Of Meteors and Voting

12 August, 2016 | | 2 Comments

Last night was one of the great days of summer, with the chance to lie on the grass and watch stars shooting overhead, as the Perseids come streaking through our atmosphere, heating up and burning themselves out in a flaming blaze of glory as they crash.  The Human Tape Recorder and the Reigning Queen of Pink stayed up all night last night, on beach towels in the backyard, to watch one of natures great fireworks displays.  Around 1230, they woke me to join them.

I’ve always loved meteor showers, so I did as I was told, brought a blanket outside for a while, and stared up at the stars.  Within about 5 minutes, the score was Team Perseids 4, Team West Nile 3, and Team Zika was up to 7 with a hat trick.  Mosquitoes love me.  The girls were sad to see me go back inside, although that may just have been because I had been drawing fire from the flying vampiric plankton that flies around my back yard.  I itched my way back to my own bed and wished them well, but that’s not what I came to tell you about.

I came to talk about the draft election.

Are you on the fence about voting this November?  Let’s say you vote for Trump, and then let’s fast forward a few years into his administration with the current GOP platform.  (Go ahead, read it.  I’ll wait.)  Now, ask yourself these questions:

If your daughter wants an abortion, or worse, needs an abortion, and she can’t, legally, have one, how will you feel about having voted for a misogynist-in-chief? How will you look your daughter in the eye and tell her that you voted for this man knowing that he doesn’t believe she has the right to make decisions about her own body?

If your teen-aged child, maturing in this political environment, is conflicted about their sexuality and wonders about their possible attraction to their own gender, how will they ask you about it? Knowing that you voted for a party that holds hate in high regard, a party that has pledged to repeal laws allowing adults who love one another to marry, how will you look your child in the eye and tell them that you’re looking forward to their straight sibling’s wedding, but that you voted against their right to have one?  If your gay child should leave the nest to live with their same-sex soulmate, will you remind them that you’ve voted against their right to legally adopt your grandchildren?

When your Muslim friends ask about celebrating Eid in their public school and are laughed at, or worse, while walking past the Ten Commandments or the Christmas tree in the school office, how will you look them in the eye and tell them that you voted for a government that values “America’s Judeo-Christian heritage” more highly than America’s heritage of freedom? Will you remind your Hindu friends that you voted for a party that believes a good understanding of the Bible to be indispensable for the development of an educated citizenry?  Just the Bible, not the Koran, not the Talmud, not the Upanishads, or the Tao Te Ching.

When your neighbor asks you to attend their young son’s funeral, how will you look them in the eye and tell them that you voted for increased magazine capacities in automatic rifles?  That you voted for the right of anybody who hears the voice of god whispering in their ear to carry that gun anywhere they go, Linus with a 5.56-mm security blanket and a hundred rounds in the clip, a good guy with a gun until he saw that kid in the hoodie with his phone, wrong place, wrong time, his mom didn’t know he’d stopped taking his meds two weeks ago, our thoughts and prayers are with you?

When your neighbor asks you to attend a loved one’s funeral after they succumb to an anaphylactic allergic reaction because they ate something that wasn’t accurately labeled, how will you look them in the eye and explain that you voted for a party that has pledged to repeal federal mandates for food labeling?

When you look in the mirror in the morning, will you be able to look yourself in the eye knowing that you voted for a party that holds monochromatic monotheism in higher regard than modern medicine, a party that puts faith before fact, a party that will sideline science, social justice, and STEM schools because stem cell research might offend their narrow notion of God?

You don’t have to vote for Hillary Clinton.  I understand.  She’s a career politician, and she’s made the Faustian bargains that career politicians make.  She’s competent, she’s qualified, and she’s not cuddly and likable.  You don’t have to vote FOR anything.

Against, now – that’s another story.   When you go to the polls November 8th, don’t vote FOR anything.  Press the button that says Hillary Clinton.  You’re not really voting for her.  You’re casting your vote against.

Vote against misogyny.

