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06.04.02 3:36 p.m.

Marriage is not merely sharing the fettuccini, but sharing the burden of finding the fettuccini restaurant in the first place.


 -Calvin Trillin  




Previously in Xenology: I happened to walk by Jim on my way to the bathroom one day.

Summer Scholar Aught Two
Enjoying a lazy day at home a few days ago, I was the recipient of a phone call asking for me. Well, my father or me, as we do share the same name. Suspecting a telemarketer was pestering me I affected my detached, business voice (the one used when answering the phone of a business) and asked which one they wanted, the older or younger. The woman on the other line seemed a wee bit confused and said she wanted to younger. I responded that I was he and she happily asked if I was still interested in doing Summer Scholars. I have linked to the entry above, so if you are too lazy to click there, you will receive no exposition.
I replied that I was keenly interested and then remember that I sorta, kinda had a steady job that very likely would require my presence during the two weeks that I would be at Bard. I sadly chirped out that I would have to call her at a later date, after I pleaded for this time off. She seemed content with this, as her two former Resident Advisors (this would be my title) turned out to be teaching assistants that have nothing to do with the domestic aspects of this camp. I stopped myself before asking if Emily was invited to participate as well, as that could get sticky if the answer was no.
When Emily arrived at my house, I shoved the phone into her hand and demanded that she check the messages on her answering machine. Evidently, I did this with such urgency that she worried that something horrific had happened. With just as much fatalistic urgency, I insisted everything was fine and she needed to check her messages now. I watched her face go from confused, to overjoyed, to sad. And sad it stayed as she said to her answering machine, "but my parents are away in Spain then." My face dropped, as I promptly understood that this meant that she had to housesit for her parents for free rather than being an RA at Summer Scholars with me and getting paid.
Sans Emily, this little adventure just got a whole lot more nerve-racking. I will be alone among these high school literati. Certainly, I can more than hold my own, I was a star Summer Scholar a few years ago, which was precisely why I was afforded this opportunity now. It will just be that I do not know if I will have anyone I can really talk with. I am a very shy extrovert (or a very outgoing introvert), and having a friend in the area tends to equal those two qualities out to something that seems charming and social.
I also feel grossly under-qualified, which is a little ridiculous, as I have no idea what qualifications one should have. Probably a class or two in group dynamics... wait, I've had some of those. My second Summer Scholars session was wholly devoted to Social Psychology. So maybe I have a slight edge there. Oh, and I am sure the Educational Psychology classes I have taken that were not taught by Bunnies might help. And I do have a vague understanding of the geography of Bard College, where the seminar is to be held, which is a slight boon. I wouldn't know the buildings by their names, but I certainly could get you to the proper building if told its function. However, I've only worked with wee drooling tots and harmless psychotics, never teenagers. Oh, right, most teenagers fit into one of those categories. Plus, a few of my friends are teenagers, and I tend to function well with them as long as they are not in love with me or vice versa. So maybe I am not striking out there, exactly. Wait! I know how I am under-qualified! The topic is European Art as Seen Through American Eyes. I know positively jack about art. Well, modern European art, at least. So I cannot help the wee scholars with their homework. I am comfortable in my under-qualification. Ah.
I am a bit worried about being away from home for two weeks. Not that I don't spend quite a bit of time away from home and not that I haven't done two week stretches on my own before. However, I will miss adventures at home. I will miss my Emily. While I was a scholar at this program in 1998, Jen felt the need to cheat on me with Nick and didn't have the common decency to inform me that she no longer loved me so I could indulge in guilt-free kisses with one or both of the Sarahs (one, of course, being my sirenous Sarah). I don't worry that Emily would cheat on me. I can't imagine that she would, it isn't in her character and she is made of better stuff than an 18-year-old Jen was. It is that I worry that we will grow apart in that fortnight. I didn't say it was a reasonable or justifiable concern, merely one I am having. I would much prefer to have her at my side.
All of this being confessed, this should be a pretty amazing adventure. I have longed to return to Summer Scholar, in one form or another, for years. During 1997's excursion, I felt like an appreciated part of a community for the first time ever in my life. That was the sole reason I was so desperate to live on campus when I came to New Paltz. I craved community and a sense of belonging that came from others truly appreciating who I was at my core. I actually saw fit to call these people "peers" in a flippant way. I was proud to be a part of this and be compared to such intelligent and passionate people.
Just so you don't worry, I am not about to become that skeezy guy who hangs out outside high schools and asks the dysmorphic cheerleaders where the parties are. I don't seek to identify myself by these teenagers that I will be watching over. I merely seek to be again a part of this experience that eternally shaped some part of my psyche.
On a similar note, I had had a few dreams prior to receiving this phone call that featured me in some vaguely admired way by these sixteen-year-old girls. I did not mention them here, though they disturbed me, because I didn't want to be labeled a Humbert-come-lately. (Granted, I am only 21, but it still is unpleasant.) After I replaced the phone in the cradle, I remembered my dreams and the context became clear. My brain was nudging me subconsciously because I was going to be offered this opportunity. It wasn't a cause to be squicked, it was a positive thing. Since I realized why I was dreaming about admiring teenagers, I have no longer had these dreams.

