Monday, August 23, 2004

Sleepytime Me 

The burning at consciousness's edge began late yesterday; by this afternoon I was fading in and out, the road North again stretching before me in that timelessness only the overtired and delirious ever experience. Coffee, cigarettes, a shock-dive into the pool: nothing helped, and I sunk further into the daze of our lives, the funk of the fried, the impossible undreaming that takes me like night through the school year, eating at my brain like rats on a bagel.

Too many days of up-early in the chill of early autumn mountain fog; too little REM sleep on the edge of consciousness, unwilling to trust completely a subjectively untested bedside alarm clock. This time. But there will always be something, now.

Tonight long past Willow's bedtime the householders came home from the hills of Scotland. The year's work has begun; already, the desktop bulges with responsibilities and careful negotiations, the knife's edge of the in-house servicegiver. On the drive back South Willow fell asleep quietly, an unfinished bottle, while her mother in the passenger seat kept the mist from our windows. And I? I followed the perfect upright sharp-edged moon hung copper in the sky, perfectly halved, like my autumn heart.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:15 PM | 0 comments

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Not News, Again 

Glen Hiller, 35, doesn't get it. He expresses shock that a Bush rally would be filled with people who support Bush, and more shock that he'd be asked to leave for heckling -- when in fact we used to kick people out of the Boston Museum of Science for heckling our lightning shows, too.

Then, to top it all off, he thinks he was fired because of his politics.

But was he? A quick look at the backstory puts this into perspective: Hiller, a graphic designer working for "an advertising and design company," was at the rally as a guest of a client. An adman's job depends on making clients happy. If one of those clients takes you to a public event, and you embarass them by getting kicked out of that event -- why, you failed at your job, demonstrated crass insensitivity to the very people whose bill-paying keeps your company solvent. Wouldn't you expect to get fired?

Hiller's not the only idot here; CNN doesn't get it either. As we've seen in the past, they have a knack for spinning facts like this to make them seem like news. (At least they're transparent about it, so we can make fun of them.) Here, they clearly report this as news because it was a Bush rally, not, say, a Tony Orlando and Dawn concert in Vegas, at which Hiller did the dirty deed -- this should be so obvious as to need no mention, really.

Heckling at a rally isn't news. Getting kicked out of a rally for being disruptive isn't news. Getting fired for offending a client not only isn't news, it isn't even unexpected -- that's the way the adworld works, folks. In fact, it isn't even news when a guy claims that he was fired because of something Bush-related, when the logic is as tenuous as this is -- it's a cry for psychiatry, or perhaps for a course in basic logic.

Net result: a headline that says "Man fired for heckling Bush." In fact, the first paragraph makes plain that he was fired for "offending a client who provided tickets to the event." With that headline, though, we are clearly and pre-emptively meant to believe that Hiller is somehow a victim of Bush&co, which is patently silly. Boos and hisses to CNN for providing fodder to the Moore-minded. (Kudos, though, for the excuse to rant again -- it's been a while, eh?)

posted by boyhowdy | 9:17 PM | 33 comments


Aftermath 

Last night the rain
and a lightning clap like God's hands
close by over the mountains.

I am driving North to see you,
past all this: along the roiled river
brown with mud, the blasted rock,
the rushing water runoff.

Here and there
the green trees
tipped with red leaf patches
new since yesterday.

posted by boyhowdy | 5:29 PM | 0 comments


Alma Mater, We Love You 


Commonwealth School, Boston


Working the NMH Volunteers Weekend this weekend, and thinking about my own beloved schools. Though my educational background was sporadic at best -- I switched to a private high school for Junior and Senior years after almost flunking out of public school, and took little from Bard, my first-try college, other than a spouse-to-be, a bunch of neat writing courses, and a love of the rural life -- I consider Commonwealth School (that private school, shown above -- a tiny liberalarts thinktank in a Bostonian Comm Ave. brownstone) a long-ago savior. Despite low grades and a total failure to keep in touch with any of my 33 fellow class-of graduates, that place was the first to show me that aptitude was little without interest, and application impossible without commitment. Also, for a school whose population never rose above 120 from 9-12, we sure had some great parties.

