Sunday, August 14, 2005

Gone Househuntin' 

We're off on a whirlwind tour -- twelve houses, four towns, three days -- in search of the perfect 3 br 2 bath far from the maddening crowd and not too close to a major road. No ranches. Home must have porch, be affordable on a teacher's salary. Oh, and we promised Willow there would be swings.

Darcie's been looking at cheesy efficiency apartments all day, so the stakes are high to find just the right four-walls-and-a-door ASAP. To crank up the pressure, while we drool over fireplaces and hardwood floors by day, we'll be spending our nights roughing it in the pop-up camper in some lakeside campground, kids and all.

Back Wednesday, a bit grubby, but hopefully with news. Wish us luck!

posted by boyhowdy | 8:27 PM | 2 comments

Saturday, August 13, 2005

In The Something, Oh My Darling 

When the lights are soft and low
And the quiet shadows, falling,
Softly come and softly go...*

Every once in a while a summer afternoon storm clears the sky just around sunset and a bright fire colorizes the whole hazy world. Grass is greener, skies are bluer; it is as if a film had been removed, leaving everything golden and new. The cows next door glow like a hundred and one dalmations in heat. In the grey, vague distance, sunset clouds slink pink around low mountains.

Man, I love when that happens.

There’s got to be a word for this phenomenon of golden twilight -- gloaming comes to mind, but I always thought the gloaming was a bit more purply, somehow Moorish. I’d look it up, but the euphoria of walking out into a Technicolor world has overwhelmed me.

*Turns out the color I'm describing is the same color as the background behind this source of the above lyrics to In the Gloaming. How odd.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:57 PM | 18 comments

Friday, August 12, 2005

Brave Little Wanderer 

A walk with Willow before bed tonight, just a quick trip down the dirt road and back on a whim. It was dusk, a light rain having cleared the humidity out of the air: we picked butter and sugar flowers, clovertops, queen anne's lace, avoided poison ivy (is that poison ivy, daddy?), and, at the corner, took a long walk through the green corn, kid on my shoulders, touching each cornsilk like it was a talisman. On the way back, she waved proudly at each passing car -- so they'll see us, Daddy!

I love my daughter more than anything, of course. More, though, I admire her. Bright, intuitive, socially adept, she's a brave little kid, one whose curiosity about where the wasps go when they disappear between the porchcracks easily overwhelms her obvious concern for their sting.

Which makes it all the more heartbreaking to hear her say that she doesn’t want me to ever go anywhere without her, ever ever ever.

Something she says a dozen times a day.

How many three year olds won’t let you run to the car for another set of groceries without full-blown leg-clinging, on the brink of an anxiety attack, and a loud insistence that she will go, absolutely has to go with you, until you have no choice but to bring her out, bare feet and all, to cut her toes on the gravel driveway? And the worst part it, I can’t say no, because I wouldn’t want me to go, either, if I were three and about to sleep in my sixth bed in as many weeks.

For all its freedom, there are times when this gypsy life feels less like an adventure and more like a terrifying ride on a runaway raft, the family clinging together in the spray. No address, no phone number, my dress shirts still in storage – I can live with this, in the name of necessity and true Zen-loving chutzpah. Though it gets scary and exhausting at times, it makes me stronger, and sometimes, I even thrive on it.

But Willow is no seasoned wanderer. She’s three. And though most of the time she's a cheerful tomboy trooper, in peripheral moments it becomes clear that Willow bears no small stress for our unsettled lives.

Most of the time, in the midst of all this, my daughter is a gem. She feeds off our optimism, and -- one hopes -- benefits from our carefully cultivated spirits of adventure; in turn, we prime the pump by asking her to consider what a good new house should have (swings, daddy!). She’s resilient, and will surely recover from this, our now-to-be-extended summer ungrounded; by the time she’s a teenager, I expect this will hardly rate mention among a thousand other transgressions, be they real or hyperbolicized.

But, though it’s hard for the three-year-old mind to understand, this rollercoaster has a long way to go before it comes to rest. Today we planned a Monday-Wednesday camping trip down to Wilbraham to look for houses early next week, hit a bank to confirm we were looking in the right price range, but we're told closing takes sixty to ninety days: it's become quite clear that we'll not make it into our new home, whichever one that is, until long after my job begins.

And we can’t commute from here to there. Yesterday Darcie sent out an email introduction to UU meeting houses and multifaith Synagogues in the area; if there's no response by next week, we'll have to pursue short-term rentals in earnest.

If Willow thinks it’s hard living in her grandparent’s house, just wait ‘til there’s four of us in a temporary bed, miles from the rest of the family, waiting out a houseclosing in a still-strange town.

