One Summer ...

One Summer...
(Martin Barraud - Stone+/Getty Images)
Memoir by Nicholson Baker
Sunday, July 10, 2005

One summer I lived in a house that was being renovated, in a bright yellow room, with a mattress on the floor. I woke up late and tried to type in bed. I was working on a story about a man who by chance runs into his brain on the street. His brain is wearing a jaunty hat and is in a hurry. It has some kind of a sales job. At night I walked to a restaurant called Gitsis Texas Hots and ordered two hot dogs and a cup of coffee and reviewed the day's work on "My Brain." The story was never finished.

One summer my family went on a boat in Ontario's Georgian Bay with another family. There was a girl who slept on the boat with her eyes open.

One summer a friend and I went on a bicycle trip. In a small town in New York state, somebody opened a car door, and we both collided with it and fell down on the street. And we were fine. Later, a flock of birds gathered in the tree above our sleeping bags in the early morning.

One summer in California I owned 100 shares of stock in Koss Corp., the headphone company. I bought a newspaper and discovered that the stock had doubled in value. I sold all my shares and bought a Honda Passport motor scooter. My girlfriend rode on the back, wearing a red helmet, and I had a blue helmet, and it was lots of fun except that she burned her leg on the muffler and had to go to the emergency room.

One summer my girlfriend and I got engaged, and we went to Jordan Marsh and bought a mattress and a box spring from a salesman named Sam. Sam said his wife liked a softer mattress, but he liked a firmer mattress. He led us to a mattress that was both firm and soft. The thing about this mattress, he explained, was that on it the two of us could "sleep to the edge." If you got a cheap queen-size mattress, he said, it was really like only getting a full-size mattress, because you couldn't sleep to the edge. We bought the mattress Sam recommended, and 20 years later we are still sleeping to the edge on it.

One summer I painted the floor and ceiling of a room in the same day. The paint didn't stick very well to the floor, however.

One summer I tried to write about a man I'd interviewed named Pavel Moroz. Mr. Moroz had invented something he called a microcentrifuge. He took tiny spheres of liquid and spun them at the highest speed he could spin them at, using a dentist's drill. Nothing spins faster than a dentist's drill, apparently. Mr. Moroz believed that ultracentrifugation would transform matter into new states of purity and whatnot. But nobody paid attention to him. When I talked to him, he was taking classes to become a licensed masseur.

One summer I had a paddle board, and I went up the side of a big wave to the top. Then I was under the wave looking up at its sunlit crest. Then I was turned some more, and I saw sand and gravel doing a little polka on the bottom. I had no idea there was so much going on inside a wave.

One summer there were several cars with trick horns installed that played "La Cucaracha."

One summer I heard someone next door typing on an electric typewriter while I sat outside in the sun. I listened to the swatting of the keys and thought how rare that sound was now. I tore an article out of the newspaper about the bankruptcy of Smith-Corona.

One summer I sat at a table with Donald Barthelme, the short-story writer, while he drank a bloody Mary. He said he was planning to buy a new stereo system. I recommended that he go with Infinity loudspeakers.

One summer I worked for a company that made modems. I began working 12 hours a day. In the morning, driving to work, I held the coffee cup in my teeth when I was unwrapping a doughnut. Once, passing a truck, I forgot that the coffee cup was there, and I whipped my head around to be sure a car wasn't in the next lane, sloshing coffee on my shirt and my seat belt. Another time a can of 7-Up exploded in the glove compartment. The car, a Dodge Colt, began to have a sweetish smell that I liked.

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