(Last modified 7 January 1997.)

Wanderjahr: Week 18

Locations: Somerville; Boston
Dates: 12/15/96 - 12/21/96

Sunday I went to a brunch given by one of Fran's colleagues (I feel so grown-up saying that word!). I expected to be nervous and uncomfortable, as I usually am at gatherings of people I don't know, but the other attendees were friendly and willing to talk, and I ended up enjoying myself quite a bit. I was reminded that mentioning small details in passing can occasionally lead to surprising branches of conversation, occasionally even interesting sidelights on people's personalities. I mentioned a visit to Walden Pond while talking about something else entirely, at which someone else said that was one of ta's favorite places, and a ten-minute general discussion of the place ensued. (I'm also learning to ask people's last names when they're mentioned or introduced by first name only; some very surprising connections can be revealed that way.)

We left the brunch in time to drive back to Bhadrika & Steve's, drop off my car, and take the T to St. Paul's Cathedral in Boston, where Mark had a solo in the Service of Lessons and Carols. The choir (professional) was quite good, and I even liked the large group of recorder players from the Boston Recorder Society (though others in attendance thought there were a few too many). Finally heard "Suo Gan" again, a pretty Welsh lullaby that a British boys' choir sings in the movie Empire of the Sun and that I always thought was in Chinese or something. The singalong carols were disappointingly few, especially since one was a tune I wasn't used to and another was at exactly the wrong range for my voice.

Monday afternoon I visited Beth in the hospital (after failing to find the game I wanted at The Compleat Strategist, and failing to find the recording I wanted at Tower). She was clearly feeling much better than she'd been in a while; good to see her smiling again. After some difficulty navigating Harvard Square on foot that evening (thank goodness for the maps on the information kiosk), finally found Knightmare Chess (a nifty new card-game adjunct to chess from Steve Jackson Games) at Games People Play, which nicely stayed open a few minutes past closing to provide me an opportunity to make my purchase. That evening the planned poker game didn't quite happen, but Michael came over anyway. We spent the evening playing The Settlers of Catan, the English-language version of the German game Die Siedler. (Fran and Ed had taught me how to play the day before.) It involves building towns, cities, roads, and armies on an island, competing with the other players for natural resources such as ore, grain, clay (for bricks), wood, and sheep. Fun.

Tuesday afternoon I again visited Beth, this time to retrieve her from the hospital and transport her home. I picked up my car in Somerville, drove to the hospital (managing to bypass Harvard Square, luckily), and drove her back to her place. Then she provided me with a shopping list (so she could eat for the next week) and I went out and bought stuff for her. I was reminded yet again how much more difficult it is for me to food-shop for someone else than for myself; everyone has different tastes, and what I consider the obvious choice in, say, peanut butter is very different from most people's preferences. Got through it eventually, though while getting food into the car I managed to stand in various puddles and thoroughly soak my shoes (which I'd been protecting in rubber overshoes all day up to that point, even though I'd barely encountered any water. Except what was pouring down from the sky, that is). Returned the car to B&S's in time to attend Wolf's first half-birthday party (which coincided with Bhadrika's birthday party). Spent most of the evening in a couple of nicely silly games of Scrabble with Michael and Cathy. I enjoy word games an awful lot when I get to play them with people who love words and who aren't terribly concerned about maximizing score. I don't like playing Scrabble with people who would rather play a two-letter word that only exists in the Official Scrabble Players' Dictionary than a six-letter semi-obscure word that everyone agrees is a great word. So I'd just as soon leave out a lot of standard rules. Someday I'll put up a page on Scrabble variants. Anyway, suffice it to say that we didn't keep score even though Michael clearly trounced us (especially in the second game where he played two consecutive seven-letter words, and very nice words at that), and we all had fun. Eventually I took the T back to F&E's.

I managed to spend nearly all day Wednesday knitting. Took a break in the afternoon to meet Ed for lunch; I'm glad he coaxed me outside, as it was a marvelous day, sunshiney and even semi-warm. Another break in the evening to watch a movie, then stayed up to get almost to the end of the hat I've been working on (on and off) lo these many weeks. Now all I need is to tie it off at the top (that is, to close the 1" square hole in the top) and I'll have a usable, if kinda floppy, stocking cap.

