I'm going to try to keep this on the short side, in the hopes that I can turn in more than one of these little dispatches a month. Will it work? Probably not. No.
The heat wave arrived, and it was hot. We're on the top floor in our building, and we took the wooden roll-up blinds down from the living room window (apartment AIDS), so when it gets hot out, it gets hot in here, and it stays hot well into the evening. I'm no delicate flower when it comes to heat, babies, but there's something eerie and discomfiting about coming home at midnight and having the parquet floor still be warm like a pilot light. And there is, of course, the heat at the daily perihelion, which is totally distracting. So we resolved to have the air conditioner up and running by Thursday, the anticipated beginning of the heat wave. I bought a special window mount from Tarzian, but couldn't figure out how to secure it to our brick-and-mortar window ledge; in the end we made a midnight trip to the Home Depot in Red Hook for a good, old-fashioned two-by-four that we bundled up with tape and wedged under the thing.
Kitty responded to the heat by alternating, panting like a dog, between spots inside the wooden cabinet that supports our TV, and on top of a big Tupperware box that's sitting in the middle of the living room. It was only after much encouragement -- and the removal of the cat carrier from view -- that she deigned to enter the bedroom where we were running the air conditioner.
The hottest days of the heatwave were Thursday and Friday. Thursday night we made the sweltering hike up to Prospect Park for The Feelies show at Celebrate Brooklyn. The ambient temperature made it a pretty surreal experience for me, and I wasn't on stage under all those lights; I have no idea how they turned it such a long and consistently good set. In particular, they played a very convincing cover of "I Wanna Be Your Dog." Upon returning, we found Kitty in a sorry state: Prostrate, panting, puffed out to the size of a Christmas ham. We tried to cool her down with an ice pack from the fridge and with actual ice cubes from a cup of ice we bought at the corner store. As a testament to her discomfort, she did not object at all. We have resolved to put her on a bit of a diet.
It was still ethereally warm the following week when Beau and Nina and I went to go see a late show at Shea Stadium featuring none other than Shilpa Ray performing a solo set (well, she had her harmonium). Beau got there early and thus got to see -- and fall in love with, he asserted -- one of her openers, an art school band called The Back Pockets. The way he described it, their live show was off the chain. We arrived in time for the next band, Quilty (ugh that name), who were fun and energetic but entirely too loud for the space. We used their set as an opportunity to go get Snapples. But Shilpa Ray was predictably amazing. It was after midnight by the time she went on, and noting the droopy eyelids in the audience, she suggested that everyone lie down sleepover style, and so everyone kind of fanned out on the floor near the front of the stage where she'd set up, like iron filaments around a magnet. The sound system in that place didn't do her voice justice, but she still sounded phenomenal -- strong and angry enough to rattle the windows. She suggested that we take advantage of the late night, bedroom vibe we'd created and, you know, have a wank, but I don't know if I could do it with those songs as accompaniment. Too sad, too scary!
As a treat to myself I've been watching The X-Files over Netflix streaming on the Xbox, one episode a night. That show is great! The first time I watched it, lying side by side with my dad on the rug in our living room of my boyhood home, I was too invested in the narrative elements of the show and too distracted by my own cliched expectations of the direction the story should take. So I liked it, but I didn't really get it. This time around, my experience is colored by pleasant memories of those Friday nights ("Jeez, close your mouth, Scully!" admonishes my dad), but I'm also struck by how visually consistent the production design is: There are indulgent, meandering shots of roads and gas stations and factory buildings, and everything out of doors is gray or green. The editing is nice and slow; leisurely, even. The acting is pretty remarkable, too: David Duchovny is supremely affect-less, and Gillian Anderson's portrayal is both economical and effective in bringing Agent Scully plausibly to life -- especially given how little she has to work with in the first season. It's nuts that a show this gloomy and contemplative was on the air for, what, nine years?
The first week of August I threw myself a more formal birthday party in Prospect Park, an all-afternoon barbecue where I cooked for everyone and loved it. It was exactly the type of thing I should have done last year but was squirmingly reluctant to commit to and thus managed to duck. This year, though, I willed myself to mail out invites a couple of weeks in advance and so I had to follow through. I got up early that morning, sliced up all the fixings, including cutting whole kosher dill Claussen pickles into the "chip" shape that they should sell at the store but don't. I bought three and a half pounds of hyper-organic ground chuck and made three different batches of burgers, mostly variations on the recipe I found here. Ted lent me the use of his grill (my little $10 dealie long since vanished to the mists of time) and I cooked the burgers, some hot dogs, some chicken sausages, some Morningstar Farms spicy black bean burgers, and some of these awesome college-dining-hall fake-chicken "patties" (also by Morningstar Farms). The weather report warned that it might rain, but I would not be deterred, and it ended up being overcast but dry for most of the day.
It did begin to rain at twilight, and we started to pack everything up. As I knelt by the grill trying to gauge the hotness of the coals, I noticed a fat brown cicada on one of the legs, methodically crawling its way up to the hot underside. The less compassionate among us wondered if we should let it "find out" the hard way that it'd misjudged -- or even if we should toss it on the grill and see if the bug was as tasty as the Oreos we'd melted earlier. But Jon, bleeding heart that he is, scooped it up on some cutlery and helped it attach to the maple tree behind us. Without pausing it resumed its upward climb and was soon out of sight. It wasn't the only one: We found two more cicadas on the same tree, all on the same quest towards sunlight and warmth.
Beau had stopped by the festivities after finishing up one of his twice-weekly runs around the park (he's training for the marathon), and he clued us in on a kind of open house that was going on the following weekend: All the Prospect Park-affiliated attractions, including the ordinarily not-quite-worth-ten-dollars Botanic Garden. Nina and walked up and down the paths of the Rose Garden and smelled all of the plants in the Fragrance Garden. But the best part of the afternoon was when we were heading home past the choreographed fountain in front of the Brooklyn Museum. That thing, when it's on, is almost a bigger a draw than the museum itself I feel like, and that day was no exception. There was a crowd gathered on the steps to watch the water jumping, and a press of little girls around the railing admonishing the boys who were strutting up and down amid the jets. "You're not supposed to be up there!" they said. "Someone's going to yell at you!" And to us: "They're not supposed to be up there." The boys, they did not care. One of them walked up to the railing and asked Nina, "You want to get splashed?" She said yes, she did. It was a hot day. "Stay there," he said. He stepped back and put his foot over one of the jets. At the right moment he lifted his toe.
We just got back from the final bit of birthday celebration I've allotted myself: A Mets game (against the Padres) at Citi Field. Never seen the Mets, never been to the new (or old) stadium. It was very nice! Th place looks more like a Heartland Brewery than a baseball stadium, but maybe I've just had my expectations set wrong by the noisy, brushed-metal Death Star that is Yankee Stadium, with its dispassionate concessions service and super-vertiginous seating. Whereas Citi Field has a huge plexiglass apple that pops up (well, rises surreptitiously, Kilroy-style) whenever someone on the home team hits a home run! ...Which happened three times -- Jason Bay, David Wright, and Angel Pagan all hit home runs. And the Mets even ended up winning, pulling out a spectacular ninth inning after a pretty grim-looking eighth. It put Nina, who's never met a crapped-upon New York institution she couldn't root for, in a puffed-up, cheery mood. After the game we spent some time in a part of the parking lot where the diamond from the original Shea Stadium is marked out with white paint and plaques. Nina found home plate and curled up around it like a cat.