Sunday, March 07, 2004

It's A Meta, Meta, Meta, Meta World
Now with new redundancy!

The UK-based Awards Awards, recognizing excellence in award-giving. Award categories include organizer of the year, personality of the year, supplier of the year, sponsor of the year and faux pas of the year.

No, seriously.

posted by boyhowdy | 4:27 PM | 0 comments

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Kiss Me, Son Of God

Once again, The Onion's Jesus looks exactly like me.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:29 PM | 0 comments

Sugar Season

For weeks the trees around this campus have sported their tin buckets. The farm program directors dream of frostcrisp nights and warm days, the best conditions for sweet and prolific sugaring season, even as the nights hover sweet and light in the high thirties. But low-yield year or not, the sap must be harvested, the fires banked, the sugars burned light and reduced.

It takes sixty gallons of sap to make a single gallon of high-grade maple syrup, and our yearly yield can go over a thousand gallons in the best of times: sixty thousand gallons harvested pint by pint from trees across a thousand acres or more, and two weeks to do it in. And the timing works out, as if the school calendar had been written by the earth itself.

This week and the next, with the school closed up for holiday, a dozen or more students choose the outdoors instead of the television in trade for a term off from weekly workjob. They live the lives of maple harvesters under the teachings of the farm director, his assistant, and the alumni veterinarian who calls us now and then. They slog the woods repetitively, crashing in a long-since downsized dorm, trading faculty-made pan suppers for a promise of a gallon later, when the work's been done. Without their manpower, there'd be less syrup, and less syrup means a smaller farm budget in the year ahead. Everybody wins.

On rainy days like this one, though, the water floods the buckets, making sap-collecting both muddy and moot. Down at the barn around noon they arrive and pour out of the farm pickups in fours, dripping and hungry from a wet morning's work. One of them brings in the calf, nervous and in raindrenched coat, and we cling to each other, my daughter and I, and watch as her nose ring, the one that keeps her weaned, is removed for her comfort.

One day, I think every year, I too will learn this trade, as I learned cidering beside the students two Octobers ago; I will learn the meditative love of earth again, and take part in its bounty, for myself and my child.

For now, too young in our respective roles, Willow and her daddy huddle in the barn waiting for a break in the rain, and watch the mother-longing calf in her stall, and scratch her ears, and giggle at her plaintive tenor cry for mama cow, and offer soothing noises in the afternoon, the rain on our heads drumming at the barn roof. And as the students gather and regroup and make plans to disburse for surely thick warm soup, we brave the rain, sprinting for the car, our winter coats and caps soaking through in moments: we come home to her mother, my wife, now finally cramping and abed as her own spring cycle begins anew.

God bless the earth, and the warm air and the rain; bless the cow, and the students in their wet boots and happy work. God bless the chance to begin again, and the blood that must come before we can try. Let the cleansing begin; it's spring again.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:31 PM | 0 comments

Friday, March 05, 2004

The Friday Five
Creativity is for the rich.

What was...

1. ...your first grade teacher's name?

Who remembers? The earliest I can recall is Mrs. Carter in third. If you finished your test early you could weave baskets. I finished early.

2. ...your favorite Saturday morning cartoon?
Smurfs. Or maybe Superfriends, later on.

3. ...the name of your very first best friend?
I hated most of the available friend-possibles through my childhood. But Timmy and I were supposedly very close. I remember something about a closet...

4. ...your favorite breakfast cereal?

5. ...your favorite thing to do after school?
Mmmm...Honeycombs. Or maybe Superfriends, later on.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:46 PM | 0 comments

Why It's Time To Start Writing Poetry Again

Because the windows can be open.
Because the moon rises thick in the fog again
and the deer run in sixes in the meadow.
Because dogs jump their fences
and track mud around the house
after three flights up and a cookie:

It's time. It's the time when
coyotes howl this side of the meadow,
when the springtime moon grows full.
In the still dark evenings with flashlights
we grow and shrink upon the walls
and crackle like paper, alive, entwined,
in shadows like papercut sillhouettes,
in the howl of the coyotes in the meadow.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:29 PM | 0 comments

Dear Diary

Tonight we sat in the dark and played with flashlights and shadows in the great room. Afterwards we turned all the lights on and ate ice cream sundaes squinting in the brightness and left the cherry can out.

Imagine how powerful it must feel to be a twenty month old flashlight-wielder. Imagine the first moment the potential of existence ever truly hit you, that moment in the dark when the lights suddenly blazed, and you realized: with the right tool for the job, you can control the situational existences of the entire solipsistic universe.

Maybe it's time to think about writing poetry again.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:10 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Blog, In A Nutshell
A blog-based presentation on blogging

In the forthcoming Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative Theory, Jill defines weblog, or blog, as a frequently updated website consisting of dated entries arranged in reverse chronological order so the most recent post appears first. Alternately, Ev, the guy who started the Blogger service you're soaking in right now, suggests that the blog concept is about three things: Frequency, Brevity and Personality.

Sounds simple, right? Like a short-and-sweet diary, except online, public, and in reverse. But no single sentence does the broad and increasingly widespread phenomenon justice, nor does it really help us see why this blog thing should mean anything to us. I think the encyclopedia would help us out, so here's most of the rest of what Jill has to say in her definition; for the purposes of fast discussion, I've edited out a few sentences which seemed less-than-urgent for us to consider today:
Typically, weblogs are published by individuals and their style is personal and informal. Weblogs first appeared in the mid-1990s, becoming popular as simple and free publishing tools became available towards the turn of the century. Since anybody with a net connection can publish their own weblog, there is great variety in the quality, content, and ambition of weblogs, and a weblog may have anywhere from a handful to tens of thousands of daily readers...

Examples of the genre exist on a continuum from confessional, online diaries to logs tracking specific topics or activities through links and commentary. Though weblogs are primarily textual, experimentation with sound, images, and videos has resulted in related genres such as photoblogs, videoblogs, and audioblogs

Most weblogs use links generously, allowing readers to follow conversations between weblogs by following links between entries on related topics. Readers may start at any point of a weblog, seeing the most recent entry first, or arriving at an older post via a search engine or a link from another site, often another weblog. Once at a weblog, readers can read on in various orders: chronologically, thematically, by following links between entries or by searching for keywords. Weblogs also generally include a blogroll, which is a list of links to other weblogs the author recommends. Many weblogs allow readers to enter their own comments to individual posts.

The world of blogging is still in flux, but the definition points to several areas of relevance for us. These include, but are by no means limited to:

1. Casual community-member use: Many members of the NMH community have blogs. One blog-maintaining service in particular, livejournal, is used by many of our students to share thoughts on a regular basis; a good number of them are currently keeping a group blog about NMH, in fact.

