Juniper Disco | No. 26
A summer of dissonance, or "Bitch, don't touch me"
As I was driving through the dunes with my music cranked on the sunniest of sunny days, all the yellow and white flowers blooming around me, I could feel the spark of carefree summers from The Before Times. My soul swooned a little bit and my brain forgot the darkness.
I imagined the summer ahead of me where I would sit in the warmth of the sun, my hands smelling of tomato leaves and dirt after my morning Futzing of the Plants. Stay outside until the fireflies appear in the dark. Swim (in a shark-free pool, you fools!). Carry a book around with me everywhere. Stroll the coastline, picking up ocean treasures. Eat black raspberry ice cream cones. Wander along the sandy paths surrounded by blooming beach roses and the warm salt pine air. Ramble through scrub pine forests appreciating the coolness of their dappled shade. End my days sitting on the beach while the sun fires up the sky.
Instead, I got COVID.
One day before Father’s Day — the same day we memorialized my dad a year prior — that second line turned pink. I was surprisingly calm in the first moments of contracting the very thing that has set our world on fire for two years. I took Paxlovid, rested, and I got better, testing negative on Day 9.
And then … my symptoms returned. The pink line reappeared. My isolation clock RESTARTED with a horrible remix of a rebound. (I see you, Dr. Fauci. You, too, Joe Biden.) And I got really fucking angry. It’s hard to believe the virus survived that long in my body. My anger alone should have seared those fuckers to a crisp.
A handful of like-minded, super careful people I know on the Cape all got it around the same time. We commiserated in our isolation, locals knowing what it means to miss even an hour of that precious part of summer just before the hordes shove us to the edges. I had 21 days (THREE WEEKS) of back-to-back isolation/restriction periods, while everyone else was out getting the next infectious disease.
Since then, I’ve given up on my dream for this summer. The heat, the drought, another week with an actual cold, and the dissonance between the realities of our overlapping crises and the deck-of-the-Titanic partying going on around me have snuffed out that spark.
Even so, I’m popping here and there for a dash of fun before sprinting back to the edges for those quiet, tiny moments I dreamed of and overwatering my plants in the oppressive heat, gathering momentum to scream at the top of my lungs about the injustice of everything, all while not letting a single person touch me with their monkey pox sweat. (Seriously. Bitch, don’t touch me.)
I made it through THE most stressful time of the year — the decision of just when to prune the hydrangeas. I must have chosen correctly because there were blue puffy puffs all over the front yard. Blue puffy water hogs who are the very essence of thirsty in the heat. My love/hate relationship continues.
I was gleefully putting my hands in dirt for months. I’ve had a fair amount of failures — the Red Long of Tropea onions and the wasabi arugula fizzled. One of my Roma tomato plants got blossom rot. Insects ate my lettuce. But my deck is jungled up the way I like it now with a record-setting 74 pots of carefully coaxed greenery and a ninja-like army of tree frogs.
After 18 years, we tearfully said goodbye to Miss Tipper Marie McGee Groff Dooley. Tips, Tippy, Tipsy, Miss Marie, The Anonymous Tipster. The first time I met her she immediately curled up next to me and put her head in my lap. From that point on, we were besties, together always searching for the sunshine. I haven’t been able to remove her sleepover bed and her special blanket, still bearing the impression of her snoozing body.
I let go of other things in my life: The 100 Day Project ended around Day 60, my daily Portuguese streak in Duolingo abandoned at Day 750, my daily Noom check-ins, whatever was left of my faith in humanity.
We pounced on our favorite places the minute they opened this year — summer sage frosés and chop chop salads at Patio, happy hour at the Red Inn, Lobster Pot noshes, pool chair lounges, rail drinks at Pepe’s, more rail drinks at Aqua Bar. I took my annual rose walk through the West End to see all the blooms. I am deeply grateful for the early start before I had to retreat for my COVID isolation. Seize the day, boys!
The return of the morning song in the neighborhood was my signal to start writing facing the window where I could see my birdfeeders. Purple finches and goldfinches. A cardinal couple who sweetly share food. A very special and short appearance by a yellow warbler, the most cartoon-y cheerful bird there is. A robin patiently teaching her baby to drink water from the birdbath. More hummingbirds than any other year. I also saw two woodpeckers go at it. They were both male so I assume it was a territory thing. But this is Ptown, so who knows.
The catbirds, though, they are my heart. They gather in the tree by the grape jelly feeder as I serve their morning breakfast, twisting their heads back and forth as I ask them how their night was.
We finally got off the waitlist and into the Rancho Gordo Bean Club. Anyone know what to do with green lentils?
I changed my Amazon Smile contribution to the Western Pennsylvania Fund For Choice. PA is my home state, one I will never understand. People tell me it’s different now. It’s hard to see that from here, where my measuring stick is deeply rainbow-hued.
I’ve continued to light a small Japanese rice wax candle every month on the 20th for my dad. At the very end of the burn, the candle, fading and just about to go out, flares up for a spectacular finish. Even though I know in my heart his COVID death did not allow him a final rally, I’ve imagined it to be so. I’ve replaced my memories of the real horror with my own version of a worthy send off, one where he was surrounded by all of us who loved him.
