Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Cool/Not Cool 


The Onion: Arbiter of cool?

Thanks to a healthy addiction to HypeMachine and a longheld fascination with making the world my soundtrack regardless of genre, I own most of the albums mentioned in this week's AV Club. Arctic Monkeys? Flaming Lips? Morrisey? Yeah Yeah Yeahs? Hey, I'm so cool, I play outtakes of that **** for my middle school students. In class. (And Morrisey's first album was better.)

Especially disappointing, then, to have never heard of the seven bands the AV Club labels as up and coming in their accompanying grammatically garbled feature The New What's Next In Music: 2006.

Okay, maybe I don't get out much anymore -- with two kids and a dayjob, until the folk festival circuit kicks in, I'm not the SXSW type. The part of me that longs for Bonaroo is easy overwhelmed by the part of me that hates seeing music from more than 20 rows back - and when you've seen Phish from the sixth row, with your elbows up against Jon Fishman's mother, anything else is a letdown. I'd rather be at this year's Jazz and Heritage festival, anyway. Damn you, Dad.

But you want up and coming? I knew The Weepies when they were just Deb Talan. And I saw Brandi Carlile open for Ray LaMontagne way back before anyone even posted her music. So maybe there's hope.

Yeah, the AV Club's the bomb and all, but I got some cred, yo. In 1991 my turntable swam with De La Soul, Fugazi, the Lemonheads. I got mistaken for a teacher by Evan Dando and Juliana Hatfield once. Heck, I saw Green Day perform free at the Hatch Shell when we were all, like, fifteen. Beat that, beyotch. Those "up and coming" bands never go far, anyway.

PS: In case it wasn't glaringly obvious, I'm still ubersick, mostly brainfogged and hallucinating, with that burning forehead that accompanies the early stages of "get yo butt back in bed before you fall over". Here's hoping my natural "voice" will return with my health, cuz this pseudo-ironic streetchat isn't winning me any new fans, fo' shizzle.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:38 PM | 3 comments

Monday, April 03, 2006

Notes For An Unblogged Blog 

Something about how I always feel guilty when I stay home sick, because how sick is too sick for work? I mean, I could go, I guess -- I just wouldn't make any sense.

Something about how, by staying home sick today, I'm missing a perfect bluemoon opportunity for a workplace grand slam: namely, a precious 15 minute faculty meeting slot to a) introduce/promote the nifty new Pinpoint Library resources search aggregator seen here, b) deliver the message about public librarian classroom visits, c) offer real relevance by placing it in the contextually powerful happy coincidence of National Library Week -- and, in doing so, d) redefine library services in the context of teaching.

Something about how I'm sick, with specific attention to stomach (crampy), back (fluswollen), head (dizzy & vague).

Something about how I hope this blog entry makes sense, because I'm never sure that I'm making any sense when I'm sick. Or did I say that already? Note to self: sick sucks.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:47 PM | 2 comments


Yardage 

Outside the window tufts and scraped earth, and undefined boundaries -- raw, with promise but so much work ahead to make it ours.

Inside, I am home sick. And, windowstaring, sick at the prospect of merely coaxing this physical space into something natural and safe for my children.

Last fall the task seemed obvious, immediate: clear the leaves off the newly filled leachfield before the snows came, in the hopes that a cleared yard would better weather the winter. Foresight would have kept me from merely pushing the leaves to the periphery.

Now it is too late.

The lawn grows tiny tufts of grass among wide swaths of dirt, goes half-raked at a time. The woods remain inaccessible, indefined, their boundaries piled high with last year's brush and soggy leaves.

The road and its surrounding spaces are all torn up from a plow operator that merely shrugged off our concern about the plans underneath. "You gotta put the snow somewhere," and I'm not the type to push harder against what I kow in my heart to be bad business. Now, along the long driveway, dirt mounds sulk among shattered shrubbery, adding insult to injury, laughing in the face of our desire for trim and organic environs.

Small garden spaces up against the house taunt me with their easy management, their clean boundaries, their rock borders and slate paths.

The task of making woods and lawn merge together seamlessly becomes herculean.

When I was a kid there were two yards, front and back. Also a hidden circle of drt behind the rhododendrons of our traffic circle driveway. All were secluded, separated from each other and the rest of the world -- by high crisscross fence, or the rock ledges that rose into the wilderness between our house and the one behind.

