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

Saturday, July 16, 2005

And They're Off... 

Just got back from the Green River Festival, and boy are my arms tired. Also my back, my shoulders, and especially my knees.

From last night's Donna the Buffalo blowout to the long stretch of cross-genre music today -- including Redbird, The Mammals, Redbird again, Buddy Miller, Steve Earle, and Canadian trad fiddle-and-banjopunks the Duhks -- this year's fest was better than ever. My shirt, soaked and dried and sweatsoaked once again, reeks like pit; my feet ache and itch from pounding, dancing, jumping. Dad was great company, too.

But today's sticky almost-solo sunfest is but our yearly prelude to the main event. After a frantic first-thing pack-and-play, we leave tomorrow morning for our sixth consecutive year volunteering, camping, and otherwise living at the best damn folk festival in the world. Eight days of community building in the most literal sense, from bare mulefield to 15k community to muddy mulefield once again; our home away from home; our Falcon Ridge. This time, with two wee ones.

Back in a week with stories to tell...

posted by boyhowdy | 10:53 PM | 6 comments

A Dubious Achievement, Redux 

A Poem about My Day Written Especially for Asinine Poetry, But Feel Free to Reject It If You Like, Because, Hey, It Was Nothing, Really is featured this week over at Asinine Poetry. Regular readers might remember Bologna Sonnet, my first asinine publication.

Think you've got what it takes to write asinine poetry? Give this season's contest a try. All you need is three asinine sonnets and a buck; winners get a cash prize and they let you write your own bio.

Hey, writers write, but no one said it all had to be good. Even Dickens got paid by the page.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:18 AM | 1 comments

Friday, July 15, 2005

Weekend Preview Edition 

Firstborn Willow turns three tomorrow (okay, technically today). Her birthday wishes are easily granted: a visit to the local petting farm, a raspberry cake. I'm giving her two new kites, small and large, and her very own folding festival chair. There'd be more, but nomads aren't supposed to accumulate too much.

Green River Festival starts tomorrow evening, will continue Saturday with Dad after lunch with the girls. New additions to the ongoing concert list should include Redbird, Buddy Miller, and Steve Earle; final set Sat. brings The Duhks and The Mammals together on stage as -- what else -- Platypus.

Then, Sunday, we leave for eight days in the crowded mule fields up Hillsdale way. Decent line-up this year, but we go for the friends and atmosphere more than anything. Alas, as long as mule-bound wi-fi remains a thing of the future, our annual Falcon Ridge Folk Festival pilgrimage will mean a week of blogsilence.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:24 AM | 0 comments

Writers Read 

Today's trifecta: authorial incidence.

Item: Great single-paragraph daily bookblurbs in big-splash blogging newcomer (and fellow newparent) Christina's Read Every Day blogcategory. Finally, someone else who reads, as I do, seven times more voraciously than those silly 52 books in 52 weeks adherents.

Item: Donations must still be rolling in over at The Spriggan Experiment, the first book ever to be paid for -- chapter by chapter -- by the audience in advance. Great fun to come back every few weeks and find a few more bits of Wyatt Evans's fun-if-frothy series.

Item: Harry Potter, of course, unless you've been living under a rock. In honor of the "someone dies" routine, britpaper The Guardian challenges readership to write the death of Dumbledore in the style of some writer other than J. K. Rowling in 300 words or less. Blogosphere cut-and-pastes vary according to taste. Personally, I'm a William Carlos Williams fan:
This Is Just To Say

I have killed
the wizard
who was in
your novels

and whose death
you were probably
for book seven

Forgive me
he had it coming
so beardy
and so old
Related Item: Making Light, poets use spam as fodder in their valiant attempts not to win recognition from faux-ganization International Library of Poetry.

Bonus: Writers write, too, and it's nice to be recognized; thanks to fellow wordsmiths Christina and Anne for their generous comments on the literary quality of the preceeding entry. Most bloggers go for content, but after years of teaching comparative media literacies, I guess I see context, text and subtext as equally important in writing clearly and with cohesion.

Another way of saying it took two hours to make that one come out even close to right, and that some subjects demand, nay, deserve being written well. After all, I've been thinking about this for a long, long time.