Vote against racism.

The Trump campaign may flame out like a Perseid meteor long before November, a spectacular magnesium flare streaking across our political sky as millions stay up late to watch.  But it might not.

And if it doesn’t, and if in November you find yourself faced with the dilemma of decision, I urge you to cast your ballot for sanity and competence.   If it really bothers you, remind yourself that you’re not voting for Hillary Clinton.

You’re voting against hate.

 

 

 

 

 

A Homestead Weekend

31 July, 2016 | | No Comment

So there we were, once again on the open road, driving into a cloudbank from hell. The rains that we drove through that Thursday in June killed 20 people, destroying homes and families alike. The weather is capricious – many people were devastated, while the biggest impact to us was a cleaner car, proving that there is no justice to be found in this world.    It also resulted in a more full hotel, but we would only find that out later.

We were driving into the Homestead, which bills itself as the oldest resort in the country and has the provenance – and sense of antiquity – to back it up.  view2Celebrating 250 years in business this year, it boasts 15,000 acres of fields and forests, with activities ranging from wading and swimming pools to hot springs and warm springs where Thomas Jefferson used to “take the waters” for his health and welfare, from horseback riding and falconry to archery and skeet, from hiking the gorge to just sitting back on the veranda and watching the world go by.  Sitting, typing this from the veranda, I present my view.

I can easily imagine my friend Mark Twain sitting on this same veranda. Mind you, this particular building wasn’t completed until the 1920s, so he certainly didn’t, but he would have enjoyed it.

Thursday dinner was at their Casino restaurant, with a table that couldn’t stop moving.  While the table was loose from the base, and the base was not stable on the floor, we still knew it was actually the Reigning Queen of Pink causing our dinners to bounce – the table was rocking in rhythm. Any of the rest of us and it would have been rocking asymmetrically; with her at the helm, our dinners were executing a perfect sine wave.  The restaurant at the Casino (which turns out of be a word used in its original meaning, which has to do with indoor sports and has nothing, to my regret, to do with gambling) had a small army of staff milling about, which was odd because none of them seemed to be able to find our table.  I mean, the movement might have been throwing them off, but still.

fireworksAs the Homestead is celebrating 250 in business this year, they are setting off fireworks each Friday in the summer.  To further commemorate this 250th anniversary, they’re serving a different cake every day of the year, in the lobby with tea from 3-4pm.  Friday’s was lemon blueberry – most excellent! I can’t imagine more than about 100 ways to do cake; hats off to their chef.

Prom_King_and_QueenSpeaking of Anniversaries: allow me to digress a moment on the reason for the trip. My parents this June celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. The same month saw my mother turn 70 a few days later.  They are amazing!  (For those of you doing the math at home, yes, my father plays up the fact that she was a teen-aged bride.)

My father, having been a math major, added 50 with 70 and declared it a 120 celebration – and celebrate we did, with them and the Very Clever Aunt and Her Michael. We are, at least on my side, new to the “resort” scene. In this case, certainly, I could get used to this in a hurry.

Friday we were joined by the aforementioned Very Clever Aunt and Her Michael; dinner was at Jefferson’s.  There any number of amazing restaurants at the Homestead, plus four bars.  In point of fact, dinner was preceded by drinks with Kipling, who went out of his way to ensure that we had excellent seating and an excellent time.  Jefferson’s was a great dinner; I enjoyed braised lamb to die for with gnocchi and sage.  One of the funniest bits was actually a few hours before dinner; I got a call from the restaurant confirming our dinner reservations – they had meant to reach my father.  I decided that I might not be “the” Lang, but I was “a” Lang, and I was qualified to confirm our reservation.  The RQOP, who’s first name starts begins the alphabet, stepped out of the shadows and announced that no, SHE was “A. Lang,” by god.  I stood corrected, but I confirmed the reservations anyway.

nomsFollowing dinner and the fireworks, we retired to the Very Clever Grandparent’s room.  We had all been carefully instructed: “no presents.”  We decided that “no presents” didn’t count if the presents were consumable and stood a good chance of not leaving the grounds.

