Monday, May 01, 2006

On The Other Side 

Green lawns line the roadside up and down the mountain. Some are populated by dandelions; most have delineated edges where woods begins and yard ends. The biggest, most lush homesteads have already grown enough to mow, sport finely trimmed lawns with perfectly parallel lines to and fro, like a freshly vacuumed carpet.

All around us, people spend their Sundays on the greening lawn, hose in hand, tossing water like rain. Meanwhile, our grass seed lies dead upon the hardpacked earth. Small tufts of green grow here and there, clustered like daffodil stems in the midst of an otherwise wasteland.

We debate buying a sprinkler. We try to buy a sprinkler, but life gets in the way. Plus, the Agway is closed on Sundays.

It looks like rain, but it doesn't rain. We take the kids through the car wash instead. Baby Cassia, new to the experience, reaches for the slapping cloth that slams against her window, and does not cry.

Next year, I promise myself. Next year we will have a lawn. For now, it is more than enough to have earth, and a family to put down root in it.

posted by boyhowdy | 6:24 PM | 0 comments

Saturday, April 29, 2006

How To Begin 

Still planning on doing so "real" writing this summer, with a book-length goal; as part of this process, I've allowed a part of my mind ongoing muse-ability on the subject. So far, however, though I seem to have settled on a voice (autobiographical and cultural analysis) and a tone (casual, with less research but plenty of anecdotal evidence laid out clearly from my life inner and external), picking a focus has eluded me.

One thing I've always found in my own writing is that, given a month of musing and muttering in a given direction, all it takes from there is that golden nugget -- a sentence, a phrase, even a title -- and you can build the world of interconnected ideas around it. But setting such a scale for the summer's trial means that my instinct is to write about everything all at once.

In order to establish that direction so crucial to putting words on paper, I've been toying this week with a title which would help me focus.

The title: Blogger and Son.

The inevitable premise that follows: the book would build on my last three and a half years of life experience, starting the week I began blogging and my daughter began turning from infantile object into person, with my own development as parent and son, and how the decision (and constant reexploration) to make my life public has affected and been affected by my role as a member of a growing family, at the heart of it all.

Obviously, the larger issue would be to try to make some connections to the universal -- through my experience and cultural agent and teacher of young people, and through exploration of the new ways in which various generations are using webbed technologies a la Web 2.0 -- and, in the end, make some generalizations about how currently living generations have been changed (and may continue to change) because of the new ways in which social technologies affect family dynamics, as a part of social dynamics.

The big question, then: Would this work? Do you think a publisher would want to buy it? Would you want to read it? And also, of course, has it been done?

posted by boyhowdy | 7:35 PM | 2 comments


The Week of "What?" 

Last week's virus on the tail of a long family flight has left us with a household of infected ears. Business as usual for me, really, since poorly constructed eustacian tubes run in my family (remind me to tell you about my brother and his re-cored soundhole sometime). And at just-one Cassia is too little to really be lost to a few days of lost audible cues.

But Willow has adapted to her loss of hearing by acting out more, as if an inability to hear us in active parent mode releases her to act out however the heck she feels. Ask her to do something and she smiles and yells "What?" Try and get her to stop pestering her sister and she reacts far too slow, as if the decoder that is her ear-brain connection is rather more delayed than simply stopped up.

To be fair, it probably does take her longer to process -- she's likely getting only bits and pieces of code, so it takes longer to rebuild meaning and react. But I'd like to think she would have adapted by now, and perhaps realized that she'll have to listen more carefully for a while. Instead, she's come undone, behaviorally, and spends much of her time in chairs. She seems to be taking advantage of that delay of translation, rather than simply suffering through it.

We are all frustrated and annoyed. I'd call a family conference, but it's hard to have a rational discussion when everyone's yelling at each other, and no one can hear you scream.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:19 PM | 0 comments

Friday, April 28, 2006

Poem, Again 

Something raw, half-drafted in indellible ink on an old envelope against the steering wheel while driving to and from work today. Because the blog entry I wrote earlier wasn't for public consumption. And because it's time, and true.



I've taken mornings to the concrete stoop
again, after so many changes put an end to it:
a need for sleep, and to disconnect the smoker's habits
from the newness of nonsmoking; the end of winter.

New job, new home, new patterns:
four years ago I could smoke in the house
where it was warm and childless,
Three years ago we lived in a stoopless attic;

The suburban proximity that disallowed
bathrobes on the porch, and the homeless summer -
the world conspired to keep me inside
until I was ready, and public, and already moving.

