Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Visibility: Zero

Went out into the peasoup drizzlefog to pick up a New Year's feast; while I was gone, Ginny called to express disappointment that we weren't going to join her at a friend's party, and Josh and Clay called to let us know that they, too, felt like being alone this evening. Now there's a soft-as-butter black angus roast wrapped in bacon in the oven; once the baby falls asleep we're in for a candlelight supper and some wine, with curling up by the virtual hearth to follow. My kind of New Year's Eve, really. I used to want to be a party animal, but as I mellow in my old age I can accept myself for who I am: a cup of kindness and a loaf of thou are all I ever need to be complete. Happy New Year, everybloggy.

posted by boyhowdy | 5:41 PM | 0 comments

I'll take Things That Are New for 500, Alex.

It was 11:30 and we were on our way out the door for breakfast, already in the car with the baby, when Darcie's mother called to ask Virginia if she was still going to be in her 1:00 Dance performance for First Night Brattleboro. Oops. Ginny frantically scraped the ice off her car and took off pretty quick, so we didn't really finalize plans for New Years. Well, we've still got ten hours left of 2002 to decide.

In other news, an afternoon off means time to finally get to the Winter Fiction Issue of The New New New Yorker. Gladwell's Republican dis in the Talk of the Town has been widely reported; less noted have been two fine points from, repectively, a Norman Mailer piece on being a writer and an excellent piece on paranormal investigator Joe Nickell by Burkhard Bilger.

Realism is a species of fantasy that's much more integrated and hard-core than fantasy itself, but if you are ready to come to grips with the inevitable slipperiness of most available facts, you come to recognize that realism is not a direct approach to the truth so much as it is the most concentrated form of fantasy. (Mailer)

Last year, a Gallup poll found that half of all Americans believe in E.S.P., more than forty per cent believe in demonic possession and haunted houses, and about a third believe in astrology, clairvoyance, and ghosts. (Bilger)

Dear god. Superimposed, they say worlds, don't they? Apparently, a large minority of people aren't ready to come to grips with the inevitable slipperiness of reality. Sadly, the good folks at the New Yorker have already moved on to the next issue, but you should read that, too, if you don't already subscribe.

By the way: The word news is understood etymologically as a noun "plural in form but commonly used with a singular verb;" it comes from the Middle English newes, meaning new things. Thus, new news is a redundancy, news item is grammatically inconsistent. And now you know.

posted by boyhowdy | 2:15 PM | 0 comments

I'm On A Wavelength Far From Home

"You Will Be Successful...Someday"

Every year is a year of change, but this year more than most. I was closer to birth and death than ever before this year, and it brought me farther from my youth than I could have imagined possible. New Years means The End is Near, and thank goodness. I need some time to breathe, and the students return on Sunday.

Mom and Dad stopped by with shrimp chow fun and beef with broccoli on their way home from the Berkshires, where they had been visiting one of my father's old law-school buddies and a few other friends. After watching the baby laugh at herself on the video Neil made of our Christmas-in-Vermont adventures this year, we ate, and while we did, talk of holidays in general turned to a long-ago Thanksgiving we spent at Disneyworld. Funny how memories bubble up when you're with family. My head is still clear with idealized images of turkey and cannedberry sauce on a cruise ship with Pluto and Minnie, and a magical land with clean, clear cobblestone streets, no lines at the rides and no crowds at the parade, as if the whole Kingdom was our own private playground. Memory is a kind mistress; surely it wasn't that good, although we have good luck with Disneyworld: Darcie and I went a few years ago during a cold snap, and the place was practically deserted

Although kitsch and popculture splendor usually make me smile, by the time the 'rents left at eight, thinking about the past had left me pensive and moody with the weight of generations, as is my wont when after my family has gone. Also, my fortune cookie said You will be successful someday, but there was a line break between the last two words. What, like I'm not successful now? I'm sure it had the best of intentions, but I refuse to be dissed by a tiny piece of paper just because it came wrapped in a cookie.

The combination of cookie and memory made for a similarly pensive and moody, almost maudlin half-hour playlist when, at 9:30, I drove off in a light snowfall sans cohost to begin yet another weekly radio show:

Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man (theme song)
Kris McKay – Wish You Were Here
Norah Jones – Seven Years
Marc Cohn – Mama’s In The Moon
David Wilcox – Chet Baker’s Unsung Swan Song
Sarah McLachlan – The Rainbow Connection

Ginny called during the next-to-last song to tell me to come home, the weather was turning to freezing rain and people are driving fifty on the highway. It’s not like anyone was listening, what with all the students on break until Sunday. So I did.

Extra special bonus points and a free cup of coffee for the first caller that can correctly identify the source for tonight's title. All lines are open; operators are standing by.

posted by boyhowdy | 2:11 AM | 0 comments

Monday, December 30, 2002

Poem Of The Week: Three Oceanographies

Oceanography I

The sea is everywhere:
In the bitter, tiny fish
That nestle in peanuts;

In the scent of your sex
And the taste of your skin
Under the comforter.

Closer to the surface
Traffic roars, the surf
Of the American road;

Ski trails light up like starfish
On the dark mountains, their arms
Reaching towards the sky.

Oceanography II

The sea is everywhere:
In the bitter, tiny fish
That nestle in peanuts;

In the saltwater scent
Of your sex, the taste
Of your skin in these blankets.

Gulls howl fathoms above us.
Dunes shift. The moon pulls

Closer to the surface.
Traffic roars like surf
On the American road.

Ski trails lit like starfish
Cling to the dark mountains,
Reach towards the sky.

Oceanography III

The sea is everywhere:
In the bitter, tiny fish that nestle in peanuts;

In the taste of your skin and
The saltwater scent of your sex
Fathoms deep in these blankets

While gulls howl
White above


Dunes shift.
The moon pulls

Closer to the surface.
Traffic roars, the surf
Of the American road;

Ski trails lit like starfish cling to the dark mountains,
Reach towards the sky.

Copyright 2001 Joshua L. Farber

More at Watermelon Pickle Poems, or just look right --->

posted by boyhowdy | 6:00 PM | 0 comments

A Snore In The Darkness; An Echo In The Bloggiverse

Without You, I'm Nothing

Settled Willow in for a while at Darcie's parents house and finally saw Harry Potter II this afternoon. Not bad. A lot longer than we'd assumed, which meant more anxiety about leaving Willow for so long. I had forgotten my Nicorette; the lack of it heightened the anxiety and left a kind of dry metallic feeling in my mouth and eyes. Some guy at the other end of the row behind us snored really loudly during some of the quieter scenes; several murmured comments about it, but although the place was pretty busy no one had the heart to wake him.

By the time we left the theatre my blood was buzzing. Willow was very happy to see us, especially Mama. Backstory was that her behavior had been somewhere between not easy and a cranky disaster for much of the afternoon, but Patty and Neil seemed cheerful enough about it all. God bless Willow's grandparents, every one of four, for all past and future experiences, with us and our child.

When we got home, there was a message from my mother on the answering machine, whose basic content was your father checked your blog and saw that you were going to the movies; we're going away overnight; I thought I'd leave a message; call me.

Huh. They couldn't find me, but my cyberlife offered clues to my real life activity. Here we've been watching the skies, worrying all along about implanted chips and mass databases invading our privacy, when we should have been watching ourselves evolve. Paranoia of others is a concern made moot when, in the end, we choose a life in which we freely and voluminiously disseminate every detail of our lives.

Well, it's like I teach and Neil Postman says:

Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions".

Mom called back later, once she figured the movie was over; she and Dad are on their way to the Berkshires tonight, and hoped to stop by with Chinese Food tomorrow night on their way back to Boston (we're all for that). Plan so far beyond tomorrow is that we'll follow them in after New Years, stay for a few days, come back to Northfield with my Brother on the 4th. Looking forward to all of it.

Ginny came by late from a dinner and sledding party; we're thinking about doing the radio show tomorrow even though the vast majority of our listeners are far out of range, subjects, all, of the temporary diaspora of the prep school holiday break. We watched the tube for a while; now she's crashed out on the couch with the dog. I don't have the heart to wake her.

posted by boyhowdy | 2:20 AM | 0 comments

Sunday, December 29, 2002

It Goes Without Saying

All night I dreamt of ways to redesign the blog template. There are so many things I could say about that, but they all go without saying.

We're off to try an experiment: leaving the baby at Darcie's parent's house while we go see Harry Potter 2. It will be our first movie in 4 months. There are so many things I could say about that, but they all go without saying.

Did you hear about the new silence-powered car?

posted by boyhowdy | 11:06 AM | 0 comments

The Happy Browsing Blogger

I've been following links for a few, just kicking back. Amidst the chaff I found this, rediscovered this, this, and this, and decided that this is undeservedly ubiquitous.

And then I found this, the coolest blog design concept ever. The signs wouldn't fit my signifiers, of course, and the blog's been left to archives-only as of August 1st, but how the heck do they do that?

Also, everyone seems to have seen The Two Towers but me. That's fine, but c'mon, now.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:02 AM | 0 comments

Saturday, December 28, 2002

Downhill Memories, Downhill Dreams

Saucer Sled, Hot Cocoa To Follow.

