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2003.07.01 10:00 p.m.

Thank God men cannot as yet fly and lay waste the sky as well as the earth!

 -Henry David Thoreau  

Previously in Xenology: Emily was a ninja.

I awoke from a quite early from a sleepless night at Emily's. I had kept her up fearing that the reaper would be tapping his infernal watch for my soul the moment I left on a plane. Emily tried to point out that air travel in conspicuously safe of late and that there were still several days before any of this would be a priority. While I could quickly concede that she was technically right, I didn't fear for my life any less at being reminded that the hourglass was becoming bottom heavy.
When I accepted that I would have to move, Emily and her family made me iron my suit. This was fine, the shirt was a bit wrinkled after transit. However, Emily informed me that her parents were actually irritated with me for lacking an ironed shirt in advanced. They saw this as a grave personality flaw and were loading Emily down with the weight of this fault. M did not think much of my having not ironed by suit in advance, but her mother's asides about me grated on her and she, Emily, decided that lacking a full, dry cleaned, pressed suit was more than venial. I saw my slightly wrinkled shirt, at worst, as a slight sartorial faux pas that was not worth mentioning given that it seemed counterintuitive to press something that was about to spend a few hours in the back of Emily's car with an excited dog. I am mentioning this not to bore you with the details of my wardrobe, but because it threw me quite off my game and increased the sour mood that Emily was later to have.
Emily needed to kennel her greyhound Quest. This was not a task to which she was looking forward and it was evident from her barely concealed tears that she felt this was betraying her canine companion with this act. "Do you think Quest'll think we are giving him back?"
"What?! No. No, definitely not. He knows to love him and are in his pack. Even if he is scared of his pack," I retorted.
"What if he forgets the life he had with us and thinks he has always lived in the kennel?" she fretted.
"M, that's a goldfish you are thinking of. Dogs remember quite a bit. That's why they are so fun to train to kill the unbelievers."
"Right. Of course... You're weird."
Nonetheless, the greyhound made quite clear to Emily that he resented the assumption that he would want to be kenneled and hid by a tank of translucent shrimp. Greyhounds hide exactly as skillfully as does the sun behind the clouds, in that it is obvious where they are.
Emily and a curt woman walked Quest to his cage for the weekend. I tarried in a room full of more exotic fare. A loud monkey called me over as they left.
"Hello, loud monkey. How are you?"
"EEEK! Ek ekk eeek?"
It jumped about its ceiling high enclosure to demonstrate its point. Then it reached its tiny monkey paw from between the wire and held tight my forefinger. I knew better to wish upon a monkey paw, but I took its grasp to be a very good omen of the journey to come.
Emily drove most of the way to Lake George and her cousin's wedding with my unconscious form beside her. Evidently this, coupled with having to drive several hours at top speed and minimal sleep, made her rather irritated with all that the sun touched. Only after checking into our shoebox room and visiting the bottom of the clouded hotel pool did her spirits somewhat return.
Well coifed  
We are rehearsing being able to eat
We went to her cousin's rehearsal dinner soon thereafter. My shirt was nicely pressed and I felt that I looked quite formal, despite my lack of tie. The problem with this was that the rehearsal dinner was not a formal occasion. There was a mass of men in gold shirts and women in simple dresses. Lacking a jacket because of the heat, I didn't appear that far out of place but resented having to wear anything other than sandals if it was not necessary.
The dinner was pleasant, though we were seated at a different table than M's parents. We were next to an abrupt man, one of Emily's relatives, who didn't quite seem to know how to behave in interactions with other people. It wasn't anything near sociopathy, there was just a little edge to him that suggested that face to face interaction was not where he excelled.
I nudged Emily and asked, "What's his deal?"
"Oh, get this. He is massively rich. He's been the head of all these huge companies. Right now he is the CEO of Virgin Mobil. He has a 500 square mile summer house in the Berkshires."
I scanned his aqua golf shirt and his nervous hands playing with the butter knife. "So we will be overwhelmingly nice to him for future reference?"
I spent much of the meal chatting with his wife, an English professor at Barnard. In the back of my head, I was wondering why she didn't just write books analyzing the symbolism of Tennyson if her husband is so obviously well off. This may very well show a true flaw in my character. Though, I suppose were I given a position at Barnard, I would teach despite my spouse's bushels of money. Anyway, she was very sweet, though I restrained myself from engaging her in conversations about nineteenth century English poets or the Marxist analysis of Tom Robbins.
