Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Health Update

Arthritic knees, a souveneir of an orthroscopic surgery and drainage back when I ran full-tilt into a marble turnstile while responding to an emergency radio call at the Museum of Science, Boston. Knotted neck from an adult lifetime of overlong horsemane hair -- a mane which pulls out headaches from my scalp in the humidity, and after showers or rain. Bad back, both the traditional spine-base swell of twinged fire that worsens with the flu and fevers, and a second surely unrelated shining steel muscle cramp just above my kidneys for no reason at all. Chronic athlete's foot (don't ask). Low limbic awareness, a.k.a. a tendency towards bashing one's limbs and bits into walls and when rounding corners. Blocked eustacian tubes. I live in a constant state of mild discomfort, and doesn't everybody?

But where a return of last year's shingles would have been restricted to a band of skin and nerve tissue, the new rash, a sure product of stress, has spread everywhere. A wide red-scratched "V" just under my left shirtcuff; on the right side of my neck, and the shoulder below; inside both knees, right where I can rub them together for relief when I am walking: each new viral garden pushed up from the skin in clusters like the garden daffodils, growing over days and hours from pink bumps with white-dot dots like distant showcapped fleshmountains.

I am very itchy.

Does anyone have any sudafed, or cortizone cream?

posted by boyhowdy | 11:59 PM | 0 comments

Subjectively Reverse Anthropology
The White Man as Other, and isn't it about time?

Given the continuing digital divide, the odds are excellent that you, too, are a Qallunaat, making you a perfect subject for this new academic field in which Inuit study "white folks."

Kudos and thank-the-source to oldmedia alternative news aggregator Utne, one of the few champions of the culturally relativistic which gets it right without getting it PC, for finding and sharing.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:54 AM | 0 comments

Broadcast Therapy

Each Monday night after the girls are asleep I drive over the bridge to the other campus where, after a quickstop at Mim's Market for the last of the day's French Roast, I carry what can only be described as a backbreaking buttload of CDs down the dark stairs to the radio station.

There, in the basement of an otherwise empty classroom building, I spin the music, ever-searching for the perfect segue and mood. And I read bedtime stories on the hour and the half hour, just because it feels good to do so. Tonight, in honor of my grandfather's passage, I read a trio of father poems, including Donald Justice's Men at Forty:
Men at forty
Learn to close softly
The doors to rooms they will not be
Coming back to...
And between the songs and stories, I talk. A lot.

Because, for me, talking into the air is a kind of catharsis.

Out in the wide swath of antenna-reach people read by their radios, or sit perhaps silently in their own houses, with their own spouses. On the interstate in the middle of a long haul a trucker listens in until the signal begins to scratch and fade up past Brattleboro. Though this unconnected audience is for the most part theoretical, a mental projection, a trick of my own solipsism, it is my reason for being.

It's a lot like blogging, I think.

And, like blogging, I even got a comment tonight, a secret sharer whose voice crackled in the ozone, and called to read a poem her father had written once for his father.
At rest on a stair landing,
They feel it
Moving beneath them now like the deck of a ship,
Though the swell is gentle.

And deep in mirrors
They rediscover
The face of the boy as he practices tying
His father's tie there in secret

And the face of that father,
Still warm with the mystery of lather...

On the way back over the bridge tonight after hail and rain, the fog flooded over the pavement, hiding it beneath the headlight glare, as if I had achieved the epiphanies of the air, and dwelled in cloud.

Tonight's playlist:

Tributary 4/12/04

Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man
Trey Anastasio -- Cayman Review
Beck -- Devil's Haircut
Wild Cherry -- Play That Funky Music
They Might Be Giants -- Cowtown
Marcia Ball -- Down The Road
Settie -- Riding In My Car
Trout Fishing In America -- Happy That You're Here
Jazz Is Dead -- Scarlet Begonias
Gillian Welch -- I Want To Sing That Rock And Roll
Eddie From Ohio -- Quick
Dan Hicks -- Meet Me At The Corner
Sam Phillips -- I Need Love
Sarah McLachlan -- Dear God
Galactic -- Tiger Roll
Erin McKeown -- Slung-lo
Norah Jones -- Sunrise
Marc Cohn -- Mama's In The Moon
Indigo Girls -- Romeo and Juliet
The Waifs -- London Still
Marianne Faithful -- Love and Money
Girlyman -- David
Barenaked Ladies -- Light Up My Room
Ware River Club -- I Love Her, She Loves Me
Keller Williams -- Anyhow, Anyway
Nenes -- No Woman No Cry
Slaid Cleaves -- This Morning I Was Born Again

You've been listening to Tributary, your Monday night ten to midnight show here on WNMH 91.5. Where the music sometimes stops. But it's worth it.
...They are more fathers than sons themselves now.
Something is filling them, something

That is like the twilight sound
Of the crickets, immense,
Filling the woods at the foot of the slope
Behind their mortgaged houses.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:41 AM | 0 comments

Monday, April 12, 2004

A Blog About Nothing

My parents read my blog. My wife reads my blog. The people I work with -- and for -- read my blog. If you're a random stranger reading this blog right now, then you may be in the majority objectively-speaking, but you're not going to get the thoughts buzzing around madly like bees behind my eyes, the ones currently keeping me awake at night, stinging my dreams.

Mostly, that's because I'm a foot-in-mouth idiot.

Every once in a while, the things I need to rant and rail about are all so much about how stupid I am with the people I love and care about (and the ones I hate but have to be nice to) that they just can't go here, lest the blog become just one more stupid thing I do to the people I love (and hate but have to work for and play nice with).

Most people have their own name associated with their blog, it turns out. But most people don't put their foot in their mouth as often as I do. So here's the Seinfeldian summary -- it's about nothing, I swear:

I am angry and powerless.
I am depressed and leaning towards addiction as a coping mechanism.
I am short with others, and the feedback cycle makes me more prone to be stupid and hurtful.
I am feeling locked in to my life.
I have lost my confidence.
Oh, and my shingles are back with a vengance.

Sometimes wanderers are lost. Sometimes they can't even clarify their direction, even -- especially -- when their boss has asked them to write it down in one page less, surely in order to nitpick their vocational urges to death.