At stake here, however, is the unfortunate truth that students tend to forget that the mass includes the local; twice in the past two years, I have found it necessary to core team students whose blogs mentioned illicit and potentially dangerous behavior. As I said in a previous entry on this point,
Intellectually, it seems intuitively obvious that if a random stranger can access and read your blog or livejournal, so can the next-door neighbor or friend or ex-girlfriend or even parent, assuming that they are online, or have a friend who might accidentally come across your brainspew and pass the word along. Psychologically, though, it is not obvious, but disquieting.

2. Academic use: The use of blogs as a tool in educational environments is on the rise. In addition to providing a digital generation with a comfortable tool for journaling (itself a common tool for the integration of writing across the NMH curriculum), the web-based nature of the blog offers several new and potentially beneficial twists to the traditional journal, including the everywhere-at-once aspect of webbed materials (you'll never have to collect the journals, and they can still write in them while you're looking at them!), the ability to easily add links and images, and the comments function, which engenders a space for teacher or peer feedback that, unlike the traditional journal, doesn't mar or corrupt the original text, but exists outside of it, preserving its sanctity. Some algebra/physics classes here at NMH are already using blogging successfully (for example, this or this).

There are more issues here than we have time for -- for example, I've recently spent some time asking around the bloggiverse about citation and blogging, and can now state with some cultural authority that blogs are low-stakes by nature, as were journals before them, so the link is considered appropriate citation...but this in turn raises a new set of issues, both wild and wooley and somehow familiar, around how we can help teachers be clearer about their expectations for student work.

Though there is as yet little consensus about the "right" way to use blogs academically, these conversations "out there" have already started. Here is a blog from the Educational Bloggers Network , and a fairly comprehensive lists of blogs and resources about blogging in education, many of which refer to ongoing conferences on the subject. I'll be attending one such conference at Harvard in April, if others want to join me; I found out about it from one of my favorite library/media blogs, which I'll mention again later.

3. Blogs as reference materials: Blogs, almost by definition, offer opinion better than fact, though it is standard practice to link to original sources when responding to it. This "layering" phenomenon in the body of information available to our constituents is not new, but I'd propose it's made both more complex and more interlinked with the introduction of blogs into the mix. Of course, the opinion-based nature of blogs raise the stakes for information and media literacy here, too (hint: a site's bias can often be determined merely by skimming the list of other sites which that blogger recommends, a list known in blogparlance as a blogroll.)

That said, blogs can add value to research in powerful ways. Students looking for fairly immediate opinions on and reactions to a very current issue, or a set of opinions on a specific topic over time, will find blogs a strong tool for the toolbox. A student with time and his/her own blog can even solicit such opinion, or add his or her questions to the growing body of opinion in a blog's comments to see if others respond.

And some awfully famous people have blogs; a student struggling with the work of, say, former head of the American Sociological Association Amitai Etzioni might well find his blog a useful way to understand how his mind works, and a survey of how he categorizes his blog entries and which sources he responds to would additionally lend a new layer of understanding to those reading his work for a class project. Alternately, a student studying ex-presidents might find a visit to Jimmy Carter's blog illuminating. And Dave Barry is read across our senior English curriculum.

(Incidentally, Google purchased blogger, one of the more popular blog services, last year. Do you think this might affect how people blog? How people see blogging as legitimate? How blogs present as resources in google searches?)

4. Blogs as library resources: There are a number of library blogs out there; most interlink, so a few links here can get you on your way to finding those you might want. Some librarians and bibliophiles keep blogs about new developments and thinking in the field, or about library issues in general. Some libraries (like this one) keep blogs for their community, too, as a way of reaching out and staying up to the minute. Here's an article on why you might want to keep a blog for your own library.

Additionally, many blogs mention and critique books and other potential collections acquisitions as a matter of course, and some bloggers even keep track of what they're reading at the moment purely for the edification of their readership; finding a small group of blogs you trust may lead to a whole new layer of collections development.

Of course, blogs are also periodic literature, in their own tiny solipsistic way. In the vastness of the bloggiverse there's some good reading, of a structure all its own. As any good librarian or media specialist should be able to do, I'd be happy to recommend a few good reads upon request.

Any questions? Feel like I missed something? Click on the comments link below to share your thoughts!

posted by boyhowdy | 8:03 PM | 0 comments

Save Ferris

Shaw is ill. Please send sympathy.

More later -- it's the last day of class in our trimester-based block calendar here, and we've been flat-out here for a while.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:29 AM | 0 comments

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Mohammedian Fiat

In a desperate attempt to defy the laws of geography, local ski resort town votes to secede from Vermont, move 25 miles east to New Hampshire to avoid statewide school tax redistribution laws. Good luck moving the mountain, folks.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:30 PM | 0 comments

My Baby She Loves Me

She kisses me full on the lips goodnight, and from the dark asks Daddy for milk please in the bottle and change 'a diaper before bed. She rides around my shoulders in the library waving hi people while her mother submits the final yearbook proofs three buildings away. She talks about the kitten still stuck in the tree all through supper. She sings God bless the moon and god bless me to the moon in the dining hall parking lot, and then stares, amazed, as we come into to the driveway and there it is, the big bright three-quarter moon hung above her own bedroom window, illuminating small white dog, its nose pressed against the window. Moon come to Willow's house! she says, and come wi' me and we're up the stairs.

I've grown relaxed in her presence. The time we spend together is time spent, together. But she still fascinates me from afar, like tonight, singing softly to herself, two walls between us, deep in the dark, with her mama, my other love, in the family bed.

My Willow, become more golden, more precious, more rare than ever since Darcie became un-pregnant this week. But then, it seems everything, from days to dreams, has that effect on how I feel for her.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:43 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, February 29, 2004

Monday Mosh: The Day The Music Died Edition

Nobody's moshing anymore ('cept for me and my monkey) so as of this week the Monday Mosh is calling it quits. It's not just me -- a survey of other memesites suggests that the meme's going the way of the dodo, so I guess we're getting out just in time. Still, just to end on a high note, here's one final weekly memetheme.

Mosh to your swansong.

How To Monday Mosh:

Dance around just 'cause it's Monday, and answer three questions in your blog or in the comments below, leaving us a link so we know you were here:

1. What song did you mosh to?
2. What did you step on / bump into? (Bonus points for breakage)
3. Why did you stop?

posted by boyhowdy | 10:45 PM | 0 comments

More Signs Of Cultural Decline

An ongoing list which could also be titled More Signs Of The Apocalypse, as, given the move towards the global village which the Internet and other technological/social convergence seem to indicate, cultural decline is starting to present as a universal phenomenon.
  • Peanut butter cookies (may contain nuts).

