April 2018

Thursday, December 27, 2012


When I lived in Dallas twenty years ago, I had two friends who were Physics PhD candidates. Neither seemed to have much of a social life, and they were beginning to have paunches from the chips and beer they consumed as they watched television.

When I asked, “What are you doing this weekend?” they would look at each other, shrug, and say, “Couch.” For them, couch was a verb. An action verb.

I understand couching now better than I did then.

Last night, Ann and I had dinner with our friends Ellen, Donna and Chris. Ellen and Donna are twins, originally from Long Island, but hippie-Donna and her late-blooming sister Ellen have lived in Seattle for a long time. Now their mother Lillian, in her nineties, lives here, too. All three are characters.

Chris is a gentle soul with a loving heart who loves to be around characters, as I do.

During our tasty vegetarian dinner of rice with onions and mushrooms, soy loaf (as opposed to meatloaf) and mixed salad, Ann shared with us her nightmare about returning to college and living in the dorm. We all talked about our experiences living with other people when we were younger.

Chris once lived with three married couples, and the men didn’t do their share of the cleaning up, so one day all of the women just got a new place to live and moved out without telling the guys. She guesses that it took the guys a while to notice.

Chris also told the story of when her girlfriend lived in a house with a lot of people, and the woman who lived in the attic had the best stereo, so when she was out of town the others who stayed in the house tried to get to her room first.
One midnight, Chris and her girlfriend were sleeping in this woman’s bed when she returned and caught them in her room. She was mad, but Chris couldn’t say anything because her girlfriend taped Chris’s mouth shut when they slept to keep Chris from snoring. I’ve forgotten what absurdity kept her girlfriend from speaking, but she couldn’t talk either. The woman whose bed they were in was not amused. I was.

I told the story of living in D.C.’s Georgetown one summer with two male friends from Dallas (sort of like the sitcom “Three’s Company,” as mom said, which was code for no sex.) One of the guys, Eric, was pathologically neat. Once when I was reading a book with a cookie on the plate beside me, I reached down for the cookie, but cookie and plate were gone. (I’m really focused when I read, but I suspected that Eric had taken my cookie.)

“Eric!” I yelled. “Did you do something with my cookie?”

“I threw it away,” he said. “And I washed the plate.”

“I was eating that cookie! I was sitting right beside it! Next time, at least ask before you take away the food I’m eating!”

We all had stories.

After dinner, we moved into the other room to talk. The other three sat in chairs, and I lay on a couch that already had a bedroom pillow and a comforter, and Donna tucked me in. I was “couching.” (As an aside, I must say that every home should have a couch like this.)

I was comfy, and I could hear the conversation. I couldn’t really sleep because the conversation was too amusing, but I did rest as I couched.

The other three talked about movies that they’d seen lately or would like to see.

Donna and Ellen took their mom to see the 3-D version of The Life of Pi. As fish swam by, she tried to catch them. At the end, the narrator reflects philosophically on the matter of truth, and asks rhetorically, “Is this the truth or not?” Ellen’s mom yelled out, “It’s not the truth!”

Donna said that she doesn’t like films with dead people that she’s “known personally, like Joan Baez or Bob Dylan or Martin Luther King, Jr.” Films with royalty, like kings and queens, are fine. She never knew them personally. She says that historical figures she didn’t know personally are probably fine, too. Like Joan of Arc. Lincoln’s probably fine, too.

Donna tried to invite the others into the horror of playacting. She said, “One day, they could make a film with someone else playing Pete Seeger.” Shudder the thought.

“Someone can play themselves,” Donna said. “Like Barbara Streisand. And she’s not dead yet. In her last film, Barbara Streisand plays an excellent Jew, with the intonation and hand gestures and everything.”

From my place on the couch, I laughed and thought, "Two thumbs up for Barbara Streisand."

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