"It was imprudent of us, in the first place, to become authors. We could have become something regular, but we managed not to.
We were lucky, but we were also determined." Roy Blount Jr

"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel

Saturday, July 12, 2008


I've got one husband, two dogs, a couple of lake houses, three motorcars (down from four), two Old Town canoes (one wooden and antique, the other kevlar), two parents, one brother, two pair of aunts and uncles, five first cousins, dozens of rose bushes, several thousand volumes in my personal library (truly--I used to catalogue them obsessively), and nearly that many items of clothing (just joking--but my closets are stuffed with garments because stuff I've owned for years still fits and never goes out of fashion or routinely--and conveniently--comes back in).

As of today, I own four mandolins. Because I suffer from MAS, Mandolin Acquisition Syndrome.

Four weeks ago, when my friend was visiting, we took a road trip to Brattleboro, Vermont. One of several reasons for the trip was my desire to test-drive a particular type of mandolin. I tried out several but was enchanted with the one I went there to see. I sort of thought I'd get one around the first anniversary of my starting lessons. (At that time, still four months away.)

This week, when a reputable long-distance vendor had a special discount on my desired model, with case included plus free shipping and insurance, the proverbial handwriting was all over the proverbial wall. It was A Sign that the time to purchase was already here.

So I made The Call.

Simple decisions are often accompanied by complexities. The shipping time was much shorter than I expected, and the instrument was already on its way when I realised it was headed for the wrong house. A few phone calls later, it was re-routed (in transit).

Around lunchtime I had a call from the husband of the FedEx driver. Down in Manchester, in the wee hours of this morning, my package was loaded on the wrong truck. The man's wife, a FedEx driver, ended up with it--she was making her rounds on the opposite side of the Big Lake. And he was phoning to give me her phone number and to let me know she was willing to go a little out of her way to meet me, to make sure I got my mandolin today.

Eileen and I connected via phone and arranged a meeting place convenient to both of us, and described our respective vehicles. (Thank goodness for State Rep licence plates!) I left the cottage and wended my way down to the tip of the Bay, only to discover that there was a huge Craft Fair going on at our meeting point. Everyone in New England had descended on the parking lots, cars (mostly from Massachusetts) and pedestrians and dogs were swarming the area.

I was doubtful I'd locate anything in that crowd, much less a tan Suburban with a magnetic FedEx decal on its door. The curses were taking shape in my mind when I noticed directly in front of me in the oncoming traffic the driver of a tan Suburban waving. At me.

We each pulled into the crammed parking lot, left our engines running, jogged towards each other. I signed her handheld thingie--with profuse thanks--and she turned over my big box. I wanted to hug her but restrained myself. We were blocking the flow of traffic.

I was home within 15 minutes of leaving the cottage. Good thing, too, because according to the Chap, the dogs couldn't handle my absence--the moment I left, they had a meltdown. "But She never ever leaves the cottage. Why did She abandon us? Where did She go? Is She taking a walk without us? Why couldn't we go with Her?"

At the Lodge, I routinely leave them behind, alone or with the Chap. They aren't used to it here. Couple of babies, they are--and I think it hurt the Chap's feelings.

Observe, my new acquisition.

It's pristine, with that nice "new mandolin" aroma, some sort of combination of wood and varnish. (What looks like marks on the body is the camera flash bounce.)

I sat down immediately with my music and played every tune I'm learning or have perfected or memorised. (This calmed down the dogs, they chilled out and curled up at my feet the way they always do when I'm practicing.)

I'm thrilled to find that this high-quality instrument has already made me a better player. Or else I'd progressed more than I thought, and the other mandolins were holding me back.

Looks like my MAS is in remission. Possibly cured.

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