  • Scallops may contain shellfish.

  • Contents may be hot.

  • Professional driver on closed course.

  • Now a major motion picture...

  • As seen on TV.

  • Remove quality seal before use. Do not use if seal is broken.

  • Thomas thought you should know that our English Muffins have always been low in fat / no trans fat / a cholesterol free food.

God save us.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:19 PM | 0 comments

It's Going Around...

Due to extreme dizziness-fever-and-spewflu illness, Not All Who Wander Are Lost was unable to open this weekend.

We apologize for any inconvenience.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:27 AM | 0 comments

Friday, February 27, 2004

Jeez, I Remember This

After this journal of a teacher in the South Bronx public schools.

Emotionally thinking, I hit adolescence late: I was still a total nervous wreck -- a disaster, a seethe of hormonal bipolarism -- at 20, twelve years ago, when I dropped out of college.

I didn't identify as an adult, either. I still wrote poetry like an adolescent, and in those first few months of my Sophomore year was still just discovering many things that, it turns out later, were part and parcel of other people's teen years -- like pet snakes, sun tea, group massage, and Primus.

I had, I suppose, played some adult-like roles, but this was solely playacting; I had (for example) done no small amount of babysitting in my time, but did so mostly to potter around the homes of other people while their babies slept, rather than out of some love for the wee and the educable. I don't think I had really begun to think of kids as categorically distinct from what I was, let alone teachable.

After a month or two slamming my rage and anxious diffidence around my parent's house, by mutual consent I moved into a matress on the floor of a scummy studio-share with two Belgian exchange students, and joined City Year. Which meant, among other things, being a classroom teacher's aide and running after school program in one of the most "urban" (now there's a euphemism for you) schools in Boston: Dorchester's Patrick O'Hearn School.

The neighborhood was unsafe; we had to leave early enough to make it to the T station before dark. The bodega across the street from the school sold pop and cigarettes and quite probably drugs to the kids. During recess, the kids played on the asphalt courtyard. Most of the kids were already rotting inside.

I remember there was this kid, too, ten years old, who ate paste in great fingerscoops because he was hungry and wore all the right basketball clothes. At first, it seemed nothing we did would get through to him; he was resigned, already, to the neighborhood malaise, and would never get out. Until our afterschool program called for a day of jazz and tap dancing, and his eyes lit up.

Poor kid. Even at ten -- heck, especially at ten -- he knew how futile and limiting such a love would be. And we'd be moving on in a week. No one else around there was going to teach him to dance.

I bet he never got out. I wish I could remember his name.

Incidentally, City Year sucked. But then so does the forge, from the iron's point of view. I tell students that it's painful, but it's a good pain -- the pain of finding out who you really are, and doing something about it, dammit. I imagine it's a lot like the "good" endorphine-laden pain of the true athlete.

Oh -- and City Year brought me to the Museum of Science, Boston, where the director of the museum asked me to stay on once or twice a week. I slowly weaned myself from a night delivery job at a D'angelo sub shop, ended up with a three year fill-time education fellowship, and learned how to teach...and what I wanted to teach.

And now you know the rest of the story.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:17 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, February 26, 2004

I Would Not, Could Not In A Blog

Happy Birthday To You!

Cranky child-hating master kiddie wordsmith Dr. Seuss would have been 100 this week. Ah, Ted, we hardly knew ye.

Relevant article also includes substance by Philip Nel, a Kansas State English professor and author of the new book "Dr. Seuss: American Icon," who says Seuss' heroes are "rebels and underdogs," and, in showing us Seuss' genius, reminds us there's such a thing as too much deconstruction:
"'Ham and eggs' is just ordinary, but if you turn it around so that it's 'eggs and ham,' that's interesting. And then if you make it green, there's real genius," Nel said.

posted by boyhowdy | 3:21 PM | 0 comments

As Seen On TV History

Today is the 20th birthday of the informercial. Just think: if it hadn't been for Herbalife, television might still be broadcasting test patterns at 3 a.m., and Suzanne Somers would have dropped off the cultural radar with the demise of Three's Company.

Interestingly, the article cites "informercial historian" Steve Dworman as a primary source, which is good for him, because I'm guessing he doesn't have much else to do with his time.

Bonus points if you can correctly identify which sign of the apocalypse this is.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:31 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Speaking Of Fortunes...

Like everybody else, I carry a greatest hits collection of fortune cookie fortunes in my wallet, right up against the license. I'm considering an impending vetting, but until I do, here's what's been worth keeping, with bonus editor's-cut commentary:

> Never trouble troubles till trouble troubles you.
Okay, what? I had to read this one several times to make sure it made sense. I'm still not sure. Additionally, note that this is technically not a fortune, but advice.

> You are almost there.
Almost where? This one also comes with just enough lucky numbers to make me wonder if I'm supposed to be almost at the store buying lottery tickets.

> Your future is as boundless as the lofty heaven.
Not sure why this one is here. Must have been having a pretty good day to feel validated by something so fluffy.

> Your happiness is intertwined with your outlook on life.
Don't think about this one too long -- you're not supposed to notice it's obvious, circular, and meaningless. Sure sounds good, in a Zen kind of way, though, doesn't it?

> You may attend a party where strange customs prevail.
Good. Sounds like my kind of party, unless by "strange customs" you mean goat sacrifice or Twister or something.

> A handful of patience is worth a bushel of brains.
As someone with a bushel and a peck of brainmatter and a self-inflicted sufferer of damnfool rash foot-in-mouth on a daily basis, I can assure you this is both true and difficult to accept. I keep this fortune right over my license picture so I'll see it often, and pray that one day I might osmose it through my butt, amoebalike.

> It is a nice day.
Recieved this evening. Simplicity itself; incidentally incorrect.

For the curious, also in my brownleather wallet right now: the driver's license itself; assorted receipts and ATM spew-outs; credit and debit cards, HMO card, and Red Cross donor card; a half-full buy-ten-get-one-free punch card from Magical Child toy store; a ticket stub from the second annual North Atlantic Folk Festival four summers ago; pictures of wife and child playing in the snow; a neon green index card with family, friend, and emergency phone numbers; emergency painkillers; an unfilled perscription for Neosynephrine; handwritten tiny-font blogentries-to-be from the Florida trip two months ago; three Bangladeshi bills in almost mint condition; business cards from the Malaysian Ambassador to Bangladesh, and from friend and summer-in-Bangladesh co-instructor Azra Naseem, of Pakistan. No cash.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:49 PM | 0 comments


If you ever have a really bad week (and it's only Wednesday), find a small child who has never been in a toy store, and take her to one.

