There is a song that the naked ladies with the ukeleles played, and it is haunting me. They sang the chorus a capella as they thumped their thumbs against their ukeleles, and it had the word “night” in it, and it’s the only song I want to hear right now. And it sounds like another song, but neither of these songs are on my “Things That Sound Alike” iTunes Playlist, and so the only music in this room is the hum of the air conditioner.

My dad bought me this air conditioner. He bought me every electrical appliance in this apartment, except the toaster. Rebecca’s mom bought that. My dad actually did buy us a toaster, but I accidentally set it on fire. I hold Mark Bittman the cookbook author responsible for that, though, because his index has a mistake in it. Mark Bittman’s book How to Cook Everything is very useful to me, because I don’t really know how to cook anything (except pesto and martinis). But Mark Bittman, he lies about some things. The recipe for breadcrumbs was not where he said it was. He said it was on page 259, but on page 259 is a recipe for White Pizza. I got impatient and decided to wing it, and there went the toaster. I suppose somewhere in that cookbook is a recipe for breadcrumbs, but I’ll never know where. My college mentor, a.k.a, the foremost Black Existentialist in the world, said that it’s very important to have a good indexer for all your books. It was the kind of offhand advice that makes quite an impression on a young person, especially coming from the foremost Black Existentialist in the world.

It’s hard to set an air conditioner on fire, though, so I still have that. My iPod was almost incinerated last week, but luckily that all turned out just fine. There are many ways I’d like to imitate my parents when I’m (God forbid) one day a parent, and buying unnecessarily powerful gadgetry for my children will be one of them. The air conditioner my dad got for me is designed to cool a room twice the size of mine. I’ve never run it above “Low Cool” and my room is an icebox. Having overly powerful gadgetry is one way my family expresses love and feels safe.

My parents were both here in this very apartment tonight. I met them in Prospect Park to see the showing of Dracula with a live orchestra and they gave me a ride home. Unfortunately, Dracula was cut short by a massive thunderstorm, but before it was, I saw enough to be enthralled. It’s very strange to see the source of such colloquialisms as “I vant to suck your bloood” and “I am…Count Dracula.” I know these phrases not as lines in a movie, but as cliches. When Bela Lugosi first came on the screen, I was struck by how serious he was, how at the source of all these parodies was such a direct and perfect embodiment of a character.

It was most amusing for me to watch Dracula while sitting in between my parents, because when I was a kid I was terribly afraid of scary movies and music in minor keys. I learned the term “minor keys” just so I could describe the exact type of music that scared me. Now that I am finally able to watch a scary movie scored by music in a minor key all by myself, I was instead doing it just as I always had–flanked by the two five-foot-four-inch Jewish people who gave me life and kept me safe, safe from music in minor keys and safe at the comfortable and artificial temperature of 74 degrees.

My parents imparted to us a belief in safety, but also a sometimes contradictory thirst for adventure. My brother is now a whitewater rafting guide on the West Coast, and I spent a week of the summer on tour with a band, and will spend another three in the Andes. I think my mother would be totally out of her mind with worry if she weren’t taking a series of seaplanes to a remote British Columbian island in a week to distract herself from the fact that her two children are, in her mind, constantly in danger of capsizing on a Class V waterfall or getting thrown into a foreign jail, without a jacket.

“So,” she said casually, “Are you going to Bolivia, or just Peru?” I can tell she thinks there are some kind of still greater dangers in Bolivia, but she’s putting up a brave front. Last summer, when Holly and I went on our fishing trip to Nicaragua, my mom implored me before I left, “Emily, I know you and Holly really like to do all kinds of crazy things together, and the two of you together come up with some wild ideas, but please, you’re going to a foreign country. You can take hallucinogens here at home, where you won’t get lost.”

Well we didn’t even take any hallucinogens in Nicaragua, so she worried for nothing. (We’ve taken most of our hallucinogens in city and state parks, and I have gotten lost, but only in my own mind, which is a much scarier place than any foreign country.) Instead we climbed a giant volcano with what I now realize was a totally incompetent guide and got lost in the jungle in the dark and almost slid off the not entirely stable cliffs all the way down the side of the volcano. And wandered around a vaguely menacing border town for two days, drunk. But other than that I would say the trip was totally safe. Well, the rest of the trip I took with Holly was pretty safe. We went to a colonial city, grumbled about colonialism and wound things up by skinny-dipping with some strangers in the harbor of a beach town. Then she went to Peru to see her boyfriend and I went off by myself. Which was completely safe except for the part where I went surfing for three days, unsupervised, in this beach town on the brink of gentrification. It was wonderful. I traveled thousands of miles and I finally felt like I was in Williamsburg circa 1996. I took one surfing lesson and then the guy gave me a board and sent me out into the crashing waves for three days at no charge, where I was battered to a pulp except for the two or three times a day I stood up on my board and actually surfed. But then at the end of the three days I found out that I hadn’t really been unsupervised. “We’ve been watching you,” said the Costa Rican surfing instructors on the shore. But there was something about the way they said it that didn’t exactly make me feel safe.

The Yoga Farm I went to after that was very safe. Except for the snakes on the road in the dark. But I don’t think there were really as many snakes as Balbino the horseback riding guide made there out to be. He was just really paranoid about snakes because he’d been bitten by a poisonous one and almost died.

This year my mother has nothing to worry about in:re what has become my annual sojurn to Latin America, because this year Chloe is coming, and Chloe is nearly a licensed physician. So, you know, while we’re taking the hallucinogenic drugs on the Andean moutaintop, she’ll be able to monitor our progress in medical terms.

And as for worrying what might happen to me while on tour with the rock and roll band, my mother is just being ridiculous. The band spends most of it’s time inside a van, so I was essentially being supervised the entire time by a highly trained team of experts who have a lot of experience with teenagers. There was nowhere at all for me to get lost. Well, I did get lost for a little while in Vegas, but I wasn’t really lost. I was just asleep on a couch in a dark corner, and the band was very busy setting up their rock and roll show. I don’t think they would ever have left me on the couch in Vegas, unless they had picked up another adorable teenaged runaway.

Lost and safe are relative terms anyway. You’re never really lost, I reason, because if you got there, wherever there is, you can always get back. And you’re never really safe because we’re all going to die anyway. It’s sad to say, but no matter how powerful your air conditioner, something’s gonna get ya. It’s taken me longer than most people to realize this (such is the soothing power of powerful gadgets) but I’m starting to accept it. The only way to keep from getting completely lost is to record your image and voice in a film good enough to be shown at outdoor film festivals a century from now, and even then, one big bolt of lightning is all it will take to make your graven image flicker, and go dark.

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