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01.26.03 1:29 a.m.

Life is truly known only to those who suffer, lose, endure adversity and stumble from defeat to defeat.


 -Anais Nin  




Previously in Xenology: Emily was a Broadway baby. Emily and I worked at the Renaissance Faire. The fate of the world in M's hands!

We Can Alter the Spicy
As you know, I have been trying to overcome various fears of things that may well be fun if I could only take a step back and not wet myself about them. This week's lesson was skiing. The only problem was, after I swore I would ski, we discovered that it would be about $100 a person. Though I sail down the mountain in the shadow of death, I fear being charge my weekly paycheck no matter who is at my side. In this case, that would be Emily and Dave.
Given that none of us felt particularly into paying so much, we decided it would be best to explore the goodness that is snow tubing. I had fantasies of sailing down near sheer cliff-faces; staring death in the face and laughing, as it were.
Dave  
Dave was not expecting me!
I can say this with all necessary bravado now because this wasn't even vaguely the case. The hill on which my home sits is only slightly less perilous. Though it possesses trees, gardens, and ditches, so that might actually increase its peril score to "chipmunk with a lighter." Also, the closer my unprotected head is from the ground speeding by at thirty miles an hour, the safer I feel. (Shut up, this makes perfect sense.) Still, it was wholesome fun. I had visions of Rockwellian snowball fights and hot chocolate with marshmallows. I don't particularly like most hot chocolate with marshmallows, but I drink it because it is the appropriate thing to do on a blustery winter's day and it would be wholly unwholesome to do otherwise.
First it became necessary to retrieve Emily's bag from the home of the party. The woman was not displeased to see us, though confused. As Emily chatted and found her precious bag, Dave and I busied ourselves with the dogs and naked children happily darting about our legs. One child was throwing cheerios and marbles from the floor above, unaware that glass has a tendency to shatter when falling from a great distance onto a hard surface.
Bag retrieved, we tried to drive away. However, the car was being sniffed by one of the aforementioned dogs who, to show us that it knew he were watching it, thoughtfully urinated on Emily's tire. I suggested that I would exit the car and run around like an idiot to distract the dog. Once it approached me to see if I was suffering from kuru, Emily and Dave would drive away beyond the reach of the invisible fence and I would make a break for it. This, of course, worked. We can actually outwit a dog.
Quest  
That is one shy dog.
Dave told us between trips down the mountain of an impending blind date he was to have with a middle-school teacher. Technically, as they are exchanging e-mails, it is not exactly a blind date. One might better call it a date with cataracts. We inquired as to how she looked because Emily and I are terribly shallow and judge people solely on their appearance. Actually, we were just hoping not to hear the dread word "blonde." Blondes are the kryptonite of Dave.
"You don't exactly have the best of luck with blondes," the golden-maned M chided.
Dave looked playfully abashed and agreed. "I e-mailed her my picture, hoping that she would send me one of her but she didn't... That's probably a bad sign."
We solemnly shook our heads. Not only was she a teacher from Long Island, the locusts of the teaching profession, but she would likely be as blonde as an albino. Dave would weaken, first at the knees, soon elsewhere. Then, all would be lost.
I suppose redheads are like red kryptonite, which would just make him do the wacky, right? Or perhaps he would grow wings. I really vague on this.
After our hour on the tubes was up and we were rudely barred from reentering the hill, we drove back to the sanctity of New York. Emily knew of one of those amazing restaurants that provide their wisely loyal customers with a multiplicity of courses for under $6. As this was a Chinese eatery, it was best not to guess at the terrible secret. However, it may have something to do with the cryptic phrase on the bottom of the menus, "We can alter the spicy." Perhaps when we unravel this zen koan, we can have true knowledge of cheap, good food. Though it should still be noted that there was no hot chocolate for us, even in the koan.
Once slaked on the Chinesey goodness, we returned to Emily's house where her greyhound was irrationally frightened of Dave. As Emily changed into something slightly more comfortable than wearing more layers than the latest Taco Bell creation, Dave and I analyzed her refrigerator as text. My conclusion, based upon the New Yorker cartoons and adorable baby pictures, is that I am dating Shirley Temple if Kurt Vonnegut characters raised her. I think Dave is too polite to share his conclusions. Or, perhaps, the truth is just too frightening to mention.

