My brother and I both had a late night on Saturday but we still managed to get down to the I-83 farmer’s market by 10:30 a.m. or so. We’d agreed a few days earlier to try to get breakfast there on Sunday and I’m glad we stuck to it. For $7 apiece we enjoyed coffee, hash browns and omelettes to order at a table next to the vendor’s stand. We were outside, the air in the shade of the overpass was cool, the crowds flowed past. So much better than brunch in a restaurant, as my brother observed. We ran into Brin, an acquaintance of mine from Living Classrooms days. She is due to give birth in three weeks and told me she is expecting twins. “At any point in the next three weeks my life will change forever, so I figured I better get down here while I still can. I may never get to the farmer’s market again.”
I still wanted to get a laptop sleeve (I had failed in this on Saturday), so we drove up to the REI in Timonium where I had seen one once before. Then we headed over to Filene’s Basement, in the same shopping center as the Target I’d visited the day before. On Saturday, I hadn’t been sure whether A. had taken our large suitcase with her when she’d left for Montana, but I’d since looked around and had been unable to find it, which meant to me that I really should try a little harder to find a good garment bag. I’ll have to get a suit and A.’s dress to New Orleans on Wednesday, and I didn’t think I had anything else big enough for the purpose. My brother suggested that Filene’s Basement might be a good place for a cheap piece of luggage.
This Filene’s Basement is on the second story of the shopping center. To get to it, we rode an escalator built onto the front of the building, essentially outdoors except protected from the elements by a sheet of heavy plastic. It was a strange sensation to be carried aloft over an American mall parking lot like this, not a view you often get.
Inside Filene’s, we poked around in the luggage section but couldn’t find any garment bags. I found myself considering buying a large suitcase when it occurred to me that I had at least one in the basement, currently storing my old Coast Guard uniforms. With that problem solved, we wandered the clothing racks for a while. Filene’s is a discount store, the kind of place that gets rid of other stores’ overstocks and slightly defective items, which means that startling bargains are often to be found. The problem is that these bargains will often be for lone pieces rather than a complete line, which in turn means that the odds are against finding your size. After messing around in the hat section for a little while, I found myself trying on sport coats. My desire to look dapper has come late in life (relatively speaking). There was a time when I never would have considered wearing a sport coat unless required by the understood unspoken rules of certain ritually formal occasions, and then only reluctantly. Coats and ties were what you were supposed to be rebelling against, I thought as a kid. (That you were supposed to be rebelling in general was always a given.) Plus dressing this way costs money, big outlays at one time, bigger than for jeans and t-shirts, anyway. I not only needed to grow up a little before I could start wearing a sportcoat, I needed to grow a bigger wallet. It’s never become a frequent thing, but I like to dress up now and then. I had it in mind that a visit to New Orleans would be the perfect setting for slouching around in a linen jacket, or a jacket made of some other kind of rough and ready material that could take some crumpling and sweat stains with dignity. Lurch through the French Quarter, tugging my lapels straight and shooting my cuffs, looking for the last detectable traces of the civilized instinct as the empire crumbles around us.
But none of the jackets I liked fit me. They were deeply discounted, but even so, they were still expensive enough that I would have wanted them to look right when buttoned, and that kind of thing. Picky, I know. On the way home, we stopped at a music store so that my brother could pick up some new drumsticks; I sat in the parking lot listening to bluegrass while he ducked into the store.
From this point on, a note of inexactness, a sense of low pressure, crept into the day. For one thing, I didn’t have that much I was trying to get to. And maybe I was emotionally hung over from my reunion on Saturday night. But the relaxed tone of the afternoon was a blessing. My last few weekends have felt intensely scheduled, with so much I felt that I needed to get to. Or maybe with the sense that I needed to figure out how much I needed to get to. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m going to hire a property manager, maybe it’s the fact of the upcoming time off in New Orleans, but somehow I feel much more stable and in control of this whole house-renting business. Of course, when I get back from New Orleans, it will incontestably be “the summer,” with just over two months to go before the move. Movers to arrange, house in Missoula to find.
Wait, why was I so relaxed on Sunday?