I'm not talking about just any toy store, either. A sterile, compartmentalized superstore may be your reluctant source for the large-scale purchase or the sale, but it offers no intimate experience. The "learning" store has an important place in your child's education, but a wandering child in a toddler's garden of eden needs the simple and the soft as much as she needs flexibility and challenge; no child was ever truly happy curling up with a Leapfrog, and only the rarest of odd chicklings feeds her dollguests astronaut ice cream at imaginary tea.

No, go for the place with a mirror in the doorway. Any store smart enough to anticipate your need -- for, it turns out, the look on her face as she peers in the opening doorway, itself a hundred times more soothing than a month of begrudged and stolen kisses -- is a place you want to be most of the time.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:51 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Some Days You Are The Bug

There's so many things I want to blog about, but I just don't have the strength to be witty and pedantic.

So may links to pass along, but little time to collect them.

The term rushes headlong to a close; minutes count, but I don't even know what day it is most of the time.

In the days of whines and poses and the long nights of sleepless anxiety for backlogged work that follow, it's the radio that keeps me sane. If only I hadn't been feverish there in the overheated basement, a solo act with no callers to confirm my existence: silence and sanity only coincide when you've voices in your own head, not when you're a voice in others'. For what it's worth -- a day late and ten can't-go-on minutes short -- here's this week's playlist.

Tributary 2/23/04

Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man
Manu Chao -- Me Gustas Tu
Habib Koite -- Cigarette Abana / Batoumambe
Michael Franti and Spearhead -- Do You Love Someone
Rhonda Vincent -- You're In My Heart
Guster -- Fa Fa Fa Fa
Kasey Chambers -- You Got The Car
Skavoovie and the Epitones -- Bli-Blip
Oysterhead -- Oz Is Ever Floating
Nickel Creek -- Smoothie Song
Norah Jones -- Sunrise
Acoustic Syndicate -- Crazy Town
Bela Fleck and the Flecktones -- Communication
Be Good Tanyas -- Rain And Snow
Not Earthshaking -- One False Move
Guster -- Two At A Time
The Waifs -- London Still
Barenaked Ladies -- Wrap Your Arms Around Me
Norah Jones -- Creepin' In

posted by boyhowdy | 11:21 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Monday Mosh: The All Better Edition

Three baths, two bedsheet changes, one more nap than usual and a half a glass of water doled out tablespoon by tablespoon later; she hasn't thrown up since 4:30, so I guess we're on the road to recovery from baby's first flu. Thanks to both grandmas for calling with support after reading all about it in the previous blogentry (and within hours of posting!). It's nice to know we're doing it right even in the worst of times. Today's post-illness memetheme:

Mosh to something that makes you feel better.

How To Monday Mosh:

Dance around just 'cause it's Monday, and answer three questions in your blog or in the comments below, leaving us a link so we know you were here:

1. What song did you mosh to?
2. What did you step on / bump into? (Bonus points for breakage)
3. Why did you stop?

posted by boyhowdy | 11:02 PM | 0 comments

Baby's First Flu

Greyblue lips and pasty skin that blotches when she cries. A belly once distended falls to rolls of flab over the tautness of the diapertop as she leans forward in bed. We've had two baths, and three changes of clothes. She doesn't cry much, but she coughs and complains. My brave little soldier girl is pretty sick.

We rack our brains: what are the things our parents did to help us through this? We soothe her brow, and sing to her at off-schedule naptimes; lie in bed all day, and allow extra television. Like her mother before her she won't drink bubbles, so ginger ale's out, but there's some Jello firming in the fridge, for a later half-better time we hope will come to the sick house soon. Mostly, though, we just repeat the litany of illness: it's okay, we know, it's okay, we love you.

It's hard to know if the words do any good; what's hardest to watch is that she clearly does not understand how she's lost control of her body. She doesn't know how to read the signs of impending spew, though she's learning fast, the hard way: just now in the middle of a tea-and-toast lunch she turned to Darcie and said, questioningly, mommy? just a moment before four times what had gone in came out violently, spurting past the chair to the tablecloth and floor. She can't yet imagine, and doesn't have the words or concepts for her own insides rebelling against her.

Sometimes what hurts most about parenting is this kind of helplessness: knowing it will be okay, but knowing, too, that we cannot truly help her know that: she will need to suffer through until she can accept this strange new feeling as something which must be suffered through, and which will pass soon enough.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:09 PM | 0 comments

Outside And Inside

Late last night, walking the dog in the cloudy rural dark, a pair of headlights out in the meadow pointing away from us as we came over the rise in the road: a car off the road, out of place on the cross country skiing trail, surely sinking the in mushy groomed snow. Other lights at closer houses and a passing red security vehicle suggested it was already someone else's problem, but this morning it's still there, and we're no longer so sure. Surely someone knows about it, though -- how do you lose your car into the snow, and with the lights on, yet?

A student disappeared at local mountain Berkshire East after Friday's ski trip. He was discovered missing when the busses loaded just after dark and wasn't found until four the next morning, unconscious and cold at the base of a slope. As of last night he was in hospital but still not conscious; his parents were being flown in from Japan and should arrive today.

Here in the house the sun warms the bed, where Willow sleeps on her mother's lap after managing to vomit in every single carpeted room in the house since waking up at six. Poor thing. In the absence of my own awakened child -- to hold tight and wonder about her own adolescence on her own snowcovered mountains -- it looks like I'm getting to that pile of papergrading after all.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:44 AM | 0 comments

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Fun With Googlism

It's nothing new, but if you haven't tried it, do so: abstract pastiche poetry generator Googlism scours the web for phrase fragments based on simple search terms, and the results can be quite surprising. Though most people use it for searches on proper nouns, I find that a poetic diversity of potential answers best springs from simple queries, like this or this.

Used oracularly for a special treat, googlism produces a diversity of grand truths and confucian pronouncements sure to cause subjective deepthought and hilarity, as with this recent googlism of the acronym for our beloved currently-in-flux school:

nmh is now frozen
nmh is not a single comprehensive program
nmh is ongoing
nmh is a miscommunication between the brain and the heart that can cause lightheadedness
nmh is all about spring term
nmh is also known for its tertiary and subspecialty care for adults
nmh is not the same as the common momentary dizzines that many well people get when they arise from a chair or a bed too quickly
nmh is consultant led
nmh is somewhat broken
nmh is often warm and embracing even in the midst of its grim
nmh is a potentially treatable disorder
nmh is expensive
nmh is now being actively maintained again
nmh is christian by heritage
nmh is still under active development
nmh is difficult
nmh is present

In other search engine news, a Google search for "search engine" gets surprising results -- I'd attribute this discovery properly but seem to have forgotten whose blog first mentions it. Does anyone still use Altavista? Vivisimo rocks, but until its interface becomes as user friendly as Google, I'm sticking with the old standard.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:09 PM | 0 comments

Friday, February 20, 2004

This stuff is great!