During the course of the trip, I posted a postcard or two – and found a wonder. I have always wanted to drop a letter into one of those old-fashioned “mail your letters here in this box on the wall” boxes; the old Cutler Mailing System letterboxes.   mailboxAs a former letter carrier, those things were cool – a blend of art and function, usually with old art-deco styling to them.  I doublechecked first, since many times you see them and they’re no longer being serviced or checked on, but the Homestead confirmed that theirs is still in use, and if you’re on the upper floor, you can still drop your letter in the upper box and it will slide into this one.

This town is small enough that the post office closes before noon on Saturday, and the Homestead doesn’t bother – so any mail that misses on Friday will go out Monday.  I am perhaps irrationally excited to have mailed things from a Cutler box.

The next day dawning bright and clear, we hiked the Cascades Gorge. That sounds simple, but it isn’t.  The reason it isn’t is named Brian La Fountain, who is the funniest, most well informed, most energetic, most passionate tour guide I have ever encountered. Number One Son, who does NOT want to go outside much, not only expounded on his appreciation for the hike, but gave Brian a hug – a rare compliment from a 16-yr-old boy.

falls2The hike itself was amazing. I shall include only a sample of the views, because if I posted all the pictures I took, this post would take more time to load than we took hiking the gorge.

Brian explained a dozen things in a dozen ways, and did so while keeping up a running patter of puns and jokes that jollied even my jaded children into enjoying themselves. He is a terrific guide; making sure people can hear him, making sure we understood the rules and their reasons. falls1I also noticed his quiet attention to the details that he didn’t talk about – he was very careful about counting the group, making sure that everyone was keeping up and doing OK with climbing over the wet bridges and steeper rocks, without making it at all obvious that he was doing so: The mark of a great guide is that you don’t see the attention he’s paying. He’s a great guide. He also has a gift for stand-up comedy to rival Leno.  He told us only one lie: He said he was 50 years old.  No one with his exuberance, good looks, and joy de vivre could be so old.

treeballsThe interesting views of nature are not limited to the gorge, however.  Right outside our door was a tree.  Well, a few dozen trees, really, but one of them stood out – most trees, growing as they do straight up and tall, have a somewhat phallic look to them anyway.  Very few have the balls to show for it, though.  (The Human Tape Recorder decided this one much be named Johnny One-Nut.)  The most embarrassing bit is that I took the picture, then sent it in a text to a good friend, female type.

BUMD:  Tree balls – bigger than I thought they’d be!
Her:  Wow that’s an interesting tree.  That protrusion looks quite phallic.
BUMD: Oh my god, I’m sending you deciduous dick pics. I’m so busted!

So, I’ve joined the ranks of the Bros who send dick pics.  I feel so basic!

indoor_poolIn addition to the amazing nature scenes, there are outdoor pools and spas and springs, plus there’s an indoor pool – in case it’s raining, or you’re just feeling indoorsy.  And when I say indoor pool, I mean This Is What I Want My Basement To Look Like.   Is that too much to ask?  This pool is larger than my house and would have made the Romans proud.  One of the best parts of swimming was seeing Her Michael’s tattoo: It says “#FFFFFF TRASH” – which is funny on a lot of levels, not least that it’s only supported by Netscape 5.0 these days.

We had a terrific time all around.  SOBUMD and I were instructed on our golf swings, the girls went horseback riding with FOBUMD, and the ladies took in the wonders of the Spa.  We all wound up in the outdoor pool (of course it has a bar, why do you ask?) at one point or another, complete with its massive water slides.  Canoeing, however, was cancelled due to the torrential rains that we’d driven through – a good call on the part of the Homestead.  There was a delightful dinner at a grill named after Sam Snead, who is famous in the golf world and called this town home.  linda_remingtonOn top of all that, I was very lucky and, with 5 minutes to spare, had the  chance to satisfy a life-long interest in falconry with Remington, the Harris Hawk.

