independent spirits

We hiked up the hill after dark for the holiday thingy, whatever. Jack was wearing the black wool hat from Banana Republic that Salome forced me to give him in exchange for their pine bench, which now graces my bay window. Jack is a curmudgeon, so we like to taunt one another.

J: My head is pleasantly warm.

R: You don’t find it itchy?

J: A little.

R: Maybe fabric softener.

J: You said that on purpose, didn’t you? You know I hate fabric softener.

S: And anti-static dryer sheets.

R: Oh, right. Jeremy bought some rinse-aid for the dishwasher the other day. I asked what it did. He said, It’s a thing you spend money on.


R: He said there was a special place in the dishwasher for it, so he needed it.

J: I HATE that.

C: I don’t like fireworks! I want them out of the sky!

The fog cleared and Bernal Hill was thronged with neighbours, a superb natural amphitheatre. We could see Oakland’s and Berkeley’s fireworks as well as San Francisco’s, plus the alarming and unauthorized displays in north and south Darkest Mission, not to mention the Excelsior. The whole city was exploding with joy.

In the Australian left of my youth you had to hate America. It was a condition of entry. You had to rationalize away the fact that Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky and so on are American. I suppose that was considered a useful exercise in denial. I’ve lived here eight years and like any rational person I am terrified of the vice president and Prairie Muffins and extraordinary rendition and what have you, but you know what? It’s more complicated than that. This country is something. It’s impossible to ignore.

The show was over.

C: Where did the fireworks go?

J: Rachel! Your head looks cold.

R: No, I keep it warm with my thoughts. My intellect is radiant, and so forth. Don’t hit me!

J: No no, I was just moving over to listen to your ravings!

S (laughing pitilessly): “Don’t hit me!”

R: I’m a poster child for people living with cowardice.

S: You’re stoic.

R: I’ve touched so many lives!

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