And finally, cryptically: The problem with becoming the man she thought I was is that I can't leave without feeling like I've let her down, too. And I owe her too much to ever do that. So I guess we'll just stay. Hoorah for me: at least I own my misery.

posted by boyhowdy | 5:06 PM | 0 comments

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Thinking Summer

The following artists are confirmed as of 01 April 2004: Airdance, Aoife O'Donovan and Crooked Still, Brave Combo, Charivari, Carla Ulbrich, Debbie Davies Band, disappear fear, Eddie From Ohio, Eliza Gilkyson, Ellis Paul, Erin McKeown, George Wurzbach, Greg Brown, Inner Visions, Jeffrey Foucault, John Gorka, Lowen & Navarro, Lucy Kaplansky, Nerissa & Katryna Nields, Richard Shindell, Richie Havens, Sloan Wainwright Band, Terence Martin, The Storycrafters, The Walker Family Band, Tracy Grammer, Vance Gilbert, and more to be announced soon!

Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, here we come!

posted by boyhowdy | 2:15 PM | 0 comments

Banned Children's Books

Bookbanning takes a memetic turn this week, flaring up after a long dormant period (hey, sounds like my shingles, which have also made a comeback this week). As a follow-up to our mutually blogged discussion about King & King -- a book which I've just ordered for my own school library in a fit of anti-PC pique -- kiddielit celebrant Jeffrey of Safe as Bunnies has found us:

1. A woman less than 100 miles from here who wants to ban James and the Giant Peach from her local library because one character calls another "an idiot."

2. An editorial discussion about Judy Blume's appropriateness for 12 year olds.

So nice to find someone similarly minded. Jeffrey will surely join the blogroll, or at least the tinyblog, as soon as I go rescue the baby from her post-nap crying jag.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:53 PM | 0 comments

Social Networking Through Compliments

Finally dug up that old email invite from Barbara (I'd link to her here, but she's currently blogless) and joined Orkut last night in a fit of weekend-beginning anti-work. Seems like fun, and just stimulating enough to feel light and easy. And it's still pretty small, despite recent mass media attention; as with the early MUDs and MOOs, the poulation is still a bit on the geek-heavy side (check out the average community member's picture for all the evidence you'll need on that one) but that's a plus as far as I'm concerned.

How freeing to do something bleeding edge and social for no better reason than someone nice asked you in, only to find folks you love and respect already there, eager to compliment you. Why not join in, and become one of us!

posted by boyhowdy | 11:31 AM | 0 comments

Friday, April 09, 2004

Funeral Blues

Jewish burial law says that the body should be in the ground 24 hours after death, but if we ever wanted proof that Judaism was traditionally about the community more than it was about the self, we need merely note that major holidays (and there are many) supercede burial as it does other personal events and celebrations familial and subjuctive, from Bar Mitzvahs to Weddings, moving and abbreviating the funeral rite strangely across to proximate calendar days.

Which is how we found ourselves in the car at eight in the morning on a workday, under a suddenly sunny sky, four days after grandpa passed away in his sleep, anxious about traffic on the Merritt Parkway on our way to the Long Island cemetary where, half a century ago, my grandparents bought narrow burial plots as part of a package deal with everyone else in their apartment complex. Happily, the densest of it cleared around noon, just over the Throg's Neck Bridge (I just like saying Throg's Neck, and what the heck is a Throg?); there was even time for a quick change at the hotel before meeting up with the thirty or so family mourners attending -- which, in this post-Holocaust family shrubbery, works out to over half of my relatives overall, a substantive turnout for a kind of patriarch, or at least the gentle man married to beloved Gramma, the predeceased matriarch almost undisputed -- at the gravesite parking lot.

The proximity of passover also meant an abbreviated service. The grounds staff carried the pine box in on a frame; the same rabbi my mother had as a child, the man who buried her mother and married her first cousin's children, spoke the bare minimum of prayer; some brothers and children and grandchildren spoke; we wept. The sky grew grey, and the wind whipped cold as if it had never been Spring before. We lined up to throw dirt on the casket, our final burden of love, and left in small groups when we were able, back to the hotel for a light lunch and family time.

My grandfather's death was in many ways a blessing. His body had long betrayed him, locking him inside: in death, he was finally free of the heavy bonds of late-stage Parkinsons. He'd been sick so long, and on morphine for a while, the rest and release will surely have been a relief. But though Willow understood that he was sick, and that we had gathered to be sad together, she will not remember him, any more than I remember my own last remaining great grandparents. My mother will forever be an orphan. And I'm getting older, too.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:45 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, April 08, 2004

The Three Minute Porn Flick
Wal-Mart and Kmart, two of the nation's biggest retailers, are planning to sell a new DVD player that includes a technology that has riled Hollywood -- a controversial program that can automatically skip sexual content, graphically violent scenes and language deemed offensive...[more]
Of course it doesn't say who gets to decide what counts as offensive, but I'll bet it's not going to me OR you. All morality filters are not built alike, but they are built on a common inherently-flawed premise: that a small group of people, who just happen to be able to make and sell a technology, who are not you, can and should determine where lines of morality get drawn for a culture, or at least a buying community, of which you are a part. By definition, and to a one, I find the filter-as-product worthy of suspicion, maybe even scorn.

Alternate titles for today's blogentry include Warning: This Program has Been Edited For Narrow Minds, Filters Suck, Who Watches The Watchers? and "New DVD Player Won't Play Anything Made After 1952"(thanks, Fark).

posted by boyhowdy | 12:30 AM | 0 comments

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

In Passing

I've been trying to put aside the hectic stress of life for a number of days, but time grows short, and the eulogy won't come.

It's not that I don't have something to say. Grandpa was quiet, but there's a lot of him in me, some in Willow, more in my mother. He taught me about Sinatra, and the hidden pleasures of disco. I've carried his army dog tag in my wallet for a day and a half. And somewhere, I know he and my grandmother are dancing again, close and smiling, like they are in the picture we took on our last visit to Florida.

And now there's just no time at all, really. We leave in eight hours for the Long Island cemetary, and though it's a long way, I don't think I'll be able to write anything in the car.

I'll try, I guess. I want to write something, even if I know my motives for doing so are murky, and have much to do with proving to myself and my family that I care enough to make something sound just right, and, too, about making up for our necessary absence from his wife's funeral two years ago, less than 24 hours before our child came into the world.

I'm worried the right words will come to me too late, and bring a forever of regret when they finally come.

I know you can't rush the heart, neither to grief nor to love. But I loved him, and want so much and so deeply to have the words already in my head. He was an everything, one of many, and he deserves the attention that I wish with all my heart to give him, the time that work and seder have stolen from us.

