Monday, July 26, 2004

There I Go Again, eh? 

We'll be in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada, via Halifax, for the next ten days. Expect this message to be here for a while, eh?

I hope to have a shot at roadblogging from a cafe, but, as always, those who don't wish to twiddle their thumbs while they wait for my triumphant return are invited to check out archives and links to the side before you go.

Hate to do this to y'all after a week gone, but it's that vacation-desperate time of year for those in the teaching profession. Eh?

posted by boyhowdy | 10:45 PM | 5 comments

On The Ridge 

There's a moment every year on the ridge that stretches out eternally into the heathaze and field living, one which cannot be captured in words. You become one with the crowds and the sun, sitting there under a shade canopy with a beer in one hand. There is perfection in your campmates and the music just over the next tent. Your shoes are lost somewhere in the camper after three days of barefootedness.

It is a moment interrupted only in its own time, not the realization of time passing relentlessly forward, as in every other moment. No, you could stay forever, and never be so happy again, and you don't even worry yet about going home.

I suppose most people have such a moment in their own lives, somewhere. I hope so, at least. For us, Falcon Ridge is that moment. Better still, it comes -- predictably, like Christmas -- every year without losing its magic.

The notes follow, and pictures will surely come in a week or so, but remember: this is but a compendium. The real deal is utopian. Utopias crumble when described by even the best of us.

So: On to the notes.

Camped with our best festival buddy Dave this year, as we have since we and he arrived simultaneous and looking for a campsite six years ago, all of us new and unsure of where to go. Dave brought Ryan, a great guy and wonderful addition to the group -- gentle, happy to be there, and already signed on to return next year.

When we arrived, Darcie set up everything again, as is her wont. The compound was across from our usual creek-side spot, a small tent-and-tarp having been saved long before our arrival by some other unknowns; we circled the wagons -- well, the tents and the popup -- around a huge hexagonal shade canopy across the way instead, and it worked quite nicely, to be honest.

Through the festival itself she pretty much stayed in the tent area with Willow, as she is a shade person and falcon Ridge has none, but she did work most of the day Tuesday and Wednesday, hunched over a table in the main site crew tent, painting informational signage and pathway indicators in bold summer hues for later installation across the grounds. On Tuesday, at least, this meant much Willow-watching, a tricky set of shifts given the tendency towards momma's girl-ism in a strange and impermanent setting. I finished the first day quite exhausted, as did the baby.

Happily, Ginny joined us Tuesday night after a last workshift. We pay for Ginny's ticket each year, nominally as a birthday present, though we all understand she's expected to help childwatch the day she arrives so Darcie and I can do our volunteer duties -- Darcie as Sign Painter, myself at the festival VIP Check-In tent, way out in the parking lot. Truthfully, though, she's also a good friend, and a great fest partner.

Willow acclimatized to the heat acceptably, and the wading pool we set up for her remained cool throughout the week, but it was pretty tough to keep her entertained in the campsite for long when there were so many interesting other kids walking past every moment. She tanned, though, and was the belle of the ball more often than not. And she perked up (as did we all) swimming offsite at the cold, deep quarry in the nearby state park Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons.

And it's hard not to love a child who, on her last day, toddles naked to the base of the stage proudly bearing a huge "Happy" sign (left over from last year's "Baby Zone" sign, and a need to toggle public awareness of baby's needs from sleep to play in order to preserve all our sanity) in plain and startled view of several thousand folk fans, their tarps spread across the lawn like a crazy ragtag quilt.

Later, having Mom and Dad show up willing to take Willow to the kids tent would, in turn, preserve Darcie's sanity while Ginny and I spent hours drowsing on those very hills. Thanks for that, Mom and Dad. While we're on the subject, thanks to my parents for taking us out to supper and for hot hotel showers Friday night, without which my hat hair would have been even worse than it is now.

Throughout this pre-fest period the ridge -- both lower camp, a monstrous many-acre flat slab dissected by a dried up creek, and upper camp, where the vast majority of festgoers could spread across the entire horizon from the edge of the hillslope back to the treeline -- grew like a mold. Day by day, first with a tent here and there, then little colonies, then a city of light and sound on and off the hill. All told, by Friday we expected 8 thousand people to be camped on this one farm, with a city to serve them, from the vendors to the shuttle busses running up and down the hill until the Dance stage closes down at 2 every night.

We would have had it, too, if it weren't for the rain from noon to just before 5 on Friday -- torrential downpour, hour after hour, turning impromptu roads into mudpits. Work out at the tent was fun in the rain, but other than a nifty Johnny and June tribute with folknames galore on the mainstage and, much later, the Friday Night song swap (Lucy Kaplansky, Eliza Gilykson, Greg Brown and Richard Shindell), we didn't see much music -- the festival's usual time for 20 shortset showcase artists, each hoping to be voted back the next year as a mainstage performer, had their one big shot hopes dashed by the floods, which was a major shame.

