This has been a bizarre couple of days.
Let's set the scene: It was raining. ("Finally," muttered many.) So instead of walking back up to the neighbours' house (where they let me hang out and use their internet) after fetching something from the grandparents', I drove my car. The wife then returns from errands. Then the husband goes for a drive. But he doesn't get very far. "Come out and look at the damage," he said. These are words you don't really want to hear (even "I'll pay for it" is a downer because the money is coming out of a friend's pocket) and it was kind of wrenching and stressful - also guilt on my part for parking where I did. If I'd pulled farther ahead, which I would have done if not for blah blah blah, nothing would have happened.
The passenger-side rear door came off its seals. It was raining, so we put a tarp over it and drove it down to the house here and put it in one of the barns. The husband instructed me to take the car (on the next nice day) to a particular auto body shop near Antigonish and obtain an estimate.
The next day wasn't really nice enough and upon calling I discovered the shop was closed for vacation that day anyway.
In the evening, a whole bunch of relatives arrived. It was good times, though if this becomes an extended stay I think we're going to have to learn to pace ourselves!
First, Andrew (always really good at finding things to get into ;-) and Alex wanted to try shooting with the pellet gun. They had a bunch of neat-looking figurines of knights and whatnot that they'd gotten at a dollar store, probably from a production run of an aborted product. They also had a target sheet with a grid telling you how many inches left right up and/or down you need to go to be on target. (Apparently you can align your scope with it.)
My impressions: Shooting is hard! This was just a spring-loaded pellet gun, but it was surprisingly heavy and it was difficult to aim steadily. I was glad they let me try, but I'm not thinking that I missed my true calling in life. On the other hand, said Alex: "I should have been a sniper." No, I'm pretty sure he didn't mean like this guy.
Later, I was given the task of driving my aunt and uncle to the hospital, to visit my grandmother. As I was walking to their car, I realized it was a manual with a clutch and a stick. Well, I've driven tractors a bunch and my other uncle's car in PEI a few times...
I got it going, but I had to admit very early, "I don't drive a stick very often." (My mother owns a truck with a similar transmission, but she's never yet let anyone else drive it, AFAIK.) But I got them there and I got them back, and they were all praise and encouragement.
That night after the older adults left we watched an Aziz Ansari sketch. Holy ****, this guy has the goods! He strikes me as a bit of a nerd - in a good way: his material is original but his delivery is, I think, borrowing a lot from Chris Rock's. But that's good because I love Chris Rock, too. Anyway, he makes his talent for mimicry part of his act. I have to warn you: this guy is almost too funny. He is not only authentic; he has very very low boundaries, too (Andrew's girlfriend Nikki would murmur things like, "He went there."), but he hits his targets dead-on. I was laughing so much that I could hardly breathe.
My brain got rolling a lot. Most of the stuff I realized I couldn't possibly share here. Most of it probably applies to me more than you anyway. But one cool thing is that Andrew was talking about how I used to draw maps a lot, and Nikki expressed interest in seeing them. I remembered drawing something back in Płużnica when fellow program participant Ashley said "Dude, you seriously missed your calling." Andrew and Nikki expressed a similar idea, but this time I had an answer: Imagine I was really interested in heart valves. But I'm only interested in heart valves. I probably wouldn't make it through medical school to become a cardiac surgeon. And I didn't study cartography or urban planning. Should I have? Open question. But I did pick up a passion for computers and I think I have enough talent and maturity to make a pretty good run at it. I am not really super interested in visual design, though this might just be a cop-out. For example, I really loved laying out the buttons and boxes in Microsoft Visual Studio! Web pages I don't find to be as much fun. Well this is a paragraph that got lost and forgot its destination. Anyway, like I've said a thousand times, I'm thinking a lot. And compounding this is that people are opening up to me more than they did before. People trust and tell me more as I listen better and respect more.
This morning I slept in a little bit more than I was planning to and I called the auto body shop after it opened, instead of my original plan of actually being there when it opened. I got caught up in various other things (feeding the birds, taking requested pictures of the car because the cousins didn't get to see the damage the night before and I was leaving early, dropping by the hospital, putting air in the tires) and I ended up getting there even later than I said I'd be. (But I knew he was giving an estimate for another guy at the time I named, so I figured he'd be busy with that for at least a little while.)
The news wasn't good: The impact bent the door post, so we were looking at getting the car onto a frame machine or doing something funky with chains and pulleys. We were talking in terms of a couple of grand where I hoped it would be just a few hundred dollars. You might remember my accident with the Oldsmobile - in that case I had the entire door replaced with an identical junkyard donor for just a few hundred dollars. But it was pretty much just the door and it wasn't a really complicated job. Anyway, this was not going to be so easy.
If it was going to be a reasonable amount, I would have just left the car there and hitchhiked back. (I even wrote "Sherbrooke" in big letters on a page - a good many of the folks on the road, quiet as it is, are probably going here, and chances are they'd have seen me walking if they were from Sherbrooke. Nikki even sensed that I wanted to do it and instructed me to relate the experience if I did.) But it wasn't, so I got in the car again and started driving towards Sherbrooke. Then I figured I might as well do something positive since I was out all this way, so I turned around and headed towards Antigonish.
I was craving coffee, so I went to Tim Hortons and bought a breakfast sandwich and an iced coffee. Gosh, the parking lot there is very cramped. It would have been very easy to strike another car and make my life very much more complicated indeed.