Falconry is fascinating.  It turns out that while much falconry is in fact accomplished with falcons, much more is done with hawks here in the United States.  The Homestead has many birds and trainers; I was introduced to Linda – and Remington.  You need 2 and half years of training apprenticeship to receive a falconry license in the US.  Linda names some of her birds, such as Remington, after guns – because as far as the US fish and wildlife department is concerned, in her hands, that’s a lethal hunting weapon.  remington1This is somewhat incongruous considering that you need practically nothing to own an actual Remington.

Wearing the gauntlet, I had Remington land on my hand and then, with a slight flick of the wrist, sent her aloft again, on her way to the nearby roof.  Despite a wingspan of close to 3 feet, she weighs only slightly more than 2 pounds – and can fly through any opening wider than her chestplate.  Linda had her demonstrate this by standing us increasing close together and convincing her to fly between us – impressively nearly knocking my phone from my hand in the process.  I was wing-whacked a few times – it was an experience I’ve thought about for more than 40 years, and I was thrilled.

boyThat evening was the last, and as fitting of a final dinner at such a place and to commemorate such a 120 celebration, dinner was in the formal dining room.  If you’re picturing something from Downton Abby, you’re not too far wrong.  We dressed, we all dressed.  Even those of us who do not, as a rule, dress for dinner, dressed.

That’s right – the kids cleaned up.  Even Number One Son, who looks slightly like Kramer from Seinfeld in this picture.  Glamour seems to come more naturally to the girls.  girls I tend to wear business attire pretty much every weekday, so the whole business of getting dressed up wasn’t as traumatic for me as it was for Number One Son – he dressed for the ages, for one of the most formal events of his young life.  I dressed for a Tuesday.  Hardly seems fair, really.  Also, the Very Clever Aunt and Her Michael were not exempt from this!  While the caption over their heads states “Birds of North America,” they are from Baltimore, and so technically I think this is a picture of Orioles.jani_michael

The dinner was sumptuous, with live music, yummy wine, appetizers, and dancing – until SOBUMD took her first bite of her dinner and had an anaphylactic reaction to something in the sauce. She’s highly allergic to cinnamon, and while the staff didn’t think there was any in the dish, there must have been something close enough to it.  She had been looking forward to that plate since before we’d arrived, so not being able to eat it was killing her – unfortunately very nearly literally; it took me 20 minutes to get her back to the room, along with several hits from her emergency inhaler and enough Benadryl to stop a horse.  (She decided against the epi-pen only because that would have involved an ambulance ride to the nearest ER, and the Benadryl and inhalers were starting to kick in – along with not wanting to further complicate the evening.)   The rest of the crew was able to finish dinner (although the prime rib evidently got the better of Number One Son), and we all made it to our respective beds.  Luckily, we all woke in the morning as well.

backdoorI woke early and took a few pre-dawn pictures of the place for posterity, to compliment the pictures of the previous evenings.  The building is too large for any one picture; these only just begin to provide a sense of scale.  There are nearly 500 rooms, all of which were full while we were there – largely because The Greenbriar, firepitwhich is only a few dozen miles away, had flooded in the recent rains and sent a lot of its overflow to The Homestead.  Our building itself had taken some water, but nothing compared to the devastation around us.  The wet grounds provided morning fog for the sun to burn through, the kind that armature photographers love.

Eventually the sunrise did what it always does to such times, and it was time be under way, back to the open road, and home.  We returned to our lives feeling like Muggles, bereft of the magic words that had sustained us for the past days:  “Please charge this to room 7155.”   It turns out that doesn’t work at my local grocery store at all.  We also missed the whole concept of having cocktails served before going through for dinner.  mistysunriseThis is an inherently civilized thing to do.  If I could have brought the redoubtable Kipling home with us, I would have.

