Gurney's Inn
April 03, 2007

Low Tidings

I went upstate last week, a trip I have made countless times before. The difference, this time around, was that my wife came with me.

Usually, she stays home on my business trips. This time, because it was a Press Association function, and because Karen works for and is a shareholder of the newspaper, she decided to come along. (By the way, she is the creator of the award-winning cartoon that runs under this column every week.)

This meant, to me, that she was an employee and thus I was her boss. As most married men know, however, a husband never gets to play that role in real life, even if it happens to be true. That would become readily apparent as the weekend wore on.

I usually go about the trip the same way every time. I pretend I am in some rock venue circa 1970. I load up my CD changer with a selection of my favorite music and push the start button as soon as I hit Sunrise Highway. By the time I hit Albany, my imaginary "concert" is over. I chose, for this particular trip, Led Zeppelin I through IV.

I had forgotten the fundamental difference between us: I like to listen. Karen likes to talk. Unfortunately for Karen, I not only like to listen to music, I like to listen to it loud. Very loud, as Led Zeppelin is meant to be heard.

I hit the start button and cranked up the volume. Karen nearly had a heart attack when the first notes of "Dazed and Confused" shook the truck. "Shut it off! Shut It off!" she apparently screamed, though I could only read her lips over the thunderous noise the band made.

"Turn it up?" I shouted back, sadistically.

She lunged for the power button and shut it off.

"Honey, this is how I drive. If you want to go to the convention you have to go by the rules. After all, I am your boss," I said gently, a smile on my face.

"We're not listening to that crap," she said firmly.

"OK," I said. "I think Mr. Jimi Hendrix is waiting in the wings to perform."

"No music," she said. "Let's talk."

Ouch. There it was. A five-hour trip and we're going to talk. Me. Talking to a girl. "Lord, take me now," I whispered to myself.

"What do you think of Olmert's stance?" she asked earnestly.

I stared at her quizzically. "Who?"

"Ehud Olmert!"

She gave me the look that said, "How dumb are you?"

Here is a truism of our marriage. Karen is a newshound. Karen devours The New York Times. Karen knows a lot of worthless information, like about world affairs and theater and books and stuff.

I focus on the important stuff, like the coming baseball season and the Final Four. I have no idea who Ehud Olmert is, to be perfectly frank. I do know who Humberto Quintero is — he is the back-up catcher for the Houston Astros. So, you see, I have my priorities straight.

(Being the editor of a local newspaper, I should point out that while I lack knowledge of world affairs I'm on top of all the local issues. I can't think of any offhand, but if something does comes up I'll be on top of it.)

At the convention Karen immersed herself in the assorted seminars and classes designed to make us more effective newspaper people. She assumed we would take the courses together. Instead, I took "Morning Nap 101" and "How To Read Baseball Digest."

Saturday night there was a big to-do. Dress up. Dancing. Schmoozing. Talking.

Unfortunately, sports fans know The Final Four college basketball tournament was going on simultaneously. I tried to explain to Karen that real men, virile men like myself, do not prance around a dance floor when games are on the television. Pretend men dance and talk. Real men sit at the bar with other real men and yell at the TV set and eat pretzels and curse loudly and openly, as real men are wont to do.

Sunday morning, since we were at beautiful Saratoga State Park, Karen suggested we get up early and take a long walk.

This is what real men really want to do after a long night of swearing and drinking at the bar: get up early and walk and talk.

I suggested, instead, I have the bacon, ham and sausage omelet they were serving in the cafeteria. And while she was getting me a couple of those, could she grab the sports section of the daily paper in the lobby? She glared.

Undaunted, she tried again on the way home.

"So, what do you think of Ehud Olmert?" she asked earnestly.

"I think he's going to have a good season," I replied.

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