B is reading the obituaries to see if someone I care about but who I am too scared to call and find out about has died. If you don't know me, or maybe you think you do but I'm pretty sure you don't, this says much about me.
We drove two hours yesterday to have lunch at an Applebee's. The conversation, surprisingly, did not sink to the level of, "They don't have this at my Applebees's! Do they have this at yours?" It was fun and slightly odd, in the way things can sometimes be when you're having lunch with a parent you don't see but once or twice every year or every other year, and now you're grown up and both parties are struggling with this new reality and lunch at Applebee's is maybe not the place to be doing it. But I was riding the roller coaster and had a beer and realized my dad drinks beer at the same slow rate I do, and that B is a very wonderful partner and I'm grateful for mostly everything.
And then my dad, after having been in a car for a solid week with his girlfriend, pawned her off on us for a couple of hours because he needed a nap. Most surprisingly of all, it was fine. We went to a local antique market that was in what used to be a very small town's surprisingly enormous opera hall. There were balconies. At this point, I stopped being surprised by things.
Wapokeneta. I think they had their sights set on becoming a regional showplace, a highlight of Ohio. Now I'm pretty sure that meth labs are the order of the day, and it had that typical midwest small-town derelict feel. Like everybody got all excited in 1952 and then in 1975 started leaving in droves. I like those places. I'm starting to feel at home on those sorts of Main Streets. Maybe if their ghosts inhabit my bones, I'll understand.
I bought two things, one a book about rural peoples of the Ozarks, written and photographed in the early 70s. The man narrating lost his eye (I didn't go back a page to find out how) and walked half a mile with it in his hand, turning up on his wife's doorstep and settin' down with it. Seemed rather composed about it. I am closing one eye at a time right now. I don't think it would make much difference, but the pain part of it might be something I'd be making a fuss about. The book cost a dollar.
Old postcards, if they've got writing on them, and old pictures are my favorite things. I didn't find any old postcards that I particularly wanted. I like love letters these days. Most postcards read like this: "Weather fine. Been sunny and warm. Having a good time. Miss you!" Many of the old ones are addressed to Dear Brother or Dear Sister or Dear Mom and Dad.
And then I found this picture:
I have tried, but I can't get a better scan. It is labeled on the back "Edna Joan Ethel." I am guessing that Edna is the oldest. This picture does not do justice to her pure evilness. I am looking at her now, and she looks like she will be strangling baby Joan as soon as this shot is taken. Or maybe with her hidden hand, she is pulling up Ethel's underwear. I do not know. All I know is I woke up last night, convinced that I had brought Edna's ghost home with us, and she was hanging on a wall downstairs, formulating evilness in a gray, damp cloud. I don't know what I was dreaming before I woke up; I just woke straight up and knew that Edna was haunting us now.
In the light of day, it appears we are still unhaunted. Bright sunlight, coffee and bagels will generally do that.
I just finished Sjon's "The Blue Fox," which is partly a mystery, partly an Icelandic mystical fable. It is divided into parts; pay attention to the dates at the beginning of each part.
The prose is stark, the atmosphere strange, and the effectiveness of this slight novel in putting you under the blanket of an Icelandic winter is astounding. The way we come to know about characters in so few words is a marvel. It felt like a magical book, in a way that few books or stories are able to accomplish. I admire Sjon's ability to craft a story -- in the end, I felt as if I was holding in my hands the literary equivalent of Abba's package, now unwrapped and sitting before me. When I re-read this, as I'll surely do, I'll have a cup of Fridrik's favored Darjeeling.
I had no idea what this story was about when I started reading. Another gift from Joanne, I merely trusted in her opinion and began reading. I'm rather glad I did. But if you'd like more info on the story, or you just want to read her review, it is here. She's got a lot of book reviews, and her taste is nothing less than exemplary.