After letting me sleep until almost one, Darcie asked very nicely for a few hours off from baby this afternoon. After a quick trip to Mim's Market for coffee, I was happy to oblige; I love the little tyke, after all, even if she's starting her clingy stage and can't always go that long without Mama anymore. We played happily on the floor for a while, making cooing noises and giggling at each other; when that got stale, I put on a jazz CD by Bob Dorough (the guy who did all those Schoolhouse Rock songs, now sadly licensed to Disney), and we danced around the room to Wake Up Sally, It's Saturday and Marilyn, Queen of Lies.

Willow is still developing regular sleep patterns, and the two-week hiatus from our usual routine has thrown what little pattern she had already established out the window, but she had a nap earlier in the morning, and I knew she wouldn't sleep for me. Darcie had left breastmilk in the fridge to mix with the powdered rice cereal flakes, but I was saving that as a last resort. When crankiness began to set in around 2:15 , it was time for something different.

Luckily, I had a plan. Willow was a summer baby, so we've been cautious about bringing her outside for long in the cold; today, however, was a beautiful bright day with little wind, and I thought a stroll around the campus might be a nice treat. I zipped and velcroed her into her warm brown teddybear suit and added a hat underneath the hood for good measure; since the good stroller was and is still trapped in the trunk of the plowed-in-and-buried Grand Marquis, I strapped her into the cheap second-hand umbrella stroller we use as a second-string backup.

Her movement thus restricted, the baby fussed a little at first. But when we stepped out the door, her jaw dropped open and her eyes grew wide. I must admit, my own eyes went a bit wide too. The snow was everywhere, white and shiny and glorious, like someone had adjusted the monitor settings on the universe. The stroller skidded and hiccuped as I pushed it down the half-shoveled aisle in the driveway past her favorite tree, now dripping icicles where once fall leaves fell in browns, reds and golds.

Past the mailroom, up the hill and around the white striated pillars of the dining hall; down again and along cottage row, now barren of house directors and students; past red barbecue grills with sparkly white caps standing deep in the snow we went. At the top of the long sloping hill overlooking the football field we found a growing crowd of parents waving and smiling as their bright-colored eskimo children flew laughing down the hill on their saucers and toboggans and inflatable sno-doughnuts and then trudged back up dodging other sledders and sleds. Mothers turned away from their speeding children to gurgle and caw and push their cold faces at Willow while a few of the fathers and I, mostly holding dogs and thus not hurtling down the gentle slope with their youngest children, exchanged how's your holiday small talk and compared notes about the best kind of sled. In the background, childless strangers, relatives and friends of the nearby residents rushing through the last moments of their visits, packed bags into their cars in silence.

When I was in grade school the best sledding was on the hill at Claflin School, an old derelict elementary building which was much later remodelled into a series of bright shining artist studios where, one imagines, the faded spirits of long-grown kindergarteners inspired crayon drawings of big-headed dinosaurs and construction paper collages ultimately destined for well-lighted refrigerator door displays in kitschy NoHo galleries. Wake to dad in the kitchen waiting for the plow; pull on our snowpants and boots and meet up with the kinds of half-friends that snow days make; walk though the backyards of old people with grown children whose faces we had never seen, across a few slippery streets and, finally, emerge from a long trail flush with low pine branches bent down to the ground with snow into a wonderland of children laughing and flying and building ramps they'd invariably miss on the way down the slope.

Such older boys and girls were absent today; the big-kid sledding hills are always parentless. Today was for the smallest children, whom we left behind, I lost in my thoughts, Willow lost in the bright new world of snow and yelling rushing-by children. Finally past the student center and into the driveway again; nose aglow, cheeks pink, eyes bright, we returned home. Darcie was beginning to stir; a new diaper and an appetite-whetting bit of milk-and-flakes cereal and the mother-baby bond was physically enacted once again.

Sledding with the baby will wait until next year; even the one-year-old downstairs is still reluctant to sit alone in his sled while his daddy pulls him on a yellow plastic rope. But there's so much Willow and I can do together now, and however eager I am to teach her how to keep from spinning on her saucer, we've got plenty of other hills to ride down together before the snows fall next winter, more, surely, than we'll ever have time for. Until then, I have my own memories, and a future bright with faceplants and giggling and dashing through the snow and aftermaths of hot chocolate and marshmallows to keep me warm.

posted by boyhowdy | 4:46 PM | 0 comments

Don't Forget...

1. Download your Not All Who Wander Are Lost Christmas present!

2. Help me cover the world with flowers. Plant a flower in your backyard!

posted by boyhowdy | 3:04 AM | 0 comments

Useful things I can do

1. Proofread impeccably.
2. Launder.
3. Teach anything except math, science, and computer science.
4. Hand-code HTML.
5. Find my way back from anywhere.

Useless things I can do

1. Flip a lit cigarette into the air and catch it in my mouth.
2. Sing harmony.
3. Stick a wooden skewer all the way through a balloon without breaking it.
4. Stay up for three days while remaining mostly coherent.
5. Eat all twenty McNuggets and a cheeseburger in one sitting.

Useful things I wish I could do

1. Run/exercise for enjoyment and health.
2. Breastfeed.
3. Fix a car.
4. Hit consciousness in less than an hour.
5. Drive stick.

Useless things I wish I could do

1. Play guitar.
2. Trim my own damn beard.
3. Make anything out of anything, like MacGyver.
4. Draw or paint realistically.
5. Tan.

[note: by useless/useful, we're talking skills which have practical application for the average human being; I am fully aware that professional musicians find it useful to know how to play an instument, and that it is often considered socially and financially useful to be able to trim one's own damn beard. Thanks to Chris Nyffeler for the list idea.]

posted by boyhowdy | 12:34 AM | 0 comments

Friday, December 27, 2002

...or are you just really happy to see me?

pygmy monkey

Man Sentenced For Monkeys In Pants.

From CNN.com's Offbeat News. Quite possibly the funniest headline ever.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:18 PM | 0 comments

Hoorah For Phil Ringnalda!!

I hope my loyal readers will allow me one last tech note: Phil, blogmaster at Blogger Unofficial FAQ blog, noticed that someone had changed the comments text to "poseurs" on my enetation account as a Christmas crack, and left some of the code unfinished! Changing the settings back was painless once I knew where to look.

Thanks to Phil for a Christmas miracle. My faith in the world has been restored. I'm even happy to handcode archives forever if I must.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:20 PM | 0 comments

Conversation on the Beach

A supposedly-true conversation between an Israeli Holocaust survivor and a young Arab youth. Chilling. An excerpt:

"Isn't there a way our two nations could ever come to terms and make peace?"

Again he gave me that serious look. "Yes, there is a way. We are not like the Nazis who gave you no other choice but death. We give you the chance to convert to Islam, then you will become a part of us and our people will live in peace."
A current Israeli joke: What is a Pessimist? An Optimist with lots of experience.

Sadly, that says it all.

posted by boyhowdy | 2:07 PM | 0 comments


Breakfast of Champions

Woke up to a pain. Hard to walk upright. Hernia? Groin pull? Something nasty and rare? Maybe I just slept wrong on some sensitive part of my body? Whatever it is, it still hurts several hours later. Guess it's time to take an Aleve. Aleve does wonders for my back, at least; if the problem today is muscular, then the muscle relaxant should help oodles.

I think I'm a hypochondriac, and I think I know why. I'm too intellectual; I don't understand my body as well as I understand my brain, but I know that without the body the brain is nothing. It scares me some when something hurts. I don't like medicine, either, because I don't trust something I don't understand to help something else I don't understand. I have this vague sense that the body should be able to fix itself. I usually take half doses of over-the-counter meds instead of the whole pill.

But it hurts nonetheless.

Also broken: parts of the blog itself. Archives still "missing" so I handcoded them back in last night; now, the comments are giving me an "unterminated string constant" error, then not loading properly. Tried moving the code around a bit but nothing doing.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:35 PM | 0 comments

You Might Be A Blogger If...

Myself, I'm thinking you might be a blogger if you're permalinking to someone's blog because it has a "you might be a blogger if..." list on it which isn't even that funny.

posted by boyhowdy | 2:08 AM | 0 comments

1. Download your Not All Who Wander Are Lost Christmas present!
2. Plant a flower at the Not All Who Wander Are Lost Guestmap!

The Dog In The Hall

After finally giving up and handcoding the archives back into the site, we bundled the baby into the car for a yummy visit to Greenfield's newly remodeled China Gourmet, where a windowless sushi lounge has been added to what was already an excellent spot for fine greasy MSG-less dining. The combination of Sushi Bar and Chinese Food restaurant, first seen in Northampton a number of years ago, seems to be more the norm than the exception these days; I suspect an economic decision drives the combination of the two. I won't complain as long as I can still get a full menu from either style of food, but if they go the way of Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut -- who, once combined into one megafastfood empire, basically dropped their menus to one or two items no one really likes anymore -- I'm looking for new ethnic food.

