Long Trips Are Good For Me

Long Trips Are Good For Me

Everything was beautiful and exciting there in the lush weeping grid of the cemetery. The parchment paper folded into my jacket creased and crunched with my steps. I thumbed the bits of charcoal in my jeans front pocket.

When I found the mossy tombstone—my quarry: the name—I knelt and began my ritual prayer of forgiveness. Though I play at the edges of unknowing, truly I know our part is not knowing.

Cicadas sang low to high from the surrounding willows. A thick, moistened silence followed. I placed the parchment on the gravestone and scraped the charcoal across, catching the relief of the epitaph, the range of a passed life. I took my time etching the tombstone’s skull, its eyes bold Xes, filigreed wings stretched out below the name of the dead.

THEOPHILIS QUATERMAINE PINCHES
SHIPWRIGHT, HUSBAND, FATHER
1710–1760

I sat in the walking path between gravesites and ate my lunch, a cucumber sandwich and a thermos of sweet tea. I folded the parchment back into my jacket and set off toward the mausoleums.

Walter Martin’s latest album is Reminisce Bar & Grill. The first song on this Tiny Desk set is “I Went Alone On A Solo Australian Tour.” It twists the call & response trope to fun effect. Check it out!

[Photo by tup wanders]

Don’t You Realize Our Bodies Could Fall Apart At Any Second

Don’t You Realize Our Bodies Could Fall Apart At Any Second

My first question was, “About how deep do I submerge myself? To my neck, what about my knees? Should I keep my arms free?”

“Your choice,” said the attendant. He shook a soiled towel until the sand came off and it was nearly white again. He dropped it into a hamper filled with dusty linens.

I stepped into the pool of black sand. This was a consenting quicksand, a dark bath that warmed me beneath and throughout. I thought I would be more scared—I thought of the horse in that one movie from my childhood, the horse that sinks—but a calm found me as the attendants patted down more sand, weighing down my chest, my arms, my knees.

When we were younger and at the beach, my sister and I buried my dad up to his neck in the sand. Katherine sculpted a mermaid’s tail near Dad’s legs and I carved two sandy boobs at his chest. “Please don’t give me breasts,” he said. “That’s not appropriate.”

When it was time for me to leave the sand bath, the same attendant from before ushered me to the mineral springs. The dark volcanic sediment—ash, almost—that minutes earlier was forcing me downwards into an underground serenity, washed clean off. I received a blue robe embroidered with Japanese characters. “What does this one mean?” I pointed.

Onsen,” said the attendant. “It’s our logo. It means ‘spa.'”

Car Seat Headrest’s “Twin Fantasy” released (or re-released) last week. It sounds incredible. More here.

[Photo by Bruno Vanbesien]

Farewell, Transmission

Farewell, Transmission

Once a month I drive the hour south to meet with my therapist, a warm, open, no-bullshit clinical psychologist whose help has earned her top billing on the acknowledgments page should I ever finish my first novel.

Last week I drove during a whiteknuckle icestorm and my odometer ticked over to 250,000 miles. I couldn’t celebrate it, not with a perfunctory woo-hoo or fist pump. I couldn’t open the window and course my hand with and against the drafts. I couldn’t slap the top of the cab and holler, couldn’t honk my horn, couldn’t even mutter a sotto voce my dude to the engine.

By the time I parked, my car looked like a frozen bullet. It looked like a futurist painting, an angular temporal fascist thing. I was late for my session because I was knocking muddy ice from under the wheelbase, one of my life’s truest pleasures.

My first car is my security question to all of my online accounts so I won’t describe it for you here. But my second car is this car, my current car, a 2003 Toyota Matrix in black. I smooched my high school girlfriend in this car, at the beach, which is where you smooch when you’re growing up on Cape Cod and exploring each other in the depths of winter. Once, during the worst snowstorm of the year, I got lost on the way home from the annual battle of the bands and ended up in a snowbank in the principal’s driveway.

This Matrix is still with me after 15 years. I have dreamt about its end in the same way I have about my own: under my terms and control. I will drive it off a pier, or ram it through a thousand lawn signs during an election year, or career it over a thawing lake in April and wait for the crack, the sploosh, the sink, and the final chill.