Bonus, too: Writers also fact-check, lest they wander into Newsweek territory. From this week's Corrections:
Our June 27 "Periscope" item "Third Rock From Gliese" reported that the distance between the dwarf star Gliese 876 and one of its orbiting planets is 8,640,797,039,500,000 miles. It is actually about 2 million miles away.
First their source backs out of his report of Koran-torture, now this. It's enough to turn a body to Time.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:40 AM | 1 comments

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Video From Before The Fall 

Mommy and the baby are napping, the in-laws are out at Home Depot, and Willow and I are all tuckered out from an afternoon of kite flying. We can't find Willow's kidvids, but underneath my wife's high school play recordings I am drawn to a single, older tape labeled "Joshua and Darcie's Wedding." This will be fun, I think: the two of us sharing a secret peek into the history that brought her here.

Bad call. Once we resolve -- however temporarily -- the idea that there was a universe before her birth, one in which Mommy and Daddy met each other, and in which a bunch of people who now live only in my stories were real enough to be in our home movies, Willow the empath begins to get distraught, distracted by her growing sense of mortality. Let's go to the videotape:

You weren't there, honey. Yes, that's Grandpa Jerry; he died. We saw Dan at the festival last year, remember? You don't remember Grandma Florence? That's our friend PJ; you'd like him, I bet. I know you wanted to meet Grandma Martha, honey. I wanted you to meet her, too, but she died the week before you were born.

How confusing for the three-year-old mind to see Martha, still vibrant in red, leading a gaunt but stable Jerry around an otherwise unpopulated dance floor. How hard for us both to watch Grandpa Hy, beaming as he watches the photographer, his arm protectively around Florence; Uncle Bob eating quietly with a pre-Alzheimers Aunt Ruth; Mom and Dad, young, vibrant, grinning, proud together, chatting back to back with her sister and his brother-in-law, who we haven't seen in years.

So many of the people she points to are no longer with us, by fate or by choice. Some are sick. Many are dead. Others are alienated. No one is as whole as they look from the balcony, the wide shot shaky in the hands of a boy now college-bound.

No wonder she wants to know where she is during the video, I think. The only people she recognizes are the people who she belongs with now: our parents and remaining grandparents, our siblings, our selves. Those ghosts without wrinkles, sans gray; those thin, beautiful, unravaged people in their prime.

It is peripherally telling, at least, that Willow recognizes no others. Our small crowd contains family and friends, but our intimate friendships, too, have fared worse, subjectively speaking -- we see a few of those present once a year, most never.

Some have moved on, leaving no forwarding address; they live underground lives where even google can't find them. Last we heard of our Ketubah witnesses, one was still struggling to make a living as a musician, and the other was still strugging to be taken seriously as a musician.

Later, while the kids and in-laws asleep, Darcie and I watch the rest of the raw footage. Not sure what she was thinking, but all I saw was my family tree, glowing with the wholeness that only a wedding can bring, before the dry rot of age and emnity took root.

We look so young, all of us; So alive, so loved, and loving, nine years ago, in our rented hall and homemade clothes. Before my grandparents generation started dying, and tension and adulthood divided my family a hundred ways. Before we had our own children, rebuilding within our walls the eternal empires now crumbled outside them. Back when we could laugh at our younger selves, instead of crying for them.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:26 AM | 4 comments

Wednesday, July 13, 2005


Spent the morning excavating, tidying, and otherwise recreating the foundation of my virtual life, beginning with a dial-up hour stripping the gmailbox. Profuse apologies, again, to Barbara for not realizing she was sending me mail all this time; I owe you a dinner next time we're in Buffalo.

Got a flickr account for future use; just lost access to the old school serverspace, so many archivepix may be dead. No flickrshots yet, but Calipix, babypix, and upcoming festpix will end up there eventually, and blogentry picposting to resume soon. Neatest flickr feature: rollovers for mapped parts of pix. Still, if anyone knows how to use gmail as a gigserver cheatspace, please pass instructional link along -- can't hurt to have a secondspace.

Speaking of rollovers, tinyblog updates continue semi-regularly. See navbar for more; hover for tinyblogentries, or skip the RSS and head to the original. Primary tinysource continues to be metablog boingboing, but only because weeklyreads The Onion and McSweeneys don't generally lend themselves to what has become an ongoing compendium of primarily pseudoprofessional resources.

Rejoined Marlboro College alumni online community today. Updated orkut stats, too, after a year of radio silence, though the once vibrant, still-beta community seems pretty deserted. Still, every connection counts: meatspace community will be weaker now that we're out of the residential prep school realm.