No matter the curious nature or origin of the pan-asian restaurant, the result makes my tummy and taste buds very, very happy. We ate far more than we should have while the waiters cooed over Willow: egg drop soup, raw salmon over rice balls, dragon rolls (cucumber and crabmeat rolls wrapped in cold cooked eel and avocado), chicken tempura, and other sundries found their way all too easily down the gullet, leaving me ultimately full but guilty. Sigh. I'm thinking about trying the Atkins Diet once school starts up again; it just isn't funny anymore to say that I'm still carrying my sympathy weight from the pregnancy, especially when my weight keeps creeping up the scale.

Guess You Had To Be There Moment: One of the giggly teenage girls across the partition between our booth and theirs managed to lose track of half her fortune cookie when she tried to break it open; it fell out of the sky to land between our spareribs and dumplings with an audible crack. The girls turned bright red, both from embarrassment and from laughing so hard they couln't speak; as the cookie half still contained the fortune, we tried to be nonchalant about handing it back, but it was just too funny, and I'm sure our laughter only made them more self-conscious. Wonder what the fortune said?

We returned to find...no dog. Zellie has a habit of escaping; she's a big dog in a little body, a Jack Russel Terrier, so she can fit through the cat door we've set in the window above our bed. But an escape would be an especially terrifying thing this time of year, as it's cold cold cold outside, there really are wolves, and the white snow comes up to the shoulders of the mostly-white dog, hiding her from passing motorists. She didn't answer to our calls; we began to get nervous...and then Darcie called me from the kitchen.

Luckily, it turns out we had just left the kitchen door, which goes into the dorm hallway, ajar. Sure enough, when we peeked hopefully around the corner, there was Zellie, lying patiently next to her tennis ball, waiting for someone to come throw it down the hallway for her to chase. Darn dog can stay there for hours, she has so much faith that eventually someone will come play with her. The faith is admirable, I guess, but waiting for something that isn't going to happen loses its charm eventually. There's a point at which faith in the face of building evidence to the contrary becomes...well, stupid. I love my dog...but if she joins the Flat Earth Society, I'm sending her to a cult deprogrammer.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:05 AM | 0 comments

Thursday, December 26, 2002

A Belated Christmas Gift For All

I know many of my readers love Guster, so I thought I'd offer this gift: Guster's cover of I've Got To Be Clean , a song originally sung by Bert on Sesame Street, burned fresh for your listening pleasure from For The Kids, my favorite new CD for kids of all ages.

Click and Save to download your gift to your hard drive. Merry Christmas!

Give Back! Sign In!

Looking for new tools and add-ons for your blog? Bravenet makes a very cool guestbook alternative called a guestmap. I saw one on snowcat's blog and loved the idea so much I've added one to my own.

All I want for Christmas is for you to plant a flower in your backyard on my guestmap. Won't you?

What can I say; I'm a cheap date.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:34 PM | 0 comments

Absolutely The Last Tech Note

[If you don't care about the technical aspects of blogger, feel free to skip to Boyhowdy's most recent non-technical blog entry.]

Someone on the Blogger Unofficial FAQ blog had a good suggestion: hand code your archive publishing and turn the auto-archiving function to "no archives" in blogger. As an added bonus, this solution would allow you to be fully flexible with how you refer to past week's archives.

Luckily, this solution is implemented easier early in the life of a blog. Stay tuned for a test of the hand-coding solution later tonight or tomorrow.

Listening: Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem, Cocktail Swing

posted by boyhowdy | 5:56 PM | 0 comments

Status Report: blogger.argh

At snowcat's excellent suggestion, looked up my problem on Phil Ringnalda's Blogger Unofficial FAQ blog. The site seems immensely useful, and I've added a permalink to it in the blogresources section to the right.

Unfortunately, from what I can extrapolate from the conversations in the site's comments about archive loss, it looks like my problem is endemic to blogger, an occasional but annoying server kludge, with timing on a fix subject to blogger's maintenance. Oh well. As long as there's a workaround, I'm still happy.

posted by boyhowdy | 4:10 PM | 0 comments

Status Report: Archives Are There; Links Remain Missing

Still working on archives. Blogger.com's suggested fix for the archive problem seemed useful but didn't help. My archives index still shows only the first and last weeks of the blog; republishing does not make the other weeks appear. Is anybody out there with an idea?

Until someone comes up with one, or one of the nice folks at blogger gets back to me with a solution, see previous entry for a workaround that will get you access to blogsite archives.

I'm loving the slight cheesiness of Echoes of Pink. Seriously, some of the songs are excellent, inspired covers of Pink Floyd's finest. I'll be doing the dishes with the headphones on, so don't call.

posted by boyhowdy | 3:04 PM | 0 comments

Archives Error

Just a tech FYI: I am working with the friendly folks at blogger.com to figure out where my archives have gone. Until then, click on the links to Poems of the Week and then scroll up and down those pages to access weekly archives.

Although there was no poem of the week for the week of December 8th, if you want, you can see those archives, too.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:27 PM | 0 comments

Snow Day!

After breakfasting heartily on eggs and bacon and english muffins and extra-strong coffee with whipped cream we bundled Willow up in her bear suit and Zellie in her dogsweater (once a human sleeve) and went out to the softball field behind the house to sully the newfallen snow. Cat and dog chased each other through our tracks, the dog doggy-paddling around him when he stopped to suck at his snow-encrusted paws. Darcie tried to write Willow's name in footprints across the third base line; Zellie kept swimming across the letters and messing them up.

Once Willow's nose and cheeks began to glow the family went inside to nap while I stayed outside to dig out the Camry. Snow was heavy but we have one of those ergonomic shovels with the bend in the handle, which helps. A few years ago I hurt myself pretty badly shoveling snow on Percoset; I had no idea what kind of damage I was doing to myself until the next day when it finally wore off. I don't recommend shoveling on painkillers.

Just now realized that the Alleve I took first thing this morning to help the back already weakened from carrying presents to the car on the ice yesterday morning might cause the same problem. Hmm. *probes lower back* I don't think I threw out my back again this year, but time will tell.

It's hard to tell how much snow fell last night; I'd guess at least a foot of perfect snowball powder. The drifts over the top of the Grand Marquis make it look like a buried hatchback.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:08 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, December 25, 2002

And So This Is Christmas

It's A Wonderful Blog

Let's see now. We last saw our intrepid hero Monday night after midnight.

Once the tree was up, we had to rethink the overall feng shui of the small apartment. Too much stuff coming up too short. In the interests of making the house a cozy place for visitors, Darcie and I agreed to put the laptops away and unplug ourselves for two days while we celebrated Christmas. I didn't even cheat last night at her parent's house when I had a chance. Today, right now, marks my triumphant addicted little return to the computer, and the backlog -- backblog -- of events is overwhelming. Hang on to your brand-new fleece Christmas hats.

Day One: Monday. Slept a bit late Monday morning, until 10 or so. Up to spot-clean with Darcie and Willow; Matt and Alicia arrived just after noon and we took 'em right over to the guesthouse on the Northfield campus, a fine and giant old home once built for the musical director of the Northfield School for Girls, now a bed-and-breakfasty inn with no breakfast and a phone nook in a closet under the old oak-bannistered staircase. Agreed to meet at 3:00 at the Manders house in Brattleboro for homemade french onion soup and a light family check-in.

After stopping with Ginny for bread, light and merry supper at the in-laws. Even Josh and Clay, late on their way from Boston to Clay's home in Newfane, VT, stopped in to finalize plans for the next day. Matt had brought some of the good red wine he makes with his father and uncle each year; we drank it while we listened to carols on the radio and perused Alicia's excellent scrapbook of the winemaking process.

Darcie and Willow, Ginny, Alicia, Matt and I made it back to the apartment here by seven. Foosball and beer until nine, when Matt wanted to watch the Steelers/Buccaneers game; Darcie got out cheese and fruit, popcorn bags and nuts and chocolate dips and we chatted while we watched the game. Alicia and Matt left for the guesthouse and Ginny stayed over in the baby's room.

Interlude, Wednesday, 3:00 p.m. Just glanced up from the screen, where the snow is coming down thick and sideways out the big picture windows. Heavy. A blanket in the air; a fog; a watercolor whitewash. A Goddamn White Christmas. Buh buh buh boom...and now back to A Very Boyhowdy Christmas, day two.

Day Two: Tuesday. Tuesday found us rising early as promised; Ginny, Darcie, Willow and I out on the road by 9:00. While Ginny snuck behind the counter on her day off from Mocha Joes to make my vanilla latte and her double espresso, Darcie made me stop to get bagels, which later turned out to be presents from Patty (Darcie's mother) to her own mother; I erroneously assumed they were for eating (silly me) and bought unnecessary cream cheeses. By 10:30, the cast of characters -- Darcie, Willow, and myself; Darcie's parents Neil and Patty, Darcie sister Alicia and her fiancee Matt, Darcie's brother Josh and his girlfriend Clay, Clay's brother Justin, Darcie's sister Virginia -- were arranged on rope beds and piano benches around the tree in the living room, while three cats, our jack russell Zellie, Alicia and Matt's pug Bruno, Patty and Neil's drooling beast St. Bernard Matty lolled around on the floor.

