Skip to content

06.27.03 12:43 a.m.

There are two emotions on an airplane: terror and boredom.

 -Orson Welles  

Previously in Xenology: Conor and Bard are a bit like a duck and oil.

If all goes as planned, and there are few reasons why is shouldn't, I will leave for Lake George on Saturday morning. Emily emphasizes the morning aspect of this plan, meaning hours after midnight, not tens of minutes prior to noon. I find this time inhospitable and wonder aloud whenever the occasion warrants why this is so damned popular with the rest of the world. A teacher once told me that one cannot call oneself an artist if one does not see the vast majority of sunrises. He never made mention of what side of the night one should be on and few things are more decadent than falling into a deep sleep just after the sun warmed the grass.
Once we reach our scenic destination, we are to promptly attend a rehearsal dinner for her rich cousin's wedding. I've never been to a rehearsal dinner for the very important reason that I do not much understand their purpose. I suspect they are an occasion foisted on the parents of the bride in order to drain more money. However, it may simply be a matter of social graces to which I am ill-equipped.
The wedding is essentially being held on its own private island at a place called The Sagamore. I am a bit chagrined to be going to a wedding quite so fancy, what with the rain in Spain and that Pygmalion gent. I am, to my way of thinking, a bit of a guttersnipe. I once pilfered an antique copy of Othello. I am positively devilish and ill-mannered. Honestly, I just feel that any attempt to seem something other than middle class is the putting of airs and is quite apparent to all concerned. Because, you see, I am a paranoid guttersnipe.
After the wedding - which may well be compacting a large story in a three word phrase - we are to spend the night at the home of Emily's cousin before zipping to the buckle of the Bible belt (actually a tourism slogan I found), Knoxville, Tennessee for several fun filled days of Emily kicking things and my attempting to not get strung up in a cornfield for being a guttersnipe from New York.
I am a bit fluster and anxious about flying in a plane. I have been told that this means the terrorists have won, but hundreds of thousand of sensible people are unnerved about the idea of being shot through the air in a pressurized metal tube long before September 11th, 2001. Bernoulli's principle, indeed!
I am also, I think with cause, a tad worried that I am going to be in the situation of being very bored and largely alone in a strange city that somewhat facetiously advertises a "friendly rivalry with the North." I, who am blessed with very long hair and a strange humor, in such a place as this? Iffy, at best. But I will go because I want to support Emily in her kicking of things and because I truly believe she stands a good chance of winning and going on to the Olympics. I think this is the next step after winning Nationals, though there might be a lightning round when Emily gets to be her finishing move of turning into a feral Italian greyhound.