Meanwhile, most grads of my collegiate alma mater seem to be flailing -- a recent visit to Brattleboro met me up with several old roommates and friends, most of whom have new stories to tell of failed marriages and part-time dead-end jobs. Dave just opened a cafe and performance space in town, without Anna; I met Brandt inside, up from Washington, and Dan, Mike, and Jeremy on the steps, all of whom are either between jobs or on their way somewhere else pretty soon, it seems. Meanwhile, Carl was in line behind me at Mocha Joes, and reports he's still doing solo construction work, his daughter living in Cali with his ex.

As for me...well, I'm still here, and still married happily. But some days -- like yesterday, pulled over for an out of date car registration, and spending our last cash on a tow; looking ahead at a week of full-on work with no time or money to reregister, or renew the surprisingly out-of-date license to boot -- take me closer to the edge than I've been since those last few disastrous days at Bard, hiding out in Darcie's dormroom after being dismissed, living off of stolen dining hall broccoli.

But Marlboro College itself is in the pink. The new president seems, by all accounts, to be well-liked, the grad school's ads come across strong on our local public radio station, and the undergrad school scored higher than ever in the just-released Princeton Review Annual College Guide:

In the 2005 issue of The Best 357 Colleges, Marlboro ranked first for "Professors Bring Material to Life" and second for "Best Overall Academic Experience," "Class Discussions Encouraged" and "Professors Make Themselves Accessible" and 13th for "Students Never Stop Studying."

It's not Harvard or Princeton, and thank god for that. Happy to hear that the tiny school-on-a-hill -- all 300 students and 30 professors -- seems to be doing quite well without me or my cash, though I gave a token sum last year, all we could afford. Maybe one of these days they'll be ready for a communications and media prof, and I can quit the prep school rat race for good.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:36 AM | 1 comments

Thursday, August 19, 2004

The End Of The Summer 

This morning a gleeful trip to the Brattleboro Retreat Petting Farm, once a theraputic treatment for the mentally ill, now a mecca of last-ditch summer entertainment for children and the childlike. Willow crowed at the roosters and fed goats grain pellets from her bare hands. The emus glowered at us, and the llama's didn't spit; we all held baby chicks, and a tiny baby piglet climbed through the bars of her family cage to get a full-out scratch from me, which made my day -- doesn't everyone secretly wish they could have a wee pink pig for a housepet?

Skinny dipping this afternoon again, Brattleboro yesterday (and a nice yummy dinner at Max's for our anniversary while the in-laws watched the kid get filthy in the garden). Sitting on the porch rocker just a few minutes ago after the kid went up to bed with her mother, I watched the hills beyond the hills glow gold with a sunset rain-and-fog, and listened to the Canada geese call to each other as they bed down in the horsefields. But the buzz in the back of the brain has started, and a chatter of email messages unsent, plans and sequences for the days ahead flits through my brain familiarly, distracting me from the universe, as it always does. It's the end of the summer, and only this morning seems clear in retrospect. Too soon it will be a distant memory.

I'm off to the "office" tomorrow to prep the tech for this weekend's reunion planning committee events -- set up data projectors and lapel mics where needed, and, while class chairs learn to sell the school to their fellow alums, stand by at $18 an hour during their use in case a battery blows. I'll be in the apartment solo all weekend, while Darcie and Willow entertain here at the housesitting gig until Monday late.

For me, starting Monday, it's meetings meetings meetings, three days straight. Followed by meetings, and quite probably some meetings until Friday.

And then the kids arrive, and once again, we live where we work.

This year I won't be teaching any major courses, for the first time since I started working the prep school gig in 1998. This year, too, there's a little person running around at home, once who finally kisses me and hugs me goodnight, instead of the old pre-verbal to miss all day. And this is the year we'll be shopping the prep school market, along most of my teaching peers, I gather -- the school goes down to halfsize at the school year's end, and given the tight time frame for placement in the prep school world (basically, a three week period in March), it's far too late to start the process when the pink slips start coming down the pike.

No wonder my back aches.

It was another wonderful summer. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

But there's nothing wrong with wishing it could have lasted forever.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:21 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Gift Recommendations Cheerfully Accepted -- And Hurry! 

Silly me -- I thought eighth anniversaries were traditionally celebrated with gifts of daub and wattle (or is that taupe and bottle?), but Britwomen's reference site iVillage claims this to be the year of the Bronze -- and reccommends tanning lotion, sculpture, sun, or a servant's bell. Finding these not our style, I'm still thinkin' -- let me know if you've got a good one, and I'll happily lay the thanks on here in public.