Because of the mud, no one was allowed on site in a car until midday Saturday. Folks camped in the parking field overnight, but they weren't happy. We had to leave our car and walk in after the aforementioned trip offsite with the 'rents, which was less horrible than I thought but still certainly less convenient, given that we were carrying a baby and freshly showered, walking through the mud in the dark. The strewn hay helped eventually, but it took noonday heat to solidify the grounds again.

I think the numbers were back up by Saturday, though. And why not? There was some major talent at Falcon Ridge this year, and I think they probably did as well as they hoped financially despite the rain. I tend to fall in love with relative unknowns -- Jeffery Foucault, Jake Amerding, and a newgrass cello-wielding group called Crooked Still were the big had-to-buy for '04 by the time I'd heard them -- but we spent time at stages in spades, Ginny and I.

Cribbed from the schedule, then, here's my time spent merely from Thursday to Sunday (with commentary, and the assumption that when not at a stage or at work, I was either back at the tentsite checking in on Darcie and mellowing with an ever-floating crowd):

  • Work at check-in from 1-4. Mostly volunteer check-in at this point, though I did bracelet and chat-up a few performers, including a very congenial Steve Forbert.

  • Steve Forbert, w/ guest Mark Stuart. On main stage. Steve rocked.

  • Mark Erelli, w/ a country band from Boston called the Spurs. On main stage. Mark rocked, too.

  • Aoife O'Donovan & Crooked Still. On main stage, and worth every second of it. Cello is a great bluegrass instrument. New favorite song: Angelina the Baker.

  • Watched Contra dancing until 2 a.m. Also heard from campsite: David Bromberg Band, w/ Jay Ungar and Molly Mason sitting in.

  • Aoife O'D and CS, Jake Amerding, and the FRFF House Band at the workshop stage, trading family songs. New favorite line from a song ever: Jake Amerding singing "daddy was a highway, mama was a view."

  • Work, and much much rain. Braceleted Richard Shindell, Lucy Kaplansky (and her new adopted duaghter, who was very cute), and the Nields, among others.

  • Johnny and June Tribute, moved to the mainstage after the rain made opening both stages too difficult. Cast included Erelli, Crooked Still, Kaplansky, Shindell, Forbert, and Lowen and Navarro, among others. Great loving set. I love cover songs.

  • Veal chops and tomato mozerella salad at a 4-star and a shower at my parent's hotel. Willow, Ginny, and Darcie showered and ate, too.

  • Half of the Nields' set, which was actually better than I expected, mostly because of Dave Chalfant on guitar.

  • Friday night song swap. Mellow and moonlit, and no rain. Niceinterplay between Kaplansky and Shindell as always. New favorite song: Shindell's "There Goes Mavis."

  • Work 9 to noon. Most fun: chatting up the parents of flamboyant Nate of Girlyman. Braceletted Foucault. Heard Brave Combo on radio broadcast live from mainstage.

  • Mainstage for an incredible series of acts lasting pretty much the entire afternoon:
    - Erin McKeown
    - Jeffery Foucault (w/ the other winners of last year's showcase, who were acceptable, I suppose, if a bit less refined).
    - Lucy Kaplansky
    - John Gorka
    - Girlyman
    - Richard Shindell
    - Eddie from Ohio (had to get up and dance in the aisles to this one)

  • Heard Debbie Davies band and the first half of Lowen and Navarro from the tent before heading out to see the rest. Left to dance instead of Richie Havens, and actually danced a little.

  • More dancing, after a back-and-forth from tent to tent with Ryan and David.

  • The annual Sunday morning Gospel Wake-up Call with Eddie from Ohio, Girlyman, Vance Gilbert, and Mark Erelli, which was quite possibly the best set all weekend, hands down.

  • Minor packing.

  • Mark Erelli, Aoife O and CS, Tracy Grammer and Lucy Kaplansky covering the songs that are their "roots" on the workshop stage. New favorite cover song: Mark Erelli doing Roy Orbison's "Cryin'".

  • Ginny and I moved to the THIRD ROW to see a workshop stage set called "Groovin' on Sunday Afternoon" with Gorka, Girlyman, and Eddie from Ohio. Quite possibly the best set all weekend, hands down (yes, both times).

There's more to say, I suppose -- how I made it up to the hilltop this year after the busses stopped on Saturday, saw We're About 9 do a full unplugged set in some tent, and stayed until 4; how old college best friend (and wedding contract witness) Dan and even older elementary school best friend Eric turned up; how the heat came and went, and melted us into sunburned puddles; the awful free vegetarian volunteer food and the yummy midway coffee; contra dancing with strangers; renewing old loves and friendships from the past few as if 51 weeks had passed in an eyeflicker. The way home, with Dan as a hitchiker, and the leavetaking itself, though I daren't dwell on the loss of my own personal utopia too much, or I'll cry just writing this.

