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09.02.02 3:54 p.m.

I prefer tongue-tied knowledge to ignorant loquacity.

 -Marcus Tullius Cicero  

Previously in Xenology: My family and I vacationed in Lake George.

As In, Chillin' Like
Wednesday: On the Wednesday of vacation, we visited the theme park, Great Escape. It had been a lot of folksy fun before Pepsi sank their claws into it, after which it became identical to every Great Adventure theme park in the country. I had preferred it when it was a unique, if not as exciting, experience.
We went on a wooden rollercoaster called The Comet that is supposed to be one of the best wooden rollercoasters in the world. I imagine there is not a great deal of competition. Nonetheless, it was reasonably fast and loopy, as rollercoasters are wont to be. Emily said that, when she looked over to me while the rollercoaster was thundering down an incline, I looked quietly thoughtful as though I were contemplating a flower. I informed that this was because I assumed I was in no imminent danger so I was just enjoying the view. Evidently, this is not an acceptable response.
Emily and I stayed with my father, Dan, Bryan, and Jesse for an admirable hour after which we decided we wanted to see how much water we could inhale at the various water rides. Given that, aside from swimming shorts, I was wearing a normal outfit, I was able to carry about a gallon of spare water in my shirt. However, my indulging Emily's selkie nature had the salutary edge of allowing me to see her in a tight black two piece. While I am wholly aware that I see M in various states of undress on a regular basis, there is something insatiably sexy about her in a two piece. It's a sickness.
We discovered a make-your-own teddy bear shop in the park that we clearly had to try. Despite the price tag, it seemed like a cute idea. Emily kept bringing me the floppy skins of teddy bears whose eyes were too close together. She hugged them to her bosom, trying to provoke my pity for this anorexic doll flesh. I was more interested in trying to find an underdog doll that clearly needed rescuing. Finally, I found one and plead my case for a deflated giraffe. M mewed a bit, but finally gave in that the giraffe was pretty cute. We filled him with just enough stuffing to make him huggable, a doll heart, and two stuffed stars that we wished upon. It was really very cute when you get past the Disney-esque cheesiness. The cardboard cradle likely didn't help. The giraffe's nose was slightly off center, so Emily named him Cameron. Our custody arrangement is that we have to steal him from one another's houses as needed.
We met back up with Bryan and Jesse, they were passive aggressively quarreling fiercely. I had sunburn on only one side of my nose and lip (though I have no idea how I got it since I had slathered waterproof sunblock on), so I was already hiding my head from them. I just sat there quietly, petting Cameron.
We did not end up getting a caricature done by the artist at Great Escape because he rather sucked various goat parts. Seriously, I could do better when I am dead to the world on sleeping pills. Quintuple amputee monkeys fed Valium could likely make pictures that looked more like the subject. What I am trying to get across is, they were of dubious value. You get that, right?
Instead, M and I ended up shelling out $40 to an artist on the streets of Lake George because his sample pictures at least looked like people. Granted, the people were Will Smith and Mini-Me. Still, it seemed more reasonable that wasting money at Great Escape. I sat and tried to look like a reasonable facsimile of a normal person.
I am a shy monkey  
Abashed, the devil stood and saw how awful goodness felt.
The artist joked around for a few moments and then became nearly mechanical. He scrutinized me, made a few lines, leaned back, repeated the process for fifteen minutes. Emily was giggling politely behind him and giving me a play by play. "You are exactly seven lines and have huge teeth." "He drew you with sunburn." "You look funny, like a tan monkey." Once I was out of the hot seat, as it were, and M had taken my place, I turned to look at his interpretation of me. I do not have it scanned yet, so I will have to try to describe it. I did look like a tanned monkey. With sunburn. I was very surprised he felt the need to include sunburn, which suggested to me that he was just drawing exactly what he saw and not much thinking. Like a machine. Emily informed me later that my eyes and hair seemed right, but nothing else fit me. Similarly, he drew an evil infant where he should have drawn Emily. Neither one of us was pleased, but we paid and went on our way.
That night, we went to a very nice restaurant. I even got my version of dressed up, which merely meant a very shiny shirt. Our waitress was a girl named Beata who was of obvious Slavic background. We had noted that many of the people in Lake George to provide us with sundry services were of this ethnic background. Beata gave off an inexperienced foreign vibe that my older brother found very appealing. She definitely could have easily passed for a girl in a porn, which isn't a compliment necessarily. Especially when we asked her feelings on a certain dish and she groaned happily, "Oh, it tastes so good!" Similarly, when discussing the dessert menu, she sighed, "Ooh, would you like whipped cream and hot fudge on it?" The jokes rather made themselves. As such, Emily and I began discussing the porn we were going to have to film with Beata. Emily decided it needed to be named "Slavic Sex Slaves," but I was trying for something a little higher brow. Say, "Whore and Piece"?
Emily feels the need to tell you that she had a candy apple. This may well have been the high point of the vacation for her. Given that she discovered that she is apparently allergic to her own stomach acid, we will indulge her this.
After dinner, we visited a haunted house run by the owner of the Haunted Mansion. Emily was remarkably anxious given that she knew that the ghoulies were invariably teenagers that are subpar at social interaction. I walked fairly calmly through the maze, allowing Emily to leave imprints of finger-shaped terror on my upper arm. Emily thought I was being rude to the guide, which wasn't the case. I just knew what would happen and thus appreciated it in a theatrical sense. I wasn't scared when something jumped out at me, I was pleased to be surprised. It is just perspective, I suppose.
