my brother's expensive drone habit
Saturday, March 4 2023
rural Hurley township, Ulster County, New York State, United States of America
We returned to our old Saturday pattern this morning, with me stoking a nice fire in the woodstove and then making french presses of coffee, one with caffeine for me, and one without for Gretchen. We the worked on Spelling Bee on our separate devices until we'd both reached the status of genius and then merged our results. Normally we would've written the letters on a piece of cardboard, but in Costa Rica we'd grown used to doing it without the cardboard.
Later I assembled a laser cutter Gretchen's parents had bought me for my birthday (it had arrived while we were away). It is surprisingly large, though the main feature I'd wanted was a powerful laser, as I want to be able to cut all the way through various material so I can then assemble complicated structures from precisely-cut parts.
Later I set off with the dogs in the Forester (the snow in our driveway was a bit too deep for driving the Bolt and it was so heavy I didn't feel like shoveling) mostly to get dog food at the Barnyard. While in that area, I also visited the Tibetan Center thrift store, but (surprisingly) I found it closed. So then I drove to the Uptown Hannaford (aka "Ghettoford") to buy a bunch of things to refill our empty refrigerator. I focused mostly on vegetables, buying all the staples as well as asparagus and radishes. Also, due to a sudden lack of it in our Hurley house, I bought some superglue, though the selection was worse for that than I remember it being (yet it was still better than in most supermarkets in Costa Rica). Then I remembered I needed pseudoephedrine, which can't really be bought in a Hannaford despite it having a built-in drugstore (they only sell that more expensive stuff designed to thwart methamphetamine manufacturers). So I went to the nearby Walgreens. They also had a better, cheaper, more straightforward brand of superglue, so I got some of that too.
Gretchen said my brother Don had left three messages on our answering machine while we were in Costa Rica. She said they were good-natured and basically just wishing me well during my travels. He called again this evening while I was about to climb into the bathtub. So I took the phone into the bath with me. He immediately launched into a monologue about something he had pronounced so lazily that I had no idea what he was talking about. I ordered him to stop and please God slow down and carefully pronounce the subject of the sentence he had accosted me with. The word I was missing was "drone." He'd bought one, it hadn't worked, so he'd bought another. This one did work, but it immediately got away from him and he hasn't been able to find it. He said he thought it had landed in Folly Mills Creek and then floated away, but from experience I know that it is almost certainly stuck in a tree somewhere. When your income is as low as Don's is, drones quickly become an expensive habit even when they're only $40 a piece (as his were).
As Don was talking to me, he kept having to stop and cough. The coughs were loud and dry and sounded to me like covid coughs. I asked if he'd been sick, and he said he had been laid up for three days back around February 8th. He'd been so sick he hadn't even been able to feed the horse. The cough he had now was a lingering symptom of that sickness. "Don, that's covid. You had covid!" He tried to deny it, arguing that it hadn't been that bad, and I explained that when I had covid it had gone almost exactly the way his had, complete with a lingering cough. Don usually argues with me when I suggest an explanation that is at odds with a conclusion he has reached about something, but in this case I managed to convince him. Perhaps this had something to do with his delusions of superhuman powers (something he's become less certain about over the years but which definitely contributed to his insufferability as a young man). Covid being no worse for him than the common cold would be supporting evidence that perhaps he is superhuman.
Of course, not knowing he had covid and being too much of a solipsist to really care even if he had, he hadn't changed his behavior at all in an effort to contain the disease. Fortunately, Hoagie wasn't around to spread it to. But he happily accepted rides from people and went into all the businesses he frequents (such as the Dollar Tree, which is his grocery store).
Don asked about Costa Rica, so I quickly said that we'd stayed in various places with pools on the edge of the jungle and seen two different species of monkeys. When I mentioned that one of the species was capuchin monkeys, Don got excited and started talking about how intelligent they are (evidently from something he'd read). He claimed that they're as smart as chimpanzees and even use large rocks to smash the shells of nuts. They carry rocks so often, he insisted, that they're unusually bipedal. (I have never seen a monkey smash a nut with a rock, though I have seen capuchins being bipedal. I also wonder if much of the literature about their intelligence is rooted in Western racism simply because of their creepy resemblance to shrunken Caucasoids.) Don kept trying to get back to brilliance and bipedalism of capuchin long after I'd tried to move the conversation on to other subjects.
The most important of these subjects, obviously, was our mother Hoagie. Had he visited or talked to her? He said he hadn't visited her, but he had called the old folks' home where she is staying but the person at the front desk insisted that Hoagie was unreachable because she does not have a phone. I don't know why the staffer couldn't carry a phone to Hoagie and say that her son had called for her. But if the place where Hoagie ended up is a dumping ground for the unloved elderly, this checks out. Don claimed the nursing home is called "Riverside" something or other and is in Waynesboro, but no such place exists.
I asked if Don is doing okay living out there in Stingy Hollow all by himself. Is he eating okay? He said he has food stamps to buy what he needs. But is he just eating junk food? He insists he eats raw broccoli with every meal, though he admits he really likes the way broccoli tastes in Chinese food. What about other money? Is he getting his allowance? Don said Joy Tarder told him he could have the money left in the house when Hoagie was taken away. "But that money is going to run out," I said. Is he still getting his allowance? He said he as a social worker giving him allowance money, and, when I asked, he said it's about the same allowance as Hoagie used to give him.
One incident that Don seemed to consider a win happened the other day when the boyfriend of some girl our friend Josh knows took pity on Don and gave him $25. For Don, that's a significant windfall.
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