I’ve acquired an agonizing library of mental replays
For an activity supposedly beloved by so many libertarians, hunting is a minutely and skillfully regulated activity. You can’t shoot anything (except vermin) without a permit, and you also can’t shoot something and then get a permit, you sneaky bastard, because permits are sold before the hunting season begins.
When we parked on Thursday it was 5:30 AM and the temperature was in the single digits. I put some handwarmers in my socks and prowled around with Lily for a couple of hours while the sun rose, following tracks in the snow. It was getting easier. I could tell the difference between a random gully and an antelope game trail, and I could carry the gun so that it felt like a meaty hand resting on my shoulder.
By midmorning it was too cold to continue and Lily needed to pump breastmilk, so we got back in the car and started home. We’d been doing a lot of driving and I’d developed the habit of asking Lily questions about everything she knew. On Thursday the topic was cattle ranching, and I learned that it is rude to ask a rancher how many head of cattle he owns, even if you’re curious, because it’s basically like asking how much money is in his bank account. (Cows are publicly traded.)
I got the sense that Lily had learned this tidbit the hard way.
In general, though, she was a walking almanac of rural etiquette, and if I could commission any book in the world, it would be just such an almanac. For Americans in the 21st century, nothing could be more exotic than a strictly oral culture. And this particular culture—the modern Old West—really is that. It is un-Wikipediaed territory. In Central Oregon you can buy a yak, if you wish, or shoot a cougar for $14.50, or drive past sheds and fences left over from homesteaders of the 1880s.
You can find modern homesteaders in the unincorporated parts of South Deschutes and North Klamath counties, where unincorporated means few services, few taxes, and sometimes no electricity or running water. You can discover what elk tastes like (“superbeef”) and where to shoot a rabbit (in the head) and why people tend not to eat bears (they taste like rotten trash) and what “badlands” means (generic term for a place where nothing will grow).
Ideally, a person could compile a rural almanac just by going around and collecting lore. But this particular region, Lily points out, is one in which “You don’t go around knocking on people’s doors.”
Which gives it one thing in common with New York.
12:57 pm • 19 August 2012 • 28 notes
I talked to Into the Gloss about mascara, female Fight Club, and the universal desire to touch brightly colored objects! If you’re curious, you can read it here.
And now I will resume my pore-cleansing activities (extracting noodles of filth from my face).
2:41 pm • 15 August 2012 • 18 notes
A toast to the clever one
A few years ago I wrote about the wonderful Helen Gurley Brown for This Recording. Among the things she taught me:
1. Opt for lipstick
3. Never underestimate the value of a flashy gesture
…and so much more! You can read it all here, if you wish.
Cheers to the great lady.
8:24 am • 14 August 2012 • 6 notes
The cover of the Herald Tribune features a photograph of a young Spanish woman being restrained by police during a protest over evictions in Oviedo. It is classic protest photography: uniformed officers of the law bracing a lone dissenter, her singular body as forward-thrusting as a punch.
I finish the paper and get on a train at 10:45. The sky is dark gray, the color of a razor blade, and releasing units of rain too disorganized to be called “drops”. The train runs through miles of garbage. One of the stations is called Beaudottes, which translates in my head as “nice dots”. I decide to get off there.
It is not a nice area. People loiter at the station, on the roads, in parking lots. The loitering does not seem recreational. Brutalist housing towers reach skyward, too short to be properly imposing. A couple of kids run a foot race.
After wandering a mile I notice a man following me. He follows me across the street and two blocks along a highway, past a shuttered mall and a closed car dealership. This is frustrating. I see a McDonalds at the end of a lot and veer towards it, measuring the slap-slap of the man’s footsteps behind me. When I get closer, I see that the McDonald’s is closed—not just for the day but permanently— and now I have revealed to my follower that a) I am scared and b) I am foreign.
Then he starts yelling. Actually, several people start yelling: the man has been joined by two friends. I turn around and face the group with a “WTF” kind of gesture, trying to convince myself that I am annoyed rather than scared. They surround me, jabbering and pointing at my mouth.
“She’s Romanian,” one of them says in French.
I start walking again. The three men keep pace.
“Romanian! Romanian!” they say.
