i'm not here to make everyone feel good.

I've finally pointed my Squeezebox at my not inconsiderable collection of digitized music (most of it from CDs I own, actually, since I understand computers and therefore do not trust them). I'm currently listening to "Fade to Black", an ancient track from The Nields. They were faculty and staff at my private school, and so they and their music are deeply tied to a very intense and marvelous six or so years of my life. I'm also listening to Rabbit Songs, which came today as well. It's quiet and mellow, not good for work, but good for late at night at home. Hopefully I'll still like it in six months.

My Martin Backpacker arrived today, a day early. I love it--it's really cute, has a funky sound all its own, and is already okay to play and will be better when I get it professionally set up. It physically can't have the enormous sound of my large dreadnaught, but it's carefully made, so it has sustain and a certain banjo-ukelele-mandolin kind of quality to it. It should be great for traveling or toting around and practicing in awkward places or what have you. The case, perhaps inconveniently, looks an awful lot like a soft carrying case for a disassembled sniper rifle; I plan to actively and pre-emptively put it through any nearby X-ray machines when traveling, and smile pleasantly and show it to anyone who asks. Yay for useful new toys--most of the time it will live in my cubicle at work to help me chill out and think.

Fear is the cheapest room in the house.
I would like to see you living
In better conditions,

For your mother and my mother
Were friends.

I visited the most astonishing party on Friday night, accompanying an old friend and her sister. It was a bunch of folks from a certain private school, spanning the 18-25 or so age group. It was the sort of social group with whom I have always had a mutual avoidance, where clothes really matter and conversation is thin. Almost without exception in a group of thirty or forty people, the women wore black tops with plunging V-necks, some sort of colorful bottom item, and black shoes of some kind (my friend said they were nice; I will leave it to her judgement, but as a man I can really only say they were of various interesting designs). The men wore polo shirts, blue jeans, and nice-ish shoes.

We chatted a bit by the wall, people-watching and discussing the oddities of being there at all...the women competing for the boys, and with each other. I'd been looking into the eyes of the women, and they were real people, for moments at a time: I could see their spirits inside, and they were alive and interesting and engaged and themselves, when suddenly another person from the crowd would come over to talk to them, and the mask instantaneously covered whatever is brave and true and fiery inside them, before anyone could notice. It was a little sad.

My companion decided to ditch me for a few minutes (some friends you can do that with), suggesting I could flirt with the freshman girls. Lucky me.

But I decided to enjoy myself. There was one girl, in an orange skirt, sitting on the couch who I thought was kind of cute, and perhaps she wasn't like the rest. After all, her shirt was red, not black. (We'll call her "Sandy".) Since I had an idea about her, I thought it best to apply some reality to the idea. She was talking to a friend on the couch ("Candace"), and so, discarding some of my social elegance in the name of science, I pulled up a chair and attentively watched them talk.

Suddenly they notice me. "Oh!", says Candace. "Hello."

I choose one of my classic Litmus Test introductions. "Who are you?", I ask, looking them right in the eyes.

Candace flinches. Sandy's eyes widen a bit, but she holds firm and introduces them both. And then, in the nasal rising and falling tone one might use to condescend to a child or developmentally disabled person: "So, what's your name?".

Reality has been forcefully applied to my brain, and Sandy is no longer cute. But I finish what I start.

"I'm Chris. I'm a friend of Gertrude's sister, Hannah."

"Oh! Who's Gertrude?"

"Gertrude Jones? Blonde, wearing a green skirt with polka dots?"

Some chattering back and forth. Finally they sort of get a fix on who Gertrude is, though not my companion Hannah, and of course they've never seen me before and I'm not exactly going out of my way to help any of us feel comfortable. I begin to tire of the conversation, when Gertrude walks into the room. I point and say, "Her, over there." Gertrude sees me pointing at her and gives me a vaguely quizzical look.

"HER!", I say emphatically. "Her! She's a witch! WITCH!". Not shouting, really; just...emphatic.

Candace jerks back a full inch or three on the couch. Sandy keeps most of her composure, though I sense a kind of mini-seizure happening somewhere inside. "Oh, yes, of course, Gertrude!".

I excuse myself in my most gentlemanly manner--they all but sob with relief--and return to my wall. Hannah returns from wherever she had gone. Gertrude walks by.

"I am not a witch," she says matter-of-factly, thoroughly unfazed.

Some people keep such strange company.