None were playspaces, really. Sure, we threw balls against those tilted screen in t-ball season on the flat front, threw frisbees into the hurricane there one year. But we were indoor children, bookish and clumsy. Outside was for going places, not being. The playground structure's swings were for contemplation, not play. It is telling that when I was too restless in the house, my mother would threaten to make me run around the block, rather than just expend my energy in outdoor play.

We planted bulbs one year, I remember -- the first, when we had just moved from a more suburban, less wild and more public lawn two towns over. My father and I on our knees on Saturdays in new mulch, trowels and soil in our hands, covering the earth, moving on sideways along the inner fence.

The squirrels came and dug them up. Years later, I would write my first poem about the experience. In the decades afterwards, landscapers came throughout the season, unexpected and in force, and sweep through the yard like a flood, leaving it trimmed, raked, and preserved, and seemingly inacessible as a living room couch under plastic.

I want my children to see the yard as endless, like my wife's childhood spaces, the ones that stretched forever into the cowfields and tilled cornrows, the woods and the stream, the dirt road almost safe enoug to walk unaccompanied by adult hands. I want them to feel safe in the outdoors, to own the world of sky and grass and feel like it has meanings both of itself and other, deeper meanings when they are in it. I want them to have hiding places, too. But that's a thought for another day.

The beaver pond and the trails behind are wonderful, and I hope forever think of them as extensions of our spaces, but they are ours to share with the universe, not ours to protect and build for the future. I do not want to terraform, or make artificial. But I want to make this house a place of comfort beyond its walls.

Oh, for a thousand hours and a place to put the waste. Oh, for a mind that can think in whole spaces, and plan slowly a lifetime of acreage management and maintenance. Oh, for a yard that spreads forever, effortlessly, into the world.

Oh, for a wellspace, inside and out, that could make better sense of word or world.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:00 PM | 0 comments

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Fool Me Once 


Question everything today. The Internet is suddenly, albeit temporarily, an entirely unreliable narrator.

Except, ironically enough, Wikipedia's up-to-date hoaxlist, a reader-driven attempt to catalog the interconnected web of pranks that is April 1, Web 2.0.

Uh oh. Do we really turn our clocks back tonight? Damn you, April Fools Day!




[UPDATE 2.0: Also wonderful, if a bit thick in the pseudogeekspeak: Librarians claim to discover the cure for information overload.]

posted by boyhowdy | 3:21 PM | 4 comments


The Urge For Blogging 

The blogging bug creeps up like poetry, words crashing together like poolballs through a haze of smoke and barclinking conversation on the green felt of my mind.

Today it was truly Spring, warmer outside than in. The day had the heaviness of rain but the brightness of halfsky sunlight, the breeze that tousled the treetops never touching ground.

I slept through it until noon, trying to damp down the flu that left everyone else limp yesterday, but seems to have gotten to me a day late, a reward for the care I gave them. Slept, and crept discomforted in bathrobe and barefeet to coffee, and from there to a perch on the front stoop.

So natural to meander outside, a first morning of an infiite homeowner series. As if it had always been.

In our yard so far wasps hover above the tiny rockgardens, where tufts of bright green stems swell with the bright yellows and whites of the blooming season to come. The cat has taken to sleeping some sort of perennial creeper, a tangled green scarf just outside the door.

And the urge for blogging rose in me.

The words began to burble there on the cement porchsteps, mug and well-thumbed novel by my side, but I pushed them back into the still, humid air, stifling the language until the girls crept up the hill behatted and pink-cheeked from their walk down to the waterfall.


Up Up Up Home!


This is what is left. This blog, these few uphill photos, and a thousand words now forever in motion, fading permanently restless into the feverbrain.

Just like the thunderstorm, finally here and all around us as I type. Just like the wind, shaken free of treetop by cloud and falling rain, suddenly rushing through our open windows.

Ah, awakening Spring. Ah, cleansing fever. Ah, the rising tide of words, the melting flood of Winter, the ice behind us at last.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:29 PM | 0 comments

Friday, March 31, 2006

Post #1501 

Home today taking care of one violently ill three year old, one slightly less ill and able spouse, one fast-moving toddler two weeks shy of her first birthday.

Somewhere in the invisible distance the workplace goes on without me. My students get taught something like and unlike what I would have taught them myself, inviting the eternal question of pedagogy vs. curriculum, a long-awaited nature/nurture parallel.

