Throwback Thursday With Guster and Keytar Bear

I came up the escalator and above ground to a wet snow and an empty plaza. Half an hour before, I had been sitting in my room in my pajamas getting ready to attack a pretty boring day off to-do list, but when I caught a tweet that Guster was performing a free pop-up show in an hour, there was no question that my priorities were going to shift.

Now though, where was the show? Had a missed something? Read the time wrong? I scanned the grass and the surrounding few blocks for quite awhile, registering nothing, before my eyes settles on a group of people crowded around something I couldn’t quite see. That couldn’t be the concert though. Guster’s a big band. They’re really famous…aren’t they? I’d seen larger crowds than this one in this very spot, browsing a single booth at the farmers’ market.

As I approached, I began to hear music. Not only was this tiny, impromptu group of Bostonians huddled around four guys with musical instruments in fact one of my favorite bands live in concert, but they had almost no amplification. I was less than a hundred feet away before I heard anything, and when I did…

It was the intro to “Careful,” the first track off their 2003 album Keep It Together. If you know this song, you know that it’s placement as the first track on the record is no accident. The introduction is one of those pulsing, gearing up licks of music that eases you gently into the experience. I know lead vocalist Ryan Miller is just singing nonsense syllables at this point, almost a kind of vocal warm-up for the album, which in itself works well, but it’s always sounds to me like he’s saying, “on and on and on and on.”

I bought this album in 2004 at the local indie music shop we frequented in Worcester where I went to college (and where I’d seen the band perform the year before), but my real memories of listening to it are from 2007 and 2008, after I graduated. It was my road trip album, my talisman that helped me make the transition from my home town where I was living, back to Worcester where I returned every couple of weeks to visit a boy. That introduction feels just right to start a long drive. The rhythmic pulsing marking the passage of the first miles, the bittersweet, pensive lyrics getting you settled in for some quality time with your own thoughts.

“We were young, 21, all those years ago,” say the lyrics to “Do You Love Me?” the first single off Guster’s 2010 album Easy Wonderful. They’re a great band to see on a Throwback Thursday, and an even better band to see in the informal pop-up setting that they chose to play this afternoon. The crowd skewed a bit on the older side, with the median age in the early 30’s, clearly sharing some of the sentiments that I was, singing along with the older songs, not knowing the new material as well. The band sensed this, and, while playing new tunes to promote the album that was released just today, Evermotion, they buried them in the middle, ending the show on the crowd pleasing “Amsterdam,” which, and stay with me here, I realized is the antithesis of The Decemberists’ track from the same era, “The Engine Driver.” Both are songs about using writing as a tool for working through your emotions toward another person, but where Decemberist’s front man Colin Meloy’s twangy, emo tone of voice (and don’t get me wrong; I love this song) conveys a luxury of angst, Ryan Miller and Adam Gardner, especially when they sing in harmony as they do on this track, can’t help but rejoice.

This afternoon their love for their music was apparent from all the band members, as was their sense of having fun with an unconventional performance format. Adding to the whimsy of the day was a special guest performer, who played along on every track, Boston’s most beloved busker, Keytar Bear. Now, if you don’t know Keytar Bear, I almost don’t want to describe him, because it just doesn’t do him justice to say that he’s a guy (or a girl? I really have no idea.) who dresses up in a bear costume and plays the keytar for spare change all around the city. But that’s who Keytar Bear is. And more than a square on a Boston bingo card, this is a legitimately talented musician, who expertly tweaked old Guster favorites with some improv solos, much to the amusement of Ryan and Adam, who I was close enough to see exchange those magical interactions that musicians who work well together do, as they effortlessly vamped in the background of the solo, deciding on the fly how to end the song.

From left: Keytar Bear, Adam Gardner, and Ryan Miller try to keep warm on a snowy day in Copley Square
From left: Keytar Bear, Adam Gardner, and Ryan Miller try to keep warm on a snowy day in Copley Square

When the last tune was over, the crowd dissipated as quickly as it had come, with people who had stopped to see what all the fuss was about continuing on their way to wherever they had been going. A few people stayed and talked to the band, because we were all standing right there, and they were putting their own instruments away in the cold like regular people. The strangest part was, not even that many people were swarming them. I thought everyone would use the opportunity to at least snap selfies with the band. But apparently the class of person who goes to a free concert on a whim in the middle of a Thursday is not that kind of fan.

