Wednesday, May 4 2022

walks, throwing pinecones, and the vogue magazine

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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everybody. It's been so long since I last wrote a journal entry, I question if I still remember how to do this. What happens next? I think in this first paragraph, I either comment on the weather or acknowledge one of the dogs doing something amusing.

Well, at the time I'm writing this, the dogs remain sprinkled around the living room in their nap spots. There's nothing amusing or comical about a tired dog catching up on sleep, but the sight still warms my heart. While we were away at an art show, they stayed with a friend of ours in Rockford. I have to think that in temporary living situations like that, the questions that race through their heads must be exhausting. Rest easy, family dogs. We're not going anywhere for a while.

Actually, that's not entirely true either. We're still moving, aren't we? So far, moving has been a glacial process. I haven't set aside any large swaths of time to do "moving things", but almost by magic the house is feeling lighter. Extra chairs, lights, and decorations disappear as Marissa works behind the scenes in full "moving mode".

But I'm not moving anywhere for the next hour or so. I think I'm going to kick off this work week the only way I know how - writing in the old journal. Jeeves my good fellow, I'll take a hot cup of black coffee, please.

Sip. When we last left off, I was bemoaning my decision to give two different talks in the same conference. It got a little hectic, especially in the midst of getting ready for a big art show in Chicago. Stress got the best of me, and the day of my first talk, I took a long aimless walk around the neighborhood instead of writing. My first talk went great. I practically had the whole thing memorized, and that preparation allowed me to mentally blank out and recite my speech.

But the second talk got a little dicey. I had only finished putting the slides together the night before. I only had time for a quiet, mumbled run through that same morning. But the talk still went great. Being an informal talk on owning tarantulas as a hobby, I forgot about how easy it was for me to talk about spiders. I could talk about spiders until the cows come home, so to speak.

There was a small flub, however. I accidentally said "twelve feet" instead of "twelve inches" while outlining the dangers of accidentally dropping a tarantula, and that must have left some people confused. The fact, as I presented it, sounded like tarantulas can't easily sustain a fall, dropping one from just twelve feet in the air could be lethal.

Who is dropping a tarantula from twelve feet in the air? Are they standing on a suspension ladder? Are they lobbing it off their roof?

Do you know what the funny thing is about public speaking over zoom? When it's over, you're completely alone in your bedroom. I felt a flood of emotions - relief, pride, exhaustion. So I took another long walk around the neighborhood up the street and back. When I made it back to our backyard, I found Rodney sitting on his window sill with his face pressed up against his screen.

"Hey dude," I said. Rodney casually waved. A new idea went off in the back of my head.

"Hey, you want to go for a walk dude?" I asked. That was all Rodney needed to know. He disappeared from his window, and a minute later he was strapping on his shoes in the kitchen.

Rodney and I have our own sort of Madison bucket list - silly things we'd like to do in Madison before we move. Top of our list was visiting the walking bridge that extends over East Washington. While we made our way to the bridge, Rodney scooped up pine cones off the ground and stuffed them in my zipper pocket.

We finally arrived at the winding, curved ramp. Rodney took off in a sprint, and I understood the impulse. Something about an interesting, coiled ramp just makes you want to run full speed like a human racecar, even if it is uphill.


At last, we reached the top. The sound of afternoon traffic whizzing under our feet made us feel mighty. Rodney leaned against the fence to get a better look at the height. He was trusting, but I felt a little pang of parenting worry.


So what next? What do we do at the top of the bridge? I had a pocket full of crumbly pine cones, so in a mutual childish impulse we took turns whipping them into the street. It's fun throwing things off the bridge.

Rodney and I successfully killed the rest of the work day. We headed back home in time to collect Miles and Marissa so we could go get some celebratory pizza. On our way into the house, Rodney pulled a stack of mail out of our mailbox.

"What's this?" I asked, pulling a thick, glossy magazine from the stack. It was a new issue of Vogue magazine. A pregnant Rihanna graced the cover in very revealing maternity lingerie.

"Go give this to mama, and say 'My Highlights looks weird'," I laughed.

Instead of following through with my version of the joke, Rodney just threw the magazine across the living room, where it landed on a napping Marissa. She was startled from her nap, and even more confused about what the issue of Vogue had to do with anything.

"It was delivered to us by mistake," I said.

"Well these are kind of expensive," said Marissa thoughtfully. "We should drop it off."

It was a nice thought. So on the way to get pizza, I pulled over further up on our street. Magazine in hand, I climbed our neighbor's porch steps and dropped it on the ground.

"Can you put it in the mailbox?" asked Marissa.

I doubled back and picked up the magazine. I stood there in front of the door, puzzling how to fit the thick magazine through the tiny mail slit. I noticed a dark black Ring camera pointed at my face and I began to feel self conscious. So in an effort to clarify my intentions, I held the Vogue magazine up to the camera.

I wonder what that looked like? Was it clear I was holding up a magazine? Or did it look like some disheveled stranger just trying to present a saucy photo of Rihanna to the camera. I heard the sound of footsteps approach the door. I dropped the magazine on the ground and lept back into the driver seat of the car. My neighbor, brow furrowed in confusion, scooped up the copy of Vogue off the ground and inspected it. Marissa leaned into the window, prepared to explain the situation, but at this point my nerves got the best of me. Instead of patiently explaining what was going on, I stepped on the gas peddle. I peeled out of our street like I had just robbed a dollar store.

We laughed heartily all the way to Ian's pizza. Then I remembered that the loose address label wasn't even attached to the magazine, and it may not have even been her issue of Vogue. That made us laugh even harder.

I guess the moral of the story is this - if you live on my street, and you're still trying to figure out why a nervous stranger flashed a sexy magazine in front of your ring camera and peeled out of your driveway, don't worry about it.

Thanks for stopping by today. Have a great Wednesday, everyone.