Also starting to browse conferences for next year, since the new job seems to be supportive of the ongoing vocational keep-it-up. Suggestions welcome, especially in the areas of Info Commons, info literacy, one-computer classrooms, and relevance to public and/or middle school environments.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:29 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, July 12, 2005


Today, for the sixth time in my life, I sent in a little card that disqualifies me for jury duty. As in every case past, the county found me too late, and we've already moved on. 32 years old and I've never even been eligible when asked; I feel like some sort of civic virgin.

I wish it were otherwise. Jury duty has always seemed like my kind of thing. Sit quietly and listen to arguments, try to separate out fact from innuendo, spelunk oppositional words for evidence, truth, assumption. Make your case to eleven of your peers, and convince them of what you've seen if you can. Dispense justice, at best.

More, like many bloggers I suppose, I believe in my civic duty. I long to serve, and regret the missed opportunity for service.

Most folks I talk to hate jury duty, because it isn't really jury duty. Three times out of ten, it seems, a call for jury service is ultimately a call for sitting in a room all morning only to be denied a chance to serve. The rest of the time, you make plans for job coverage and child care only to call the night before and discover that you needn't even show up that day.

I reject this dismissal. If even potential availability supports the possibility of giving all defendents the best shot at a decent jury of her peers, then I'll make myself available. Though I'd much prefer to be in the courtroom for the duration, I have no qualms about being the one rejected that someone more appropriate for that particular trial may sit. The point of service begins with pool membership.

Sure, there's fun stories about folks in low-turnout areas being recruited off the street -- last year, for example, I heard from some young folks who had been corralled into service on the spot from their parking lot hangout in downtown Brattleboro. But generally, people called are not people sequestered. And generally, people loitering are not called.

And I really, really want my shot as sitting in chairs, one of twelve along the line of fate. Look forward, in fact, to the day we're settled in enough to make service a reality.

Alas, until then, the universe has chosen otherwise. For better or worse -- and sometimes both at once -- the wandering life turns out to be pretty far under the civic radar. Sorry, Franklin County. Once again, you missed your chance at seating someone who actually wanted to be there.

posted by boyhowdy | 3:40 PM | 2 comments

Slow Life, Zen Life 

I've read two back issues of Newsweek, caught up on boingboing for the day. Tried to make Cassia laugh with some success; discovered that infants aren't really ticklish yet. Willow and I tried kiteflying for a few minutes earlier, but the breeze died out in the heat pretty quick, so we headed back inside, where the fans and shade keep it cool.

Now it's three fifteen, and they're all at the supermarket. Before supper we might take a quick dip in the neighbor's pool, while we admire the paint in three shades of rose they've been slowly applying to their dirtcorner home. Then again, we might not.

Pace of life here at the in-law's has always been a slow one. That's not a bad thing, really, though it took years for this suburban, gotta-have-a-plan boy to adjust to: I have fond memories of a week spent here, long before I married their daughter, where the restlessness set in by ten each morning and I took long uphill rockhound walks just to have something more to do than read on the couch.

Fitting, somehow, that they have dial-up only. Even though dad-in-law Neil is a techmaster by trade. Something about the cable company not yet ready to string cable up the dirtroad, though we've seen their trucks creep slowly towards us all summer, unravelling hope by the spool.

Which is by way of saying that after a whirlwind weekend with Mom in Boston -- fine dining, a great show (Frogz, a not-quite-mime kid-oriented costumery and movement showpiece by the Portland-based Imago Theater Company), and plenty of family hotel adventures -- there's not much to blog anymore. Or I'm less inclined to keep track of the moments. Maybe both.

Which is why, though yesterday Darcie and I left the elder child home with grandma (what did you do all day, kid? Oh, Daddy, we made cookies!) and headed two hours down 91 for a full day househunting and, in my case, meeting with the Superintendent to discuss the new, exciting and proactive systemic technology integration infrastructure under which I will both be well empowered and solidly supported, today the plan is to have no plan.

I'm not complaining. Every moment of patience teaches yet again of the joys of letting go, of riding the universe in these gentleswell moments. Even the most nomadic wanderer needs a good couple of days of quiet contemplation.

posted by boyhowdy | 3:34 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Blogging In 

Alex, who is also on the market, points to Bloggers Need Not Apply, an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education that suggests blogging is inherently problematic to prospective employers in academic, both in tone (potentially) and in fact (always).