Has it really been that long since Darcie and I walked down the narrow aisle, stood beneath the woolen huppah, danced on the lawn with friends and fam, wearing homemade clothes, surrounded by next-door neighbor's gifted farmstand sunflowers? Since the rabbi helped us make sandwiches beforehand, and all my college friends got high in the parking lot during the reception? One of the things I love best about marriage (well, our marriage) is that it seems like forever, and just yesterday, all at the same time. For those still looking, here's a hint from my playbook: growing together is blessed by comfortable silences as much as the yakkety-yak therapist's paean.

We've been dating since 1991, dropped out of college together (and boy, did her parents like that at the time), lived with roommates and Willow trees, in cities and farmvalleys; had a child, want more; grown a dog and a stray cat into family, too. I wouldn't trade a minute of it, from nickel to rose, and can't wait until we celebrate our diamond years...nor our formica anniversary (next year, right?).

posted by boyhowdy | 2:27 PM | 0 comments

Monday, August 16, 2004

Cooped Up 

What with the rain steady on the slate roofs and leadglass windowpanes in this old borrowed house, we've been mostly inside all day, except for a quick trip for farmstand berries and homemade chicken cutlet small-market sandwiches. The cats come in and out of the rain all day, and for the first time all showed up for lockdown this evening -- guess even the barn's a bit damp. And though the house is leakrpoof, the fog comes in these cracked windows, raising mildew, giving us headaches, making yesterday's fresh biscuits grow greenspot mold in their kitchen bag.

So not much to report today, really, except time with the wee one. We plopped in a beanbag ("swing me in this chair, daddy!"), watched over an hour of JoJo, the claymation Disneychannel circus clown on the huge-screen television this afternoon (Willow insisted on "holding" the three little bunnies she saw onscreen, so I "let her"); hopped out to the aforementioned while Darcie slept off a touch of nausea; played with the pool table (wherein Willow sits atop the felt and rolls balls in the holes to hear them run through the table's innards, and I use the cue to gently knock back those that miss).

Willow nods her head and smiles when asked questions on the phone, not realizing that only words come through both ends, I guess. But we're coaching her, and watched amazed as, after supper tonight, she had an actual conversation with Darcie's father, hello through goodbye. That kid just blows me away.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:53 PM | 0 comments


Gone Phishin' 

Somewhere upstate of here, thousands of neohippies are crying as Phish goes out with a hundred water- and fish-based puns. Their follower's clothes and bedding are filthy and damp; their cars are still stuck in the mud they lodged in Friday, when they arrived for the weekend farewell at Coventry. According to today's Brattleboro Reformer, the promoters spent 50k on mud-pull tractors and winches, but honestly, there's no hurry -- many of these folks have been on the road following the band for so long they've got nowhere to go.

Imagine if Moses came to the Isralites after the first 30 desert years and said "Okay, guys, you're on your own -- go home." Like the Jews that moment God decided to stop stopping by, Phishheads (Groupies?) have suddenly become people of the book, too.

Though I can't resist a good concert, I've never been the kind of guy to follow a band around the country. I went to my first and only Phish show at the Somerville Theater way back in '91, when the shows were still general admission and there was only one cassette to buy, and I bought it; got there early enough to snag sixth row, with drummer Jon Fishman's mom in the next seat over -- we had a nice chat between the trampolines of "Bouncing Around the Room" and the intermission animated film of "Esther." Later, I convinced my deadhead college roommate to try their show at then-nearby Albany, the famous set where they did almost all (but not quite) of the legendary Gamehenge cycle, unannounced as always -- I've always regretted not tagging along.

But the albums and live cuts will live on forever in the coffee shop soundtracks and road trip tape decks. Their jams were tight, the production lush, the energy sublime throughout their career. Their SNL self-parody several years ago, on the comeback trail after a year-long band hiatus, was a thriller; from Bathtub Gin and Fee to Back on the Train -- the track, incidentally, from whence this blog's subtitle comes -- Phish made music that stepped into the high gear of my soul. Trey, Mike, Page and Jon -- though your solo projects rock, each and every one, and will surely continue to do so, things will never be the same without you.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:33 AM | 0 comments

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Hurry Up, It's Time 

It's time to begin keeping time
again; separate the days
by more than sleep and cigarettes;
remember appointments. It's time
to leave a full bed in the morning,
come home tired just to sleep;
catch up at the cafeteria.
Forever I will be without you,
covet library Fridays,
envy afternoon sitters.