And then, as Dylan Thomas would say, the presents. We picked numbers to see which hand-knit scarf we got, then Patty led us through a game in which presents are passed leftandright willy-nilly, like musical chairs or hot potato; I got a sink scrub brush when the accompanying story ended. The next two hours involved mass wrappingpaper chaos, with presents distributed and opened and thanks given across a crowded room. A very partial list of things received:
  • Echoes of Pink: A Pink Floyd Tribute. Acoustic covers, female singer-songwriters I've never heard of; I had seen this on amazon.com and put it on my wish list after hearing only a few 30 second samples. Great covers.

  • A bendable and poseable set of Simpsons figurines.
  • Two ties: One red and gold vintage, one Pierre Cardin greenandpurple paisley thing.
  • A video of Mystery Science Theater 3000 shorts. Mostly old classroom instructional videos and newsreels.
  • Books: A two-fer box of Stephen Jay Gould's musings on the natural order of things: The Panda's Thumb and The Mismeasure of Man; Rushkoff's Media Virus; a comprehensive and interesting-looking tome called The World of Caffeine: The Science and Culture of the World's Most Popular Drug.
  • A subscription to the New Yorker...finally
  • The usual stocking stuffers: Godiva chocolates, motorized bulldozers, pens and tangerines, a pewter candle-snuffer.
  • Many, many books to read to Willow. I'm especially enamored of Good Dog, Carl.

Gift exchange followed by lazing around the house eating pancakes and cutting munchies from a huge ham for several hours, during which Virginia and I, feeling claustrophobic, had to volunteer to walk the dog to get out of the house for a few minutes.

Dinner at The Putney Inn, a somewhat-yearly treat hosted by Darcie's Aunt Barbara, her husband Richard, and their late adolescent son Matthew. Small salad bar but warm rustic atmosphere and slightly overpriced mixed lamb grill special -- two tiny shanks, a single sausage and two bites of lamb stew over lentils and couscous. Overall a nice dinner but hectic, with all who had been there that morning, minus Justin but plus the hosts, Darcie's other aunt Vivian, and Darcie's Grandmother Edith. They only served beer in 22 oz. bottles, from McNeill's in Brattleboro, and of course it was Barbara and Richard's first time seeing the baby, so most of what I remember is being slightly tipsy and watching others play with the baby.

Back to the house for MORE presents, this time with Barbara and Richard and Matthew and Edith and Vivian, all of whom (except Matthew) had asked for no presents this year but seemed to have plenty to give. Got: six double-episode tapes of The Simpsons, our yearly calendar and a check from Edith; Willow got lots of stuff including one of those Mozart Magic Cubes that plays music when you hit the buttons on its sides, each button adding to or subtracting from the mix a different instrument.

By the time the only ones in the house were those who live there (Patty, Neil, and Virginia) plus me and the wifeandkid, it was 11:00, long past the usual bedtime of all but Virginia and myself. So Ginny and I, still awake at the end of our Christmas, went out into the eve of Christmas for the rest of the world, looking for light displays on the back dirt roads. By the way, can I just say how impressed I am with The River, our favorite local radio station out of Northampton? Who knew there was so many non-cheesy, folk/jazz/blues/acoustic/bluegrass Christmas songs? Ginny and I listened, and did not speak, as we drove around the deserted street of downtown Brattleboro looking at the decorations. Home late; bed.

Day Three: Wednesday

Woke up to impending snowstorm; see interlude above, as it is still coming down in sheets now at 4:07 p.m. and the plow has just come through. Coffee and rush rush rush and out of Brattleboro by 10:00 and home, where we found places for all our new things and then, finally, gave Willow her Christmas present from us: Her first real food. Breast milk pumped into a few spoonfuls of powdered rice cereal made for a white paste that she mouthed and then went ape over. Merry Christmas, kid. By next year, she'll know enough to ask for what she wants, so it's all downhill from here.

Pictures, they say, are worth a thousand words; what follows is truly what we did on Christmas itself.

Merry Christmas to all.

And to all, a Good Night.

posted by boyhowdy | 2:22 PM | 0 comments

Monday, December 23, 2002


The gerund is my favorite example of why wisdom is more important than rote knowledge. Who cares what the figure of speech is called? I use verbs ending in -ing in the place of nouns all the time; why, just the other day I said I hate shopping several times with perfect inflection and tonality.

Some signs, all nouns ending in -ing, and their current signifiers.

Eating: Right now, Pepperidge Farm Dark Chocolate Covered Milano Cookies; milk. Probably a bug; I heard somewhere once that the average person eats one bug, whole or in parts, every week. French onion soup at the in-law's tomorrow, followed by hosting the sibs at the apartment that evening with beer, salami, olives, cheese and fondue, the purchase of which necessitated the shopping expedition tonight. Impending Christmas Eve dinner at highbrow Putney Inn with Darcie's whole family.

Feeling: Fat. Dirty -- I need a shower. Chocolaty. Mmmm. Warm and happy.

Reading: Three older Robert Heinlein books Darcie bought me for Christmas, bringing the total collection to about 30. The D'oh! of Homer: The Simpsons and Philosophy, also from Darcie. Still working my way through Seabrook's Nobrow and Tom Wolfe's Hooking Up.

Listening: For The Kids. Cassandra Wilson; Bela Fleck; Norah Jones. WRSI 93.9, The River. Les Claypool's Frog Brigade's cover of Jethro Tull classic Locomotive Breath from Live From Bonnaroo has been thumping in my head for weeks. Christmas samplers, including the Roches We Three Kings and the oft-mentioned Putmayo and Signature Sounds samplers, lent to Ginny to play at work.

Wearing: Um...grey Old Navy knit pullover sweatshirt; Lee jeans; white socks with black shoes; belt; boxers. Stretched-out ponytail elastic. Wedding ring. No watch.

Dreading: Washing diaper wraps. But they're not going to wash themselves.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:57 AM | 0 comments

Sunday, December 22, 2002


I See You

The digital camera was full, and none of the Christmas pictures Darcie took last week came out very well, so we took pictures of Willow with a disposable camera and rushed them to the CVS today to get just the right picture for the picture frames that will be Willows present to all her aunts and cousins. The pace, for just an hour or so, while we tried to do shopping and errands and beat the clock for the one hour developing, seemed like that sentence -- too long and too rushed. Luckily, we got a few good pix. Dinner at Friendly's, where the booth seats are just far enough away from the table to wedge the baby's carseat up against us. Home.

Cleaning the camera's drive this evening meant going through a slideshow of the last few months with Willow. I found the picture at the top of today's entry and am considering it for a permanent spot in the blog template. Most of the pix were of equivalent quality; many were blurry. But there were a few accidental gems from way back in August.

Daddy's Little Girl

Mother and Child

Sleeping Beauty

She's so much older today than she was yesterday. And so much more alive. Sigh.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:37 PM | 0 comments

Drunk Poem of the Week

In honor of last night's drunken debauchery, this week's poem is one of my more recent. As such, the title and form are tentative; I have offered two versions that I might look at 'em next to each other for a while, and let 'em duke it out on their own. Comments are welcome.

version one:
Smoking Poetry

When we are high on our own words
And, also, on contraband beer,
And the hall telephone rings in the dark
Four and a half times, we do not answer
Because we may have been seen

Smoking poetry in the yard again.
Everything we do here is about language;
It’s smoking it that makes the difference.
Here the things which in the right light
We might call silences are merely

Notes held, our secret lives
Burning our faces and freezing our palms
Not so much in fear of being caught,
But at the thought of speaking of them
To others reluctant to listen.

version two:
Drinking Poetry

When we are drunk on our own words
And, also, on contraband beer,
And the hall telephone rings in the dark
Four and a half times, we do not answer
Because we may have been seen
Drinking poetry in the yard again.
Everything we do then is about language;

Here the things which in the right light
We might call silences are merely
Notes held, our secret lives
Burning our faces and freezing our palms
Not so much in fear of being caught,
But at the thought of speaking of them
To others too drunk to listen.

Like one more than the other? Comment below or let me know by email.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:25 PM | 0 comments

Sleeping In; Chores

We used to be able to literally do whatever we wanted for days at a time on vacations: sleep late, have an adventure, walk in the woods and carefully out onto the iced-over pond. What with the baby and family, it's nice to have a day off at the beginning of vacation.

Finally, after three months of baby-times awkening and morning commitments, this morning Darcie gave me the gift of sleep and let me be until after 11. Of course, I had to sleep on the futon in the baby's room to make this work, while Darcie and Willow got the bed, but the old futon is still surprisingly firm and resilient, and I slept better than average. I think maybe the residual fear of rolling over on Willow has been lightening my sleep.

Woke to a list of chores and responsibilties from Darcie: reinstall Iomega zip driver on Darcie's laptop; wash diaper wraps and dishes; take out trash and mop up the purple stain it leaves; put Christmas boxes in our storage room down the student hallway. A list light enough to ensure a relaxed day puttering around between work, town, and home. Darcie was already back in bed with Willow, bringing her new puppet critters to life, introducing Willow with amazement to the new monkey in the house.

Alicia and Matt will be here tomorrow, and then Monday evening we're hosting the Christmas siblings in their entirety -- Clay and Josh, Alicia and Matt, Ginny and us -- for a little casual cheer and beer before the parent generations join us more formally on Tuesday. Seems promising, all of it; it's not sleep, but it'll do just fine.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:15 PM | 0 comments

Week Six?

For a moment there, it seemed like a good idea to write a blog entry about how this blog is finally in its sixth week.

