As summer was ending, Asaph insisted that we go to the roof terrace of the American Museum of Natural History with some Israelis with kids who lived in our building. Access to this roof terrace was free of charge, and Asaph said that there was a fountain there that children could play in.
I researched this fountain on the internet. I found an article from 2000 in The New York Times:
Children are welcome to walk through it, to roll in its gently flowing watery carpet. They can jump through the four gushing water jets and dump buckets of water on one another's heads. Adults, too, can cool off by wading barefoot or even lying down and letting water flow around them.
This sounded like a perfect place for our children to acquire a waterborne pathogen.
I instructed our children for days before the visit.
"Do not drink the water; don't even put the water near your mouth," I said many times.
The morning of our visit, my stomach was full of dread. We met up with the couple and their two children: one child was our kids' age, the other was an infant. The female Israeli spoke English with a perfect American accent, despite having no American parentage. It was suspicious.
We arrived at the roof terrace. At first it looked fine: the water flowing on the ground was a shallow layer that it would be unlikely for our kids to scoop up and drink.
Then I saw that the water pooled at the far end of the terrace, and there were children -- many in diapers -- sitting and swimming in it. My heart sank.
Asaph and the Israelis insisted on putting a blanket down on a grass lawn where a sign clearly stated: no blankets on grass. I warned them but was ignored.
Asaph had brought balls for them to play with. But the balls naturally started rolling down the slight slope towards the baby-filled gutter. I ran to kick the ball back up the slope. I had to keep running around kicking the ball back away from the fecal trough. I looked like some kind of deranged soccer goalie.
"I am not upset at you, but I have to say that you look ridiculous," said Asaph to me.
I didn't care.
I kept running up and down like a maniac, kicking the ball up the slope while monitoring the children's hands to see if they were putting any water in their mouths. I saw an Upper West Side father put his naked baby's bottom directly over one of the water spouts, as if it were his own personal bidet. His wife snapped photos.
Then, it happened. Our daughter put her hand to her lips.
"That's it!" I screamed at Asaph. I was enraged.
"We are never going to [_________] again," I whispered.
We went back up to the blanket to eat some lunch. A guard came over to tell us that we couldn't put a blanket on the grass.
"See?" I screamed. "I am right about everything!"
The Israelis looked at me with genuine discomfort.
On the way home I noticed some suspicious writing on the sidewalk. It looked like handwritten Hebrew, but it didn't mean anything.
"I am really, really mad that you made us go there," I said when we got home.
Then I said something else to Asaph.
"I think I can confidently say that no person has ever uttered that sentence before," said Asaph.
We got a fancy new espresso machine at work.
The High Holidays approached.
We attended a Rosh HaShanah (ראש השנה) service at a nearby synagogue that was founded in 1939 by German-Jewish immigrants who fled Nazi persecution. The service was very short and relatively formal. A beautiful woman who looked like a model served as the cantor. I wasn't sure if the synagogue was affiliated with the Conservative or the Reform movement.
We walked home.
We had guests over for a festive meal. The kids played with the child of some quasi-Australians who lived in our building.
Our son developed a fever. We tried to take our daughter to the children's service at the synagogue with which we were affiliated.
It was always a nightmare, bringing the children anywhere.
As our paid childminder, Audra, did not have the day off, I just took a walk after the service.
I walked by what had once been part of an Episcopal seminary, in whose property I had once lived.
It had been sold to developers and was now a supposedly luxury hotel with an insipid name.
I peered into the seminary grounds. I had heard that the entire institution was falling apart, as liberal Christianity collapsed.
The building where I had lived had also been sold to developers for luxury apartments.
The seminary's main business was selling its assets to real estate developers.
The streets of Chelsea were still somewhat charming.
I walked by a church that had no congregants. It would soon be sold to developers.
I could no longer see much color or taste much flavor in this place.
We had another dinner that night.
Because of our son's fever, no children were in attendance.
There was a beautiful sunset over the Hudson and the income-segregated building that was being constructed near our window.
We went back the next day for more. I noticed something interesting.
I thought about the heavens.
We went to have brunch with the family of the stylish and swaggering Israeli (although he spoke English with an American accent owing to parentage) who wore designer clothes and designer sunglasses.
His son was already a so-called bad boy.
Our daughter was enamored.
It was a beautiful day.
I couldn't let the adults see me take photos, since they were orthodox.