When the day comes, there’ll be no one able to console me. My 2003 black Matrix, which I’ve never named because I’m not a fucking weirdo, will most likely go peacefully. It will refuse to start. It won’t be a cold day. It won’t be a particularly hot day, either. It’ll just be a day when it happens, no oddity in the weather or major event in the news. I won’t remember the day my car died when it did. It was, or will be, an unremarkable weekday, like the rest of them, like they’ve always been.

After ten minutes of unproductive revving, I’ll bow my head and then call NPR and ask if they’d like to pick it up as a donation. “When you strip it for parts,” I’ll say, “please know that it was a fine vehicle, that as a conveyance it did its thankless job with honor. I’ll take a tote bag if you have one.”

The next month, my therapist will ask, “What do you want to talk about this week?”

“My new car,” I’ll say. “A Japanese-made hatchback, like the last one. May it outlive me like my children.”

Kevin Morby and Waxahatchee recently covered and recorded “Farewell Transmission” by Songs: Ohia. Proceeds from any purchase of this song go to MusicCares, a charity from the Recording Academy that provides help to musicians in need.

Doing Dishes, 2017

Doing Dishes, 2017

I became a husband in 2017, and in an otherwise nightmarish year of national reckoning and embarrassment, I held on to my new title like a match flickering against the vortex.

I married Emily on a cloudless afternoon, beneath a pergola and among friends and family. Our friend Jiin officiated, his words deliberate and paced. Everyone complimented him on his range. During my vows, a red-tailed hawk circled overhead. When Emily said, “I do,” passengers in a passing Jeep screamed, “Yaaaassssss.”

My sister—my best ma’am—sang Celine Dion’s “Because You Loved Me” for the mother-son dance. I looked over my mom’s shoulder at my crying father, who for the first time in probably months was made speechless.

I danced with my new wife as we ate donuts instead of cake. With my thumbs, I pulled on my suspenders and mugged for the crowd. At the end of the night, everyone packed into a trolley. I fell asleep next to Emily, afraid that I wouldn’t remember any of it the next day. But I did. I do.

But all that shit is frivolous and irrelevant because I GOT NEW DISHES. Did you know that when you get married, the people in your life throw gifts at you, and that you get to pick these gifts, and that there are systems in place to protect against duplicate gifts? That you can choose “Stemless Wine Glasses x 4” on the Crate & Barrel website and that weeks later, your aunt and uncle will have sent them to your doorstep?

I washed some good goddamn dishes this year, let me tell you. Wide soup bowls, short tumblers, angular cheese plates, his & hers coffee mugs, and an entirely new set of silverware, each piece with new contours to learn, new fragilities to grasp.

And in this ecstasy of dishwashing, I listened to new music. Constant readers will remember that I spent much of my twenties working at an outdoor education center, and that after each meal, we would bring campers/participants into the industrial dishroom to help wash and clean up. We would play music, framing the experience as a dance party with chores. Thus: the inextricable connection between rinse cycles and pop music.

These are the songs I listened to this year, when I became a husband, when I washed the dishes of my new life.

ALSO: Listen on Google Play

“Slip Away” by Perfume Genius

“Slip Away” by Perfume Genius

On Thursdays after work, I go to the Whole Foods hot buffet and attempt to invent a meal that would make my surrogate television father, Guy Fieri, so proud that his unconditional love for me would manifest in a paternal fist bump on an episode of his landmark series Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.

Most of these food inventions have been dead on arrival. There was nothing appetizing about stuffing breadcrumbs into garlic bread for what at the time I called “inbred crunchy bread.” And certainly no one would eat my “buffalo mesclun greens salad.”

Last night, however, with my trusty biodegradable compostable to-go box in hand, I added chicken tikka masala to a base layer of tater tots and was so excited at the result that I emailed Guy immediately.

“I call it Tater Tots Masala,” I wrote. “Please consider it for any one of your restaurants. I ask for nothing except your approval, in the way a father might pat his son on the head for coming in second at a Boy Scouts’ pinewood derby event, or the way a father might pat his son on the head for securing a lure to a fishing line, or the way a father might pat his son on the head for suggesting something new and exciting for the family food business.”

Within seconds I received a reply. “Message delivery failure,” it read. “The email address you entered, papaguy @ foodnetwork . com, does not exist or is inactive.”

“Slip Away” by Perfume Genius is part of my annual best-of dishwashing playlist. [More on that here.]

Read more of my 2017 in review.