Out There

Last night, I drove way south to take the kids to what I have come to think of as The Wall of Soccer - three straight hours of sitting around the lounge of the indoor facility while they do footskills and alternate practice hours. (I am soccer mom. Hear me roar.) As timing would have it, I needed to procure dinner on the fly so I dropped the kids at the place (conveniently tucked behind a seedy motel near the racetrack) and ventured out to gather food on the vast snowy wastlelands of exurbia. Some things I noticed:

1. That chain not-quite-fast-food soup and sandwich place that I have gift cards for is not really "close" to the soccer place in any real-space kind of way. It is only close by virtue of being also all the way out there and connected by major arterial roads.

2. Major arterial roads are all there are in parts of out there, because the blocks of land between them are either still empty, undeveloped deer habitat (less empty by the year) or are home to recently erected large mothership-type buildings surrounded by parking lots and landscaping.

3. This type of development patterns make for very dramatic driving on a gusty, super cold winter evening when the snow is all crystalline and powdery. The top layer of snow is picked up and thrown around by the wind, billows of snow cloud your car on the wide, dark road. Rivers of snow-wind cascade down the hillsides and form sudden drifts in the outer lanes. Sometimes the road is completely empty and you feel like you are driving alone across the tundra, then suddenly by some vagary of traffic signalling, you are surrounding by cars, most of them larger than yours and wanting, aggressively, to get to their exurban destination of choice faster than you are willing to drive with the dark and the glare and the wind and the drifts and the sneaky patches of ice.

4. I used to get all worked up about housing developments with names that are either un-ironically named for what the development has demolished -- "Deer Trail" gated community -- or  named for "natural" things that have nothing to do with where they are located --"Pine Woods" carved out of a stand of deciduous forest. That sort of thing. My new peeve is "urban" names for decidedly exurban situations. The big glass office block in the wilderness called "Metropolitan Plaza" is not metropolitan in any way whatsoever, nor is it a plaza, in the true sense of the word, evocative of foot traffic and open space within the mixed jumble of city life.

5. I have deep existential issues about participating in ex-urbanization. Aesthetically, environmentally, sociologically, and ultimately morally, I think this is a bad, bad way for humans to organize themselves. I feel this very, very strongly, and yet by the forces of culture, I spend more and more time out there, and isn't this sort of the way it happens for everyone? The leech, the drift, the encroach. I do not like this. I feel culpable and weak. And yet, there is that other part of me, that finds humans fascinating in all of their mixed up, messed-upness, and so I find this fascinating too. Here, I am drawn by parenthood into exploring this other landscape.

Reading: I said I was going to go home and read Looking for Alaska last night - no school reading on a Friday night. Instead, waiting for David to get home from post-rehearsal happy hour, I took in an episode and a half of Orange is the Black, which I want to devour whole. This is not reading, but it is damn effective storytelling.

Writing: Wha?

Dinner: There are eras in our lives that are defined by the restaurants we go to. Long ago, David and I had our first "our place" restaurant. It was Michael Michael. We were young and romantic and we thought we had more disposable income than we actually did. Several years later, in grief and then new parenthood, we were sustained by the homey comforts of the Inn on Coventry. We had a period when we regularly met friends for pizza night after our little girls went to dance class together. And so on. Now, suddenly I find myself in the era of that chain not-quite-fast-food soup and sandwich place that I used to sort of disdain. It started last spring when Z was getting physical therapy out there and has accelerated this fall. I still find its menu oddly overwhelming, the food only so-so, and the chain-y chainness of it unsettling to my sensibilities, but here we are.

Soundtrack: Driving home last night, listening to college radio (specifically the fine new wave/no wave/post punk show, Drinking Electricity on WCSB) I was awash with a kind of middle age nostalgia that is new to me. I actually thought, "I will never go to another new wave dance party." Then I thought, "There will never be another new wave dance party." I mean, there will be in the retro, nostalgia sense. People will peg their pants and wear shirts that slide off their shoulders and play new wave music (most of it overexposed and cliche), and they will dance. But the parties we used to have, then, in my youth, they will never, ever happen again. I know this sounds maudlin, but I don't mean it that way. It is an observation of fact. That era, along with all the others before this one, has passed from the earth. Huh.

Then this silly duet came on. (I'm trying to find the actual song, but the playlist isn't up yet, and searching the electro-tome of all knowledge hasn't yielded a satisfactory result. I hope to post later.) A guy and girl sang a refrain of "We are getting high," in bright, pop-y voices. The verses were about not needing drugs, just needing each other, but you wouldn't hear that unless you were listening.

After the second chorus of "We are getting high," O pipes up from the back seat.

"What?!" he exclaimed in disbelief. "They're getting high?! Who would write a song about doing drugs."

I explained that they weren't actually singing about doing drugs. They were singing about how being together makes them feel very, very happy. ... (You know, like drugs! ... Parenting fail.) So it's not a song about drugs, but well, actually, there are lots and lots of songs about doing drugs. (Sigh.)

Orson thought for a second and said, "So being together makes them so happy they are unconscious?"

"Well, uh ... That's not ..." Oh, nevermind.

Next time I'll tell you about the conversation we had about "Paint It Black," the drum part of which he is currently learning. Less druggy, but also complicated.

Random thing: More O-isms: He is currently mildly obsessed with the Marx Brothers. We watched an episode of the tween-boy comedy "Crash and Bernstein" they other evening, and after Crash, the ill-mannered but very sincere puppet, made a particularly deadpan ridiculous statement, O said, "He's Chico."

Sorry for no linkies, maybe I will add them later. Gotta run.