June 23, 2018
Nevada City, California
Last year my boyfriend Tor and I slept outside from June to October, and every night since summer began we’ve been meaning to move a mattress to the porch, but we just keep being too lazy. Friday (yesterday) we finally did it. We were motivated partly by the heat and partly by a visit from our roommate M’s sister, Alexis, who we wanted to let sleep in our room. Alexis grew up with Tor and obviously with M too, and she’s eight years younger than they are (and about 600 years younger than I am.) Tor and I call her Tiny Little Innocent Alexis. We have a song that goes with her nickname, which is just those words, sung over and over.
Needless to say, Alexis loves this song!
Our back porch is rickety and old but hopefully won’t collapse while we are asleep on it. Sleeping outside is good. I hate camping—I can’t put this strongly enough—but sleeping on a porch in comfort is good living. Sleeping inside, I usually wake up at 3 or 4 every night and lie awake, panicking about money, widespread government-sanctioned torture, and climate change. Outside, I tend to sleep straight through the night. And you know what, that’s what matters. My comfort, lol.
I woke to unpleasantly strong sunshine. I found my ripped old Uniqlo kimono at the foot of the mattress, dusty with porch dirt. I hung it up over the rafter. “Left,” Tor mumbled. “More left.” The sun somewhat blocked, we went back to sleep.
An hour or so later the sun made it above the kimono line and I got up and made coffee in a cone filter, but not with a fancy spout pour pot or anything. I generally make the coffee for both of us. In fact, I generally wait on Tor—shop, cook, etc.—because I enjoy it and have more free time but on those occasions when I have a terrible deadline or am extremely depressed Tor does everything and I sit around the house groaning and barking orders like Anthony Hopkins in Legends of the Fall. Recently Tor said that we should make our relationship less traditional gender-wise but when I pointed out that we didn’t have children so didn’t have to model ideal behavior he said I had a good point.
We had a plan to go to the Cherry Festival in North San Juan, a little town about 20 miles from here, near to the area called the Ridge, where Tor grew up. This year’s Cherry Festival had been the focus of some controversy, because a float that was supposed to be in the parade—by float I really just mean a bunch of people in the back of a pickup truck—wanted to fly the Confederate flag. The parade organizers expressed disapproval of the flag but were going to let them fly it anyway because of people’s rights blah blah total load of bullshit. But the day before the parade they reversed their opinion and forbid the flag. So I wanted to go in case anything bad happened and anyone needed help and also because the whole event just sounded kind of bizarre.
We brought Merle, my Blue Heeler. Merle is a popular dog. Her short snout and desperate gaze make her abnormally irresistible to humans. People see her on the street and just exclaim “Awwwwwww!” and sink to their knees to caress her stout warm body. She smells and licks them and they say “Oh, she likes me.” I shouldn’t have the heart to tell them that Merle only wants to see if they have food but sometimes I say it anyway because I believe people, especially Americans, need to know what’s actually going on, even with Merle.
The Cherry Parade’s short route—300 or so yards—goes along Route 49, past North San Juan’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it commercial district. This consists of a café, owned by my boyfriend’s old friend Mike, an old hotel now housing just a general store, a bar called the Brass Rail, and a pizza place. The Brass Rail is kind of a cool bar but it’s also kind of a good place to get in a fight with a biker. Down the road a little bit across the street is a gas station, the post office, and a garden store called Sweetland, also owned by an old friend of my boyfriend’s, who is also named Mike.
We were a little early so we headed to Mike I’s café. Tor went in to get coffee while I waited on the shaded patio with Merle, who was immediately set upon by children who patted her and exclaimed “Soft!” From down the road a piece came the sound of a car revving its engine and moments later I was sadly unsurprised to see a car chug by flying the Confederate flag in front and the Don’t Tread On Me flag in back. My boyfriend came out with the coffee, booing loudly. The car stopped for a second and he booed again. “Please don’t get killed,” I said, like the chicken I am. Mike I came out and shouted “No Nazis in front of my café!” The car drove away and in a minute it came back but it didn’t stop. It just kept moving. There were many loud boos, one distant cheer, a boo for the cheer, a cheer for the same boo, and the car motored west and out of sight.
The sun was very hot and the ground dusty. A man came out from his house to give Merle water. “We don’t want everyone to think that everyone in North San Juan is a criminal or a drug addict,” he said, and we laughed, although a lot of people do think that. I myself have thought it once or twice. We watched the parade in the combined shade of several large trees. The parade queen, a woman who had worked in the local schools for many years and wore a white dress and red lipstick, kicked it off, waving from the back seat of a large car. The fire department went through, and everyone cheered enthusiastically as they are revered in a place that regularly almost burns down and in fact the parade itself had started a little late because of a fire. The man in the passenger seat of the fire truck threw lollipops and the little kids who had lunged for Merle now turned their eager attention to these. Two women pedaled back and forth along the parade route on bicycles, carrying signs that said LOVE WINS. One of them was also carrying a dog that remained miraculously perched on her back fender rack. Mike II and his wife and children and employees went by on a float. The parade announcer said exclusivity instead of inclusivity, supposedly by accident. The Nazis didn’t come back. That was about it.
I gave Merle some of my latte. “If you drink out of that after she drank out of it I will throw up,” Tor said.
Back at home my boyfriend took a nap and I read Emily Nussbaum’s profile of Ryan Murphy in The New Yorker. I have never given Ryan Murphy a great deal of thought and I was truly blown away by what a fascinating person he is and how fucked up his childhood was. I could have read it 1000 times. I considered how Murphy probably wouldn’t have been such a genius if his dad wasn’t such a dick, and then took my own nap.
Generally my boyfriend spends Saturday nights preparing for his Sunday Dungeons and Dragons game. He sits at the dining room table with a big pile of books and figures out an adventure. If you told me when I was a kid that one day I would live with some guy that plays D&D I would have said “You have the wrong Sarah Miller.” I played D&D once and found it super boring but Tor likes it and Tor is the best so he can do whatever he wants. Plus apparently he is a very good Dungeon Master and even though I give him endless shit about D&D the truth is I am very proud of him.
M, Alexis and I left Tor alone with his wizards and whatnots and went to the river. I should have known that M would essentially make us walk down a dangerous cliff and was, with my little wedge heel slip ons, not super prepared. I almost wiped out once but I didn’t and I didn’t almost die like I usually do when I go anywhere outdoors with any of Tor’s friends, who, despite being otherwise fine people, have zero regard for their own personal safety or that of others.
This was my first time to the river this year and the water was amazing, the perfect comfortable but cool temperature. M went over a small waterfall and tried to get us to try it. Since I am just a simple person who enjoys the intact nature of my skull I refused. Floating is fun enough anyway. Alexis and I treaded water and talked about Men. I tried to be helpful, but ended on my usual note: “I don’t know what to tell you, Tiny Alexis. Good luck.”
Back at home, I made dinner—sautéed green cabbage and red cabbage and scrambled eggs. Tor, still working hard on D & D, sang the first few bars of The Stars and Stripes Forever, which meant that he wanted a drink. I made each of us a tequila on the rocks with a salt rim, not quite a double, but a hefty pour as it would be the only drink of the night.
Alexis, M and our friend Thomas drank beer on the front porch and debated going dancing at the gay club in Sacramento. “Do you guys want to come?” Thomas asked.
“Ha ha,” I said. “That’s a good one. I’m going to bed very soon.”
After dinner I watched the pilot episode of Ryan Murphy’s new show, POSE, on my computer. I cried at the end. Given a choice between crying and waterfalls, I choose crying.
Sarah Miller, Nevada City, California, Board Games