I'm not terribly worried about my first meeting with my new Superintendent Monday morning. Anonymity helps, of course. But even if I had not already gone the way of the pseudonymous, like Alex, I tend to believe that I wouldn't want to work for folks who couldn't accept that the great benefits blogging brings me professionally outweigh the potential drawbacks. As the article notes, many of us have learned to blog appropriately, and our records -- and archives -- show that.

Mostly, though, I feel safe because, as a high school instructional technologist, I am usually the only one in the room who can perform and/or understand such a backstory search. As such, I enjoy a kind of protection that Higher Ed folks generally do not: if they could find me here, they wouldn't have needed me there. Thus, though I'm okay if they find me, I assume otherwise: when your job is to bring blogging to the program, potential for discovery and trackability are low.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:57 AM | 0 comments

Saturday, July 09, 2005

A Week Of Birthdays 

Living the nomadic life amidst busy people makes for a complicated series of temporary tentstops. Instead of large-scale gatherings of the clans -- our usual mode of familial interaction -- we spend the summer wandering from oasis to oasis, grateful for the support of family and fellow festivalgoers.

Take a gander at the next few weeks: from here, we hit the in-laws for a M-F business week, slip down to a longer week of early volunteering gigs and mule-field camping at second home Falcon Ridge, settle into one house and then another down along the cape with my mother. Three more weeks somewhere currently TBA, and I start work on the 29th of August.

In the midst of all this unowned existence comes my wife's birthday (8/9), our anniversary (8/18)... and, this Friday, firstchild Willow's third birthday.

The in-laws have been great about inviting us into their home, but hosting a major party there is bit more than any of us signed on for. Too, that's the weekend of the Green River Festival, the usual kickoff for our weekly festweek, and this year we gave Dad a ticket for his birthday. And most of Willow's friends live 45 miles away. And most are on vacation elsewhere.

So there was cake and a candle at our dim sum lunch with Mom, and again at the kid-friendly nouveau supperspace. Presents earlier at the hotel: books, tapes, and a promise of more to follow; a midafternoon at the museum of her choice. Plans are for some present-giving and cakestuff up in Brattleboro on the 14th itself. Surely some of bro-in-law Josh's birthday celebration on Saturday will be for her as well.

So, another silver lining. So much mine, from her tantrums and power games and glee in the playspaces of the Children's Museum to her social awareness and fashion sense; so sweet and resilient in the midst of chaos; so deserving, and I managed to give her a week of Birthdays without even trying.

I'd rather have a home somewhere of our own, I suppose, but if it has to be this way, I'm not complaining, and neither is Willow. No shortage of wonder in this wander.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:22 PM | 36 comments

Friday, July 08, 2005

Takin' The Long Way Home 

First, the 1:30 plane out of San Francisco had a bum engine. Five hours, one beer, one cup of truly awful clam chowder, two cigarettes, and two more trips through security later, we're sitting in the same damn gate area with the same damn people when the flight attendant announces that the trouble with the first class cabin may be a security issue.

By the time we arrived at Logan, we had spent 14 hours at the mercy of American Airlines. Then the baggage compartment wouldn't open. (Ever see an entire 737-load of people shake their fists at a loudspeaker?)

So I got to the hotel at six in the morning, was up at nine handing out presents (Did you bring me chocolate kisses like I asked for, daddy?) and cooing with the baby now surprisingly large and lucid after a seventh of her life on the road. Had lunch with an even more groggy Dad in the hotel; househunted online with Darcie all afternoon; Whole Foods countertop supper and services at the synagogue with Mom and the kids until their bedtime had come and gone.

Now it's just after eleven, the girls have been sleeping for hours, and my body still thinks it's supper time. Stupid jet lag.

Yeah, I'm still hoteling it after eleven days. Sharing riverview digs with two small children isn't always easy, but these particular kids rock. Their mom does, too. And, of course, we got no home to go home to. Guess I'll take it.

Ah, who am I kidding? It was worth every minute of it. Home is where the heart is, after all. Had a great time in California with dad and wouldn't have done it any other way. And hey, I got a job to come home to. Dayenu, dayenu. It would have been enough, o Lord.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:57 PM | 1 comments

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The Most Important Blog Entry I've Ever Written
or, And Now, The Moment You've All Been Waiting For... 