Reducing it to the music seems as good a place to give up as any. Because Falcon Ridge wasn't and isn't about what happens so much as it is the seamless and comprehensiveness of the experience itself.

For a moment there, you see, I fell in love with the universe again, music and people and dancing.

And now I'm back. Summer's apex has passed.

Time returns.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:01 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Between Festivals 

Green River Fest yesterday with the family, including my brother and his girlfriend. Gillian Welch, Jeffrey Foucalt, Hot Tuna, Donna the Buffalo, the Mosquitoes, Lori McKenna. Sushi on the lawn, and a rainbow and sunset. Sunburnt neck. Pix taken but so far unposted. Brother and girlfriend stayed over, precluding blogging.

Rynfest today with brother-in-law and his girlfriend. Big Fuzz, Soulive, Luther "Guitar Jr." Johnson, Levon Helms. Much on-and-off rain, and lots of ex-students. Danced for hours. Left early and exhausted for packing.

Tomorrow through next Monday: Falcon Ridge Folk off in Hinsdale, NY. A good time guranteed, but good thing the music doesn't start 'til Thursday. I need a couple danceless days before my back and knees recover.

Have a great week, folks! I'll be back on the 26th or so.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:06 PM | 0 comments

Friday, July 16, 2004


Just got back from the first night of the Green River Festival -- Rani Arbo and daisy mayhem in the waning sun, and Rosie Ledet and her rockin' zydeco band in the darkness afterwards. I danced once it got dark, and was happy. Every once in a while I could see my parents off to the side, dancing the right way. My father never smiles when he's dancing.

So much has happened (isn't that a blogcliche) I hardly know how to begin. Willow's party was decent, with two kinds of cake and a beach-themed living room, and good microbeer for the adults (Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada). Supper afterwards in high-falutin' Montague hotspot The Night Kitchen, lamb chops and chevre tarts by the banks of a lush waterfall, run by the son of an old neighbor. Shelburne Falls today, the Bridge of Flowers and a mess of local artisan galleries, bagels and lox and cream of broccoli soup in a small but touristy noveau-American cafe. The People's Pint for supper pre-festival, local-made sausages and slightly watery blonde ale made in-house.

A hectic day-and-a, and more tomorrow, though late -- it's gearing up towards the whirlwind around here, a fevered pitch in prep for a long month's activity. Here's the futurescoop:

Tomorrow: More Green Riverfest. Gillian Welch, Lori McKenna, Donna the Buffalo, Hot Tuna, and much more. My brother and his girlfriend are coming up, and my parents will be there still. Willow and darcie, who stayed home tonight,

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday! Rynfest: blues greats and jambands, Derek Trucks, Soulive, and a Deep Banana Blackout reunion. Possibly with Darcie's brother.

7/19 through 7/25: Falcon Ridge. Summer's crown jewel.

The next week and a half following: Halifax and Cape Breton.

The next two weeks following: Housesitting at Clay's family home, a serious rural estate complete with swimming pool and refurbished honeymoon-suite-slash-sugarhouse.

Eventually: Work. Hoorah for the life of a teacher.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:23 PM | 23 comments

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Terrible Twos Now Official 

Happy Birthday to my bright and beautiful daughter, who two years ago this morning emerged via C-section, slightly blue, to change all our lives. (As an example, three years ago this morning I was definitiely still sleeping.) As a special birthday wake-up treat I let her eat some Pop Rocks; now she's stalking around the house singing "Happy Birthday to me" at the top of her lungs. I'm off to pick up the cake (and get the damn laundry out of the damn house) momentarily.

Party guests will be arriving by 2, so expect a follow-up birthday blog chock full of sharing (or not), presents, friends and family. Until then, feel free to leave birthday wishes appropriate to a two year old in the comments, and I'll read 'em to her.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:08 AM | 0 comments

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

What's On Is Off 

Otto's closing down the "What's on....right now?" meme, leaving us with one last poke at the popcult:

So: What's On your favorite tv show list Right Now?

Not much. Even in summer, I prefer to read.

I'm liking Futurama reruns on the cartoon Network late at night, though, and will often stay for Hunger Force. VH1 rocks my wicked world with the kitsch of my childhood, especially now that they Love the 80s and the 90s. CSI still holds my attention -- something about the dark lighting. Still trying to watch my first episode of Sex and the City, but haven't made it yet. And we're off to tape Monk in a few.

As for the meme -- a hearty thanks to Otto for helping us fill the page with oddities once in a while when the brain otherwise froze. Though over a dozen still played weekly, other sporadics like myself will miss the mindprompt, too. Seems the meme-as-concept plays better as a one-shot in this crazy 15-second world.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:16 PM | 0 comments

Missing Links 

A compendium of recently blogged-about stuff-and-services which, due to their continued strong presence in my daily existence, deserve a hit or two.

