January 28, 2018
Nevada City, CA
Nevada City is a small town in the Sierra foothills. From many angles it is quaint and Victorian, but it’s also an old Gold Rush town, and its native inhabitants like to think of themselves as hearty, tough, pioneer-like. This reflects itself in habits
like leaving the windows wide open at night, even when it’s really cold.
When I woke up in the morning the bedroom I share with Tor—a Nevada County native/huge fan of open windows—was freezing, as usual. “Do you think this window could be open six inches instead of three feet? I like fresh air as much as the next guy but there are limits.” He shut the window an inch and handed me a hat.
I took a bath to warm up. In the tub I read a book sent to me by a friend, an academic. I am friends with a lot of academics. I don’t know if it’s because no one else likes me, or no one else likes them.
I read about 10 pages of the book. “How is it?” Tor asked. I said I had no idea.
Tor got a text from his cousin, A, who was driving through town on his way back to San Francisco from Tahoe and wanted to have breakfast with us. A makes a lot of money doing an actual real job, counting things. He is literally the only conservative person I have ever met whose company I enjoy, and what I mean by this is that he laughs at my jokes.
A’s sister (Tor’s cousin, E) lives in Grass Valley, the next town over, so she came to Nevada City for breakfast as well. E is also my close friend. She brought her son, N, who is four, and for whom we babysit a lot. Tor is a good babysitter, I am strictly average. I am prompt and responsible, and I like to go outside, but I suck at “playing.”
M also came along. M is Tor’s BFF, E’s ex, and my friend. (I encourage you to read more about M, a fascinating character, in my 2017 Awl series, The Guatemala Diaries).
Tor, A, E, M, N, and I went to Ike’s, a restaurant in Nevada City known for big portions and long waits. It is popular with the county’s two largest demographics—retirees and pot growers—and everyone else likes it too. E suggested that N sit between me and Tor. I wasn’t too excited about that. I mean, this is the child I probably know best and like best in the world, but he is still a child and children squirm around a lot and this makes me nervous.
N did indeed squirm but eventually stopped and became a warm, not unpleasant weight at my side. Tor and I were on a diet, so we split a plate of eggs, toast, and greens. I made Tor get two extra eggs, which he tried to object to, such complete bullshit because he would have tried to eat mine. N got pancakes and when they came, he ate them with his hands. I tried not to look. I wish kids were cute eaters, like dogs.
Our conversation covered a lot of subjects, Nebraska, tipping in Lyfts/Ubers, dinosaurs and education.
A said he never tipped in Ubers. “Do you tip your airplane pilot?” he asked. He thought this was a brilliant comparison.
“No,” I said, “But they make a living wage.”
“Then the Uber driver should have been an airline pilot,” he said, looking very pleased with himself.
I said, “I have no idea why I like you but you’re lucky I do because if I didn’t I would punch you in the face so hard right now.”
Next went to see M’s new office. M works for the county. There was a table in the hallway outside his office covered with pamphlets. They were all about Lyme disease. His work doesn’t have anything to do with Lyme disease, and no one else he works with ever does anything having to do with Lyme disease, so this seemed puzzling. “That’s the government for you,” M said. “‘Going to prison? Here’s a handy Lyme disease pamphlet!'”
E reminded me I was taking care of N for two days the following week. “Won’t that be exciting, little buddy?” I said to N, and he hid behind her legs and then I hid behind Tor’s legs.
In the afternoon Tor and I went canvassing in a suburban neighborhood for a friend of ours who is running for office. I didn’t talk, I just stood there with a clipboard. One lady was really nice to us. Another one was nice but spoke through a slit in the door because of the dog. “Are there any issues you’d like to discuss?” Tor asked her.
“Sure,” she said. “Can we talk about—life?”
We laughed but I think she kind of wanted to.
Another guy who had a dog like Merle, my dog, asked us what party our candidate was in. When we told him he handed us back our flier. “No thank you then,” he said.
“I can’t believe that guy owns a Blue Heeler,” I said. “It’s terrible!”
At the next house the woman who answered the door told us the guy who was running against our friend was “a really close family friend.” “So we’re pretty committed to voting for him,” she said. I wanted to ask her who her other “close family friends” were. Pirahnas? Jackals? But that would have been rude.
Back at the house, I took another bath and read the same ten pages of the book I’d not understood earlier. I started to understand, sort of. Tor made hamburgers and he and M played the video game Rainbow Six. Then Tor cleaned the house and I sat in bed watching Halt and Catch Fire until it was time to go to sleep. I should point out that I started watching at 5 p.m. and went on doing so until around 10 p.m. I have never loved a TV show this much in all my life. I feel that all of the characters are walking around with my heart inside of them. I don’t know why I feel this way—also, I only feel that way about Joe sometimes.
Tor joined me for the last episode of the evening. Donna, my favorite character, described how much she loved chat rooms, and how, developing them, she felt like for the first time in her life, she was doing the work she was meant to do. “Wow,” I said to Tor, genuinely moved. “Tech people have dreams just like everyone else.”
Tor snorted. “Don’t be ridiculous,” he said.