Day 2 came and went, and still, news crept into my life. This time, the old fashioned way, by word of mouth.
Half of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, they say, is to be sold off to the highest bidder. This most recent September, a guide led us through that strange, parched, changing landscape for 10 hours, from high perches above dry river beds, through a slot canyon, and past centuries-old petroglyphs. During that time, we went four hours without seeing another person. As we entered the slot canyon, we came across someone lost, and later, a party of four trekking the other way.
My good friend Alfonse sent me a sound remedy, to soften the silence. WXPN, a university radio station in Philadelphia, PA, US of A, is playing the songs of the seventies from A to Z. For your enjoyment, I place here the link. After nine days, they’re up to the letter M.
It’s a disappearing natural world and if you pay too much attention, you’ll draw some grim conclusions. I subscribe to a daily email from ScienceDaily which gets me the latest science news. Sometimes it’s sparks the day’s writing, and sometimes…
“Dahl’s toad-headed turtle threatened by fragmented habitat, shrinking forests.”
“Tigers cling to survival in Sumatra’s increasingly fragmented forests.”
“Fish exposed to treated wastewater have altered behavior.”
Technically, the numbering should be backwards, but that’s incalculable. After a TV-free day, fell asleep and slept the night through. I would have slept later, but, per usual, the dog woke me as soon as the first light of day crept through the curtains.
As you know or don’t know, I haven’t been sleeping well for months, wondering if we are experiencing something like what Europeans did in the 1930s, a rising anxiety as a dark veil descends upon our civilization.
Since the start of the year, I’d scaled back my media intake, mostly news, and that worked for awhile. But it wasn’t enough. So yesterday, after determining that sleeping was more important than being well-informed, I began not watching TV (except an episode from series 3 of Broadchurch which is unavoidable). I gave up my morning NPR fix while scrambling the eggs. I ran from the room when my soulmate turned on cable news. I even skipped my daily dose of sportscenter.
No TV. No NPR. No evening news. No Facebook or Twitter feed. I turned off all the notifications my phone gets except actual phone calls. Now before me lies the daunting task of getting accustomed to the sound of thoughts that are my own.
One other thing, all media intake at this point must be by intent, not by beep, ding, flash, or habit, and must serve the purpose of reminding me that people can work together, expand knowledge, and solve problems. So last night, before episode six of series 3, Broadchurch – have I mentioned that it’s excellent – watched the documentary, The Farthest: Voyager in Space. It did the job. For now.
“One day, young man, Philadelphia Pants will be yours.” Of course, I ran it into the ground, foolishly expanding into custom-made bandanas, of all things. If only I’d listened…
We made pants. Good pants that fit well. Philadelphia Pants closed in 1989, after the ill-fated bandana venture which, if I’m to be completely honest, was just one in a series of my missteps. All that remains is this Philadelphia Pants, the one with the dot com. And though I don’t have an assembly line at my disposal, skilled tailors, seamstresses, and pressers, I can do with it what I please. Except make pants. I’m not going to make pants.
Today, a photo. This is Little Pete’s, an institution for 40 years at 17th and Locust in Philadelphia, which closed this spring. It was, they say, beloved. I ate there once, the day of this photo, unaware of its reputation and its…
Thanks so much for coming ahead of the storm. It’s only a category three; I don’t know why they even bother to call it a hurricane.
When you first enter the house, be certain to ignore our darling dog, Schatzi, who has a multiple personality disorder. He’s suitably medicated, but, if disturbed will most certainly engage in antics that some find unsettling given his mammoth size.
As I told Big Al on the phone, the upright piano in the dining room needs to be moved into one of three upstairs rooms. I refer, of course, to the Steinway, not the Baldwin, which is an inferior instrument and scheduled for destruction early next week. The demolition team may have already rigged it with explosives, so please stay away from it.
The first and best option for the Steinway upright – please do not move the Steinway grand – is the bedroom in the southwest corner of the west wing of the second floor. You must take precise measurements of the hallway before you start. Of immediate concern is the sharp left zig-zag leading to the small second staircase. Remove the handrail but under no circumstances are you to destroy it – nothing should be destroyed unless you receive instructions from me to the contrary. Once you’ve navigated the piano through the west wing stairs, hallways, and turns, place it along the south wall. As always, before moving the piano, check inside for dead animals.
Should this location prove inaccessible, try the north tower. Again: measure, measure, measure. You may use my husband Derek’s surveying instruments so long as you wipe your fingerprints from them when you return them to cold storage. He doesn’t like it when people handle his tools, but what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.
Some movers have had difficulties with the round stairway leading to the north tower – it was only recently that the Louis XIV Armoire was at long last extricated. It was so… cathartic splintering it with an axe. Of course, Derek wanted to blow it up, but for safety reasons, we ignite explosives only outdoors. However, I do have every confidence in your abilities.
If needed, you may construct and install a suitable winch which should be removed when you complete your task. Place the piano in the exact center of the tower facing west so that my daughter Ezmerine can play her mournful little concertos at sunset, her only real joy. If you see Ezmerine, please do not comment on or make notice of her nudity. Though she is a free spirit, she is very prickly on the subject.