1. Gourmet coffee roaster Raven's Brew Coffee, first discovered (subjectively) last summer in their home base of Ketchikan, recently rediscovered at the Newton, MA Whole Foods Market. The label designs alone would be worth it if the coffee wasn't so clearly cared for. Best options for the caffeine fanatic: Wicked Wolf or the herein-depicted Deadman's Reach.

2. The wonderfully restored and dizzying Holyoke Merry Go Round, at a dollar a ride, and two-fer on Tuesdays (more pix and video here, but mind the Angelfire popups). First attended with wee-one back in March, according to a selfgoogle, though it seems like much longer ago. Willow's behavior in its presence is unchanged as of this week: the flashing lights, loudlound music and three-dimensional motion clearly make her nervous, but once she gets her nerve up she keeps it up with unmasked self-encouragement. Nearby Children's Museum, itself adjacent to the small-as-you'd-expect Vollyball Hall of Fame, is decent, too, if you're ever in the area.

3. Daily reads: Fark, CNN, the social bookmark manager's recently updated community page. My Kinja blogdigest, and my Kinja-based library blog digest. Also my Orkut communities (from Bluegrass to Explaining Things Really Badly), my email, my reinvigorate blog-hit stat-tracker, and my own blog.

4. Weekly reads: Newsweek, The New Yorker, Utne, The Onion, Timothy McSweeney's Internet Tendency.

5. Music now constantly stuck in my head: various cuts from Toots and the Maytals recent guest-star compendium True Love. Toots Hibberts' exceptional duet partners this time out include Bonnie Raitt, Trey Anastasio, The Skatelites, Eric Clapton, Ryan Adams, and Willie Nelson. It works, and you should get it now.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:24 PM | 0 comments

Textwrap Troubles: Writing Blind 

My writing style has changed, and I know why: the "new" blogger doesn't do textwrapping, and that means as I write this I've already lost sight of this sentence's first words.

I haven't been this distant from my writespeech since that first pre-college Brother-brand wordprocessor, which showed only three lines of text at a time and was therefore utterly useless for drafting if one wanted to write full, deep, rich linearity, the stuff that Neil Postman (bless his soul) dreamt of as the epitome, the pinnacle of thought.

If the medium is the message, then a change in medium, however slight, changes not just the potential for meaning, but meaning itself. And so it is: the inability to track one's own thoughts oralizes language, bringing a soapbubble esoteric impermanence to each phrase.

Writing in blogger now is like writing in 72 point font: the words seem important in part because there are so few of them, and because they are isolated, but this false sense of worth hides a sinister lack of interconnectedness for those who use the page to hold thoughts as they emerge, and who expect to construct meaning in the exterior.

I miss my screen-as-mindtool, the externalized thought organizer. Without it, I feel rushed and stream-of-selfconscious about the ideas as they run fleetingly by.

Stupid Blogger. I want my goddamn interface back, and -- being of a McLuhanesque sensibility -- that means I want my mind back, too.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:17 AM | 0 comments

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Not For The Easily Nauseated 

A nifty optical illusion courtesy of Another Sarah. (Tums available here for those who need it afterwards. And what are those, almonds?)

posted by boyhowdy | 3:40 PM | 0 comments

Up And Down 

Darcie wanted to clean the house, and who am I to say no? So Willow and I got out of her hair with a nice long morning down Holyoke way: an hour at the Children's Museum, three rides on the restored merry-go-round on the way out, Happy Meals two blocks over, a stop for cake and hugs at the Northampton sandwich shop where Ginny works the closing shift. Lots of kisses and gleeful smiles. The wee towheaded one even threw her head back on the merry go round and screamed "this is fun!" a couple of times.

Three miles from home, Willow recognized the scenery, and asked about Mommy.

Me: Mommy's been cleaning the house for us all day, honey.

Willow: That's okay, Daddy. I'll make a big mess soon.

posted by boyhowdy | 3:04 PM | 0 comments

Shared Wealth 

Four(!) Audioblog goodies from Anne, given in honor of her 500th post. Technically they were a gift to me, but I'm feeling generous, and that's the great thing about the internet, right? Infinite copies, ubiquitous: we can all share without reducing the pieslice. Also potlatch. Thanks oodles, Anne -- you rock.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:18 AM | 0 comments

Monday, July 12, 2004

Hillsdale Calling 

This year's Falcon Ridge Folk Festival stage-by-stage performance schedules are now available. Check out Saturday's main stage sets! Decisions, decisions...have to work 4 hours a day at volunteer and performer check-in; as always, it looks like it's going to be tough to find a shift that won't cause me to rue what I'm missing.

posted by boyhowdy | 2:28 PM | 0 comments

Weekend Wedding Wandering 

Seems like everyone had a wedding to go to this weekend. My parents were in California, watching an old friend's daughter tie the knot, by the time we left for their Newton home by midday Friday. We arrived by 4 (the unlockably broken front door that much more convenient now that I've stopped keeping a key), dropped our stuff, checked the road atlas against the invitation, and bumped into my dressed-up-for-another-wedding sis in the driveway on our way out to Bob and Tom's rehearsal dinner.