I walked right up to Ryan Miller and thanked him playing the show. He was polite, saying that he had had fun too, and thanking me for being there, but it didn’t feel profound. Ryan was just a guy putting away his guitar. In the end, I was glad I had had this opportunity. In a way it felt like redemption for the time I met Michael Pollan and completely froze, unable to come up with anything to tell him that Kathy Bates hadn’t already said to James Caan in Misery.

This is 2015 and, let’s face it, today didn’t bring me any closer to buying the new album. They didn’t even bother to have a merch table. But it might have made me more likely to buy a ticket the next time Guster plays a show that you actually have to pay for. Rock stars may be the people best equipped to deal with the concept of hawking one’s personal brand. And this is group of guys willing to play a show in the cold, for free, to 50 people, just for fun. I think that’s some pretty good branding.

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4 Things Women Need to Stop Saying to Each Other Immediately

I don’t usually talk feminism, but I just read this post on the funny and poignant I Am Begging My Mother Not To Read This Blog, and needed to chime in. In the piece, Katherine asks her fellow women to stop judging each other, comparing bodies, and doing all those other little everyday things that we may not even notice we’re doing, and don’t always think of as standing in the way of gender equality.

Now, obviously, for our own sanity and peace of mind, as well as for the sake of being nice to other people, we need to stop mentally and verbally saying things like, “She’s prettier than I am,” “I’m prettier than she is,” “How does that bitch stay so thin?” and “Why doesn’t that bitch lay off the donuts?” Obviously, this needs to stop. What not-so-obviously needs to stop, and just as urgently,  are the comments we make to our friends that make them feel bad in ways that we don’t realize. For example:

4. I Can’t Believe You Ate the Whole Thing

I know you don’t mean it in a mean way. And I know that you think that just because you’re friends, or just because she’s skinnier than you, you think this is OK to say, in a some-of-my-best-friends-are-black kind of way. It’s not OK. It will make her second guess everything she eats for the rest of the day, and it will make her second guess everything she eats in front of you for the rest of the month.

3. I Can’t Believe I Ate the Whole Thing

I know you think this is OK because it’s self-deprecating and not judging the woman you’re saying it to, but what if she was about to go for seconds, and now she feels like she can’t because you’ll think she’s a pig? Also, what exactly is your reason for saying this? And how do you expect her to respond? Are you just saying this as a reflex because you think that women need to apologize for eating? If so, stop. Eating is what keeps us alive. We shouldn’t feel ashamed that we do it. Men don’t apologize every time they indulge and neither should we.

2. We Walked Here, So We Deserve These Cupcakes

That may be true, but your voicing that sentiment actually has the opposite effect that you want it to. As mentioned in the last example, we women have a bad habit of constantly needing to justify what and why we’re eating. It’s completely redundant. Yes, this cupcake is a not-for-every-day treat. Yes, we’ve walked off some of the calories, so it probably won’t go straight to our hips. Can we move on from the justification and enjoy our freaking cupcakes now? Because dwelling on it is just going to ruin the enjoyment, and we’re not enjoying it, then really, what’s the point?

1. Is That All You’re Eating?

Just because something isn’t an insult, doesn’t mean it isn’t a judgment. Our society happens to be in an unfortunate place right now where slimness is widely considered such an attractive quality that women should sacrifice their health and happiness to achieve it in its most extreme form. That means, sadly, that many women feel bad about the size of their bodies, and deprive themselves of food to a point that becomes physically and mentally dangerous.

