Living in the country seems exactly the right thing to do right now. A couple of acres on a half-grass, half-wooded lot on some high ground in a town called Greenfield Center, about six miles northwest of Saratoga Springs in upstate New York: We found the ideal house at an ideal price at an ideal time for me to get quiet.
These first few days have been a wonder, even as I get used to the reality that far less traffic on the road in front of the new house than where I lived on Long Island does not mean that the pickups and cars that come barreling by aren't going about 15 miles above the 45 mph speed limit. Country roads, open and inviting, are meant to be traveled at high rates of speed. There's a lot of ground to cover up here, and freedom means going fast. But as fast and loud as the roar of a truck strikes up, it's just as soon gone. And it's back to quiet.
Trees rustling. The high, green branches up in the blue sky: That was the first thing I noticed. You could hear the trees. Leafy chimes, like a constant flutter and dance. I found myself just looking up and wondering whether I had actually ever heard this before. Of course I HAVE heard trees rustling before, but that was the surprise here. It was as if it was new. A first time. And then the realization that this would be a constant part of the sound stream of living here. If nothing else ever happened, I could listen to the trees.
Fast trucks, tree branches in the wind, crows and jays and a few barred owls. The soundtrack started to fill up. ATVs in the woods from where the kids down the road were riding. Shotgun blasts in the early morning. Echoing through the trees. That distinct "pop" and the trail of sound. It's not hunting season, technically, but it's shooting season always.
That was outside, while inside, new sound effects to get used to from a door swelling in the afternoon sun and heat; the fridge humming; the sound of the water through the pipes under the floorboards as the outside hose is turned on. It was all like turning on the speaker of a new life and letting each piece of the orchestra take its warmup.
Then there are the new things to see: An apple tree near the garage with green fruit thick in the boughs, headed toward ripening in a month's time. Another apple tree in the rear of the yard, where the woods start. A stand of blueberry bushes that the birds have yet to lay waste to. Blueberries on the branches, many of them ripe or ripening from green to dark blue. More berries on the ground, fallen and uneaten.
The dog goes wild near the edge of the woods, where a few large ferns have been tamped down and seem to be showing the outline of deer. Their beds? The dog's frantic investigation seems to indicate the animals had been there. So, too, under the porch. She runs in and out of the plant beds, out of sight, hot on the trail of some fresh scent that must be radiating odor.
The hemlock in the tree stand is all but eaten away. Only a few tufts of evergreen leaves to show. A porcupine has eaten through the hemlock, rendering it naked and exposed to the sun and elements. The porcupine -- one day I bet I'll finally make its quill-fringed acquaintance -- but for now it owns the tree, which stripped almost naked doesn't look like it will ever come back to full life.
What other creatures are out here? Wild turkeys from our yard crossed the road before disappearing into the far woods. A few adults and a bunch of young birds, heading out together, who knows why. Frogs in the pool. Frogs in the pool filter basket. Little frogs that made a big mistake jumping into the pool and unable to leverage their way out. Nothing you can do. Every day the pool takes down a half dozen of these small amphibious creatures. They're kind of white-ish, but I can't tell if that's from the drowning or their natural hue.
The driveway and front yard offer up clues, too, about what's come by under cover or night, or when we're not looking. Now we're getting expert at examining scat. Scat! What a great word. You'd think it was fanciful but out here, it is necessary to use. There are many forms of this stuff to look at. Coyote? Fox? It's important to understand in order to protect the dog from becoming a juicy meal for one of these wild creatures.
A coyote got a woman last week on a bike path several miles away. The dog would be a piece of cake. So we're reading the scat. Preparing for whatever. Storing up tomato juice, for that inevitable meeting between dog and skunk at 11 p.m. when, hoping to get one last bit of business done before sleep, the dog will get hit and it's midnight in the sink. The white dog in a red bath. The acidity of the juice hopefully soaking up the acrid stink of that wild v. domestic meeting. This is the place where that all comes together as I step foot and plant feet in the country.
It is actually a strange relief to absolutely know what we are dealing with. There is no doubt about him. None. What he said in public that gave cover for the deplorable and dangerous racists among us is what he has been known to say in private, learned from his racist father who denied housing to blacks in New York City and from Roy Cohn, his amoral legal master. Now it is out. We are at bottom -- and before you say "there is no bottom with him" let me say I agree. He will go lower.