Later something bad happened. I was upset. The bad thing ruined the memory of the lovely Jewish ritual of "casting off" (תשליך).
We took our kids the next day to a birthday party for an Israeli girl from our building. Her parents had given her new baby brother the same name as our son, without consulting us at all.
I admired the rules at the location of the party.
I was reminded of an ultra-orthodox religious political party in Israel.
The next day Asaph insisted that we drive in a rented car to New Jersey to engage in apple picking. I was skeptical, since our kids didn't even like apples. Also, it was such a pain to travel anywhere in a car with the kids.
It was actually a pain to travel anywhere with the kids using any form of transportation known to humankind.
The orchard was hot and crowded.
The sun was bright and strong and the air was still and stifling -- as in summer, but you could see the beginnings of the decay of autumn on the trees. It was the worst of both seasons.
I didn't want our kids touching anything.
The genetically engineered trees were so loaded with perfectly shaped apples that their branches sagged earthward and fallen apples littered the ground.
Some bad apples rotted on the vine. Or, the branch.
Some weren't ready yet.
We let our kids grab apples from the trees and put them in our bag. This abundance seemed artificial.
We then went to a baby shower for friends who were facing a terrible tragedy at the same time as a wonderful blessing.
Our kids played in the backyard.
We got home and realized that we hadn't fed the kids all day. Our daughter was very upset. She desperately screamed for couscous as we bathed her.
We gave her couscous while we arranged the genetically perfect decorative pumpkins we had bought at the orchard.
My morning commute remained easy, even though I was still spoiled and unappreciative.
I tried to stretch summer out as long as possible. I looked at flowers as much as I could.
I knew it was fruitless. As were the flowers.
An odd sign appeared in the way of my commute.
Strange things appeared in the restroom at my office.
We went out to Woodmere, Long Island, for the pilgrimage festival.
I showed our children the full moon, explaining that it was the middle of the month.
It was nice to hear the sounds of all the other people eating in their booths while we ate in ours.
Asaph decided that it was time to train the kids to use the toilet. I was skeptical.
We were to lock ourselves in the apartment over a long holiday weekend in honor of someone retroactively deemed a genocidal sociopath, even though I didn't agree with applying modern standards to persons from the past.
Asaph had purchased huge amounts of art supplies and prizes to help with the training.
We even made cookies.
I loved it when the kids were confined to the apartment and unable to contract viruses from anywhere.
I had to go to Barcelona, in Catalonia, for work. I left the children, knowing that they were not fully trained.
I boarded my flight.
I watched some movies.
It was good to be back, although I was immediately stuck in a cloudy traffic jam. I could have been in Budapest.
My room wasn't ready. I was exhausted. I had to drink cortado/tallat after cortado/tallat.
My bright-eyed colleage from Budapest and my boss, who had arrived days earlier, worked on the computers by the pool. I couldn't keep my eyes open.
I had to get up to examine the produce around the swimming pool.
It looked pretty good.
I wanted to lie down, desperately.
No one was swimming, since it wasn't quite warm enough.
I decided to go take a walk to buy some shoes. For the many years I was with Centfocs, I bought my work loafers in Barcelona every year during our inevitable visit. After our separation, I once bought a pair in Istanbul, "Turkey", but I had mostly had to revert to New York purchases. I was excited to take part in the old tradition.
The store wasn't where I had remembered. I kept walking around.
Despite all of the talk of Spain's decline, things looked pretty good.
I ended up walking much too far.
I finally found an outpost of the store I had been looking for. The clerks were cheerful as they rang me up.
I began the trek back to the hotel, which was located in the most touristy part of an already overly touristed city.
My room was ready.
There were two children who looked like fraternal twins playing below my window.
I missed the kids a little bit.
I turned on the television and went to sleep.
I went to meet my boss and my Budapest counterpart. There were separatist murmurings everywhere, owing to an upcoming unauthorized referendum.
Catalan nationalism was so nice and easy and inclusive, it was hard to think of a reason to oppose it. It was almost as if there never should have even been a debate on Catalan independence in the first place.
I met my boss and Hungarian analog for an awkward drink. "El compte, si us plau," I said.
I ate cashews for dinner.
I woke up early.
I ate a lot of breakfast, even though I had a suspicion that the hotel kitchen was contaminated with raw or partially treated sewage.
We began our sessions, in a windowless room that smelled of something bad.