I wish just this once the heart could push the heart itself to pour forth. I wish the world was run by hearts, and not by timetables. I wish I wasn't about to fail him, the only time I really had something that I could give, even if it could never have been enough.

I wish we all could live forever. I wish sickness never came to those we love. I wish I had the words I want at my fingertips.

I wish my heart could speak.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:29 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Cover Your Ears, It's Tributary

It's shaping up to be a pretty intense week-and-a. Lots of in-class instruction and Information Commons service hours at work; Passover tonight and we're hosting a big ol' kiddie seder for the community wee ones (and parents) tomorrow at the still-messy apartment. Three conferences in one weekend on the near horizon. Darcie's miscarriage never finished, and we've tried everything else, so after six weeks of everything else we're planning the D & C for early next week. And Grandpa passed away in his sleep early this morning. Funeral's down in Long Island on Thursday.

What else can you do but play music and sing? Doing the radio show is a meditative act, anyway, though invisibly out loud; similarly, recreating the sonic universe each week is a potent empowerment exercise. This week's playlist follows, with an all-covers theme just to keep things interesting.

Tributary 4/6/04

Riding In My Car (NRBQ) -- Settie
Senses Working Overtime (XTC) -- Spacehog
Bertha (Grateful Dead) -- Los Lobos
I Wanna Be Like You (Disney's Jungle Book) -- Los Lobos
Personal Jesus (NIN) -- Johnny Cash
Oh Me (Meat Puppets) -- Nirvana
Ramblin' Fever (Merle Haggard) -- The Biscuit Boys
My Flying Saucer (Woody Guthrie) -- Billy Bragg w/ Wilco
All Along The Watchtower (Bob Dylan) -- Tom Landa and the Paperboys
Old Man Of The Mountain (Cab Calloway) -- Skavoovie and the Epitones
Locomotive Breath (Jethro Tull) -- Primus
Purple Haze (Jimi Hendrix) -- The Bobs
Kiss (Prince) -- Richard Thompson
Born To Be Wild (Steppenwolf) -- Timbuk 3
I'm Looking Through You (Lennon/McCartney) -- The Wallflowers
Helter Skelter (Lennon/McCartney) -- The Bobs
You've Got To Hide Your Love Away (Lennon/McCartney) -- Eddie Vedder
I Will (Lennon/McCartney) -- Alison Krauss
Oh Darling (Lennon/McCartney) -- Bela Fleck and the Flecktones
My Sweet Lord (George Harrison) -- Girlyman
Things We Said Today (Lennon/McCartney) -- Salamander Crossing
Golden Slumbers (Lennon/McCartney) -- Ben Folds
Bemsha Swing/ Lively Up Yourself (Theloneous Monk / Bob Marley) -- Medeski Martin & Wood
9 to 5 (Dolly Parton) -- Alison Krauss
Spit On A Stranger (Pavement) -- Nickel Creek
The Coconut Song (Harry Nillsen) -- Fred Schneider
Magnet (NRBQ) -- Yo La Tengo
Brain Damage (Pink Floyd) -- Nikki Boyer
RESPECT (Otis Redding) -- Vox One

You've been listening to Tributary, your ten to midnight Monday night show here on WNMH 91.5, serving Northfield, Gill, Keene, Brattleboro -- and you -- each week with a little of this, a little of that, some Funk, some Folk, some Jazz and Jambands, from Blues to Bluegrass and everything in between. Goodnight...

posted by boyhowdy | 12:55 AM | 0 comments

He lived through the wars as an engineer
army-taught, working on radar
but when I knew him he was past all that,
fixing televisions in his workshops and,
later, in the garage in Florida
until he got too sick and people started saying
VCRs were cheaper to replace than fix.

When I knew him, he was home a lot more.

The Grampa I knew was gentle and mellow,
generous, polite, a man at peace.
He smelled of a pipe and his cheek was bristly.
We ate pancakes and read the sunday funnies
and yelled electronic green waves into his oscilloscope.

He was already older than I could imagine.

There are pictures of us on rides at Coney Island,
8-tracks somewhere with our voices loud
back before he lost his speech, and I gained my own.

I don't remember these things.
I accept pictures as evidence of a longer past
than that experienced.

But I remember once, when I was small
he got on the train to see us off
and the train started moving
and he just smiled and said
"I'll get off at the next stop."

posted by boyhowdy | 12:42 AM | 0 comments

Monday, April 05, 2004

Monday Mosh (Still) No More

As I'm still getting plenty of hits from memewatch sites like Pariah's, I thought I'd be a pal and repost the bulk of this message from the first week of March.

The Monday Mosh meme has been cancelled due to lack of participation...

As before, though the blogmeme is gone, we here at Not All Who Wander Are Lost continue to advocate for moshes, thrashes, sing-at-the-top-of-your-lungs-in-the-car trances, and other private moments of (re)focus and reclamation in the midst of the daily throng. Especially on Mondays.

Those who are in need of dancing are still, and evermoreso, encouraged to look deep within themselves and find their own mosh, whatever form it may take.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:47 AM | 0 comments

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Political Correctness Wins Out Again

"I've never cared much for princesses..."

The book made national news two weeks ago when a single set of concerned parents called the school to demand a response when their daughter brought the book home. Now a North Carolina school has decided that King & King will be "locked up," and from now on "be available only to adults in [the] elementary school's library."

It goes without saying, but it should be said: that one set of parents could make such a difference in a school's worth of children's lives is a condemnation of us all. It's not enough to stand by and click our tongues. If the total breadth of loving sexuality is to be truly normalized in society, then we cannot let the PC-mongers win. Tolerance is a halfway mark; what we're really going for is our due privacy in private, aren't we?

In this case, if love is to be love, and all sexualities equally natural and precious, then we cannot also go about pretending that heterosexual relationships should or could be any more or less threatening or explicit than homosexual relationships without being hypocritical. Period.

I'd give this book to my child, and gladly. But more, I want her to be able to pick it up as easily as any other book, goddam it. How dare you marginalize both my daughter's potential and my right to let her take it on herself?