What IS different is that we don't need any more proof of his depravity -- even though I thought we had reached this nadir many times before. I think this is the definition of evil; the stuff you hear about in church and think it's a scare tactic. Nothing could be this dark or sinister. Nothing so ugly could snake its way into society, even though we have witnessed his gas-lighting and lies for decades, accelerated into the surreal spectacle of his sickening presidential campaign. How is he here? Maybe it is not to be the wrecking ball his voters drooled over, but to be the mirror we hold up, in order to see for ourselves, here in America, the despotic, evil force that can root itself and take hold. The question is: How far? How long?
My goal -- after the Nazi shock of Charlottesville -- is to beg off this violent suicide watch. Save the fresh round of outrage for anything but Trump. He is a failed human. The energy must now be to figure out what action to take. How to turn the collective will of those who now stand against him in totality into action -- and doing so not in fury but with the peace of mind that comes with KNOWING we were right and he is evil. I am open to suggestions -- from friends and leaders -- about the best way forward for peace-loving people who do not trade in hate.
My complete lack of understanding about how anyone could support this person, despite the complete & obvious evidence that he is exactly the racist thug that he has now shown, remains. We are not conditioned to believe evil really does exist. I know I haven't been. That has been MY privilege. But this cancer must be quarantined.
I think everyone who is resisting -- especially now, especially without any more equivocation -- will be part of the firewall against Trump. The Birther in Chief ran in order to open this dangerous door of racism and division. He ran to let the dogs among us bring us all into the gutter. Refusing him and refusing any legitimacy he claims is to walk out of the gutter, up the curb and up the steps. The higher we go, the clearer the view.
We don't need to argue with anyone anymore about him. It's over. Now, what do we do? I am looking for a clear and straight path up the stairs to the highest ground. I know THIS is the country we the people can reach. America IS the promise. He is the negation of promise. He is black hearted. He is evil. He is done.
Golf. Never before has a little, four-letter word betrayed such an enormous, black-hole-like time sucking endeavor as is golf.
I admit I once set aside my deep belief that elitist golf was a symbol of everything wrong with capitalism, free time, patriarchy and sportswear when, during a sportswriting trip to The Masters, I secretly but with some anguish admired the course at Augusta National, where every flower petal on the azaleas and every blade of grass on the putting greens look as if they were hand-placed there, like sesame seeds on the bun in a McDonald's commercial.
I admit I may have once rooted for Phil to win a major, or Tiger to make a comeback. But to play golf? Over and over and over again? I understand the first, heady tug of the allure, but then what?
In 1996, as part of the Seattle sportswriting contingent covering the Seattle Sonics in the NBA playoffs, I got an invite from some of the guys to go play golf. It was an off day between NBA games and the fellas had snagged a tee time at some big, fancy course in Houston. Having played golf maybe once before in my life -- a duffer's delight party prior to my brother's wedding in Peoria, Illinois -- I was truly the odd man out, mostly because I was the only woman and a truly novice golfer among a gaggle of guys who, while all possessing great humor and sense of adventure, really liked to play and were pretty good at it. But they asked me to come along, so I went.
I borrowed shoes an clubs from the pro shop, and laid it bare for the three guys in the foursome that I was more than prepared to pick up my ball and just ride along, once my truly horrific skills were on record. They nodded and proceeded to send me out to tee off first, since they were letting me use the forward tee box (ladies) while they waited in back. I took a practice swing or 8, and finally got my ball to stop teetering on the little head of the wood tee. I stood straight up, set my hips, let loose a good, high backswing and let 'er rip.
And what happened at that moment is the stuff of how delusions of golfing grandeur strike. It was instantaneous -- an almost otherworldly and out-of-body experience in which, for that instance, you get the feeling you have just achieved greatness and it's the kind of greatness that never, ever leaves you. My followthrough with the driver was a huge, loping arc; the kind of swing you'd see on the LPGA. It felt perfect, and from behind me, I could hear the guys let loose a few words of commendation. My ball was still lifting, lifting into the blue, Texas sky. It was the flight of a Golf Channel fairway drive. Time stood still. The white ball remained in orbit for what seemed like hours, days. In my mind, it's still flying right now, only that is not the reality of things, because, as my three sportswriting companions as my witnesses, my drive landed about 220 feet away. Like, right in the middle of the fairway. With a soft little bounce and roll before it stopped, shining there as if it was the moon. The biggest shot of my life. Bigger and longer than anything the fellas hit off that first tee, a feat for which they congratulated me and called me a sandbagger and generally made good sport of it ....
