On Sunday morning we decide to go into Austin for a walk along the lake, and then brunch afterward. Austin is an easy drive, forty-five minutes of pleasant hill country, and no traffic. And in the city there are always interesting things to look at and do, but for some reason we don’t come in as often as we’d like.
I park on Third and Congress, a few blocks from Lake Austin. We walk past trendy shops, all closed on Sunday morning, to get to the walking trail, which stretches for miles in both directions, on both sides of the lake. David had a hip replacement a couple of weeks ago, and I’m having a disc fusion next week, so we’re both sore and feeling sorry for ourselves. Both athletes and fatties populate the trail. The fatties only get out of their chairs when their partners make them. We slip in between two other couples, joining the long queue of walkers and adjusting our pace. I laugh and David asks, “What?”
“I wonder how long it’ll be before thinking about that stupid vest stops making me laugh.”
Then he laughs too. The vest is hilarious.
I’ll start with the silk: Mossy green. I got it in Cambodia a couple of years ago. At the time I also bought a couple of yards of yellow, from which I made a lovely top—but it fell apart after only a couple of wearings, so I’m not talking about a durable weave. And for this reason I didn’t want to invest a lot of time or effort into the green. I ordered a vest pattern from Butterick, thinking foolishly that vests are always quick and easy, and they make a nice accessory.
Every pattern comes with a size chart and, sensible as always, I took my measurements and ordered accordingly. While the retail world panders to customers’ egos by vanity sizing, patterns have remained true to their sizing for over a hundred and fifty years. In a store I’m a ten, but as far as Butterick is concerned, I’m a fourteen, which is, frankly, more believable.
The vest was far from easy. With a hidden fly, complicated facings, and a zigzag hem, I was in a state of mossy confusion the whole time I was making it. Every couple of hours, I’d go find David and say, “I cannot imagine how this thing’s going to look,” or “This vest is going swallow me.”
This is the longest walk David’s been on in several months, and his limp is becoming more pronounced. Honestly, I can’t wait until he gets beyond this. I have no patience with his stopping to stretch every few minutes. Also, while people-watching in Austin is always entertaining, there’s construction going on all over the place. We’ve taken detours over root-roughened terrain and, at times, have been instructed by orange cones to walk in the street.
“Are you ready to turn around?” I ask.
“At the next bridge.”
The bridge is broad, with benches, planters overflowing with green, and a generous view in both directions. A man with a telescope invites us to come look at sunspots.
“It’s fixed just right,” he says. I hunch over, see the sunspots, and am unimpressed. “You saw ’em?” he asks, excited.
“Did you know that this is International Solar Sidewalk Sunday?” he asks.
“No, I didn’t know.” And this does impress me. That we should be walking on this very day, when people all over the world stand on sidewalks and talk to strangers about sunspots, seems wondrously serendipitous.
David, too, looks at the sunspots, though he does a better job of pretending to be excited than I. We continue to the other side of the bridge, inadvertently arriving at the dog park, which is smelly and chaotic, with dogs chasing each other, barking, flying into the water. My little dog, Trip, would be scared to death of this place. He’d be trembling in my arms, begging me with his blind eyes to take him to safety.
Back to the vest, which has nothing at all to do with the garage. We’re getting the garage remodeled, the reason for which eludes me; but apparently this particular garage floor and that space-saving shelving, have always been a dream of David’s. The floor: first, two men sanded, power-washed, and hit it with a shiny adhesive; then they sprinkled multi-colored chips, let it stand for a few days, sanded it again, and covered the whole thing with a layer of epoxy that made the whole neighborhood woozy. Apparently this type of flooring is much coveted. Many manly men have dropped by, whistled, admired, and made plans of their own.
When I finished the vest, David was in the garage patching the drywall in preparation for the installation of the shelving, which will take place in a few days.
“Are you ready for a laugh?” I ask, poking my head into the garage.
“What?” David looks up, sees me step on to the new floor wearing the vest, and laughs. “You look like a munchkin.”
“I guess I’ll have it if I ever need a costume.” I’m both horrified and despondent. I ended up spending twenty hours making the thing, when it should’ve only taken four. “It doesn’t look anything like the picture. The picture looked cute. This looks ridiculous.”
“If I were you, I’d write a letter of complaint.” David is a letter-writer. I am not.
And the memory of the vest is why we chuckle on the Lake Austin walking path. When we’ve returned to our starting point, we head toward brunch. True Food. It’s all about organic. I have a Greek salad with hummus, always a good choice. David orders the best pancakes he’s ever put in his mouth. I try a bite of his. He’s right. They’re wonderful.
“One hundred percent natural.” He’s impressed that natural can also be tasty.
“Organic doesn’t mean it’s not fattening,” I say.
“It must be healthy, though, because it’s natural.”
“Just keep telling yourself that.”
He slathers on the natural butter, pours on the natural syrup.
A couple takes the booth next to us.
“Look,” I say. “It’s Howard and Bernadette, from The Big Bang.”
“Wow. It is.”
These two people have gone to a great deal of trouble to look like characters from a sitcom—over-sized buckle, hip-huggers, and bangs for him; the shellacked golden hair, glasses, and short-waisted dress for her. They spent time and effort in order to look like a popular TV couple; I spent time and effort on an article of clothing I’ll never wear. Which is more stupid?