Want to help? Buy this book, or advance order the even more highly recommended but not yet released Jack and Jim, and donate them to your local library now.

posted by boyhowdy | 3:28 AM | 0 comments

Saturday, April 03, 2004

Your Tuition Dollars At Work

I've just spent four hours sitting in the dorm solarium surfing the digiverse (and wishing I had my IE bookmarks with me) for what works out to about $3.25 an hour, and that's before tax-and-benefits (let's see, a teacher's salary divided by a 65 hour workweek...yeah, that's about right). I guess if you're going to do nothing, getting paid accordingly is only fair, though.

Saturday duty gets pretty boring, especially when all the good open houses and parties are on the other campus. I washed some button-down shirts in the faculty washer, a serious benefit since the school won't pay to pipe the water in (and waste out) of our own third-floor afterthought of an apartment off campus, and nobody noticed when I snuck out for a mess 'o wings at the snack bar. A few of my charges have been swearing loudly at the Duke/UConn game in the next room for the last hour or so, but it's been otherwise dead.

Soon the kids will start streaming in, flush with hormones and ready to sign in for the evening, while I scan their faces ineffectually, searching for the usual indicators of inebriation I never seem to find: red eyes, slurred speech, and general stupidity. Then one more hour and I can go home to a nice empty house -- Darcie's housesitting with the baby up in Brattleboro while her parents attend a wedding in upstate NY. Added bonus: she took the dog with her. Hoorah for a night without the usual blurry post-midnight dogwalk. It's the little things that make the world beautiful.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:05 PM | 0 comments

Technology, Self Definition and Reminiscence:
C-changes in the Potential For Cultural Memory

Because my grandfather is dying, and because I am a cybersociologist and cannot help it, in the car on the way back from Boston yesterday morning I got to thinking about an irony of modernity.

Here we are amidst a constantly accelerating fast-paced forgettable life, googling our way through a fleeting universe of 22 minute sitcoms and rapid remote channel changing. Our attention spans grow short. We live for the moment, the blogentry, the now. We learn to pastiche where once we practiced memorization, to organize and network where we once practiced storage.

Yet as our subjective sense of time grows ever more fragmented and esoteric, our cultural artifacts grow permanent. They pile up around us, like the overstuffed linen closet in my parent's house, the one that contains nothing but rows and rows of shoeboxes filled with 50 years of photographs. The glut's getting worse: the ability to store things small, in bits and bytes; the growing breadth of media available for archiving, and the move beyond the analog and physical -- and hence corruptible -- storage mechanism: all these changes and more speak to a new potential for stuff, even while the world grows disposable.

Take for example the eternality of the video recording. Its historical novelty speaks eons about the nuance of change: I will be always alive at ten and twelve and thirty on the screen, this generation's realspace, forever young for my children and theirs. But my grandfather's immortality is both less perfect and more tenuous. Though in grainy half-ageburned film long since transferred to VHS he will forever wave, silent, his black and white hand from behind my tiny mother on a half-blurred swingset, mostly, the bulk of his life predates the ubiquity of the handheld recorder. There are no films of his own childhood, as there are few pictures, and even these are tiny and overexposed, hardly believable. Those scant silent forevers notwithstanding, when he passes (and it will be any day now) he will be old forever on this newfangled thing we call video.

Of course, without tools, and behind them, memory is still memory. It underlies our mnemonics and artifacts, which is to say merely that there is still some deliberate choice involved in what our memories are, and what we make of them. But memory is an imperfect place, subject to last rite recency; it is a place where image and moment rule. Simultaneous among fainter memories of pancakes and Coney Island kiddie rides, my grandfather will forever be here on his deathbed in the dim light and hum of a hospice home, sunken teeth and half-opened Parkinsonian eyes, the rabbi meditating before him.

In so many ways, the past is always at the mercy of the frantic present. The long term is always too big and broad not to be subject to filter and selection by the short. But when one looks at the technological supports we use for memory -- the photo of me and grandpa at Coney Island which created the false memory I have of being there at three years old, and, looking farther back to places where I cannot have been, the backyard barbecue swings of a 1959 I never saw and never will yet still own as if I had been there -- one can see evidence of the ways in which, say, 1959 becomes subject to deconstruction and pastiche.

And this raises several questions, not least among them the real question of not just legitimacy but, more deeply, of the effect that this might have on what we remember, and how, and why. Disassociating the images of our past from the past, making all history ever-present, brings with it a new sort of ancestral ownership, one somehow simultaneously new and primitive. As a race, those born in the digital age have come to terms with that which our illusory primitve who runs from the camera could not. We embrace the way our souls have been captured by our knowledge-creation and knowledge sharing tools.

My grandfather may be dying, but he will remain eternally with us. He may be forever old, but he is nonetheless the first of a new breed of ancestor, one always present. Here in the millenium world the forever-on screen gods in our living room reconstitute our ancestors eternally, manufacturing our pasts as present, our elders as ourselves.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:54 PM | 0 comments

We Are All Poets, or Explanations For Icelander Belief In Elves Which, Considering The Isolation Americans Experienced In The Me Deacde Of The Seventies, And The Resultant Oversensitive Social Postmodernism Of The Eighties And Nineties, Might Also Explain Why We Create Cybercommunities

"Icelanders were frequently all alone in the wilderness, with no blossom-heavy branches concealing countless magical fairies. The spaces yawn open, wide, and disconnected. And it is our nature to connect, to create for ourselves a fully formed community where none exists. We are hardwired for it. As Theseus says:
The poet's eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And, as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name."
[From Hidden People, in David Rakoff's marvelous essay collection Fraud.]

posted by boyhowdy | 12:38 PM | 0 comments

Friday, April 02, 2004


Apologies for the long hiatus 'tween entries -- I was called away to Boston overnight for the last rites of a dying grandfather, and since then my life's been a mell of a hess.

I'll replace this post with another more detailed muse upon life and loss in a day or so, but I gotta get the ol' head together first. Thanks for bearing with me, folks.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:35 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Our PC Schools, Part 512: Seeing Pink

Overreacting to an increase in pink clothes among the student body, school district bans pink clothes "out of concerns that the color has become associated with gang activity." Banned clothing list includes shoelaces. PC fashion policewoman and assistant superintendent quoted as saying "Girls and boys are supposed to avoid wearing pink." Also quoted as admitting that "there is no evidence of gang activity." Turns out pink is just "in" this year.