Then it didn't anymore.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:02 AM | 0 comments

Saturday, December 21, 2002

Jewboy's Drunken List of Christmas Traditions

1. Shopping with Ginny
I first met Virginia in 1991, when Darcie and I dropped out of college and showed up at her house. Ginny was nine years old, a vaguely remembered shy and willowy background element in a tumultuous time. By 1995, when we moved back to Southern Vermont to continue our lives together, Ginny was the potentially errant teenager that we got along well with and hosted for once a week schoolnight respites. Since that time, Ginny and I have become friends, and our yearly shopping expeditions are primarily enjoyable, especially when she and I can sneak away from Darcie (and Willow, now) to shop for her and for each other.

Today we once again chose Northampton, since it had done so well for Darcie and I last week. Lots of shops with diverse and quality merchandise with little practical value led to plenty of good and imaginative present-buying just barely under the group-imposed spending limit of our siblings and their significant others. I managed to sneak off twice and buy Darcie two Folkways puppets: a small scrunchyface monkey and a velcro-ed together mother and daughter opossum set.

Welcome Darcie's New Christmas Gifts: Folkmanis Folktails puppets!

2. Darcie Has Had Enough
It happens every year. There comes a point in the middle of the street when, without warning, something inside Darcie snaps. Suddenly we are speeding up, and passing stores without looking at them. Stopping her to angrily and inappropriately demand that we talk about what is happening is the initial cue for a traditional heated public exchange of grumpiness and hunger, with the prerequisite furtive looks from innocent shoppers and locals, which ends in getting lunch and agreeing that we did very well after all and should go home soon.

Lunch today brought a lucky discovery off the beaten path and away from the maddening crowd: the Northampton Brewery, a brewpub with a southern flair which we had seen but never yet attended. Hard wood, shiny copper tabletops and lighting focusing the eye on the bar, a chalkboard list of the in-house brews plus Guiness and perhaps a Sierra Nevada pale ale, hot cider for Darcie and top-notch buffalo wings for the table let us know we had found someplace special, the rare breed of local brewery at which entire towns become intimate regulars. Makes me long for the days at college when we used to go to McNeill's in Brattleboro every Thursday night. Back when I knew everyone who walked into the joint, and it was nice to know you'd always be welcomed by name (even if your name was drunkenly slurred; all the better).

3. Giving Presents Again...and Again
Ginny had to run to work; Darcie and I unpacked and presented our second round of gifts this season. Over the years, I think we've gotten to a point where we know each other well enough that we know we've got something special, and just can't wait to see our partner open our gift. In response, we've gradually developed a tradition of giving gifts long before the traditional two-hour family Christmas gift exchange at the in-laws.

The problem with early gift-giving when one will be together through the holidays, though, is twofold. First, you're still shopping, so you keep seeing things your partner might like better, so of course you have to get it for them even though technically you're "done" exchanging presents. Second, now that you've seen what your partner has got you, you feel inferior, because you idealize their present-buying (and cost) while justifying and minimizing your own. With an extra few days, you can keep trying to "top off" your gifts to your loved one, and end up more loving -- as if this were something you could win, or would want to.

So tonight was round two. The Folkmanis Folktails puppets went over well; Darcie loves the Folktail series, and already has a Chipmunk and the discontinued and now ebay-valuable Venus Flytrap, which comes with a fingerpuppet fly in its jaws, and really loves being able to animate. I got a Fun With Dick and Jane magnet set: Oh! Oh! Look! Stong Magnets. It even comes with Puff and Spot!

4. Drunk at the Employee Christmas Party

Heck, drunk writing the blog tonight. We only stayed an hour 'cause we had to wake the baby to bring her, which left her mostly un-recharged, at about 10% battery power -- you know, when the laptop starts warning you to save your work now because it's about to be time to go bye bye. Except Willow rubs her eyes and rolls her head around over your arm when you hold her when she's ready to go back to bed, and doesn't beep warningly.

The one-hour limit made for an ill-defined experience, part wallflower babycare and part faculty mixer around the nut-encrusted calamari and the steamed shu mai. I managed to fit in two glasses of wine and a double-Kahlua coffee into that time, and though I never did have my traditional drunken exchange with the Head of the school, which I just as traditionally can't remember the next morning, it's all making me sleepy despite the coffee.


More traditions will fill the week; stay tuned for Monday night dinner at the Steak Out with the cousins from California, Tuesday Christmas on the day before, Wednesday silence and snuggling, New Years in the Boonies, and my younger Brother's 28th birthday family dinner at Redbones with my side of the family. Mmmm....catfish.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:43 PM | 0 comments

Free Plug: For The Kids

I can't stop listening to this album.

Get it.

Download and print out the first page of the For The Kids coloring book:

JPG version.
PDF version.

Oh, and I forgot to mention: In the USA, a portion of the proceeds for the album will go to VH1 Save The Music Foundation; in Canada, a portion of the proceeds will go to The Sarah McLachlan Music Outreach -- An Arts Umbrella Project.

And, of course, the first 25,000 copies of the album include a crayon generously supplied by Colorific. Mine's green.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:24 AM | 0 comments

Friday, December 20, 2002

Christmas Moments: The Good, The Bad, and the Stupid

The Angel of Remembrance, with Willow branches

Hoorah for a short day with nothing much to do but eat too much gift chocolate, hand out hand creams and sweet-smelling soaps to coworkers, and chat with giddy students with time to savor. By noon we had locked the doors to the library next door and were closed for the Holidays. Spent just shy of two hours at the Library/Media annual Christmas party, mostly on a couch chatting with Shane about dogs and cats while we watched...dogs and cats. Too few people under a two-story tree in a cavernous house; Chinese food and Fresca and chocolate desserty thingies I never got to; after squeezing past the minivans in the mud-packed driveway, I decided to go into town for a short shopping trip in hopes of buying Darcie a good Christmas present.

Have I mentioned that I am an idiot? I had told Darcie that I'd be home by three. But by 4:00, after not finding any of the three things I want to get her but buying her a very cool wine valour button down and a beaded glasses neck chain, and of course buying a Holly-motif outfit in denim and green valous for Willow and the Willow Tree angel ornament you see above, I bumped into Laura, a friend and co-worker, and she didn't have to twist my arm very hard to buy me a beer and a clove cigarette in Taylors, which serves perfect buffalo wings...what with one thing and another, as my mother used to say when skipping the boring parts of the book, time passed.

I hereby announce that I Did It Wrong; I, too, would have thought of the rain and the bald tires on the slippery wet roads and panicked; I, too, would have been scared and angry if I were in Darcie's place. Good thing I had presents. After dinner and an hour for Darcie to thaw, we sat by the tree and opened (some) presents this evening while Willow gurgled under the tree and batted at the lights and Santas. My loverly Unitarian wife got me a tallis and yarmulke set in embroidered cotton and gold-panted silk, an extraordinary thoughtful gesture and a show of support for raising Willow truly of two faiths rather than in a combination of the two. It's the high road and quite likely impossible to raise a kid comprehensively in two faiths at once, but we're giving it the ol' prep try.

Then bathtime, a time when I am able to serve my most neurotic and anxious instincts towards the baby: so much can go wrong, and so much can be scrutinized when naked and clean. Usually there's nothing to make a fuss over but what-ifs, but tonight for one horrible moment we thought the baby was allergic to the Christmas tree. A rash was spreading across her torso, vivid red bumps magnified bigger-than-goosepimple by our concern; after her bath with Darcie, the bumps started spreading to her back. Whooping cough is going around the school; it's too early for Willow's boosters to have kicked in and both Darcie and I, although innoculated since childhood, could be carriers, so the little nervous man that lives in my skull has plenty to worry about these days.

Sickness is scary; it gets easier and easier to imagine the horrow of losing her as Willow appears to be turning into a person right before our very eyes. Tonight she hit primate stage, lifting her feet up to the sky and rolling over in one smooth move, curling up like an orangutan against Darcie to nurse. Our little monkey. Sniff. Too cute. Too hilarious.

Cuddles by the virtual hearth with Darcie afterwards, flipping the channels from awful Christmas movies to awful Christmas specials to awful A Very Special Christmas episodes of shows we don't want to watch anyway, talking of college days, and none of your business, anyway.

Oh, Thursday? Not much to write about, really; a few late Channukah presents from Darcie, including For The Kids, a very cool kids album which comes with a crayon. Mine's green. Mostly muppets songs but a few oddities on this one, and a great cast: Barenaked Ladies cover my favorite Sesame Street song La La La La Lemon; Sarah McLachlan does justice to The Rainbow Connection; Cake does Manah Manah and Glen Phillip does Have a Little Fun With Me; Guster and Dan Zanes and Tom Waits, oh my; Billy Bragg and Wilco cover an odd little Guthrie tune called My Flying Saucer...oh, just buy it from Amazon already.