Thursday: Wednesday night, Emily and I had our own room. Unfortunately, the previous occupants evidently felt the need to chain smoke every moment they were within fifty feet of the room. As such, every porous surface was thick with accumulated smoke. I awoke in the middle of the night and was so sick from the smell that I was unable to move and it felt like my viscera were coated in lead. In the morning, I was so much worse that I told my family I would be unable to go horseback riding with them, the event to which I was most looking forward. My mother would not listen to my groaned protestations that I was too weak to attempt the trip. She ordered Emily to buy me breakfast and to roll me out onto the beach, surmising correctly that the fresh air and sunlight, coupled with a BLT, would revive me.
I managed to act enough like a human being that the ranch let me have a horse. As Emily used to have a horse named Candy, I decided that that gave her the complete right on how to instruct me not to further destroy my body. Other years when I have gone horseback riding, I end up doing something to my back that makes it hurt when I breathe. Since I insist upon breathing, I thought it best to do as instructed. The advice was only to keep my heels down, but I had enough faith in M that I believed this would work. Our guide seemed to like to try to frighten us. His first attempt was to tell us we would be going down a steep hill through forest. I was calm, because it was obvious he was joking. However, when he next said, "We are going to have our horses jump over that fence right there. Now, make sure your horse has enough speed, or you will fall off. Hold on tight. Don't lean back, or you will fall off when he recoils. If you lean forward, you will go flying off the front. Also, stay in the center of the saddle. If you lean to either side, you could tumble off. If this happens, roll, and fast or you will get trampled. Now hold on tight and push your heels hard into the horse!" He took off at stop speed toward the fence. I was bravely holding on, figuring an untimely death was the worst thing that could happen. I even managed to keep my eyes open so I could see him veering sharply to avoid the fence. All of our horses followed suit. When the guide again stopped us and informed us that he was going to have us do something dangerous, I just nodded, knowing that he wasn't serious. Except he was and we took off down a hill at top speed (except for Dan's horse, which enjoyed the scenery. Specifically slowly and systematically befouling the scenery), I held on tight, as this was really the only option I felt I had.
The guide was one of the more fun ones we have had, if you hadn't deduced that. Every hundred yards or so, he would insist that we loudly exclaim, "Oooh la la, cowboys!" He seemed surprised at our total lack of reticence.
Best of all, I did not get hurt.
the particles  
M, demonstrating how smoke bombards me.
When we got back to the hotel, Emily proclaimed that the only way we could set foot within it again would be if we procured Frebreeze and lots of it. Once procured, she saturated anything that could have possibly held any odor other than Febreeze, myself included. I thought a shower might have sufficed, but she insisted upon being thorough. I was informed later that, for the duration of the vacation, everything I wore had the definite odor of Febreeze. I figured that this was quite a few steps up from cigarette smoke.
As the day had turned rainy, my parents, M, and I went to the outlets. As we were pulling out of the parking lot, I asked my mother where Bryan and Jesse were. She explained that she had left them napping back at the hotel room. I grabbed one of our two-way radios and screamed into it, "Stop fornicating!" before we got out of range. We had been doing so well in keeping Bryan out of jail and they had to leave this hormonally-dripping hominid alone in a hotel room with jailbait. Bloody hell, one might as well give a pyromaniac a blow torch as leave those to together unsupervised. As far as we know, no damage was done, but I think we all preferred not to know what had really happened.
In one used video store, Emily spotted a sign behind the cute lesbian clerk's head (why she was looking at the cute lesbian is her own affair) that stated, "Ask me about our XXX rated movies." Emily, of course, thought this was a lovely idea. We asked and the clerk brightly informed us that they no longer had XXX rated movies, but she kept the sign up so people would ask. I smiled brightly, as this was exactly the sort of tactic I would have employed to see embarrassed faces.
That night, we went to the Lobster Pot, the seafood restaurant directly up from our hotel. Yet another wonderful reason to dress well, as though we need an excuse. Well, given that I chose to wear the black hooded sweatshirt I had procured from the outlets, I suppose I wasn't exactly the height of sartorial splendor. It seemed more utilitarian. After an abominably long wait, we were seated in a cramped booth that hardly afforded us elbow room. Our waiter also took forty-five minutes to bring us out drinks after we ordered. And I discovered that shrimp make my mouth itch (made worse by the fact that our waiter took fifteen minutes to bring me a new soda). So, I was not precisely pleased on any level.
Before the meal had officially reached its conclusion, Emily and I left to seek out a shirt she had desired to purchase. In a handful of minutes, we heard fireworks coming from the waterfront. We ran down the parking lot of the nearest hotel and cuddled up on a ledge. She lay against me and cooed in childlike glee as the fireworks exploded and whirled to the ground. It began to gently rain on us, but I just held her closer to me to stave off the chill. I was content. It was the diametric opposite way I felt when Emily and I worked at the Ren Faire the Sunday before for $15 less than we got when we worked there full-time, cheated and put upon. We were perfectly free and pleased in our rainy moment.
Later, after procuring a lifeguard sweatshirt for her, we found a Ben & Jerry's and got ice cream. Actually, it was the same Ben & Jerry's we had gotten ice cream at last year. I got the same thing I got last year. And we were served by the same girl. Perhaps we should go to another tourist resort next year?