At the other end of the PC spectrum, this teacher didn't violate school policy in killing two baby rabbits in front of her high school class. Apparently, it is "acceptable veterinary practice" to "euthanize" (or "dismember") baby rabbits with a shovel. Especially if they're covered in ants. Who knew?

posted by boyhowdy | 9:57 PM | 0 comments

Change In The Digicult Landscape

Newsmap, a representation of realtime news popularity across the net, provides a tool to divide information into quickly recognizable bands which, when presented together, reveal underlying patterns in news reporting across cultures and within news segments in constant change around the globe. This cooltool uses a modified treemap to visually reflect the constantly changing landscape of the Google News news aggregator, with dimensions that make an elegant, intuitive sense: color to represent news type, shading to represent novelty, and headline width to represent popularity. Edward Tufte would be proud.

n other digicult news, this week's New Yorker features a cartoon (sadly, unavailable online) in which a cartoon man confronts a harried cartoon worker amidst a myriad of cartoon cellphone doodads: Do you have one of those phones you can talk to people on?

posted by boyhowdy | 9:33 PM | 0 comments

New Blog Subtitle

When I jumped off, I had a bucket full of thoughts
When I first jumped off, I held that bucket in my hand
Ideas that would take me all around the world
I stood and watched the smoke behind the mountains curl
It took me a long time to get back on the train

Comments appreciated. Full lyric here.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:42 AM | 0 comments

I Have A Radio Show

Monday nights at ten o'clock I head on over to the other campus to sit in a basement talking to myself.

That I am often overheard by dozens of students, and god knows how many random rural listeners from as far as thirty miles away, is a bonus. It's just a dinky high school station, but it's powered by the strongest transmitter we know of among our peers in the prep school world.

I love it, and I'm damn good. I read bedtime stories on the half-hour and the hour -- tonight, selections from the old seventies classic Free To Be...You And Me. I hold "guess the famous back-up singer" contests and give away a week's worth of free snack bar coffee to the winners out of my own pocket. And I post the playlist here every week.

Here's tonight's.

Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man
Manu Chao -- Me Gustas Tu
Los Lobos -- Kiko and the Lavender Moon
Norah Jones -- Sunrise
Skavoovie and the Epitones -- Subway Joe
Jack Johnson -- Rodeo Clowns
Michael Franti and Spearhead -- Everyone Deserves Music
Sarah Harmer -- Basement Apartment
Oysterband -- Street Of Dreams
Phish -- Back on the Train
Lucy Kaplansky -- Cowboy Singer
Alison Brown -- Dalai Camel
Nickel Creek -- Spit on a Stranger
Yo Yo Ma and Bobby McFerrin -- Ave Maria (Gounod/Bach)
Keller Williams -- Kidney in a Cooler
The Jayhawks -- Save It for a Rainy Day
Eddie From Ohio -- Monotony
Norah Jones -- Creepin' In
Rani Arbo and daisy mayhem -- Baby Took a Limo to Memphis
Take 6 -- Gold Mine
Lucy Kaplansky -- The Red Thread
Erin McKeown -- Slung-lo
Slaid Cleaves -- Lydia
Sarah McLachlan -- Blackbird
Patty Griffin -- Poor Man's House
Susan Werner -- Courting The Muse
James Taylor -- Walking My Baby Back Home

You've been listening to Tributary, your ten to midnight Monday night show here on WNMH 91.5, serving Northfield, Gill, Keene, Brattleboro -- and you -- each week with a little of this, a little of that, some Funk, some Folk, some Jazz and Jambands, from Blues to Bluegrass and everything in between. Have a nice night, y'all.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:48 AM | 0 comments

In A, After Midnight

Past the Episcopalian church driving back
from the radio station cars leave their brights on
until they have almost already passed. Town
mostly sleeps, her houses dark except for one room
facing the street. The moon
is a halved onion behind the trees. Geese
call under the bridge. Peepers answer.

Things get more definite closer to home.
The baby will be sleeping with her feet on my pillow.
The police car idles behind the turnoff
to the river, and the cornfield.
Over the sound of the road on the wheels
the jazzgirl on the radio sings Jolene, Jolene
in A after midnight.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:20 AM | 0 comments

Monday, March 29, 2004

Recovering A Lost Garden

For 45 minutes Saturday and then today after work in the warm clear sunlight I've been raking, down to the cool black dirt, there across the street where in the Fall Chuck mowed the old reeds down, pausing only to chug pink lemon Gatorade, and wave as this season's new-chosen varsity teams jog their last heavyfoot mile past.

We were hoping for grass, though the big oak's shadow sundials across the whole plot over the course of the day.

What we found was a garden.

Under the old leaf-fall Spring's surprises crowd the earth with a vengance after their frozen slumber. The first few daffodils have just begun poking through last year's leaves in clumps for half the yard length; that, and something not quite daffodils which we unearthed near the treeline perimeter. The shoots grow in clumps three or four feet out from that line, straight and yellow-tipped; their bright colors make them easy to avoid but they slip through the rake tines if you miss a few. There's something green and vinelike growing new leaves in so thick a cover, it didn't matter to lose so many to the rake.

The leaves are heavy, though dry, but the rakefulls gathered acorn weight as I pulled a winter's remainders across the field towards a patch of tall spiny overgrowth we've arbitrarily decided to treat as the other side of the garden. Where the original garden ended and began we cannot say; not even Pam, who's lived here the longest, remembers who planted it, or when, or how long it lasted. The edges we've defined will be big enough, and hold our three-plus-dog-and-cat safe, far enough from the road, and with room to spare.

Near the end Darcie and the baby came home with groceries, and left me with the baby while she went to cook the couscous. Raking became precarious with the baby always underfoot, but we unearthed a blue plastic sand shovel half her height for her to help; she spent the next ten babbling about her good work, and the tunnels she was making in the leaves. By the time her mother called out the window for us to come in, the shadows growing, the sunset gold and red against the hills, I barely had the energy to carry her the two flights up.

Looking out the window in the pale dark light, at the patch where last year reclaimed wilderness spread, I can see the mulch spaces, the swingset, the tire swing on the oak's lowest limb, in the mind's eye ready to take shape. I'm halfway done, but despite a half-moon darkness means another shift will have to wait, until tomorrow or the next day. My fingernails are grubby and my shoulder aches, but it's a good ache, like a runner's high. Who knew finding a garden under all that mess would be so rewarding, and so long before the flowers bloomed?

posted by boyhowdy | 7:21 PM | 0 comments

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Parenthood As Vocation

Human jungle gym, and horsie. Mentor, challenger, guide. Entertainer. Champion. Where others wonder if she's ready, I ask and trust, and she delivers; together, we impress the hell out of the people around us. That she is gentle and generous and bright as a nova makes it easy, but today it's not about who she is, but what I can be for her. Because today I realize: As if all my life had prepared me for it, I have a knack for being a daddy.