That does NOT mean that every single time a woman eats a salad, it’s because she thinks she’s fat, and needs you to tell her she’s not. She might just not be that hungry. When you call a woman out on not eating enough, it’s not mean in the way that, say, mocking her for eating too much is. It might even make her feel good for a minute. But in the long run, even under the best of circumstances, where that woman with the salad says “you know what? I will have a grilled cheese with this! Thank you for the compliment!” it still reinforces the walls of the world in which we live, where women are keeping tabs on each other’s eating habits, the good and the bad. And we’re never going to achieve, say, pay equality, if we’re too busy spying on each other’s lunches and making judgment calls about whether or not they’re up to our standards.

What other ones did I miss? Let me know in the comments.

~Jane

Mad Men Season 6, Episode 13: Am I the only one on Team Peggy?

I meant to write this when it was relevant. But I didn’t. Time got away from me. You know how it is. No one wants to read a Mad Men recap now. If you wanna talk AMC anti-heroes, everybody’s all about Walter White, not Don Draper this month. But you know what? I’m gonna write this anyway. Because it’s important. Because I have yet to read a recap that didn’t disturb me a little a bit. Because the fact that people see the show in so many different ways is part of what makes it great. And part of what makes it never stop being fun to talk about.

The other draw-back to waiting way too long to write this is, of course, the hilarity that is that notes I wrote for myself while watching it way back. I’ll make sense of the ones I can. There’s no time to go back and re-watch: I’ve got to get caught up on Breaking Bad before someone spoils the new season for me.

  • There was a lot of hullaballoo about Sally impersonating her mother with the fake name. I contend that that’s not what she’s doing. She’s simply trying to distance herself from the father she no longer trusts. Let’s not forget that her middle name is Elizabeth. She was using her middle name, not specifically because it’s also her mother’s first name. Anyway, no one calls her mother Elizabeth.
  • “The only unpardonable sin is believing God can’t forgive you.” That’s what the evangelist says to Uncle Mac in the flashback. Mad Men fans will never stop saying that maybe this time Don’s really gonna turn his life around…or is he? One can’t help but get a little meta and wonder if Don Draper’s god, Matthew Weiner, is giving the fans a hint that he’s going to give his creation a real shot at some sort of redemption next season.
  • When Don called Betty “Birdie” on the phone when she was upset about Sally, my heart got that confusing knife-twist-but-in-a-good-way-kind-of-until-you-think-about-it-too-hard feeling that was very similar to the feeling I got when they had their little summer camp backslide. It’s touching that he really does care about her, and for awhile there he did value the family that they had. But at the same time, the look Megan gets on her face when she hears him call he by the nickname, that’s when she knows they’re not going to California. Which brings us too…
  • Why the hell is everyone saying that Don’s somehow being unselfish or doing the right thing by letting Ted go to California? First of all, it’s (obviously) a hug slap in the face to Megan. Second of all, why kind Ted get his house in order without running away? Do his wife and children even want to go to California? And if he’s so in love with Peggy that his has to move his whole life across the country, is that really going to solve his problems? Maybe he’s just looking for something new because his relationship with his wife is deteriorating. Starting over in a new place with nothing familiar and no friends is not a good place for a rocky marriage to be. And…why does Don…I mean…oh this whole thing makes me so mad. If he is trying to be the good guy and save Ted’s marriage or whatever…why isn’t he looking out for Peggy? Certainly he has a better relationship with her than Ted. Shouldn’t he be on her side?
  • And when the partners fire Don and Joan says that Ted “feels confident he can oversee Peggy from LA?” Well then…um…isn’t that…not really a good thing?
  • When Peggy’s waiting for Ted to come in in the morning, thinking he’s gonna say he left his wife, but really he’s ending it…did anyone else notice that she’s wearing the same outfit she was wearing when they had their interview at the cafe when he offered her the job? Adorable! She probably did that on purpose. Oh Peggy. You poor thing. You just can’t catch a break can you?

I know there was more, but I think I pretty much hit the important parts. Rehashing all this made me sad. I’m gonna go have a Hershey bar.

~Jane

Mad Men Season 6, Episode 12: I want my juice back.