Jon Friedman's Confessions Of A New Coffee Drinker! Yes! Coffee! At McSweeney's!

posted by boyhowdy | 10:19 PM | 0 comments

Blair Who?

Just when you thought it was safe to come out of the insanity, legal reform org CommonGood cites plagiarist valedictorian wannabe Hornstine's suit against her school district as one of the Top 5 Ridiculous Lawsuits of 2003. Um, yay?

posted by boyhowdy | 8:50 PM | 0 comments

Concert Review: Guster @ The Calvin Theater

Like this, but bigger and in color.

When you've been to as many concerts as I have (see this backdated still-incomplete list of concerts I've attended for my street creds) you know it's the subtle things that make the difference. So you leave your coat in the car, the cold line outside the venue easily worth the traded-off stress of having to keep track of your coat in the cruching crowd. You wear confortable shoes, and practice stepping backwards into the social vacuum of the crowd when someone sqeezes through behind you, else the crush of the crowd pin you to the stage. You arrive early, to examine the front doors for a tipoff on crowd entering dynamics, and position yourself accordingly. And if, like me, your body getting older, you take Aleve for preventative purposes before leaving school with Molly for last night's show.

Prepared, then, and willing to wait until someone else starts the line outside, we arrived in 'Hamp with plenty of time for a nice bellywarming vegetarian stirfry supper at local sushi/chinese hotspot Teapot to warm our bellies as we stood outside sans coats for an hour outside one of my favorite local venues and watched the line grow behind us. The CVS-bought soupcans -- worth a free poster each once inside the door -- weighed heavy in my shivering arms. When the door opened we went for posters quick quick quick before flying down the aisle to a position quite near the stage, and sat down ofn the floor -- both to save the calves and to keep some space around us before the lights went down and the crowd pressed in.

Our placement wasn't perfect -- I spent much of the show watching a mole on the back of a tall man's neck. But two rows back from the stage a slight rock in either direction keeps first drums and bass, then lead guitar and keyboards in alternating view. We were close enough to see the lead singer's fillings, and to snag the pre-licked pick the cute lead guitarist of poppy-but-decent opening act Graham Colton, though the Guster set lists were fought over too voraciously for our tastes.

Guster was...Guster, though much closer than I'd seen them before. I hadn't seen them since a school-chaperone gig down to Hartford four years ago; in the interim they've gone a bit more sparse, and picked up a master keyboardist and second guitarist who added a wonderful layer to the geekrock sound the band-once-named-Gus has always been famous for. Leadsinger Ryan seemed a bit rusty on their first day back on the road after after a few-week band hiatus; he started a few songs with the wrong verse, and missed some licks. But the new album's work sounds great, and the wash of sound a nice change from what was once -- when I first saw them, a struggling Tufts college band just a year or two older than I am, on the post-edge of acoustic folk, with the funky lanky drummer banging away on a drum kit with his bare hands, albeit wrapped in white bandages to quell the blood and bruising.

Woke up this morning sluggish, almost drugged; my back aches, and my knees have been shaky all day. But it was worth it just to see Molly swoon when the Guster guys walked up to the edge of the stage for an acoustic and unmiked encore less than four feet from our unbelieving eyes. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:27 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Woah...Is It Really Wednesday?

Then it must be time for another thoughtstarter from my second-favorite meme, which today asks: What's on your computer desk right now?

Only problem is, technically speaking, I have no computer desk. I have a desk -- covered, mostly, in piles of books and cheesy bangladeshi snacks -- but because the only place the cable could come in was all the way at the other end of the house, I blog on a laptop at the dining room table. Still, here's what's on the table:
  • Yet another set of yearbook proofs.

  • Today's mail: my contract, Darcie's favorite clothing store catalog, and some diaper coupons from Huggies. Also an opened phone bill and a reminder notice from the hearing clinic, both recieved yesterday.

  • A half-full box of organic cashews, an empty bottle Starbucks Mocha Frappucino lowfat coffee drink, and an empty dish of source-unknown crumbs.

  • Four thin rose-colored taper candles that Darcie's mother gave us for Valentine's Day.

  • Three half-melted sampler-sized Yankee Candle candles of assorted scents.

  • A much-reused video tape labeled "West Wing / ER / Monk" which actually contains two episodes of Ex-treme Dating.

  • A small bottle of Baby Bee Apricot Baby Oil.

  • A mostly-full bottle of patchouli Kiss My Face lotion wrapped in a plastic supermarket bag.

  • A take-out bag of leftover mu shu beef, sesame chicken, and rice.

  • Two dead flashlights.

  • A small rectangle of purple sponge.

There's a story behind every item. I'm just too tired to tell it. Plus, now I have to clean the table.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:41 PM | 0 comments

Consider The Source

I still have my reservations about Michael Moore, though he came across relatively well in The Populist, Larissa MacFarquhar's recent sympathetic New Yorker piece. But today's Moore-mail, a forward-from-my-father-first blathering on about the admittedly stupid Bush camp military service revelations, was more interesting for the chain of liberals that brought it home than its easy and obvious content. According to the aggregate annotations gathered as it moved through cyberspace, the mail got to my father from family friend and restauranteur Jim Miller, a co-founder of fave pizza chain Bertucci's and co-owner of "improvisational grill" FiRE and iCE, a fun spot all about variety, improvisation, and imagination, a set of values about as liberal as it gets.

And where did Jim get Moore's missive? Direct from leftdarling Howard Zinn, master of cognitive dissonance, who sent the message to him (and three people named Zinn) with the following notation in brackets:
Michael Moore wraps it up neatly, as usual. I would just add one thought: if someone shirks his military duty because he is opposed to the war being fought, he is following his conscience; if he believes in the war being fought and shirks his military duty, he is a hypocrite.
Too bad I'm neither left nor liberal. I've certainly got the creds, if I wanted them.

Incidentally, leftliberal readers might also be interested in the new City Lights newsletter, also sent along by Dad, who writes:
Hello Joshua - I am concerned that you may not have nearly enough radical left reading material and so am rushing this to you.
Thanks, Dad. My cup runneth over.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:05 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Here And There And This And That

...but not with Rusty.