Shopping with Darcie and Virginia tomorrow in Northampton; later, the big school Christmas party, this year big in spirit but smaller in spirits, due to a budget crunch. Surely more to speak of then, traditionally drunk (well, it is my yearly Holiday party tradition to get trashed and have an incoherent conversation with the Headmaster).

posted by boyhowdy | 11:53 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Living In The Past

This week's Newsweek cites Faulkner's famous phrase, the past is never dead; it's not even past, in exploring the roots which brought fellow Mississippian Trent Lott to his current about-to-be-ostracized status as a public embarrassment. It's a PR disaster, and everyone is horrified, but I just feel bad for the esteemed Senate majority leader. No knee-jerk liberal I, I think Lott isn't evil, just a smart guy in a dumb moment, a southern gentleman of an outdated age with a seriously dated moral code and cultural outlook who let his mouth run away from him while cameras rolled and journalists scribbled around him.

I was more struck, in the end, by the fit between Faulkner's words and my own life than I was with the story of Lott's villany and villification. There's a wonderful sense that every moment is now, a condensed and holistic view of history, in much of Faulkner; to call it timelessness is both plumb wrong (for how can a story of the Great Depression, such as Grapes of Wrath, be anything but a historically grounded moment) and not focused enough. In Faulkner and in my life, overlaid upon the sequence of events which we call life is a kind of everpresent now, one inclusive of every moment to be and every moment past.

For this is the week that the past haunts us here at NMH, when the students we have recently sent to college come home for the holidays long before we are free to celebrate ourselves.

And tonight is the night I finally got to spend a good amount of time with my daughter, a good three hours between arriving home after work and her bedtime just a moment ago, bathing and laughing, playing and watching each other in the zen silence, the still moments of the infant/parent bond. Saying goodnight to Willow this evening before her mother curled around her in our communal bed, I realized that she's only been laughing for a few weeks now, and smiling for a couple of months. But when I first saw her, when she was still only a head coming out of the C-section slit, her lungs filled with new air, and she screamed a scream so robust it would call me in at a run if I heard it now. Only parents truly know: although we are born crying, we must learn how to laugh.

I'm so grateful, I thought, for the gift of my daughter's laughter, and for the friends I have made of just a very select few students, Meg and Ashley and Tom who visited this season; Brian and Dan who call occasionally to let me know how things are; Molly, mark, Kiernan, and the rest of the rising generation of pre-graduates. I know each of us, as teachers, have our crowds, our friends, our proudest moments in youth, in our own children in these students. I will go forward into tomorrow and the next day, into the new year, resolved to keep those friendships strong, and to engender new friendships this year and every year I teach and live.

posted by boyhowdy | 6:18 PM | 2 comments

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Deep Thoughts, Shallow Paragraphs

The point of the blog, to me, is to heighten the sense of relevance. It is an opportunity and a mandate to be profound on a daily basis. Some other random thoughts I've been having:
  • I've accepted Winter and moved on. Does Winter become the way things are around this time of year every year, or is it just this year?
  • I am an autophile; I like my blog better than I like most other blogs. Nevertheless, seeing so many lives out there in all their cyberglory makes me happy, and discovering odd blogtopics or subgenres makes me happier.
  • Comments make me REALLY happy. Please say hi when you stop by!
  • Blogging is not so different from being on the radio. Both are intimately created, but invisibly read. Both involve some amount of public service announcement. Both are collage forms. Blog comments are like radio station callers; they let you know someone's out there.
  • If I'm really tired all the time, and by Wednesday of every week I need to take a nap, maybe I'm not nocturnal after all.
  • If my job were to disappear, I'd be unhappy, but ultimately I could cope with anything right now. The realization makes one feel superhuman.
  • Al Gore is SO primed to be a serious Presidential candidate in 2008. Want proof that Al Gore has changed? Zellie the spaz-dog, who until now was really only interested in other dogs on TV, barked at Al Gore's image today.
  • Either that, or even the dog thinks politics bear watching right now.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:51 PM | 0 comments

A Night Of Profundity With The Clown Of God

Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Clown

Virginia was very profound this evening. Christmas goes well with Winter, she said; it's like a reward. We were sitting in the car on our way home from Tributary, our weekly radio show, when she said it. The night and the snow were blue with moonlight, the air crisp and cold; the snow fell from the trees occasional feathers, as if molting swans flew overhead. It's good to have friends like Ginny.

Radio show was unsettling a bit; I had to have a meeting unexpectedly in the middle of it for 45 minutes and so Ginny ran the show from The Biscuit Boys to Erin McKeown in the playlist below; it doesn't feel like a complete experience somehow having skipped out in the middle for so long. But according to my notes, we read Christmas stories on this our last Trubutary broadcast until after the New Year: van Allenburg's The Polar Express, De Paola's The Clown Of God, and a winter poem by Carl Sandburg from a 1976 issue of Cricket magazine. And our usual eclectic mix of folk and blues and pop 'n stuff was salted liberally with Christmas songs and the Christmas spirit.

As always, bloggernauts, this week's A Very Merry Tributary playlist follows:

Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man
Jack Johnson w/ DJ Logic -- Rodeo Clowns
Barenaked Ladies -- Grade 9
*Pete Nelson -- You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch
The Be-Bop Boys -- Serenade To A Square
Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks -- Meet me On The Corner
String Cheese Incident -- Restless Wind
Some blues song from the Pumayo World Music Christmas Sampler for which I have lost the booklet
Dar Williams -- The Christians and the Pagans
Cassandra Wilson -- Darkness On The Delta
*Mark Erelli -- This Ain't No Time Of Year To Be Alone
Biscuit Boys -- El Cumberchero
String Cheese Incident -- Drifting
They Might Be Giants -- Fibber Island
The Muppets -- The 12 Days of Christmas
Eddie From Ohio -- Quick
Phish -- some live song from
A Live One that Ginny can't remember
Moxy Fruvous -- Horseshoes
Les Claypool's Frog Brigade -- Locomotive Breath
Erin McKeown -- The Little Cowboy
Donna The Buffalo -- Seems To Want To Hurt This Time
*Louise Taylor -- Let's Make A Baby King
Shawn Colvin -- Christmas Time Is Here
John Gorka -- Christmas Bells
*Waters, Moore & Arbo -- Nowell Sing We

Starred entries are from Wonderland, a sampler of local artists on local label Signature Sounds. As their website promises, in the spirit of the season, partial proceeds from the sale of this album will benefit the Food Bank Of Western Massachusetts. Support your local community and your local artists, feed the hungry, and please your ears all at once -- Order it today!

posted by boyhowdy | 12:52 AM | 0 comments

Monday, December 16, 2002

More Happy Sharing Things

Hey, Rube!


Now, doesn't that make you want to go read this lovely piece I unearthed from the archives at McSweeney's, home of the new young lions of the literati? I promised myself I'd never cut and paste a long chat into a blog entry, but I couldn't resist linking to one, especially a fictional one as funny as this.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:43 AM | 0 comments

Ye Olde Poem Of The Week

Long before I met my Unitarian wife, I knew the words to more Christmas carols than most people: the Holiday spirit has always moved me. I love wandering through the bustling crowds thinking about the people I love and the things I love about them, and I love finding the perfect gift. I love the stillness and purity of NMH very excellent Choral/Orchestral Christmas Vespers Concert, which we saw this afternoon with my parents.

Darcie and I got engaged on Christmas Eve, 1996. Her family Christmas get-together, chock full of tradition and good cheer, has in recent years become a focal point, a liminal period, an opening of the senses for the transition from old to new. I wrote this week's poem about a month after the engagement on a cold, starrystill winter's night.

Winter Song

Six below and still; the cusp, the epiphany:
craving one last cigarette I sneak into Vermont winter
under Ames Hill, behind my future in-laws' home
in the valley below Marlboro College.

The moon blue air and the snow are frozen;
overhead, concentric circles of hazy color
break the surface of the sky,
ripple from the year's first cast white stone --

my breath casts wisps of shadow on the plow-flattened drive
as I pace, trying to keep the blood flowing.
Above the house the big dipper
dribbles bare branches down its handle

into the Thurber's barn, stirring milk cows;
but I feel the cold. Finishing, I work embers,
the last of the tobacco, off the filter, into the snow;
with its last heat the coal hisses and burrows out of the wind.

copyright Joshua L. Farber 1/6/1996

posted by boyhowdy | 12:10 AM | 0 comments

Sunday, December 15, 2002

The Tires Are The Things On Your Car That Make Contact With The Road

Tonight Phish appeared on Saturday Night Live, their first live show in several years. Now, I'm no Phishhead. I have a strong affinity for music and, like many people, need my life to have a soundtrack, and I own almost all their studio albums, and I saw them for the first time over ten years ago in a three thousand seat venue in Somerville Massachusetts and sat in the fifth row next to Jon Fishman's mother. But I don't have it in me to be a true follower of any musical phenomenon. I enjoy a good concert but I won't cry if I miss a performer I like when they come to a nearby venue, and I might not feel like going that night even if I'm free. I'm of the school of thought that all music has merit, as evidenced by my bluegrass to blues, folk to funk, jazz to jambands, littlebitcountry littlebitrockandroll radio playlists and mp3 collection. I like too many kinds of music to specialize.

Still, it was nice to have it on in the background, and the students were happy I mentioned that Phish was going to be on. When I came in from duty at midnight about twenty of 'em were gathered around the broadcast hearth laughing together, which warms my heart in the cheesiest way. And, if they stayed up late enough, they got to see Tipper Gore with her arm around Trey Anastasio during the final goodnight, a juxtaposition of values and iconography worthy of a master's thesis.