Summer's over, the leaves about to turn
even here, in this playground watching
Willow and Felix throw rocks on the slide:
Leaves, and pages. I miss you already.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:37 PM | 0 comments

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Thanks For The Shirts, Dad 


Plus, I look marvelous in rust.


Big fat package in the mail today -- five linen/cotton blend shortsleeved button-downs (rust, two shades of blue, an ivory and some sort of goldenrod), now on sale at Old Navy. Can't wait to iron them.

Hmm. Last week in Nova Scotia I mentioned to my father how nice his shirt looked, and how well it traveled. Now I've got five, in various colors.

Hey Dad, I'm a big fan of the Lexus, too...

Bet they even make them in rust, come to think of it.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:58 AM | 15 comments

Friday, August 13, 2004

Why not? 

Why can't telemarketers just say "Hi, I'm a telemarketer, and we're selling ______. Interested?" I mean, half of why we hate the telemarketing pitch is how time-consuming it is just to say "no." If we got rid of the fake-out, we might be more willing to listen in the first place...and if not, why then the telemarketer could save some time for the next call, and the next. (Yes, I know telemarketers are rewarded for the time they manage to keep people on the line. But my point is that this pressure is based on a faulty assumption -- the correlation between the fifty second call and the sale is surely false.)

Don't get me wrong -- I like talking to strangers on the phone. It's just that slime and evasiveness bother me. Are people really MORE likely to buy something if they're interrupted during dinner by someone desperate, using evasive language? Even with the social revile-ation of the coldcall sales strategy in the last decade?

Also, while we're on the subject of life, the universe, and everything, why is it that I can only cook decently at other people's houses? Why can't my daughter pronounce the letter L? And who let the dog out? She was in the outdoor kennel when I left her that morning; it's hard to believe she scaled a six foot chainlink fence.

Sorry. It's been another two days of Willowwatch while Darcie nine-to-fives it -- the Magic Wings butterfly gardens, Yankee Candle, and an afternoon making playdoh snacks and reading books to an imaginary library lady named, apparently, Wiz . I'm pretty burnt out.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:25 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Paradise [Error] 

Just a note to say the blogentry I just lost to the ether was better than this one.

Much, much better.

Once again, I wish I were the kind of person for whom taking the extra minute for safety measures was natural. Heck, Darcie still has to remind me to wear my seatbelt.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:44 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Curriculum By Pamphlet 

CNN reports this week on a Los Angeles private school which promised Hispanic immigrants a college-access, high-school-equivalency diploma in return for cash, but offered instead a thin tissue (okay, a "thin workbook") of blatantly false knowledge. My own favorite bulletpoints from this tale of eduhorror include:
  • There are two houses of Congress -- the Senate and the House, and "one is for Democrats and the other is for the Republicans, respectively."

  • The United States has 53 states but the "flag has not yet been updated to reflect the addition of the last three states" -- Hawaii, Alaska and Puerto Rico.
As if that wasn't egregious enough, upon completion of the ten week, $450 to $1,450 program, attendees recieved a certificate that "isn't recognized as a high school diploma" by anybody. Of course, this all comes after "school officials ignored a previous court order that banned them from telling consumers it was."

And you thought History was already riddled with lies, eh? Think again, Zinnhead -- there's no moral equivalency here. One can only imagine the dozens of Democratic immigrants already out there ready to vote for just about any Senator that comes along. Lucky for Kerry he was out of the House.

posted by boyhowdy | 4:33 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Other People's Houses 

Skinny dipping late this afternoon in someone else's pool, an illicit pleasure even when the house is ours for two weeks while wifeDarcie's brother goes off with the house's owners: his longtime girlfriend, her father, her brother.

And what a homestead it is: studios, barns and wide spaces, and two houses to explore, technically speaking: the house and the sugarhouse. We spend most of our days in the always-in-flux main house, a much-built-upon clapboard-white farmstead up against the dirtroad, visiting the sugarhouse, a modern-cabinesque wood-and-beam two-room which Darcie and I covet like there's no tomorrow, mostly to make sure it's ready for my parents' arrival on Saturday, and to share a jacuzzi, just the three of us.