The last time Don and Peggy ran into each other at the movies, it was the denoument of season 5. They were both alone, seeking some time away from the advertising world, and it was the first time we ever saw them as equals. That feeling of the trust and comfort that comes with a shared past that filled that moment was a(nother) turning point in their relationship, and a treat to watch. Although there was, of course, an elephant in the room and its name was Ted Chihuahua.

This time Ted was right there, on what could only be called a date with Peggy. And for all Don’s dismissive “You’ve been on a soap opera too long” comments to Megan about his lack of interest in the situation, the first thing he does after that encounter is to call off the Juice Armistice.

Ted’s arguments in the meeting when Don gives the “good” news about Sunkist remind me a lot of Don’s own in Season 2, Episode 2, “Flight 1.” That’s the one where Sterling Cooper makes the decision to get rid of small potatoes account Mohawk Airlines in favor of chasing hot ticket American. Don’s paradoxical loyalty when it comes to clients showed that he does have some moral scruples somewhere in there, and he truly felt bad about breaking Mohawk’s trust.

Add that to the mix of his sincere gratitude to Ted for what he did for the Rosens’ son, and the fact that he would have said no to Sunkist just to annoy too-cool-for-the-East-Coast Harry Krane, and we’re left with the knowledge that it would take something pretty huge to trump all that and make him go after Sunkist instead of Ocean Spray the way he did. It’s obviously to do with Ted’s relationship with Peggy, but why? Seth Stevenson at Slate put it well when he asked, “[I]s Don longing for that chaste, spiritual/creative connection he and Peggy used to share and no longer do? Or is watching Peggy cavorting with Ted forcing Don to realize that his feelings are slightly murkier?” I really hope it’s not the latter, because Season 4’s “Suitcase” did such a good job of taking murkier feelings off the table, and Don and Peggy’s relationship has always been so fascinating in part because she’s the one woman (other than Anna, and really, didn’t Suitcase set Peggy up as Anna’s replacement in his life?) that he seems to truly just not see in that way.

Which brings us to that weird argument he has with Ted after St. Joseph’s Fire. In a way it’s exactly what Ted needs to hear. Yeah, they have all been there; their judgement clouded by love/lust/whatever you want to call it. And yeah, cooler heads need to call them out on it so the company doesn’t suffer, but of course it’s more personal than that.

“I know your little girl has beautiful eyes.” (Does he really think that? Why does he call her a little girl?)

“We’ve all been there- well, not with Peggy.” (Is he just clarifying? Or did I catch some disdain in his voice, as if he’s saying Ted’s such a dork that he didn’t even have the sense to put his career on the line for someone hotter?)

I think the answer to Don’s motivations here lie in what he says to Peggy later, that Ted is “not that virtuous. He’s just in love with you.” In implying to Peggy that she only sees so much good in Ted because she’s flattered by his interest, he shows off his own ennui with the whole idea of human relationships and their vulnerability to individual perception.

So, why does Ted and Peggy’s relationship get under Don’s skin the way it does? Does he want Peggy as his own personal pet protege forever? Is he realizing he might want a piece of that after all? Is he jealous that their flirtation growing out of a mutual love for their profession reminds him of what he used to have with Megan? Does he want to save Peggy’s innocence from an entanglement with a married man because he failed to protect his daughter from being scarred by his own personal failings?

Is Kenny’s eye gonna be ok, or what?

And what were the circumstances under which Lee Garner, Jr. made Roger hold his balls?

Until next time,

Jane

Mad Men Season 6, Episode 11: Screw Men, Get a Cat

First things first. There were a lot of runners-up for Quote of the Night this time around.

5. “I was comforting Mrs. Rosen. She was very upset. It’s very complicated,” was gold if only because it’s so classic Draper. Remember he used to say things like “Mrs. Draper’s working through some things?” when eyebrows raised at the fact that he and Betty weren’t living together? You can’t just cover up things like this with your BS, Don.

4. “Imagine if every time Ginger Rogers jumped in the air, Fred Astaire punched her in the face.” It’s just a great visual. I can’t not giggle.

3. “You were a sour little boy and you’re a sour little man. You’ll always be unloveable.” You tell ‘im, Mrs. C.