The child sleeps at my feet, curled around pillow in startling daylight. The wife sleeps restless upstairs with the baby, trying to keep her from illness. Outside, the cat stalks a hundred birds of spring.

It's like a weekend, except not at all.

Which is no suprise, really, because nothing is like anything anymore. Not my daughter's stomach. Not the Web 2.0 that I ask my 8th graders to consider in my absence, the new wisdom of the web so much like the old wisdom before it. Not the lawn, growing grasstufts here and there, where before a leechfield melted into the woods, loam and rock.

The world reforms, begins anew each day. Each blog post is another Spring, an essai, an attempt at worldcreation. Each garden bulb, each new green shoot is a mystery that will solve itself with or without the words to describe it.

Redundant, circular, we wander around Escherworld corners, never knowing where/when we might meet ourselves, never sure whether we should be afraid or hopeful in the face of such possibility.

Is the stomach growing queasy? Perhaps I am sick, or will be. Or maybe awakening always feels like this.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:49 AM | 1 comments

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Indescribable Life 

The evening sky is full of stars
I think that red thing there is Mars
And in the distance, passing cars
Weave homeward from our local bars



Poem fragments flit through my brain. I look up vilanelle to see if the form is coming; lose myself in other people's words.

Form is my prompt. Writing is my therapy, my meditation. The blog is what has kept me sane for these fifteen hundred posts -- today's milestone, this one, right here, right now. To give it up would be to give up the long-held illusion that I am manageable.

To blog about it again would be banal.

It was a week exquisite, like every week before. My first experience with standardized no child left behind testing. A beaver sighting at the downstream dam. Trout fishermen and their children. My wife's full-day outing with my mother while my father and I watched the kids. Willow and I hand in hand in the late Northampton sunshine, all the way back to the toy store to return the doll she stole for her sister's birthday.

But the world did not end while I waited to blog it. Truly, a week unbloggable is only one mote off, a tenth of a degree different or less, too subtly something else for words.

Perhaps the world will keep spinning after all. Perhaps it is too late for any imitative semblance of forced order, any organizing principle to make a dent in what is somehow an undercurrent life.

Perhaps the life unexamined is equally worth. Perhaps it is the life lived, instead.

How fitting to have hit my fifteen hundredth post today, and be once again writing as if it were the end of the public life lived. How curious to be alive at all, really. The world turns, blogged or un-, and having been written, moves on.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:51 PM | 2 comments

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Blogless By Choice, & Not Permanently 


Life is sad
Life is a bust,
All you can do is
Do what you must.
You do what you must
And you do it well.
I do it for you honey baby
Can't you tell?


I've partnered with all ten seventh grade science classes for three day research and project jam sessions. Contracted to take in tech-assisted students for next week's statewide testing. Committed every lunchtime for full-blown panic-level yearbook development just 13 days to a final deadline with not a single finished page in sight.

Meanwhile, I've still got three classes a day to teach, technology to frame for the upcoming budget thaw free-for-all, progress towards a waived certification to document.

Life comes to a crisis point. I come home drained. This afternoon -- after five classes, a lunch meeting, and an hour of crunch-time yearbook advisorship after school -- I drove home in a fog, hugged my kids, swigged a glass of cold coffee, and promptly crashed out on the bed until supper.

I want to do more.

I went into this because I thought it fed the soul to be the know-it-all, the eye of the storm, the conductor of lives and knowledge. But I go back every day to bellows the spark in each and every one of them.

Because the rest is all paint, really. It is that glow -- the student, not the teacher -- which is the true sheer joy and awe of the teaching profession.

To do it right takes precision. And precision takes it all, right now.

I could do it half-assed, but that's not me. So instead, I'm officially taking the week off from blogging.

I know -- a week is a long time, and it's hard to get back on the horse. But need is need; every wanderer hits a long patch, steep in the dark once in a while.

If you miss me in the midst of radio silence, listen to these two covers of the song that's been stuck in my head for days, and know that this, too, shall pass.

  • Buckets of Rain (David Gray)

  • Buckets of Rain (Neko Case)


  • Ah, Dylan. Can't stand the voice, but the truth shall set you free.

    Respective thanks to mp3bloggers Heather and Kevin for the tunes. I'd have posted versions by Jeffrey Foucault and Vic Chestnut, too, but I really have to move on about now.

