I went for a walk in the rain Saturday under a big black umbrella, which I chose over the kittycat one as being more age-appropriate, seeing as I turn s-s-s-s-s-s-s-seventy-six.
Cat kitsch is for teen girls, not grandpas. A black umbrella, black shoes, jeans, white shirt, tan jacket with black ink stains on the lining. I'm a writer, I carry pens, they leak. So what?
A walk under an umbrella is a form of meditation, and rain always makes me happy. I grew up out in the country and rain meant that I could stay in and read a book and not have to go to Mr. Peterson's farm and hoe corn.
Hoeing corn was the most miserable work I've ever done. Nothing I've done since even comes close. That, to me, is the definition of the good life, to have something so miserable in your distant past that you can recall in moments of distress and think, "Well, at least this is not as bad as that."
I walked down the street past couples eating lunch in a sidewalk cafe whose awning was dripping water on one couple and not on others, and I heard the woman say, "Do you want to move?" and the man said, "It's up to you." She said, "I asked you first." He said, "Whatever you want."
In other words, they were married.
This was Columbus Avenue in Manhattan and clearly they were out-of-towners. A New York woman who is being dripped on would pick up her plate and say, "I'm outta here" and the man would follow.
Life is unfair: some get leaked on and others don't, as I am well aware, being one of the lucky ones. I had a good job for forty-two years that kept me amused and required no math and no social skills, and I married very, very well.
In addition to beauty, wit, kindness, and va-va-va-voom, my wife is skilled at ordinary household chores such as repairing toilet tank floats and jiggering appliances to make them work.
She learned these things (and much more) by being a freelance violinist, living on very little money in low-rent apartment buildings with no super to come upstairs and repair a faucet. Her ambition was to play Beethoven and Mozart, and along the way she picked up the skills you need if you're going to get along without much money.
Music and art schools really should offer training in plumbing and carpentry since a prime requirement for any artist is survival and it helps to be self-sufficient.
She never, for example, had the money to pay a shrink and so she learned to deal with depression by taking long walks. It helps.
So on our way home we stopped at a humongous omni-maxi-supermarket and wandered miles of aisles, looking for a few things and were stunned by the sheer variety. Loaves, for example. Rye bread but not only rye rye but eleven different kinds, plus flatbreads, round breads, yeast breads, sweetbreads, sourdough, leavened, seven-grain, breadsticks, braided, a vast breadth of breeds and brands of bread, everything but white.
And fish. Sufficient fish to feed the Finnish militia.
Which brings me to the subject of my birthday.
No gifts, please. Nothing. I am giving a birthday dinner for myself and inviting four friends in their twenties rather than people my age so we can avoid the boring discussion about how beautiful life was before people went around texting on cellphones all the time.
Life is good, especially when you get the misery out of the way early.
Pity the child of wealth and privilege who never hoed corn. We bought four ears at the store and boiled them and ate them, salted and slathered in butter.