tomatoes and generic Fritos
Wednesday, September 1 2010
After another hot day in the laboratory swivel chair, tonight I went on a modest social excursion. I drove out to Lake Hill to visit my friend Mark who was house sitting again at a place belonging to a mutual friend. Last I'd visited him there it had been April 20th (both literally and figuratively). This time he was there with his five year old daughter V. When I arrived they were in a video conference with Mark's wife and V's mother. V is a smart girl but she has selective mutism, so she never said anything when I was around. If she had something to say to her father in my presence, she'd hold her hand over her mouth and whisper it in his ear. And if he hollered at her from across the house to ask if she was okay (having first said to me, "Watch me parent!"), she would respond with an utterance that wasn't exactly a word (evidently for fear that I might hear her saying something). But she didn't ignore me either. Her preferred method of interaction with strangers "she likes" (as Mark put it) was to playfully slap. For most of the time I was there tonight, she was off in the teevee room watching programs that I already know act as kiddie ritalin.
Mark and I spent most of our time outdoors at a makeshift setup he'd arranged for taking photographs of objects in natural light. For him this time upstate was a working vacation, and he was cranking through the photographing of objects that will be appearing in a catalog near you. His setup included a Macintosh laptop beneath a screen to shield it from the sun, and it was mostly at this laptop that we sat.
By way of showing Mark what I've been up to of late, I demonstrated my elaborate database mapping tool with its interactive relationship drawing features. I don't think Mark really got what was being represented. But he saw it instead as a system with great potential for representing conspiracy theories (think Glenn Beck's infamous chalkboard). Mark can usually be heard spouting various absurd conspiracy theories, but he knows I'm a skeptic and he's self-aware enough to get meta and even a little self-analytical about his interest in them when I'm around.
Soon enough tables were turned as he showed off his photography and went on at length about cameras and photography techniques, much of which I couldn't understand (because, unlike him, I am not a professional photographer).
At some point I found myself sitting in front of the Steinway Piano in the great room playing my usual piano thing, a sort of variations on Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata." I can really get into it, fracturing time signatures and lingering a bit long on short repetitive phrases. Somehow this spoke to the five year old selectively-mute girl, who was drawn away from her mesmerizing television and began to wordlessly pummeled me.
I hadn't eaten any dinner, but I had brought supplies: a dozen Stewart's brand Mountain Brew ice beers, tomatoes from the garden, a bag of Stewart's brand FritosTM knock-offs, and squashes from the CSA. It had been over a year since I'd eaten those Frito-style chips, and they're a bit much in a bland 1950s sort of way (by that I mean representing a time well before America had awaken to the subtle possibilities of what food can be). They're all salt and grease, and they burn a little in the mouth. But when combined with slices of garden-fresh sun-ripened tomatoes (which are themselves a bit much in all the opposite ways), they forged a delicious compound food. It was like sodium and chlorine coming together to make salt. Or oxygen and hydrogen combining to form water.
Even though we were only drinking beer, somehow I managed to get very drunk. Mark has a way of bringing back another beer from the refrigerator without even asking, and then you find yourself drinking it. Those Mountain Brews are potent. At some point I decided to go to bed instead of risking staying up and drinking any more. I ended up sleeping in the upstairs master bedroom. It might have been the fanciest bedroom I'd ever slept in.
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