Sophistry and Illusions
Classes have begun anew. I feel like I never left, frankly. Nothing has really changed. Granted, I lack having to deal with Jenks, which is no small joy. Otherwise, my English professors are largely good-natured windbags who are going to force me to read until my eyeballs tumble from my head and roll under the desk.
Emily and I were to take a psych class together. I did not at all need it, but I assumed it would do me no harm. When we attended it the first evening, I was making constant fun of our professors Eastern European accent, intimating that she was a member of the Nazi party as all people with this accent must be. The professor asked us to introduce ourselves. Emily wrote out what she was going to say, I suppose so she didn't freeze in panic. In jest, I wrote for her, "My name is Emily. The man to my right is mad sexy." In retort she wrote one for me that said, "I am [Xen]. I like to wear shiny shirt. I eat children." Owing to the solemn decorum the rest of the class possessed, the latter line of her introduction for me became so hilariously ridiculous that we feel to tears trying to stifle our laughter.
After class, Emily approached the teacher and inquired if it would be okay for her, Emily, to leave class five minutes early in order to not be obscenely late to her class at Dutchess Community College. If this was not permissible, Emily would have to drop the course. The woman, true to her Nazi roots, told my poor Semitic M that this was intolerable and it might be best if M just dropped the class. Which, of course, Emily did. Emily also ended up taking more classes than she had wanted at completely different time and spending $350 on books for her nursing program. Which is especially unfortunate now, as Emily may be forced to, owing to a lack of money and parental assistance, drop out of school next semester. It is wholly a bad scene, but one over which I am sure she will triumph.
As for me, I dropped the psych class as well and, after a goodly amount of well placed simpering and peskiness, ended up taking a class simply called "Fiction into Film." The teacher stresses the film part over the fiction, which is a relief to my weary eyes. I was biting back a broad smile when he described what we as a class would be doing over the semester and the fact that I would not have to write papers for this class. Oh, the paper writing that is in my future...
I am taking another class originally called “Great Books Western.” However, the teacher decided that it should be a course in satirical works. One would think I would thus proclaim this one of my favorite classes already, but this is not so. The teacher, in as far as I have experienced him, is immensely pretentious and bombastic. For example, he has found a way to drop the fact that he used to live in France into every twenty minutes of the class. Not to mention the fact that he and his "lady friend" are restoring a brownstone in Harlem, a fact which he has somehow found cause to mention four times. Oh, and has he mentioned how he used to live in France? Well, he did. He also seems to think my mere existence is the equivalent to having my hand constantly raised, as he calls on me all the bloody time. I try to explain a basic concept and he tries to make it sound as though I am an ignorant fool. He writes books, thus he knows these things. Granted, he hasn't been published. Oh, and he used to live in France. Did I mention that?
Leah's hiding from your cold dead glare.  
Leah: A new character about to reveal herself. Not like that!
Worst of all, he doesn't seem to understand what he should be teaching. In a conversation about humor, he felt the need to spend fifty minutes explaining what the four bodily humors are and how they affect people's demeanor. While it was technically about "humor," it was the wrong definition of "humor." He also felt the need to write the pronunciation of humor, including an alternate French pronunciation (he used to live in France, you see. I bet you didn't know that), with upside down letters and all. I feel that this class is going to be a waste of time, which honestly irks me a great deal more than hearing a new wannabe expatriate mumble French phrases.
I also somehow ended up in a graduate level course for twentieth century literary criticism. Frankly, the concept frightens me. However, if I put aside the idea that I am taking a graduate level course, I am not as absolutely terrified as I am right now. All I know is I need to have a fifteen-minute presentation of the psychoanalytical critical approach to Confessions of an English Opium-Eater and I have no idea what any of that means. I think, perhaps, I should hide under a large turtle.
We also have a new supporting character added to our pages. Emily has acquired a new roommate who has chosen to be called Leah. It is not, of course, her name. But it is what she desires, so I will indulge her. She is about the same height and build as M. As well, she possesses the same quality of beauty that I see in Emily. Unlike Emily, she can play guitar. To M's way of thinking, this meant I would fall hopelessly in love with Leah. I thought this was ridiculous and told her so, but she persisted (mostly joking). As such, I informed her that it would just be too awkward to date Leah because she lived in the same house as M. M narrowed her eyes at me and thanked me for my overwhelming loyalty.
I went to visit Emily a few days ago, when she should have been resting in bed because she had caught the cold I acquired from the secondhand smoke room. Despite the fact that she was so delirious she could barely articulate her thoughts over breakfast, she had decided to drive the twenty minutes to DCC. As such, I wrote a note that read, "BAD EMILY!!! You are a sick girl and I don't want you getting hurt. Love, Xen" As I was tacking it to her door, Leah returned from her classes. Initially, I made to leave, but decided I had enough time and inclination to get to know Leah a little better. She remained as teddy bear adorable as she was upon meeting her several days ago, when I won her admiration by bringing her household both French Toast Sticks and grapes. She seemed sociable enough and told me that I was always welcome in the apartment in her opinion. Even though I assumed this right was already extended to me, I thought this was a sweet thing to say. Vampires cannot enter uninvited, supposedly. We chatted about school a bit and I shot rubber bands at M's door to punish her for going out while she was sick. All in all, I think she will make a wonderful addition to this story. We will see what develops.