It was a straight line through Newton's ritzy Oak Hill neighborhood to the Roxbury home of awful-nice hosts Kay and Mike for the wedding rehearsal. Here, the wedding of Bob and Tom would take place among lush flowers and newly-dropped sod in the first yard landscaper, old roommate, long-beloved friend and now nervous groom Bob ever terraformed. The flute bit I'd been practicing came out acceptably, the groom and groom nervous but easy with each other and clearly in love, the groomsmen (and groomsgirls) playful, the minister horse-faced and grinning. Many "blahs" were said, and giggles given; Willow chased butterflies in the well-kept garden, and the chicken wings were sticky and sweet. I wore the shirt my brother gave me for my birthday, plain athletic grey blockprinted I Deserve A Beer, and got offered several.

A shop stop at the suburban-riche Whole Foods Market on the way home for basics, and kept the costs down pretty low (though counting raspberries and dollar-apiece cookies as basics) since Mom had left a note saying she'd pay for it. Found that great microbrew coffee we loved so much in Alaska last summer for the first time in the lower 48. Bed for Willow and Darcie.

It was weird to be in the house I grew up in, to have it all to myself late at night, twelve years after moving out, and almost six after giving up a key. Feeling nostalgic, I went out for a latenight trip down memory lane: Golden Star, the same cheap chinese restaurant similarly-nocturnal friend PJ and I used to haunt, the only thing open past 10 unless you wanted to drive into the city. Was glad to find the egg drop soup with mushroom was still awful -- it seemed comforting, somehow. The menus and booths haven't changed since I left.

Slept late on Saturday, showered and ironed our best summer casualwear, and headed out to the wedding by 1:30 or so in one of my father's ties. The wedding ceremony was brief and elegant. The flute playing seemed pure and easy, everything coming together in performance as it always does. The minister managed to keep the activism inevitable in a gay marriage ceremony subtle but present, though there was great applause whenever anyone mentioned the GREAT state of Massachusetts, and Bob and Tom's vows were funny and sweet.

The reception lasted for hours. I switched over to beer after a too-strong margarita and a little too much sun, and swung Willow around and around at the end of my outstretched arms in the garden while everyone mingled. The food was cream-sauce-and-mushroom-heavy, the desserts deep chocolate and rum-laced, and all was divine. Willow was the belle of the ball, bringing tiny bottles of water to everyone just to be praised and regain the center.

Much later, strange again in the dark familiar house past midnight, I thought about blogging, but didn't. Instead, I sat for a while in my father's upstairs office and browsed the world's best CD collection, coveting everything from the new Toots and the Maytals duet album True Love to Dave Carter and Tracey Grammar's Tanglewood Tree to Donna the Buffalo's studio albums, and thought about my father, and how much of his life he's spent alone and by preference in this little room, and missed him terribly.

Don't get me wrong. It was potent and weirdly wonderful to have the house I've always loved for my own all weekend. And I understand innately the beauty of a room of one's own like my father's room, for I am a lot like him -- I need and love the things my father needs, both room and contents. It's nice to play house, to wander, to commit to one another.

But it's better to go home again.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:26 AM | 0 comments

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Remaindered Relix 

Will jambands fly at Lollapalooza?

The mail center doesn't bother forwarding magazines sent to recent grads; they give 'em away to us instead. I'd never read Relix, but it had Perry Farrell and some of the guys from String Cheese Incident on the cover, so I grabbed it, and now all I can think about is getting my ass off to some music festivals already, dammit. Decent article on the Twelve Tribes Cult, though.

Thinking about festivals did prompt a few more backmemoried additions to the master list of all the concerts I've ever attended. Not sure how I forgot about seeing the Neville Brothers, but there you go.

With luck, a week from Sunday I'll be at Rynfest watching Clarence "gatemouth" Brown jam with Soulive, and catching the Deep Banana Backout reunion. From tomorrow 'til Tuesday, though, we'll be in Boston for what I've come to call "The Wedding of Bob and Tom," like it was some Gilbert and Sullivan operetta or something.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:57 PM | 18 comments

I Want An Internet I Can Sing To 

Spent the day prepping for Bob and Tom's wedding, which for me was going to mean composing something on flute, then preparing to play it as they walk down the aisle this weekend... until Bob called last night, to invite us to the rehearsal dinner tomorrow night, and by way of a suggestion Darcie hummed him a melody I already play -- the stolen Bach bit from David Wilcox's Burgundy Heart-Shaped Medallion -- and he liked it, and we decided to go with it.