    Happy Spring, everybloggy. May the sun warm us all, and bring us peace in the whirlwind.

    posted by boyhowdy | 9:10 PM | 3 comments

    Sunday, March 19, 2006

    Observable Behavior Not Worth Observing 

    Contest! One of the twelve personal quirks listed here is a lie! Be the first to correctly identify which of the below quirks belongs to my old college roommate, and I'll give you my firstborn child promote the blog of your choice in a big ol' one-paragraph entry.


    Everybody's got a set of smallscale quirks, the flotsam filler among the personality. Most go unnoticed, drowned out in the minutia of the daily ritual, obscured by the massively obvious facial tic, the distracting roman nose.

    Today, I bring them to the surface.

    What follows is a list of facts-about-me so trivial that, until this moment, they have gone utterly unnoticed by even my nearest and dearest. Because that's what blogging is all about, isn't it?


    TMI: About Boyhowdy

    1. I always take my socks off last.

    2. I avoid soup spoons and tablespoons because I much prefer the feel of teaspoons in my mouth.

    3. I bite my nails sporadically, always starting with the pinkie and thumb and working inwards.

    4. I hold my pencil between middle and ring fingers.

    5. I type with five fingers: index and middle on each hand, right thumb on the space bar.

    6. I carry a lighter in my pocket every day.

    7. I read my fortune cookies without opening the celophane.

    8. I only shave once a week.

    9. I'll eat anything except black licorice and cooked salmon.

    10. I can spell anything if I can write it down.

    11. I match my boxer shorts to my outfit.

    12. I wear a belt because I like how it feels.

    Now you know more about me than my wife does. Weird, isn't it?

    posted by boyhowdy | 10:38 PM | 13 comments

    Friday, March 17, 2006

    Randomalia: Dear Diary 



    [Insert midget prostitute joke here.]

    I know most people don't care for "look at how cute my kids are" daddyblogging pablum, but Last night's bedtime request was too priceless to withhold:
    Can you read this book for me, Daddy?
    Which book, kid?
    It says Horton...Hears....The...Whore!
    Man, I haven't laughed that hard in years.






    In more mundane news: spent the evening in Northampton, just because it was time to get the hell out of dodge.

    The bulb show at the Smith College Botanic Gardens was small but stellar, but the permanent collection is always a treasure trove: found our first real Cassia plant, stalked the kids in the jungle room, sniffed sweet honeys and dark moss musk, and generally justified the trip.

    Sushi afterwards in the scruptious Osaka, where an accident of fate seated us in one of only two recessed pillow cubicles, authentic and blond with hardwood as we feasted on the freshest, most buttery sushi in a hundred miles. I've developed a real taste for sea urchin; Cassia likes edamame, salty and green: if you ever go, make sure you start with the seaweed salad.

    I love coming home from long drives at night, sharing comfortable silences with my wife while the kids doze in the back. Soft sounds on the radio and the pinpoint lights of passing cars and distant mainstreet intersections are my meditation. Seven highlights of tonight's mellowdrive, because Bozette asked:

    • Ryan Adams' Wonderwall is the best late-night driving song ever.
    • Richard Shindell's So Says the Whipporwill is a close second.
    • The Waifs do Sweetness. Sweet.
    • Sufjan, o sufjan. A live two-fer, yet: For The Widows in Paradise and the exquisite LEXP Chicago
    • Shawn Colvin covers Satin Sheets.
    • Cindy Lauper reinterprets True Colors on 2005 release The Body Acoustic. You've come a long way, baby.
    • You've heard Donald Byrd's Cantaloupe Island, you just don't know what it's called.

    Also: in the past few days several students have found me, both here and in IM. I'd ask anyone here from my real life to keep in mind that, like your myspace page, my blog is primarily a reflection of my inner life, not my professional life. Please respect this to the extent you are able, and consider all opinions to be my personal, not my professional thoughts. Oh, and congrats on finding me. Not everyone does.

    posted by boyhowdy | 9:45 PM | 3 comments

    Wednesday, March 15, 2006

    iFull 

    What do bloggers blog when they have nothing to blog? They hit shuffle on their iPod and apologize for what comes up, a la Random Rules feature over at The AV Club.
    • Phish -- Round Room. Not the best of Phish, and not the best album; I always thought they went downhill after Rift. But decent radio pablum, noodling from the kings of the noodles.