But flowers bloom in Spring and so do I.
The earth is warm and the road is behind the trees.
And here I am in my bathrobe way too early,
for no other reason than to watch the sun rise,

yesterday's coffee, reheated by my side;
admire new lawn, a hundred inherited daffodills
the way the tallest trees bud in yellows
and deep redbrown, crewcut against a bluing sky.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:39 PM | 0 comments


Parenting 301:
If it was easy, it wouldn't be love. 

For the first time in forever I actually felt the back go out, could feel the twinge as I twisted and dropped, lifted and tossed.

That I did it throwing my first and precious child, firm but as gentle as possible under the circumstances, into the time-out chair, roaring, still but only barely in control of my self, makes it no better.

That she was red-faced, screaming, already thirty minutes into a full-blown wail-and-cry attack makes it worse.

That what got us to that moment was that she tried to hurt me, but stopped herself at a token, is reassuring, though it doesn’t excuse the attack on my nose or wrists, with head and tinystrong hands and hard-headed dolly.

That she did it to try to get to mama is always and only a sad thing. But what can we do? Somewhere, even she knows that she has turned to keeping Cassia awake, accepted the bad attention as better – for now – than no attention during the younger sister’s bedtime. Keeping her from baby bedtime, that the baby might sleep, and more, that the elderchild might afterwards have the solo mama-and-me time that she so desperately craves and deserves, is an inevitable and vital step forward; that she has forced our hand in getting there by hook or crook is no excuse for letting things get worse, as if they could.

That I didn’t lose control is an ongoing triumph. I no longer fear myself, in these moments – know, indeed, that I will ever be capable of keeping the responses within the scale and scope of measured response. Once I worried that I would lose that conscious brain, revert entirely to lizard brain, in the worst of interfamiliar anger. It is truly awesome, in the original sense, to find that I am not, will not, cannot be that person that I feared I would be unable to not be.

But knowing that I own my temper is no compensation for having to go so far along the path towards big and scary.

And knowing that it has come to this is hard to accept, sometimes.

I do it out of love, and she accepts that, in the aftermath, hugging me goodnight, telling me she loves me. But it hurts, physically and psychologically.

That twinge of pressure will over three days swell and ache until it peaks at monster pain, the kind only those of us with herniation can truly understand.

I guess I had hoped we would be different. Now I know better, I suppose. That twinge of knowledge in her eyes, the one that says I know you are bigger and will use it when you must, is in the end the bittersweet heart of every parent’s constant struggle to love and care for, tame and ultimately set free every willful child.

It’s a mess, this parenting thing. It takes all my energy, drains my emotional core. And it hurts so much more because, in those lucid moments, she understands, somehow, at three and three quarters, that it hurts me, too. It hurts so much more because I, too, am no fan of delayed gratification, and I know exactly how she feels.

In these moments we are each other, the mature three, the once-child (and still secretly childlike) Daddy. We are past and present and future all at once; we are each other, and our selves in every age.

And in some ways, that we can go through this together and come out clutching each other is the scariest and the best thing of all.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:19 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Dizzy & Light 

My wife is one of those steadfast people, the ones who soldier on through anything, and I admire her for it. It's one of the qualities I need in a family, and one reason I'm lucky she chose me. For though the constant blogging helps me center and reflect, I am flighty and anxious by nature, and cannot stabilize myself.

But we all have our off days, through no fault of our own. She gets dizzy spells sometimes when the weather changes, and today was pretty bad: I arrived home to find her in bed, trying hard to keep her head still while the kids swarmed around her.

We made it through evening, movie night and take-out chinese, but by bedtime the world turned sour and shaky again. Willow's been hit hard by the return to one-parent daytime normalcy after our long family vacation, and in the dark hours has started screaming for solo care from mama only -- which tends to wake the baby, thereby making mama inaccessible.

And from downstairs, as I closed the door to the basement laundry, I could hear my wife get stern, and then cold. And I knew she was desperate. You could hear it in her voice.

It's no fault to get frustrated in such scenarios, no matter how stable you are. The three year old middle-of-night mindset doesn't really grasp the causality of her actions; she's bright, but cannot be expected to own the cycle she creates no matter how much we lock her out in a vain attempt at sanity and long-term care for all. And what a cycle it is.

