it STILL will go wrong.
I shudda known. Who's the fool, April? I don't think so.
I sit in a cubical at the Greenwich Connecticut Public Library. One of them anyway. One of the cubicals, that is. Most of the other cubicals are fitted with computers. Internet attached I guess. At each computer a white person sits typing away. The sole Negress sits across from me. Early middle aged, with a plump face, oval glasses, she sits chin resting on her hand, intently reading what's on the screen.
Me? I'm cold. Worried I'm sick. With a hangover type headache, not from a hangover, but from lack of sleep and the two Benadryl that I had to take to finally bring it on. It's 11:43AM. I've been on the road for less than 3 hours, already the trip is a disaster.
Right now, I've got a vague urge to piss, a chill, this headache, a temper on knife-edge nourished by the electronic beep of the book check-out machines.
Where to start? From last week when everything looked set? Tuesday night I stay with Kerri in Vermont. Wednesday with Jason in New Hampshire. Thursday-Saturday with Sarah in Fredericton New Brunswick. Then back to Boston with Lucho and maybe see the folks coming back to New York. On the way, I write, read, visit breweries and relax. Far from hecticity. Right? Yeah, right.
Last weekend I have a couple couch surfers from Lebanon. Great guys-- married couple I think. They sleep on the couch. They only stay for one night. They cook for me even though they'll be gone when I return. I get home the next night, there's food on the stove. Made from parlsey, basmati rice and I don't know what else. It's delicious. I go into the refrigerator to fetch a beer to enjoy it with. The refrigerator door is open a bit. That's bad. Cold air leaking out could cost a fortune. Long enough, it could spoil the food. Maybe the Lebanese forgot to close it.
I push it closed. It opens again.
I shuffle food around and close the door again. It opens.
I check the shelves on the door to see if they're hitting against something. Doesn't look like it. I push back the food on the internal shelves and shut the door again. It opens. I open the door fully. All the way.
The entire shelf unit on the inside of the door falls off. BANG! One fell swoop. On the floor. Vitamins, film, water, juice. BANG! On the floor. One piece. Now lots of pieces. Looks like it was held up with four screws through plastic. The screws are still there. The plastic just broke around them. Two long pieces of styrofoam stuck in the back to support the plastic. In the door behind the shelves, it looks like compressed newspaper.
I take the broken shelf rack to the basement, taping to it a note to my landlord: ALAN! I THINK I NEED A NEW REFERIGERATOR. Back in my apartment, the door now closes. But for some reason, the food is beginning to smell bad.
There's nothing I can do, so-- as is usual when there is nothing I can do-- I check my email. There is a note from Kerri.
First some background: I contacted Kerri several weeks earlier through couchsurfing.com. I asked if I could stay there for a night. She said sure. The next week, I got a caveat:
I should warn you, cabin fever has been getting the
best of me lately, so I've been a little crazy and
more sketched out than I usually am. I'm kind of like
a loose cannon this time of year, so look out. I'm not
dangerous or anything, I just never know how I'm going
to react to shit. I mean, a thing about the iditarod
was on the radio the other day and I started crying.
Now you can't say that you weren't warned.
I am looking forward to your visit though! I hope
some of the snow has subsided by the time you arrive,
otherwise the house's numbers will still be buried in
a snowbank and even your GPS won't get you to all
So I wrote back saying I could understand the cabin fever and I thought I might be able to ease it a bit by bringing along something in a brown bottle.
It appears that you have some sound reasoning there.
I love brown bottles. Especially those filled with
So I go down the block to my local discount liquor joint and picked up a fifth of OLD CROW. One of the hardest core brown bottle bourbons I know. Not the most expensive brand, but not the cheapest either. I figure, a girl, me and a bottle of bourbon. Who knows?
OK, so latter in the week, I write to confirm my arrival time. I also tell her I'll be bringing a bottle. She writes back:
Sounds good. The number of the house we're staying at is 802-***-****.