Impenetrable and Invisible
I picked Conor up from his home. He had just finished another one of those unholy ten-page papers that seem to nip at his heels to be completed every time a semester ends at Bard. As always, failure to adequate complete this assignment would force his expulsion from Bardwort's and his being forced to stay with muggles (though, if I may be frank, Conor and his blood are a great deal more like the Weasley's... and I am likely a lesser person for thinking in these terms...)
One the way to Emily's, the destination of this sleepover excursion, he tantalized me with bits and pieces of his life since we had last spent any time together. He told me his friends and he had formed a closet society based about The Invisibles graphic novels, he adopting the moniker of Alice from Lewis Carroll's creation. I tried to understand his descriptions of people who make things happen, who are at the center of these revolutions and yet seem totally nonchalant about it. Of course, lacking knowledge of these books, it was quite difficult to comprehend and thus convey. His example, which may be the best one we will get until I consume the books, is of a friend who dated the first supermodel when he was a teenager. He went on to serendipitously know the Rolling Stones and many counter culture writers I would worship as gods. Yet this man thought absolutely nothing of any of this, it was just a life. Perhaps, though, I am mangling it and a better read fan will feel the need to correct me in the forums.
He also showed me a small, circular scar on his hand and told me he had earned this wound in the cause of magick. Unfortunately for me in the extreme short term, he would not tell me how this came about, as he did not want to have to repeat the story for Emily when she graced us with her luminous presence. Her hinted that his mother continually thought of new reasons she was glad he had given himself a scar, but this, too, was impenetrable.
Once at Emily's, we quickly decided that a night of embodying homebodyism was not a night for us. It is hardly polite to call a night of the hours when the moon and star are not seen.
We departed ostensibly to get food from a Mexican restaurant that was in the high esteem of Emily's artist father. As I enjoy his perspective of the orchids he paints, I tend to irrationally believe his sense of taste carries over into the field of edibles. It is specious thinking at best. At worst, I burn my tongue on a tamale.
We ended up in a Shop Rite parking lot, as seems to so often be the case in these gelatinous plans, in need of snacks for the movie we suddenly decided to see. In the parking lot, about to exit the car, Conor deigned it time to tell us his story to which I shall now try to do justice.
Yes, I'm okay with that  
The goat-footed balloon man
Conor felt that he had given much too much of himself to those friends in need around him. While it was perfectly wonderful to be able to help one in need, it had left Conor an emotional vacuum unable to process his life satisfactorily. Perhaps worse from his perspective, he was unable to continue to be the warm center of the universe everyone crowds around. Thus, he sought to cut ties with the Forces That Be for a little while and recharge his psychic battery. He gathered a towel, a single djarum, a lighter, and a container. There may have actually been more, but I do not remember. He walked to Bard's waterfall and was mentally egging on the eternally indifferent security guards to question him as to the content of his bag. They had far better things to do, by which I mean "absolutely nothing." Conor dove into the murky depths of the waterfall and allowed the water to infuse him in the figurative sense. He thought at this point, "Well, this is good, I have water. But now I need fire or I will be unbalanced and dilute." Thus he lit and began to smoke the djarum. I was not aware that Conor smokes. I choose to believe he does not do so often, only in times of profound spiritual need. Conor was dissatisfied with the smoking; the result of burnt, black paper was not fire. There was absolutely no reason to do this halfway. "I have to put this cigarette out on my hand," thought Conor, "that way I will be able to feel the fire." He endeavored to do just this, and was foiled then the remaining water from the waterfall put this cigarette out before he could feel much of anything. He dried is skin off and walked back to his dorm. There, he relit the cigarette on the glowing burner of the communal stove and tried again. "Holy fuck!" he exclaimed, "nothing has ever hurt this much." He pulled the cigarette away and groaned when he saw that it was still lit. Many would decide that a severe burn was enough of an experience, but Conor had decided he could only be replenished if he were to put the cherry of the cigarette out on his hand. Nothing else could possibly do. He put his hand on the countertop and twisted the coal red end of the djarum until he was satisfied with a very dead cigarette and a very deep burn.
But, he told us, he was replenished and whole once more.
Given all of this insight into Conor, we missed the first showing of Bruce Almighty, which some may consider a blessing in and of itself. As missed out on Chester, NY's answer to Mexican cuisine, we were for want of food. We sought to negotiate through the enveloping theater crowd, but were stopped by a rent-a-cop who forbade passing her and entering the mall (and thus food) unless our car was on the other side.