There something wonderful about such a realization. The stress and self-doubt I felt in and around the birth, when the wee one was but a fragile body, and I a clumsy untrustworthy oaf sure to juggle-and-drop her, has faded, and been replaced by a blooming recognition that this is what I was born for. The confidence is joy. The love returned is rapture, earned or otherwise: it doesn't matter much, like it did last year, whether she reciprocates, and how, now that I know that this is what I'm here for.

But there's something horrible, too. No job or task I've ever set for myself has ever been successful, not wholly; finally realizing why doesn't mitigate the awkwardness of a prolonged and dark adolescence, or the half-mad half-sad plague of an unsatisfied young adulthood. And knowing this, so sudden and yet so right, darkens the future as it darkens the past. No job I ever have will truly be vocational again; at best, one might say that my tendency towards (and love of) culturewatching, my skill in teaching, my joy in coaxing growth in others outside the blood are but happy side effects, partial aptitudes.

And daddyhood desn't pay cash, or keep your kids in clothes and diapers and, later, cars and college. Worse, since someone does after all have to bring home the proverbial bacon, I remain doomed to leave each morning and return late each afternoon, my child in someone else's care, just to ensure that we have an overhead roof, the clothes on our back, the fullbelly provisions.

That I love and trust the woman who I leave that child with each day is important, but it's not the same. I covet her life, still, and I think I always will; I am Daddy; god help me; hear me roar.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:00 PM | 0 comments

Friday, March 26, 2004

Smarter Heads Than I...

As a pre-posted follow-up to my notation below that blogs evolved into what we know them as now from a sort of annotated links list, Alex discusses/has been discussing the way blogs have come to be defined across a full spectrum of collaborative web publishing as a technology and a practice:
...as blogging has grown as a phenomenon, it has become clear that part of what makes a weblog is whether and in what ways it is linked to other weblogs. ... This focus on the aggregate nature of weblogs begins to indicate that blogs are more than simply a genre of web content, they represent a social practice. Restricting the definition to purely a description of the web sites generated is difficult because it misses so much. The only seemingly vital element of weblogging is a public forum (the World Wide Web) in which bloggers are able to associate and self-assemble into groups. The attraction to weblogging has less to do with the software involved and more to do with the kinds of social groups that emerge from interactions among weblogs and their authors. These practices provide for serendipitous, unstructured learning, as differing perspectives and discourses come into contact with one another.
I'm looking forward to the rest of this multi-part post, Alex.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:08 AM | 0 comments

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Back When The World Was Black And White

Today is the 50th anniversary of the color television. Sometime next year: the 50th anniversary of don't sit so close, you'll hurt your eyes.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:47 PM | 0 comments

We Regret To Announce

Five in-no-particular reasons why there will be no blog entry today here at Not All Who Wander Are Lost:

1. I'm all blogged out after doing intensive instructional sessions about blogging with a) the Video as Art class, who will be using their group blog to post and comment on film reviews throughout the term, and b) the two teachers leading the new ESL Tapestry trip across the country this term, who will use their group blog to post student journals and pix from the road. [note: both blogs are currently empty, and the latter may be subject to some design-play over the next few weeks before the kids hit the road, so don't forget to come back to check on their progress!]

2. I seem to have pinched a nerve just under my kidneys, and it hurts like hell to sit, stand, move, or otherwise exist. No luck with usual cure-all Alleve, either. What the heck does my body have against me, anyway?

3. Since I started using my delicious tinyblog as a remaindered links repository, it just doesn't seem useful to re-blog the same stuff here. Future plans here include the possibility of syndicating that delicious linkslist in the sidebar, but though I can find plenty of sites showing how to syndicate your own site, I can't find any good teach-yourself-RSS resources that will show me what code to use to integrate a syndication into a blog sidebar. Proactively speaking, I think, it seems like a noble pursuit to first figure out a better balance between blogging here and blogging there, rather than collapse 'em in too quick, so maybe the code-bother is a hidden blessing. Worth noting, too, that the first blogs were more like that than this; someone got from there to here, so we can assume it can be done, and organically so. The subjective question at hand, in a nutshell: what is the role of the popcult reflection when you've sidebarred your links?

4. Utterly exhausted from supervising the dancing of, at final tally, seven kids under the age of five in a corner of the dining hall while the rest of the quote-grown-ups-end-quote planned for this year's big idea: the wee-one passover seder, a concept with the potential to be either really awesome or just a terrible horrible no good very bad day for all. Happily, Darcie reports that the other parents seemed pretty impressed with my kidcare, specifically that fine balance between play and watchfulness. It's good to know that, if I can't find a job in my field next year, I can always go back to teaching preschool, and love it.

5. I suck. Our apologies for the inconvenience.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:19 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Dad Loves His Work

Snow overnight but a beautiful spring melt morning and a near-perfect clarity by noon. The meadows were robin-filled on the way to work; the wide river under the bridge was thick and spotted with layover geese. Sun and sparkle and meeting after meeting: things accomplished and good impressions made all day.

It's good to be back, and good, too, to not be teaching any major classes this term, though it was wonderful while it lasted. I've a lot on my proverbial plate and it's stuff I'm hungry for: building the department web page; joining the library leadership team at last; planning and pushing for a schoolwide curriculum in virtual citizenship, directed as faculty as much as the students, so that we might meet in the middle, and evolve, quietly, towards our cultural reality. I'm building group blogs for classes right and left, made a great impression on two deans in less than an hour, and have more instructional classes lined up in the next weeks than I did all last term. So few folks have stepped forward for the upcoming faculty governance elections that I seem to be a shoo-in for reelection, and a subsequent reelection to the committee chairship.

Farm with Willow and Darcie between work and a shake-and-bake dining hall supper. The calf, tied outside the padture fence, lows back at her mother in a deep new tenor. A barn cat rubbed its scarred cheek against my leg before I even heard it mew. The horses bucked at us from behind their wooden slats and startled the baby into short-lived tears, but even manure on my coat and scarf from Willow's babyshoes couldn't spoil the mood.