This continues for one block, then two blocks, then three—me and my hostile entourage. In ten minutes I am back at the train station, surrounded by wolves. What now?
This, now: the one closest to me reaches out and twists my shoulder, gripping it hard enough to make me squawk. Then they lope away in an unhurried manner. I stand still, wondering whether or not to cry, and then swipe my card and go down to the platform.
Back on the train the situation takes shape— bullying is a universal impulse. I’ve indulged in it, too. In first grade, my parents sent me to a therapist for serially beating up my younger brother. When the therapist asked me why I hurt him, I said: “He just looks like someone I could be mean to.”
And don’t we all, sometimes.
3:46 pm • 29 July 2012 • 29 notes
Let the eagle soar
If you stay long enough in even a decent hotel, it will begin to feel seedy. You will start to notice the dirty dishes behind the bar, the broken chairs in a corridor, the fakeness of the plants and the dust collecting on their buds.
It was my ninth night at the hotel but it felt like a month. I was noticing the things that guests notice when they have outstayed their welcome. Every afternoon, for example, the French hotel staff would bustle about, setting tables formally for dinner: salad forks, dessert spoons, wine glasses, salt cellars. They set tables in the lobby, dining room, mezzanine, and in a private party room. All told, they set around four hundred places for dinner.
Here was the problem: the number of diners remained the same every night, and the number never exceeded eighty. What’s more, these diners sat in the exact same location every night, even as old guests were replaced by new guests. The reason for this is obvious. Given a choice, people tend not to pick the worst table in a room.
I watched the staff set up and dismantle the table settings every day for eleven days, and every day it needled me. The glasses got dusty. The manpower was wasted. It seemed like a uniquely European inefficiency— this adherence to a propriety that made no sense and yet went unquestioned.
It was impossible to picture the same dance playing out in an American airport hotel, and this notion made me homesick. Americans are way too lazy to do anything strictly on the basis of tradition.
3:19 pm • 23 July 2012 • 17 notes
Amos & Boris
My father is a relaxed man. Relaxed. A woman once described him to me as a “peach”. He worked at a hospital and came home each day smelling of x-rays. There are flashes of animation to his character, too. He used to chase us up the stairs. “I just like to see things run away from me,” he explained.
When my parents announced their divorce, I sat quietly while my older brother wept and my younger brother turned somersaults. None of us knew what to do. I would later recognize these reactions as typical ways of facing tragedy: in silence, in tears, with inappopriate physical conduct.
Patients often remarked on my father’s bedside manner. A readiness still permeates his being. He senses and honors boundaries where others do not. At age sixty, something funny happened to his eyes, which is that they changed color. Now they’re blue. When I got sick as a child I was given a bell to ring from bed in case I needed anything. His own threshold for physical pain is curiously high.
5:21 pm • 18 July 2012 • 31 notes
Lets play ball
At the end of the day I walked home, not thinking. It was a real summer night: late shoppers, excitable children, heavy air. I felt like a worm pushing through soil. When I got home there was a message on my phone.
“Bo,” a voice said. “I thought I’d send Annie over tomorrow. Around two. I’m thinking you shouldn’t be too busy then. If you’re tied up, we’ll figure something out. OK.” He hung up.
I replayed the message. Well, I thought. Maybe he is offering me the job.
And then: why would he think I’m not busy at two?
But also: he wouldn’t send Annie unless she had something to give me. Like a contract.
I took off my work clothes and folded them onto a chair, thinking about the job. A job doing what, I had no clue. Speechwriter? The office had been on a single-digit floor and without any evidence of work; my thoughts upon entering were 1) I was proximate to a lot of money; and 2) not much was being done with it.
I sat in a waiting room for forty-five minutes before being shown in to Bo’s office. He pointed to a couch, and I sat. The couch was humiliatingly close to the floor. Annie shut the door and I counted the seconds until Bo looked away from his computer and at my face. There were twelve.
The conversation lasted a few minutes, during which I told the truth without quite wanting to.
Afterward I ate terrible pizza and walked the thirty blocks downtown. By the time I thought to turn on my phone, the message was there. I listened to it two more times and became concerned that I had no way to confirm its reception. Then I realized that 1) Bo would assume its reception; and 2) Bo did not actually care.
4:05 pm • 30 June 2012 • 8 notes