Thursday, July 08, 2010

Only mad dogs and Cvillains

When I was in college, I had a boyfriend whose cousin owned a tent company. It was called Buffalo Awning & Tent and the boyfriend worked for them during the summer. As a result, the boyfriend was somewhat obsessive about tents and tent construction and also viewed as personally insulting tents erected by their rival company. Indeed, whenever we were out, if the boyfriend happened to see a tent--perhaps a setup for a used car sale tent event or an impending wedding, we would have to make a detour to check it out--very often trespassing in the process-- and the boyfriend would educate me in tent lore. He was particularly keen to show me tents in which he had been involved in the construction, and if the tent belonged to the rival company, he was sure to find some evidence of shoddy tentcraft. There were a lot of tents in Buffalo, NY during the summer of 1988 and I inspected most of them. The tents bored me, of course, but American girls are trained to defer to their boyfriends, so I feigned an interest, or at least made only imaginary eye rolls. What I didn't realize was that I was getting an early education about married life, since "till death do us part" means long intimacy with one's spouse's obsessions, hence spending summers touring Civil War Battlefields, praising quilts made of faux silk neckties or otherwise pretending an enthusiasm for something that does not interest you. (Jon's current thing is carving walking sticks. Mine is complaining endlessly about my job.)

The other thing I gained from my experience with the tent-infatuated boyfriend is a knowledge of tent construction that is somewhat more than that of the layperson. I realized this the other night, sitting under a tent at a party. It was a magnificent tent, with a complex structure that I could fully appreciate thanks to the boyfriend.

We packed Drama Queen off to the Governor's School for a month. It's being held this summer at Radford University. Since then we've heard from her a few times and it seems she is having a great time, although has very little privacy since all students must be with at least two "buddies" at all times. She spends her mornings in art class and afternoons in interdisciplinary classes. They spend the weekends taking field trips, although where, I am not sure. The town of Radford, VA has very little to recommend it, or at least not much that I could see on a Sunday afternoon. Drama Queen did not want to eat in the cafeteria with the other families, so after driving aimlessly and making at least six U-turns, we found a McDonald's and carried a picnic lunch of fast food to a park on the New River, where we sat in the shade and watched people float past on inner tubes. The weather seemed agreeably cool, compared to Charlottesville although the clerk in McDonald's asked me how "miserable" it was out. I was pleased to be among people who understand that hot weather is a bad thing. Many C'villians seem unaware of the fact that temperatures above 90 are anathema and they can often be seen doing foolish things like playing baseball or running on hot afternoons. My father-in-law used to sing a little ditty that went, "Only mad dogs and ENGlishmen go out in the noonday sun." Add Charlottesvillians to the list.

Books: I recently read The Buccaneers by Edith Wharton. She died before it was finished and the story seems simpler than what I am used to from her, but overall a very satisfying book although I'm not sure about Marion Mainwaring's conclusion, tacked onto the final fifty pages. Whenever the unfinished work of a great author is completed after his or her death by another author, the result is disappointing. Why even bother? I think it's ultimately more satisfying to read the work unfinished and draw your own conclusions about how it might have ended. Now reading Cakes & Ale by W. Somerset Maugham, and Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome which I find oddly depressing, probably because it brings back memories of being lulled to sleep by the sound of water slapping the shore, and uninhibited sailing, rowing and swimming with very little adult supervision, experiences my own children are deprived of.

1 comment:

  1. This horrible weather has kept me from buying a bus pass this month. If I want to go somewhere, I'll drive. And I'm only going to one of the city pools or the nearest RedBox if I drive anywhere.

    I'm reading a lot this month.