July 2017


Right now I am in Maine, and a tornado warning has just come and gone. This morning we played nine holes of golf at Bridgton Highlands, and I had some good shots until the second half of the game when I got tired and starting hitting shit shots. Then we got ice cream at the Long Lake Creamery, while it was raining. Their ice cream is from Giffords, which surprised me, even though I don’t know what Giffords is. I just assumed they churned their own stuff, since isn’t that the point of an ice cream shop?

We watched the boats come up to the dock behind the Village Tie Up, and P. told me his dad doesn’t like getting gas there because it’s a dollar more per gallon than regular gas -- “human gas?” I asked, meaning the gas that goes in cars -- so he fills up containers at the gas station and brings them home to pour into his boat.

Now I’m back at the house, eating popcorn while listening to the rain and falling asleep while writing an essay that may or may not amount to anything. I’ve been reading David Sedaris’ diaries, and he notes the price of chicken frequently. I wish I’d thought to do that but with the price of eggs. All I know is it used to be $1.19 a carton, chronically, and now it’s four dollars in some places.


Today I went to Tatte and wrote at the communal table. Five Eastern European tweens showed up and ordered amongst them three large shakshukas, and a multitude of breakfast sandwiches. Each of them also got a large latte, in a bowl and saucer. They also got open cups of water. They surrounded me at the table and kept bumping the table, and the liquids kept sloshing, and I was convinced it was only a matter of time until one of them spilled all over my laptop and apologized in a language I didn’t understand. They also kept exchanging cash back and forth, this one paying that one, that one paying another. I wondered: is latte math really that complicated?

I got my hair cut at a new place. My haircutter told me that she left home in Charlestown at age ten and moved to New Hampshire, and has been back and forth ever since. She now has a ten-year-old daughter of her own, whom she hopes will be able to get into Boston Latin. She is moving back here for good in October because she is now engaged to a firefighter who bought a four-bedroom house for them in Marshfield. She hopes Marshfield will gentrify in the years to come. “Look at Charlestown,” she said, effortlessly not pronouncing the R. “Growing up, I would be embarrassed to tell people I was from there. Yeah.” She nodded at me in the mirror as if to say, no joke. “Lots of drug, violence. I read a book that talked about all these people in Charlestown who just disappeared. My uncle disappeared. I was real young and I don’t remember it. But he disappeared. No body, no nothing. And now condos in Charlestown are going for a million.”

I got like two pounds of hair cut off. My head feels light and ready for summer now. I run my hand down my ponytail and it just runs right off.

Afterward I walked back home and nearly fainted from heat stroke. I wore a pullover and my rainboots because it was supposed to rain today, but instead it was sunny and muggy by the afternoon. I was so sweaty I even stopped in one of those souvenir shops on Charles Street that sells useless New England themed trinkets and feigned interest in a candle just to get a few minutes of air conditioning.

Back home, I did a YouTube butt and thigh workout. The video is titled “Best Butt & Thigh Workout -- At Home -- No Equipment” and features a self-ascribed “fitness model.” I like her because she kind of looks like Trisha from the original Bachelorette, and also because she has sort of a camel toe rather than a thigh gap, which to me suggests keeping it real / having some real joie de vivre if you are a self-ascribed fitness model. This is my second time doing the video, and I took fewer breaks than the first time. After the first time I could barely walk. We’ll see how this goes.

Now I’m cooking one pound of baby back ribs in the Instant Pot. Once the ribs are done steaming, I’ll paint them with sauce and pop them in the oven and make a cucumber tomato salad.


This morning I almost woke up to my first alarm, then my second, then lay in bed even after I woke up for the fifth time. Now I’m at the office desk, ready to write. But first I watched a dancing hot dog video on Snapchat. Now I really am ready to write.


Today I woke up at noon, and P. and I went to Goodwill. We’d been meaning to go for over a year, to drop off bags of clothes -- mostly mine -- that have been sitting under the desk in the bedroom since we moved in. I finally cleared out that space last weekend to create an office like environment where I can work while P. watches golf and naps in the living room. So the clothes got kicked out of the bedroom, and today we finally gave them away. I was saddened by the thought of all these memories getting thrown out, just like that, but I never wear the stuff.

We went to the Goodwill on Beacon Street, near Boston University. There isn’t parking for the store, so you have go around the back, to the alley, and knock loudly on the door. At first, not knowing this, we walked around to the front and went through the store to find someone who could open the door for us. Inside it was busy and smelled as you might expect. Clothes were everywhere, though all hung up nicely on racks. I’d expected bins and chaos. The clothes were all packed very tightly together on their black plastic hangers, and were sorted by color in rainbow progression, starting with magenta pink and red. There was a rack of women’s tops, with a sign that said “$4.99 ladies tops, unless otherwise marked.”

