As I ran up the long, gradual incline of Chestnut Hill Avenue, from the intersection of The Alameda and Loch Raven, I stumbled into the middle of a squirrel fight. At first I thought that the one small furry animal being chased down the utility pole was a rat, but it just turned out to have a very scrawny tail. The victorious squirrel remained stationary on the pole, at about the height of my head, staring me down. He was evidently so amped up from the confrontation in which he had just prevailed that he didn’t consider me a threat at all. He just kept staring. The sidewalk is narrow there, hemmed in by tall shrubs in someone’s side yard, and I had it drummed into me in childhood to beware of small animals that aren’t afraid of you. So I stepped out into the road and made a wide circle around the squirrel on his utility pole. When I looked back a few paces later, he was still staring at me.

At work we are hiring, and the ad makes the job sound more clerical than it really is. Or, rather, we don’t want a career secretary, we want a young recent graduate who doesn’t mind doing some secretarial stuff along with a lot of self-directed problem solving that secretaries aren’t as often called upon to handle. One of the resumes lists, as pretty much the foremost accomplishment of the person who submitted it, “25 years of perfect attendance.” It’s not my hiring decision, but – aside from the undesirability of hiring a 25-year veteran for an entry-level position – god, how depressing to think that this person never had anything better to do for 25 years than come to work. Not the kind of coworker I would want, but then, I’m more in favor of just getting things done, as opposed to just putting in time.

After work, I skipped Dizzy’s for a barbecue at Mary’s and Elliot’s house. Nice to unwind and eat a burger in a calm, quiet dining room for a change, plus everyone seemed so interesting: an auditor (who I could tell didn’t think auditing would be very interesting to anyone else, but I’m actually kind of fascinated by the process of figuring out – really quantifying – the health and truthfulness of massive organizations and companies); a professor who once taught a class entitled “Why Arnold Matters” (Ahnold, that is) and can do a pitch-perfect imitation of the Governator’s speaking style; and so on. Talk included reminiscences from a volunteer-fire-department-sponsored demolition derby several of the guests had recently attended, at which judges and bystanders were nearly killed when one of the contestant cars came hurtling out of the competition area and landed upside down outside of the jersey barriers. (And as an etymological point of interest, the person from New Jersey reports that she had never heard the term “jersey barrier” until she left the state.)

We enjoyed burgers, hot dogs and “sausage burgers” (I never did receive a very good explanation of what that meant – I mean, I guess I know what it means, but, why does it mean what it means, where did these things come from, whose idea was it?) from the grill. There was a lot of hyping up of the sausage burgers, and I kept meaning to go back for one, but, unfortunately, I never got around to it.

Back home, where I was waiting for a possible call from A. about some eBay auctions I’d helped her win (the video cameras for Bird Camp), I finally started Bangkok 8 and it looks like it will be just the ticket. A U.S. Marine murdered with snakes in the first pages, a vengeful yet thoughtful Thai police detective, throwaway lines like – in the course of just describing a streetscape that happens to include the U.S. Embassy – “In the 21st century the American ambassador works in a medieval castle. What is the karma of America?”

That’s as good a place as any to stop.