Things are pretty tense around here these days, and getting worse daily. Teachers are getting cutthroat as they begin to internalize the hard reality that current performance will be the primary criteria for staying on after this. Contracts come out tomorrow, and no one's really sure who's getting one. This isn't helping. This isn't a good sign either.

Next year's cuts will be four times worse. I don't think the community can sustain this level of tension, rumor, suspicion and allaround ugliness for that long, though. If the current trend continues, I predict nervous breakdowns and picketing at graduation, and would peg the impending total collapse of social order once concrete decisions start being made about how to move forward.

But life goes on, I suppose. Mom and Dad came again today to hang with Willow, but for the second week in a row I was running a fever; though I ultimately made it to chair the faculty professional development committee this evening post-supper, I no-showed at the Information Commons for most of the afternoon, joining an also-sick Darcie for a nap while Gamma Suzin and Bapa Stee helped out with the baby.

Looking forward to this here on Thursday with Molly. Realized, in thinking about it, that I haven't been to a good show since this. Guess that's what having kids does to your time. Used to head down to Northampton for this and that almost every month; now I expend the creative juices on work and my daughter, and hardly notice who's touring.

Oh, damn -- just realized I forgot to tape this for my mass media and culture class tomorrow.

Also, today I learned this: an iced-over banana peel is still slippery, though no more slipdangerous than the sidewalk next to it.

[UPDATE 2/18/04 3:59 pm: For those who were worried, yes, there was a contract in my mailbox today. Now I just need to start the procedures for a paternity leave in the fall, and I can rest uneasy until next February...]

posted by boyhowdy | 10:05 PM | 0 comments

Yeah, I'd See It

Simpsons movie slated for 2006. Just in time, too -- those reruns seem shorter every day.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:07 AM | 0 comments

Fresh Air

No moon for days: the pinprick stars shine bright through a third clear night's dark sheet as I return from yet another edition of Tributary, your ten to midnight Monday night show here on WNMH 91.5 fm, serving Northfield, Gill, Keene, Brattleboro and you with a little bit of this, a little bit of that, from funk to folk and blues to bluegrass, from jazz to jambands and all the rock and pop we can squeeze in the corners.

The silent roads home pass out of existance some forty feet ahead as I define an inhabited universe in the otherwise dark with a headlamp glare that wanes like the moon when the hill turns steep ahead of me over the bridge. A grey something, too small to be a squirrel, flashes left at the fork in the road. I go right, towards the dark past-lights-out dormitories and snowed-over tennis courts and past them to home.

Tonight's playlist follows; it was cold in the studio, so most of the set's pretty upbeat.

Tributary 10/16/04

Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man
Michael Franti and Spearhead -- Everyone Deserves Music
Otis Rush -- Homework
Girlyman -- Postcards From Mexico
Phish -- Back On The Train
Biscuit Boys -- Ramblin' Fever
String Cheese Incident -- Search
St. Germaine -- Rose Rouge
Eddie From Ohio -- Let's get Mesolithic
Los Lobos -- Kiko And The Lavender Moon
Lisa Loeb -- I Do
Guster -- Scars And Stitches
Peter Gabriel -- Love To Be Loved
Bela Fleck and the Flecktones -- Sunset Road
Grateful Dead -- Deep Elem Blues
They Might Be Giants -- The Edison Museum
Pink Floyd -- Brain Damage
Richard Thompson -- Kiss
Shawn Colvin -- Say A Little Prayer
Chris Smither -- Real Fine Love
Brooks Williams -- She Loves Me (When I Try)
Deb Talan -- Two Points
The Be Good Tanyas -- Waiting Around To Die
The Wayfaring Strangers -- Man Of Constant Sorrow
Natalie Merchant -- Which Side Are You On

posted by boyhowdy | 12:51 AM | 0 comments

Monday, February 16, 2004

Monday Mosh: The Stupid Edition

I do dumb things. Like poking myself in the eye, or knocking a full beer over before I've even had anything to drink. Or smashing my wrist against the wall as I turn a cinderblock hallway corner, hard enough to make me need yet another new watch. Or like tonight, when I managed to end up scheduled for duty in the media center and in the dorm simultaneously. Both have been on the right calendars for months; I just never noticed the inherent conflict. Ever got a call at work to tell you that you were supposed to be at work? Now that's stupid.

So let's get it on and out in the open, shall we? Today's memetheme:

Mosh to something really stupid.

How To Monday Mosh:

Dance around just 'cause it's Monday, and answer three questions in your blog or in the comments below, leaving us a link so we know you were here:

1. What song did you mosh to?
2. What did you step on / bump into? (Bonus points for breakage)
3. Why did you stop?

posted by boyhowdy | 12:35 AM | 0 comments

Saturday, February 14, 2004

My Funny Valentine

A French Perfume, but, really, what's in a name?

Bought flowers for my wife and daughter yesterday evening before chaperoning a school 3 on 3 intermural basketball tournament: sweet-smelling fresia, a single pinktipped French Perfume rose for Darcie in among the baby's breath, a balloon for Willow. This morning while I slept late they went grocery shopping; when I awoke I was presented with a half-sized laundry basket (red, of course) filled to the brim with the tidbits I love best:
  • Entenmann's chocolate frosted doughnuts

  • Regular potato chips, unruffled and unflavored

  • A box of Slim Jims

  • Pepperidge Farm Mini Brussels cookies

  • Cashews whole and cashew Poppycock

  • A four-pack of Starbucks Mocha Frappucinos

  • Sobe Green Tea

  • Corned Beef Hash

  • Dinty Moore Beef Stew

  • Spongebob Squarepants Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Dinner

  • Assorted fave candybars: Baby Ruth, Mounds, Reese's Sticks, and a bar of Cadbury Dark
Also a stainless steel thermos mug, a coffee grinder, and a couple of unread Patricia Cornwell novels featuring Dr. Kay Scarpetta, Washington D.C. Chief Medical Examiner. Darcie said she just went to the store and bought everything I always lingered over. Too cool.

This is what I wanted for Valentine's Day, really: nothing to do and the girls napping early, a silent house as the day reaches its zenith; fresh ground coffee, plenty of snacks and a book full of two-dimensional silences and unapproachable rage. Thanks, girls. I love you, too.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:13 PM | 0 comments

Friday, February 13, 2004

Take Back The Love

Young (heterosexual) love, in silhouette.

At the end of a long week studying the eighties in my Modern American Culture class, a day on Political Correctness; with tomorrow Valentine's Day, I thought I might mention the eighties trend towards giving every kid in class a Valentine so "no one felt left out", and then use this politically correct valentine as a fun example. You know, the usual iconoclasm.