For Richer
Saturday, my family, Emily, and I attended my cousin Avril's wedding. M and I had been looking forward to this for months. We don't get out much.
Emily spent the night, as the wedding was at three PM and we didn't wish to be late. (Please note, I am mostly joking. Mostly.) Emily had a sweet, simple, and sexy purple velvet dress with her follow-me-home-and-fuck-me boots. The fuck-me boots, while being stylish, were inappropriate for a wedding. However, given that she had trained too hard (there is no other setting for Emily), she had bruised her shins rather badly. "Slightly wanton" seemed more appropriate for a wedding then "spousally abused." As no one would satisfactorily explain what one wore to a summer wedding, I had just assumed something in my wardrobe that did not feature bondage loops would be appropriate. As it turned out, I was actually right. Score one for Xen! I wore a short-sleeved cranberry shirt with black velvet vines, Doc Martins, and dress pants. My, that was easy.
 
The bride and groom.
Emily found herself decidedly pleased to be domestic by sewing a button onto my shirt so my belly button could not escape and go on a fierce killing spree. I thought about teasing her about having a degree in women's studies and liking sewing, but it didn't seem very funny. Why shouldn't she like to sew? I like to sew. It's a stupid stereotype. Besides the fact that I like that it makes her feel warm to do things for me.
We arrived at the tiny chapel overlooking the Hudson River. I think I had forgotten that it was still a functional chapel, as I had never seen it used as anything more than a make-out spot for Cold Spring teens. Given the energy that these horny pubescents imbue it with, I could imagine unions consecrated here would be rather fruitful, if you understand my meaning. The chapel itself is so small that most of the guests were standing outside, waiting to see the new couple and decidedly sans anything to throw. I thought throwing tiny bits of things at the wedded couple was tradition. I wanted to throw something, damn it.
The wedding itself seemed to happen in about a quarter of an hour. As we saw the bride outside, cheerfully confiding in her father, I couldn't imagine I had missed much. You know that this whole experience is completely skewing how I view weddings, don't you? The only other wedding I ever attended occurred when I was really too young to actually remember rice grain one about it. I vaguely recall eating at Friendly's afterward and requesting a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which to my disgust was made from the ice cream toppings. So a Lens-Crafter wedlock without things to throw isn't helping me form healthy perceptions.
The bride's brother read a poem, which seemed fitting at the time but I now cannot remember a blessed word of it. Something about forging a destiny together, I'm sure. There might have been some mountain metaphor or a bit about a stream.
I ended up in the line to kiss my cousin, which sounds rather perverted out of context. I mumbled out something about good luck. I hadn't seen my cousin Avril in years. She had been in college before I was out of middle school and had been living in that misty universe labeled "Away" for as long as I could recall. Even before, owing to the disparity in age, we were not exactly close. I didn't have anything more heartfelt for her and just thought it would be rude if I stepped out of the line. I am possibly a bad person.
The cliff overlooking the Hudson River quickly crowded with guests oozing out of the chapel.
 
The Chapel.
Emily worried that one would twirl too fast to greet an old acquaintance and send me, arse over teakettle, into the PCB addicted arms and loins of the Hudson. I was attentive to this possibility, keeping my distance from the rocky edge while snapping photos. However, I turned back to the hungry surface of the river to see a self-satisfied mutt doggie-paddling (what else?) to and fro. This sight distracted a few more than me from the nuptial well wishing, but it was just so darned cute. All soggy and puppy-like and all.
 
