Wednesday, February 10, 2016

And All I Really Want..

Grant is usually the primary driver on family road trips. I suspect it has to do with two particular things. The first is that in our family, driving the vehicle automatically puts you in charge of music. No one else in the car can dictate what comes out of the radio, and while suggestions and requests are entertained, the final decision rests with the person in the drivers seat. This rule has kept us from auditory disasters, such as the season when Pursy became obsessed with They Might be Giants. I had put Flood on Spotify one day while cleaning the house (Birdhouse in Your Soul makes me clean faster, I can't explain it) and she LOVED it. For weeks she requested nothing but TMBG in the car, while doing homework, and as soon as she opened her eyes in the morning. It was cute for about 7 minutes. Then I remembered why children of the 90's were more influenced by Nirvana.

The second perk is more of a logistical one, which is that if you are driving you cannot mediate interactions between children in the backseat. You cannot retrieve fallen books, refill water bottles, break up pinching fights, or pay close attention to Knox counting to 10 in Spanish. The driver's seat is a magical no-parenting seat, and for the duration of the car ride, you are an individual with singular responsibility which is to get the car and its inhabitants from point A to point B. The crisis of who got more Goldfish crackers in their paper coffee cup is not yours to manage.

I do think that Grant inherently does enjoy driving, and while I don't mind it, my natural gift of falling asleep as soon as the cruise control is activated and my very unnatural lack of directional sense does seem to indicate that my place is shotgun.

On the way home from Philadelphia last weekend, our late nights with Mark and Kim and our early risings with children who failed to respect those late nights, resulted in Grant needing to take a nap halfway into the drive. We stopped at a gas station so I could grab some lemon infused Perrier (highbrow) and Lifesaver Gummies (lowbrow). I was standing in line and Jagged Little Pill started playing overhead. Immediately I began to feel angry at this guy I dated for a few months in college who broke things off with me after the 3rd time I left his apartment in the middle of the night so confused as to why he thought we were going to sleep together. Boys are so dumb.

And Alanis got that. She ranted me through many a relationship and didn't require any logic or rationale for how and why it ended. Just raw and poetic rage.

I got back in the car and immediately downloaded Jagged Little Pill the Collectors Edition on Spotify. And while I eased the car from the parking lot and back on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, All I Really Want began. Every word, every note, every feeling. Grant's head rose up from the pillow he had just rested it against and he turned to me with disbelief in his beautiful hazel eyes.

I put a hand on his shoulder and a finger on my lips, and turned it up. Rule one of being in the Martsolf car drivers seat, no one gets to change the music.

I have never seen a man try to fall asleep so fast.

Monday, February 1, 2016

I Only Eat Cucumbers for the Hydration

On Saturday I found myself sitting at a small table with a carafe of water, two books and three magazines, and a bottle of Brooklyn Sarachi Ace. The table was in my favorite Belgian pub called Park Brugue, and I was there as an excommunicated person . From my own house.

Three days prior to this lovely solo date with myself, I had put on a one woman show my husband very graciously called an Adult Tantrum. Two of my three roommates were actively participating in an activity I call "stalling" or, when I am particularly hot about it, thoughtless and selfish behavior. As in, we all needed to get out of the door within the next 3 minutes in order for everyone to get to their school/work/Bible study on time and the urgency was obviously felt by no one but me.

I ask, I remind, I chide. Then I bristle and raise my voice. When the increased volume falls on deaf ears and I realize that it isn't a hearing problem, but a lack of desire to respond, I as they say in Jane Austin novels, became undone. On this particular Wednesday, after seeing my son empty an entire laundry basket of folded clothes on the floor in an attempt to find a pair of feetie pajamas that he wouldn't be wearing to school anyway, the exhibition of my feelings was to announce that he would never be allowed to wear pajamas again in his life. Which of course, dissolved him into tears. The proof of the good life at age 4 is a pair of pajamas covered in reindeer that show no skin from neck to toe.

When Grant took me aside and reminded me that not only was my consequence unreasonable, but hugely inconvenient, he asked if I needed some alone time. Usually I can tell when I am reaching my thin ice point and send myself off with a book and a beer, but this time caught me off guard. I didn't realize how tired I was. We made a plan, and I went back to apologize and resolve things with my son.

Saturday. So I am seated at a table cozily inbetween two other tables with couples eating brunch and chatting. Once my beer glass is full and I am tucked into The Other Journal, everything becomes white noise around me. I am as good as alone. Sometimes you just need people around you that don't know you. Then as I finish up one essay and turn the page to begin the next, I hear it.

"I didn't eat the honeydew from this fruit salad. Melons are just sweet cucumbers, mostly just water. I don't like eating cucumbers because they don't taste like anything. But I eat them for their hydrating abilities."

I am a shameless eavesdropper when I am exposed to conversations worth listening to, and sitting practically at the same table to two people having a conversation like this in my ear is like a dream come true for me. My Anthropology background comes alive, and I grab my Moleskine journal from my purse and begin documenting an ethnography of the two guys I am observing. I literally cannot write fast enough.

"Did you like this omelette? I could tell it was a good one, but I am in more of the hearty cabin food mode right now."

"Modest Mouse plays State College a lot. Probably because they are from New Jersey."

"I'm pretty sure I have worms. I ate raw bacon 5 years ago in Korea and they have worms everywhere."

"What are we doing now? I want to do something outside. Like work for Habitat for Humanity."

"You tipped 8 bucks? You are making me look bad. Now I have to redo mine."

By the time these two guys finish brunch, one of them takes a phone call from a poor person who he didn't want to answer the call from but answered it he told her because "I just wanted to let you know I couldn't talk" (??), and left the pub, I was furious at having a few minutes of my precious exile taken up by their unbelievable stream of consciousness brunch conversation. I was also hysterically laughing with a completely straight face.

These two decided to leave their homes, pay a good amount of money for brunch and beer, just to talk like this to one another. And I wonder if they would have chosen to talk about any other subjects if they had known I was shorthandedly writing down as much as I could so I wouldn't forget. Like when you have a fantastic idea in the middle of the night and write nonsense on a napkin so your memory can be sparked by the few words and the entire idea can be rekindled. Right now, looking at the sentences I did manage to write down, I remember much of the conversation that flowed inbetween and connected them. I remember the way the two of them kept leaning back away from their plates like they were giving up, then returning to eating position to try a bit more omelette. I remember how one of them kept offering his hash browns to his friend.

It was the very definition of comfortable, uncomplicated, beautiful friendship that exists between human beings after a substantial amount of life has been lived in each other's company. They didn't make brunch plans to discuss anything significant or exciting. Neither of them had just broken up with a girlfriend and needed to process in sympathetic company. No one had been fired or just taken an epic trip or gotten accepted to law school or even signed up for art classes.They just wanted to have some eggs together. And my inner Margaret Mead gleefully witnessed and documented my etic perspective.

I love humankind. And while my beer and my books slowly made their way through my body, these two colorful tablemates had a Saturday brunch like they had probably had a thousand times before. But that day, they said something new. At least it was new to the girl at the next table.