Wednesday, part one
My inner circle encompasses two people with back-to-back birthdays, one on the last day of January and one on the first day of February, and so this week I had the weighty responsibility of sending two birthday cards. I understand that postal carriers will pick up any mail you leave sitting inside your mailbox, but I’ve never quite been able to trust that the mail will find its way back to the post office and not instead into a puddle, or the jaws of a fearsome ankle-nipping chihuahua, or deep between the seat cushions of the truck.
So, I literally ran the birthday cards to the post office. Just under a mile, pumping arms, hands clutching two bright yellow envelopes. It’s mildly annoying to endure curious stares, but I enjoy stuff like this. I like having a job to do, a purpose for my workout besides “wheeze and flail for a sufficient amount of time.”
The last time I’d gone into a post office I’d been hollered at for dropping my precious federal estimated tax payment into a bin that apparently wasn’t in use but had no signs or markings to that effect. Every day I still ask myself: why? Why didn’t I just intuit that was the wrong bin? Why wasn’t I cool enough to just know? I’m still soul-searching for those answers, but in the meantime I wasn’t ready to risk embarrassment again.
Turns out the cure for low mailing confidence is to keep trying. This time I ran to a different post office in a different part of the city. This time no one yelled at me when I closed the blue bin. Morale renewed, I continued my run in a neighborhood heretofore unexplored by me. The sun was out and it was about 30 F. I saw a clutch of Art Deco apartment buildings, and paperwork for someone named Maximus dropped in the middle of the sidewalk. Standing on the curb waiting for the signal to change at a busy intersection, I watched with admiration as an elderly woman with a cane got off a bus and without hesitation just started crossing the road, stopping cars and trucks via the sheer force of her steady glare.
Sometimes I like running more than other times.
Wednesday, part two
I was standing at the kitchen table minding my own goddamned business when I heard a sound like plaster falling inside the east wall. I ignored it because I hoped maybe it would just, you know, stop and never happen again. It’s cool, merely the house crumbling in on itself, NBD.
Later I heard it again, with bigger chunks. And again. I went over and pressed my ear against the wall. It sounded like a minor landslide in there. Dumbfounded, I stared up at the corner of the ceiling as if it would tell me what was wrong.
“Shit’s fucked up, dawg,” it said.
I went upstairs and pressed my ear to the wall there. Scritchy-scratchy sounds. Movement. Yes, definitely movement. There was something alive somewhere in there, which was probably not good. No, aliveness definitely was not good. I knocked on the wall, but the paint and plaster are thick there, and my knuckles bounced back off with a dull thunk.
I gazed out the window for good measure, but the window didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know.
Later, I was leaving to go to class and as I crossed the yard towards my car, I turned around and looked up. There, sitting right on top of the now-defunct chimney that probably once vented the kitchen, was a raccoon. The sun had set and the light was rapidly fading, but I could just make out the bandit mask on its little face. This guy had been scuffling and digging around deep inside the chimney with its weird little humanoid hands, sending chips of old soft sandy brick and mortar tumbling.
I took a picture to prove a raccoon was there, I guess in case I ever get raccoonlighted, but it just looks like a dark grainy lump, like someone left their cardigan behind after the rooftop picnic party. Not sure this would hold up in a raccoon court of law but I will sure as hell try.
Wednesday, part three
Three weeks ago I was in a basic skiing class taught by a Czech woman when a Brazilian woman convinced me to take a German class, so I did. The class started a couple of weeks ago but I missed the first one because I’m a total idiot who can’t tell time, I guess.
I took German for four years in secondary school, but it’s been a long time since secondary school. I’m starting over at the bottom. We are learning very important things about how to say your name and ask others their names. Also hobbies! Hobbies are very important to Germans, who apparently care deeply about whether you’d prefer to go horseback riding or learn to Tango. I peeked ahead and it looks like in future chapters we’ll be learning about the difference between an apple and a potato, so that seems like pretty solid knowledge.
I am happy to report that foreign language workbooks for adults are just as ludicrous as they were for teens. During Wednesday’s class the instructor asked us to study a series of photographs of a man introducing himself to a parrot named Koko while she went to get the bier und wein. I thought I’d misheard her but sure enough, a few minutes later the sound of glass bottles clinking and footsteps down the hall.
“Ze trinks help us to vake up and do our vurk!” the instructor called gleefully, clapping her hands. I’m not sure American work ethic agrees with her but who am I to deny the experience of other cultures?
Wednesday, part four
Ever since we moved here I have been watching a restaurant space being built out of shipping containers on some forgotten street corner just blocks from our house. Wednesday night it opened for the first time, and I said to the beau, you know what? Let’s go.
The place was jumping but we only had a short wait before two seats opened at the bar, right in front of where the kitchen staff was cooking. The ceilings were made of plywood, the chairs were from a school auction, and WuTang Clan was on the speakers. It was another one of those “simple food done well” restaurant concepts with modest prices, and I’m loathe to admit being part of any target demographic but I totally am on this one. I will happily throw elbows at a bearded dude in a tartan scarf and a girl with oversized glasses for a seat at any one of a thousand back-to-basics artisan food joints.
Plus this one has a woman executive chef who worked her way up from dishwasher, so I will always root on a story like that.
I’d like to think I could one day be one of those people who exercises calm and relaxed moderation at restaurants, but that’s never going to happen. Going out to eat is so rare for us that it will always be a treat. I will never be able to say no to a second drink or, say, a sampling of fried donut holes dipped in eggnog for dessert. Especially not on an opening night. Especially not on an ordinary Wednesday when we had absolutely nothing to celebrate.
I guess being a regular guy who’s alive at this very moment will have to do for now.