I read for an indulgent, soul-affirming 15 hours for a virtual read-a-thon.
We hopped on a pontoon boat and zipped around the harbor for a few hours of what I had imagined the summer would be — salty spraying splashes, light green shallows and inky blue depths, seals and daring plunges into the ocean, pimento cheese snacks and lemon straws and frozen Aperol spritzes.
The Secret Garden Tour was back again after a two-year hiatus. I assessed the much bigger houses in this weird Chatham-like part of town, wondering how much water was required to keep the lush lawns so vibrant and how many months of the year these houses stood empty. I thought about my husband’s friend who lives in a dug out space under a boat on the beach. The dissonance is grotesque.
I’ve finally admitted that there are things about the cold season that I deeply love and the transition to warm weather wasn’t as spirited as it once was. I was so reluctant to leave my cool weather cocoon and the comfort of my brain, but also felt zingy about not wearing shoes. I am sad that my love of summer has diminished, replaced with a melancholic when-is-this-over, when-do-the-people-go-home resentment. I miss vacationing here.
But it’s Carnival Week. I may have harumphed my way down Commercial Street yesterday, but tomorrow I’ll be joining the fam for our group costume in our usual spot while we cheer on the fabulous floats discoing down the street again for the first time in two years.
I’ve been thinking a lot about:
This Twitter thread about men automatically invalidating women with their conditioned responses.
Dreamy retreats. This driftwood bookbinding retreat on the Isle of Iona (the legendary origin of The Book of Kells). // This booklovers tour of Bath, England. // This en plein air retreat at Mèlisses in Greece. // This Atlas Obscura tour of Spain’s Orange Blossom Coast. // This CHEESE VACATION: A British Cheese Journey.
These wonderful descriptions of the months from Chelsea Wills. “August, the month of dusty warm blackberries, languid jelly fish, deep blue waters, and sparkling star showers.”
Ian Pannell’s hair continues to dazzle.
Also, here’s some stuff:
Sweet Bobby podcast. This is one of the most messed up, jaw-on-floor catfishing stories I’ve heard.
Fire Island (Hulu). Just like Ptown! // Army of Thieves (Netflix). A really fun romp of a heist movie.
So many documentaries: Until the Wheels Fall Off (HBOMax) Tony Hawk’s slightly psychotic commitment to repetition is something else. // Roadrunner (HBOMax). The interviews with Tony Bourdain’s friends are just heart wrenching. // We Feed People (Disney+). Chef José Andres is an imperfect hero doing the work entire countries should be doing. // In and Of Itself (Hulu). An autobiographical magic show that will astonish you and make you cry. Don’t read anything about it in advance, just watch it. // Keeper of the Ashes: The Oklahoma Girl Scout Murders (Hulu). Pretty sure you’ll flashback to your own camp situations and thank your lucky stars no one like this monster was around. // Phoenix Rising (HBOMax). Speaking of monsters, Marilyn Manson is one.
Real World Homecoming: New Orleans (Paramount). Christ on a cracker! Julie is more of a mess than ever. No more of her ever, please. Heart eyes emoji to Melissa and Danny. // Yellowjackets (SHOWTIME). I binged this nailbiter through my COVID haze. A cross between Mean Girls, Alive, and Lord of the Flies. // Somebody Somewhere (HBOMax). If you have a gay best friend, watch this one together! If you don’t have a gay best friend, you probably won’t get it. // Back to Life (SHOWTIME). After serving a sentence of 18 years in prison for a slowly revealed crime she committed in her teens, a woman moves back in with her parents and tries to figure out how adulting works. I feel horrible for how much I laughed! // The Essex Serpent (AppleTV). I kept waiting for the serpent. But it was very atmospheric, which I love. // The Summer I Turned Pretty (Amazon). A sweet Summer on the Cape When You’re 16 story. // The end of Ozark (Netflix). “I don’t know shit about fuck” will be our favorite line forever. // Black Crab (Netflix). Gloom and doom dystopia. ON ICE. At night! In Swedish!
Obi-wan Kenobi (Disney+). Princess Leia as a child is especially wonderful. // Star Wars Rebels. (Disney+). One of my favorite Star Wars storylines. The Inquisitors, the hunt to kill the remaining Jedi, more Darth Maul!
Bobby Hutcherson’s Montara from 1974. Fabulous dinner music with the occasional splash of Starsky and Hutch.
A Guide to the Birdsong of South America. Ten South American musicians “worked with the song of an endangered bird from their country to create a unique piece of music.”
A few local things:
Welcome to Provincetown podcast. It’s impossible to fully capture this town in 10 podcast episodes, but I was glad they said some of the quiet parts out loud, like what it is like to be a woman in a town dominated by gay men. And that this place is not a magical wonderland for everyone — some people leave here damaged. Or stay here, damaged.
Cape and Islands Bookstore Trail. I’ve visited exactly one bookstore on this trail this year. Maybe a book adventure day this fall?
The last word, according to Willow Pill: “I hate people.”
Conversation Pit of the Month:
Kaftan of the Month:
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