If you get lost the night of arriving, call that number. I'm not sure what
time the owners are leaving, I meet with them Saturday, so I"ll let you
know what time you can call that number after.
And you should know, I probably won't drink any that night. Once
I have one drink, I can't stop and I can't be hung over for work. However,
a friend of mine might be stopping by, so he might partake with you. I'd
love to have some whiskey, but being a young alcoholic who's sobered
up once before, I try not to drink anyway, especially on a school night!
Ah well, that kills that idea. She probably invited some guy to humor me, and figure out the whiskey equation. Oh well, I'll share with this guy. Who knows? Maybe HE's attractive. I finish packing, suddenly noticing that I've developed a cough. Also, there seems to be a strange odor--- like rotten food-- coming from the kitchen. I guess I'd better take out the garbage.
In the meantime, my parents are not fairing well in New Jersey. My father has either been asleep or in pain for weeks. My mother's alzheimers can only get worse. They're in no shape to go out to eat anymore. My visits are torture, for me, if not for them.
Lately their bank account has gone bust-- due to the $15,000 a month facility they're in. (Isn't America wonderful?) They need to be moved to a cheaper room. I've negotiated a deal with THE HOME. On my last visit, they tell me that the move will take place while I'm on my trip.
“Of course you'll have to arrange to pick up what we can't get in the new, smaller room,” says the headmistress.
“Of course,” I answer.
When I get home, I'll call my sister.
When I get home there's another email from Kerri. This one says,
Do you have an idea of what time you'll be arriving tomorrow? If
you're arriving on the earlier evening side (7-8pm), I'd be happy to
make some dinner for you, or leave some dinner for you to reheat.
Please let me know today if you can. I think a pal of mine is going
to join me/us for dinner that night anyway. The house we're at just
got a new pool table and she's dying to play. Talk to you soon.
SHE's dying to play. Hubba hubba. That's what I need is a couple girls dying to play.
I email her back that I'm not sure when I'll arrive, probably not before 8, but if she'd like to leave some food for me, that'd be terrific. In any case, I'd love to meet her pal and I have a brown bottle to share with her.
In the meantime, I eat at Wendy's across the street. My refrigerator's useless, only making expensive grinding noises.
MONDAY: April Fools Day-1 2008
It's the last night before I leave. I'm going to dinner with Marilyn, Bob and some friends. I haven't seen either and I'm looking forward to it. An Italian restaurant. Cucina Something-or-other. 10 minutes away. I memorize the address and head down Bleecker Street. Passing CVS, I stop to laugh at a sign in the door of that store:
I imagine someone walking in with Fido.
“I'm sorry sir, no dogs allowed. Didn't you see the sign?”
“The sign, sure I saw it. But I'm not being carried. I'm coming in on my own two feet!”
I get to the address of the Italian restaurant and there's no restaurant there. At least no Cucina something. There is a hamburger place. That's it. I call Marilyn, then immediately realize that my lysdexia has put me on the wrong corner. We meet at the REAL restaurant. It's empty. We decide to have drinks and appetizers while we wait for the others. We've both been looking forward to Italian. Pasta, ya know.
The waitress brings us the menu: Gyoza, kimchi, tofu...
Marilyn orders half the wine menu: a glass of house white. I order a Gyoza and a Sam Adams. The place is still empty. Food is cheap, though. I'm willing to change my tastebuds for the price. Marilyn isn't so sure.
A tall guy with curly hair walks in the door. He loudly asks the Maitress 'd if there's “going to be jazz tonight.” She shakes her head. Marilyn and I give each other the high fives. We both hate jazz.
Before our food comes, Bob arrives with his guests. He enters comes over to our table and speaks to me. “Sorry, Mykel,” he says. “There's no jazz tonight. We're going to THE GARAGE, around the corner. They've got jazz there.”