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is with the greatest pleasure and relief that I bring you the following breaking news:

I have accepted a position as Instructional Technology Coordinator at the Wilbraham Middle School.

Yes, that's right, everybloggy. After six months of uncertainty and stress, on the very edge of homelessness and at the eleventh hour of sanity, I have a job.

A great job.

A job that covers all the myriad bases and challenges of my vocation.

A job with wonderful, dedicated coworkers and plenty of room to build a program organic to its environment.

And it's in a region we think of as home, just a half hour from Northampton and within an easy commute from some wonderful rural housing possibilities.

The school-year position will involve coordinating the integration of technology, media and computer literacies into all aspects of teaching and learning at a 7-8 public school with just over 400 students.

From classroom teaching and teacher partnerships to building an information commons and schoolwide service model, this one has it all.

And I couldn't have done it without the support of each and every one of you. Thanks for being there, folks.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to jump up and down in the lobby of the hotel grinning like an idiot.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:15 PM | 17 comments

Impressions Of San Francisco 

California Road Trip with Dad: Day 10

For starters, there's a Gap on the corner of Haight and Ashbery. Sure, the surrounding blocks boast psychadelic storefronts and vintage clothing stores, but the block is otherwise full of faux hippie cache no true hippie could ever afford. And no, the Ben and Jerry's on the opposite corner doesn't make up for it. Overcommodified hippiedom isn't real hippiedom.

The Exploratorium may be an award-winning, world-class museum of science and technology, but on free Wednesdays in July it's packed so full of hyperactive schoolkids it's hard to get at the otherwise stellar exhibit tidbitry. Bonus, though: adjacent to the museum is what appears to be the world's largest pushbutton. In bright orange. On roman pillars, overlooking a pond with painted turtles and huge catfish that let you get up close to take pictures. You can see it from all over the city; Dad says they build it for some world's fair and never took it down.

Lunch and biscotti in North Beach, which is neither North nor a beach. San Francisco's answer to Little Italy seems on the verge of being swallowed whole by Chinatown. Hard to picture the Chinese moving into those great old churchsteeples.

Found a great storefront among the clonestores in Chinatown today which featured more Hello Kitty merch than even the most avid collector could fit in their studio apartment. Total bonus here, too: not one but two unlicensed almost-ran characters, a "Mr. Bear" Winnie the Pooh riding a barrel labeled chingdong and an orange plastic robot that turns into a Rhinocerous and back again labeled -- I kid you not -- Trans Forner. That'll teach me not to bring my camera everywhere, eh?

Dinner at Helmand, yet another Zagat-rated eatery. The restaurant, "an oasis of good taste on Broadway's garish topless strip," features the best Afghani food in a thousand miles. The lamb and yogurt was amazing; the pumpkin divine; the tableside Turkish coffee prep a stellar end to a gourmet's delight of a meal. Can't speak for the neon pornshacks nearby, but they, too, seemed pretty empty for a Wednesday night.

Home tomorrow, a full day of nothing but travel. We start at 10:30 with a rental car return, fly out at 1:30, and, if we're lucky, I'll be in the Newton Mariott with my sleeping wife and kids by midnight. Miss you, girls. Daddy's coming home soon, I promise.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:10 PM | 1 comments

Family Interlude 

My Father's Cousin Kenneth -- whose home we visited way back at the start of this Califonia venture -- is taking his family to Hawaii. Dad's been to Hawaii. The following email exchange ensues:
Kenneth: Do you guys remembers which helicopter company you toured with in Kauai?

Dad: Sorry - just another one of those memories now completely lost. Have a wonderful time.

Kenneth: When we crash, I'll think of u.

They also had an odd back-and-forth a few weeks ago in which Kenneth remarked that having my father come by was like a visit from his favorite rock star. Ah, says Dad, which rock star? Meat Loaf, says Kenneth -- and meets us at the door wearing a Meat Loaf tour shirt when we arrive.

In the car afterwards, we couldn't decide which was more disturbing: that Kenneth might actually own a Meat Loaf shirt, or the prospect that Kenneth had acquired a Meat Loaf shirt just for the joke.