    • Patty Griffin -- Every Little Bit. Now that's more like it, though to be fair, it's hard to find a Patty Griffin song off her debut album that isn't both gorgeously raw and pitchperfect. Wistful and anrgy in turns, this one'd make a great introduction to someone who really needed to fall in love with a new musician right now, this minute, today.

    • Victor Jory -- Tubby The Tuba (side 4). I feel asleep to this LP when I was a wee tot. Went and downloaded off the blogweb over a year ago to play for the kid, but she prefers Guster. Embarassing to have it show up so quick here. Still, useful for those long family drives, I suppose.

    • Hodges Brothers & the Hi Rhythm Section - Best in Town. Blues of some sort. Oh, right -- this is from the Oxford American Southern Sampler 2000 - my father had a bunch of duplicates of this yearly litmag sampler, and I bumped 'em all in. Not bad. They have good taste.

    • String Quartet Tribute to the Killers -- Jenny Was a Friend of Mine. Okay, I collect covers. It's like an addiction. And I've just discovered the Killers, and they rock. And this way I can listen to them at supper, and no one knows it's not background music.

    • Shawn Colvin -- Another Long One. Pre-pop from the award-winning debut of yet another soundtrack goddess. Okay, this got me into a love of produced folk music, and through an entire post-adolescent summer of despair, and I'm eternally grateful for it.

    • Kathleen Edwards -- Nagasaki. AAA radio darling singer-songwriter goes all ani on this one. It works, kind of, and the strings are nice, but ani does it better, and Kathleen's voice sounds more like she's trying to be suzanne vega, but not as sweetly. I don't know why she bothers -- she does a simply stunning Kathleen on the rest of her catalog.

    • David Gray -- December. Ah, I love a slow beat and a soaring tenor voice. December is a bit slow, and for Gray, that's saying something. Not as emo as some of his other work, though, so perhaps we'll say this one splits the difference.

    • R.E.M. -- Can't Get There From Here. A blast from the past. Funny how well the old R.E.M. ages. Like fine cheese. Even if I never did quite take a liking to the Stipe whine.

    • Alison Krauss -- Looking In To The Eyes Of Love. Oh, that sweet vibrato. I remember seeing Alison Krauss fiddlin' and singin' at a bluegrass festival when we were both seventeen. I'm still in love, still far away.

    • Jon Brion -- Time Of The Season. California Indie piano darling (a new genre which includes Ben Folds and...um...some other male solo vocalists) covers the Zombies. A lo-fi recording, with an audience sing-along, from his weekly stint at Largo. Fun, but nothing stellar, musically speaking.

    • More covers, ad infinitum. Acoustic Radiohead mangling the first half of Wonderwall. Peter Mulvey live in the subway, covering For No One. Eric Clapton covering Jimi Hendrix. Keane does Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, also on solo piano, also in live lo-fi. Ah, the wonders of the downloading internet.


    Okay, I give up. Granted, some of this stuff might impress the right kind of girl, but this isn't my diverse mp3 collection. What's with all the neo-singer-songwriter stuff tonight? Where's all the rock, the mash-ups, the ska, the punk covers?

    Look, I got 6300 songs on the damn thing. They can't all be winners.

    posted by boyhowdy | 10:34 PM | 1 comments

    Tuesday, March 14, 2006

    Meet The Day People 


    CNN:  Father, daughter can only dream of sleeping through the night.
    We hate them because they are chipper.
    And not at all pasty.



    I get under five hours of sleep every night, drink 40 ounces of coffee between bed and classroom, have another 20 ounces before lunch. By Wednesday afternoons I can feel the burn, the eyelid droop, the slow leak of conscious thought. By Fridays I'm on sugar and fumes.

    Give me a summer off and I sleep away the heat of the day, drift quickly into a fully nocturnal schedule.

    I have powerful memories of a household awake until three in the morning, my father, my siblings and myself skulking around in nightreverie.

    But it's not a personal failing to adapt to the inevitable daylight hours of the public school teacher. Instead, I'm happy to report that the tendency towards the nocturnal is genetic and dominant...and, by implication, totally excusable.

    Yes, welcome to the modern world of chemicality, where no one need own their behavior. See the far-too-chipper dad and his daughter in the pic above? They have Advanced Sleep Phase Syndrome, or ASPS, a genetic condition where the body clocks are moved forward -- in their case by about three hours. They fall asleep at 7:30 every night, wake up refreshed at 3:30 or so, and piss the rest of us off to no end.

