Recent Work By Nathaniel Missildine

dec 006 hShit, we’re late. I gun the green light. I shouldn’t be rushing.

“Shoot, we’re late!” I call to my daughters in the backseat.

Ah, what does it matter if we’re late (again), I rationalize to myself. It’s only a swimming lesson.

“Oh no!” my older daughter, Julie, says.

“It’s going to be okay,” I reassure.

“But it’s a swimming lesson!”

“We’ll get there.”

* enthusiasm gap

* for reasons obvious to everyone but me

* unfortunate third time you feel the need to explain yourself

* just climbed out of 2010 this morning

* deactivated account, still showing up daily

* mad at everyone

I accepted a job out past a boulevard named Rampart, the last name anyone would ever dream up as a short diagonal through Los Angeles, California. I crossed Rampart in the morning going east, retreating over the last stretch of continental pavement I’d traveled months before. The downtown by now looked exposed, without the fortified walls.

Land. Ho.

You awake to the command to sit upright. We’re going down.

You realize landing. Fine. But something’s not right. You’ve been dreaming. You were at home in bed, surrounded by hundreds of strangers in sleep masks snoring from various corners of your bedroom. You were comfortable with it.

(781): Yes. The answer is no. Shoot, I’m gonna be hurting tomorrow.

(717): I explained that they couldn’t leave the town hall until someone told me how long I’d been unconscious.

(540): Last time I use the word affordable, I can assure you of that. Why is my mouth so dry?

(202): I was at that stage in the evening when I couldn’t tell whose non-connected committee was supporting me.

(910): I told him I felt like keeping my tie on until I was good and finished.

* at the beginning of a list

* on the vanity license plate of a traveling campervan

* to your dog, followed by a beef-and-cheese-flavored snack from pocket, counting on word of mouth to spread from there

* to your demons

* to your high school guidance counselor

John H. Bryan: in fits and starts

Steven H. Strongin: in an Ambien tent

J. Michael Evans: like a log

William W. George: like a log cresting the first descent of a flume

John S. Weinberg: like a log resting mightily atop a sleeping lamb

Richard J. Gnodde: floating in a 24-acre sensory deprivation chamber

Kevin W. Kennedy: face down in an infinity pool of his own vomit

Rafe went to the City of San Francisco to tell his story. I explained that he should only say what he was comfortable with. Neatly undermining that advice, I then said it would be impossible for him to say anything wrong. Really, everyone was just excited to have him there. Talking.

Somehow, carrying the snails falls to me. With the boatload of wrapped presents and scarves and gloves that will be lost within eight steps out into the street and small children who may likewise need carrying and possibly be misplaced in a momentary panic, I hoist two stacked platters of Burgundy snails.

They have been prepared in parsley and garlic butter to be recooked at my in-laws’ house. It’s more than a little dumb that I’m arriving with this particular dish because I’m the only one of the group not from around here. Not only not from Burgundy, where I helped pull these snails out of a dewy meadow this past July and where their cold weather preparation is the crowning regional specialty, but I am not of this nation. I’m not of this culture or even this particular coterie of exempted taste buds. The only thing I ever did with snails, before landing abroad, was proceed at their pace.

1. No time.

2. No energy.

3. No idea what you were saying.

4. Your post was part of a series and I figured I’d wait for the next installment.

5. Wanted to leave my feedback at tnb.com regarding the electrical conduit fittings I recently enjoyed, but somehow ended up here.

6. Your piece happened to appear during a widespread lull in commenting at TNB and I didn’t want to buck the trend.

7. Didn’t feel ready to delve into a topic that would steamroll my neatly compartmentalized system of core beliefs and values.

8. Didn’t feel the need to make it obvious I had fully missed the point.

In the first year of the new millennium, instant messaging was the fastest growing communication technology of all time.  Of its then 60 million purported users, Cecile and I were two young employees of a public relations agency hyping Internet start-ups and video game companies who cared only about the words we sent each other.