Finnegans Wake
As is required by the Geneva Convention (it's in the small print), my family and sundry people who might as well be family went out to dinner to celebrate my older brother's birthday. For an undetermined reason, we chose a slightly dingy eatery that Emily insisted upon calling Finnegans Wake, perhaps because everyone spoke in an obscure and rambling fashion. Or perhaps because it is actually named Finnegan's. It is really anybody's guess.
festive  
This was after the line dancing
Emily initially thought she was far too ill with a cold to make the trip down to join us. However, I evidently sounded so perfectly dejected at the thought of her lack that she felt guilted into joining the festivities. I cannot say that I am necessarily upset by this turn of events and Emily tends to make familial situations that much easier.
The service was slow, but we were sufficiently satisfied with the ostensibly never-ending supply of chicken wings. Truly, we are easy to please. Even Emily, to whom chicken is near poison, supped on the bits of chickeny goodness. (Not to fret, Emily had built up a supply of bizarre medicine in her bloodstream, so she may poison herself once a month with little ill effect. Though the fact that she wishes to poison herself once a month may be ill effect enough.)
We dined and spoke, teasing our family friend Kevin about a girl's claim (ten or so months after the fact) that he fathered her child. He and his new girlfriend took this in stride, which convinced me that he was most likely not the father and that his new girlfriend was quite a nice person. I would be quite annoyed at the situation were I in her position.
Suddenly, as we ate, loud county music began to play. We were rightly startled, given that we were next to the speakers. Just as suddenly a gang of urban cowboys began reenacting the fight scene from West Side Story. No. Wait. They were line dancing. I decided that this was immensely entertaining and began clapping and smiling widely.
"Look, M! Festive folk dancing! We are learning about the native culture," I exclaimed.
"I am pretty sure my culture has better music and less silly hats," replied M.
"Shhh! No! We cannot judge the natives by our cultural standards. They might try to eat us."
I continued to be pleased with the dancers and elbowed my younger brother to pay proper attention to a girl with painted-on jeans and a loose green shirt. Checking out attractive, teenage line dancers is a normalizing behavior and increases serotonin production, making him feel better. He would not heed my advice, mumbling something under his breath about the standard objectification of woman in American culture and the disinclination to see them beyond their bodies. Or perhaps it was, "I don't like her, she has cigarettes in the ass pocket of her jeans." It was quite loud.
Emily needed to leave early, so I walked her back to her car because I am a gentleman. Also because I had little trust for men who were getting drunk literally for pennies. Someone was going to end up bleeding on the ground, and it was not going to be Emily. The rugged, pot-bellied, urban cowboys gave me glares of barely contained disgusted as I walked through them to the exit with my Emily. I returned their sneers with a broad grin, which only served to annoy them more. Evidently, my black shirt with the metal hoops didn't quite gel with their idea of Line Dancin' Night and thus I was an enemy combatant.
When we got outside, we were approached by two men who asked what was going on in the bar.
"They are having colorful folk dancing... I mean line dancing. It's funny." I replied. However, this did not sound nearly as appealing to them and they beat a hasty retreat back to their cars.
I fully intend to attend another Line Dancin' Night with many of my friends and in as incongruous of clothes as stylistically possible.


Soon in Xenology: Stevehen. Elza

last watched: Ginger Snaps
reading: The Salmon of Doubt
listening: Elza
wanting: a fount of motivation or a paid internship at a magazine.
interesting thought: we never really know our fates.
moment of zen: being amused at different cultures a mile from my home.
someday I must: read Finnegans Wake

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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