A week's laundry while the let-lagged Korean kids slept through study hall; later, while I read a tinyprint Sherlock Holmes collection at the duty desk, the house director found more pot and beer bottles in some kid's room than either of us had ever seen in one place. South Park was new and I watched it with the kids, deconstructing out loud to keep it vocational, before sending them off to their rooms for bedprep by eleven.

The slivermoon set by the time I emerged from duty, but the night remained warm enough to walk the dog in my shirtsleeves. In the distant treeline, coyotes barked in mating frenzies. Ten more weeks to summer vacation. Looks like it's gonna be a good stretch for a while.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:59 PM | 0 comments

Monday, March 22, 2004


I just realized something really odd. Tomorrow's the first day of classes for the new term, and we haven't finalized this term's coverage schedule. I'm supposed to go to work tomorrow, but I'm not sure where I have to go. I've got six desks strewn throughout the school, and I'm not even sure which campus I'm supposed to be on.

I don't know where work is anymore. Is there such thing as a professional identity crisis?

posted by boyhowdy | 8:32 PM | 0 comments

It's Called a Book

I'm reading it. This girl wrote it.

Some afternoons a person just wants to rent Die Hard,
close the curtains, and have Cheerios for lunch.

- California as an Island, The Partly Cloudy Patriot

Ah, reading. I've had one of those burning cold-headaches all day, and the screen was beginning to hurt my eyes.

Thank god Sarah Vowell can see into my head; better still that this McSweeneys and This American Life alum looks like she writes: with clarity, stark language, and a wry sense of the nobrow. Highly recommended.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:36 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, March 21, 2004


My shoulder hurts, and it gets worse when I type or lift heavy things. Bad news: torn roator cuff? Good news: worker's comp rocks by all accounts.

Also, I have a cold.

My laptop, on the other hand, has a new fun habit: the Ctrl key goes on and off intermittently. Sometimes it's so fast and furious, I have to hit Caps Lock every five characters just to nget the darn thing to stop sending my emails before they're done. Makes for a nice short blogentry, if nothing else.

Hook up a video camera to your television for endless toddler fun: Look, Daddy! Willow in the teevee! She spent 45 minutes yesterday showing the telvision her puppets, one by one, and trying to stay in center frame despite a comprehensive inability to understand the reverse mirroring effect.

In other child news, it's vindicating to go to someone else's house and watch their kid, who cannot share but shoves, spend the afternoon in a kitchen time out while your own child hums happily to herself on the floor at your feet.

We had Darcie's brother and his girlfriend at our house for a medium-rare roast supper tonight, and treated Darcie's sister Ginny and her boyfriend two days ago down at Darcie's favorite newly-located italian restaurant in Northampton. It feels good to feed the family, though depressing to think that we're the rich and stable ones, with me teaching and darcie pretty much out of unemployment in the next week or so.

Have you checked out my remaindered links tinyblog yet?

The final schoolyear trimester starts tomorrow with a bang, also known in educational circles as "a professional day of prolonged boredom while the kids arrive on busses outside our stuffy auditorium." The stress begins in three...two...one...

posted by boyhowdy | 10:15 PM | 0 comments

Saturday, March 20, 2004

The iPod Winamp Shuffle

An meme making the rounds a few months ago asked participants to hit shuffle on their iPod and blog the first ten songs that came up, no matter how embarassing. I've got no iPod, and no reason to listen to music by headphone, but today's at-lunch Winamp session with Willow brought up a prototypical list; here, without further ado, are today's random twelve:

1. Rusted Root -- Send Me On My Way
2. Keller Williams -- Wishing I had You (live)
3. Ren & Stimpy -- Log
4. Sarah McLachlan -- Angel
5. Mark Erelli -- The Only Way (live)
6. Deb Talan -- Two Points (live)
7. Phish -- Sample In A Jar (live)
8. Wayfaring Strangers -- High On A Mountain
9. Acoustic Syndicate -- Crazy Town (live)
10. Howard Jones -- What Is Love (live and unplugged)
11. Donna The Buffalo -- If You Only Could (live)
12. String Cheese Incident -- The Harder They Come (live)

Not a bad random sampling out of a 40 hour playlist, actually. Fringe jambands, bluegrass, folk, pop culture, and a token cheesy eighties song just about covers the range, though if we let it go on long enough you'd surely see some Fugazi, Nirvana, and De La Soul start creeping in. And all 2.5 gigs of it are legally owned. The RIAA's got nothin' on me, man.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:57 PM | 0 comments

Friday, March 19, 2004

Words For Snow

Snow slow past the picture window
in bright angled rays of sunbeam dust motes.

Snow in big flakes, swirling as if underwater
and in glass, a snowglobe
recently set down.

Snow on your shoulders like dandruff,
melting in your hair unnoticed
while we kiss like lovers
in the woods, at twilight.

Snow that falls back home
while you are on vacation.

Snow that falls on funerals.

Heavy snow
like the kind that falls in places like Omaha.

Icicle snow. Sparkle snow. Tongue snow.

Snow already fallen
making ghosts of the trees
one morning in March.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:19 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, March 18, 2004

How We May Blog

The MIT Media Lab Blog Survey results, as summarized by verycool bloggerbrit Vanessa. Note to self: memorize MIT stats for Harvard-based BloggerCon2 next month, or eveyone will know you're just a poseur.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:52 PM | 0 comments

Cite Unseen

It seems my amateur work cataloguing meaning in and of the bloggiverse has not gone unnoticed. Recent post Blog, In A Nutshell and an older thought piece about the developing mental and sensual habits of the blogger were cited in Pedabloggy, a communications and media courseblog from Australia. Wonder if they're hiring downunder?

posted by boyhowdy | 5:07 PM | 0 comments

Del.icio.us Dish

I'm beginning to love del.icio.us. It functions as a kind of personalized popdex, and has some wonderfully simple but effective semantics (in a real environment, we'd just say it is ergonomically sound, and I'm starting to think we should). Plus, my Internet Explorer Favorites list was getting unweildy.

I'm also beginning to use it as a kind of shortcomment blog. While I code a tinyblog permalink for the sidebar, check out these two recent finds:

1. Parents angered by book about gay princes. Child brings book home from school library. Horrified parents decide to keep the book until they are assured it won't be circulated, thus wresting/declaring de facto veto power over the entire school for any single concerned person. End result sure to be Puritan Totalitarianism or, worse, Self-Righteous Anarchy.