The lunch was a sad attempt at molecular gastronomy. I went to the room to breathe.
The sessions resumed.
Our group went out to a dinner that was quite delicious. I had chosen the restaurant, based on my memory of my Catalan years.
I was installed at a table with observant Muslims, Jews, and Seventh-Day Adventists. Every plate of pork was passed my way. At one point a woman from Senegal poured a tiny drop of wine -- less than what would fit in an eyedropper -- into a glass and drank it, to indicate her liberated nature.
I saw a reminder of my dissolute anys catalans as I walked back to the hotel alone.
I had pretended to take a phone call as we were finishing our meal and gotten up and just never returned to my seat.
I had trouble sleeping.
I couldn't eat the lunch again.
We went on a tour of our Barcelona office.
The offices were in a decommissioned and deconsecrated church. There was still an altar, moved into a hallway.
During my Catalan years, with Centfocs, I had always joked that my employer should open a Barcelona office. It was a joke since the idea was inconceivable.
And now there was a Barcelona office, in an old church!
A small group went out to dinner, in a rooftop restaurant only for tourists.
The food wasn't good.
We had an extensive conversation about membrillo/codonyat with my Hungarian colleagues.
The sun was out the next day. Some fit and young Northern Europeans were taking advantage.
Our sessions continued, including one that I led. No one understood what I was saying: I could have been giving a presentation in French on a language made up for a science fiction film.
Later everyone else went on a touristic excursion; I couldn't stand the thought of being in a tour bus. I did some shopping for presents for the kids instead.
I passed a small door where unwanted infants used to be placed into a convent.
It wasn't a convent anymore, of course.
I walked around a bit more.
It was a lovely town, it was just too touristed.
I thought of my friend from high school who was involved in traffic safety in New York.
I made it back to the hotel. The smell of sewage was stronger and stronger in the lobby.
The others returned and we headed out for another dinner.
The food was good, but a little too fancy.
I rode with my boss to the airport the next morning. I bought a snack. I was disappointed by the name of my server.
I didn't feel like doing any more shopping.
I sat and watched the planes take off.
It was a nice airport of the kind that didn't exist in the United States. In the United States, there would have been hideous carpeting everywhere.
I read the news onboard.
Fall had arrived while I was away.
Asaph had purchased a stupid book.
I went down to see my doctor.
I cleaned out some old files and identified an image from my youth.
I couldn't recognize myself.
We headed to the Bronx Zoo with Asaph's visiting mother and stepfather.
There were so many animals our kids had only seen in illustrations.
Tigers are really beautiful, I thought. It was almost unbelievable.
Asaph's mother gave the kids something to eat, but they hadn't washed their hands.
I was vexed.
We rode on a ride.
It was kind of hard to see the animals.
It felt like we weren't in New York, at least.
Our daughter said that she was afraid of giraffes, because "they bite [her] head and feet".
She warmed up to them a bit.
We had some drama related to the kids using the public restroom. How I missed the days of diapers!
Asaph was taking me on a trip somewhere that required a passport. The children were staying behind with his parents, with help from our paid childminder, Audra.
We made an early-morning trip to the airport.
I found out where we were going.
I was happy that I had packed antibiotics.
The view as we landed was not what I had expected.
The logo of a popular beer was prominently affixed to the control tower of the airport. That was a disappointment.
We went outside the airport to where a car was waiting for us. I was wearing jeans, a sweatshirt, and a jacket. But the weather was tropical. I didn't remove any clothing, to spite everyone.
We rode along a highway for an hour or so, passing large resorts with gigantic, imposing, and extravagantly landscaped entrance-ways.
We weren't going to one of those. We were staying in an accommodation that had made important environmental improvements to its structure in order to minimize its impact on the environment.
I noticed that Mexicans liked speed bumps.
There were police everywhere.
The state was Quintana Roo.
Joan Didion had named her daughter that.
Her daughter had died, possibly from alcoholism.
As we got closer, we stopped at a grocery store to buy some things for our room.
I had never heard of this grocery store before.
We finally arrived at our accommodation on the beach. Some beautiful and thin American women who were both friendly and bitchy (yoga was offered at the hotel) checked us in.
I was happy with our view.
And there were separate beds! I was thrilled.
I eyed the water provided our room with some trepidation. There were signs asking us to avoid purchasing water in plastic bottles, owing to the environmental impact.