But I never expected a quick google search to produce such a motherlode of politicism around this day of red and roses. Here's Wendy McElroy, who for years has been watching politically correct feminists try to turn Valentine's Day into V-Day, standing for Vagina, Violence (committed by men against women) and Victory. And a six-year-old story, originally covered in the Vancouver Sun, about how the above silhouette of a guy and a girl just about to kiss -- once posted in the window of a college financial aid office -- was deemed offensive and "homophobic" by a few on-campus lesbians and gays. And lest we think it's just PC feminists trying to suck the fun out of my romance, this year, (mostly) Christian pro-abstinance teens across the country have started a movement to make the day before Valentine's Day a Day of Purity, a day where they publicly show their commitment to not having sex outside marriage by wearing t-shirts, handing out brochures, and just generally being in-your-face about their proud and voluntary sexual frustration.

Still, it's no surprise. Welcome, I tell my students, to the brave new world. Forty years after the term "politically incorrect" hit conservative circles, and twenty after the term became culturally rubricized, the eggs have hatched in our children. If my students are paradigmatic of their rising generation, PC, like Marxism before it, is one of those critical perspectives long since crossed over into the cultural subconscious to become "common sense", and so pervasively that students recognize but cannot name nor define the basic conceit.

And there's what's wrong with Valentine's Day, really: like everything else in our postmodernistic nobrow culture, it's been politicized, and in such a way as to remove all meaning yet simultaneously and subtly demand that each of us pick sides...or, like most of my students, internalize the debate unfinished, recognizing the validity of the political critique while simultaneously showing their disgust for a position they cannot afford to examine clearly. Indeed, (most) Marxists and (most) Feminists would, by the most basic assumptions behind their respective critical theories, have us believe that this is both beneficial and inherent: indeed, to Marxists, criticism is political, which is why they criticize in the first place.

To be fair, the aspirations of the politically correct bannerholder are hard to decry. As Tony Martin, in his prizewinning 1997 essay Feminine gender, past imperfect (political correctness and history), reminds us,
No rational person can argue with the vision attributed to Political Correctness: a better, more inclusive society free of sexism and racism, with greater recognition accorded to women and minority groups for the purpose of achieving increased tolerance and international understanding.
But aspirations are neither values nor means. In fact, it's the very machiavellian nature of the PC popcult, and the resulting repression of language and other freedoms, which gives it insidious power and, simultaneously, argues for its dissolution. Too, not everything should be political, for politics demands logic, and squeezes out emotion. A political Valentines Day cannot help but match ecological guilt with cut flowers, privilege with bought roses, gender role reinforcement with acts of giving. And that's just wrong, to sully such nice things that way.

So I hereby declare it's time to get the PC out of Valentine's Day. Who cares if Hallmark invented it, like diamonds: for once, celebrate sweetly, lightly, and deeply with the one you love, and to hell with the agendas of other people. For a day, at least, pretend there's no one else, and simply be.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:45 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Backdated Radio Blog

Been carrying this week's crumpled whitelined paper radio show playlist since Monday night's pants, switching it from pocket to pocket in the hopes of some down time. My apologies for those waiting to hum along. You're listening to Tributary, your ten to midnight Monday night show here on WNMH 91.5 fm, serving Northfield, Gill, Keene, Brattleboro and you with a little bit of this and a touch of that, from funk to folk, from jambands to jazz, from blues to bluegrass and beyond. This week's first-hour theme: music from my high school years.

Tributary 2/9/04

Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man
(Tributary theme)
Spin Doctors -- Jimmy Olsen's Blues (1991)
Crowded House -- It's Only Natural (1991)
The Bats -- Block Of Wood (1987)
De La Soul -- The Magic Number (1989)
They Might Be Giants -- The World's Address (1988)
Phish -- Fee (1988)
Nirvana -- Polly (1991)
James -- So Long Marianne (1991)
REM -- First We Take Manhattan (1991; CD skipped)
Sting -- We'll Be Together (1987)
Rusted Root -- You Can't Always Get What You Want
Lucy Kaplansky -- One Good Reason
Moxy Fruvous -- Green Eggs And Ham
Patty Griffin -- One Big Love
Salamander Crossing -- You Trip Me Up
Erin McKeown -- Queen Of Quiet
Billy Brag w/ Wilco -- My Flying Saucer
Tom Landa and the Paperboys -- All Along The Watchtower
Great Big Sea -- Ordinary Day
John Hiatt -- Crossing Muddy Waters
Bob Dorough -- Marilyn, Queen Of Lies
Sarah McLaughlin -- Dear God
Dan Hicks -- The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me)

posted by boyhowdy | 11:58 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, February 11, 2004


There's nothin' like a good soft robe

Because it was clean, and the only towel-like thing in the linen closet, I'm wearing the second bathrobe. You know the one I mean: mottled wornthin deepblue terrycloth, shrunken tight, short, and three-quarter sleeved from too many washings. The too-tight tie's about to pull apart, and when I first put it on, my arm went through that gaping hole in the armpit.

The good bathrobe was hanging over the bathroom door, lush and pinstriped, a Polo gift from Darcie the year I got her a bathrobe, too. (Lest you think bathrobes a lame old-people holiday gift, I might point out here that when Darcie and I had first met, I traded her a copy of U2's Zoo album for her almost-identical bathrobe -- our first love exchange.)

But it was clean, and close -- I didn't see the one on the door -- so I put the old one on post bath-with-the-baby anyway. And once I had her in my arms and we got to dancing around the living room, I wasn't about to stop for anything.

Later, the house dark, the girls home and asleep, I'll pass the good robe after a quick commercial-break pee, and think seriously about switching old for new, B team for A. But I won't do it. I'm just one of those people for whom, once you've dried off, danced, and finally settled into the television couch in the bathrobe, you're too far in the comfort zone to take it off again.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:17 PM | 0 comments

Excuses, Excuses

Because the width and depth of the web map I submitted to the school webmaster on Friday caused him to flip out by email... and cc it to my supervisors.

Because I fell asleep Sunday on the living room floor...and awoke at 4:55 a.m. with a crick in my neck and the television blaring. Remember when the only thing on before 5 was static and the occasional test pattern?

Because we're studying the eighties in Modern American Culture, and I love the eighties.

Because I had to rush home after class on Monday to take Darcie to the women's health clinic. Willow had a great time "helping" an older boy stack blocks in the waiting room after she'd had her fill of mommy's exam room, and the good news is her sibling's due somewhere around the last two weeks of September.

Because Monday evening I had to turn a student in because he had been bragging about breaking school rules in his public livejournal, and doing things like that makes me hate myself.

Because the Monday night radio show ends six hours before I have to get up for work. After weeks of radio silence, finally figured out the new number of the phone with help from a kid who called every number he could think of until he got it right. Nice to know the students were out there listening all the time.