2. Not actually a quote, but Roger’s orange juggling made me laugh out loud. I want to believe that John Slattery got the part because juggling was on his resume and Weiner knew he’d need it at some point.

But the winner is…

1. “Don’t be an asshole, Don.” So sincere, succinct, and otherwise Ted-esque. How has no one else ever said this before?

ANYWAY, on to the actual plot. Ever since season 1, the office has been like a character on the show, and, like other characters that usually get a lot of screen time, when it doesn’t, it throws off the rhythm just a little bit.

What with all the “favors,” very little of the episode actually took place at SC&P; characters’ homes stole most of the action. Not just places that we’re used to like Don’s and Betty’s, but locations we don’t often get to see, like Ted’s house and Stan’s apartment, giving us rare glimpses into these characters’ private lives.

And let’s not forget The Great Mouse Caper at Peggy’s place. This was our first trip there since she broke up with Abe, and it was good to follow up that story line and see how she’s doing without him. In fact, this was a great episode all around for us Peggy fans. Finding out that she and Stand are call-in-the-middle-of-the-night-if-there’s-a-rat-in-your-house kind of friends, seeing how torn Ted is about what kind of juice woman he wants, and oh yeah, after four seasons of it shocking us how much it never happened, a reference to the fact that somewhere out there she and Pete have a child.

Meanwhile in Draperville, Don tries real hard for a minute there to do the right thing by a fellow human, only to completely screw things up all over again. So, business as usual.

A lot of recaps have been speculating about Don’s motivations for rekindling things with Sylvia even though he does seem to genuinely like Arnold. Does the answer lie in the fact that he doesn’t know how to have a relationship with a man that doesn’t involve competition over women? His mentor in high-rolling douchiness, Roger Sterling, hit on Betty at the height of what might have been called their friendship, but does it go back even further than that? Let’s not forget the unique brand of amiable-trust-turned-wife-annexing that was his relationship with The Real Don Draper.

And speaking of his rekindling with Sylvia, am I the only one who noticed how convenient it was that he was pretty much fully dressed for a quick getaway when Hurricane Sally hit? Maybe that’s why no one on this show seems to believe in foreplay.

With season 6 winding to a close, there’s only one question that still needs answering: What will poor Sally Draper walk in on next?

a. Glen Bishop and Sandy from the first episode embracing the culture of free love

b. Arnold and Megan evening the score

c. Bob Benson and Pete Campbell rubbing their knees together vigorously

Let me hear it in the comments section!

~Jane

Mad Men Season 6 Episode 10, A Tale of Two Agencies

Does anybody remember that episode of Seinfeld where Elaine befriends a group of guys who are the Bizarro World versions of Jerry, George, Kramer, and Newman? If memory serves, they were like good-guy doppelgangers who were way less neurotic, mean and generally absurd than the show regulars.

It’s all I could think about while watching the former CGC boys hold down the fort while team SCDP frolicked in the sun. Ted Pshaw and Jim Cutler are totally the Bizarro Don and Roger, right down to their shaky truce of a bromance.

Ted’s the workaholic creative director making inadvisable romantic decisions at the office. Just, with less alcoholism, sketchy past, and general inability to feel.

Jim’s the slightly older account man, wise-cracking, plotting against people he doesn’t like, and giving off a bit a dirty old man vibe, but not entering Roger’s league with any of it.

I want to see this dynamic explored even more. Maybe they should have contests to see which duo looks better in jaunty little sailor suits, or who can be the first to make Peggy cry. Roger scored a point for SCDP this week in the category of Best One-Liner for “Our biggest challenge is to not get syphilis.” Cutler shouting at Bob “WHY ARE YOU ALWAYS DOWN HERE? GO BACK UPSTAIRS!” was a close second, if only because Bob Benson is so cloying that it’s always funny when someone calls him out. (Is Bob Benson’s So-Sincere-I-Don’t-Trust-It Smile the Bizarro Pete Campbell’s Bitchface?)