I agreed, in theory. But we were in Mexico!
I thought about how weird it was to be in this location.
I consulted the maps on my phone.
I had never imagined coming here.
It was a nice thing for Asaph to have done.
We accidentally had dinner in an Argentinian restaurant, where Asaph couldn't eat anything.
Because of the time zone change and the time change, we were awake for the five o'clock sunrise.
It was great to lounge in bed, by myself, without having to worry about the kids, or Asaph.
After a breakfast of eggs and what the Mexicans called tortillas, I climbed up to the top of a water tower for a view.
Asaph had planned a full day for us. We took a taxi to a place where a company was going to take us on a few tours of various sites.
The company was run by two middle-aged men who looked like brothers, or lovers. One was from Spain -- Valencia -- and the other from Uruguay. I told the Valencian that I had just been to Barcelona, and he said that he had spoken the Valencian language, which was just a variety of Catalan, at home. I told the Uruguayan that I was friends with someone who was good friends with the then-US ambassador to Uruguay, Julissa Reynoso.
There were sleepy Mexican dogs everywhere.
We were led off on our excursion by a young and chubby Mayan man in a very dusty car. The first thing that we were going to do was to travel across a lake via aerial ropeslide.
It seemed like undignified cultural influence from Costa Rica.
I wasn't a big fan of attractions designed to stimulate the secretion of epinephrine.
We took a couple of turns, and then I just sat and waited for Asaph to do it a few more times. I felt like a moron as the Mayans watched us in superior silence.
There were no other tourists that day.
We were then allowed to paddle about the water in a canoe.
We were then taken to an open cenote, or a sinkhole resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposed groundwater underneath.
We swam around for a while. If you stayed still, fish started to nibble at your feet.
"They are piraña," said our young and chubby Mayan guide.
He then drove us to another cenote that was not open, but deep underground. I was kind of nervous.
"Don't you feel like you are in an episode of [an American cable television series that starred the actors Jeffrey Donovan, Gabrielle Anwar, Bruce Campbell, Sharon Gless, and Coby Bell]?" I asked Asaph.
We arrived at the cenote.
"What do those signs mean?" I asked the young and chubby Mayan.
"Those trees are poisonous. Don't touch them."
We were given underwater flashlights. It was beautiful, but very quickly he led us into another cave that was more claustrophobic. He pointed out a fruit bat sleeping above. I had read that fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family were natural Ebola virus hosts.
A large spider was pointed out.
Ah, I thought. I tried to focus on my breath.
We moved into another smaller cave, having to duck down under the rock to get in. Even though I had traveled through the 533 meter Siloam tunnel deep underground in Jerusalem, in a site run by the right-wing Jewish settler Ir David Foundation, without panicking, I was starting to get a bit worried.
The young and chubby Mayan led us into another cave. For this one we had to go completely underwater to enter.
"So, are you guys brothers, or cousins, or friends?" asked the young and chubby Mayan, to me, in Spanish.
"We are neither brothers, nor cousins, nor friends," I answered, in Spanish.
Thankfully we soon passed under another low arch of rock and found ourselves back in the large open dome where we had entered.
"What's that burning smell?" I asked.
It was my flashlight. The young and chubby Mayan grabbed it out of my hand.
We drove back to the main office. Asaph accidentally put toilet paper in their toilet, while I ravenously ate guacamole, unconcerned by my view of their small filthy outdoor kitchen.
We went back to the accommodation to rest.
"When are we getting some time to relax on the beach?" I asked.
That night Asaph wanted to eat in the town. We had to take a taxi, because our accommodation was in the beach area. The beach area was not wired for electricity, because of environmentalism and something related to Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar. But our accommodation had electricity all day and night.
Asaph had selected a restaurant from a guidebook. It was full of blond tourists, in spite of its authentic appearance.
The food was delicious, even though I had to eat with my hands.
I was happy that I had antibiotics in my small toilet bag.
Asaph drank an agua fresca, with ice cubes.
We had read that ice was usually made with purified water.
We walked about the town for a while. We went to a bar that was full of Italians smoking.
The native Mayan people didn't seem to be big smokers.
I was struck by how expensive Mexico was. I hadn't expected that.
The next morning it was raining.
"I guess this won't be our beach day," I said.
We rode bikes to the nearby ruins.
The site was crawling or swarming with hundreds of tourists.