Marilyn and I finish our appetizers, pack up and go around the corner. To THE GARAGE. To say the place has jazz is like saying Dolly Parton has breasts. FIFTEEN MUSCIANS... AT THE SAME TIME. Drums, trumpets, saxes (two girl saxophone players), and a flute! Exactly what this world needs in a time of war and economic crises: A jazz flute. Entrees here are in the high twenties. Coffee is TWELVE DOLLARS. Then the band starts to play. Hoo-ey!
Back home, my apartment smells worse than before. I'll deal. I'll deal. I just need to get out. I leave tomorrow morning. Try to get some sleep. In bed by 11AM. I can't fall asleep. I've been having trouble lately. Just my mind racing. Or a sudden coughing/sneezing fit. Always waking up and blowing out tissue full of blood and snot.
11: 30. Midnight. I try a Rosy Palm tranquilizer. It doesn't work. 12:30. 1PM. Another Rosy palm. Twice in 2 hours. Not bad for my age. 1:30. I still can't fall asleep. I pop a couple of Benadryl. I know they'll give me a drug hangover, but at least I'll get a couple hours sleep. One last peek at the email before I hit the hay. A message from Kerri:
OH! Soooooooo, I'm kind of an idiot. There is a good
chance that I may arrive home after you have arrived.
I have this alcohol panel to attend tomorrow night and I
probably won't get home until after 10. That being said,
I highly recommend that you feed yourself before arriving,
because I'm not going to have time to make dinner and
there probably won't be any prepared food in the house.
So yea. See you at some point tomorrow night.
What the hell is an alcohol panel? Is it some kind of art show? A new kitchen cabinet design? I'm already stressed out between my parents, the refrigerator, my lack of sleep, and the developing cough, caused no doubt, by the mold spores growing within my refrigerator. Maybe that's where the bloody boogers come from. I've probably got anthrax.
Having lost my patience with my sleep, I fire off an email to Kerri and decide to go to Boston instead of Vermont. I briefly think about staying at a Motel 6 so I can sleep as much as I want, but then think about the $75 it'll cost me just to lie down. I email my pal Kathy in Cambridge and hope I can just show up today. She always has a bed for me, sometimes dinner.
TUESDAY: April Fools Day 2008
That's where we stand now. I'm in Greenwich, on the way to Boston. I want to hit a Brewery in Norwalk first, and then I'll hit Kathy... maybe. There's always Board's law...
Oh yeah, the purposes of this trip:
Get away from New York and the problems and worries there.
Meet new people find out how they're living. Have a drink or two with 'em and if they're attractive...
Write, spend some time in front of the computer, un-fettered, free to spend time in peace in libraries in New England, and Canada. I need to write:
An article I started long ago called, THE ONLY THING THAT SUCKS WORSE THAN NEW YORK IS NEW YORKERS.
A proposal for a documentary movie I have an idea for.
A novel I want to write where the heroes are a prostitute, a mugger, and a kiddie porn maker... Those are the good guys.
Do at least 1 speaking engagement to sell some books and get even more famous
Visit micro-breweries to sample the wares of some new beers.
Learn Dutch: I'm bringing along my language CDs
The usual: go places I've never gone before, meet people I've never met before, “meet” people I've never “met” before, do things I've never done before.
From this point in the blog: I write THE NEXT DAY (April Fools+1), but as the events unfolded yesterday, I'll put them in this section.
I'm writing this in Haverhill Mass. In the public library on Main Street. In the MORTON FAMILY reading room. At the table on my left two guys discuss insurance. I am NOT making this up. I think one guy is training the other on how to work some insurance scam. I'm not sure. One of the guys wears a sweatshirt. On the back of it a large shamrock is woven over the Irish flag. I can't see the front. The other guy wears a casual white shirt under a bulky red sweater. Both wear jeans and Nike-looking sneakers. Both are... er... big.
and you're looking at $453 a month, plus... let's say you're... mumble mumble mumble... Let's say on top of that, you get one reverse mortgage per month... you're gonna get a discussion of social security, husband's social security... the minimum you make is $1500 on a reverse mortgage, so you only have to sell one a month....and 401K and IRA and CDs, and if you sell...