    Because we have the reverse of that, don't we.

    Of course, the symptomatic familial result would run inverse from one case to the other. Where Bethany and Clay -- a pair of daytime names if I ever heard 'em -- cite their mornings together as a lifetime of bonding, there's nowhere to go in suburbia afterhours, no shining faces to greet in the dark hallways at the end of a long day.

    Hence the slightly furtive existence of my adolescence, knowing that my family was awake in their own spaces, avoiding them into the night.

    You might say the differences between our case and theirs is like night and day.

    posted by boyhowdy | 9:49 PM | 1 comments

    Monday, March 13, 2006

    The Virtual Life 2.0
    Mashups: Tracking Packages, Tracking Life 



    Toilet locations on the London Underground.



    Thinking about last week's google maps for educators blog while a guy on the radio explores the new dynamic model for mashups (old: mixing content; new: mixing tools and data to create dynamic content) gets the brain going despite slight illness.

    Radio guy's example -- mapping craigslist apartments against Google Maps -- leads to an evening drifting through other examples, from Mashup Camp 2006 crowd fave Podbop (choose a city, learn what bands are playing in town that day) to the vast volume of 1.0 mashups on YouTube (video) and HypeMachine (music).

    Family Watchdog lets you map homes and photos of sex offenders. Even Warner Music has gotten into the act, releasing new Fort Minor single audio elements for remix in a desperate grab for popularity and sales.

    Which, in turn, leads to a daydream about mashups I wish existed.

    You know, like Groundhog Day mashed with the Matrix. A combination of google maps with the current location of all my old girlfriends (with disease vector models to follow, once the demand for realpartners among teenagers transcends MySpace). Mixing virtual blueprints with RFID tags on all your stuff, so you really can have that googlehouse you always wanted.

    Turns out much of this can been done, if you're willing to put in the time. Introducing Platial, a social atlas space/tool which helps you build and share "location-based" stories and information online. I found it looking for some examples of mashups to contextualize my own list; currently, it includes gems from the historical (women who changed the world) to the subjective (weird things that happened to me). No surprise: it's via lifehacker, recommended in his own right, and not just for his google maps taglist.

    Of course, you do have to know the information you want to plot. Guess the Ex-Girlfriend mapping tool will have to wait.

    In the meantime, there's always isolatr, the new antisocial networking tool for those who have had quite enough of the socialweb.






    posted by boyhowdy | 7:26 PM | 0 comments

    Sunday, March 12, 2006

    In the Company of Company
    On Becoming Grown-ups, Socially Speaking 

    We've never been the social type, though I can certainly hold my own as host or jester.

    We've been in Monson six months, and we're pretty much unknown here. We go to church, and find friendly faces, but the congregation is too small for us to find families compatible with ours.

    The neighbors have no kids, and seem older, established; though old friends and ex-coworkers Seth and Lynn and their daughter Arwen came down for a supper and playdate a few months ago, the old school is too far for us to really sustain those connections.

    So last week, when Darcie asked to invite Michelle and her family over for a get-acquainted supper, it was a pretty big step.

    Darcie had met her through the neighborhood preschool pals group, so we knew the kids were compatible. I'd never met any of them, but Steve's a school principal, which would give us plenty to talk about.

    Still, I think we exceeded our expectations. Their kids are six and four, but Willow held her own, leading them in mysterious play just around the corner, topped off with a full-tilt parade of drum and fife that drowned out all adult conversation. In turn, Cassia impressed us all by choosing tonight to really walk, with confidence, across the playroom and back again.

    Everyone connected, I think. We had plenty to chat about as we got to know each other, and our families.

    Now, after a whirlwind three hours, our house seems especially quiet.

    Back in the boarding school world, the companionship of other families was part of the fabric of life. From classroom hallway passage to dining hall suppers, the line between family and community blurred comfortably throughout the school year, almost to a fault. Our kids played together; we sat with whomever we found at the table in the dining hall.

    Communal playgrounds and laundry rooms, and a shared sense of daily purpose kept us close acquaintences. It was more work to find a bit of private time than a drinking partner after hours; that we all tended to hide out in our own homes on long kid-bereft weekends says what it should. But overall, the commune life was more sweet than sour.

    When it all crashed down in the cutbacks, I remember being sadder about my daughter's pending loss than my own. That shared playspace between houses was something special, and I doubt we'll even find anything like it.

