We got home late last night, greeted by a porch light and a dozen giant moths and a pair of cheerful pets. It was an odd little journey, mostly because the time schedule was so strange. We left here at 4 a.m. on Saturday, just as the dark was beginning to lighten . . . driving through the White Mountains in the fresh early morning and then along the Connecticut River. At 8:30 we dropped Paul off at the camp where he would be taking his wilderness first aid course and then we continued to wind down along the river to Hanover, New Hampshire, where we ate an enormous diner breakfast and pondered our options. The temperature was already 80 degrees and rising. We could not get into our hotel room until 3. So we Googled "Things to Do" and settled on the Augustus Saint-Gaudens National Monument.
But first we went to the used bookstore across the street [list of purchases below]. Then we got back into the car and crossed the river and drove south and then crossed the river again and found ourselves on an oddly compact Gilded Era estate, with strange shabby hedges that had classical busts poking out of them, and a replica of the Parthenon frieze along one side of the artist's studio, and sentimental Civil War-era statuary hiding behind bushes, and so on and so on. It was quite lovely and peculiar and we were very, very hot.
Then we got back into the car and wound our way up to White River Junction, which seems to be a ghost town populated by one bartender and her confidential friend. Finally, though, 3 p.m. arrived and we checked into our room, pulled the shades, and collapsed into a pre-dinner coma.
After an elaborate meal served by a coy chatterbox, we strolled through the Dartmouth campus. Many young people passed us. They were wearing odd garments, mostly in fluorescent greens and pinks and oranges. Tutus were common. I wondered if they were attending a Safety Dance. Then we returned to our hotel and fell asleep while watching something that might have been a remake of King Kong.
The next morning we again ate a large diner breakfast. We went for a walk, returned to the hotel, read the newspaper in the lobby (the Miss Manners column was particularly good), and then sallied forth again, this time to look at the Orozco murals in the Dartmouth library . . . which are magnificent and you should go look at them as well. Think "Blake's sinewy bards combined with an epic irony combined with the history of Mexican conquest." Then think "perfectly preserved frescoes in a basement."
After that experience, we were sorry to have nothing better to do than go to a terrible flea market, which was followed by a mediocre sandwich and a visit to the American Precision Museum, an old factory building full of mysterious impressive machines (1850s through 1950s) that once made a lot of stuff such as guns and sewing machines and bicycles and typewriters. We wandered through the room, cloud-like in our ignorance, admiring the shapes of devices and the fonts on labels. And then we got back into the car and slowly drove back north, listening to a crackly baseball game on the radio, observing the river, and wishing for an exciting yard sale that we never found. We did, however, look at some expensive furniture that was supposedly on sale. We managed to return to the camp at 5 p.m. and fetched our son, who told us about his weekend (fake blood, splints with sleeping pads, hypothermia treatment on the trail). As you can see, it was different from ours.
And then we drove and drove and ate pizza and drove and drove. And here we are.
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Dawn's list of purchases:
October 1964 [David Halberstam's history of the 1964 World Series between the Yankees and the Cardinals. Also, the month and year of my birth, so of course I had to buy it.]
Pictures and Conversations [A collection of Elizabeth Bowen's miscellany . . . some autobiographical, some critical essays about this and that. You know how I feel about Bowen. I need to own it all.]
Doctor Jazz [First edition of Hayden Carruth's 2001 poetry collection. I talked myself out of buying two first editions.]
The Evening Star [A Larry McMurtry novel, published in 1992, and the sequel to one I read over the winter and only sort of liked. But this one could be a lot better; you never know.]
* * *
Tom's list of purchases:
Last Evening on Earth [A short story collection by Roberto Bolano, a writer whom Tom loves and I do not. However, I love Tom, so it all works out.]
A small box of prints labeled "A Special Study of Fine Art Reproductions Prepared by The University Prints, Cambridge, Mass" and including the typed insertion "HARVARD FINE ARTS 13, Professor Fo[illegible]e" [Containing a stack of black-and-white reproductions of something or other I haven't looked at yet but that Tom has apparently found entertaining and/or instructive.]
A preprinted postcard that reads, "YES! I'd like to know more about Shell Point Village. Please rush additional information to: . . . " and shows a picture of what could be a retirement village, or an island penitentiary, or a large industrial complex, and could possibly be on the Florida coast but who knows for sure [Tom has a large collection of such mysterious arcana.]