Oh, how hard it is, sometimes, to realize that we’re not yet halfway home in even the best scenarios, and to not have the words to tell her.

How I wish, for her sake, that we were finally there. How I wish I just snap my fingers and make it all better. How I wish I could assure her, once and for all, that I’d always come home, and know that we both had the same picture of home in our minds when I said it.

Sleep tight, my brave little wanderer. Daddy’s here. Close your eyes and dream with me.

It won't be long now. I promise.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:31 PM | 2 comments

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Fun With Electricity 

So I’m out on the back porch reading old news -- my in-laws get the local paper secondhand from Great Grandma Edie just up the hill -- when the garden goes quiet. Too quiet.

Moments later the in-ground fountain starts back up. Inside, Darcie and her mother breathe a sigh of relief as the fans regain their whir -- when you don’t air-condition, the loss of fanage is a pretty hot deal.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the utter chaos and adventure of night-time power outages. (For the same reasons, I also like fire drills and formal events.) But daytime power loss is worse than useless. It is annoying – no landlines available, no appliances. More importantly, it can be dangerous without the fun of breaking your toe on the coffee table. Old people dying of heatstroke and defrosted fishcake are just the beginning.

Electricity is a funny thing, and not just because a short makes the cash register at 7-Eleven read THANK YOU FOR “HO”ING AT 7-GLGVGN. Case in point: When we trickle-charged the dead car battery overnight, the CD player finally spit out whatever disk it’s been gagging on since January. Unfortunately, instead of that long-missing Dolly Parton cover album I had hoped was stuck in there, it turns out to be some random top 40 compilation that could have stayed lost. And the CD player still doesn’t work

Back home, even the quickest outages cause upheaval in our AC/DC universe. For the rest of the day, clocks are off all over the house. I get duration -- boiling the egg noodles for nine minutes is no problem -- but I can’t figure out if I’m serving supper late or early. Dusk comes as a complete surprise.

Interesting, by the way, how you never notice how much time there is until it all goes kablooey. Including stove, coffeepot, and under-the-counter radio, my in-laws have three clocks in their two-wall walk-through kitchenette. I haven’t worn a watch in years, but I only ever need one to reset the wallpowered world outside.

And speaking of the world outside: according to the local paper, some 4000 people in a nearby town lost power the other day when a squirrel got caught between two power lines. Ah, local news. Don't tell the terrorists; they'll get ideas.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:04 PM | 1 comments

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


That would be the Will Smith version, though the living is easy.

One of the last lazy days of rural-life summer, too hot and muggy for real pursuits. Tag on the lawn and a short trip to the farmstand for coffee were the high points of the day. Willow looked so cute, barefoot and towheaded, shirtless in her denim overalls, a long limp bundle of carrot greens over her shoulder. I even gave her a ride home in the back of the trash wagon once the garbagemen had come and gone.

Oh, and I finished Harry Potter. Took me under four hours total, but I'd ask for 'em back if I thought I could get 'em.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:44 PM | 2 comments

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The Podded Classroom 

Just heard on local radio-fave The River that MAT alma mater Marlboro will begin podcasting all courses this fall. New offerings this year include a full-credit on best-practice online discourse management, a subject which I explored personally for my own undergraduate and thesis work and could teach with my hands behind my back. Still, wonder if they’ll let me audit something else?

posted by boyhowdy | 11:33 PM | 0 comments


Now that we're even somewhat settled, and before it fades completely, a quickflash compendium of moments and motifs from our homeless summer.

All-time concert count is up to 204 after a suprisingly low-key Falcon Ridge Folk Fest. Saw much less music than usual, in part because of kid demands, and in part because the bill was overflowing with humor acts. Some ex-student-now-friends camped alongside us, which broadened the living room out a bit, too. Nothing new thrilled me, but Crooked Still, Ani and Dar were good as always. Eddie from Ohio, listing themselves as "from Ohio" due to the family-emergency loss of drummer Eddie, turn out to be much more fun with a drummer.

Of course, we go to folkfests to work as much as to frolic, but check-in isn't a hard crew. A couple of hours each day I sat under a huge tent in the thick of entryflow, checked in, chatted up, and braceleted many coolfolks, from Chris Smither to John Pousette-Dart to Julie of Eddie from Ohio. Best fest workmoments this year revolved around famous people's families: Julie's kids were hilarious, Alistair Mook's parents seemed happily befuddled, and did you know Lowen (of "and Navarro" fame) and his new wife have five eleven-year-olds between them?

Was weird to move from field to million-dollar tourist towns and quirky, spacious rental housing. But other than a heck of a lot of late afternoons rockhunting at beaches, I've already blogged the day to day stuff about our two-week on Cape Cod.

