I like grey, post-industrial cities. I like their rough edges and brick houses. I like scowls and efficiency and please get the hell out of the middle of the sidewalk if you aren't going to go anywhere. I like being a hater.
But I have to admit that sunshine, comfort, and gorgeous fruits and vegetables are pretty good too.
"These avocados are really nice," a woman near me said to the man selling them at the farmers' market. "Do you have them all year round?"
"Eeeeehh yes, but..."
"I know," she said. "Some times are better than others."
"Yeah, in December they get a little blah."
There is no denying that it is extremely pleasant to be able to walk with ease to two farmers' markets bursting with produce, an excellent cheese shop, a sweet little bakery just around the corner with quite decent coffee, a slightly further away cafe with really very good coffee, multiple superlative taquerias, et cetera, all in the nicest possible weather and terrain for walking in. There are also several venues for frozen yogurt, if you are suddenly seized with the need for some. I haven't been, but you never know.
At the same time, it's all a bit obscene, isn't it? At least the Tuesday farmer's market is laid out cruelly and has a horrible thicket of people who need to learn how to get the hell out of the middle of the sidewalk standing between oneself and the lovely food. And there is no shortage of horrible marvellous aroma types to kindle a hot little bonfire of mingled self- and other-loathing in my breast. Still...
When we spent the night in Tucumcari, New Mexico, I woke up in the morning, stepped outside, and said "Oh! I see! This is why people like to live in this part of the world." It wasn't midday hot yet, and the air was soft and dry. It smelled wonderful in a way that is nothing at all like other places.
From the day I was born until I went away to school, I lived in just one city. Since then, this will be the fifth. It will be good to have a year of saying Oh! This is why people like Southern California!
Also, no doubt, Oh! This is why everyone else in the world hates Southern California.
Here is something I like without reservation. It is a water machine. It lives near our house, outside a convenience store just down the block from the garage where the Spanish-language AA meetings happen.
Final polishing step is exposure to ultra-violet light.
There's a soothing cadence to the slight failure of parallel structure, isn't there? This is why people BEVERAGES COFFEE COOKING ICE PLANTS Southern California.
It is with great regret that I must report that we did not visit the J. J. Hawes Grain Elevator Museum in Illinois. Instead we stopped at what was surely the crustiest McDonalds in the state, if not the whole nation. We had chosen it specially for the presumed-to-be-sparkling bathrooms, so this was a real blow to our illusions.
When we arrived, there was a sign up saying that the bathroom was closed for cleaning, but judging by what I encountered after the sign went away, their janitor robot got stuck on "Filthify" instead of "Sterilize." We had a lovely picnic on a bit of grass outside.
Here you see Nemo as a prisoner of conscience. I believe we will be hearing from Amnesty International shortly.
Missouri certainly has a lot of roadside adult superstores. One (at least) is conveniently located right next to a roadside church. I hope the proprietors have wacky adventures together. Also in Missouri, we shared a scrap of roadside rest area with a woman and her giant grey poodle. The poodle had bows on its ears.
"Look, Jane, it's Missouruh," Steve said.
I've remembered that my favorite thing about long road trips is the opportunity to engage in hours and hours and hours of amiable conversation about nothing. Today alone we have covered Nancy Sinatra, the best kind of pie, genderqueerness, Pope John Paul II, where to draw the line between faithful pronunciation of the names of states and dialect caricature, the plot of Carousel, bald eagles (as emblem of the United States, as emblem of the Order of the Cincinnati, and in falconry), stupid villains in Batman, and the world's largest rocking chair.
Tomorrow's my birthday! I will celebrate it by being old and eating the leftovers of this terrible pizza we just ordered. I think it might be the best one yet.
I am currently balanced perfectly between two states: (1) Will no one rid me of all this noxious, vile, encumbering, despicable STUFF? and (2) Oh Christ, what if we find ourselves in the middle of nowhere missing some crucial, vital, comforting piece of STUFF?
Yesterday I took a break from packing for Jane's four-month doctor's appointment. It was something of an ordeal. Our doctor is lovely, but her office is not good at scheduling. It took us over two and a half hours to obtain her vaccinations and the news that she really is as tiny as passersby always say that she is.
"How old is your baby?" strangers ask, and then inevitably "Ooooh she's so teeny!"
I have started to get a bit of a complex about it. "Well, she does look extra small all bundled up in her carrier," I demur.
But it turns out that she is indeed an infinitesimal infant. She has always been snuggled up along the bottom of the chart, i.e. in the fifth percentile, and this time she fell off it. Because I provide her sole source of nutrition, this makes me feel like a bad provider, though she seems the very (miniature) picture of good health otherwise. But I want to bring home the bacon! And fry it up in a pan!
I also want not to be a complete neurotic, however, so let's pretend I'm not.
Jane is great. She does a million charming baby things a day and impressed us all by flipping from her back to her front and over to her back again the other day. She has considerately decided to enjoy riding in the car just in time for our long car trip. She coos and sings and sighs, holds her tiny hairbrush at arm's length and stares at it contemplatively, chuckles appreciatively, and belches like a large man. She creaks like a door when she is not sure whether or not she wishes to lodge a complaint, and pulls on Steve's beard to test if it is glued on.
I love you, brush.
Her mettle will surely be tested by spending a week in a car seat on our way to the West Coast. Fortunately, we have timed things so that her complaints will be more likely to be in the form of "cried incessantly throughout Missouri" or "spat up on a passerby at a rest stop Starbucks" than "filed police report, then crawled away to sweet freedom in Lubbock".
PS. I was feeling unnaturally fine about everything to do with moving until about 6 pm, when I got all the anxiety in a single dose and perished. AGGH!
Because there is no question at all that I ought to be spending every last scrap of time on (1) basic parenting, (2) moving preparation, and if there is any odd moment left over, (3) academic work, I have of course undertaken an entirely unrelated project.
There is a great shortage of illustrated children's books, as you know. That is why it is imperative that I drop everything and illustrate one of my own. It was especially important that I select a text--"The Frivolous Cake"--that is only marginally appropriate for children and furthermore written by a man who illustrated his own books, and those of others, perfectly well already himself.
When it is all done I will have a single copy printed up by one of those clever print-on-demand places, and it will all be very jolly and Jane will hate it. I shouldn't have too much trouble finishing the drawings before we move, except that I am still not quite sure how I will render the final stanza, which depicts the sexual congress of the cake and knife. To wit:
In the speed of the lingering light are blown The crumbs to the hake above, And the tropical air vibrates to the drone Of a cake in the throes of love.