The after action report on the 120 celebration and the Homestead Weekend was best summed up in an email exchange between FOBUMD, who organized and funded the entire trip, and the rest of us.  A few days after we arrived home and became reacquainted with our more usual standard of living, he sent the entire party a note thanking us for celebrating with them.

For a change, I was speechless.  The English language doesn’t have a lot of good words to convey the sense of appreciation we felt, but I was reminded of FOBUMD’s description of an evening he spent, years ago, with his brother George. “A brother is someone who picks you up in the rain with little notice, takes you home, stays up past 2 am while you talk and finish all his Scotch, then drives you back to the airport in the morning and says ‘Great to see you’ – and means it!”

2dad_julesA father, to continue this example, is someone who celebrates a set of anniversaries and birthdays by taking the whole family to an amazing resort, coordinates specific activities for specific people, makes sure the logistics are so seamless as to be invisible, pays for it all, and then thanks US for coming – and means it.

He concluded that we have the best family in the world, a sentiment with which I wholeheartedly agree.  We’re looking forward to the 100th anniversary!

 

 

 

Ten Years

27 July, 2016 | | 2 Comments

If this blog had any formal education, it would be in 4th Grade and almost as smart as Donald Trump.

Ten years ago I opened the Big Ugly Man Doll for business.  I had no idea what I was doing, just that I was doing it.  For the record, SOBUMD dragged me into the digital age kicking and screaming all the way.  She did not simply encourage me to start blogging.   She set up the initial account, over at LiveJournal, sat me in front of the screen, and said, “Type.”

This is all her fault, and I’ve never truly thanked her for it.  Thank you, my love!

My First Post was as follows:

First Post!  w00t!  Somehow it’s less exciting when it’s my own journal. It’s like getting all worked up about being the first to write in the new diary, and then remembering that you live by yourself, in a tower, with only the howling wind to read your deathless prose. Not entirely unlike the sense of serenity and satisfaction you got from watching your digital wristwatch flip to the new year at midnight. (You knew that you could reset the time to watch it do that whenever you wanted, and that it was usually off by 2-3 minutes anyway, but it didn’t matter, did it? We were crazy then.)

So, welcome. You’re probably in the wrong place.  I am the Big Ugly Man Doll.  Stick around and I’ll tell you why.

We’ve come a long way in 10 years.  Road trips.  Pigs.  The ManFAQ, still one of my favorite bits, to be honest.  An entire year of weekly horoscopes – and wow, that was a beast!  Do you realize there are 12 of the damn things?  Every week?  And I have met people I would never otherwise have met – wonderful friends, fellow bloggers, some of whom I’ve met in person, some of whom I’m simply looking forward to meeting in person some day.  Amazing people and storytellers, sharing snippets of real life.   There have been a few passes at the end of the world (which, yes, predicted the rise of the Donald back in 2011), and countless musings.

It’s tapered off recently, not because I’m any less irritated at the state of the world – quite the opposite, in fact!  I simply find myself at the confluence of the rivers of Time, Inspiration, and Energy with decreasing frequency these days.  It will get better.  I’m sure I’ll grab the tail of that highly caffeinated tiger again, and you’ll all be forced once again to read my deathless prose over the roar of the howling wind in that tower.

I don’t think I ever mentioned this, but that bit in the last line, “You’re probably in the wrong place” – I stole that without shame or remorse from Steven Brust’s blog, the DreamCafe.  He’s changed the tagline now, but it’s still a great blog (and he is a great writer).

So thank you all, Dear Friends, Fond Relations, and Gentle Readers, for staying with me for the ride.  I shall remain BUMD, and I shall get back to writing more often.  Real Soon Now.  And for anyone who’s thinking, “oh no, thank you, BUMD” – trust me, thank SOBUMD.   I wouldn’t be here without her!

 

 

 

 

The Perils of Panopticonalism, and Why I Don’t Have It

11 June, 2016 | | 1 Comment

They all start like simple, innocent days, uncomplicated, routine.   And then BAM – your 13-yr-old is discussing her sexuality in the kitchen while you’re cooking, and you have to use your brain.  Parenting:  The most interesting roller coaster you’ll never get off of.  It’s not just the unexpected plunges, drops, and loops that really get you, either – it’s the sarcasm.