    So it was especially wonderful to see her playing so nicely, so gently, so gleefully with Liam and Lily tonight.

    Of course, it was equally nice to feel like normal adults for an evening: drinks in the living room, small talk over supper, all the while keeping an ear out for the kids. Had much in common with Michelle, plenty to share with Steve, and the coparenting seemed natural.

    Looking forward to another go-round, though not too soon. After all, we came to the woods on purpose: I wouldn't want to lose that family bond, nor the quiet togetherness that made us whole in the first place, and regenerates us every day.

    I miss the boarding community, in part because of how easily it felt like one big happy, hard to escape, always there. But after seven years of it and six months distance, I guess I'm growing to see the benefit of choosing one's own. How funny to be so late in life, and only now begin the work of finding friendships.

    We'll have Steve and Michelle back again, for sure, and make it to their house when their kitchen renovation is complete. In the meanwhile, there's room for more, enough to make a backyard barbecue one day, once the yard grows in from the leechfield reseeding. Let the interviews begin.

    posted by boyhowdy | 8:06 PM | 0 comments

    Friday, March 10, 2006

    Wandering Jew, Hungry Jew 



    Just like mother used to slice.


    My devoted Unitarian spouse has mastered the art of Challah baking on her second at bat, producing for this evening's shabbos a perfectly braided, moist bread to rival the best the Boston suburbs could offer me way back in my Jewdolescence.

    Sunday morning our UU meeting house holds their annual Purim service, where, according to the email, kids and grownups are encouraged to come dressed as your favorite hero or villan.

    Not bad for a Jew in the sticks, sans synagogue. Even if any traditional Jewcred heretofore acculumulated was erased this evening when, in a fit of snacking, I consumed a pork-pate-and-challah sandwich. With milk.

    What can I say? Being true to thyself isn't about diet or deed in our house. We light candles, sing the blessings, pass the wine from lip to tiny lip, but I think I speak for all of us when I say that though we cherish and celebrate the world both real and spiritual, we mostly keep our gods in our hearts, and shine without.

    It's a strange kind of Judaism, but it isn't absent. It rests upon a solid and daily base of worldawareness otherwise unnamed. It is a focusing lens, a brightening agent; it brings the world out like a polish.

    Plus, we were out of sesame bagels. And you just can't get good chopped liver this side of Massachusetts.

    posted by boyhowdy | 8:06 PM | 1 comments

    Thursday, March 09, 2006

    Where The Daddybloggers Are
    Music for Audiophiles With Children 



    Soundsharing: It's a daddy/daughter thing...


    New mp3blog smallages makes a big splash posting kidfriendly and occasionally even kid-targeted music from all genres. Because no one should have to listen to the Wiggles. Ever.

    Smallages gets kudos both for its own wonderful selections and for directing me to the surprisingly geolocal Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child, a primarily once-a-week which posts mp3s of the 8-10 Saturday morning radioprogram of a daddy/daughter team.

    In turn, Spare the Rock tips the hat to YES All Ages Radio, yet another daddy-and-child podcast-slash-Saturday-morning radioshow. What is it about Saturday mornings and kidsongs?

    The wonderful coincidence is that both Spare the Rock and YES originate within easy driving distance of the geoself. In fact, Spare the Rock broadcasts on Valley Free Radio, a tiny co-op community station which turns out to be in myvalley, and which comes in not-so-scratchy on the car radio.

    And the station is looking for show proposals.

    I love it when the Internet leads me home.

    posted by boyhowdy | 8:47 PM | 2 comments

    Wednesday, March 08, 2006

    Forward, March! 

    A march is a sort of forced forward progress, and sure enough, the weeks between public school vacations have us heads-down.

    Teachers share forced smiles as we pass in the hallways between blocks. Students forget their work, get surly when we speak sternly to them, lose their focus when we don't: I play odd covers of their favorite songs in a desperate attempt to lighten the mood; sign their hallpasses OKUP, and wait to see which ones will get the joke. Little works for long.

    I've given over my planning periods to a dozen instructional sessions with a rotating crowd of seventh graders -- math classes who generate charts from Olympic medal data; Language Arts classes interested in learning how the rules and environments for formal writing mandate format and praxis in Microsoft Word. As with all such partnerships the coteaching is more work, both in developing curriculum for others and in teaching students whose names and tics I cannot know. I tire from duplicate delivery, lose track of which audience has heard which dumb joke.

