Risks and rewards partying on a school night
My friend’s a big fan of the ’90s indie rock band Pavement and also the kind of guy who buys tickets the minute they’re released. So it was last November (I checked my Venmo history) that he invited a few friends to their Boston show. I’m not a mega-fan but I love a solid dozen songs, like most of the rest. I figured I’d have my act together at school by late September, I could risk a Wednesday outing. The first half of September is about establishing a solid initial footprint. But four weeks in, I guessed the second step would feel secure enough to face a day with less sleep. And so it was.
Our crew ran older than the typical concert-goer, but Pavement lures plenty of old guys clinging to rock ’n roll glory. Most had probably mansplained Pavement and/or Matador Records at least once, maybe lots. (Sidenote: I never mansplain; I Dansplain.) The band was amazing, “Summer Babe” was a highlight even if I’m aghast it’s 30 years old. ’92 was probably the last time I’d been to the Wang Theatre, a gorgeous, baroque, century-old performance hall, and I watched the full original Star Wars trilogy. At intermission I asked the guy in a Darth Vader costume for his autograph, and he wrote “Darth Vader.” I got what I deserved.
That dang Wang had a curfew of 10:30, so not a super late night. But I was too wound up to fall asleep quickly, resulting in being a tad underslept the next day. I skipped my morning exercise, rolled less wildly early, supplemented my year-round iced coffee with a Dunkin medium regulah, coconut flavor. I was long back to full power by Back to School Night, properly at night this year. First time seeing parents in three years, it was great having community again. But two long days in a row. I worked hard and I played hard, and I really did earn the weekend. Good time not teaching.
The Week in Dog Poo
The wife tells me Ginger pooed while walking. Mid-stride! I feel like it’s not an unfamiliar concept, but I can’t specifically recall witnessing it myself. This week I didn’t spend much time with Ginger in a pooing capacity (other than dealing with her work in the guest bedroom COME ON). And Winnie’s pooing was mostly unremarkable. But sometimes you see something, and a word jumps to mind. I think Malcolm Gladwell wrote a whole book about it. I can’t remember the chapter on Winnie, but maybe it’s about the walk where I saw her poo and the word Carvel popped in my head. You can guess the rest.
That’s right, she made Cookie Puss.
The Urban Blah
Back in 2009-11 I collaborated with the brilliant Lovisa to make a webcomic that failed to become syndicated across the globe. I am pro-recycling.
Every silver lining has a touch of grey. I also love that Lovisa has them eating donuts, and look at the detail on the cups and the faucet. A nice tableau.
Jam of the Week
The Pavement song I wanted to hear most but knew they’d never play was “Unseen Power of the Picket Fence” from No Alternative. It’s a love letter to REM and that’s neat, but I’m about the drone. Friday’s Breakfast of Champions radio show opened with my chosen song as I drove to school, and I felt good about my choice to wear a WMBR shirt to the show. I’m a fan.
My Back Pages
Summer 2014, Meaghan found us an AirBnB on a far-flung Maine island. I wrote this for school as an exemplar summer narrative, plus a way to get to know me. My audience was sixth graders.
One main draw of Swan’s Island, Maine, is how far away it is from everything in the world. We drove five hours, then took a 45-minute ferry that turned our signal-hungry phones into paperweights. There are only 332 year-round residents on the island, and very little to do -- two places to eat, one store, and no streetlights. Our house was two miles down a rickety dirt road, which meant we spent half the day without seeing another soul. If I broke my ankle, I’d have to wait for the doctor who visited every two weeks. We had no working phones, no computers, no TVs, no news, no signs of the life we left behind. We read books and stared at the ocean and played Yahtzee and relished being cut off from the world. It ruled.
The wife has since revealed herself a Yahtzee addict, but I do remember it being a bucolic week. We ate lobster every night because it was $4.50/pound and it was easy to cook. Or it is for the shellfish-murdering wife. I’m too pacifistic, by which I mean I’m a wimp.
We went swimming in the quarry.
When we emerged from the water, all seemed right with the world, until someone pointed out that our car had a flat tire. Suddenly, being so completely cut off from the world didn’t seem like such a great plan. Swan’s Island had no garage, and no gas station. Our dinky spare tire didn’t look like it would survive the dirt road that had popped our much beefier normal tire. Things looked grim.
Luckily, another swimmer told us about someone who might help. Just past the library, Rusty’s house was hard to miss. It was the one with broken-down trucks in the driveway, random car parts on the fences, and a permanent yard sale featuring junk that hardly seemed worth $.50. A heavy-set man with long gray hair and many of his teeth still in his mouth staggered out, and I nervously asked Rusty if he could be our Superman. In one of the thickest Maine accents I’ve ever heard, he replied, “Ayuh, I reckon I can.” We left the tire and agreed to return the next morning, but I was worried. What is he couldn’t fix it? What would stop him from charging us $300?
My writing style is less about figurative language than playing with language and phrasing. So seeing figurative language in my writing always jumps out as incongruous. It almost feels pandering.
Rusty told us his repair would last a lifetime, and as he put the tire back on the car, he asked us if we wanted to buy his falling-apart house. I looked at its collapsing roof, its rattling gates, its broken windows, and I wondered what sane person would consider such a purchase. Rusty had grown up on Swan’s Island and was tired of how much it cost. He was always needing to leave the island, and that was expensive and time-consuming. I said we’d think about it.
Rusty charged twenty bucks and I gave him double. Our post-pandemic tech addiction makes me feel like a return to Swan’s Island would not be the worst choice.
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