Confessions of an American Caffeine-Eater
Wander around campus a few days ago, speaking with Emily about her relatively terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, I spotted a Stevehen-shaped mass.
Mmmm... coffee  
Stevehen and a refreshing cup of hot chocolate.
I was not wholly positive that it was the man himself, as it seemed possible that it could be a similarly shaped being, but I was certain enough that I followed him and screamed his name to overcome the din of his headphones. I asked him his purpose on campus and he explained that he was here to await Tina's exit from class in a few hours. As it corresponded with my next arrival in class, he agreed to accompany me for a little while.
After procuring some pizza that seemed to have been deep fried in industrial oil, we settled ourselves in a cozy lounge with New Paltz's take on soft cushions. They weren't soft in as much as they were technically not hard. New Paltz is big on those sort of technicalities. We discussed Stevehen's acting dreams, which currently center on playing Harpo in DCC's perversion of a classic Marx Brother's movie which will be directed by a small, gay man who reminds me of a scared chicken. I wished him all the luck in the world, as this was the man that had gotten my hopes up to play Rudolpho in A View from the Bridge and gave me a non-speaking role instead. Though, given that Stevehen wants to be Harpo, the director might try to spite him by giving him the part with the most lines. He is devious.
We also discussed global politics and quickly came to the conclusion that America is headed to dissolution, more than likely. It is a bit bizarre to think that the country in which one lives will not last for very much longer. Not precisely depressing, but certainly queer. It is hard to look at the current administration, at least for me, and not be painfully reminded of corrupt chamberlains and dictators of foreign lands to whom Americans take great pleasure in feeling superior. Now we are possessed of a governing body that acts like the Grinch, prior to heart inflation ("You know what causes forest fires? Trees. So what I will do is let my good buddies in the logging industry take these mean old trees away so you don't have to worry about any nasty fires. No, no, there is no need to thank me. Next, I'll get rid of all of that yicky oil in Alaska..."). Democracy suffered a major blow when a president was installed in the White House rather than legally winning. This is the stuff of "evil" third-world governments, not America. Okay, maybe it is depressing.

Soon in Xenology: Jacki's party. Seeing Conor. And Dave. And Zack. But not together.

last watched: Still Crazy
reading: Lolita
listening: Carry On Up The Charts: The Best Of The Beautiful South
wanting: to spend more time with my friend and less reading. (Oh my god, did I honestly just say that?)
interesting thought: It is nothing I cannot deal with.
moment of zen: Watching bad movies with M and Zack.
someday I must: have a wonderful party.

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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