Thank the gods for Darcie's thoughtfulness. Composition was a big fat weight on my head; Polish and performance I can do with both lungs tied behind my back.

But the unseen and unplanned is a Zen Koan: how long is a procession? What if the procession lasted longer than I thought?

I decided to add the rest of Wilcox's original, to make it longer. The processional piece, with this addition, felt almost, but not quite, long enough.

So I went looking for inspiration, which in this day and age is spelled G-O-O-G-L-E.

Inspiration today turned out to be a process primarily comprised of fruitless hours online trying to track down the original Bach piece, in the hopes that, were the procession to run longer than 1:43, there was more to it than the bit Wilcox uses. Wilcox does not attribute the song on his album or webpages beyond Bach's name, and a search of the obvious keywords [bach burgundy medallion wilcox] got hits, but no citation. A sift-through of classical MIDI collections seemed a bit like looking for a record needle in a haystack. Found an interview in which Wilcox cites the source as Bach's Well Tempered Clavier, but after listening to snippets of pretty much every one of the fortysomething movements, I decided this wasn't going to happen.

Found some crazy-neat stuff on the way, though -- multimedia which strained the hazy fugues and metered memories of prep school AP Music Theory class. Those interested in the synchronistic possibilities of and for hypertext and music, Bach lovers with any smattering of theory or formal musicianship, and teachers of music appreciation and music theory really should check this full-blown "study" of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier out; the shockwave deconstruction modules of each fugue are masterpieces of music study.

We put the words to Burgundy Heart-Shaped Medallion in the wedding scrapbook Darcie's been working on all day (while I was stressing about music and not really making much). They seem relevant, I guess, and hopefully stabilizing: in my head, I'll be singing them to stay calm while a bunch of strangers watch me play the groom and groom down the center aisle.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:23 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Harry Potter and the Hot No-Baby Date 

Finagled an in-law tradeoff for babysitting and finally made it to Harry Potter with Darcie this afternoon -- and laughed together under our breaths as another couple in the popcorn line behind us discussed their visibly impending offspring, which was, apparently, kicking.

For a moment, I was really tempted to turn around and say "hey, enjoy the movie; it's going to be a long time until your next one."

I decided not to spoil the moment, though. Regular dates become a post-parental rarity, too; why make friends or trouble?

posted by boyhowdy | 8:39 PM | 0 comments

Missed Meme; Belated 5/7(/5) Blogentry 

So much passes by
In summer with the kids gone.
Wind moves right through us,

The moon already
swollen and bright behind trees
when I walk the dog.

Mail stops on weekends.
Also, I totally missed
World Blog Haiku Day.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:07 AM | 0 comments

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

You've Got To Try This 

Anyone up for Cheese and Cod Bits?

Went to the weird package-and-more store just over the New Hampshire border yesterday, because my gourmet American Spirits are cheaper there than in Taxachusetts, and because the place just has a weird aura I love to wallow in. Took Darcie and Willow because it was an excuse for a miniadventure.

When we first moved in to the dorms six years ago, the place was a pretty traditional: half beer and soda cases, half cigarette cartons, with a couple of tiny overpriced bags of cashews by the register. But it’s come under new management. In the past few years, the newly-named Cha's has slowly transformed, pallet by pallet, shelf by shelf, until over a third of the store is just…


The best way I can think to describe it is to say that the package store is slowly being infiltrated by some sort of youth-oriented asian-alia. But that doesn’t really do justice to this tiny place on the Winchester NH/Northfield MA border, just past the Christian camp and the summer school, two ceramic studios, a state-owned waterfall, and not much else for miles.

Yesterday, they had a disastrous two-tone vest prominently on display, red silk on one side and a complex pattern of lime green and silverthread on the other, dangling enticingly from the high ceiling from a single hanger, in the middle of everything, yet no other articles of clothing are sold in this store except for the four leather jackets hanging way over the rice flour.

Also a four-tiered display of metal pipes, rolling papers, screens, and cheap handblown glass “tobacco” pipes seem like they belong on a blanket in a Phish show parking lot has taken over the entire front counter.

When you first enter, though, it’s the food you see before you. Some of it’s ordinary truck-stop snacks, like in the old days – those same cashews may still be there, in fact, among the Funyons and dip. But over half the foodstuffs – two aisles worth, plus a two-panel fridge and a deepfreeze in the back -- is delightfully foreign. Huge jars of tiny shrimp in brine. Bags of dried anchovies staring up at you. And wonderful, strange snack food: Pocky, of course, and sturgeon-flavored chips, and shrimp-flavored candy, and Korean gingercookies curved just the right way to fit as many as possible inside their plastic tub. Not as good as the Japanese-snack compendium at jlist, but it's so nice when it's right in your face.