Until I tried to take the 5-iron to the approach shot on this par 4 hole. At which point the head of the club drilled itself into the grass, producing a leaden spray of dirt, topped with a tuft of private golf course fairway grass. The ball, I recall, may have gone backwards, or sliced severely about 7 feet, toward a sand trap.
What's the point of this story? The point is: I realized that the soaring sense of self-worth that came with the grand drive off the first tee was a false flag. It was a ruse. It was an aberration. I really sucked at golf. And I hated myself and the game for it. I knew I could find myriad other ways to kill four hours without having to put myself or anyone else through such a dispiriting and spirit-breaking task ever again. It made me fast realize:
Golf is a pursuit in which the pursuant -- in order to keep pursuing golf -- must have the following characteristics: 1) Too much time 2) Too much money 3) Too much self-esteem 4) A desire to escape reality for eternally long stretches of time 5) A willingness to stand around aimlessly for hours while other people try and impress them or not embarrass themselves 6) Have mastered the art of getting away with murder because how else do they account for being at the golf course for hours and hours during THE DAY and ...
I could go on, but I'll stop. Which is exactly what I wish Donald Trump would do.
I want him to stop being president, but since that won't happen until Bobby Mueller finishes the Big Dig of Russia et al, I just wish Trump would stop playing golf.
Likewise, I wish Obama had not played so much golf, even if Trump has played more golf in 7 months as *president than Obama did in the eight (short) years he was president. I wish that even this very week, we did not have to see pictures of Obama playing golf on Martha's Vineyard.
A president playing golf has come to represent not just a president playing golf, but a pissing match about who plays more golf? Who does more work? Who takes more vacations? Who is a bigger jerk? More divisive? More stupid or idiotic or weak or sad?
If we are lucky enough to get another presidential election, let alone another American president, I think part of my decision on who gets my vote will be based on whether or not the candidate does not play golf.
Golf is a private matter. It is an affliction as much as it is a pastime. Those who have the time or patience or cash to pursue it with the vigor that these past presidents have done so ... they are a little suspect in my book. In fact, why can't Trump just read a book? I know where he can find a good four hours. Then again, in his case, golf does keep him from starting WWIII. Or at least delay it.
Because we never learn, and because we seem to like buying houses, me and my spouse are currently in need of yet another bed. And this time, given the fact that the master bedroom in this cute house we bought near Saratoga Springs, N.Y. is actually a real master bedroom -- with an ensuite bathroom, Juliet balcony, skylight and room dimensions fitting real adults who are old and have worked (relatively) hard and deserve (maybe) a nice bedroom -- we can get a king bed.
We've never had a king-size bed before. Why? Because of the 8 or 9 houses we have owned (not all at once) three of them were in Seattle, where the housing stock consists of bungalows or small ranches on a plethora of in-city building lots of 5,000 square feet. This meant that, in at least two instances, our bedrooms required hugging the walls to get around the queen-size bed, which in one house meant when were laying in bed, we could look out over our lovely cement retaining wall. Tight quarters, but worth it!
Now, however, because we will be keeping two houses until one of us figures out how to RETIRE, we need to find bedroom furniture to outfit this lovely new room in the country where we will either love the quiet or come running down the hillside to the city and cry out on Broadway: What were we thinking? Until that happens, we need a bed. A nice, big but reasonably priced king-size bed.
So, I have taken up the cause and gone shopping online to see if I can find anything that 1) fits our aesthetic ideal and 2) fits our very modest budget. What this means is that we cannot, in good conscience, outfit this house with the same exact king-size bed that the current owners have so tantalizingly owned.
The Vermont Furniture Design cherry collection that they collected over their 30 years of inhabiting the home is, just, too much money given all the other expenses. Still, that sleigh bed just cries out to us, with its paneled headboard and footboard and wonderfully lovely mashup of Shaker/craftsman/mid-century design ... but I must resist! This sleigh bed, king size, runs upwards of $2,600.
This cold, hard reality has forced me to take up a relentless hunt through pages and pages of online shopping and home decor sites. I keep hoping I will strike gold; that somewhere in some forgotten collection on Houzz or Overstock.com, a lone leftover king-size cherry sleigh bed at a fraction of the cost will be lurking, waiting for some intrepid shopper such as myself to find it and proclaim: "OMG! I just found the cherry sleigh bed and it is a close-out on sale for $450!"
It's been weeks now. And ... so far ... nothing.
Well, scratch that. Not "nothing."