As evidence of this point, I present a conversation that took place the other day among The Reigning Queen of Pink, Number One Son, and myself.  It should be noted that at 13 years old, the RQOP does not so much question her sexuality as interrogate it.  I wouldn’t put her past waterboarding.  (It should also be noted that the below is transcribed with her express permission.)

RQOP:  “In gym today I was talking to my friend E_, who really goes by L_ but I already know someone called L_ so I call her E_, and we were all talking about our sexuality and I mentioned that I was probably bisexual but hadn’t really decided yet and E_ is bisexual and she told me that she wished that someone had told her this when she was thinking about her own sexuality and so she would tell me that if I ever wanted someone to talk to about it, I could talk to her, and I thought that was very nice of her so I gave her a hug.”

(Note:  E_ is *also* 13 years old.)

BUMD:  “That’s very nice of her, and it’s great that you can talk about these things with your friends.  While I think you know that you can also always talk about anything like that to me and Mom….”

RQOP, interrupting:  “Oh yes of course, that’s the best thing about you guys is that you don’t care about anything!”

(Note:  It’s possible that this side effect of our admittedly liberal and somewhat laissez faire parenting style was not exactly the impression we were aiming for.)

BUMD:  “Well, it’s not so much that we don’t care, as that however you grow up won’t affect how we love you or treat you or anything like that.”

RQOP:  “Yes, I know that’s what I meant – you don’t care about THAT.”

BUMD:  “Right.  OK, but what I wanted to say is that it while you can always talk to me about that kind of thing, it’s possible that I might lack the some of the perspective your friend might have.  I know it’s hard to believe, but I actually haven’t ever been a Bisexual Teen-aged Woman.  So it’s nice that you might have someone like E_ with whom you can talk things out, or … ”

RQOP, to Number One Son who was standing near:  “HOLY SHIT!  Did you hear that?  Dad just admitted he’s not omniscient!”

NOS:  “Holy shit.  Need to write this down.”

Now as every parent knows, The Assumption of Parental Omniscience (TAPO)™  is as important to successfully parenting kids over the course of 20 or 30 or 80 years as The Assumption of Papal Infallibility is to successfully managing a church for 2000ish years.  I certainly wasn’t going to let go of my TAPO™ without a fight.  The church didn’t forgive Galileo Galilei for thinking outside the box for close to 400 years; I figured there was historical precedent.  Besides, it’s an election year.

BUMD, in my best Richard Nixon voice:  “I said no such thing, I made no such admission!  My omniscience is not to be questioned.  What I lack is a certain perspective.  Being omniscient, I know everything, but I may not always perceive every point of view.  I lack onmi-perspective-ed-ness-ish.  I lack omniperispactity.  I lack…  I lack a word for what I’m saying.  What the hell word means that?”

NOS:  “Omniperspectieieieie….   Yeah.”

RQOP:  “Omperspec…  Yeah.”

We eventually settled on Panopticonalism, which is certainly close enough even if it doesn’t have that omniwonderful prefix that 266 popes and I have found so useful.  Having distracted the children down my lexicographical rabbit hole, I was able to exit the conversation with my TAPO™ intact.  Dinner was served, and my roller coaster flattened back out onto one of the smoother sides of the track for a while.

Perspective, perschmective.  At least I still have my TAPO!™

 

 

 

 

A Bavarian Weekend Story

26 May, 2016 | | No Comment

“I’ve lost the bride.”

There may be no words in the English language more terrifying, more fraught with angst than those. (Well, possibly a sign stating “Sorry out of coffee” in a diner window, but that’s a story for another time, and besides, they’re closed.)

Let’s look at these four words.