The buildings were visible.
I read about Gonzalo Guerrero, the Spanish sailor who was taken prisoner by the Mayans and who later integrated into Mayan society, fighting against the Spanish. I thought this was interesting.
I was trying to make it all about the Europeans, I lamented, in shame.
I thought of a racist song from my childhood: I wish I was in Tijuana, eating barbequed iguana.
I realized that this could have been a beach day.
As we were riding our bikes back, Asaph insisted on suddenly marching through the jungle towards the beach.
We ended up at an Italian hotel and restaurant on the beach where the floor consisted entirely of sand.
Asaph engaged in his vacation vice, to my disapproval.
I looked nervously at the ice cubes that came with my sparkling water.
It was expensive.
I was desperate to go into the water. I hadn't packed a swim suit for this bike excursion, so I just waded into the sea in my clothes, while Asaph watched from the Italian hotel and restaurant, while engaging in his unspeakable vice.
We rode into the town to do some shopping. I got upset at some haggling that Asaph engaged in at a shop where haggling wasn't accepted. I rode back to the beach area where our accommodation was located. I sat on the beach for the hour or so before the sun set, at 17:00.
There were 12 hours of light, and 12 hours of darkness.
We ate in the dark at a very trendy beach taco place run by the French.
We saw no Israelis anywhere: it was all too expensive.
The next morning I noticed the sweat lodge, or temazcal.
I had thought that I had heard some strange noises from it the night before.
Asaph had arranged for us to go on another organized tour.
We were to be taken to the ruins of the Mayan city of Cobá, and then to swim in another cenote.
We decided to walk to the office of the tour company, which would take about 30 minutes.
We passed a woman of European descent whose hair was in dreadlocks and who was carrying a small dog. She wore the typical clothes of an American or European who was very involved in yoga.
She passed us, but then turned around and called to Asaph.
"I can smell that you are wearing chemical sunscreen. It is very important that you not wear chemical sunscreen; it is poisoning our cenotes."
"Oh, alright," he said.
We kept walking.
We arrived. The tour company was run by a beautiful, blond American couple. They looked like former models, but they were approaching 40 years of age. They were all smiles.
The only other member of our group was a man in very late middle age who resembled a Mexican-American version of an anthropomorphic dog with a droopy face. His wife had intended to join us, but she had an upset stomach, like many visitors to Mexico.
The tour operator had many tattoos, but he still seemed wholesome. An Italian man who was a guide-in-training was also coming along. Two guides to three tourists seemed like a good ratio.
We all got in a somewhat delapidated car and began driving towards Cobá. It started to rain.
I felt a little nauseous.
We were driving deeper inland through the jungle. I kept an eye out for poverty.
The discussions in the car were a bit more masculine than I was used to. The American guide revealed that he had come down to Tulum to work as an instructor for a fitness getaway program for highly successful and angry American women approaching middle age. He had been asked to provide a photo before any further employment questions were asked.
After working for several years, he met the woman who would become his wife, and then they opened this tour company. He would later reveal many more enterprises that he was involved with. I felt shamed by his stunning entrepreneurship.
He said he felt as if he lived in paradise.
He had a vaguely Canadian accent, owing to an upbringing near the border with that country.
The droopy man said that he owned a slum motel in Colorado that accepted only cash and in which he invested no money for improvements.
"Basically, I'm a slumlord," he said. "But the city thinks I'm providing a valuable service."
The Italian guy's story was just that he had traveled the world until he found somewhere he wanted to live. He had a wife of unclear national origin and a three-year-old daughter.
I let Asaph describe our story as I stared out the window, to minimize motion sickness.
I knew very little about the Mayans.
I saw some poverty, some shops selling artisanal crafts, and lots of jungle out the window of the car.
It was cloudy in an ominous manner.
We arrived at Cobá. We parked in a partially flooded parking lot.
There were a lot of shops selling some kind of jewelry that involved numbers.
Our interesting, attractive or appealing (having sexual appeal; suggestive of sex) guide bought our tickets and paid for our Mayan guide to the site.
It started pouring.
Our Mayan guide blamed everything bad about anything that had happened on the Toltecs.
Basically the Mayans had been totally fine; the Toltecs came in and started sacrificing people and doing other bad things.
A tree was explained.
A skull was noted.
The rains came down as we looked at a structure that had had a mercantile purpose.