They tell me we used to summer here when I was a kid, and swim in the West River just down the road, just a treeline away from the still-nude beach. Now we sit naked with our own. Funny, how the universe does that sometimes.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:08 PM | 0 comments

Monday, August 09, 2004

Happy Birthday, Baby 

The love of my life and blessed salvation of my universe turns 29 (again) today; we're dog-and-housesitting up in dirtroad Newfane for a while, so the plan involves a cookout with her parents and a dip in the pool. A nice mellow day, finally off the road again. Happy happy, honey!

For the curious, Willow and I got her a Janel Russell Mother and Child pendant, whitegold with a ruby set in it (Willow's birthstone, not Darcie's). Far out of our price range, but worth it. All other wellwishers are invited to send her an ecard or something.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:58 AM | 0 comments


Just Don't Call Her Cindy 

Lucinda "Changed the Lock on My Front Door" Williams at the Calvin Theater last night -- 6th row and a great set, though the fifth and fourth rows seemed, as is too often the case, to be specially reserved for folks over six feet. (Why is that?) Lu was straight from a high-profile gig at the Newport Folk Festival the day before, and seriously rocked, tattoos and all, so hard that her drummer's sticks kept chipping apart. Lead guitarist sang a surprisingly powerful soprano backup.

Lu, who performs standing with an oft-checked songbook on a low podium before her, nonetheless forgot the changes to one song midway through, started again for a bit, then gave up, but the crowd was on her side. Heck, Irma Thomas and J. Garafalo bring their books on stage, and I've seen Ani ask for one, too.

Opener and David Byrne protege Jim White was a wonderful oddfellow surprise -- wry wit and an in-concert sound full of strange instrumentation and tootles galore. If you like Timbuk 3, but always wondered what they could do with a singer-songwriter authorial mentality and a clarinetist, snag his new album via the website (Mojo calls it "a big wet dream of loss and isolation, sex and the search for grace"), and keep an eye out for a show near you.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:27 AM | 1 comments

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Sometimes it takes a rubber puppet, I guess.  

The Onion AV Club's interview with Robert Smigel, aka Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog. Illuminating and deep, which isn't bad coming from the guy who brought us The Ambiguously Gay Duo and a spinal cord sniffing duck.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:41 AM | 19 comments

Friday, August 06, 2004

Belated Highlights, Notes, and Observations: Nova Scotia, July 28 - Aug 4 

It's not so much a triumphant return, I guess; most of today's blogworthy news only casts a pall on subjects long-since treated on these hallowed pages. Dhaka's still endagered under just-receding sewage. Rick James' death today only adds another layer of sickness to my sedentary latenight Dave Chappelle rerunwatching(, bitch!). And, for the first time in eighteen years, I really need a haircut.

And it's late, too -- a blogger's prodigal slinkback at best. I've been in since Wednesday midnight, on the tail end of a long traffic-heavy drive from a Portland sushi supper, both us and our food fresh off the boat and a bit wobbly; since then I've been fulltiming it as daddy to the wonderful/terrible two-year, two straight days of tempura paints, library story hours, and Playdoh fish-and-peas suppers while mommy ties delphinium corsages as a flowershop's special-events stand-in. It's been absolutely worth it; Willow's never been as affectionate, bright, and comfortable as she is right now, fresh out of the bath behind me, tugging on my sleeve with a book in her hand.

Anyway, I'm back.

Got some neat stuff to share, too -- an entire Canadian province's worth of kitsch and considerations, from cheesy chips to canadian cultural curiousities. Folks who eat dessert first are invited to scroll down, skimming for links along the way, right about now. For the eat-and-run types, the trips "highly recommended" shortlist includes oddflavored Humpty Dumpty chips, Glenora Cape Breton singlemalt whiskey, Cape Breton stepdance and jig combo Beolach, punk Stomp-esque drum corps Squid, and the saga of cow/Elmo genesplice Elmoo at icecreamery-and-t-shirtery Cows. Also Lunenburg, incidentally -- we'll get to that shortly.

But first, the travelogue.

See, in the last eight days I've driven over 1400 miles, from Nova Scota's tip to tail and back again -- something approaching 2500 kilometers by local reckoning. And boy, are my wheels tired.