Also on SNL tonight: Al Gore, who was better than the name Al Gore suggests -- Tipper was just visiting for the final thankyous, I guess -- and a Robert Smigel takeoff on Charlie Brown's Christmas episode wherein the gang develops magical powers, suddenly able to do, to everything and everyone, what they did in turning the sad ol' Christmas tree into a shiny and suddenly perfect tree (and with Phish soundtrack instead of the original Vince Guraldi, whose name I can't spell).

In other tire-related news, now that we've taken in my grandfather's old couch-on-wheels, it's time to retire the camping van. I'll miss it; the van got us through two years of music festivals and, once I connected with a couple of kids who loved a genre of music I too love, and were willing to pay for my ticket if I'd chaperone, the van took kids to the best jamband concerts, including String Cheese Incident, Widespread Panic (RIP), Michael Franti and Spearhead, Jazz Mandolin Project, and Keller Williams. We paid about $3500 dollars for it two years ago, so even though it's too rusty to pass inspection and not worth the cash it would take to rebuild the body from scratch, I feel like I've gotten a fair use out of it. But I will miss the lifestyle the van implied, and miss living that lifestyle through its oversized armchair driver's seat and backseat bed. Maybe I should have titled tonight's entry Oh The Places You've Gone.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:02 AM | 0 comments

Saturday, December 14, 2002

My First Lost Entry

I wrote a beautiful blog tonight, about family and generations shifting forward as children become parents and my mother crying at the loss of her mother when looking at my child in the arms of her mothers sister; about being daddy, and seeing parents turn into someone else's grandparents; about presents and giving and receiving what one really wants; about supper with my parents at the Blue Heron, a 5-star restaurant on the water where an old mill once stood in a small impossible-to-find town.

And then it was gone, and with it my memories. Now anger and frustration fill my brain, and although I ache at the loss of my memories on the goddamnitall screen, I understand in this moment what it is to blog. For all the debate about who and what the blog is for, it took loss for me to see that the blog truly is for the self; that the invisible projected other is incidental after all. For when writing for others, loss means trying again. But here, in the quiet moment of loss, I understand my heart, and it says it cannot be written again; let it go.

I think of Eudora Welty, who wrote, in her short story No Place For You, My Love:

A thing is incredible, if ever, only after it is told -- returned to the world it came out of.

And I know that she is wrong. A thing is incredible when it is told, but it need not be returned to be told -- to return it now would mean reconstructing a reconstruction, moving further from what I felt, moving towards what I wish I could remember I had once said. It is the telling, not the tale, which matters to my heart, and that telling has been told whether it is lost or remains.

And so I choose to keep my lost memories of this evening as incredible. They will remain unwritten, after all.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:31 PM | 0 comments

Lullaby Lull

Christmas tree shopping was cancelled by mutual consent because it was raining too hard, so I sit here at the laptop in the middle of the best kind of downtime, that time where you were supposed to be doing something else but unexpectedly ended up off your feet with nothing planned. Darcie and the baby have gone to take a nap with the dog, leaving me to re(dis)cover and address the blog.

I'm especially thankful for the break in the schedule, as this is the final rest before a straight seven-day push of work and hardcore play and busy-ness before the student diaspora of Christmas vacation and New Years. The weekend has already been hectic: I was on duty last night, and then had an early start this morning for a breakfast interview with my one remaining college recommendation prospect. After that, I helped Darcie watch the baby and set up for this evening's semi-formal in the Northfield student center, James-Bond-themed this year to encourage formal wear and tuxedos. Wish I could see it in full swing this evening, as the lights and dance cages look like fun, but I'm on duty again tonight. At least it'll be quiet, what with all the kids on the other campus for the dance.

Since we were in separate cars, on the way home from Northfield I squeezed in a much-overdue visit to Wendy the barber to have my beard trimmed. Wendy's was full of hunters finishing their season, returning to their workday haircuts after weeks of mornings in the brush and camping stove coffee, but her good work is easily worth the wait, as trying to cut my own beard is a dissatisfying disaster every time. I get so fussy and stressed out trying it myself that I end up cutting a little more from this side, then a little more to match from the other...you get the picture. It takes hours, and I hate both the time spent and the final result every time. Perfectionism comes through at funny times, but when you wear your efforts on your face all the time it seems like it should be worth it...until you're left with a tiny gen-X goatee instead of your preferred full beard, and then perfectionism becomes a burden. Thank goodness for Wendy; I gave her a $10 Christmas bonus and told her I'd be back after the holidays.

And now here we are, safe and sound and static in the rainy afternoon, waiting, relaxing, making hot cocoa while the family sleeps. My parents are coming up from Boston to see the infant (and us) and for tomorrow's Christmas Vespers service and choral concert, an annual tradition here at NMH; theoretically they should arrive at 4:00 or so, although they have always been and will surely always be the kind of people who are perennially late for everything -- I was 14 and going to the movies on my own before I realized that they show previews before the movie begins. I can't wait to show them the stupid human tricks their grandaughter has picked up since they last saw her at Thanksgiving. Just yesterday, in fact, she learned how to stand up against the ottoman all by herself. I love parenthood.

posted by boyhowdy | 2:23 PM | 0 comments

Friday, December 13, 2002

The Shopping Block

Downtown Northampton, MA

Classes were delayed three hours today after the storm, so I got to sleep in. This unexpected benefit was offset severely, however, by the cancellation of his afternoon's speaker, Howard Zinn. Yeah, that Howard Zinn, the guy who wrote A People's History of the United States. I'm hoping he can reschedule. Prep school hath its privleges; in previous years I've actually been required to attend presentations by Ken Burns, Maya Angelou, Mary Matalin and James Carville, The president of South Africa, the Harlem Gospel Choir, astronauts and glassblowers and writers and scientists and civil right's activists and a holy host of others; this year's schedule includes John Updike.

With the students in class almost all of what was left of the workday and an entirely Zinn-less campus, though, it was a pretty lazy day at the office (a.k.a the media center), at least until I left early to get home and go holiday shopping in Northampton with the wife and kid. Then the day tuned into something between a death march and an easter egg scavenger hunt in FAO Schwarz.

Don't get me wrong; I'm a born and bred shopaholic, having spent much of my suburban middle-class adolescence hanging out in the mall. My father and I used to shop together like some fathers and sons go to baseball games or stand knee-deep in moving water and throw flies. And I like shopping: the plethora of new things under my fingers; the textures and bright displays; the smell of the crowd and the salesgirl banter. But while downtown shopping offers all these things and more, it isn't like the mall. One is constantly bundling up and unzipping again; merely going from store to street from store becomes an adventure. And downtown Northampton, which goes for four or five blocks on both sides of the street with side streets, is built on a slope, which on the downhill means holding back the otherwise runaway baby carriage, and on the uphill feels like the trials of a modern day Sisyphus. I don't miss the depersonalization of the same-ol'-same-ol' mall chain stores selling identical styles, but I guess even after living the rural life for a decade there's still a part of my soul that longs for escalators and heating vents.

Still, I enjoyed it for a while, and found numerous things to covet, both for myself and for Willow (Having A Baby brings with it an entirely new interest in an entirely new kind of commerical arena, which really just means there's more interesting stuff in almost every store than there used to be). Checked the price on many items in many stores full of artifacts of modern life, clothes and books and toys and things, from high art to popular culture. Stared hard at lighthouse windchimes and porcelain sardines, smiley-face cheese slicers and calf-skin travel journals, glass dragonflies and woolen jester shoes in bright colors with bells sew around the rims. We stopped for supper in a Mexican place with counter service when we could stand it no more and recharged over chorizo and egg tacos, chicken enchiladas, chips with some spicy picante, and fried plantains before we went on. Even bought some things, but I ain't tellin' what, or for whom, 'cept to say that, all in all, we managed to cross five people off our list in five hours.

Then we came home, set the VCR to tape ER, and collapsed. Digging the other car out will have to wait.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:09 AM | 0 comments

Thursday, December 12, 2002

Found A Peanut

Two things happily worth sharing, happily.

1. We Made Out In A Tree And This Old Guy Sat And Watched Us: A very funny site dedicated, in the host's own words, to "unusual quotes, strange statements, bad writing and other oddities of the language. Things that are funny because of the specific choice of words. Things that sound great because of the context, or that sound even better when given no context at all. (Like the name of the site, for example.)." Or:

Obvious Statements, Part III From the instructions for a Chinese-made alarm clock purchased in Hong Kong:
"Due to the perfection of the alarming mechanism, you are never awake when you are asleep."

2. Shel Silverstein, playboy writer: A collection of works written by Shel Silverstein and published in the pages of Playboy magazine between 1956 and 2001. All are...well, racy enough and un-PC-enough and funny enough for Playboy. Songs, old blackandwhite television stills with odd captions, and cartoons, including several longer-length illustrated collections on topics such as scouting, nursery rhymes, and imaginary zoo beasts:

posted by boyhowdy | 12:44 AM | 0 comments

Snow White and the Seven Blogs

Wow, it's really coming down out there. Snow flakes like banana chips, like feathers, like snowballs. It's heavy, and comes up to the dog's ankles. Did you know the reason a dog's leg looks like it bends backwards is because its ankles are about halfway up its leg?