Because my parents came up to babywatch on Tuesday, and Dad came up early to take me out to lunch beforehand at the awful diner in town -- where "cream of vegetable" means huge chunks of frozen cauliflower and broccoli boiled in whole milk.

Because the headache that started at the aforemention mediocre luncheon got so bad by suppertime that I had to skip a required dorm staff meeting and the Faculty Professional development Committee meeting which I was supposed to chair. Didn't matter, though -- I still couldn't sleep until midnight. I just sat and watched television like a zombie, on the verge of comprehensive malfunction.

Because the Ed Tech Group staff meeting this afternoon blindsided me into coteaching a totally new course for next term, one which will create a pool of pre-trained workjob students for the several labs and commons spaces overseen by our group members by delivering a modular curriculum of basic ed tech and media support skills. It's one I've always wanted to teach, and the modular approach seems useful: I'm not complaining; it's just one more thing, you know what I mean?

Because this evening Darcie took her yearbook editors out to dinner at the new high-end hotspot in town; I watched Willow, and after an extended bath, all she wanted to do was dance. For forty five minutes. To Skip To My Lou, over and over and over again. And whenever I stopped dancing with her, she cried.

Because I've been losing it all week. The stack of ungraded papers that migrates from classroom to car and back again has grown to two inches thick; I never even got around to assigning homework today, a cardinal sin in a curriculum which teaches full year courses two-at-a-time in ten week trimesters, where one day's classtime is 2 percent of the total course, and a a night's homework is equal to three nights in a traditional year-long system.

But happily, tomorrow is to be Winter Carnival, an unused snow day called at the last minute and turned recreational. No class, no stress, no six a.m. wake-up call. A sign from God, or the gods; if nothing else, a sign that the rest of our tiny walled world was equally overfocused and tired.

Looks like I win again. Heck, I even come out ahead: if I assign homework by email tomorrow for the next day, the kids will just think I knew the carnival was coming.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:40 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Monday Mosh: Remember The 80s Edition

We've finished Marxism and Feminism, and with just weeks left in the trimester we're finally up to the eighties in the Modern American Culture class I teach here at NMH. In preparation for Music Monday, I've been scavenging from the remnants of my post-adolescent vinyl; though I did find some good Dinosaur Jr., and a scrap of The Chills, mostly that's meant a lovely hour getting Duran Duran's Hungry Like The Wolf and height-of-cheesiness Safety Dance back out of my head. God, I'd forgotten how awful drum machines were.

You may not be a child of the eighties, of course. But there's cheese in every decade. This week's memetheme:

Mosh to something cheesy.

How To Monday Mosh:

Dance around just 'cause it's Monday, and answer three questions in your blog or in the comments below, leaving us a link so we know you were here:

1. What song did you mosh to?
2. What did you step on / bump into? (Bonus points for breakage)
3. Why did you stop?

posted by boyhowdy | 11:27 PM | 0 comments

One Musketeer

You remember that tight-knit group of misfits you used to hang with? The four or five or three so inseparable, wherever you went people knew the others were soon to follow? Remember that time when you left a flashlight on in the tent and crept out along the train tracks for the bonding experience of your life, just to see dead Ray Brower?

Yeah, me neither.

I’ve been rereading Stephen King’s The Body, the novella that made everybody’s favorite celebrity blogger famous when it got turned into Stand By Me, and finally traced the tug of longing that keeps bringing me back to the story to a social phenomenon we already know: some people have a group, and some don’t. It got me musing on yearning for the camaraderie of inseparable friends, even if just for a moment, which I’ve never experienced. And then it made me depressed, so I stopped. But here’s what I got to before then.

See, I had friends growing up – even had a couple of close friends, maybe even best friends, at various times in my life. I could probably sit and dredge up memories of these guys for hours. But it’s just depressing to do so: they’re gone, and I’m so bad at keeping in touch it’s probably my fault, and who wants to think about that? – and so the cycle goes.

So instead, in my memory I’m the kid who reads so much and so deeply that my strongest memory of elementary school is the time the entire class went off to gym and I didn’t even notice I was alone and missing gym until the lights turned themselves off later. I don’t drink much because I’ve got no drinking buddies; I smoke because it’s company, sometimes. I’m the guy who doesn’t go out much, and isn’t missed. In my worst hours I fear that the real reason I teach is that its easy to have confidence when you’re the one with all the answers – and the power to fail others.

There’s no trick to what went wrong. And the causes are clear, psychologically (a heady concoction of social anxiety and a lack of confidence driven by by astute self- and other-consciousness), environmentally (a slight disfunction at home and a root-tearing-up move to a new school district in second grade, when the teams and the rules of the game had already been established before you) and behaviorally (an earnest goofiness, the kind that attracts bullies.)

My name is boyhowdy, and I’m alone. My life is full of acquaintances, but bereft of blood brothers.

I sit with my teaching peers at high wooden tables in the dining hall and smalltalk my way through a short meal, but no one ever comes by for a beer.

Darcie’s the same way, but less comfortable socially. When we met in college, a party was raging around us, but she was holed up with our only mutual friends playing Pictionary; when I stumbled into their room in what, until that moment, I had intended to be my usual drunken rounds, I stayed until we left together…and now you know the rest of the story. In twelve years I’ve only ever met two or three of Darcie’s friends, and she’s never really had a night or afternoon out with anyone in the six years we’ve lived here; I, at least, do sometimes head out for music or a drink with one of a small number of folks, though but once or twice a year.

But it’s been a long time since college ended, and as much as dropping out so suddenly brought us together, it also insulated us from that world. While our friends stayed on, together, towards graduation, we were off and running, barely paying the phone bills with delivery jobs, becoming old before our time. By the time I went back to college I had too little in common with my peers to know them so deeply: four years older and practically married, with the girlfriend living down the hill – not much of a foundation for an active social life. The frequent trips down the hill pulled me from the deep and abiding relationships my parents have with their college friends.

And now? More than anything it’s the curious distance which develops here in a boarding school environment, where the role modeling never ceases, where all prospective soulmates are also the people you work with, which perpetuates distance. But where others seem to find peers and peergroups from other departments, keeping professional and personal separate, as a teacher of all of them, faculty and students alike, I’m just too close professionally to be a natural choice for friend – and lack the grace and nuance to make it work despite the uphill climb.

So if I’m not working, you’ll find me home – a place where we have each other, and that’s a whole lotta love, let me tell you. But sometimes I wish I had a gentleman’s club, a confidante, a loose band of brothers. Even a place where everybody knows your name would do.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:31 PM | 0 comments
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