Yelling out your distaste for someone has a much more final feel to it than two people just gradually drifting apart, never noticing when the fade is so complete that you have trouble calling their face to mind.
As I said, it just fades away, until one morning you awake with tears in your eyes because that back part of your mind never really went along with the front of your mind. That one section refused to forget. You get up to stumble to the computer and enter the name in a search; about a hundred possibles pop up. You refine the search on Facebook, and there she is. Like you, she is fifty years older, happily married, mother, and grandmother. The lines of happiness are etched on the features that you almost remember. In the profile photo, she stands next to her husband, who you also almost recognize.
You pause over the tab to send a friend request, think about it, and then move to Messenger.
In the end, you smile and stumble back to bed, happy that things turned out well. Not a bad end at all.
As a starving undergrad, I spent an inordinate time in some of the most exclusive clubs in the Boston area; and I do not mean as a busboy or waiter.
Staff at private clubs are used to people acting in the role of an unappreciated aide de camp. Frequently escorted to private dining rooms to eat with others like myself, the chef seemed pleased to serve us. It was through this means that I was introduced to many foods that I could not afford to buy. Hell, at the sort of establishment I could afford, they’d never have heard of the entrees.
The staff of many of the clubs expected to be teated in a patronizing manner, I watched as many of them were openly ignored and disrespected. A favored technique that I later witnessed frequently at the University of Pennsylvania was the “cut.” Properly executed, the cutter passes the cuttee while looking slightly off to the right and above the shoulder. The eyes barely miss the cuttee’s face. It’s disrespectful and meant to imply that you are beneath notice.
I did this type of work for two years. I gained an insight into caste and class that I did not have previously. and came to agree wholeheartedly with Groucho Marx’s comment that if invited, I would refuse “…to join any club that would have me as a member.”
These ambient noises are not as challenging as I was used to in New York City. Nor can they compare with my woodcarving studio in Boston, beside a railroad yard. Every boxcar with a lousy wheel reverberated throughout the neighborhood. No wonder girlfriends insisted on their place
By contrast, coastal Maine gave me the willies initially. Too silent. After the sun went down, the ambient sound came from wind, trees, and a rare car going by on the road below. Sometimes I just wanted to go outside and make noise. But I became used to it.
I moved to Philly for grad school and had to readjust to street noise.
Years later, I returned to Maine to teach periodically. Every visit, the first half of the first night, I spent listening to the quiet.
I like collecting soundscapes. I am privileged to experience them where the hearing impaired struggle. It’s not something I ever wish to take for granted.
Shows ranged ( back then) in cost, from a twenty-five dollar local church fair to mega-extravaganzas at a convention center or resort area for hundreds of dollars. I assume that fees have continued to inflate since then.
A good producer selected quality locations, juried applicants, and made sure that there was variety in vendors. As craftspeople and vendors, we were interested in making sure that if the application form stated that the crafter must make everything themselves that it was so. After you were in a cycle of shows, you got to know the other craftspeople. Through them, you heard about who to trust and who to avoid.
After a while, the awful producers would get you on their mailing list, and flood you with unwanted applications to their substandard shows.
Many shows advertised handmade crafts, but the producer had stuffed the show with Made In China, Pakistan, and Indonesian knock offs. The five real craftspeople placed near the entrance lost sales to the cheap imported “crafts.”
I wish I could say that if you stuck with known producers, you were safe. But, as in the rest of life, safety is always a relative commodity.
Here’s a case in point. Several of my peers and I had heard about a show happening on a summer weekend in a resort area north of Boston along the shore. The producer was a well-known craftsperson with an, especially good reputation. The fee was substantial, but we thought that this would prove to be a good show: a suitable venue, date, fair jury process, and well-known craftsperson as a producer. It was a bomb.
First, after we set up, we learned that the gate fee was high. In addition to the gate fee, there was an additional parking charge. One or the other was to be expected, but both were sure to dampen attendance, and so it did. As the first day wore on, craftspeople started talking, and it came out that little advertisement had preceded the show. By the end of the first-day, anger had begun to grow.
It was a lovely weekend, however, so there were hopes for Sunday’s attendance. Sunday morning can be slow due to church, and it can die early as people leave to go home. Most of your business comes in the time between eleven AM and three PM. Not at this show, people avoided it due to the double whammy fees.