It’s not clear which local community this is supposed to serve, unless the store primarily caters to the roughly 150 asian students who attend Northfield Mount Hermon each year (in which case, shame on them for stocking so much pot-smoking paraphanalia). It’s not like there’s a Koreatown here on the edge of the rural intersect of NH, VT and middle-of-nowhere mass, equidistant from Keene, Brattleboro, and Greenfield, and just a half mile from one of the last drive-ins in the country. Most folks coming in seem to be townie rednecks, driving just over the border for their twice-weekly tax-free case.

No one buys the pipes when I'm there, anyway. The asian snacks I like have dust on 'em. And the same four jackets have been on display since Fall.

But despite the dust, I always try to buy something new and snacky when I go, mostly because I can’t resist the international pop-kitsch factor.

Not ready yet for unlabeled jars of fire-red kimchee, or tiny dried whole fish, though. And I fondled but decided against the mung bean "cookies" with the consistency of the eggy stuff in an Egg Mcmuffin. No, after laughing at the wonder of the wild world of other people's cuisine with Darcie and Willow, I ended up with a carton of cigs from the "normal" storesection, a small filthy box of some cheese-and-sugar breadstick cookies we liked last time I brought them home on a whim, and -- at the last minute -- grabbed a feather-light chip-sized package of mysterious contents and no English writing whatsoever based entirely on the neat picture of a goldfish climbing up the front of the bag.

I kind of expected them to taste like fish. I figured we'd laugh, and then put them away for advisee-group dare sessions once school started, like we did with the nacho-flavored mealworms we found at that odd wildlife-themed shop in Shelburne Falls.

They tasted like Sugar Corn Pops, only lighter and crispier.

And now I've eaten them all, and I still can't figure out what it was, but I loved every bite. Sure hope they've got a box of them somwhere back at Cha's.

Addendum: I did do an internet search for these things, but my vague descriptions seem to be useless as google keywords. If the above foodstuff sounds familiar, please contact me immediately to discuss; information leading to an arrest will be handsomely rewarded.

In trying (and failing) to identify the odd but delicious fish-shaped sugar-coated corn-crisps, I did discover, a broad-and-deep clearinghouse of snack food facts, including a product-review typology. The database was unfortunately bereft of direct info about my cornfishies, but it did provide these fun finds.

Also, by googling "hana brand" and "rhee bros" -- the only english characters I was able to find on the box -- found a two-year-old boycott of Rhee Bros.

From there, found Rhee Bros, which, it turns out, is a distributor of fine asian products -- but not, according to the Rhee Bros website, anything resembling my fishiechips.

Even the belatedly-discovered J-List didn't have them, and they have everything.

Bummer. Hey, if I posted a picture, would that help?

posted by boyhowdy | 2:57 PM | 0 comments

Monday, July 05, 2004

Stretched Fourth 

Ain't no better beer for a toast to independence!

Many towns round these rural parts don't hold with late Sunday night fireworks no matter when the 4th officially falls. Our third-floor french windows (arguably the best feature of the apartment, especially in the heat-and-humid attic summer) provided solid vantage of distant momentary moon-sized phenomena post-nightfall on the eve of both third and fourth, and in various directions, some known, some only guessed at: Greenfield, Turners Falls, and a myriad of other green hills both private and municipal.

Also a parade with Willow, wife, and in-laws watched from the shade of the old Unitarian Church in downtown Brattleboro, the very end of a long, staggering, steep route. Willow liked the crowds, the Shriners' tiny eighteen wheelers, and the bands, most especially the bagpipers, though perhaps as much for novelty as nuance. And a midafternoon barbecue and swim up in Newfane with the in-law's in-laws, through wife's brother Josh and his sig-o Clay, with yummy grilled whole local garlic cloves, spicy chicken, and Dogfish Head Beer, the best microbrew beer in the world, high-octane and sweet Raison D'Etre and a powerhouse 60 Minute IPA, now happily available at local supermarkets and package stores everywhere. We brought the five pound bag of shrimp.

No fireworks, though we did find a small cracker in the playground this morning before the rains came, and set it off for a dampened crack just to see if it would after all. One year I hope her tiny ears will be strong enough, and her heart brave and experienced enough to try. Until then, sparks in the distance from several towns all-at-once seem to bring wonder enough.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:28 PM | 0 comments

Saturday, July 03, 2004

"Did I say Iraq has weapons of mass destruction? I meant they have goats." 

Top 15 23 George W. Excuses For Not Finding Weapons of Mass Destruction. "Containers were found, but labeled in some crazy language" seems to be a favorite. Thanks, Anne.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:29 PM | 27 comments

Media Backblog 

Items on experiential backorder.

Movies: Napoleon Dynamite, Super Size Me, Saved!, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, the rest of the new Harry Potter. NOT Farenheit 911. Just missed, and now waiting for the video: Mean Girls. Coming soon: I, Robot.