At this point, it could be a snow day, or it could just be a day with snow. You never know: tomorrow could be a fluffy white day with blinding reflections, a fine and rare day indeed. But standing out there just outside the door, under the sagging concrete overhang, it just seemed peaceful. Through the chain link I could see the tennis courts, stripped of their nets for winter, hibernating under a thick and growing blanket.

Last year the pond froze over weeks before the first real snow. It was clear all the way down, like standing on ice cubes or glass. The bubbles rising through the congealing water had left smooth round holes, one on top of another, like the spaces left behind by a stack of granite stones washed smooth by the ocean might look if the granite simply melted away. Virginia I broke through the thin sheets of ice cover and hollowed out the holes, exposing the thin piggy-bank slits connecting them to the ones next below; and through these slits we dropped pennies, and imagined them there forever, deep in the ice beyond reach.

I think I'll go disrupt the tennis courts. They seem so pristine. I want to be that pure.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:19 AM | 0 comments

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Long Time Gone

I've been off-blog for about 40 hours, the longest lag-time between entries since I went on vacation over Thanksgiving break. I thought about blogging a couple of times, and I showed the blog to a few more teachers so they could see what I mean when I say "blog," but there was always something I was just about to do, and I never (b)logged on. No withdrawl symptoms, though. Guess I'm not an addict after all.

So, let's see: where was I? Oh yes. When last we saw our hero, he had just come out of a nice toasty hot tub, his belly filled with happy-making sushi and dim sum.

So much for relaxation.

Tuesdays and Wednesdays are really my busiest days here at NMH; sure enough, 'twas a busy day yesterday and a busier one today, full of the usual mundane/inane/insane bits and pieces which make up my humdrum life. Tuesday highlights included shorting out Laura's computer trying to do a tech assist while observing her class for her three-year review; fiddling with SWIS far too much and accomplishing far too little, and cancelling a meeting of the Professional Development Committee of the Faculty to spend the evening over in the neighboring girl's dorm talking with David about a non-linear research project assignment we're co-teaching for his Issues in the 21st Century class. Today started with a full 105 minute class going over the research project parameters with David's students, moved from there to some cranky-baby babycare while Darcie had a budget meeting and then, after lunch, an all-too-solemn meeting of my own department where we discussed little but the financial straits of the school and how they'll affect us, and isn't over -- I start dorm duty in a half an hour.

If You Lived Here, You'd Be Wet By Now

The weather report says up to 10 inches of evil snow-and-sleet starting tonight and into tomorrow; on my drive home I heard Johnny Memphis on The River, my favorite DJ on my favorite radio station, recommending that you get where you need to be for the night quickly so you're off the road before it all starts. In fact, a quick peek out the window confirms it: up the hill, I can see the beginnings of freezing rain washing the students off the hill on their way home from dinner at the dining hall.

We're in the drugery days of midwinter at boarding school, which traditionally brings a layer of ennui and tedium over everything we do until Christmas break. In the forecast for tonight's duty is therefore some rare excitement, in this case brought on by hopefulness for a snow day that will probably never come...which means another night of unfocused students who are supposed to be studying. Sigh. Everyone's been talking about the snow day possibilities all day, but I'm not holding my breath. 5 years here at Northfield Mount Hermon tells me that we tend to err on the side of getting everyone the heck out of the dorms and into the classrooms whenever we can.

Nevertheless, I'm worried: the new car doesn't just feel like a boat...it turns out to handle like a boat, too, swinging wide in turns and sliding all over the place on the rare patches of ice I've encountered over the past few days. I neglected to get both snow tires and sandbags (for weight) for the trunk, so it looks like if there is school tomorrow, I'm driving the Camry, and leaving Darcie and baby at home without a car. I guess there's not much they'd need it for at home, but I worry too much about what might happen -- what if the baby fell off the changing table and had to go to the hospital?

posted by boyhowdy | 6:40 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Still Not Tuesday

It bugs me that Blogger thinks it's already Tuesday when it's really late Monday night. You can set the blogger code to your own time zone, but there's no way to change the settings so that "tomorrow" starts at 2:00 a.m. instead of midnight. I think blogger is prejudiced against the semi-noctural. Or, come to think of it, it's all true outside of the bloggiverse; maybe it's just our cultural conventions of duration and/or time frame, where the notches on the measuring stick are painted, that are prejudiced.

Great, now I'm getting paranoid, all conspiracy-theory-like. If the world of order and sequence is out to get me, does that make me the spirit of entropy?

Went hot tubbing this evening at East Heaven Hot Tubs in Northampton, a place with private rooms by the hour and a wooden Japanese theme. Darcie's parents were already planning to go themselves, but volunteered to watch the baby while we went first, which was nice. It had been a while; we used to go down to the hot tubs almost every other week, Darcie couldn't go in while she was pregnant, and I hadn't been since taking my advisee group last Spring (a big hit). They have speakers in each hot tub room, and Darcie had picked out some Gregorian chants which befitted the mood nicely.

Willow was bugeyed watching bugeyed fish when we came out. Neil was holding her up to the tank, and she kept trying to reach around the glass to grab the koi. Confusion is so endearing.

Went to Teapot for potstickers and sushi afterwards; I had egg drop soup and shrimp dim sum dumplings and Peking Ravioli and Dragon something, California rolls wrapped in eel and avocado, and Darcie had her usual California roll supper with miso soup. It felt just like old times, except for the baby trying to knock over the waterglass.

Home in time to meet up with Ginny and go over to Northfield for the radio show. I drank far too much coffee on the way over and spent the show bouncing around the studio, playing music to match. Bedtime stories tonight on Tributary were from How To Eat Like A Child, by Delia Ephron; set list follows:

Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man (our theme song)
Sarah Harmer -- Basement Apartment
Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks -- Meet Me At The Corner
Oysterhead -- Oz Is Ever Floating
They Might Be Giants -- Fibber Island
The Biscuit Boys -- Ramblin' Fever
Trout Fishing In America -- Happy That You're Here
John Gorka -- Around The House
Barenaked Ladies -- King Of Bedside Manor
Ben Harper -- The Drugs Don't Work
Moxy Fruvous -- Green Eggs And Ham
Mark Erelli -- Little Sister
Garcia and Grisman -- Arkansas Traveler
Ween -- Bananas And Blow
Keller Williams -- Best Feeling
Galactic -- Tiger Roll
Mano Chau -- Me Gustas Tu
Ani Difranco -- Welcome To
Dixie Chicks -- Goodbye Earl
Marc Cohn -- Rest For The Weary
Jackson Jills (the Tufts women's a capella group) -- Wannabe
Kasey Chambers -- A Little Bit Lonesome
Eddie From Ohio -- Let's Get Mesolithic
Norah Jones -- Come Away With Me
Crowded House -- She Goes On
Indigo Girls -- Fare Thee Well

posted by boyhowdy | 1:59 AM | 1 comments

Monday, December 09, 2002

No Garfield, I

A few years ago I managed to make a successful case to the folks I work with (and work for) that my evening and weekend responsibilities should allow me a bit of flex-time during the week when I am otherwise expected to be running the school media center. Since then, I have taken Monday mornings off. I find this significantly softens the blow of the work-week.

This term, I have a class on my home campus from 2:10 to 3:40 on Monday afternoons. Because I'm going to have to prepare my materials for an hour or so before class, I don't go in to the office at all. It's not a bad life: sleep until 9:30, babycare in the mornings for an hour while Darcie goes to work, lunch out of the fridge instead of the dining hall, and then an hour to wander and prepare my class notes after Darcie's mother shows up around 1:00 for childcare. Then Mass Media Messages, the kind of course which makes everyone wish they were in my class:

MED09 Mass Media Messages
Butthead, Bart, Kyle, and Cartman: A study in mass media. Through close media exploration and analysis of Beavis and Butthead, The Simpsons, and South Park, three "generations" of controversial animated sitcoms which use the unique perspective of young people to frame satirical portrayals of society, cultural norms, popular culture, current events, and the adult/youth dynamic in modern American culture, students in this course will identify common themes in mass media and in society today, and will discuss the meaning of their particular manifestations in various media forms. Specific topics will include gender, race, violence, patriotism, generational difference, and other issues of identity and morality.

The class is the only one I teach in Winter term in our trimester system, and it's a minor course, so it meets only twice a week, has no homework, and is serious but ultimately lower-stakes from both student and institutional perspective. Fall I also teach Intro to Web design in the minor course curriculum; Spring I also teach an Advanced Web Strategy minor course; Fall and Spring terms I teach a half-credit major course (major being the "real" courses here at NMH, with homework and tests and GPA relevance; these are the ones that colleges care about), a Social Science course called Media Literacy but the enrollment for that major course is still not high enough to justify a Winter term section as well, so I get a break in Winter to focus more on the Ed Tech part of my job.

It's a good life, and a good vocation. I never understood people who don't like or don't care about what they do all day, who work for money, who have jobs and responsibilities instead of vocations and roles. Why would you spend so much of your life miserable?

posted by boyhowdy | 12:00 PM | 1 comments
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