This is our family, says Dad. My family rocks.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:36 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

San Francisco Treats 

California Road Trip with Dad: Day 9

Woke up this morning in the Hotel Rex, a funky Union Square spot "inspired by the San Francisco art and literary salons of the 1920s and 30s" where the elevator is papered with old social registers, the carpeting is exhilarating, and a Jack London quote proclaiming a preference for ashes over dust greets us each day at the end of our hall. Made a very important phone call (more on this once the rest of the details get ironed out), planned the day with Dad over french toast with figs and a hot latte in the hotel lobby restaurant, and hit the town.

Downhill. Then uphill at an unnatural, almost unwalkable angle. Then downhill again to Chinatown for pork buns (yum!) and window shopping. Then uphill on a steep incline to wait for the cable car, on which I subsequently hung like a monkey from the sides, and got so engrossed in conversation with tourists from the likes of Kentucky and Ireland that I almost lost my head to the side of a double-parked van. I'm loving San Francisco, but I'll never underestimate the gentle slopes of our native New England again. How do people do this without killing their calves all day?

Anyhoo. Made it to the tourist traps of Fisherman's Wharf almost two hours early, so after a generally unimpressive shrimp salad at an outdoor fishhouse we hit the much-ballyhooed Musee Mechanique, a wonderful, raucous collection of boardwalk games, animatrons, and pennyplay arcade attractions. Put a quarter (or two) into a slot and marionettes jaw up and down to the tinny sounds of "Sweet Adeline," photos of bathing black-and-white beauties appear for a few seconds, and, in one memorable case, an entire town of pickaninnies and farm animals chew, suckle, hop, dance, play banjo and otherwise wiggle back and forth for a good thirty seconds. Neat stuff, as you can sort-of see on the website; pity there were no postcards available.

Just in time from there to be first on, first off the boat for Alcatraz. If you ever make it to the Rock, see the movie play on four consecutive and simultaneous screens in an odd moment of endless recursion Zen ("75 thousand years ago a glacier formed an island in San Francisco bay..."), take the award-winning audio tour of the tiny prison cellblocks, and don't forget to spend a moment or two in solitary -- but watch out for the seagulls when you wait for the return trip. Some too-loud touring soccer player from Leeds got "tagged" in the back of his tourjacket just a foot or two away from me, thus entertaining his also-raucous friends and (more secretly) the rest of us in line, which just goes to show you how thin the line is between hilarious and "man, now my jacket is ruined and I'm going to smell like rotting fish all day."

Now Dad's relaxing upstairs while I blog in the hotel business center, where ancient and unusable Smith and Corona typewriters and old black-and-white photos of Hammett and London nestle among the flatscreens and laserprinters. Reservations for a late dinner tonight at a Catalonian food restaurant -- Dad's eyes lit up when the concierge mentioned it. Two more nights in the Rex to go; plan for tomorrow includes hippie-kitsch at the Haightwith a sixty percent chance of the Exploratorium.

Plan for the following day is pretty much just get the heck out of here and back to the East Coast, where I'll be arriving past midnight to a sleeping family ensconced in a Boston hotel for the weekend. Can't wait to see my family once again. This morning on the phone Willow seemed much less stressed about my absence, which is, like everything else, both wonderful and really, really hard.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:42 PM | 0 comments

Monday, July 04, 2005

Missing You (And The Festivities, Too) 

California Road Trip With Dad: Day 8

And on the eighth day there was email again, and it was so good to be heading towards cyberspace after three days on the unpopulated coastline we skipped the Mendocino Fourth of July parade and the San Francisco fireworks. Okay, really we just wanted to get an early start on the 180 mile drive. And we didn't want to walk up the hill with the crowds and stand for far too long in the chilly air just to see the sky explode, because who needs more exploding when the waves have been exploding around us for so many days now?

Nice supper at Zingari, though; Wild Boar osso bucco really hit the spot. And we did stop at Muir Woods National Park on the way into SanFran to hug redwoods, as promised. Damn, those things are huge: wide and deep and endlessly tall. And they really are red, a deep cedar inside and out. Meta alert, if you ever go: in the state park gift shop they sell tiny trees carved out of local fallen giants. Coolfactor: if you're limber enough, you can crawl inside a hollowed out trunk and get a hug from a redwood, too.

Called home from the parking lot and checked in with the wife and kid. Willow had little to say save are you still on your trip? Talking with me on the phone reminds her that I'm gone, so I keep it short. Darcie says she's been talking about being sad that I'm gone, now wants only me at her birthday party the weekend after we return. Other than a few ultimately unproductive overnights for interviews in the Spring, I've not been away from her overnight since she was a year old. It's not the same.

