Saturday, February 6 2021

pizza, grandpa's funeral, and a chat with jon



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Dear Journal,

Good evening, everybody. Hope you managed to shovel your driveway and sidewalks before the big freeze. This morning, standing at the back door in my robe, I could feel the freezing air leaking underneath the door onto my bare feet. Everything outside looked so cruel and harsh. My first thought was thank God I shoveled this week, because I would hate to do it now.

Both Rodney and Miles are in bed. A few dog toys are scattered around the living room where I write. From around the corner past the kitchen, the smacking and banging of a hammer echoes through the hallow walls. Marissa is tackling the hole in the wall. She’s using a putty knife to pull out loose pieces. I’m a little fuzzy on the plan after that, but I think it involves cutting a giant sheet of drywall over the hole.

“Hey, go downstairs and check out how cozy the studio looks - I hung a new lamp,” she said. I grimaced, looking down at the shards of crumbled plaster on stairs. “Oh, maybe not such a good idea now. I’ll show you later.”

Sip. How has your weekend been so far? Staying warm? On Friday I ended the work week on a high note by putting on an “Eat and Learn” session for the interns. The title of my talk was “Very cool and legal git tricks”. I made a pretend code repo called “the dogbook”. I had them each clone it and push branches with food names. Together we simulated various git disasters like merge conflicts and malformed commit messages. An hour goes by quickly when you’re doing something you love. As nerdy as it sounds, I love talking about git, and if there wasn’t a clock on my computer screen I could have easily talked for another hour.

Still seated at the computer, I rolled right into story time. Alice and Frankie joined the zoom call. Their noses were pressed up against the computer screen and they were making silly faces. When they saw me, they proceeded to jump around and yell.

Like Rodney, they were stir crazy from being stuck inside from the cold. Three cousins on the same zoom call stuck inside with nothing to do - it was a dire situation that called for a Ryan’s World experiment.

After reading a story, Marissa took the laptop into the kitchen. She made a bowl of soapy water and stretched a clean sock over the cut half of a water bottle. Carefully, she let Rodney apply drips of food coloring to the sock.

“What we do now mama?” said Rodney. Alice and Frankie were mesmerized on the other end of the call. Marissa dipped the sock in the soap. She put the spout to her mouth and blew. A flurry of colorful bubbles poured out into the bowl.

She handed the bottle to Rodney. “You can try,” she said. “But remember, don’t suck it in. Just blow out.”

Rodney, always marching to the beat of his own drum, sucked in a heaving breath. He drew a soap bubble into his mouth and all at once, his face was red from coughing.

2021 02 06 experiment

That evening, our errands took longer than expected. It wasn’t until 7:05 that we re-entered our kitchen. We were ravenously hungry, and while it was tempting to pick up dinner on the way home I just couldn’t bring myself to let the pizza dough I made before we left go to waste. Rodney joined me in the kitchen, but unlike the other times he’s helped, I actually needed him this time.

Rodney ripped up basil leaves. He stirred red sauce so it wouldn’t burn. He squeezed exactly three cloves of garlic in the garlic press. He grated cheese, and most of it ended up in the bowl. I was too preoccupied trying to pull dinner together in time to watch him as closely as I usually do, and he rose to the occasion. Not bad for a chump of the week, right?

This morning was my Grandpa’s funeral. Sitting at the breakfast table in our pajamas in front of a plate of mediocre homemade biscuits, we watched the live stream of the ceremony happening a few states away. Grandpa Fred would have loved it. His brother preached eloquently. His family shared stories. There was almost as much laughter as there were tears. Most important of all, we sang lots of hymns.

Later today I had a Zoom call with Jon. I used to work with Jon. During the short time we were coworkers, cubicle chats turned to walks, which turned to lunches, which turned to semi-regular game nights and hangouts. I was excited for a chance to catch up and see what they were up to since moving to Ohio.

“Is that duct tape on your microphone?” he said squinting, leaning in to see his screen.

“That’s right, it’s duct tape,” I said. “It’s so I seem more approachable. I don’t want people to be intimidated by my set-up, so the duct tape is here to say I’m still a man of the people.”

The real reason we met was so Jon could bounce off me an idea for a side project. He and his wife have been checking the Kroger website for COVID vaccine availability.

“It was actually Jess’s idea,” he explained. “She was like, can’t you write a script for it? So anyway, feel like digging into it now or do you just want to shoot the shit?”

“I don’t know Jon,” I griped. “I just ate Arby’s. I can’t write code with a stomach full of Arby’s.”

Hilariously, Jon just nodded along, as if Arby’s effect on coding was a known fact or something. His wife Jess entered the frame.

“Have you two made any progress yet?” she laughed. “I’m kind of the scrum master with this thing so I need to keep you on track.”

Marissa, Rodney, and Miles crowded my laptop camera from behind me. While Miles was swooping in to say hello, he left a thick viscous drop of baby drool square in the center of my track pad. As I dabbed it up, Rodney grabbed the mic and started entertaining Jon with a classic Rodney monologue.

“It’s funny,” said Jon. “Rodney seems much older, but he still has the same mannerisms. Like he kind of does the Porky Pig thing when he’s winding up to talk.”

“That’s true!” I laughed. “With Rodney, there’s always a good seven or eight syllables of just wanna wanna before he gets to his point.”

It was a wonderful chat. Hope you have a wonderful weekend. Thanks for stopping by, everyone. I’ll see you around.