A day without Gnat. She’s at camp. No news is good news; no late night calls, no squad car in the driveway, no call from the camp office that begins “before we begin, I must remind you of the waiver you signed,” nothing at all. Just silence! No Pokemon, no background noise from whatever webpage she walked away from, no music upstairs, no piano, nothing. Silence. I’d say it feels odd, but when you only have one there’s one-tenth the general calamity, I suspect. It’s generally quiet around here anyway EXCEPT FOR – sorry, a plane was going overhead.
And what did I do with the freedom? I wrote. Either blogged or looked for things about which to blog. At the end of the day I took a nap, which was interrupted when I swore I heard a voice, deep in my head, said “FRED.” I woke and laid there wondering what accounts for such things, aside from demonic possession – it wasn’t just the timbre of the voice, but its location. I heard where it was coming from. But that’s the nature of dreams; they fill you with peculiar certainties. The other morning I awoke with a great spring to my step, convinced there was a shirt in my closet that had the clownfish wallpaper shown on the Apple iPhone ads. (There’s a fine band name, as Mr. D. Barry would say: Clownfish Wallpaper.) In the same dream I was pulled over by a policeman for littering, and he handed me the item I’d thrown out my car window: a 10th anniversary Simpsons music festival featuring the Cleveland Orchestra. It was dated 1983, and I tried to explain that there weren’t any Simpsons in 1983, let alone 1973. The cop would have none of it. They never have any of it.
It wasn’t my car, either, but it didn’t seem like a good time to bring that up. Wish I’d kept the ticket, though. Might be worth something.
So I wrote, posted, I went to the office, posted, and then I left and went home and posted. I will post more tonight. I love this job. Not to mistake quantity for quality, but I posted the equivalent of five of my old columns today. That’s not particularly difficult, since the old columns were so short (HOW SHORT WERE THEY? Uh – 300 words. NO, HOW SHORT WERE THEY? Well, it was five inches, in layout terms, but -NO! HOW SHORT WERE THEY? Oh. I see. So short that whenever I referred to an NBA basketball player, I had to describe him as kneeling? THAT’S A STRAINED AND UNSATISFYING REJOINDER! HOW SHORT WERE THEY? So short that when I referred to Sen-sen, I just had to call them Sen? ANCHRONISTIC ALLUSION! TEN POINT PENALTY! Oh, shut up.) (Actually, they still make Sen-sen, which I believe were implicitly targeted at drinkers. They were breath-masking jots of licorice, hard as uncooked rice. The website – which is familiar enough to make me think I’ve linked to this before – says that the ingredients are imported from around the world, including “some almost inaccessible regions of Asia.” Hmm. Where are we headed? An inaccessible region of Asia. Well, how will we get there? It’s almost inaccessible. So it’s . . . accessible, then. Oh shut up.) and 2000 words is more like 2.5 of the old column, but still.
Since Gnat’s not home, I drove to the grocery store for take-out Chinese. Big Bowl. A steaming heap of kung-pow yardbird with limp leaves of green marinated in sputum. Got behind a fellow who was paying by check, something you can still do in these parts, and he took his time. I think I proved the existence of telepathy, for he stopped in mid-novel, turned around and looked at me, and went back to his work. I’d said nothing, and had not issued any heavy sighs. I was simply thinking WHILE WE’RE YOUNG. Even though neither of us was.
Although he was older. Coot.
Dashed off this redesign tonight, because I didn’t like the prevous one. Don’t know what I was thinking.
Now this. Actually, my wife’s joined me in the Gazebo, so I think we’ll chat.
And so we did. And we didn’t talk about our absent daughter! Much. Well, not entirely. When the dark fell and the lights popped on she went in to watch some TV, and this being the Great Lacuna of Television, I convinced her to watch the Sopranos. Starting from the top. My wife is the sort of person who will work from sunup to the end of the day, and she needs a good ration of escapism to unwind her keen & questing mind; I figure this will help. I stayed outside and wrote and slapped bugs and listened to the Fantasia score. I don’t know why – just popped up on the iPod. I wonder if I’m one of 16 people who can’t hear “Dance of the Hours” without anticipating the timpani thump they added to highlight the dropped hippo. If you know what I mean.
At one point I came in for lemonade, and saw Gnat’s soccer ball. I don’t know why, but she prefers to watch Pokemon while standing on a purple soccer ball behind the sofa. It’s one of those details kids never remember and parents never forget, and the distance between those two positions is the great pain you can never, ever communicate to your children; if you’re lucky, they learn it by inference when something completely unrelated strikes their heart 25 years down the road, and they wonder what details you never forgot. (Parenthood is the most sorrowful revenge ever imagined, and also the sweetest reward, however delayed.) Often these details come out in situations the child cannot control – tell them they stood on a soccer ball when they’re 17, and they might roll their eyes: give it up, Dad, that was like what, a million years ago, in the President Jeb’s brother’s administration? Best to save it for the conversation with the fiancé. They’ll remember that. The fiancé loves to hear things like that.
Aw, man, now it’s the Ave Maria part after Night on Bald Mountain. I can’t hear this without thinking of an argument I had in High School with a know-it-all; she said it was Schubert, I said it was Schumann. Or vice versa. I just remember the dispute, and the locale: the Pantheon, in Rome. We were on a field trip, so to speak, standing below the ancient dome while the melody played, arguing about the composer. I remember how I felt when I saw the movie for the first time – they ran Disney flicks once a month at the downtown porno theater in Fargo, which always confused the raincoat crowd. I was stunned from start to finish. Saw it again at the Lark theater downtown, on wider cleaner screen without muttering pervs, and was stunned again: along with the discovery of the old Life magazines in the Fargo Public Library and the bound issues of 1920s Architectural Digests in the library of the University of Iowa, this was one of the moments that fixed my aesthetic sense in a particular time and place, and I’ve never shook those impressions. It was 1939. It sounds, and looks, like the last plea for grace before the world fell apart.