Back home at the hotel the mailbox was full of spousal send-alongs from the other coast: Willowisms (I don't want that [picture], I want my real Daddy!), photos (Darcie and the baby resting; Willow making jam with Grandma; Cassia grinning for the camera), and a lovely note from the ever-supportive and wonderful Darcie too personal to recap here in the bloggiverse, complete with an anecdote about some folks (hi, folks!) Darcie met at church who seem to have been dedicated listeners all those radioland years now sadly behind me. They have little tykes, too; Darcie suggested dinner with them when I return and I'm all for it.

Dad and I spend much of our time talking about the family, now. I want to and I don't, if you know what I mean, but it turns out to be one of the many, many wonderful things we have in common, and I guess if you have to miss the ones you love, it's best to do so with someone you love.

But late at night when the city sleeps I take out the picture of my three girls and send kisses into the air, just like I promised I would. In the morning, they come down gentle in Vermont, settle on their soft cheeks like breezes. I just know it.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:59 PM | 1 comments

Backblogs From The Road 

California Road Trip with Dad: Days 6 and 7

No net access for the past few days, but I blogged on the laptop and have pasted in below. New content about today/tomorrow sometime in the next few hours once we've settled in our SanFran digs. Wish you were here...

Saturday, 7/2: Inverness

Morning in Inverness: fresh self-ground coffee on the hunting lodge deck as the fog burns off towards the coast. The blackberries off the railing are ripe and just out of reach; blue-crested birds call shimmery through the trees. The cove shines bright with sun between the branches.

Yesterday was a whirlwind of wildlife and coastal vistas. We saw seals basking on surf rocks in Monterrey, passed within a foot or two of a single unhorned deer just inside Point Reyes National Seashore. The otters at the aquarium in the morning rolled and splashed with blue bathtoys set in ice; jellyfish spun cilliated in their tanks like tiny seafaring robotics.

Sure, we stopped for gas a couple of times, drove through San Francisco access roads to see the line of carefully escorted cars lined up to head down precarious Lombard on this busy Fourth of July weekend Saturday, fought mist and traffic over the Golden Gate. A few precarious miles past the bridge we hit Stinson Beach, a long once-deserted stretch of sand Dad used to wander solo on his business trips to San Francisco, to find it teeming with determined picnic families and surfers packing up after a day of waves despite the heavy fog-chilled air.

But these were the passthroughs. Just one day past the midpoint of our roadtrip, and we seem to have achieved a harmony with the world we travel. In return, the world rewards us with wonder.

Last night we drove the windy, steep single lanes of Inverness North to sit three hours plus in the main dining room of the Minka, infamous for its prix fixe menu; ate local leek and sorrel soup, deer chop, rabbit sausage in a carrot reduction, crab legs, lemon sorbet, fresh figs and cheeses all made, picked, or caught within fifteen miles of here. Even the dessert chocolates and mint ice cream were homemade.

Though there is no network access here in the wooded hills above Inverness, I am reminded that my first big blog entry covered a similarly local-made meal, palate sorbet and all. Before the fall, the second child, the trip to the other side of the country like the other side of the world. Back then, the charm was in the details: waitresses, menu, tablemates, experience. Now, a hundred hundred miles away, a thousand thousand years from that self, I find that some suppers defy description, some moments defy analysis.

Now a hummingbird sips from some California tree nectar nearby in the otherwise unpopulated air. From our perch called The Perch we can see no houses, no people, no roads. We’ll pack, hit the winding coast for Mendocino by nightfall, with three nights in San Francisco to follow: move on, not now, but soon enough. But if I have learned anything here, been reminded or grown into myself in three years and thirty, it is this:

Wander in style, and the universe takes care of you. As it should, if you let it.

Sunday, 7/3: Mendocino

Another evening, another stunning vista. Tonight we’re in Mendocino, watching the sun set over a beautiful inlet from faded wooden chairs on our respective ranch-fenced porches. Raggedwing hawks fly by at eye level; tall waves crash endlessly into and around rocky crags that rise from the surf like icebergs. Far below, the day’s last denizens squint into the sun’s last rays on sparsely populated beaches, pack up their day’s encampments.