BACK TO YESTERDAY: From the Greenwich library, I head to my first brewery: The New England Brewing Company in Norwalk Connecticutt. Hertz's GPS system, called Neverlost (it underestimates me), gets me to the address in the beer book. Outside the building are huge silos..
Wow! I think, that's a lot of beer for a microbrewery. Maybe I shudda called ahead for a tour. The building number, according to the guide is 25, but the inside looks demolished. Among the rubble, some carpenters build what look like bookshelves.
“Um, is this the New England Brewing Company?” I ask.
One of the guys, a big guy guy with a flannel jacket, long thick blond hair and thick blond beard looks up from his work.
“Used to be,” he says. “About ten years ago.”
“No beer for ten years?” I ask.
He laughs. “I guess not.” he says.
I never find out what's in the silos.
When the weather gets better, you'll see people just sitting out in their yard, talking. Just stop by, give 'em your card. Chat. There so much more you can do. You can meet these people everywhere...
When I get back to the car, I check the date on my beer book. 1995. That's gonna make this even more of an adventure. I check the listings for a brewery in the neighborhood. There's one in Northampton Mass. I plug it into the old Neverlost and see what shows up. There it is, only 110 miles away.
As I head off, there's my cellphone vibrates in my pocket. I hate those things. I never answer them in the car. I wish I could never answer them period. But with sick parents...
I look at the number. The call's from Kathy.
It's here that I need to talk about theology. For those who aren't familiar with mine, I'll clue you in:
God is a 9 foot tall blonde in a black leather bikini. She wields a cat o' nine tails. Her job is to make your life miserable. So miserable, in fact, that you'll decide to do yourself in. Just put an end to it all. Everybody dies at the end of life, but if you kill yourself, she wins. If she has to kill you... you win. That's why your life is so miserable... it's the bitch goddess. Playing games with you.
One of her tricks is to stay unpredictable. If you know what she's going to do, you can make adjustments. Get ready. Surprise is her most important weapons. She can fuck-up a refrigerator with a flick of the wrist. She can plant a couple biddies behind you at the library. She can close a brewery 10 years ago. But she won't have an old friend call you to say you can't stay there because she's out of town. THAT is just too predictable. Kathy's home. She'll see me tonight. She'll make dinner.
The Northampton Brewery's actually a brew pub. It's got a great copper kettle behind glass next to the bar. The crowd looks like college kids, with a few regulars clustered around the bartender. The bartender looks just like that big blond guy from the used-to-be Connecticut brewery. Maybe it's a New England type.
On a chalkboard are the beers of the day, including a spring bock I'm sorry I don't try. I do try the Dog Ale, the one mentioned in the guide book. I order it with a grilled shrimp salad. The beer has a nice dark color. At first it's tasteless, but like Mexican food, it hits on the way down. There's a nice bite, just a touch of bitterness at the back of the throat. Unlike Mexican food, nicer on the out-take than the intake. I rate it as better than average. Worth a trip, but not a 110 mile one.
The salad, by the way, is really good. Shrimp much spicier than typical New York fare. Generous portion too. After I pay, I walk up to the bar and and ask the tender,“Do you mind if I put you up against the wall and shoot you?”
He doesn't mind. I even got a local.
Wednesday: April Fools Day+1 2008
Right now: I can't figure out if I have a headache. I was awakened by one at 6:00AM. A horrible one-sider, not a migraine. Lodging itself in a sinus just above my right eye, it spread on and off to the top of my head. I lay in bed, thinking if I'm going to get up, go to the car, and get the aspirin I'd bought the previous headache that was killing me. The one I chalked up to lack of sleep the night before.
the thing you've got to do is get an overview of their financial situation without dwelling... without mentioning how tight money is... I told you we work exclusively with seniors...the person I'm looking for is probably between the ages of 68 to 80 at the most... probably someone who has children or family they care about... maybe somebody you meet at McDonalds... maybe somebody you shop with... you'll meet 'em and take them through slow...