We climbed a structure that had a religious purpose. Our guide said that we were allowed to climb it only because the town of Cobá needed the income from tourists who wanted to climb something, since climbing at other Mayan sites was not allowed.
I photographed a god.
I photographed our guide and the Italian guide in training.
As we bicycled in the rain, the droopy Mexican-American slumlord told me that he and his wife liked to go to a resort in Jamaica called "Hedonism".
"That's a funny name for a resort!" I said, ignorantly.
I photographed a sign in the Mayan language.
We drove to another cenote, known for a high diving platform.
I refused to dive, not because of my fear of heights, but because I didn't want to get the water in my mouth.
Asaph went ahead.
I was used to not participating in things that other men did.
Our strapping guide who was pushing 40, who wasn't as impressive shirtless as I had hoped, reminisced about his visits to this location in days that had passed in the past.
"In the old days I used to come to this cenote with some buddies and we would drink a few liters of this water. It's full of lithium."
In the car it was revealed that the droopy, late-middle-aged Mexican-American man and his wife were so-called swingers and or exhibitionists, and that they were staying in a resort in Mexico for those of that sexual preference. I felt very stupid.
"How many women have you had sex with in one day?" asked the droopy Mexican-American of our strapping guide who was pushing 40.
He held up four fingers and blushed.
I felt ashamed of everything. I had thought that this would be a family-friendly vacation.
Asaph made us stop to buy over 200 US dollars worth of Mexican ceramics. I didn't understand how people could afford to visit Mexico. It was like Norway! (A country that people rarely knew had two official languages.)
We continued driving. I wondered what scandalous topic would be broached next.
Luckily, there was a loud explosion.
Our tire had popped.
I looked at a road sign that I wished we had in the United American States.
The tire was changed by the men.
We went to a Mexican restaurant together. In Mexico.
My food was so delicious that I started crying a bit.
Our strapping guide told us that the so-called kite surfing instructor at our accommodation was the most attractive man in the town.
I thought that that was probable. I had already noticed him.
We walked along the beach to an Italian restaurant for dinner.
The food was quite tasty.
We walked back along the dark beach.
The next morning was our last.
We tried to take advantage.
We said goodbye to the sea.
We said goodbye to the sleepy dogs.
They were preparing for Día de Muertos, which I was surprised to see was actually observed in Mexico. I had assumed that it had been invented by San Francisco Bay Area hipsters.
Asaph did some last-minute shopping at the expensive stores near our accommodation.
A taxi came to drive us to the airport. Asaph got on a conference call while we were in the car. I just stared out the window.
Asaph got us access to an airport lounge, where he ate a troubling number of free sandwiches.
"You realize you are eating free sandwiches in a Mexican airport, right?" I asked.
We boarded the plane. I was relaxed.
I was not happy to be back in the Upper West Side.
I was happy to see the children.
They were cute.
Asaph got a violent gastroenteritis, owing to all of the free Mexican airport sandwiches.
I was still very angry about living and working in New York.
I wanted to scream and punch.
Scream and punch! Scream and punch! I thought, while neither screaming nor punching.
The days got darker.
We started taking a parenting class. We were the only male parents, and certainly the only couple in the class.
An otherwise pleasant woman in the class had a very annoying linguistic filler.
We didn't talk very much in the class, to avoid being accused of male privilege.
I longed to be back in the tropics.
Even though we had just been away from the kids for three days in Mexico, Asaph insisted on taking me overnight to Hudson, New York, for a mid-life birthday celebration. Without the kids! Again!
We were awful parents.
We were stuck behind a slow-moving suburban commuter train for a long time. It was divine retribution.
We finally arrived.
The owner of the bed-and-breakfast inn picked us up at the station. There was a woman on the train who was staying at the same place. We had an awkward conversation in the car, as she asked if Asaph and I were "travelling together". The owner explained that he and his wife had only recently purchased the inn. He spoke very slowly, with the accent of an old man in a rural setting in a film from the 1940s.
At first it looked like we were going to have to share a bathroom with the other guest. I was not happy, even though she seemed like a nice person.
We asked the owner's wife, who was technically also an owner.
"Of course you aren't sharing a bathroom!" she said. The other guest had a bathroom in her room; ours was in the hallway.
We walked through the gentrified town to a so-called farm-to-table restaurant that offered a so-called tasting menu.
It wasn't crowded.