    More ominously, a familiar tingle has begun to spread from waist to calf as I shift my weight from right to left. The back spasms alarmingly after a long day on my feet. An archival search for herniated in the blog calls up a serious walk down memory lane, but no sign of my biggest fear: that herniation means no child-carrying; that I might miss the last few months of Cassia's carry-on days.

    Still, there are signs of spring-to-come.

    Yesterday I arrived home to find my daughter and her grandmother playing happily in the woods, lightcoated and hardly cold. Sunday the lawn teemed with robins.

    It was warm and bright in the sun today out front of the school, waiting with my yearbook charges for their respective rides.

    Two months after the old one sparked and died, a new dryer finally arrived this afternoon; though the delivery tore up the muddy lawn, Darcie's already made it through the first three backlogged clothesloads. I think we all look forward to reclaiming the basement from the mountain that was, all this time, our unwearable wardrobes.

    Four weeks to vacation, then: a week in sunny Florida, shopping and sand, a change of tempo. From there the days are numbered; a glorious teacher's summer lurks ahead, countably close. Forced and driven we may be, but forward progress is forward progress.

    Ah, March. The lion roars, but the lamb in the distance grows ever nearer.

    posted by boyhowdy | 6:47 PM | 1 comments

    Tuesday, March 07, 2006

    Blogging Is The Opposite Of Writing 

    As blogging is the opposite and not the opposite
    of writing thinking saying being drinking
    doing laundry on Sunday

    So is wandering mutually subsumed
    by and by the path, the destination,
    the wandering self.

    To wander is antithesis and apotheosis both
    being and not-being, oasis and desert,
    direction and crowd, list and liason.

    Which is to say

    To wander is to listen, sometimes, and nothing more:
    to stick the self inside something wholly,
    and look around with eyes closed;

    To be still.

    To be still, and not write.

    To be still, and use the stillness
    to find that which is not yet still:

    Tomorrow ticking away at eyecorners,
    the bloodrush between ear and temple,
    breath dragging past the glottal stop.

    And slow it down.

    And move past it, into dawn.


    Draft version. All comments welcome.

    posted by boyhowdy | 7:52 PM | 1 comments

    Monday, March 06, 2006

    Caveat Lurker 

    Warning: the previous post contains images which most cultures would find entirely normal, but which cannot be printed at Wal Mart.

    You have been warned.

    posted by boyhowdy | 10:49 PM | 2 comments


    Cassia Jade Comes Into Her Own
    Now with Baby's First Yoga Pictures! 


    Mr. Messy Little Cassia doll
    Did I mention we're raising our children like feral cats?
    Wassat?
    DSCN2019 DSCN2033 ahhhh!



    At ten months the tiny one is both light and bright for her age, a free spirit more physical, more resilient, more genial, more generous than her sister-as-baby.

    She's into ceiling fans, talks back to cows (moo!) and birds (moo!), speaks two dozen words and a dozen babysigns, knows every cabinet and stair by feel.

    We chase each other around the house, roaring and giggling. We rest our heads on each other's shoulders and engage in a little mutual backpatting. We share a pacifier. We're not alone much, but when we are, we're a riot.

    I used to worry that she'd be forever overshadowed by the first -- both by accident of size and subtlety and through brazenly deliberate action. Her sister is strong, centered, demading, encompassing; in my worst eyes I saw the smaller child as wholly unprepared to compete, an inherent victim of the constant firstchild struggle to remain the center of all things.

    But she falls, and does not cry. She watches, and her eyes light up with understanding. She teeters unaided on the playroom floor. She leans into the world, as if daring it to take the first step.

    Tonight I found her sitting flat on the floor, trying to pull on a pair of her sister's shorts. She had the motions down pat; she just kept missing her leg.

    Slowly, like a butterfly emerging, the baby turns into the girl. Cassia Jade careens from fragile to known object towards full personhood.

    There's a unique human bean in there, just beginning to show her true colors.

    And man, is she beautiful.

    I'm thinking there's nothing to worry about. In fact, the baby has already learned two things from her sister:
    1. How to screech with unending joy.

    2. Yoga:


    Downward Dog 1
    Monkey See.

    Downward Dog 2
    Monkey Do.

    posted by boyhowdy | 8:48 PM | 0 comments
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