Finally I get up from Kathy's comfortable guest bed, put my pants on, my shirt, fumble out to the hall get my coat go to the car, and amazingly enough FIND THE ASPIRIN. I pop a couple and lie back in bed, falling asleep as they work. My brain plays psychedelic tricks on the inside of my eyelids. Black on black swirls, like a dripping spiderweb, with little points of brightness, form themselves into Bruegelesque creatures-from-the-inferno of my unconscious. Fishlike spermish gobs, swimming through the blackness. Dissolving into lines or other creatures. I follow them, one at a time, until I fall back asleep.
the moth's moving silhouette
across the table
The insurance guys have left, now I have a table of biddies in back of me. I need to learn to CONCENTRATE! Maybe I should write in cafés. Ah well, I'm up to date now. I think I'll hit the road, a brew pub, lunch, and one more library.
Maybe it's the first time I've been in the state since I visited my sister at college in the 70s. LIVE FREE OR DIE is the state motto. I could never figure out if it was supposed to be a statement of fact or a command.
The pub isn't listed in the barbook. I'm lucky I found it in the Fodor's guide I borrowed from NY Public. At 2PM the Brewpub is just opening. A few regulars drink silently at the bar. That U-shaped bar dominates the center of the place. On one side are diner-like booth. On the other, a DJ section, and more tables. Right now, it's quieter than the library. I ask the bartendress for something brown, but not black. And just a bit bitter.
“Well, I don't drink that much beer,” she says, “so everything tastes bitter to me. Maybe you should try the Wederstasdf dubblerok.”
“I didn't get that,” I tell her. “It sounds like you said The weatherman's double rocks. Is that a concert review?”
She speaks slowly, like you might talk to a foreigner who says he knows only small English. Small. Small. “Wea-ther-top dub-bel bahk,” she says. (Later, when I get my bill, I see it's Weathertop Doppelbock.)
Still not understanding, but not wanting to sound like a foreigner who knows only small English. Small. Small. I nod and say, “Ah sure, give me some of that.... and some Buffallo wings,” Then, I head off to relieve myself of the morning's coffee and breakfast.
The men's room is ultra mod. With one of those door-closing- private-room-junkie-heaven toilets. The only problem is: by the time you stand up and turn around to admire your artwork and production level, the thing has already self-flushed. You never know how good you're supposed to feel.
The sink... well, I don't know what it is with sinks these days, but there's no lack of new ideas. How 'bout glass-on-glass with tubes?
When I get back to the bar, a nice dark-colored beer waits for me. It has more front-tongue taste than the Northampton beer. Enough to keep it tasty all the way through the decently spicy Buffalo Wings.
After Martha's Exchange, it's the library. HILL'S MEMORIAL, in Hudson New Hampshire.
And that library: Maybe the most unintentionally beautiful libraries I've ever seen:
Made out of stone, it's one of those buildings you could walk around and look at for hours. It was built in 1909, but looks much older. It's in the U.S. registry of notable places.
“You're really lucky to work in a place like this,” I tell the librarian.
“All that stone,” she says, “really gets in the way of WiFi connections and such. We're up to our necks in wires.”
overheard on the reference line
and that's The Dharma Burns?
5:44PM. Time to hit the road again. Next couchsurfer or....
7:17 Manchester New Hampshire. I can't believe I'm in New Hapshire without visiting GG Allin's grave. I don't even know where it is exactly. I thought it was in Hookset, his hometown, but I just read it was someplace else. Someplace that surprised me. Tomorrow is the long hall to Canada. So I doubt if I'll be able to do it then. Ah well, it's only a rock and some bones I'll never see. But who knows who I'd meet?
Right now I'm in Quiznos, one of the few places open at 7:30 where you can still get a cup of coffee. Jason says he's on his way. 10 minutes ago he said 20 minutes. The shop closes in half an hour. It's cold outside, my car is parked in a free space. (I hope.) I wanted to park near the library. I did. The library is closed.... more reports during the next few days.