I went to "sunset" tonight with Sherri. Kids were stand-up paddle boarding in the Indian River. Someone said that there are no alligators in the river. Hmm, they’re in its tributaries. It bothered me how far offshore the kids paddled, that they weren’t wearing life-jackets, that the sun was setting, and that there was no means of rescuing them if they got into trouble. The river is easily two miles wide here, and it is part of the Intracoastal Waterway. Even if there aren't alligators, there are speeding boats and non-lethal wildlife which could hit or up-end them.
I have a healthy respect for water, a distrust of people operating motorized boats, and I recognize that I am not a great swimmer. I had a windsurfer when I was in college. Cayuga Lake is warm enough in the fall to swim, so I would windsurf in the afternoons during my senior year. I never went far from shore because there was no means of rescuing me if the weather either made the lake dangerous or if I exceeded my skills to tack back to the dock. Cayuga Lake is about three miles wide at Aurora, NY, and it is hundreds of feet deep. I learned to windsurf on its sister Finger Lake, Seneca, which, like Cayuga, is more than 40 miles long, but Seneca is 600 feet deep in places. I learned to windsurf on Seneca Lake on a board with a hollow aluminum mast which would fill with water every time I dropped it. I learned the limits of my strength and skills, I learned the power of the wind, and I learned these lessons in the company of adults who both windsurfed with me and had a motorboat with which to rescue me. I wonder what the relatives of these girls would have done to rescue them from the Indian River tonight if the need arose. I bet the thought never occurred to them.
Others joined us for sunset. One, a woman from New Jersey, I had met previously. It was our third of fourth meeting and this time she asked me questions: where did I live, where was I born, what did I do, and finally, how old am I? "Well, how old do you think I am?" I countered. She and Sherri guessed that I am between 38 and 42. Thank you. Then the woman from New Jersey asked me how old I think she is. I said 73. Bingo. Hmm. Embarrassing? Maybe. I told her that I had been consistently underestimating peoples' ages so now I add five to 10 years. (The truth is that she looks 73 – the sun will do that.) I don't think she was very happy that I guessed her age, regardless of my explanation.
My second, third, and fourth awkward moments of the evening occurred with a Dutch couple from Michigan who joined us. Because the husband has a German name, I guessed that they were German. Wrong! Austrian? Wrong! Swiss? Wrong! Dutch. Right, the accent is less guttural: awkward moment number two. We went on to have a discussion about regional US accents. I told her my father still sounds like he's from Philly although he left at 18. She mentioned a couple from Attleboro, MA – the town adjacent to the one in which I worked for the last year – who have accents that other Americans in the park can't understand. I explained that accent to her: if a word ends in a vowel, add an "r" and pronounce it; it the word ends in an "r", drop it. Then, I made an apropos joke about Frisians (as the Dutch and Germans do), and she said her husband is from Frisia: awkward moment number three. However, she said that the first time she met her husband's family, she asked him to ask them either to speak English or proper Dutch because she couldn't understand a word they said. My fourth awkward moment occurred when I said that I only know how to say one thing in Dutch. I told her that it is swearing, but she pressed me to say it: “God verdomme het.” It means “God damn it.” She glared at me.
I'll probably be stoned at sunset tomorrow. Or, fed to the non-existent alligators. As an encore, I’ll ask a fat woman when the baby is due.
I've amassed 220 names in 110 companies for my postcard mailing. All of the first round of cards are either mailed or addressed and stamped waiting for the holidays to be over to be posted. The two ensuing cards arrived yesterday. Tomorrow, I'll begin addressing the second round to those who have already received the first. There's a limit to how many cards I can do at a time because my hand starts to cramp. I also have a spastic reaction to writing the number five, so that fucks me up, too. It's especially bad when I have to write two fives in a row. I have the same problem with the number 16 when I'm counting workout exercises: I seem to skip from 15 to 17 habitually and inexplicably. I like the number 16: it's not prime, it's the square of four, one can drive at 16, so what's not to like? I could understand if I skipped 17 because I don't like prime numbers, but that never happens. It drives me crazy: 14, 15, 17, 17, 18, 19, 20, stop.
The dogs are back on full-metal-jacket dog food and their poops are OK. Phew! Tonight I walked them on their 20 feet check cords and we actually did a mile without a complaint from either of them. On our return, a woman stopped me to ask about the dogs. She then told me that she is the recreation director, mentioned the five o’clock chili dinner next week, and that the tickets for it will be sold on Friday morning. Uh, no thanks. The woman is perhaps the most tanned, most wrinkled woman I have ever seen. Prunes would be jealous of her sun-damaged folds. What is wrong with these people? OK, they didn't have sunblock when they were kids, but it's been around for 40+ years. These are the same people who gave up smoking: not in the late Sixties when it was first proclaimed to be carcinogenic, but just yesterday post cancer diagnosis. They've had at least that amount of time to give up the sun. Don’t they think they'll ever get skin cancer? Do they think their wrinkles and spots are attractive? I wish I were a dermatologist: I could mint a fortune here just scraping, clipping, and biopsying. Oy.
I saw one of the maintenance guys this morning when I rode my bike up to the office to mail some postcards. Yesterday, his crew cut my yard and that of my dickhead neighbor. I asked him is his guys complained about dog shit in either yard. He said no, but they have in the past, confirming my thesis that passers-by use these side-by-side rental properties as dog wastelands. I told the man about the creepy-dickhead experience I had with my neighbor the other night. He told me to be vigilant.
Siobhan M. Knox
In May 2016, I bought a five ton, 25’ long Class C motorhome because I like to drive, I like to travel, and it’s more fun and less expensive than living in a hotel. No prior RV experience was required, and I had none: perfect. I’m writing a book about my adventures which will come to an end when I get a job. The dogs will be sad.