Incidentally, best fine dining on the Cape: Dennisport poshteraunt Ocean House. The duck tacos in avacado dressing and hoisin BBQ sauce are to die for, as is the unsullied waterview at dusk.

  • Best low-tide walking beaches are on the bayside near Dennis; best ocean-side beaches are west of Orleans, though Marconi still rocks.

  • Provincetown, Oak Bluff, and other name-brand townships have been overrun by mostly successful brandgrabbers. Head to authentic towns like Welfleet and Sandwich. Unless you like crowds and cloneshops.

  • Do boil your own lobsters. Buy pie from roadside stands, and corn when it's in season.

  • Check for ticks and poison ivy.

Of course, if you've gotta be homeless for a summer, doin' it in style helps compensate for the lack of a center. Six weeks since we lost house-and-vocation and hit the road, and we're neither exhausted nor lost. It hasn't even rained on us since that quick hilarious hour holding up the camper awning while all around us fellow campers chased their rolling tents fulltilt downhill like so many tumbleweeds.

I could go on forever, but all else is truly mundania: the dead car battery, the health insurance limbo unique to the seasonal worker between gigs, tag on the lawn at dusk with the wife and three year old, small white dog nipping at our heels. Suffice it to say, life is good. Here's hoping this warm consistent wind that wafts us gently towards the morestable future is sustainable.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:49 PM | 3 comments

Missed Media Moments 

Life may have touched down temporarily in familiar territory, but our distance from the usual world of mass culture remains vast. The in-law's dial-up speed precludes all but the most cursory boingboing and CNN updates; similarly (and with similar cause), the absence of televisionary reception here keeps us in the fog regarding the popculturally immediate. So yes, the shuttle touched down; the brits have caught a terorist or three; Paris and Nicole continue to spar in the everpresent public. But who wants to hear commentary on old news? Alas, the diaristic bent of the blog may dominate unabated for a while.

Even the world of hardcopy leaves me in the dust. Our Newsweeks and New Yorkers bounce from state to state before we get 'em, catch up to us too late for newsworthiness. Several dozen Harry Potter sightings in the middle of mulefield folk festivals, but until this morning I hadn't touched a copy. Sure, there was plenty of anticipatory press, but did I miss the media buzz post-distribution, or is the penultimate Potter so dense and awful that no one is willing to take a swing? And could it be as bad as the long-forgotten fifth installment? In the interests of science, I'll read Darcie's birthday copy tonight when the family sleeps.

In the meantime, Darcie's cake needs frosting; the baby needs bouncing; the kid calls for company in the sandbox outside. How easily family fills the media vacuum, and how happily.

posted by boyhowdy | 3:22 PM | 1 comments

Monday, August 08, 2005

A Sort Of Homecoming 

The car's still packed from today's wild ride off-Cape via a quick and fruitless househunt in Wilbraham and Belchertown. The dial-up is slow enough to keep any near-term netfodder to a minimum. Life remains a George Carlin routine.

Yet after infinite days of dissipation, how easily we fall into the evening routine: finding our mail, offering each other drinks at the dinner table, resuming the clean routine of bedtime for the one-by-one children. It's not home, of course. But it has been, over time. And it's been there forever, steady and ever-more welcoming since the day I brought my wife home to her parents, a pair of drop-outs dropping the bomb in this still-unfinished living room.

And how comfortably our stuff condenses: two cars between us for the first time in a month; our very own pillows in beds already half-sunken to our shapes. More importantly, both cat and dog rejoin us in these beds -- even now our family slumbers, complete again in ways the truly nomadic existence hardly sustains.

This will forever be the summer we drifted, a family of gypsies living everywhere and nowhere. But moving from the tourist trap mentality of summertown beachfronts to the in-laws ever-open arms, and the space they have given us as our own in the once-taboo living quarters, feels like a step towards something familiar, even cozy. When we look back at the whirlwind – a summer of uncenteredness I hope against hope will remain noteworthy for its historical singularity – we will surely think of this place as its heart.

Perhaps the turning point has passed, the yo-yo fulfilled its apex. Perhaps, with work three weeks away and an average of eight weeks from discovery to houseclose, this is but the eye of the storm. Regardless: in the midst of the whirlwind, it's nice to have a place that can be almost-home.

Nice, too, to finally catch up on the snailmail. If you'll excuse me, I have to pick my side dishes for the new faculty orientation luncheon.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:21 PM | 2 comments

Friday, August 05, 2005

Cape Cod, Continued 

Still here, and still here, blogging in haste while Darcie checks online home listings from the realtor. The kids hang back at the 1700s house with Mom, brother Jesse, his girl Jasmine, fingerpainting (naked, in Willow's case) and plotting daylong beachdates, an antidote to yesterday's touristy shopping streets of Provincetown, Monday on Martha's Vineyard, Wednesday at the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History.

