I worked yesterday, about which I felt good and productive. I stopped at a Vietnamese restaurant on the way home for pho and spring rolls. During lunch, I re-read in the book "Literary Feuds" about the "Two Cultures" controversy. Literary controversies interest me--particularly when both participants, once thought crucial chapters of the literary tradition, prove to be largely footnotes later. Then I took our dog Teddy for a walk in Glendover Park. The wind kicked up over thirty miles an hour as we walked home, facing it. Teddy's fur pulled back so that she no longer looked so much like a "puppy cut lhasa" but instead looked like the "large water rat" she resembles when we bathe her. High wind proved to be the only consequence to us of the storm down south. I was glad we did not try to go to Arkansas this weekend as originally planned, as the north Texas towns to our east, which would have been our path home, were affected by the tropical storm. "Tropical storm" and flat, inland, prairie-edged farm town Greenville, Texas do not really belong in the same sentence (unless Gilligan did in fact shipwreck in Nebraska), but we all made do. Absurdly, I think about the Tyler Rose Garden, about to head into full Autumn bloom, and hope the flowers made it all right. Sometimes such totem worries suffice as metaphors, I suppose, for real worries about people and animals and lives.
We went with my brother and his family to Posada's, a Mexican chain restaurant, to celebrate my brother's recent birthday. Although the menu contained many things tempting me to break my discipline about food, I found a tilapia with garlic dish that both pleased and qualified as reasonably healthy.
We went to their home to spend time together. My brother is rather a fan of late-model Cadillacs--as a hobby, he even runs a popular website about them. In their home, a huge new exhaust after-market part sat, pristine, waiting to be installed so that it might make his car growl and varoom. I remember, now that I think about it, attending dinner once with some magazine writers on a cruise (my wife had a freelance assignment to write up the cruise), and telling them that my favorite article by my wife was a scooter article that used the phrase "varoooom!". I felt a pang, when I thought of that, because these kind travel writers, far from appreciating the essential kitsch of the word,thought me, I fear, a bit tacky.
My brother's new after-market exhaust sparked a different wave of nostalgia in me. I'm not really a car guy--I love to drive, but the car itself is transportation, not transport. But seeing my brother's "Cadillac-approved" high-end device reminded me of my school days in Gurdon, Arkansas. Among car buffs at my high school, the
height of after-market car modifications was the cherry bomb muffler. This device made a car sound like a cross between a runaway mine train and a chainsaw, accompanied by a basso opera singer with anger management problems.
My wife and my brother spent the next several minutes in earnest concentration, solving a problem of designing the template used to mark the installation points on the car for the new part. Meanwhile, I talked to my sister in law, communed with their wonderful Chi mix dog Arnold, and took my eBay "new/used" mini-disk recorder up to my 13 year old nephew, to get him to help me figure out how to work it. I find that kids grow up with gadgets so much now, their intution is better than the manual. Kids also have the advantage that they do not require Adobe Reader 6.0 to understand.
Today my other nephew, who died year before last, would have turned 18. I thought about him yesterday, and about going to the movies with him two weeks before he died, the last time we spent time together. It was near Memorial Day, just after I ruined my white Ford Crown Victoria, just before I sold it in a glorious eBay sale in which my ad described its ruination in lurid detail. The rain fell on us with a cold chill, in huge, thick droplets, like a revelation. We laughed at how drenched we had gotten. I did not know his heart loomed on the verge of giving out. We spoke of his goals for the Summer. We laughed at the movie, oblivious to the future.
I drove my new car to the funeral.