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09.03.06 2:44 p.m.

Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.  

-Marcel Proust


Previously in Xenology: Dan played shows when he could.


Driving home from visiting my grandmother, Emily and I spot people on Conor's porch. While theoretically not unprecedented, it was unusual enough that we immediately vote to turn around, expecting a nice conversation with his mother Elizabeth. We knocked on the door and she looks at us strangely for a moment as if unsure of our context. It had been a while since she had seen either of us - did she know me with shorter hair? - so I cannot wholly blame her. Smiling recognition dawns on her and we ask her if her son is there out of a sense of obligation and to give an excuse for our presence. We are understandably shocked when she steps aside to reveal her equally surprised son.
Lost and was found

Conor was freshly home from Wayfinder Experience, a live action role-playing camp where he is a counselor, two days ago. Prior to this he had spent five months renting a house in Sedona with two friends and his girlfriend Olwyn for no other reason than that he could. There was nothing specifically for him there, no job or specific experience. He just had nothing better to do than listen to people who believe their babies are incarnations of the Buddha simply because they babble a mysterious language or that a man invented a box that controlled everything but the feds switched it from positive to negative, thus the present sociopolitical climate. The house was much nicer than what they should have been able to afford, but the man who rented it to them merely wanted it occupied, even if he took a $1000 a month loss on it.

His two friends left early and he broke up with Olwyn - who he really wishes we could have met - on the drive home, feeling that they would grow to resent one another were the relationship to continue but they could remain close were the romantic relationship to dissolve before they reached New York. I don't pretend to understand.

We caught him up on our respective lives or, rather, I would begin to detail some minor accomplishment or trauma and, realizing what I was saying, demur and prompt Emily to tell her stories. Her life is a melodrama compared to mine.

It seems that he may become a player in this little narrative once more. We have spoken on the phone a few times since this first meeting, which is a significant change. There is still a lot of catching up to do, I know, but it will have to happen slowly and naturally rather than in a flurry of half finished sentences.

To make most of time

"So are you Eric's friend?" Ally the Vassar girl asks.

No, I think, I encountered him only once before and his awe at all things philosophically musical rang pretentious and grating to me no matter how pure his intentions. I dubbed his friend and him "The Virgins". Dan Kessler said he had mellowed into a likeable and talented boy since coming out of the closet and I was inclined to trust his judgment. People deserve second chances, especially when their mortal sin was an excess of artistic passion. None of this was said to Ally, of course. I simply boasted of being Dan's friend and left it at that, grateful enough that I would now have a conversational partner as we watched the show.

Dan had invited me to this gig when I dragged him to the Something Different festival and I was hoping that some of that crew would be at the Cubbyhole, eager to hear more of Dan's Chapman stick, but I saw none. Dan says he has seen many of them in the Cubbyhole long before he had reason to know them, so their absence tonight did not signal their end. They may yet come back into the story.

As Dan and Eric set up their instruments, Ally told me that she considers the Cubbyhole to be her little find and respite from Vassar. I expressed surprise at this, as it is not really a block away. Vassar is a thirty second walk from the front door. She informed me that there is an innate fear among the Vassarites that the Poughkeepsie residents (she was polite enough to point out that this likely just meant "minorities") will mug them should they be fool enough to set a lily toe off the aegis of campus grounds. This terror is apparently fostered by the college at orientations, effectively keeping the students in a cage where all of the doors are open. There are bars and restaurants on campus, so why should any of the students have the slightest reason to ever leave?

The crowd is far fewer than I expect, many dissuaded from attending by the $1 cover at the door. I had never known the Cubbyhole to charge admission and could only hope it was working out for them, since so many people refused to enter.
Eric and Dan  
Eric and Dan

Dan, or "Captain Amazing Hat" in his stage persona, looks as though he ventured out of a Hawaiian safari, pith helmet and all. A bottle holder he constructed out of twine at his hip lays empty, but conjures to mind tribal gifts. His long hair is frizzed from the implied tropical humidity. His flower shirt forest green and made of something more breathable to accommodate the palm trees.

Eric, or "Billy Thrilllove" in his stage persona, looks like he traveled to a seventies swinger party which he plainly snuck into in the first place. Flowered orange polyester shirt opened to his sternum and a scarf around his neck. He is stick-like, but given his role as the controller of all things percussion, it makes him seem even more a part of his instruments.

The music was excellent, though I prefer mine slower and less percussive. I also like my music with a clear beginning, middle, and end but that won't happen for me outside the inclusion of lyrics, an addition that would unduly cramp their mutual styles. The instruments will do the singing here. One song can and does go on twenty minutes without sight of musical dry land. Yet they use the venue's space to their advantage despite the fact that their gear takes up to much of the stage and Dan is relegated to the floor with the peons.

The show ended, I offer to walk Ally back to campus so we can talk a bit more. She is an interesting and interested girl, particularly when I start reading a biography of Sylvia Plath, and I want to talk with her further. But I see in her eyes flashes of the Vassar fear. She met me in Poughkeepsie and, though she knows I am friends with Dan and have taught at Vassar, she can't assuage the fear that I will be somehow dangerous. I nod my understanding and take not a step toward her, just wishing her a good night and turning to chat with Dan. As I do, a man later identified as Morvayne (I don't actually know the spelling, but it seems as likely as not) excitedly greets me and says he really likes what I did up there. I thank him and, before he can go on, inform him that I wasn't on stage tonight. This baffles him - I do not know if he confused me with Dan or Eric - and he repeats several times that he knows me. This I take as my own cue to leave, better understanding Ally's fear of friendly strangers in Poughkeepsie.

Soon in Xenology: Barbecues.

last watched: Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders
reading: Book of Lies: The Disinformation Guide to Magick and the Occult
listening: Fashion Nugget

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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