After several courses brought to us by a German boy barely stifling his overwhelming contempt for us, the family began to make speeches. Some were sweet, a few quite funny. Then there was Uncle Alvi. Uncle Alvi, from what I could extrapolate from the looks of polite horror on the faces of family members and the whispered protests, is notorious for prolix and aimless speeches whenever he thinks he has a captive audience. He told us that he would not punish us. Twenty minutes later, he was telling us about a clever rabbi and a candy shop. His ode to attention deficit and the proper candy bar/soda combination lasted no less than 46 minutes. I timed it on my watch. While he spoke, I sculpted the fruit from my cobbler into a crude effigy of Uncle Alvi and tried desperately to stuff its gaping maw full of spoon in an act of sympathetic magick. I, obviously, failed and Uncle Alvi was only silenced once the brother of the groom cut him off in an act of desperation.
The wedding, ironically enough, suffered from a rabbi who curtly commanded us to stop taking pictures before launching into a wandering sermon that rather deviated from its point of joining the couple in marital bliss. Perhaps he was the clever rabbi of whom Uncle Alvi spoke. My eyelids began to close near the end, but M and I perked up when he mentioned that demons would spring forth from the earth to capture the bride. I held my thumbs and forefingers together and Emily broke the curse on us. Then, miraculously, the wedding was over and no demons stole the bride.
At the reception, we ate while watching as chipmunks ran from the trees to steal food whenever they thought they were not being watched. The bride took a liking to Emily, as both were in the same age bracket. I'm not sure that Emily took as much of a shine to the bride, but appreciated the sentiment.
After the reception and more speechifying by family members, Emily and I ducked out to go into town. Lake George is nearly like a second home, given that I spend a week here each summer. Nonetheless, I still want to wander the strip at night. As we passed Scotty's, my family's usual hotel in Lake George, Emily waxed nostalgic about how strange it would be not to be returning to a cabin there when the night was over.
We walked along the streets, seeking our baubles we desired and breathing in the night air. There is something about tourist towns that always smells like a carnival, as though you will turn a corner and find a three-story slide and a Ferris wheel. Men selling caramel popcorn and zeppolis.
"Wouldn't it be great to work here?" gushed M.
Embracing the Lake Georgian Russian culture
"In Lake George? But we aren't Russian." For a reason yet to be determined, Lake George seems primarily staffed by barely polysyllabic Russian twentysomethings whose eyes expand like those of anime girls when they are asked a question outside their limited ken.
"I'm sure there is a place for non-Russians in this market economy. I know we are old, but certainly there must be a training program. It's unfair to think we can't learn to be Russian." retorted M.
We wandered into a store selling wraps because my younger brother bragged they had written his name on a blackboard last year for the honor of finishing a particularly engorged sandwich. His honor was not intact, however the proprietress of this establishment recognized us Pagans. We seized upon this to ask about the community as she made me a peanut butter smoothie.
She grinned as the question, "Oh, it's great here. There are tons of Pagans up here. Tons. Almost everyone who actually lives up here is like that."
I smiled as Emily interrogated this woman, who I will call Sharon, about the various aspect of living here. It turned out, to Emily's glee, that this woman is a nonprofessional midwife and has delivered almost all of her brood of children on her own, at home. I sat and drank one of the most pleasant beverages I have ever had, keeping it away from Emily who had begun her juice fast and didn't need to drink anything she might actually enjoy. Before we departed, this woman gave us the number of her shop, which I wrote on a box of Bosch flavored tarot cards I had just purchased.
Now, the seedling idea of work in Lake George was set growing in Emily's mind. I was not opposed, but it seems possible that my schooling will get in the way of my real education. I can't help but believe I can learn more in a summer at a tourist hot spot than I can from nuns about pedagogy.
As we wandered into a weapons shop to fondle the lovely pointies, the young clerk exclaimed, "Don't I know you? Weren't you here last year?" I suppose I sell my memorability short. We responded in the affirmative and, in true role-playing game fashion (we were in a weapons shop), this boy proceeded to give us more information about Lake George and its environs. Really, he had quite a bit more information than one could reasonably expect from a seventeen-year-old. He basically professed the belief that his community is hard-up for English professors and midwifes. And, possibly, ski bunnies.
So we will see how this develops.