Used shoes perched on top of the racks. There was a pair of black winter wellies with a faux fur lining inside that didn’t even try to look new.

In the back, a woman told us we had to go back around to the alley and knock on the door from the outside. Then someone would let us in.

In the alley, there was an old Asian man, skinny, wearing a gray polyester performance shirt and a purple baseball cap. We’d seen him driving in, because he’d had to step aside for us to pass him. He was pulling a wheely cart with a beat up cardboard box and a black garbage bag lining it.

When we first walked around to the front of the store, he was fishing cans and bottles out of a trashcan. He’d brought a long wire hook that he used to fish them out. When we got back to the alley, he was retrieving cans and bottles from the dumpster. There was a sort of window on the side of the dumpster, which he leaned into. Very slowly, he’d fish out what he wanted from a bag, then take that bag and hang it on the side of the dumpster and move onto the next bag.

He glanced at me as we moved past him to bring our bags of clothes into Goodwill, and again after we’d gotten back into our car and were driving away. The alley was narrow where the dumpster was, and as we drove past him, his face was right outside my passenger window. He looked at me, and I felt so terrible inside. There is already so much guilt associated with going to Goodwill and realizing the degree of waste in my life. But it broke my heart to see this elderly man, not even begging for money but working for it. He was rooting through a dumpster for cans and bottles that would return a few cents at a time. A morning’s worth of touching trash, all for a few dollars at best.

I’d wanted to offer him a canvas bag that we were going to donate, thinking it might be useful to carry things. But P. said not to. I never know what to do in these situations. On the one hand, you don’t want to offend people or seem condescending. On the other hand, you want to do something, to make some gesture, to say, I see you. Our lives have little in common, and that is due entirely to chance and circumstance as opposed to any merit on my part, and I wish that were not the case.


Packtra wakes up at 4:30AM to get to clinic. She is 23 years old and puts extra sugar on top of her cannolis, because she can.


Walking past the Liberty Hotel, I saw two young guys loading a dozen old bar-stool seats onto the back of a small truck. The seats were the wooden kind, with a low back and a little bit of a brown cushion. The truck advertised a company that gets rid of junk for you: “1-800-9-JUNK-IT” was printed on the side, and underneath, “EVERYBODY HAS JUNK.” 

Fruit flies kept nibbling my right arm today while I was eating at home. Not my left arm; just the right. 


Yesterday P., Ph., and I played golf in Weymouth at the Weathervane golf course. It didn’t have a parking lot, just a gravel lot, and the golf shop and bathroom were little trailers. There was an abandoned clubhouse that they stopped building five years ago, so now it looks like a creepy dugout. All that being said, it was a surprisingly pretty and well-maintained course, and we had a lot of fun. Ph. and I had a bet at one hole that whoever hit farther from the pin would buy lunch, and that turned out to be him. So he took us to his favorite calzone place, in Hingham, where he grew up eating calzones. We all shared a large calzone and couldn’t finish it. I had two pieces of it and felt like death, it was so rich.

Afterward, P. and I went to Lowe’s and bought a plant, then to Michael’s where I got art supplies (canvas, easel, turpentine, brushes that broke on first use later that night), and then to the Target in Dorchester, which had been the initial destination all along.

We will never go back to the Target in Dorchester. In the parking lot, there was a sea of shopping carts all piled up, blocking the street. We looked at this like, “Who would leave this sort of mess?” until we tried to wheel past it to our car and realized the wheels of our cart had locked up. It was insane. All those carts had been abandoned there not by choice but out of necessity.

Today I met with a wiry biostatistician, HL. He is probably in his fifties, skinny. I liked him a lot. He talked very passionately about statistics. At one point he pulled out an SPSS instruction book and flipped through it, saying, “I never used this!” He had been given it for a course he was teaching many years ago. There was a CD in the back, still in its sleeve, which had never been opened. “I never used this!” he said again, then threw the book back on the shelf. Later, he pulled down another small textbook, with a yellow cover, and used one of the graphs and one of the tables to explain a concept to me. “But,” he said in conclusion, flipping to the front cover, “this book was written by this guy, so -- it is just his bias -- and I will leave it at that.” He tapped the name at the top of the cover dismissively. The name was: HL.

August 2017