Music: Everything on this list except Merchant and McKeown and Welch, which I've already got. Especially Taylor and Rodriguez, Josh Ritter, Dar, Donna the Buffalo, Fountains of Wayne. Also Lori McKenna, new (and final?) Phish, some Willie Nelson and some more Tony Trishka; anything recommended by the guys at About Music; live music half-drunk in the sunshine on a tarp in the middle of a big field -- only one more week until the festival season resumes with a vengance!

Books: Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth. That Tobais Wolfe book we're all reading at work. Lord Darcy, since it's my wife's favorite cheesy novel, and Larry Niven reccommends it. More poetry. A Passage to India, which I bought in Alaska last summer and never ended up reading; it stares at me from the hallway bookshelf every time I make my Passage to Toilet.

All lists subject to change, and willingly -- feel free to leave recommendations in the comments; I'm sure to not get to those, either, but at least I'll know what I've been missing.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:09 AM | 0 comments

Friday, July 02, 2004


Last night just before midnight like a switch the heavy air began to blow foul and musky through our third floor apartment windows. By the time thunder from a close and exceptionally electrical storm turned to driving rain and ozone-cleaned air, it was already too late.

We made a valiant adrenalin-fueled effort, but in the end, it didn't matter that we'd unsuccessfully held the yowling cat down in the tub, alternating tomato paste with a showerhead set on "massage," until giving up and locking him in the bathroom overnight. The oils had crept in on the fog, and infiltrated our carpet, our walls, our dirty clothes piles -- the very air.

Today we woke up to a cat thick with unwashed tomato paste in his fur, still skunky and trapped in the bathroom, and a living room carpet-and-ecology residual -- untracable, yet steeped strong enough to chase us out, nauseous and burning-lunged, to Brattleboro for the day. Though I've scrubbed my cuticles like a psychiatric inpatient, with Lava soap and lemon juice, for a cumulative total of half an hour so far today, through Spiderman 2, a walk to the farm stand, an outside grilled kebab supper, and a homecoming armed with Skunk-Off and citron scents, the tips of my fingers still reek of skunk, making me sick again at odd moments.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:08 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Quote Of The Day 

"You should totally bite me. I could fight supervillains!"

- James Foreman, An Open Letter to the Radioactive Spider That Never Bit Me. Part of McSweeney's ongoing series Open Letters to People or Entities Who Are Unlikely To Respond.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:46 PM | 0 comments

You're Like A Magnet 

When you've a toddler in the house, cleanliness really is next to impossible. Today amongst myriad child-rumpled strewn objects -- a puppet box of puppet mice, a decorative corn broom, several lined and torn pages scribbled with purple -- half a Dick lies face-up on the dining room carpet, cut off just above the knee but smiling, towheaded and pedagogically cherubic in his red wool sweater, miles from the refrigerator where Jane, Spot, and the rest of his magentic family await.

I've always been messy, and so has Darcie. If anything, it's the one shared habit we wish we'd married away from. Our tendencies, our limitations, our fated losses in the face of entropy, are strong enough on a cumulative level that one room in each home we've shared has become permanent unorganized storage, a tosspot disaster zone cordoned off from the "good" part of the house by heavy doors, and studiously avoided. Thank god there's an attic this round.

In this case, though, the mess is the natural result of toddlerhood in a messy-spouse house. We tidy more often, but she spreads her bookshelf's contents across the floor faster than we can clean up the living room popcorn spill. We could live the sterile life, I suppose -- not enough stuff to worry about; playspaces sparsely toy-ed; books far off the floor; cabinets childlocked -- but it's just not us to be so consistent about keeping the space that way in the first place.

I read -- half-recently, somewhere unrecollected -- that researchers have found no correlation between early nurture and tendencies towards cleanliness. Beating entropy appears to be innate in some, absent in others. Causal genetic indicators are too complex -- we all know neat-freak kids whose very vacuum-sealed bedspread is a rebellion against disorganized lives, both eco- and psychological. In our case, though, I look at our own parents, and the dirty clothes piles we've inherented from them; look back at my daughter tossing the contents of an entire basket of barrettes around like flower petals at a wedding, or chasing the dog around the house with crumbly dog biscuits -- and give up.

I've learned to live with the mess. We clean once a week or so, when company's coming; clean off surfaces and condense piles to eat at the table. Once every couple of months, when we run out of clothes, we bag up the big piles of clothes until the hardwood is once again, miraculously, visible, stuff the car, and take it all down to the school laundry. You couldn't say that we've embraced the mess, but we fight the easy fight; it works for us where nothing else has

But I worry about the magnets. If half a Dick can be left on the floor arbitrarily, it can just as easily be left on the laptop keyboard, obliterating data, scrambling sourcecode. Gone are the plastic days of big primarycolor letters and numbers. Ominously, Dick's pants remain missing.

posted by boyhowdy | 6:07 PM | 12 comments
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