cool-weather neighbor party
Friday, October 2 2020
Just before 3:00am this morning, I got up to piss in my laboratory urinal, and Gretchen sprang to attention, asking, "Are you awake?" She was so excited that I thought maybe Ruth Bader Ginsburg had come back to life. But no, the news was that Donald Trump had contracted the coronavirus. Gretchen seemed to be thinking this was good news, but I had my doubts. In any case, I took 10 mg of ambien, knowing there was no way I would be falling asleep without it, and went to check my usual news sources on my bedside laptop, reading until I was sure I was about to fall asleep. Towards the end there, I couldn't really figure out how Facebook works.
I'd had a fair amount of Maker's Mark last night, but that couldn't account for another fairly bad hangover. Maybe the ambien had played a role; in the past I've known it to leave me feeling depressed the next day.
Four or five gentlemen came up from the City today to visit Powerful and interview him for a project they're doing called Everybody vs. Injustice. They had a cameraman amongst them and interviewed Powerful in our yard. Then they interviewed Gretchen. Like others, they expressed amazement that we willingly took Powerful into our home when he got out of prison. But, as Gretchen puts it, she wants to live in a world where such kindness is not considered unusual.
Unfortunately, I didn't get around to mowing the grass until later in the day.
We'd be having a little socially-distanced dinner party this evening out on our east deck with our neighbor Kacey and her Senegalese boyfriend Konca. Outdoor dinner parties were easy in the summer, but these days it gets cool as soon as soon as the sun goes down. So while Gretchen was preparing a multi-course meal centered around a tray of her award-winning vegan macaroni & cheese, I put together a tripod-mounted electric infra-red radiant heater.
Kacey and Konca arrived a half hour late, at 5:30pm, meaning we didn't have much of a headstart on the evening chill as we began our meal. It wasn't just the cold; there was also dampness from recent rains, including a some sprinkles that had fallen today. We'd swapped out the usual comfy-cushioned outdoor furniture with our upholstered (and partially-cat-destroyed) dining room chairs, but Kacey and Konca had kicked off their shoes and the planks of our deck were damp.
To my delight, Konca and Kacey both experessed interest as I added sliced-up hot pepper to my macaroni & cheese, so I sliced up some for them as well. Konca is hardcore; he added a lot to his. (I'm used to people from places where they supposedly like spicy food disappointing me with their actual spice intake.) My biggest disappointment with the social dynamics of the evening was that I was the only one drinking alcohol. I had two IPAs while everyone else was drinking seltzer water.
The meal played out the way they always do, with plenty of good conversation and stories, including Gretchen and me telling our love story (best line from me, with regard to the way Gretchen remembered me prior to our reconnection: "I didn't have good prospects").
Interestingly, there was a bit of conversation between Powerful and Konca that convinced Powerful that Konca was legitimately a member in good standing of African-American culture. This concerned the hip-hop outfit known as Jadakiss, whom Konca praised as "lit." That was all Powerful needed to hear, as he would explain later, to know that Konca wasn't fronting. I had assumed that there would be a huge cultural divide between Powerful and Konca (even if many of their genes come from the same part of West Africa). But evidently I was wrong.
After dessert, Gretchen sent me to the front yard to start a fire in our steel fire pit, which we'd only used once months ago. Using a little cardboard, dry wood from the woodshed, and a lot of pine needles, I quickly built up an impressive fire. It wasn't long after that that the light of a flashlight appeared on Dug Hill Road. It was our new downhill neighbors, whom Gretchen had invited to the fire pit phase of the evening. This group consisted of two adults and their three children.
Now at the fire pit, I was having a different series of conversations, now mostly with the father figure in our downhill neighbors' family. He was intrigued by my casual mention of the unorthodox manner by which I had amassed my supply of firewood. There are so many things to know when one moves from Brooklyn to Hurley Mountain. Fortunately for me, I have a deep reservoir of homesteading knowledge from my unorthodox childhood. But there have been newer things to know, such as about the existence of battery-powered chainsaws.
The oldest daughter from downhill lit up when Gretchen finally came out to join the bonfire. The two have really hit it off despite their forty-year age difference. When I went to get more pine needles, that daughter asked if it was hay. I liked that, so I referred to the pine needles as "hay" for the rest of the evening.
As the just-waning fullish moon rose above the house in the east, I noticed it was attended by a bright object that must've been Jupiter. One the little downhill boys asked me something in incomprehensible gibberish that his mother translated as "Are there planets in the sky?" I pointed east and said that that was the proof, though everyone else was either too short or too close to the house to see what I was talking about. Gretchen had gone made hot chocolate, and two little boys had brown smudges all over their faces.
After the downhill neighbors had gone, Gretchen interrogated Powerful about the violence in his community as a child. This grew out of an earlier discussion of guns, which had led Powerful to admit to getting his first gun at the age of twelve. Powerful told about how his father used to encourage him to get into fights so as to "toughen" him. Once satisfied with Powerful's account, Gretchen turned to Konca and asked about his childhood in Senegal. From his telling, it sounded like he'd had a more gentile, lower-stakes version of Powerful's experience. Finally Gretchen turned to me and asked about the violence I'd encountered. There hadn't been much, and nearly all of it had come from my troubled older brother. Then Gretchen talked about her own experience with the something similar: psychological torment. There had been no violence amoung her peers as a kid, but her most meaningful clique, a group she refers to as "the Sisters Quartet," engaged in a diversity of cruel psychological games, including convincing the least-liked of their group to date a freckled red-headed boy whose last name was Gay. Enough said. This talk of cruelty led me to confess a little too much of my own troubled history of participation in psychological cruelty, including the index-card-based dossiers I kept on classmates in the sixth grade (cards I only shared with other members of a small clique that others were desperate to join). I also confessed to feeling ashamed of the cruelty I contributed to back in college, when I belonged to a number of exclusive cliques.
Our bonfire lasted until 11:00pm, and by the end there I was very tired, as I'd taken a 100 mg dose of diphenhydramine at 9:00pm. Still, just before our across-the-street neighbors left, I gave Konca a tour of my very-messy laboratory. For some reason, Neville regarded Konca very suspiciously when he came upstairs, perhaps because he is tall and was wearing a hoodie.
After our guests were gone, I had just enough energy to wash most of the party's dishes before going to bed.
For linking purposes this article's URL is:feedback
previous | next