Much of my wife Emily’s food and drink tastes err on the side of—I’m trying to be diplomatic here, Em—grandmotherly. Currently we have in our fridge a 12-pack of plain seltzers and in our cupboard two bags of “original flavor” Goldfish crackers, purchased on a BOGO Market Basket sale.

In the morning, if she can spare the time before work, Emily will cook a soft-boiled egg. But because neither of us can bear to get up at the first alarm, our A.M. regimen compresses and we end up scrambling to eat even the poorest excuse for breakfast, which for the past month has been toast with spreadable cheese.

Our grandchildren won’t look forward to visits if we keep up this bland kitchen stock, this Werther’s Original palate, this plain and mild flavor personality profile. Yesterday I looked at a head of cabbage and thought, “You know what, I could boil this up.”

My paternal grandmother had a reliable inventory of candies with no certain sell-by date. I ate them regardless of their staleness, savoring each pinstripe mint and concrete-hard caramel cream. She had a bubble gum machine modified so that it didn’t need nickels to dispense the goods, and my sister and I figured out that the perfect Christmas gift for her was a refill pack of bubble gum balls so that on every visit we knew we would have gum to chew.

I hope to have such industrious grandchildren when the time comes, because Em and I will need them.

Here’s some good ambient luster from Goldmund. More here.

[Photo by Pen Waggener]

I’m Having An Unshakeable Nightmare

In April 2005, a blizzard forced the cancellation of a week of school and I discovered that we—my high school girlfriend and I—were not so far away as the roads suggested, and that the straightest path to reach each other was for her to walk through her wooded backyard and cross the sixteenth hole of the public golf course and for me to access the fenced-off service road for municipal water well #34 across the street from my house. The true midpoint was a patch of conservation land choked with pines.

We resolved to meet each other at this halfway point after three days of being cooped up in our own homes. Underdressed, I took a sled, hopped a fence, and marooned myself on a snowdrift next to the padlocked water pump. The snow was feet deep, and I couldn’t move much further, so I lied down on my sled to consider the options.

That semester I was taking one of the first online courses our school offered: a survey of creative fiction through a high school web consortium. I read short stories and then tried to emulate them with my own fiction, posting the writing on a message board for a teacher in New Mexico to grade. The week before the blizzard, I read Jack London’s “To Build a Fire,” which is about a man unprepared in the tundra. He lies down in the snow and falls into death like a deep sleep. The story brought me some peace, and I think back on it often.

And so the story was on my mind when I laid myself down on my sled near municipal water well #34, too winded to move any further, and at a time when it was easier to tell stories like this because it was still uncommon for teenagers to have cell phones. I let gravity slide me away into the untouched landscape, let it swaddle me for the long goodbye.

Then the man drowsed off into what seemed to him the most comfortable and satisfying sleep he had ever known.

I wasn’t going to die, and I wasn’t prepared or ready for it, but the Jack London story was still fresh, and I thought if I just lied there and sleep, someone will find me.

Then I heard my high school girlfriend’s voice and looked up to see her, wearing wooden snowshoes, the kind you might see mounted on a cabin wall, the kind that look like tennis rackets. She helped me up and we walked back to her mother’s house. She hopped across the surface of the snow like a Tolkien elf and I slid down banks like a Tolkien hobbit.

I don’t want my last cognitive burst to be a look at my life at hyperspeed. Instead, I want a highly curated, multimedia viewmaster of feelings and smells and moments and poignant nothings, and I want this specific cartridge loaded in, please and thank you, to represent who I was in 2005: me sliding down a snowbank on a plastic sled, ensconced in melodrama, looking through the white-dusted conifers to see my high school girlfriend bounding toward me on decorative snowshoes.

Parquet Courts is back, baby! My current favorite band has a new album out May 18. More information here.

Night Shift

I was born in a flooded hospital. I was born tired. I was born among a dozen other mildewy babies. All my life I have been among other people. When I was a toddler, a turtle pissed on me when I held it during the public library’s monthly “Meet An Animal!” event. When I was an adolescent, a bird shat on the brim of my hat as I crossed the street. When I was twenty-three, I fell into an open manhole two weeks after my best childhood friend was flattened by a piano on the street corner. He survived. I became a writer.

Lucy Dacus‘s newest album is incredible. It is called “Historian.” The first song on the album, “Night Shift,” is a good, honest breakup song. Check it out!

I Know You Live Within Me

On the morning of my wedding, I threw up in the shower after realizing that I had forgotten my white shirt at home. I cleaned myself and then went downstairs to find my groomsman Adam in the kitchen of our rented house. “Can you drive me back to my apartment?” I asked. “And can we stop for some Gatorade on the way?”

We call Adam “Boots” so hereafter I’ll refer to him as such. He drove me the twenty miles north back to Saco in his humble blue pickup truck. There was a CB radio in the cab. I asked him if he had a handle, like a truck driver.

“Boots, I guess,” he said. “I don’t use it. It might not work.”

Challenge accepted. I unhooked the black microphone from its base. The plastic coiling looped around itself, tangled from underuse. When I was a kid, my parents had a rotary phone, and one of the greatest pleasures of my young life was letting out the snarls of the receiver’s spiral cord. I did as much in Boots’ truck and hummed a low note of satisfaction.

We passed a police car parked behind an overpass on the southbound side of the highway. I pressed the button on the microphone and spoke.

“Breaker, breaker,” I said. “We got a bear trap on mile ten of 95 South. Watch your six. This is Boots. Ten-seven.”

A voice came on over the scratchy waves. “Cool it, bucket mouth,” it said.

Bucket mouth—what does that mean?” I asked Boots, holding the microphone to my chest like you do with a phone when you don’t want to be audible on the other end.

“I don’t know,” he said. “Turn that off. We’re going to get in trouble.”

“Ten-four, old buddy,” I said, and placed the microphone back on the radio’s base.

“Is this your exit?” asked Boots.

“Yeah, this one,” I said.

In The Aeroplane Over The Sea is 20 years old! This is the best track off the album, end of discussion.

[Photo by Andrew Fulo]

How Simple

Anna Maria Island is a nine-mile-long landmass on Florida’s gulf coast, just south of St. Petersburg, west of Bradenton, and is a place that won’t exist when the oceans have swallowed all known coastlines. It is a place of constant recovery, lashed by hurricanes that don’t swirl up the east coast, don’t die off in the Caribbean, but detour and then park in the Gulf of Mexico.

I was on Anna Maria for my annual birding expedition—the blogs were alight this fall with news of Blue Herons, so many overpopulating the island that there was no room in the trees. Nests were everywhere

in convertibles left open overnight

attic crawl spaces

range hoods in restaurants serving grouper sandwiches

and in the back of my rented golf cart, a vehicle modified to reach 45 mph on the island’s main thoroughfare.

I drove through the afternoon, stopping for iced tea, stopping for a burger, stopping when I thought I had lost one of the herons at my back, but always he returned with a stick or a twig in his beak, landing softly near his partner and handing off his find. The nest in the back of the cart grew bigger, more formed, and the birds were still there when I returned to the rental center just before sunset.

“How Simple” by Hop Along is off the band’s forthcoming record Bark Your Head Off, Dog, out April 6.