We are in Maine for Labor Day Weekend, with my European friends M. and S., and their little ones. Nadia is only six weeks old, and Nevena is two years old and beautiful, very smart, very mischievous. They are only teaching her Chinese and German for now, by design (S. speaks to her only in Chinese, and M. only in German); eventually, she’ll pick up English and Spanish, too. She speaks Chinese with a German accent, which is endearing. S. speaks more fluent Chinese than I do, despite being Bulgarian, and M. told me that even his accent is better than mine (he took Chinese for a few years in college). Apparently I’ve been saying things wrong my whole life. I called my mom later to ask why she and my dad never corrected me, and she said, “We felt it was already good enough that you could speak at all. It would have been asking too much.”
Today it is raining, and it is supposed to rain for the rest of the afternoon. But before the rain started, we went to Five Fields Farm and picked a bag of Paula Reds, which Nevena very much enjoyed. She liked picking the bottom-most apples, which were at eye level for her. She also liked picking very small baby apples. It concerned her that there were dead apples on the ground that had been run over by a car. “Why?” she kept asking, in German -- “Wieso?”
Because a car had driven through, and it didn’t stop for the apples, M. explained. “Wieso?” she asked, as if it were beyond comprehension that a car would drive all the way out there to run over an innocent apple.
Yesterday, after breakfast, we took the whaler down to Harrison and docked at the Village Tie Up and got ice cream at the Long Lake Creamery. Everyone was in shock over the size of a “small” cone, which was half the size of Nevena’s face. Nevena ate my ice cream while she waited for hers and looked very serious as she did it, carving away at the side with a tiny spoon. Once her ice cream came, she was very careful not to share with anyone, although she did give me a small bite. We all sat by the water, and it was beautiful.
Before we left, I bought eggs and milk from the Tie Up, for pancakes and coffee, and then we started making our way back to the boat. Nevena was walking very slowly, taking a few steps and then stopping. I told M. I thought maybe she was peeing. He asked her in German if she was peeing, and she said no. Then he asked if she was pooping, and she hesitated, and with a rising voice he shouted something that ended with “--CACA?” and I knew it was bad.
M. was about to pull down her pants and change her right then and there, in front of the Village Tie-Up, where a picnic table full of people were eating their lunches. “Maybe not right here,” S. said, so M. said, Okay, I’ll do it on the dock.
At the end of the dock, they lay her down. She was kicking and screaming and crying at this point. They pulled off her pants and underwear right as a large boat carrying at least ten people floated past. I could smell the poop from downwind; it smelled terrible, like a bad beer poop. Max dipped the underwear in the water and worked out a turd with considerable heft. The underwear went into a large Ziploc bag that S. carried in her purse. M. turned Nevena around, and we saw that she had poop smeared all over her tiny white butt and the backs of her thighs. As she flailed and cried, Max lay himself down on the dock and dipped her bottom in the water, using one hand to hold her and the other hand to wash off the rest of the poop.
Next to us, the large boat had docked, and its passengers got off, trying not to look but also evidently very confused about what was going on with this beautiful blonde baby being dipped in the water and screaming in half German, half Chinese. Probably nothing that exotic has ever happened in Maine.
We just got back from New York City. The traffic to get to Brooklyn was ludicrous, and the drivers in New York City change lanes aggressively, like laminar flow that is borderline hysterical. The road we used to later get to A.’s was the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, or BQE, and it took an hour and a half to travel the distance of however long Long Island is. Early this morning, I had a dream that BQE is going to become a popular girl’s name, like Brooklyn. I thought of this while peeing and told P. after I climbed back into bed, but he was half asleep and unimpressed. Then I fell asleep again and had a dream about it. In the dream I was right.
Driving in traffic to Long Island, it struck me how much more diverse New York is than Boston, and how homogenous Boston is while pretending to be diverse. I hadn’t really noticed what was missing until I found it again in New York -- we drove next to trucks with Chinese names and characters printed on the sides, past Middle Eastern restaurants, past grime of every color. It was dirty but nice. New York City is a real city, a real American situation. By that I mean what America is idealized as being, by hopeful immigrants and by citizens with principles.
S. has started his own fund. He described its approach as “quantamental,” which basically means a combination of math and judgment. S. also says definitively that he is going to go to Mars, and that the best moon in the solar system is Saturn’s, where they have found evidence that life can be supported. I told him that he really needs to be thinking outside of the solar system, and cited wormholes and all that, and he replied that wormholes are not a certainty yet, whereas Mars is a certainty.
S. said he has a hard time functioning when his partner R. is not around (she is in Europe vacationing). “I can’t feed myself, I can’t dress myself…” He kept eating watermelon at the party, he ate so much watermelon, and then when he started to feel unwell, he was like, “…more watermelon.” He bought his six-year-old niece a copy of J.S. Mill’s Utilitarianism, and his three-year-old nephew a chess set.
At one point, A.’s four-year-old son, Asher, was running around with airplane arms and casually punched S. in the nuts. S. curled up in a ball on the floor, and Asher came up and said, “Sorry!” Later, he was running around more, and S. said, “Let’s see what happens if I trip him,” and then actually tripped him. Asher got up and ran away, and S. curled up in a ball on the floor again because he was laughing so hard. Asher ran back and said, “Sorry!” He bent forward to peer into S.’s face, genuinely concerned for him. When A. asked what had happened, Asher said very matter-of-factly, “He tripped me.” But still he seemed concerned.
Yesterday we went to Cider Hill Farm with L. and her boyfriend, J. J’s uncle owns the farm. It was legit. The apples were delicious, and they even had honeycrisp. J doesn’t smile much around us, but I think he must be a good guy. For every apple tree we passed, he said, “I think this is the kind for baking pies.”
This morning I pulled a yogurt out of the fridge and noticed it was 1.5% milk fat. I said to myself out loud, this is a high-calorie enterprise. I realize no one else cares, but still, I think it deserves to be said. I’m going to start referring to all my meals as enterprises. At some point today I have to go home to marinate a chicken drumsticks enterprise for tonight.