In what seems to be some kind of cruel and relentlessly unending joke, the Interwebs keep serving up NOTHING remotely like that lovely cherry sleigh bed for $450 but, instead, what I have been "treated" to is a rolling, brutal, tyrannical stream of bed frames and platforms that seem to be from the imagination of the Freddy Kruger film producers, or the warped sensibility of mass-market furniture manufacturers who went so far down the design rabbit hole that they've created beds for Martians or King Henry the 8ths wannabes.
Fresh horror after fresh horror, I realize that I have, by now, given up the Hunt For The Perfect & Aesthetically Stupendous Hand-Crafted, All-Natural Cherry Sleigh Bed and, instead, become completely fixated on just how so many god-forsaken beds are out there waiting to be bought!
For instance, this navy-blue tufted contraption, in which nowhere in the product description did it mention that it was straight out of a funeral home catalogue and well-suited for anyone seeking to get a sense of what it's like to sleep in a casket.
Or this boxy behemoth decked out in gold. This must be for couples who emulate the French monarchy. It's called Lavish Gold by Meridian, whose product description says this bed "is an impeccable example of truly memorable, opulent traditional design.'' Features are:
This mahogany masterpiece is a real show stopper. Or, maybe it's a door stopper. Or maybe it's alternative use is to sail across the Atlantic, back to Spain in the time of Columbus and the Moors. You can almost hear it creak with every stormy swell. Ahoy!
Or this magnificent red leather platform number. It looks like taffy and all I can think of are my knees screaming at me every time I try to elevate from this low-slung sleep aid. All I can see is Ronaldo or some other high-value European soccer star coming home to his high-priced Madrid condo to find his home decorator has decided this leather bunk is the best way to express the image of a sporty, sleek, millionaire playboy.
Now this thing, above, is called Vegas deco. Its wrought iron and appears to have two stags parading at the foot of the bed. Their heads are cocked to the side, averting each other's eyes. It is actually so mysterious a design that I think I would spend more time trying to figure out what those stags are doing, and why, than I would sleeping in that bed.
Then there's this one, above. A poster bed with decorative elements straight out of a spelunker's handbook. I call this "The Stalagmite" for the way the poster design appear to be a grotesque outcrop from the floor of a cave.
I could go on. And maybe I will add more beauties to this blog post. I have saved numerous other bad beds because after failing to find my natural cherry sleigh bed needle in a haystack, I became fascinated by the plethora of rustic charmers out there on the discount sites.
In one instance when I did a search for "natural wood king beds,'' this thing popped up. I think it's from The Beverly Hillbilly Collection, but I could be wrong.
Dear Sherman Alexie,
I did not read the last chapter or two of your memoir "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me" not because I am lazy or uncommitted to this book but, because in the chant-like way in which the essays and poems that make up this book reverberate and deliver the story of your mother, and you, I was really rather overtaken by the time, near the end of this book, that you forgave your mother, or, at least, forgave yourself for, rightfully, having to walk away from the reservation and her.
I really would hate to ruin this memoir for anyone who has yet to read it, because there is a "secret" told here. Actually, there are two. One involves your mother. The other, your oldest sister. I guess that is what strikes me the most, and made it OK to walk away before fully ingesting the final chapter or two, which I did skim and which you -- by obligation -- try and wrap this thing up. I think you had already done that, and done so in such an aching and heartbreaking and adoring fashion that you should be commended.
I know that since the book has come out, you have now stopped touring to promote it. I think it's a good call. You were suffering from the travel and having to visit with the ghost of your vexing mother. That''s what you cited as the need to halt the book tour. In reality though, there is no need to promote this book, or to bleed for it, or to enter into public space and make chitchat and take photos or listen to your adoring audience. Not that you don't deserve that adoration. You do.. You are a gift.
But the book, as you have delivered it, has been a difficult birth. Yet it breathes and cries and would stand for nothing except full care and attention. As I said, I won't spoil what it is you give to the world in this book. You gave yourself. You gave your mother. And you gave your oldest sister. You have an uncanny gift in this book as you have in all your others to know exactly how to use words in a way to create the compression of time and thought and memory and feeling.
Maybe your friend is right. You have Salish hiding behind your gifted English. I certainly can't fathom this gift. All I know is that you already did your part here. The book stands. Let it be. You did all the hard work in such a way that, reading it, I have no doubt. You did absolutely what you had to do. You are freer for it. And so are they.
I used to write politics, news and sports for newspapers in cities like Albany NY, Seattle, Baltimore and Harrisburg PA. Now I take a lot of Instagram photos, check Facebook, swim, read about T$$$p and cook dinner for people I really like. New York native, living in Port Washington and Greenfield Center (that's near Saratoga Springs FYI).