The balance of touristy "things to do" and moments of relaxation is a noble struggle made no easier for the broad age range and the influx of new bodies into the family unit. For every trip to Circus Smirkus, an afternoon with Mom and Willow stalking playmates at the freshwater beach and its brackish tidepools. For every gently-held moonsnail and hermit crab in the volunteer-guided touchtank at the museum, a late afternoon scrabble and grab at the real thing bayside as the tide comes in. For every hour with old college friend Dan -- now wheelchair bound, and ravaged by MS, but no less his wry ironic self after these bygone years -- in his Vineyard Haven home, another spin on the Flying Horses carousel in Oak Bluffs.

Date night with Darcie last night, a wonderful wander through the oceanside towns along the midcoast, culminating in duck tacos and lobster ravioli at candlelit nightfall, Dennisport waves crashing mere inches from our windowglass. Bought a beautiful hat for her birthday on our wanders yesterday; we'll have cake Sunday for sure.

And now the last busy days of our Cape Cod stay loom heavy before us. Cousin Jessica from Brooklyn expected to join us later today by bus; we'll grill fishmarket favorites for supper, avoid the weekend crowds. There's no "home" for us to go home to, but we'll stop off in Wilbraham for a bit more househunting on our way back to the Brattleboro in-laws on Monday.

After that? Not sure, really. Gotta find a permanent place to rest our heads soon: after all, new job begins in four weeks. Till then, we remain gypsy wanderers, hidden among the brightprint tourists. Wave if you pass, will you?

posted by boyhowdy | 11:30 AM | 7 comments

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Whispers From Wanderers 

Week two on the Cape. We've moved from Wellfleet to Brewster, from a high-ceilinged glasswall to a rental property right out of the 1700s complete with butter churn, darkwood doorways at steep slanted angles, low, post-and-beam construction. Farther from the water, but it's a quick drive, and the library here has no wait for terminals. Are you out there, can you hear this?

It's been over a month since I woke up in my own bed, almost two since we had a bedroom to call our own. Both freeing and wholly disorienting to realize, late last night in front of the first cable feed we've seen in half a year, that long moments go by where I can fully accept, even embrace the truth that we live on the wind.

We're with Mom this time around. Willow and Cassia grow fat on roadfood and the affection of a series of single-shot relatives who join our band like charged ions and disappate when we move on. Cass, at three months plus, won't crawl but walks right-left-right-left easily when held up and tilted forward; can't stomach the windy beaches, but cackles like a madwoman when the dog rolls over.

At one of a thousand ubiquitous highend surf-and-finery restaurants the other day Mom noticed a batch of her favorite flower just outside the window, asked Willow Do you know why Black-eyed Susans are Grandma Susan's favorite flower? Willow looked up from her bruschetta beatless, replied Because you're black?

The future holds a Monday daytrip to the Vineyard, brother Jesse and his girl Jasmine midweek. Somewhere in the backbrain random thoughts of housepurchasing-to-come flutter up at odd moments like the tiny butterflies that flutter through the dunes sometimes when the wind dies down. Mostly, though, we live for the hour -- as wanderers must, else they become mere travelers.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:22 PM | 10 comments

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Still Wandering... 

Due to high traffic at the Wellfleet public library net terminals, I have but ten minutes here to write, so no update, just a reminder that we're still living the transitory life of the nomadic family.

Falcon Ridge was great, so more on that later. Loved living in the field and knowing there was no other home to come home to. Willow spent the first day or so whining that she wanted to go home, but since we have no such place, we squashed that in a hurry -- and then the heat broke, so all was good again.

Now the Cape is having a heat wave, too. The bay is warm as the air, which feels gross for swimming, but the house we're in this week is amazing in viewpoint and isolation, with plenty of high-ceilinged white rooms and sand surrounding the bay below. Drive-in last night with Darcie: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Fantastic 4. The baby slept through it. Nice to have a date.

For a moment there, we actually lived in the car somewhere between Falcon Ridge and Cape Cod. Darcie says we're gypsies. People keep calling asking where to send mail and we don't know what to tell them. Blogging will remain sporadic until we settle, but never fear: we're not lost. As long as the family is together, home is where we are.

posted by boyhowdy | 4:02 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Gone Festin' 

I'm the guy in the hat.  See me waving?

We're here, and there ain't no Internet. Back a week from Monday!

posted by boyhowdy | 12:07 AM | 2 comments
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