Coffee in cupholder, I hit the open road again. It was a very pleasant drive both ways - I didn't need the non-functioning air conditioning (blowing regular air sufficed) and I could set the cruise to 80 and just bob along. (If the cruise on this car were the type that uses engine braking to curb your speed a bit when you go downhill, I'd have set it to 90 or at least closer. I think most newer cars do - my grandfather's car does and the ride is much less bouncy, so with his I do set it to 90.)
I'll miss the big car ride.
I wasn't expecting to, but I got home in time to join my cousins in tubing down the river. The recent rain made the river high enough for this to be possible. This was quite an adventure! We had inner tubes intended for tractor tires, obtained in what is reputedly very much a specialty store. Andrew and Nikki inflated them at the gas station (air is free in Sherbrooke!). Then the aunts and uncle dropped us off up the river. The sun was hot, but sometimes it went behind a cloud. (I still got a bit cooked. Should have gone back to my room for sunscreen!) The water cooled us off a lot, except for Alex who had a wetsuit. I spent a lot of energy trying to keep oriented so I could see where I was going - at least when I was on my back. On my belly I had more control but it was harder to straighten myself out to avoid smacking the rocks (one in particular taught me the gist of the Klingon Mating Ritual).
The aunts and uncle took pictures and video from bridges and lookoffs along the way - they were also careful to advise us to stay "right" at the falls. It took us forever to get to them - I kept getting stuck in dead parts of the river and my cousins waited for me periodically. But when we got there, it was exhilarating - I made it through with just a rub on my right elbow.
I tried, but wasn't able to, have this exchange at the falls:
"We're supposed to stay left at the falls?"
"Right, we stay left. Thanks."
I guess the world isn't any poorer for that not having happened.
We came ashore near Andrew and Alex's aunt's house - I came ashore a bit farther downstream but more directly in front of the house than they did; I spotted a clearing in the trees and a gap in the grass, and there I found a path up into the cemetery. The house is basically on the street side of the cemetery.
At the house, there were cold Buds waiting for us. "This is the best summer ever!" I thought. Is it? Well, it was pretty good just then.
Tonight we're going to wait for Stuart and then probably visit my grandmother again before we head to Andy's for an informal gathering for his friend Mike, who is enjoying his birthday today. I am going to see if we can all go in the Cadillac, even with the banged up door. I've never rode with six people in it, but I have with five (around this time, for instance), and that was a good experience. It'll be fine down there overnight... as long as it doesn't rain!
Okay, I might have a hard time getting this one by TBTB. We'll see.
Composed Friday morning.
It's raining again.
What we ended up doing was taking the Cadillac to the hospital and back and then Alex drove me and my beers in his parents' car down to Andy's. Then he left and then everyone arrived several hours later after Stuart and his girlfriend Eva made it down here. (They got to play Mario Party 2 while waiting for them.) I missed that, but I hope they enjoyed it. For my part, I found myself giving play-by-play over a foosball match between Andy and Mike.
At one point in the evening, I found myself alone in the studio watching Under the Sea in 3-D. It was kind of hyperreal - the depth adds information, but it doesn't look natural to the eyes like something real in front of you does. One problem of sorts is that you have to choose which part of the image to focus on - you can't take in everything at once. In that way it is a little bit like real life, I suppose. If I continue on this line of thought, though, I think I'm going to get nauseated just scanning my bedroom.
One takeaway from the movie - there is a world of colour and activity in the oceans. But it's fragile. I think we need to dial down the anthropogenic contributions to climate change and ocean acidification. If we think we're more advanced than other animals, one great way we could show it is by limiting our impact so as not to drive many others extinct unnecessarily. We're like a toddler learning how not to break his toys.
Other animals have more immediate limits on the resources they can use up because they have competitors and predators. They achieve a sort of détente - a dynamic equilibrium. But we can go pretty much planet-wide. I suspect the only brake we have is our brains. We'd darn well better employ them.
I wonder what we'll do today. I think we forgot to order the meals that we usually get on Fridays. I suppose it's just as well since it's not clear how many will be around for dinner anyway. I'll mention it to my grandfather when he gets back.
Our grandmother came home for the afternoon and we're preparing dinner and watching the Olympic Opening Ceremony.
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Les uniformes des États-Unis a eu un certain je ne sais quoi, mais je peux dire les bérets étaient absolument stellaire!
(I totally loved that.)
Turns out there's still a chance to repair the car. There's another fellow who believes it can be done more cheaply, and he can do everything but repaint it. So we'll go that route. The insanity had gone as far as checking out a beautiful gray Mazda 3 five door, but it was a bit of a sticker shock and it needed a bit of work - it made sounds you don't really want to hear a car make. Andrew came along for the test drive and he had good eyes and ears. It was a few moments of excitement for sure, but it was not to be.
Paul McCartney is probably still in Olympic Stadium leading the crowd in the coda of Hey Jude. "Okay, everyone on the Moon!" "I like what I hear! One more time, everybody on the Moon!" "Okay, all the parrots in the pet shops!"
In the late evening we played Pass the Pigs, an interesting greed-based game. It's the kind of game that you stand a chance at if you play aggressively or conservatively. I play conservatively; it works well enough for Pass the Pigs (I won), but it's not very good for poker, which I can say from experience, though Andrew made the comparisons: if you're playing poker conservatively all the time, it's easy for your opponents to figure out what kind of hand you have. If you're aggressive all the time, nobody can read your hand from your behaviour.
In the late late evening, we all hung around the cottage and talked. It was pretty cool. Good food for thought. And since this is getting crazy long, let's cut it off here.