It was a cat before it fell into the Hudson.

Many people approached me and informed me how they had not seen me since I was knee high to a marmoset fetus (possibly in different words) and then expressed surprise that I did not recall them. Well, it was the eighties; people were doing a lot of coke then. I didn't see the sin in not knowing people I have only met while teething, especially when they tell me I look like homelier, long dead members of my extended family. Particularly when said members are female. To refresh, eighties, a lot of coke.
The reception was held at a nice, rustic house my uncle Dave (the bride's father) had helped its owners find. This party, I believe, was part of the recompense. There was an open bar, the star of any party, and it was catered by people who were following the letter of the law by wearing black pants and white shirts. Granted, the pants could by vinyl and the shirt could be a t-shirt. From a distance they looked like wait staff, and that is what mattered.
I was able to coerce Emily onto the dance floor early into the party, as she evidently was under the mistaken assumption that I had a desire to dance with anyone but her. However, she greatly overestimated my sense of shame, as I wished to keep dancing with the woman I loved, even if the song was Run DMC's rendition of "Walk This Way." It didn't get quite that bad, but she pushed me from the floor like an Egyptian slave hauling a pyramid block.
My immediate family mostly kept to our table, acknowledging relatives with a degree of fear inversely proportional to their closeness to our bloodline. Perhaps this was just me, though.
The dinner was a nondescript fish and steak combination, though telling them apart seemed to be a trick. Shortly after the meal, not giving the guest ample time before more meat and sugar (respectively), the groom's friend grunted out manly drunken tales involving the groom's penchant for quoting philosophers rather than speaking and of getting stark naked and running about when bored. The bride's friends told of what a wonderful girl she really, really was and how she is, like, so perfect, totally. I wondered silently if the males would tell fond, nostalgic stories if drunk on wine and the girls would try to embarrass their friend if plastered on an excess of beer. Doubtful, but certainly worth putting to the test sometime. To balance this out, my male cousins sought to tell embarrassing stories about Avril. The most amusing one came from my cousin Garth, who shared how Avril had once surrounded him by white sheets and convinced him that the house had burned down.
 
Breasty McKnockers ((c) Emily) cavorting
Emily was pleasantly startled by the informality of this wedding. Evidently Jewish weddings (at which she has experience) are festive, but seem to take the idea of joining a man and woman together under God (while breaking perfectly serviceable drinking ware) somewhat seriously. Actually, I blame the fact that manischewitz is too viscous in the throat to be worth getting drunk from, keeping those nasty social boundaries up and thus preventing tearful girls from confessing their heart into microphones. Plus, you know, bacon. Who can party without a few slices of bacon?
Speaking of drunken spectacles as we were, my brother and father nudged me to notice a lass in a blue dress. At first, seeing only her back, it did not seem much of note. Then she turned and it was as though duel eclipses had ended. It wasn't that her breast were extraordinarily large, merely that they were markedly present at this occasion. Unfortunately, though I was being egged on by my family and a bit by M, I could not get a picture that accurately conveys Chesty McBoob (I never said we were not terribly immature). She had adjusted her hanging cleavage halfway through this dance, actually appearing modest. So, I am including the best I could do without a flash, despite its lack of skin. I think Melony Titslinger was one of my cousin's friends from out west, so it is wholly acceptable that my family was urging me to get a picture of this lass's pectoral region. The scariest part is, I didn't even bother obscuring her identity. That is really how she looks.
We ventured home soon after, a bit before the sun went down. My father and older brother, who stayed, tell me that this is when the festivities really began. Judging by the degree to which they were worn out the next day, I think I choose to believe them.


Soon in Xenology: M's belief in fairies. Trying to hang out with Venessa. New claddaugh ring. Loving M more. Being on a diet. Conor and the weirdness of our lives. Bust a move. French porn.

last watched: Hedwig and the Angry Inch
reading: Skinny Legs and All
listening: Pisces Iscariot
wanting: adequate pay to be away from M for two weeks.
interesting thought: Some people can only think when they are talking for twenty minutes straight, refusing to let a conversation occur.
moment of zen: contemplating what it means to be married.
someday I must: poke an alien with a twig.

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.



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