Seriously, NS was wonderful. Many miles were tedious: it's a long desolate way through much of the province; our bonus backseat two-year old is an on-the-spot wandering like her dad, prone to crankiness after more than a few miles without jellybeans or milkbottles. And most parts of Nova Scotia only get one radio station.

But we did get to sleep away a large portion of the otherwise-journey on cheesy, gambling-heavy cruise ship Scotia Prince, saving us more in driving, though the halfpint cruiser left us seasick both ways.

And some of the miles were beautiful and scenic. Between Yarmouth and Halifax alone, on our way to meet up with my parents at the ritzy Prince George Hotel high above a city waterfront district that would draw me like a willowisp in the foggy night later, after everyone had gone to sleep, for a gourmet supper, swim, and sleep on our first day as foreigners -- in those 400 kilometers alone, we had found serene 17th century smalltown charm in seaside Shelburne, come upon the only lighthouse post office in Canada quite by accident, and laughed at dozens of town names and signposts (could Port Mouton's official motto really be "Sheep Overboard"? Is Liverpool's pride in being the first British loyalist town a bit too sad for commentary, given the subsequent American Revolution? Is it really worth mentioning that your county is the midpoint between the equator and the North Pole -- wasn't there anything more worthy?)

My brain is a calliope of picture postcard touristbooks: rocky Irish-esque heather-coated hills and stunted pine, tiny boatbuilder towns with more board than boardwalk, long pristine stretches of rocky shoreline cliffs and boated beaches.

And sometimes the radio was good, too. Nova Scotia's heavily Acadian, so the fiddle-and-folk ran to our tastes. I'll take CBC over shockjock talk radio anyday, left, right, or center. And oooh, the way Canadians gag over their ous is sexy -- aboot rocks my world.

For the record, we were on the parental time-and-dime for the bulk of the trip -- fancy-hoteled at Halifax Wednesday night coming in, and, after a separate-car drive for much of Thursday afternoon, cabin-stayed at a gorgeous rural country inn called the Normaway in Margaree Valley (up Cape Breton way, past the lake and causeway and halfway to Cheticamp) for the next four nights, as follows:

Thursday night:

Arrival, after a four hour drive up half the province. Supper at a local nothing-special: mashed potatoes and a lobster burger (aptly described by the harried waitress as, "just lobster salad in a burger bun"), though the real rhubarb pie was sweet and crusty. Jacuzzi (in cabin!), followed by second-row live performance of awesome proportions given by pipe-and-fiddle combo Beolach in the apparently world-famous Normaway barn.

Friday:

Breakfast at the inn, where I discovered both oatcakes and a wonderful local custom of pouring heavy cream on a sweet boiled rhubarb mash. A trip to Glenora Distillery, the only single-malt whiskeymaker in North America (take that, USA!), for a tour and tasting; the gorgeous trout-heavy shaded streamlet running through the grounds turns out to be the pure source for the product. After, a pub lunch in Ingonish and a hot sunny hour in the surprisingly warm gulfstream-fed waters of a widemouth and impossible-to-find beach called Chimney Corners. Supper in the inn, though I had to leave my Highland t-bone unfinished to take Willow back to the cabin at one point because she wouldn't stop pulling greasily on the drapes.

Saturday:

A quiet day at the Normaway, just the three of us, watching the horses stampede past the pasture-sheep, a lone donkey lagging behind, while Mom&Dad drove the Cape Breton coastline. Lunch over a dirt road and a single-car-width riverspan bridge at a local gas-and-grub, the only business in nearby Margaree Flats (save a church with a full parking lot). It was here that I discovered the highly recommended popcult wonder that is Humpty Dumpty flavored potato chips, which deserve their own linebreak:



HD makes standard stuff as well, of course, which in Canada seems to include Ketchup chipflavors, and I'm all for it. The one-pump Irving had small bags of Dill Pickle and Grilled Cheese and Ketchup -- I got a bag of each to save, and ate a bag of the Grilled Cheese and Ketchup, which weren't half bad, latenight in the cabin with some white grape juice. Later, I picked up some Fries and Gravy, and a bag of Roasted Chicken as well. The gold Spiderman cover designs on some bags were a nice bonus for the kitschcult enthusiast; I'll be reviewing -- and eating -- the chips inside in the weeks ahead. My only complaint so far is that I couldn't find the chicken and gravy or buffalo wing flavors in smaller bags.