We sat in separate cubicles that shared a wall.  Its segments fit together unevenly, leaving a narrow opening.  We volleyed noiseless messages back and forth, five feet apart.

 

natm: fine i quit
cecilero: ok i will miss u
natm: you should come too
cecilero: where will u go?
natm: neptune or maybe mendocino
cecilero: i can see your left hand through the space
natm: i’m very serious

cecilero:  this is typical

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By Nathaniel Missildine

Humor

* Accept with pleasure

* Decline with regret

* Accept with overblown joy

* Decline with studied indifference

* Accept but don’t plan on enjoying myself beyond the open bar

* Decline but will be standing outside on your lawn gazing in through back window for the duration of the evening’s festivities

* Accept though it’s really our turn to invite

* Decline to admit I don’t know what R.S.V.P. stands for

* Accept that, if I do, even this small amount of French will be pronounced incorrectly

There is a place with roller coasters and wave swingers surrounded by champagne vineyards.

It is a two hours’ drive.We leave first thing in the morning because my daughters buckled themselves into the car soon after the break of dawn like precocious, barrette-wearing roosters.I hop behind the driver’s seat with a bottle of water and a disc of complied songs about summertime.The empty two-lane roads trace the swerve of the first track:Surfin’ U.S.A.

Through pasture and low forest, the white sun burns off the fog and the sheep would own the land if they could pull their faces out of the grass for even a second.The boulangeries in the unassuming villes have already sold out of pain au chocolat.My wife remarks that several weird, distant cousins live in a town we pass, but when, for God’s sake, would we ever find the time to visit them.In the backseat, the girls mouth the refrain “inside, outside, U.S.A.”

If you travel west across the Susquehanna River in central Pennsylvania, you enter the city of York.It is an average, mid-sized city among the green hills of the Susquehanna Valley, but only an hour’s drive north of the Baltimore-Washington churn.It is a place rich in history that lays claim to the title of the “first capital of the United States,” as it held this status during the American Revolution allowing the Continental Congress to adopt the Articles of Confederation and then move the capital elsewhere.

York is a city that’s seen a development explosion in its suburbs, but still maintains a downtown with a weekend market, a symphony orchestra, the offices of not one, but two, daily newspapers and a spiking crime rate.

Speaking broadly, its citizens tend to be of German descent, hold conservative, hard-working Protestant values and avoid showiness where a simple nod will do.

York is getting by okay.It is named for the town in England.It is the subject of the song Shit Towne by the popular 90s band Live, whose members were themselves native Yorkers.

Nationally, York is also renowned for peppermint patties, barbells and the Harley-Davidson factory.A recent branding strategy by the Chamber of Commerce bills York County as “The Factory Tour Capital of the World,” though it’s really only the Harley plant that’s worth coming for.Other selected tours include that of a local credit union and, listed in brochures without a hint of a joke, a landfill.

Internationally, I get questions about my hometown.When I say I’m from York, I’m asked about the city’s possible relation to the Big Apple.

“No, no,” I clarify, “it’s just York.”

“This is the old York then?The original city, before the New one?” they’ll ask, interest piqued.

“Almost,” I nod.

What did it mean to say “as it’s beautiful?”

I’d heard a woman’s voice murmur behind me in a language I vaguely remembered.“Comme c’est beau,” she’d said.Her words allowed me to forget for a moment that we were at an Arizona pancake breakfast and that no one else at the campground’s popular morning cookout had understood her.Only I looked up from my plate of shortstacks.

There lay before us a petrified tree trunk, an ancient, formless hunk of wood I wouldn’t have labeled “beau” at all or in any form.At its base, a plaque proclaimed its age at a hundred million years, with the rings to prove it.

As I sat applying more maple syrup pretending that’s what cowboys used to do, language had suddenly caught up with me.I understood only then that, after all these achingly beau travels through the United States, I’d be returning to the same country she would.Having wandered this far west, all the way to a painted desert and a petrified national forest, I’d managed to overlook the fact that I was tourist.