Tuesday, January 23, 2007

An Anniversary

Today is the 28th anniversary of the day Lisa and I ran into each other outside the old Science Fantasy Bookstore in Harvard Square. It wasn’t actually the first time we met — we’d been introduced the previous spring by a mutual friend — but it marked the beginning of our serious friendship. If I’d realized I was gay, it would have been the day we started dating, but I hadn’t gotten that far yet.

At the time, I was actually dating someone else — someone male, at that — but I did know that Lisa was someone pretty special. After all, we’d stood outside the bookstore door just talking for forty-five minutes before we noticed that (a) the sun had gone down and (b) I hadn’t made it into the bookstore. Anyone who can distract me from a bookstore....

We decided to go to dinner, because we were getting cold and hungry, and ended up at a long-defunct restaurant called the Swiss Alps. I can’t remember if it was the place with the fondue or not — there was a place we went to that had fondue, and another one with crepes and a fabulous array of soups, and still another that had things like chicken cordon bleu — but the restaurant could probably have served me cardboard that night and I wouldn’t have noticed.

We talked. Lisa went off and found a pay phone so she could let her mother know she’d be late home. (That alone tells you how long ago this was.) We talked some more. We both loved Star Wars (there was only one Star Wars then) and Lord of the Rings (the only movie was the Bakshi cartoon; it was the books we were talking about). We’d read many of the same books, and pretty much liked and disliked the same ones. We both loved theater, but Lisa knew more about it than I did, and had actually been in a number of high school and college productions and was working for a theater bookstore. We both loved history, but I knew more about it than she did, and was making it my major. We both wanted to write. And then, for some reason, we got into a discussion of Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni novels — the first trilogy, which was, yes, all there was then. In fact, there may only have been two of them out at the time. We had both enjoyed the books, but there were some plot points that we didn’t agree with, and we were happily hashing them out when there was a lull in the conversation. And in it my voice rang out clearly: “If Duncan had just cut his throat right then when he had the chance —”

Heads turned. I wanted to sink right through the floor. And Lisa giggled. Not nervously, but with genuine, unembarrassed amusement, and I laughed, too, and it was all right. The awkward moment passed, we had dessert, and when Lisa found out I’d never seen Dr. Who we went back to my dorm room and commandeered the television. We could barely make out the picture, but it didn’t matter. She called her mother and told her she was going to be later still, and eventually I walked her over to the subway station to catch the last train back to Dorchester. But she didn’t leave without making plans to get together again, and the rest... Well, the rest was pretty good, too.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Ice Ice Puppy

As many of you already know, the northeastern US has had an ice storm. I haven’t had horrible problems, unlike many folks, so it seems somewhat ungracious to complain. Be it noted, however, that the complaint is on behalf of my dog more than myself….

This has been what my mother describes as a “good old-fashioned Arkansas ice storm.” The trees, cars, porch — everything not heavily salted — developed a quarter-inch-plus coat of ice. When the sun hits it (not that that’s happened much), it glitters beautifully; if it’s on your car, you’d better allow an extra twenty minutes to get the heat going so that you can chip your windows clear. (If you’re really unlucky, the door freezes shut, but, so far at least, I’ve been spared that trouble.) And that brings us to the major difference between an Arkansas ice storm and a New England ice storm: in New England, you go to work regardless.

That’s been OK, because the streets, which the town for once has salted sufficiently, have been passable. One can take tiny cautious steps between car and door; I’ve even broken out the yak-tracks to give extra grip. One can stay inside the rest of the time, and drink cocoa and live on things from the depths of the freezer.

However, if one is a dog…. The situation is a little different. Dogs do not use litter boxes. Dogs must, in fact, go outside at least twice a day to, well, go. And when the world is covered in a sheet of ice, the potential for humiliation is endless.

Vixen generally leaves the house with a rush, eager to see the new day and, incidentally, to kill the squirrel who lives in the tree by the back door. The first time she tried this, her hind feet went out from under her, and she fell hard on her side. Then she tried to squat, and her feet slowly slid apart, so that she had to scramble upright at the most undignified of moments. There is a tiny incline — literally the height of a curb — between the end of our walk and the parking lot next door. She slid down it, and was so surprised that she sat down on the ice, and spun halfway around.

None of this has been a learning experience, because every day she’s ready to do it all again. I have been terrified that she is going to hurt herself, but, so far, she has been only surprised and annoyed — each and every time.

Fortunately, Lisa taught her several commands that have come in very useful. First is the all-purpose “easy,” which we learned first to try to keep her from pulling, and now I use to slow her down as she leaves the house. It’s also helpful when she’s reached the end of the ice, but I’m still picking my way across. Second is an obedience command — I’m not sure you’re supposed to give it to the dog, it may just be something the judge says, but in any case Vixen knows it: “slow.” This is also helpful when picking our way across the ice, or when I can’t see if the dark stuff is ice or just a puddle. The third command is “treat!” said in a bright, cheerful voice. It’s used to persuade her that she doesn’t want to go any farther, but wants instead to come back inside where the floor doesn’t try to tip her over.

I can’t wait for spring!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Invasion of the REALLY Bad Drivers

No, no one’s run into the house again, but the way things have been going, I wouldn’t be that surprised. And all of this happened before the ice storm.

First, there was the lady on the cellphone who swerved into my lane to make a (for her) right hand turn. When I honked at her — she was only 20 yards away, and in line for a head-on collision — she took her other hand off the wheel to flip me off before completing her turn.

Then there was the woman and daughter who pulled up next to me on Fleet Street at the intersection with State. Unfortunately, Fleet is a two-lane, two-way street, so there we were, stopped at the light, both of us signaling left turns — and she’s in the opposing travel lane. I’m not sure if she ever realized that there was a problem, but she and her daughter were laughing uproariously the whole time.

But the real winner appeared on Tuesday night. I was on my way home from the new part time job (more on which later), and stopped at one of the larger intersections in the downtown area. As I said, this is a large intersection: on my side, there is a left turn lane, a travel lane, and a right turn lane, plus a parking lane; there is a single lane plus a parking lane for the opposing traffic. The cross street is a standard four lane road, two lanes of traffic in each direction, and there is a stop light at the intersection. I was stopped in the travel lane; there was a woman in the left turn lane, and the right turn lane had cleared.

A car came through the intersection — legitimately enough, on the green light — and turned not into the proper travel lane, but into the right turn lane to my right. And continued in that lane until I couldn’t see it any more in my mirror.

I didn’t hear a crash, but I’m not sure why I didn’t.

Now, Portsmouth is a tourist town, and people do get lost quite a bit — and I will admit that there are one-way streets through the downtown that make it hard to get to some places if you miss that all-important and largely unmarked first turn. But this is a bit more than can be explained by lost tourists.