Monday, April 27, 2009

Quiet mid-life crescendo

Long Island tales continued:

Friday, April 24, 2009

7 p.m.

We pretty much head straight to Brandon's place after we leave SUNY Stony Brook. A few people I recognized from his presentation are already there, and his advisors show up pretty soon after we did.

The house's flavor is much the same as many occupied by students all over the world. Postered rastafarians guard the rooms and holiday lights dangle in the corners and windows. The floors creak and the periodic table of the elements graces the shower curtain. Signs of post-grad bohemian fidgetyness are here and there in the piles of certain-looking shells and books shelved in certain orders and weird things filling ashtrays with a seeming purpose.

There are something like 150 beers on ice in tubs around the yard and wine and tequila in the kitchen. Someone puts on some music by a harpist that also sings; it sounds like Tori Amos but slightly less pained and also thinly Celtic.

Soon there are a dozen or so grad students and post-doctorates all letting loose in the twilight and drinking some pretty respectable home brew created by one of Brandon's roommates, herself a marine biologist with a penchant for surfing the Long Island sound and collecting turtles and putting them in the main living area of the house to be fed and cooed at.

A cake with a picture of a tufted capuchin on it is revealed and cut and more wine flows and I'm getting buzzed and it's too dark to figure the camera out. After the cake many people leave and the rest move outside where I cook some fake meat and some real meat on the grill and I hear tales of the tough surf that shows up in these parts sometimes. I used to surf, and I surfed in hard surf, and I want to surf on Long Island now and I wonder if it's like riding a bike and you never forget.

Mom and Sierra get a ride back to the hotel and so now I'm in it for real. It's my birthday and so I'm feeling good about that. It's pretty cold after the grilling is done and there's a fire pit-thing with chairs and we sit around it and talk about the music and the beer and theoretical physics. I'm about six beers in and I try to take on a post-grad physics student with my layman's understanding of quantum physics. He's real quiet and respectable as I point at the air and imagine that I'm being deep. Fortunately I'm not too far gone to realize the hole I'm digging and so I explain that I just turned 40 today and also I'm here because Brandon just did his thesis today and I'm on vacation and I drank one too many probably and everything is apparently cool and I made a bigger deal out of it than I think and I realize it's nothing and I've done far, far worse and I have a habit of feeling guilty at this stage of drinking no matter what I have actually done which is one reason I don't drink as much these days.

I go to bed in a strange bed; its regular occupant is in Mexico and I listen to Stars of the Lid on my phone through the speakers because I don't have headphones and I wonder if I will have a hangover when I have to get up in like six hours.


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