It's not uncommon for me a grill complete strangers about what they are reading, whether they like it, and what else they've read recently. The impulse to talk books often overwhelms my meagre grasp of social skills.
It's maybe akin to having a golden retriever trot up to you at the park with its tail waving like a hairy flag; it sticks a cold nose onto your leg in a manner that is startling but patently harmless.
I understand that it's rude but I am driven by some effervescent mix of my mom's unflappable busybody nature and the entitled attitude I copped from newspaper reporting. I don't break in if they are actually reading, but I'll ask when they are just -- you know -- carrying.
For every time I indulge in this obnoxious curiosity, there are five times I have resisted giving into the impulse...
And with that -- whatcha reading? Huh? Huh?
Here's me: I have the Complete Collected Dorothy Parker at bedside. I've been dipping into it for a year or so -- Parker is such a smart writer. I gobbled down Hilary Mantel's bleak and hilarious Beyond Black recently. I finally got around to reading Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford, and I am about half way through Jon Green's The Fault In Our Stars. I am listening to the audio production of To Be Sung Underwater by Tom McNeal.
At the bookstore recently, I was excited to see Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries and Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch both in paperback. And -- o0oh! -- new books from Lorrie Moore, Ian McEwan, Sarah Waters (sqee!), Garth Stein, Lauren Beulks, Wally Lamb and more. I think it will be a good year for reading.
Now you go: What ARE you reading?
While holding the end of the small dog's leash on a recent walk, I spotted this hubcap hanging on the outside of a fence. The lyrics from the B-52's "Love Shack" ("Look at my Chrysler, it's as big as a whale/ and it's about to set sail!") started up on the internal jukebox, but then I wondered -- to what car did this belong?
Tell me the story -- there's a prize or two in it for some smart car historian or decent liar.
There is so much to be happy about, I don't know why I ever complain about anything. That said, and a long list of grievances put aside for now, here are a few more things that make me feel grateful:
Turns out that the weather wasn't especially willing. All over the North Country, it was the same sad story: not a great summer for fruit.
The apples were sparse, sour, and small. Why? Who knows...Too cold last winter? Japanese beetles? Too wet? Too dry? No one could say; it was just one of those seasons.
We did, however, visit a wonderful commercial orchard near Shoreham Village, Vermont. They weren't taking any guff from Mother Nature this year.
When we returned to the Farm, we knew it was time to get brutal. Time to recognize that some of the trees were going to have to go. Time to turn apple trees into apple wood.
We amputated big chunks of canopy throughout the groves and we nipped about 700 sucker-sprouts. And we chopped down whole trees -- oak and honeysuckle, juniper and black locust as well as a few unlucky apple-trees. We cut so much that -- if we but had the skills -- we could construct two or three new orchards from what we trimmed.
We stacked the wood (sorted by species) at every corner of the groves. It's not a practice that commercial growers would follow because dead wood can harbor pests and disease. But commercial growers nearly always have a tractor or a team of draft horses or something to carry things out of the groves. We have a chainsaw, a heavy-duty weed whip, some loppers, and two willing workers. And only so many hours of the day.
The wildlife can nibble on the twigs this winter. Maybe we'll get a tractor-like vehicle to haul things sooner rather than later. Meanwhile, even if the apples fail to appear next year, we'll have a good crop of well-seasoned apple-wood.
He seems to be trying a little too hard to blend in.
I suspect this is a horse who knew too much.
A quick research trip tells me that the U.S. Federal Witness Protection Program is voluntary and that U.S. Marshalls provide around-the-clock security for participants. Who knew? (Uh, aside from the horse.)
The owner-operator of Uncle Markie's Home for Wayward Pups glanced up from the computer and said, "You're going to be gone, what? Two weeks?"
"A month." As soon the words hit air, I recognized the truth, so I added as if I'd meant to say it all along: "...and a month is too long to leave the small dog with you."
Uncle Markie assured me that he could work it out, but it was too late. Lilly spends a lot of time with him, but honestly, he didn't sign up to co-parent the snorting creature.
So, an elderly Boston Terrier with an unknown travel history and some anxiety issues, plus modern-day plane travel -- what could possibly go wrong? I spent the night in Chicago once on this same route; it's not like having a dog along could have compounded that misery.
Well, okay, better living through chemistry. And while her new vet was willing to cop her a sedative, he did remind me that the old dog has a pretty significant heart murmur. As in: don't overdose her because she's on (and my long-suffering friends can join me on this chorus) "borrowed time."
That's six hours from open range to open range for the little dog. I kept thinking that the timeframe should pose no problems, since the small dog sleeps about 22 out of every 24. (Insert the sound of ironic laughter and the single word repeated: "Chicago.")
Let me just thank all those folks who gave me kindly, friendly, interested, and pitying looks as I hauled the disgruntled-but-brave small dog across the length of Philadelphia International in a small heavy-dernier nylon pet carrier.
Also thank you to the flight attendants who pretended not to notice when I did not squash the small dog entirely under the seat in front of me. And a really big cheer to the seat-mates who pretended not to notice when the small dog began to pant and fart with nervousness at the instant the jet engines revved up. She didn't actually stop until the next day.
Lilly and I have agreed to never discuss the other thing that happened inside the pet carrier, but let me assure you, dear reader, that no amount of Purell... well, enough about that. We all survived and I didn't have to rent a car to get there.
She staggered like a drunken sailor when I took her to the curb for a bio-break. She slept in the carrier while we ate dinner outside that evening. I had to carry her the last block of her walk. She was still sleeping it off 44 hours later.
At the 45th or so hour, however, she woke up ready to rumble. "What the --!? " she seemed to be saying. And, "What a f$%^d-up dream I had! And where the hell is my biscuit?!"
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