In other news, I really can’t emphasize enough how much I love a good Joan and Peggy scene. Every time they’re along together on the screen, you can almost see the status shifting from one to the other depending on the situation. Joan was one step ahead of Peggy for a long time, but in later seasons, Peggy’s career success coupled with the string of blows to Joan’s self-esteem shifted things a bit. This week was the first time Joan has ever outright gone to Peggy for advice though. If only timid little season 1 Peggy knew what was in store for that relationship in the long haul.

Though she might not know her way around the men’s areas of their business the way Peggy does, Joan has does a bang-up job of appointing herself head of “the girls” at the newly merged agency, seeming to have made short work of the office manager from CGC that we briefly saw. I believe that makes her the only major character who has firmly established herself as the reigning champion in one of those ubiquitous SCDP vs. CGC battles that know one but Cutler wants to admit exist.

In that area Peggy is, of course, her own doppelganger, caught between her old self who deferred to Don and his always smooth gray suits, and her new self who holds sexual power over Ted and his always dorky turtlenecks under corduroy. What do you think? Will the most recent development in her relationship with Joan give her more confidence in her status at SC&Whatever, or will she give in to her vestigial Catholic guilt and feel bad about how the situation turned out?

Nice rappin’ with you Rog,
Jane

Diplomacy

                “It’s not like that,” she said.  They were sitting on the steps of the old house where Raynor had grown up, looking out at the moss-covered rocks on the front lawn, and trying to get the bottle caps to land on top of the biggest rock the way they had done when they were children.  The house still reminded Tara of the house in Forrest Gump, the way its size was somehow mediated by its straightforward shape and layout, so that the place managed to appear unassuming.

                “It sounds pretty much ‘like that’ to me,” he told her, keeping his hand in the air after it let go of the bottle cap, his gaze never leaving the target.  Tara looked at him, fidgeting with the bottle of hard cider in her hand.  When they had both spoken the language of children, there had been perfect understanding between them.  She, like him, had known no other way than calling it just like she saw it.  Now though…she liked to pick her words carefully now.  You never knew what might happen if you didn’t.  It was just Raynor’s good fortune that he didn’t care.

                But he had learned not to press her when she was searching for what she wanted to say.  Instead he now kept his gaze forward, putting his left hand out to feel for the tin between them, to reach into it, to shuffle through the history and select his ammunition.  The freshest bottle caps were from Woodchuck hard cider like they were drinking now- Raynor’s cousin Julie’s drink of choice- and of course the Budweisers his father drank.  On the rock, and in the tin, it was Budweisers all the way down.  Under the Woodchucks, tinged with red rust, were the Blue Moons that Tara used to bring over, the Sierra Nevadas that Raynor himself liked, the Cokes his mother insisted on buying in bottles because she thought they tasted better than Cokes in cans, the Fantas they used to bring home from Shaughnessey’s Drug Store before it became a CVS and stopped selling Fanta, even older caps so rusted and weathered and ground into each other as to be unrecognizable, but always the King of Beers at every stage.

                “I don’t want to take time off work for that,” she said finally, tossing a Mike’s Hard Lemonade cap (Who drank those? One of Raynor’s ex-girlfriends?  The one he’d met at The Tap Rom that night?) towards the rock.

                “Really? That’s your excuse? Come on.”

                “I just don’t really feel like they’re family.”

                “But they are family.  Maybe spending some time with them would make them feel more like it to you.”

                “It’s a little late for that, you know?  I don’t really need them anymore.”

                “You always need your family.”

                “It would feel like giving in.  Doing it on their terms like this.”

                “Not everything’s a war game, man. And it’s not on their terms, anyway.  It’s not like your uncle predicted it.”

                “It just doesn’t feel right.”

                “Nothing ever feels right to you.  You keep doing this to yourself.  You keep not taking chances because you’re afraid.  But it hasn’t made you happy.  It’s made you miserable.”

