there is a whole wall in their living room that consists of exposed studs, but it's good enough for nine-person gatherings. Susan had bought a bunch of wine, beer, and a sort of Scandanavian sherry served warm called glögg. Glögg is 21% alcohol, and after four tiny glasses of it, I'd finally come down from the dysphoric coffee buzz I'd had for most of the day.
Susan, who is even more of a procrastinator than I am, didn't finish production of chocolate peanut butter balls (which she'd also made for Thanksgiving at our house) until after we'd all arrived. The peanut butter balls were done, complete with their secret ingredient, millet, which provides a delightful bite texture. What still needed to be done was the chocolate shells on their outsides. But water from the makeshift double boiler got into the chocolate chips as they were being melted, and this poisoned the whole process, forcing Susan to cut the peanut butter balls in half and apply the chocolate like a meat patty inserted into a White Castle slider. The process was about as ugly as any I've seen in a kitchen, and in my running commentary, I couldn't help but compare it to the making of sausage. Perhaps the many stories Susan tells about kitchen disasters are not all hyperbole.
Perhaps because of the collection of sharp minds and clever wits, the conversation was particularly good tonight. People kept taking it there, and one never knew who was going to be the one to do it.
Eva somehow brought up the subject of duck penises, which reminded Gretchen and me of how I used to hold forth on ridiculous topics in the Harkness lounge back when she was seventeen, I was twenty, we were both Oberlin students, and the year was 1988. Gretchen said that she'd thought me "full of himself" at the time, though she was also "intrigued." At that point I used my hands to explain the peculiarities of duck reproduction as I understood them from having observed Muscovy Ducks at Muellers' Mtn. back when I was a teenager. Then Eva elaborated on this by telling us that female ducks have conscious control over the process in that they can shunt unwanted sperm to some sort of blind alley in cases of rape, or, as I put it, they can "shut that whole thing down."
Susan brought out a scarf she'd been knitting for eight months, to which David observed, "You don't know how many episodes of The Walking Dead that represents." Compliments soon gave way to a discussion of perhaps establishing a knitting circle, one that could also double as a book club. "How about we just watch a teevee show and talk about that afterwards?" Susan suggested. I fondly recalled having done some knitting at the age of six or seven (and those plastic toys that could automate the process even back then). I also remembered having seen something on Slate.com about a woman who knits chunky blankets using her bare hands and yarn as thick as a rolling pin, though, "it's not vegan." Perhaps, I suggested, one could knit a blanket using live snakes. It wasn't long before someone had suggested knitting a pair of socks from tapeworms.
Later in the evening, the conversation turned to my übertroll Suzy and all her antics, opinions, and stupid questions. Recently she posted a question on her Facebook page asking what was the difference between Muslims and Mexicans. And earlier today she'd posted an article whose headline I'd changed to "Scientists Struggle To Explain First Christmas Full Moon In Decades." (I've been having a lot of fun lately mocking the ignorant by having Suzy claim that scientists are baffled by things that can be explained to a five year old.) Someone tonight asked me where Suzy had come from, so then I had to launch into the Josh Furr/Fauber Clan story, which is much more fascinating than any trolling Suzy has done (especially because it culminates with a body buried in a basement, though there's also the scene where Josh throws a pizza party to placate his African American neighbor after accidentally committing a vehicle-based insult to an unrelated black man near Gypsy Hill Park).
By this point it was 11:20pm and Gretchen was getting sleepy, though she wanted me to finish my Josh Furr story. So she drove home without me. I later got a ride with Michæl, who needed to pick up Penny at our house anyway. (Side note: Eva and Sandor, whose house is a little over a half mile away of Susan & David's on foot, walked both ways.)
Just before Penny left, she demonstrated a last bit of unrequited Celeste fascination at the top of the stairs. "I love her but can never have her!" Gretchen ventriloquized. She'd been in bed reading when Michæl and I arrived.
Celeste the Cat with Penny the Dog just before Penny rode back home with Michæl.
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