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Wednesday, 14 November 2012


We bought a hammock about three years ago. About three weekends ago, we finally set it up.

The cause of the delay: We didn't actually have a spot to hang a hammock at our old place.

We thought we did, but we were being unrealistic. There was a spot outside our living room window, next to the garden that abutted our house, where we would sometimes sit outside for a drink. At one point we thought we could stretch a hammock between two of the trees on either side of this sitting area. But there was just no way.

I suggested that we return the hammock, but my wife insisted we keep it -- even though I'm the one who really loves hammocks, while she just likes them. She insisted that one day, we'd live somewhere we could hang this hammock.

Now, we do.

But when we moved into our new house at the beginning of the summer, buying a hammock stand was not among our first financial priorities. In fact, it was not among our first hundred financial priorities. So the hammock stayed rolled up in our garage, ever vigilant, knowing that one day its day would come.

That day came when I turned 39 years old on the 20th of October. My wife used the occasion to buy the hammock stand that was the last piece in our long puzzle of hammock ownership. I was hard at work setting it up less than five minutes after I opened it.

Since then, I've enjoyed a couple naps in it, and twice lay in it to watch planes flying overhead through the darkening night sky with my son. Bliss.

Then last Sunday night -- ten days ago now, though I definitely meant to write this post sooner -- I decided to combine my passions to produce a conglomerate of awesomeness the likes of which the world had never seen.

I would stream a movie on my computer while lying in the hammock.

(Watching a DVD would have also been an option, but the DVD player on my computer is broken.)

It was after my son's bedtime, and my wife was feeling sick so she went to bed early. As though there was something perverse about the thing I planned to do, I waited until I was sure she was sorted away for the night before assembling what I needed.

I got a blanket and a pillow for warmth. November in California is warmer than November in most places, but it still gets cold at night. The pillow, of course, was for comfort, not warmth.

Then I got a Diet Coke and a bag of potato chips. I didn't know how well I'd be able to eat or drink in the hammock, but it's not a movie without something to nosh on, is it? I momentarily considered erecting a little table next to the hammock to hold my food and beverage, but decided to chance it with just having them in the hammock there with me. I knew at least the potato chips would be fine.

Lastly I brought out my laptop, my headphones, and a little "writing desk" with a cushion bottom for the laptop to sit on. (This "writing desk" is basically just a flat surface with a cushion underneath, to serve as a portable writing surface. I guess they expect you to rest it on your legs most often, hence the cushion.)

Now, one of the challenges of any hammock is to find the spot that provides maximum comfort. Unencumbered, you can toss and turn and readjust until you are sloped at just the right angle for whatever activity you're trying to pursue. With a computer, though, you want to be sure you don't move too vigorously, lest a spasmodic leg kick send your laptop flying into the bushes. To lessen the degree of difficulty, I left my drink and chips on the ground next to me, having faith that it wouldn't compromise my perfect viewing orientation when I had to lean out and grab them later on.

Eventually I found what I thought was a good position -- though I would fussily tweak it for awhile yet -- and retrieved my consumable items without incident. Even better, there was no problem streaming a movie out here. The movie played without buffering, even some 30 to 40 feet from my wireless router.

The movie I'd chosen was Gerhard Richter Painting. I don't know why. It counted as a 2012 film and I haven't watched a lot of documentaries so far this year. So, why not?

Only, I may have made a bad choice. The movie consists of a lot of shots of the famous German artist going about the unconventional procedures he uses to make his abstract art, which involve seemingly random paintbrush strokes and a finishing step that features what can best be described as a wooden squeegee.

Richter's process itself didn't bother me, but something about how they displayed his work did. There are a couple instances early in the film where the camera pans along a long gallery wall full of his work from different periods. The right-pointing pans that would last for as much as a minute at a time, when combined with the continual slight swaying of the hammock, left me feeling queasy. Queasy enough that I had to pack up at the 30-minute mark and finish the movie inside.

I guess some great passions are just meant to be enjoyed separately.

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