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Sunday, March 15, 2009

My Friend the Farmer

Being a blogger, I tend to spend a lot of time talking about myself.

And I guess that's okay, however, sometimes it's nice to spread the wealth around a little bit. With that in mind, I thought I would spend some time today talking about my friend, Sara.

Well, I guess I'll talk a little bit about me, too.

Mrs. Apron and I just got back from a weekend in rural Vermont where we visited Sara in the rustic, half-finished home she is building with her longtime boyfriend. By "half-finished" I mean, "they just put on a bathroom door for us a couple hours prior to our arrival." That arrival was 11:58pm on Friday night, after getting in the car at 5:19pm.

Last year, we spent 5 days at Sara's over Christmas, which none of us celebrate. Sara's boyfriend does, though, and it was fun eating a Christmas goose for the first, and probably the last time ever. This visit was prompted by the fact that Sara was starring in a community theatre production. Though we drove the longest, we were by no means the only nutjobs who schlepped 330 miles to see a play produced in a converted barn. Two of her friends from college came over, the one from upstate drove 2.5 hours and the one from New York drove 5 hours. Sara's parents came up, too, but they don't really count because her mom flew, and because they're her parents.

Sara's being in a play, as you can speculate from the vast distances people covered in order that they might see it, is an event itself. This was her first onstage appearance since 1997. She and I acted in shows together in high school, and we were quite close. Sara, under the moniker of Margaret Hyland in a totally inappropriate play for high schoolers called The Rope Dancers, was, in fact, my first kiss-- and I was hers. She was also my first slap-- I clocked her across the face pretty goddamn hard during that show. This was before we were fully introduced to stage combat.

This, by the way, is what happens when high school students are allowed to direct themselves.

A side-note about The Rope Dancers: I've said that this play was inappropriate for high-schoolers. We, as high-schoolers, didn't know it, though. The play concerned the plight of an Irish Catholic immigrant couple, James & Margaret Hyland, who moved to New York City at the turn-of-the-century. Their daughter, Lizzie, was conceived whilst James was drunk and had already fucked a prostitute earlier that evening, came home (to quote Margaret "still wet with the whore"), and had forced himself on his wife. Lizzie was born with a sixth finger on one of her hands, which Margaret believed was a punishment from God. During the course of the play, Margaret tries to hang herself, James smashes her across the face, Margaret lies down on the floor and spreads her legs, Margaret shoves Lizzie's sixth finger into her own mouth, a Jewish doctor cuts the offending digit off, and Lizzie dies.

Now you know why high schools do Our Town.

I always thought Sara was a shockingly talented actress, and not just for the insane shit she did with/to me in The Rope Dancers. Her talent was a ferocious kind, it was passionate and intense, never waning or compromising. But Sara had other interests. Primarily: shit and the animals who made it.

Back in high school, Sara always smelled like shit. Her car smelled like shit. So did her hair and her clothes and her aura. When she wasn't at home or on stage, she was shoveling copious amounts of horse shit at the farm where she rode, volunteered and later worked. She went to Cornell and became an Ag major, which is a polite name for people who enjoy shoveling and smelling like shit. She voiced her unremitting desire to, upon graduation, become a farmer-- much to the chagrin of her affluent and highly conservative Jewish parents.

They didn't take it well.

In spite of their objections, that's exactly what she did. Today, this Jewish girl from suburban Philadelphia sells fresh eggs, yogurt, yogurt cheese, raw milk, and grass-fed beef to drive-by customers. Sometimes, she even sells pork. And, yes, she still gets to shovel shit-- thanks to her twenty-odd cows.

A small, white painted sign that's as unassuming as she is reading, "Fresh Eggs and Milk for Sale" is just about the only advertising she can bring herself to do. Not much of a businesswoman, we witnessed her tell prospective customers that they could "get raw milk closer to where you live from another vendor." And so falls another stereotype about Jews.

As I stood next to Sara's father, watching her drive a tractor that was stabbing a load of hay with an enormous spear, I watched him smile, and it made me smile, too. I think he's still probably more or less a little shell-shocked at what has happened to his daughter, but this is a natural thing-- a thing that was bound to happen. Her on a tractor driving through a field of mud and shit is certainly no less natural than her pretending to be an Irish Catholic woman with a disordered brain. The Sara on the tractor isn't pretending, not for you, or me, or anybody. And I think her father is finally coming around to the idea that this is not a phase or an act. This is his daughter, who always, and who will always smell like shit. And like it.

By the way, the play we drove all that way to see was wonderful-- and she was heads above her castmates. Even though she probably should be a little rusty.

1 comment:

  1. I'm driving nearly 700 miles to get to vermont in April. Just to visit some relatives out there.

    glad you had a good time.


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