Craftspeople are great at concealing how bad a show can be: ” Great show, I took in lots of deposits. didn’t sell much off the table, but lot’s of commissions.” Or “Tthe show’s real success will be in the next week when people start calling.” I know because I’ve used variations on all of these and more. But at this show, people were openly revealing that they had sold nothing at all. Things began to deteriorate when one by one, we all visited the producer’s tent to complain and demand our fees be returned. While she went to the bathroom, a floral artist created a wreath of thorny stems with the flowers cut off and left them on her seat. The note enclosed read, “leave while you can.”
Leave, she did. Her booth canopy was abandoned in place. She fled with only her paperwork. I presume she left with the meager proceeds from the gate and parking fees as well. It was the only time I’ve seen a producer exit the show before it closed. With the producer gone, we all rapidly packed and left as well.
It was the worst show I had ever done, and an excellent object lesson that bad things happen at events, even when all the signs for a great show seem to be there.
This strange little box was the box that foretold great things.
But no, Bill insisted that he had thought of this one himself. He called it Corticimancy – telling the future from pieces of bark.
You always want to test something like this in a friendly environment. So Bill decided to try it on a Friday night, at our friends Bob and Chris’. John had prepped Bill on the sort of techniques stage mentalists used to inform the “fish” of things you should not know about them. Bill would spice it up by lighting pieces of the birch bark on fire after they asked for some future prediction. Of course, he’d make up the answer.
Everything went well initially. We had moved outside to the roof for the bark burning part of the Corticimancy. Bill asked for the future prediction question. Our friend Abby asked, “What’s going to happen at the Democratic National Convention?” Bill smiled, lit a match, and applied it to a long curling strip of bark. The bark flared up brightly, and Bill promptly dropped it onto a pile of someone’s newspapers, We now had an actual fire on the roof. The answer to the question was forgotten as we worked to put out the fire. After this, we lost track of the fortune-telling and went downstairs for beers.
Two days later, the 1968 Democratic Convention opened, and the streets of Chicago erupted.
We never heard another word about corticimancy.
Sam is an Australian cattle dog/ German shorthaired pointer mix. In terms of behavior, his cattle dog heritage is dominant. He acts as the Palace Guard and protector of his sister Xenia, Empress of all she surveys.
Like most herd dogs, he likes his herd, human and feline, to be where they belong. His ongoing frustrations get caused by the herd’s complete lack of understanding that he is the boss.
Born – Virginia Beach, Virginia
Favorite treats – dad’s sea biscuits, vanilla ice cream
Turn-ons – chasing chipmunks and squirrels
Sworn duties – Herding the cat and his humans
Turnoffs- getting wet – dad may go for all this water stuff, but a good cattle dog likes dry land!
Sam won’t tell you that the chipmunks refer to him as “Killer” for his murderous behavior towards them. The cat hates it that he always snitches to me when she is about to do something terrible, which is at least twice a day.
Today I stand by the low sea wall looking at flotsam and jetsam that the tide washed in. I look across the bay and focus on the little “cats paws” white in the water from the wind. The full breeze last night cleared several days worth of low clouds and fog. I can see for miles, but I can’t see my next day or beyond. So I cup my hands around my ears to make a seashell of my ears and pretend I can understand the wind rushing through.
Sometime, the next day or two, I’ll sign some papers, turn over my seabag and depart for Boston. My future will be like the breeze and the sea; inerrant, but unknown.
And so it was that Saturday while my students and I spent a full half of an afternoon browsing.
What I found was not a tool; it was a desk. It was a drop front oak secretary. This sort of little desk was seen all over at one point. The particular model I was sitting in front of started life as a reward from a shoe polish company. My former father in law, the Cap’n had won it for sales of Shinola shoe polish as a boy in coastal Maine. It had graced the back corner of the living room. From the adjacent window, you could look down into the cove and watch the 34-foot Ketch Psyche swinging at her mooring. Reaching up to the bookshelf, my hands could almost feel the 1941 edition of Bowditch that I used to study, the Coastal Pilots from places in the Pacific, and the thick book of navigational tables. The cubby holes were empty, but my mind could fill them as they had been with receipts for work on the ketch. Over the desk, I could see the framed Master’s certificates.
Then my students came in a rush to show me their purchases and make suggestions for a late lunch before hitting the road.
On the way out, I took one last look at the desk, turned and went home.