Thursday morning I accompanied Fran in the rain to her doctor appointment. I was a bit bleary by this point, having not slept well in almost a week, and had to get a replacement umbrella because the cheap $5 jobber I'd picked up a week before had fallen apart. The new coat is perfect for the weather, though, and does its job of keeping the rain off me admirably. Also, despite early fears, it's plenty warm enough; a couple times now I've gotten uncomfortably hot while bundled up in it. Though I gather weather's been unseasonably warm 'round these parts lately.

That evening, after carrying my stuff by hand (and T) from F&E's in the rain back to Somerville, I had dinner at Diana's place, a nice leftover Thai curry that Elliott had made and left there the night before. Unfortunately, both of us were too tired to talk as late as we'd have liked.

Friday I stopped by Deb & Charles' to get instructions from Deb on what to do and not to do while they're gone; I'll be staying there while they're away, though their landlady is apparently perturbed at the idea of someone she doesn't know living in their apt when nobody's around (which is why I can't go over there 'til Monday, when the landlady returns from a weekend away). Then I lounged around until it was time to head off to Mark's for dinner. I picked up a videotape and a bottle of pinot noir along the way. Ran into Cathy in Harvard Square during the twenty minutes in which I frantically tried to find the right place to catch the #66 bus. Dinner was delicious, conversation was delightful as usual, and I got to meet Mark's housemate Mariel. After dinner we watched the movie, and then I had to rush off to catch the bus in order to make it to the T before the system shut down for the night.

Saturday morning I had brunch with Debby & John, Ruth & Gavin, David VS, and John K(?) at a dim sum place in, uh, one or another of the local towns. The food wasn't all that great (dim sum isn't really my cup of tea, and most of it had pork in it), but the conversation was extraordinarily silly even by Swarthmore standards. Much of it involved retelling old jokes: shaggy dog stories, secret yets, bad puns. After some misadventures getting back to Somerville, I wandered through Disc Diggers for a couple hours; didn't find anything I wanted at a price I wanted to pay except for the soundtrack to the Disney Beauty and the Beast on cassette, for about $4.

Spent the remainder of the afternoon playing Knightmare Chess with Michael and eating dinner with him; then we walked to Bhadrika & Steve's to see a movie and hang out for the duration of the evening. Decided not to drive two hours to Litchfield, CT, to attend Lui Collins' Solstice concert, though I had seriously considered it when I missed her local concert a couple weeks back.

I stayed up well into Sunday updating this travelogue, which I'd neglected for the past week, and trying to get the cast list a little under control (I had barely touched it in the two months since arriving in Boston).

Did barely any fiction writing this week (I've been really good about writing almost every day for the past few weeks, 'til now), but did have a good if disjointed story conference with Arthur via telephone at one point, and did some Web stuff. For instance, added a couple items to my things page, added an item about not forwarding the Houghton-Mifflin "send us email" message to my don't-forward-stuff page, added a new feature to my anti-chain-letter page, and created a page for the Bernstein family Christmas Movie tradition, at Ed's request.

By the way, happy Solstice! The days'll be getting longer again now. Whew.


Movies, Books, etc.

On the Town
Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra sound like enough reason to see this, but the other actors turn out to be better reasons (especially considering how few good dance numbers there are). The song "You're Awful" is particularly lovely and sweet.

Jeffrey
This is almost as much fun the third time around as the first -- it's still kinda fragmented, still a little heavy-handed, still has offbeat moments that make no sense; but it's also still delightfully funny, sad, wise, and refreshingly sex-positive. And Patrick Stewart is utterly fabulous.

Eraser
Fun Ahnold romp -- not as enjoyably over-the-top as his action comedies (Last Action Hero, True Lies), but silly and fun nonetheless. I'm pleased that female leads in action pics finally get to do a little more than scream and be rescued. (Side note: this features possibly the first gay characters ever to appear in a Schwarzenegger flick, and the portrayals aren't overtly negative. Second side note: there are some remarkably exact parallels between parts of this and parts of Mission: Impossible.)


Jed Hartman <logos@kith.org>