It’s summer in New England and your family vacation involves laying around by the pool, taking an occasional dip in a deep and cold Adirondack lake, and enjoying a drink anytime of the day or night. The harsh New England winter and the “spring” that followed (essentially long stretches of cold rain) are long gone; now’s the time for sunscreen, short trousers in the evening, and visits to the Creemee bar. Except it’s 62 degrees (Fahrenheit) outside and raining. Better head to the ECHO Leahy Center for Lake Champlain in Burlington, VT where, for the first time in human history, scientists record the usage of the phrase, “You available for butterfly crowd control?”
Because you can’t go to a butterfly exhibit these days without encountering ruffians. Perfectly peaceful citizens with caterpillaresque demeanors can morph into hooligans after just a few minutes in a butterfly queue. Shirts come off. Fists fly. These people want close-up glimpses of Glasswings, Scarlet Mormons, and Indian Leafwings, so get out of their way.
Your turn: what unusual phrase did you hear on your summer vacation?
Before I figure out what my next move will be, I think I’m going to follow in former Massachusetts state senator George Bachrach’s footsteps and take a gap year. I’ve always wanted to take a gap year. The only thing that’s ever prevented me from doing so is that I need to eat and keep myself clothed.
George Bachrach and I go way back. He ran for the US House of Representatives in 1986, the year I graduated college, but lost to Joe Kennedy and that damnable last name of his. If I’m not conflating several election campaigns, this one was filled with “colorful” (i.e. ridiculous) characters like Clark Abt, Dapper O’Neil, and a Communist whose name I forget. I was at a debate at Boston University during that campaign and, when it was time to take questions from the audience, got in line and actually asked George an entirely pinheaded question. As I recall (hazily, as you might imagine) he was running as a kind of male feminist, and I asked him what he had against men, or something equally stupid. And as he was struggling to answer this nutty softball of mine, some low-level functionary working for another candidate strode by and said, “Did the Kennedy campaign put you up to this?” And for some reason I answered “yes.”
But I actually came up with that stupid question on my own.
That’s how humble I am: even when I come up with perfectly inane questions without any outside help, I’m totally willing to allow someone else to take the credit.
I will say that I have taken gap months before. Just after college, I drove across country until my money ran out, which happened startlingly early, such that my then-girlfriend and I had to drive from Texas back to Massachusetts pretty much without stopping. This is one reason I have never been to New Orleans.
I also spent 3 months with my grandfather up in Canada a couple of years after that, where I wrote an awesome play that won several awards. (Not really – I mean I wrote the play but the few people who read it hated it and ever since then those pages have only been used as scrap paper for grocery and to-do lists.)
Really, for me, gap weekends are where it’s at. I go to work and, by the end of the week, when I’ve accomplished everything there is to accomplish, I start to ponder my next move and usually decide I should have some kind of noticeable gap between the task I’m currently finishing up and the one I’m about to undertake. So a take I couple days off.
I’d keep writing, but it’s time for a gap overnight. See you in the morning.
In the 1990s, I lived very close to the Forest Hills cemetery in Jamaica Plain, MA. I mean I practically lived in the damned cemetery on a semi-private road a few hundred feet from the entrance. There were more dead people around me than living ones, by far.
On the other hand, the house was just a stone’s throw (well, a very impressive throw of a stone) from the end of the Orange Line, with easy access to the city where a lot of alive people were crowding together, as they do in cities. To have access to hordes of alive people via the subway and almost as many dead ones via my own two feet, including Eugene O’Neill and E. E. Cummings (not to mention the restauranteur Jacob Wirth), tells you just how versatile my living situation was.
If you must know, I had a girlfriend back in those days, as was expected of young men of my social stature and careful breeding, and it goes without saying that I had a very high level of emotional maturity, which required that I have an equally emotionally mature girlfriend. Sometimes, though, two emotionally mature adults cancel each other’s maturity out, and you end up with an emotionally exhausted couple who go dancing on graves.
Human beings have been dancing on graves ever since dancing and graves were invented. The caveman Oog is credited with dancing the first jig, which he did on the grave of his late rival Boog. But once people started freaking out about the possibility of ghosts, they stopped dancing on the graves of their dead rivals, lest they get visited by poltergeists in the middle of the night.
Which brings me to some dusky evening 25 or so years ago in the Forest Hills cemetery, when, during a tipsy group amble, my girlfriend dared me and others to dance on a grave. Which we did.
I don’t know whose grave I danced on, but suffice it to say that the person buried there was emotionally mature enough in the afterlife not to come to my apartment and rattle chains outside my bedroom door.
When I’m subpoenaed to testify before congress, as we all know is inevitable, my plan is to don a nice suit and come with prepared statements that I deliver with complete earnestness. But deep down in my heart I’ll be totally goofing on the senators interviewing me.
Because who can resist goofing on senators? Not even God can’t resist goofing on US senators.
Did you know that when US senators die they start making their way toward the gates of heaven, but instead of being greeted by a tipsy Saint Peter dressed in a Hawaiian shirt and drinking from a hollowed-out pineapple, they curiously find themselves alone in an old cemetery at dusk with the wind howling, a rusty old padlock securing the wrought iron gates?
What the heck! I wasn’t so bad, was I? What, just because I killed a gun bill or two? Or ten? That means I go to hell?
As darkness descends, pitchfork-wielding demons emerge, surrounding the dead senator. Before being fitted with a suit of flames, the old stodgy white male is brought to a podium, where he is forced to answer questions from an unrelenting British press.
But suddenly the lights come up, God struts out, and a studio audience applauds. It was all a joke. It turns out that God doesn’t send anyone to hell.
Sounds awesome, until you realize that this means that everyone you’ve ever met on earth is in heaven. Major design flaw!