Columns

2010.01.13 Let me tell you what I heard

on . Posted in By The Way

By DAVID GREEN

I was nearly drifting off to sleep Saturday evening at Border’s bookstore in Ann Arbor when a conversation caught my attention.

This column isn’t going to be easy. I  got one paragraph done and then I was off baking cornbread to serve as my wife’s birthday cake.

I made it with low-octane spelt flour. I know, it’s actually low gluten flour. I’ve wondered if my body has some aversion to gluten so I’m mostly going without it for a while. It’s surprising how much wheat is in my normal diet. 

OK, back to the story.

I don’t think I would have actually dozed off at the bookstore. I was on a hard bench with a book of poetry in my hands. Colleen was observing her birthday a day early and we were having one of our last two visits with Maddie before she departs for Thailand for overseas study.

She’s taking a six-week environmental science course in Thailand and Colleen and I have the worrying covered. She’s worried about Maddie during the course, when she’s snorkeling in the ocean and traveling by possibly unsafe boat and walking through scorpion infested sand in her sandals, etc.

I don’t know if there are scorpions in Thailand, but it’s not my worry. Her class is going to be a blast. My worry takes over after her class ends, when she spends time bumming around Thailand with a few soon-to-be friends and then bums around Viet Nam and Cambodia for a while and then flies to Jakarta to meet up with my brother, Tom, and then.…

Who knows? There’s talk of visiting Bali and then on to Europe. Once you’re over there, everything is relatively cheap.

I recently asked an old friend where he did his overseas study, knowing what his answer would be. Nobody did overseas study back then. 

I suppose we could have scrounged up the cash if we put our minds to it, but maybe not. I remember a once-a-week trip to the new restaurant marvel, Burger King, as somewhat of a luxury. Things have changed. We’re all much wealthier than we realize.

I’ve been gone again. The kitchen counter was completely hidden. We’re having a couple neighbor girls over for popsicles today and the kitchen needed cleaning. Colleen bought a simple popsicle maker for each of our kids and she probably knew Maddie’s would stay home. It’s not the sort of thing to take traveling. 

We need to get this popsicle visit completed so we can take down the Christmas tree. It’s still hanging by ropes and I’m not sure if the neighbors have ever seen a swinging tree.

At Borders, I wandered around the store until I noticed the poetry section, just beyond Gay and Lesbian Fiction. I spotted a book of poems called “Good Poems” selected by Garrison Keillor. I took it off the shelf and went to the bench.

I soon heard some people talking nearby. The conversation went silent and I figured they moved to another section of the store. Before long one of the people was talking again, and then he went silent.

Sorry, I was off having birthday bread with my wife and discussing eggs. Before starting a movie last week, I flipped through the channels and came across Julia Childs cooking eggs with a French chef. It was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen on television.

My wife offered to double her scrambled egg making for my benefit and we discussed fried vs. scrambled. I insisted that an egg is mixed in a bowl and scrambled in the pan, not scrambled in a bowl. Once it’s mixed and poured into the pan, it could be scrambled or left in a large circle. She said that last method is a fried egg, but I know she’s wrong. A fried egg simply goes from eggshell to pan.

I have to finish the story. These people in the bookstore were talking, then they went silent, then talking, then silent, etc., and I finally realized someone was walking around Borders while having a cell phone conversation. The other person was in Thailand, for all I know. 

I enjoyed several poems I was reading and here’s what I brought home—a few cheery words from Don Marquis: “Happiness is the interval between periods of unhappiness.”

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