the end of june

This is the 500th post in this journal. The frequency of posts varies wildly, but I’ve been writing for almost five years, since the first month of high school. It’s one of the more permanent things I’ve ever attempted. So here’s to another five years.

 
I woke this morning and it was July. I didn’t even see it coming.

Life’s a typical blur: the end of school is all packing and hauling futons, coupled with late nights partying followed by even later ones. And, somewhere in there, finals, but my schedule was actually far from onerous academically. And, thankfully, I finished with good marks, proving with some finality to myself that college isn’t going to be impossibly difficult at all (far from it).

 
From California I flew to the East Coast, to spend a day reconvening with Scott, whom I will see only for those few hours this year, and prepare for the family cruise to Bermuda. The cruise was reasonably lovely; Bermuda is stunning, and unlike too many touristy destinations isn’t impoverished. It’s actually incredibly pleasant. But, admittedly, overrun with tourists, which I find a little irritating when traveling. Of course, I must count myself among that number, but I like to get away from major populated areas and major tourist destinations when traveling. That’s nearly impossible on a cruise, since the entire enterprise is a mobile tourist destination. But no matter, it was still pleasant. And the family reasonably well-behaved, at that.

Perhaps the only interesting thing to note about the trip, beyond the jet-skiing to remote beaches and rented mopeds taken around the idyllic island, was a girl on the boat with us. A girl from, I think, Berks County, Pennsylvania, or some other relative rural destination in the Eastern half of that state. My cousins and sister met her, and found her strange. I didn’t really understand why, but I hadn’t spoken to her. We saw her dancing alone in the bar most nights. The final evening of the cruise my two male cousins and I were there, sitting smoking Cuban cigars, when she came up to us, asked if we’d like to dance. “Sure,” I said. No one else came with me, my enthusiasm apparently didn’t speak for the group’s. But I went and we danced, her in a sort of modified country line dance kind of a fashion and me in whatever way I thought felt least foolish. This lasted a long time. “If you request a slow song,” she said, “I’ll dance.” When I asked the DJ to play “something slow” I only found skepticism, though, and I helped nothing by suggesting 98 degrees (the first thing I could remember from middle school dances) when he asked for a suggestion. So no slow song, only hours of this strange kind of dancing. All of my cousins were in the bar by now, amusing themselves by either photographing me or having Jagerbombs at the bar with my uncle. Finally, the night almost over, the DJ comes through with Enrique Iglesias’s “Hero,” which was perfect. Not perfect enough to detract from the strangeness of this girl, though, which my cousins had been pretty accurate about. We talked about a lot of things, and when we left the bar after that song talked about many more things. About her cat, with hair that’s white and black, or her graduation party, or the time she was on the local TV news, or how she’s pretty handy with a discus. We talked about the constellations we could see from the aft deck of the ship, where we walked after the bar, and the beauty of long, straight, 8-mile stretches of country road. She talked about wanting to go into dentistry, because she loves teeth. But there were some things that threw me. She described the girl who beat out her sister as the star of the track team as “a coon,” which caused me a moment’s pause trying to figure out if I had heard her right. “That girl was a beast,” she said. Yes, I think I heard her right. Around this point I gave up the pursuit of actually wanting to do anything with her, I really just wanted to go to bed. Three hours in and nothing was going anywhere, plus she’s sort of racist, apparently, and in many ways maybe a bit unworldly. It took a while longer to call it a night. But eventually we did, and as expected nothing came of it. I saw her the next morning as we were leaving the boat, spoke to her some. She was gracious. We hugged goodbye. And that was that.

 
After the cruise I was back at the shore in New Jersey for almost a week. Rachel came down, we spent a very pleasant day swimming and biking and enjoying ourselves. Then we headed to Philadelphia, where we met Ron and spent another excellent afternoon eating lunch in the Terminal Market and wandering South Street and then Rittenhouse Square in the evening for gelato. I bought some pants at Urban Outfitters that I am particularly proud of. We watched Dandelion, an incredibly bleak movie that (in true Indie-film fashion) is somewhere in between Donny Darko and Napoleon Dynamite, except not funny at all. The cinematography is wonderful, though, even if it does have to stand in for the lackluster dialogue.

 
The next day, Friday, I flew home. Everything went smoothly. I arrived Friday evening and ate dinner with my father. It’s beautiful in Champaign; all the recent rain has rendered the terrain the most vivid green. The weather is perfect right now. After dinner I rode the scooter around the country block signing at the top of my lungs in elation. Anita came over, we went for a walk. Katie came over to drop off an invitation. I went to bed early.

Saturday I unpacked and got a haircut and went downtown with Sergei, then with him to Carle Park to meet Lucy. We went shopping, I looked unsuccessfully for a cheap suit jacket to wear to that night’s party. I returned home to eat dinner with my father and change, then went with Sergei to the party. It was wonderful: many old faces, and all faces I wanted to see badly. Plenty of people whom I haven’t seen (or in some cases spoken to) since the winter. It’s been a fast six months. We all stood around and played music and talked and made merry until the early hours of the morning. The birds chirped as I fell asleep on a couch with Katie. I awoke this morning and it was July. Katie gave me a ride home. I spoke to my father, who was just waking himself, and then went back to bed until the early afternoon. I woke to see him off as he left for Indianapolis, then wandered upstairs to write this.

It’s almost 4 o’clock. I should see if anyone wants to come over for dinner. I might make the artichokes in the fridge. The window’s open. I feel overwhelmingly good. There really is no substitute for home sometimes.

 
background: boards of canada “zoetrope” and sigur ros “()”

 
Several weeks ago I was feeling a longing for this same home, and wrote this:

land

there is no romance
in the newfound ubiquity of fast food
or in dwindling populations
on signs at city limits
or even in the old bed
of a much-loved pickup truck;
there is only loss disguised
as progress, or championed as
part of a simple, respectable life
that was always only myth.
But that gathering darkness
over a July field
knows much of these things,
and those who live under it
know much of this space
and how to worry not as
the crowds do, but as
only a cornfield can:
in words not spoken
but sung slowly, and silently
out of respect for the land
that bore us all.

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