No one lives on these rocky coasts and steep cliffsides, really. We’ve passed more cows than people over our four hundred mile jaunt up the switchbacks. In New England these coasts would be dense with tiny houses jostling for the smallest view. Here, though, the hills grow green and brown and sparse like the potato farms of Ireland.

Some of this is state park land, to be sure. But the caustic backbend roads belie another truth: the coastline between LA and San Francisco must be seen as inaccessible, somehow. Even the visitors don’t bother to sit on the rocks – most take photos from the road, where a hundred miles of dirt pullovers beckon amateur photographers. Fourth of July weekend, and though the parking lots are full, they only hold a couple dozen vacationers at most.

Which only proves to me, again, the validity of my own sense of where home is. I’m a smalltown guy, now, thanks to years of travel and adaptation with a smalltown Vermont girl. The joys of tinylife appeal to me – small stores, friendly people, slowpaced life.

So I revel in lastgasp hippie jewelry and hempstuff as we drive through Point Reyes Station. I celebrate coming out of the redwood forests and streamside meanders to the half-deserted town of Boonville to find the perfect espresso milkshake in what must surely be the world’s only dobro-and-banjo-themed ice cream shop. I look for the work of local artists, close the small boutiques of seaside Mendocino. And standing, alone and in the fog, on the beach in the morning, watching the waves tower over me and crash at my feet, I smile, and thank the God I believe in on those better days for those better days, and for these better places.

But moments aren’t home: the seaside world here is too expensive, too remote, too sporadic to feel like more than a place to visit. Thanks – a thousand thanks – to Dad for planning out a California road trip that skips most of the dense suburban spaces inland, and appeals to my better half; thanks a thousand times more, Dad, for the ongoing company, the deep conversation, the time for growing together. Thanks to Darcie, though, for giving me a sense of place far away from here, on the other side of the country.

Dear Darcie, there’s cows here; the hawks circle overhead; grass turns brown in the hot sun. The world is real here in ways we never expected; there is authenticity where I wander. But it’s not the same. No matter where I am, I’ll always love the tinytowns of New England most of all. I miss you, honey. Can’t wait to be home.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:48 PM | 0 comments

Friday, July 01, 2005

Up The Canyons 

California Road Trip with Dad: Day 5

Hearst Castle this morning, the biggest darn house in the most inaccessible place ever. If you haven't been, you should, if only to come to the startling nobrow realization that Hearst's collecting of ancient artifacts and famous visitors is fundamentally no different from the autograph-seeking tendencies of the screeming adolescents seen days ago along the BET red carpet barriers. Through this marble threshold passed Michelangelo and Popes, Gable and Flynn, indeed. Class is so arbitrary.

Followed our tour with a long gorgeous drive up the precarious and switchback-laden Pacific coastline. Stopped a couple of times to take pictures, most notably at a beautiful state park walkway overlooking a 28-foot waterfall onto a pristine beach somewhere before Carmel, but the whole thing started seeming dreamy and undescribable after a while. Mostly we just gawked and drove and listened to some old NPR interviews (Terri Gross vs. a host of comedians) on CD. Man, this Cali coast is something else. Can't figure out why it's so sparsely populated.

Great late lunch at Nepenthe, a hilltop spot miles from anything else famous for the hippie lifestyle and an unfortunately clouded view; forgot to get gas again and had to pay over three bucks a gallon in the middle of Big Sur nowhere, but serendipity granted us a decent funky gift shop alongside, so all was worth it after all.

Checked in by six at another one-night-stand in Monterey, a small shopspot full of marinas and bars. Passed high waves on great beaches, which I hope to actually set foot on tomorrow before we head back up the coast, on our way to a decent gourmet supper; discovered heaven in Key Lime Mojitos with fresh mint and lime juice. Cheesy pop-blues and drinks at a decent bar in honor of the recent passage of Luther Vandross; off to blog and bed in the raw wood four-posters of the Hotel Pacific.

Early morning phone call back home today, but Darcie wasn't home, and talk with almost-three Willow, while satisfying in its own right, only led her to an increasingly distressing realization that Daddy was far away and not coming home for a while. It's nice to be missed, I suppose, but hard to have to cut things short to make things easier for her. Miss you too, kid. I'll try again tomorrow before we hit the infamous Monterey Aquarium down along the tourist traps of Cannery Row.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:59 PM | 30 comments
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