School librarian says she hasn't read the book yet.

2. SimpleBits | SimpleQuiz is...well...damn. Just...the end all be all of semantic socio-communal negotiation and resolution, set up as a quiz about html semantics. It's newfiction, a hypertext blognovel, the groupmind producing poetry. Can't believe I never hit it before.

posted by boyhowdy | 4:44 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Think Globally, Search Locally

Google brings a local spin to a medium more typically understood to be turning the universal into the local; The new algorithmic formulas will allow Google to display more local information in response to search requests that include a ZIP code or a city's name, which will (incidentally, of course), broaden Google's advertiser base to include small and local businesses.

It's tempting to see this as a mere yellow pages duplication, another example of a technology that solves a problem no one had in the first place. But as with any subsumption into the digivoid, something useful lurks. In this case, the ability to draw any sized circle -- geographical, ideological, informational, what-have-you -- around your idea only brings us one step closer to the intuitive ideal, the true knowledge net.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:12 PM | 0 comments

Time Keeps On Slipping
Four Days In Boston

Before it's gone in the mindhaze of spring break's final countdown days, a recap of the otherwise-unblogged Boston trip, in shortform:

  • Left home at 9:30 to drop off dog at in-laws in Brattleboro.

  • Swung back home at 10:30 sans dog to pick up daughter (20 months) and spouse (none of your damn business).
  • Arrived at parents house in Newton, Massachusetts around noon.

  • Lunch with parents, sister at new dim sum place in Newton Center.

  • Willow naps, relaxation all around.

  • Trip into town to visit indoor fountains at father's office building and adjacent mall. What can I say -- the kid loves them.

  • Takeout pulled pork and ribs while my parents go out.

  • Quiet evening at home

  • Sleep relatively late.

  • Date with Darcie: brunch, used babyclothes shopping, and a pleasant visit to the Harvard Natural History and Anthropology museums. Meanwhile, Mom and Dad take the baby to a farm.

  • Naps all around.

  • Brazillian food rocks.

  • Quiet evening, etc.

  • Children's Museum, first with just us, and later joined by my parents from their respective workplaces. Clam chowder and lobster roll following in The Barking Crab.

  • Naps, of course. I think I sat on the hardwood living room floor and listened to my father's CDs.

  • Italian food at a tiny local gourmet kind of place, with parents, wife-and, and Darcie's brother, who lives and works nearby until his lease runs out in May. It was going to be Sushi, but hardly anything's open on Mondays. I know why that is -- most people and most restaurants need a day off after the weekend rush -- but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

  • Oh, and a random guy came up to me as we were leaving the restaurant and complimented me on my parenting. The word he used was fabulous. Take that, doubt and un-self-confidence!
And yesterday we left early to avoid the snow, but not before spending a couple of hours with Willow in the overcorded and overpriced New England Horticultural Society Flower and Landscaping Show or something pretentious like that. Nice garden displays, but seventeen bucks for an hour's worth of glacial crowds and a few interesting uses of driftwood and floating concrete patios is a bit much.

posted by boyhowdy | 3:58 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

A Life In Residence: Childhood

Being “home” – the grey double-split house in Newton, Massachusetts, where my parents still live – used to make me feel ten years younger, eradicating my life-since, and residual adolescent angst and rebellion kicks in inside the bodyengine at odd moments – but its less and less each year, and hardly at all, really, these last few. Some of that’s cause the place has changed up a bit, what with all the kids grown and gone. There’s new fences outside, and encroaching neighbors. My old room is now my mother’s office, and we stay in a newly furnished guest bedroom that once was my brother’s.

And thinking about the way it isn’t home anymore makes me think of how it got to be, and how I got to here.

I was born January 14, 1973, in Dekalb County Hospital just outside Atlanta, Georgia. I don’t remember it, but there are pictures. Like the one of me on the bed with a Time magazine, Nixon on the cover.

When I was still preverbal, my father got a job at Hale and Dorr, a large corporate law firm in Boston which would ultimately see him to Senior Partnership. We moved to a downstairs houseshare of flat stone and white siding in Belmont, Massachusetts that I also don’t remember. I know what it looked like on the outside because, for years, my parents would point it out as we drove by.

But the place was too small for our family as it grew. After my brother was born, we moved to a typical suburban house on a typical suburban street just down the block and across a reservoir from the local high school. Once when my father was out with the only car, a dirt brown station wagon, my mother accidentally closed the heavy wooden front door on my littlest finger, shearing it off entirely except for a scrap of fingerprint pad, and we had to take a taxi to the hospital while a policeman watched my baby brother. The photos which fill, shoebox by shoebox, what was once my parent’s downstairs linen closet tell stories of neighborhood kids running in packs like dogs on a safe street, poking their heads out of raked leaf mountains, grinning gleefully.

Near the end of second grade we moved again, this time to Newton, one of those more upscale suburbs most notable for having, supposedly, the highest concentration of Psychologists/psychiatrists in the country. I got to ride in the moving truck on the way over, and walk to public school instead of bring driven to Belmont Country Day.

The first year after we moved in they built another half-again on the house, right out towards the garage: three bedrooms and a kitchen upstairs. My brother and I shared a bedroom with a whistling, wonderfully spooky plastic-covered hole in the wall where the door used to be before they started building and an old full-sized pinball machine in the corner which we mostly used to win bubble gum from our babysitters.

When they finally finished carpeting, we moved into the lower half of the addition, three floors away from my parents – my sister moving down from a crib to her own bed and bedroom just like ours.

Unless you count summer camp bunks and that one summer when I lived in the BU dorms for their summer theater institute, I lived for the next ten years in a half-underground room with five unequal walls, sharing it occasionally with suicidal fish and pygmy hamsters, and increasingly with more books than shelves. The room was too dry and hot in winter and summer – sun and electric heat alike would trap in the underground air, and bake your lip until it split. The windowsills were flush against the ground level; once, I woke up in the middle of the night and found a raccoon’s eyes glinting just on the other side of the glass.

I loved that room. It was the farthest room in the house from everything else, and it had a basement entrance right outside the door. Though painted and scraped, my blood is still spattered on its walls.

We just got back from four days in Boston. This was the first visit, I think, where I didn’t even open the door.

Coming soon: A Life in Residence: The Transient Years

posted by boyhowdy | 9:58 PM | 0 comments
coming soon
now listening