Taking me into the garden, he indicated that I should start digging a row parallel with the vegetable garden’s edge. ” A bit late to be planting now, isn’t it Mr. Allen?”. “Dig carefully; there should be a row of sealed Mason jars about a foot down.” I began digging, wondering what it was all about. In a few minutes, my shovel found the first jar, eventually the second and third. Mr. Allen stooped and carried them away before I got much of a look at them. Taking them over to the picnic table, he began to attempt to undo the corrosion of what must have been a substantial time in the ground. The sounds of frustration and disappointment grew louder. I stopped and walked over to the table. Spread out were piles of coins spilling from rotted paper wrappers and decomposed paper notes. On one note, you could still faintly make out “I.O.U – Buster.”
Spinney had confided that Asa Allen was probably the last of the mattress stuffers – survivors of the Great Depression who so distrusted banks that they did hide cash in their bedding. In this case, it was hidden in jars a foot down in the garden. The glass jars had survived, but metal bands and tops had corroded. The rotted notes were the surprise: “Who was Buster?” I asked. “My no-good son, he’s been gone to Florida these last ten years.” We continued to dig and retrieved twenty jars with the same result. It turned out that Allen’s desperately needed the money for medical bills. “What are the chances that you can call Buster and get the money?” ” The only thing my son cares about is the bottle of booze he has in his hand.”
With me, that day was Douglas, my wife’s smart, but mildly annoying nephew. To keep him occupied while Mr. Allen and I dug up the remaining jars, Douglas started an inventory of what we were recovering. Mr. Allen was so distracted that he failed to protest Douglas’ handling what had to be the family fortune.
About an hour later, Douglas suddenly started capering around. I told him to shut up; this situation was serious. We desperately hoped that the last few jars on the lined paper map would turn up with Benjamins and Grants intact. Douglas kept on capering about, and we kept on telling him to shut up and go sit down. After about another half hour, we had recovered all the jars, thoroughly plundered.
About then, we noticed that Douglas was excitedly waving a book in front of us and pointing to a pile of silver coins. “You’re Rich, Rich!” he hollered. Asa Allen snatched the book from him, but Douglas grabbed it back to indicate that this particular silver dollar was worth fifty dollars.
Eventually, we began to seriously inventory coins against listings in the book.
Several days later, we piled into the car for a ride to a Boston coin dealer. Allen’s made out OK. There was no great fortune, but the check they received was enough to cover the medical emergency. Douglas received a reward, I had my blisters, and the Allen’s started a savings account.
The Cap’n and Spinney both agreed that Douglas and I made a great team. I don’t know about that.
His routine was to present them in a lineup first thing in the morning as I got up to make coffee and feed him. He would sit at the end of the line, chest out, immeasurably proud of the body count. You could almost hear the crisp tones of “Present Arms!”
After a while, the nightly bounty slowed. So Clancy spent more time playing with them and keeping one alive to offer to me. I think he wanted to provide me with the opportunity to improve my feeble hunting skills.
We took a trip to Maine about that time so that I could survey potential locations for my fieldwork. I was interested in finding a community close to where I had lived on the coast, but far enough away that I would not have to interact with my ex-wife, or worse with my former father in law – the Cap’n. Clancy, as usual, was pleased to go on a road trip, and seek new conquests.
We returned after two weeks and found that a new population of rodents had moved in from elsewhere in the building. Clancy rejoiced in renewed hunting. At about that time, my relationship with a nurse I had seen casually began to pick up.
One night I had her over for dinner. Fearing that we’d be late for the movie I was taking her to, I left about a half basin of dirty dishes to wash when I came home. The evening was a greater success than I suspected, and instead of escorting her to her home, we returned to my apartment.
Here is where it all goes wrong. Entering the dark apartment, we pause for a romantic kiss. I reach across the kitchen wall for the light switch and move in for a second kiss only to hear my date shriek. Turning, I see the dish basin sitting in the sink. In the basin are the bobbing corpses of about six mice. Very dead. At the end of the counter sits Clancy mouth full with yet another mouse to add to the basin. My date surges out of the apartment, demanding to go home instantly. Thus ended a lovely relationship in the bud.
Clancy, always seeking new ways to eliminate mice, had perhaps by accident stumbled upon this method of execution. Over the years, I had entered the bathroom to witness mice getting flushed, made paraplegic, and lined up for body counts, but this was one for the books. He seemed to do this most when he disapproved of my girlfriends. I warned them not to be surprised if he offered them a living mouse. It was a test; pay no attention, and he took it away. Eventually, I found a lovely woman who ignored this sort of thing, and he came to worship her.
Years later, I was sitting with my wife watching the movie Titanic. In the scene where a rescue crew is rowing through the masses of floating and frozen dead, I recalled Clancy and the basin full of dead mice. Somehow the scene was forever ruined for me.