Supper Saturday at the biggest table in the inn dining room, right in the center, just the two of us and the tyke in the highchair -- my parents didn't make it back after all, but at least we saw them afterwards.

Sunday:

Horseback riding in the a.m., through the mountains with Darcie and a guide while Mom and Dad watched the kid torture the hotel kittens and throw crocquet balls back at the hotel. Baddeck in the afternoon, a bit of a summer-home tourist trap on the shores of Cape Breton's wide inner lake with the whole crew: lobster club sandwiches and an early departure with kid and seasickness-prone spouse while Mom and Dad stayed to boat around the waters. Local marinated and smoked salmon plate at a seaside restaurant and then a joyous moment down by the waves as dusk fell and the surf crashed before heading, wearily, back to the cabin.

And Monday and beyond? Well, bright and early the 'rents went off towards Prince Edward Island, giving us two days to get back towards the ferry. On our own, funds were more limited; we managed a couple of motelstops back from there. Let's just say the vacation's peak had come and gone. Pretty much, it just felt like three driving days of getting home from thereon in, with two major exceptions: a nice pierwalk with Darcie and Willow in the early evening, and Lunenberg the next morning.

Halifax had been a nice but foreign place in the fog of six nights before, solo and late enough for the pubs to be where most people were -- I'm not really a go-to-the-pub-alone kind of guy late at night. But here in the earlier evening, still light and lighthearted, the street vendors still out from the Natal Day celebrations and Tall Ship passage just that afternoon (yes, they are really tall, okay?), the place was aglow with a job well done, a storm weathered.

Willow was totally in here element, flitting down the boardwalk towards other people's legs cute as can be, her arms outstretched, her legs still diaper-wobbly; we bought her a blinking butterfly to capture her wonder, passed beertents on each block, each with their own wonderful and dancable music pouring forth into the open air, and smiled a lot at strangers.

Near the end of the Halifax pier we had a twofer -- first, a just smashing bonk-on-stools punk streetband called Squid, an awardwinning and apparently slumming bunch of young folks stolen from pipe and drum corps to make a tight hot touristshow better than most; Willow danced with some other tinygirl on the cobblestones and probably brought another fifty bucks to the band with her spastic rhythm and untamed glee.

Second...well, what can you say about an ice cream place where your waffle cone is still warm and fresh from the iron, the strawberries are fresh, there's a full-sized plastic cow outside for the kid to sit on in glee, and the giftstand sells cow-modified shirts like these:



(Unfortunately, the Elmoo shirt I most loved -- brought to you, of course, by the letters COWS -- is neither avaiable on the Cows website, as promised by the apologetic store manager while we were there, nor available in adult sizes at all. Think I'll call the company and complain, as nicely as possible -- the least they could do was iron an Elmoo print on an adult-sized tee for me, eh?)

Our last realday lunchstop in Lunenburg turned into an afternoon, as the Tall Ships had followed us from their Natal-day visit to Halifax, and we found the town charming, even with crowds a wonderful gem, with gorgeous multicolored architecture seen from the back of a horse-driven carriage ride (Darcie's hidden pleasure when traveling, and who am I to begrudge what makes my darling grin?). Lunenburg has the most beautiful old public school building ever, too; you MUST check out the Lunenburg Academy website to truly appreciate its splendor.

If you're ever in Nova Scotia, have a good night out in Halifax, but spend your days in steep-hilled Lunenburg. I recommend the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic highly, too; plan on an hour and a half for the museum itself, from doryboat-building to rumsmuggling, and an extra half hour for the two ships tours included in your admission ticket.

And the rest of the trip? That night in a motel late and up early; the Scotia Prince again all day while Darcie slept groggily and unmoving in the daycabin; a day or two I've mentioned. Home. It's good to be here. Now let's get on with it, shall we?

Oh, and thanks OODLES to my parents, without which this wouldn't have been great, or even possible. Love you guys.

p.s. Pix possible anon. Camera troubles in our final days, unfortunately; surely, more later on THAT topic, eh?

p.p.s. Big fat darkchocolate bonus points for YOU if you read this far.

p.p.p.s I even wrote a poem again, late at night after a long long drought. Will post anon on this, too.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:52 PM | 1 comments

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):

Thursday:
  • 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.

Friday
  • 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."

Saturday
  • 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.

Sunday:
  • 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
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