                Tara sighed.  It was exhausting, talking to Raynor.  She wondered how she used to sit here with him every day, having him pick apart her every word, her every thought before it even had become a word.  It was no wonder he wanted to be a lawyer.  He would be a good lawyer.  If he could sit still long enough to finish law school.  He was currently taking a semester off from Boston College, under the pretense of an internship, gaining life experience at his uncle Flanders’ little boutique divorce factory here in town.  That was the thing with Raynor.  No matter what he wanted to do in life he had an aunt or an uncle or a cousin or a family friend who could help him do it.  Tara and her mother had always been alone.

                Until now.  Until her father’s mother had not-so-suddenly died.  The woman was eighty-six years old and her health had been failing for a decade.  No one was surprised when her heart finally stopped beating, and, though they wouldn’t admit it out loud, no one was particularly upset either.  In the prime of her life she had been inattentive and selfish, and her children had all taken the first opportunities they could to move far, far away. But no sooner had she gotten old and frail than Tara’s father and his three brothers had begun to sing the praises of their beloved mother who had always been so good to them, and had fought bitterly over which of them her nursing home should be the closest to.  The idea of her actually moving in with one of them was, of course, unthinkable, and the brother who won the nursing home fight almost never went to see her anyway.  Tara didn’t understand why they did these things, but she’d long since stopped caring very much.  Nana was a thousand miles away and Tara dutifully sent her a Christmas card every year, never expecting to get one back and never being disappointed.  Now she was gone.  That was that.  One less person to pretend to love.

                Raynor noticed Tara’s silence and realized he had gone too far. “Hey come on,” he said.  “I’m sorry.  Tell me about it.  Tell me why you don’t want to go.”

                “I…” Her mouth hung open, waiting for the words to come to it, but they didn’t, so it closed.  Tara shook her head a little, realizing not for the first time the gulf that lay between them.  She and Raynor were family.  They had been best friends since childhood.  They had spent holidays together, stayed home with the chicken pox together, moved north to give higher education a try together.  He understood her better than anyone in the world did.  And yet there was this.  The immense difference in the dynamics of their families made it impossible for Raynor to comprehend his friend’s hesitation.

                Tara looked away from him and threw a bottle cap.  It landed dead center.  Right where it should.  Raynor looked at it for a moment, then lobbed one of his own.  Not in a slow arc, but hard and direct, like skipping a stone.  It knocked Tara’s bottle cap off the rock and down onto the grass below.  They each broke into a smile as they remembered the elaborateness the game used to have.  A move like that was worth a certain number a points.  There were other rules, long forgotten, made up on summer afternoons with no school and painstakingly written down in lost notebooks or in chalk on the rock itself and then washed away by the rain.

                The game move brought them back to themselves, back to their old, easy relationship, and Tara shook her head, thinking maybe she could explain this whole thing to him after all and he could help her make some sense of it.

                But just then his phone made that abrasive whistling sound that meant he was getting a text message, and the moment was over.  Raynor glanced down at the phone and then put it back in the front pocket of his corduroys.

                “Becky?” asked Tara.

                “Just saying hi.”

                “She knows you’re going back to Boston, right?”

                “I told her.”

                “Recently?”

                “What do you mean, ‘recently?’  How often am I supposed to tell her?”

                Tara turned to face him, laying her left knee down on the top step as she adjusted the angle of her body. “Look,” she said.  “All I’m saying is you’ve got to remember that Becky never left.  If you told when you first got back that you were only in town for a few months…she might think your plans have changed by now.”

                “Because I never follow through on anything.”

                “Come on.  I didn’t say that.  She just…people believe what they want to.  You’ve got to be extra clear when it comes to this kind of thing.”

                “So you’re gonna be perfectly clear when you tell you dad why you don’t want to join the family in scattering his mother’s ashes over her favorite place in the world?”

                Tara turned back to face the rock, knitting her hands together between her knees.  A breeze blew across the yard and onto the porch.  Tara wished she had a sweatshirt.

                Raynor noticed it too.  The sun was fully down now.  She could see the shift in his thoughts.  She wanted to be the first to say it.

                “I should go.”

                She hated saying it like that.  Like she didn’t really want to.  She did want to.  But only because it was late and she was cold.

                “Wanna get lunch tomorrow?” he said.

                “Yeah, OK. I’ll come by around noon?”