I’ve – It’s personal, and it’s past tense. This is something I did, something I have done and cannot undo.
Lost – The absence of a thing, the lack, with the understanding that it’s something I had at one point, but have no longer.
The Bride – Sheer. Unadulterated. Terror.

These are the words SOBUMD and I heard a high-heeled, gown-wrapped woman utter as we walked past her into the Bavarian Inn last weekend for our Anniversary. I, luckily, have never lost the bride. It’s been 25 years since we held hands and jumped over my sword, and while I haven’t misplaced her yet, we decided to get lost for the weekend to celebrate.

The Bavarian Inn, should you find yourself in Shepherdstown, WVa, has all the amenities you could want from a getaway spot: rooms for sleeping, fireplaces, rooms for formal eating, rooms for less formal eating, swimming pools, and a view of the great Potomac River that could inspire poetry, or at least that kind of “huh, wouldja lookit that” sigh that passes for poetry among most folk these days. There was even a decent-sized hedge pig just outside our balcony, rooting among the flowers and the hedge, having a grand old time.

Bavarian View

Potomac River

Since we were only there for an overnight, we decided to maximize our time and headed straight for the pool – despite the 50-degree weather and the on-again off-again drizzling blatter of the rain. It couldn’t really even be called rain, truly – a heavy cool mist that couldn’t make up its mind to piss down or just piss off and let the sun through. It certainly wasn’t going to prevent us from getting into the mostly heated pool, the infinity edge of which appeared to drop off as a sheer cliff face to the curving bend of the Potomac River, 200 feet or more below us.

The view was wonderful, the water was warmer than the air around us – albeit not by a wide margin, but warm enough to get in and float around. After all, this was our own private pool! I realized that it wasn’t really our own private pool, but it seemed that way since we had it all to ourselves. We paddled and splashed our way to the edge, enjoying the vertiginous sight of the mighty river below, pondering the story arc of the past 25 years and contemplating the arc of the next 25, dreaming of the stories we will write together.

Paddling around the pool at the Bavarian Inn recalled for me a different story, one told by David Niven in his autobiography “The Moon’s a Balloon.” He recounts a chilling tale of Bavarian skiing one day, years ago before modern ski equipment, and mentions that he “suddenly felt coldest where he should have felt warmest,” if you get his drift. He got down the mountain as best as he could, and went straight to his friends and the doctor at the lodge, concerned about frostbite in a place most men should NEVER be concerned about frostbite. The consensus was that he should warm the afflicted appendage in an alcohol solution, and so a (presumably inexpensive) brandy was poured for him in a (presumably large) brandy snifter – which he then carried gingerly into the men’s room. He stood in front of a urinal, his chilly willy dunked in the drink, thinking about the horrors of amputation and reconsidering his recreational hobbies, when a casual acquaintance entered the room and took up arms at the urinal next to his. He glanced over.

“My God! David, what are you doing?”

Being David Niven had its advantages. His immediate reply was, “Why, I’m pissing in a brandy snifter. I always do.”

So there I was, hand in hand with SOBUMD, watching the river flow under the trees playing hide and seek with the mists and the rain, when David Niven’s story came rushing back to me as a kind of satori of embarrassment. One of the downsides of having a very new bathing suit is that one could forget that this new one might happen to have a zipper.

No brandy snifters were required, but I was quite glad to have realized my condition before our reverie was interrupted by six basic bros, all of whom had brought their beers with them, and most of whom might have been muttering things about lost brides. None of them looked particularly put out, and so I have to assume the erstwhile groom was not among them. (If he was with them, I will assume the wedding hadn’t been entirely his idea.)

SOBUMD and I headed back to our fireplace and changed for dinner, which was sumptuous, as was breakfast the following morning. The weekend was topped off with a stop at a small Shepherdstown Bookstore that was large enough to hold the secret of a long and happy marriage:  There, among all the stories on the shelves, you can get lost together or separately – but tucked in between the poetry, the biographies, the fiction, and the cookbooks, there’s always something for everyone, and your story never ends.

Just don’t lose the bride!