I am writing this from a somewhat seedy motel room in Knoxville, Tennessee. The room is a generic room of a more generic hotel chain. It is outfitted, quite unnecessarily, with two queen-sized beds. I designated the one closest to the door as the actual Sleeping Bed. The bed on which I write, bereft of all of its sheets for the cause of Emily's comfort in the Sleeping Bed, was designated as a Bed for Other Purposes because we wish to flaunt our defiance of the recently lifted sodomy laws. Two yards to my right, someone is trying their drunken damnedest to bridge the gap between their room and ours, but I am unwilling to open the shared door for the obvious reason that I do not wish to reenact Deliverance before I ever get the chance to see it. I am watching in a rather absent fashion a twitchy gentleman on the Sci-Fi channel explain the pseudophysics of UFO travel which seems to involve gravity bearing down on people and crushing their bones. I know this feeling.
The taxi ride to the hotel revealed what could politely and accurately be referred to as one long, dismal strip mall. There were numerous fast food restaurants, a factor I was well prepared for when I discovered the tourism manuals refer to Chinese Buffets as "fine dining." I suppose the preponderance of prepackaged, deep fried food yields some improvement over the world seen as we landed, empty fields under the dominion of lazy black bovines. However, being surrounded by farmland and cattle might at least be a sight prettier than walking out of the hotel twenty yards to a White Castle regional rip-off referred to as Krystal (as this spelling tends to bring to mind strippers disrobing and undulating their way through community college, I cannot say I consider the appellation inaccurate). Perhaps it is just the tropical depression bearing down on us that unfavorably colors my view of this landscape (and of which I was not informed because Emily correctly assumed I would be terrified of landing in the rain), but I can't even muster belief that this is a place to which people willing travel. Clearly the Tae Kwon Do board receives liberal and unctuous kick backs from Arby's to have chosen this at the location of Nationals.
So yes, I arrived on the flight quite whole. While I was understandably nervous with the proposition of hurtling at hundreds of miles an hour through the air, the realities of it were internalized with a great deal of peace. Initially I was pleased at how the earth looks from a few thousand feet; a different perspective on the mundane can often reawaken its innate wonder. My brain did a summersault at looking down at the clouds. They seemed like frozen islands of ghosts and wind. However, I quickly became bored with craning my neck to look out the window and had decided that it was unlikely that I would be dying today. Emily will certainly not allow this mortal coil to be shuffled off before she is properly engaged to me. She'll work some voodoo to resurrect me.
Weigh-in is tomorrow morning. Emily has been, to various degrees, starving or dieting in hopes of making a weight that she misidentified on the application form. Currently she is on the "Hollywood diet" which seems to entail behaving as a particularly picky three-year-old and only drinking from a sun embossed juice box. As far as I can tell, drinking only fruit juice and water for days on end will cause anyone to lose weight, whether or not they feel it is prudent to spend twenty dollars on a bottle of juice. No matter, this regime shall end in a flourish of carbohydrates tomorrow at noon. This is assuming that Emily will, indeed, make weight. Should she not, I suppose she is disqualified and... she doesn't actually tell me what happens in this possibility. I think it is best if she never explains, as I think it involves rabid whelks with peppermint sticks.
Should she win, and this seems to be a possibility in my mind (not just because this mind is that of her lover), she can compete to be a member of the national team at the Olympics. Quite the heady proposition. However, it does seem likely that the Olympics will actually take place in a locale that is slightly less of a cultural vacuum, so I am massively supportive of her success.
It is hard to believe I was in Albany twelve hours ago at Emily's uncle's home. He lives there, quite comfortable on his lawyer's salary (Emily's maternal side is positively lousy with lawyers, an excellent asset should I ever decide to be trouble to the world at large), with his third wife and their two children. He has numerous other children, including the forty-year-old whose wedding was the very reason we were in the area, but they were graciously not present when we departed.
M and I stayed with them out of convenience and in order to get an extra day in Lake George after we checked out. As the only price was socialization with Emily's young cousins and mistakenly deciding taking them to see Charlie's Angels, a film so full of single entendres that I think I am too young to have seen it.

Soon in Xenology: Even more weddings. Parties. Nationals. Witchcraft. Mantras.

last watched: Charlie's Angels
reading: Survivor
listening: Leonard Cohen
wanting: Emily to be in the Olympics
interesting thought: I have traveled thousand of miles for M and the journey has not even begun.
moment of zen: the Bed of Other Purposes.
someday I must: fly back to New York.

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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