"Yes, of course it is," I began to say, but Emily rightly pointed out that this would mean we would have to walk through the increasing rain to get back to our vehicle.
Nonetheless, I was jubilantly dancing through the rain in a fashion that would do Gene Kelly proud. My long, black raincoat billowing, I felt a bit like I was in the Matrix and, when I discovered a cell phone in a puddle by my feet, felt it perfectly reasonable to open it and ask Tank for an exit. None was provided. Emily snatched the phone from my hand and called the number designated at "home." She told the machine that the phone would be with the security guard within the mall.
"You know, most people wouldn't have done that, M."
She wrinkled her nose as this was clearly the only option to her. "What would most people have done?"
"Make many, many long distance and/or 900 number calls," I admitted.
"Would you have?"
I considered this. "No, I'd have given the phone to you."
After a not particularly stellar meal at one of those restaurants named after a day of the week and a subpar return to comedy from Jim Carrey, we returned to Emily's home and quickly found oblivion in sleep.
Emily awoke Conor and me, despite our being in separate rooms. We were informed to our bemused delight that Emily's parents had gotten us breakfast. M's parents thus entreated our company in the dining room. During the meal, Emily and I were being our normal, random ebullient selves, provoking Emily's mother to ask Conor, "How did you end up with these two?"
Yes, I'm okay with that  
I'm just being quiet
He smiled at his meal and confessed, "I'm just being quiet."
Despite our plans to conquer the world and buy an army of lemurs (in that order), we did not feel it prudent to actually leave Emily's home for any great length of time. We procured Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure from the video store because Emily had never seen it. This is not to say it is exactly worth watching, but it is definitely one of those bits of cultural literacy expected of our generation.
Emily informed Conor and me that she felt we should leave at about eight, so she could get a full night of sleep and whatnot. However, as this hour rolled around, she decided that she needed us to make brownies. From scratch. Despite the fact that she was attempting Atkin's diet to make weight for Nationals. We did not disagree.
After investigating recipes and getting the proper materials from the grocery store, we set to combining them. I read the ingredients as they added them. I noticed just before we finished that all the chocolate was gone when only one-third of it should have gone into the Double Chocolate Brownies. "Guys, what'd you do with the chocolate?"
"We melted it down and put it in the brownies," answered M.
Incredulous, I sought to confirm that they had added all of it.
Conor raised his eyebrow. "Yes. We used all the chocolate. Why?"
"The recipe called for only one-third that amount. You used too much chocolate."
Conor turned to Emily, "'Too much chocolate'? I know he is saying words, but they just don't make any sense."
"But the recipe said..."
"I'm sorry," soothed M, "we understand you are trying to convey something to us, but you are clearly not speaking our language."
Once the brownies were made, they were still far too hot to cut and take home, according to M, so she ushered us back into her room to watch Princess Mononoke, another cinematic experience we had heretofore lacked. Conor gushed over the character of Princess Mononoke as she fed Ashitaka from her mouth, labeling her "[Conor's] other girlfriend."
We left near twelve and Conor spent the drive down regaling me with envy worthy stories of his time at Bard. I listen, largely in silence, as I was trying to remember as much of these stories as possible. It's a bit difficult to explain, but I try to show his stories the same reverence I would the Dalai Lama's and for much the same reason.
When I entered the borders of Cold Spring, I could feel drops of foreboding trickle down my neck. I knew that there was something behind us that was unfriendly, perhaps hunting us. Thus, when the red lights flashed above it, I was not much surprised but only sorry I had not filled Conor in to what I was feeling sooner. I pulled over and was greeted by a cop asking me for my license and registration. Conor says I sounded very nervous and he was himself because there was another cop standing next to his door glaring at him.
The cop peered at me. "You been drinking tonight?"
"No, definitely not. I don't drink."
"Smoking anything?"
"What?! No!"
He looked at my license, though he didn't bother to direct it toward any light source. "You know why I pulled you over?"
Actually, yes, I did. He pulled me over because it was 1AM and random checks are common at this hour. He asked me if I had been "smoking anything" because I have long hair. "No, officer, I do not."
"You were a little close to the yellow line a few miles back. Maybe you were playing with the radio or not paying attention to your driving?" he condescended.
"No, sir, I may have just been sleepy. Thank you for letting me know." At this, he handed me back my information and let me go on my way.
Still, a nice day.

Soon in Xenology: More weddings. Parties. Nationals. Mantras. Sarah.

last watched: Princess Mononoke
reading: Stupid White Men
listening: JJ72
wanting: Dramamine
interesting thought: I've never seen the world from above.
moment of zen: time with Conor.
someday I must: land in Tennessee

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.

eXTReMe Tracker