Owing to Asaph's vegetarianism, he was served a version of each dish made with turnips, instead of whatever mine was made from.
We talked a little bit too much with our waitress.
We headed back out into the cold.
It got extremely hot in our room during the night. Asaph got up and went down to the parlour or the sitting room or whatever it was to lie in wait for the male innkeeper or the female inkeeper to wake up.
At around five o'clock, Asaph and the male innkeeper entered our room with a key to open the windows.
Asaph slept in that morning.
I went down for the breakfast. The other guest had arrived late at night. She was a colleague of the woman who had been on the train with us. They ran a non-profit theater company together and were having a weekend work-related retreat.
It could have been extremely unpleasant, since there was little choice but to have one communal conversation at the table, but these women were extremely nice and normal and smart.
The innkeeper (or the innkeeper's wife, depending on your point of view) talked a little bit too much about locations within the town where the freebase form of cocaine was still available for sale, while holding a coffee pot in her hand. I wondered about the correctness of her racial viewpoints.
I wasn't crazy about the breakfast. After we were done eating, Asaph came down. I watched him eat.
We went out for a walk.
The town liked to commemorate various un-noteworthy events with memorial plaques.
This was as good as the fall gets, I thought.
It was my birthday.
We did some browsing and some shopping.
I examined some more plaques.
We went into a store with a fashionable non-heterosexual male proprietor, but he seemed very unpleasant, as those types can sometimes be. Asaph bought a fancy shoehorn.
We went to have lunch with a non-heterosexual male couple that we knew who lived in the unfriendly but wealthy Netherlandish town of Rhinebeck. They were hilarious.
One was a Jew from Montreal; the other was some kind of Persian from New York City.
It was hard to eat because I kept laughing.
We decided to take an early train home.
It would be slow.
I paused to admire the beautiful and majestic Hudson. I tried to take a photo of myself, but I was dissatisfied with my appearance, owing to age. I was now at the age when people avoided cameras and mirrors.
We crept towards Manhattan.
I had had crises relating to aging at age 13, age 26, and age 36.
This was a fitting year for that kind of crisis as well.
But I was very distracted by worrying about the children, so the old non-heterosexual male concerns about heading towards the grave -- or about looking old and saggy and undesirable -- were suppressed.
I was sure that they would crop up again, with probable undignified results. I imagined myself standing around in bars at age 60, although by then no one would probably stand around in bars anymore.
Or, we would be living in a post-apocalyptic hellscape with no electricity or water.
Our son wasn't happy that we had gone away again.
I had read that ginkgo trees dropped their leaves in a single night.
I noticed that that indeed appeared to be the case.
I realized that Ginkgo biloba was an anagram of Go, king: Bilbao!
I went to the East Village. I hadn't been there in a while.
I tried to enjoy every bit of sun.
There was an exotic Judaic protest at our apartment building.
I took our daughter to a playground.
I kept going to work.
We went to Brooklyn.
We didn't let the kids eat turkey.
We then faced several days alone with the children.
Of course they got fevers.
Asaph took our son to the Bronx Zoo while I tended to our daughter.
I was obsessed with the dwindling light.
The next day Asaph took our daughter to the Bronx Zoo, while I tended our son.
He returned with some pine cones that had an inappropriately Christian odor.
That night a crazy thing happened involving our son and the emergency room.
Luckily, it was an overreaction.
The next day involved yet another trip to the Bronx, but this time I came along.
We went with the young Australian or South African Jewish couple from our building. They had a daughter who was our kids' age, and a younger son. We liked them.
A botanical garden was our destination.
It didn't seem like the Bronx. It was very clean.
There was a Christmas-themed toy train show. There were beautiful replicas of New York landmarks made of twigs and leaves.
Around these beautiful replicas, some crappy plastic trains buzzed around. The kids only looked at the trains.
We headed to the Bronx's Little Albania to eat at an Italian restaurant.
All four children slept through our meal. It was amazing.
Our son had a fever by the time we got home.
I was happy when our paid childminder arrived on the Monday morning after the long weekend.
We packed up things to put in storage. We were moving into a new, bigger storage unit.
I discovered another shocking photo from my youth.
I went by myself with some Mexican and Ecuadorian movers to the storage unit. On my way home I took the subway in the wrong direction.
It was like another miniature vacation.
Things got darker and darker. I tried to establish strategies for getting through the winter.
I couldn't come up with any.