Now that I think about it, the tower really is the first and best choice.
If you fail at options one or two, then, as a last resort, use the east by northeast drawing room. No explanation is needed here as I’m sure you will manage either of the first two options, especially the second, which is now to be considered first. However, if fail you do, at one or two, contact me on my fourth mobile phone. Big Al should have briefed you, but phone #1 is for my husband and family; #2 is for my agent, attorneys, and artisanal medication emergencies. #3 is for my current lover, Geoffrey, although Antoine and Gertie may still have that number. Just in case. It’s been so long since they’ve called. As you can imagine, I do so miss them. So, cell phone #4 only.
Anyway, it’s a small job and I expect you’ll finish in under an hour, well before the storm is at full force. The storm will almost certainly rouse Schatzi and you don’t want to be in the house when that happens. Help yourself to the special brownies as you leave. Should the access road to the house be under water due to the hurricane, Derek and I invite you to wait it out in your truck.
Editor’s Note: this is a continuation of story started two posts earlier about a reluctant detective. You may recall that the narrator observed a man chasing a woman down Eighteenth Street and out of a sense of either chivalry or boredom decided to intervene. There’s no connection to the most recent post, and no way to explain that entry’s appearance other than we’ve had some difficulty with the writer lately and he’s back on track now after we threatened to replace him with either a robot or a random word generator.
I’m standing there on Eighteenth in the shadows of the overhead building corridor, twisting the arm of a thug I happen to know who goes by the name of Thorn. I shove his face into the wall, just enough to let him know that he’s got some explaining to do.
“Thorn,” I say. “How’s things?”
“Not bad. Keeping busy,” he says.
“That kid of yours ever get straightened out?”
“Yeah. You wouldn’t believe it, but he’s applying to law school,” he says. “Thanks for asking.”
“Great. That’s great to hear. Why are you chasing the lady?” I ask.
“There’s no chase,” he says. “I’m just in a hurry.”
With my free arm, I increase the pressure on his face. It has to be uncomfortable, but he doesn’t make a sound. The red-headed woman is now nearly a block away. Even with her in those heels, I wouldn’t be able to catch her on foot. She looks back over her shoulder, stops for a moment, appraising the situation, then slows to a casual walk. She looks familiar, but then, everyone does at a distance.
Decision time: get some answers from the thug, or go after the woman and see if she has anything to say. There’s a third option. Keep the thug here long enough to let the woman get away, then get back to the business of finding some business.
I twist Thorn’s arm with a bit more pressure. “Still got nothing to say?”
This time he responds, “Unnnnh.” I’m getting through, but not fast enough. I think maybe the woman might be in a chattier mood.
“Have it your way,” I say. I pull a zip tie out of my pocket, untwist his arm and zip his wrists together behind his back. With another tie, I zip him to a street sign. Then with a third, I zip him at the ankles to the sign. That ought to keep him still.
“Good luck with things,” I say, waving goodbye.
“Yeah, you too, Py,” he says.
I unlock the door to the Flamm, grab my bicycle, a Rudge, and sling my leg over the seat and wheel off down Eighteenth in pursuit. My right pant leg, however, gets caught between the crank and the chain and in an instant the bike halts and I go over the handlebars landing hard on the cobbled street. I pick myself up to check for damage. A hole in the jacket and shirt at the elbow and a bloodied, skinned elbow showing through. The right pant leg torn at the cuff. Damn. I like this jacket.
I tuck the pant leg into the sock and start off again, a little more slowly.
There’s too much air in the house,” Lydia said. She took a deep breath and pinched her nose to hold the air in then all at once blew it out until her lungs were empty. Then she took long sniffling breaths until her lungs refilled, again pinching her nose then coughing the air out.
Archie looked up from his Sunday Times puzzle, which, after three solid evenings of work had little more than the top right corner completed. Sure, there were a few three-letter words scattered about – ego and fur – but the abundance of white space was beginning to agitate him. “I’m never going to finish another puzzle,” he said.
“Who are you kidding? You’ve never come close…,” she squeaked, and on the verge of passing out, took another massive inhale. “…to finishing even the Monday puzzle. Did you hear what I said about the air? There’s too much air.”
“Tourniquet!” Bob said, slapping his hand on the arm of his chair. “This changes everything.”
He glanced up at Lydia, who was holding her nose. Her face was getting red and a bead of sweat drizzled down one of her temples.
“Archie, honey,” she said, “I think I’m going to pass out.”
Her head pitched forward and Archie, quick as an ocelot, sprang from his chair and caught her an inch from the coffee table. He lay her down on the couch with her head on his lap and fanned her face with the Sunday Magazine.
She opened her eyes. “The air,” she started.
“I know. There’s too much of it. Why don’t I open a window to let some out.”
“Oh, would you?”
Archie stood and opened the window.
“I know, darling, I’ll close it in a minute before too much air gets out.”
She sighed, contented, and picked up his puzzle. “Twenty-seven across.,” she said. “Anemophobia. It fits.”