So tonight it was my turn to be the stable one, coming upstairs to remind Willow how precious she was while an exhausted and still-faint mama wandered off with the baby to put her to bed far too late for easy putdown.

It was, to be sure, a pure accident of timing and tenor that earned me tonight's sighs and heart-lightening halfsleep babble of love and affection where last night, post-nightmare, her sister awakened and now screaming behind a mama-closed door, Willow screamed at me that she did not love me when I tried the same strategy. Some things, parents learn, can not be fixed, but merely tolerated.

But sometimes it works.

And if I am able to be the center of the whirlwind even in these exceptional moments, given the allowance of daughter and chance, it is because Darcie has taught me to be me, and to be sane in the face of frustration. It is she that is precious, that we could not function as family without. It is she that still takes my breath away, and makes me dizzy and light, for no more reason than the realization that she loves me.

It is that love that I give to my daughter, when she lets me.

May I never forget. May we never be alone without it.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:17 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

All Things Go 

A late frost tonight, perhaps the year's last, after a damp day. Not enough to make the new grass crunch, enough to bring a wet sparkle to the garden rocks.

Willow wakes moaning in the night, cannot tell us where it hurts. Her ears have not yet recovered from the two-leg flight home on Sunday; she's been in off-and-on pain and half-deaf mornings and evenings since then, but it might be just a bad dream. I go upstairs to help, she pushes me away for mama.

Mom was up today after a trip to New York and New Jersey side of the family. My brother and his fiancee, unsure of their future, trying to decide which coast would best support their art without forcing them to earn life-money with the time they need to create. Her cousins, once as close as siblings, now proud grandparents themselves, each struggling to survive in their own way. Her aunt, in the last stages of Alzheimers, cawing at her like a crow, refusing to take her eyes from her.

As the Florida warmth leeches out of mind and body I think more and more about her great grandfather. Dad's father seemed more lucid than the last time we saw him, though he didn't change his clothes the whole time we were down there. He talks about the present more; has rebuilt himself, mostly, moved on from the loss of his wife, my grandmother.

The connection he had with Cassia brought him to life somehow, more than any I've seen in him, even with Willow before her. When I left the room he spoke to Darcie of his first child, born ill, the daughter he lost long before she passed away; when Willow pushed at her smaller sister he turned protective, though he spoke with understanding of the rivalry there.

Maybe it's a blessing of sorts, that he's finally there for himself, unhindered by future or companion, able to live in the moment, love with whole heart a small girl just barely able to speak his name, who smiles up at him with big blue eyes and just a hint of his late wife's red hair, tries to give him the stuffed bear he gave her moments before.

My brain sifts through it all, trying to make sense of the unanswered moments before they fade or crystallize. I think about my family, slowly falling to pieces, growing up, growing old, spreading to the corners of this country. I think about the small ones playing musical beds upstairs as they cry and wake, rock and fall back to sleep again, enacting in microcosm the up and down curve of adult life, and of life itself.

This afternoon while Mom tried to take our picture Willow and I danced slow in the playroom, holding each other tight tight tight. I hid the iPod on a shelf behind their chair while they shared a story and song, and, thinking about the 8 track recordings my mother's father once made of he and I, there in their New York high rise, recorded their conversation for the ages.

Once I knew where those tapes were, and cherished them. But then, once I had Cassia's first cry, and then the old iPod was stolen.

The world shines in funny ways. Sometimes its just mica in the rocks, a soft rock so easy to peel away. Sometimes its quartz, hard and unforgiving, eternal and sharp-edged, permanent as teeth. Tonight it's ice. By morning it will have melted away.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:38 PM | 0 comments

Monday, April 24, 2006

Shades of Independence 

Like everyone and Everett, I like indie music. 7300 songs worth and counting, if the iPod is any indication.

Unlike Everett, however, who is happy to lump the Beatles and Dylan in amongst his "less cutting edge, straightfowardly "indie" music" downloadable set at All Things Go, I can't tell what makes modern indie music distinct from modern folk music.

(And I'm not alone, either -- see the Wikipedia entry on Freak-folk, aka New Weird America music, and pay close attention to both the mess of a genre-description and the oddly diverse list of acts that follows).

These days, indie instrumentation is raw and acoustic, themes remain subtle and slow, and -- for much of the genre, at least -- stripped down singer-songwriter is the name of the game. Especially confounding is the borderline acts once officially folk-designate, such as The Weepies and proto-genrebuster Ms. DiFranco. Both of whom I've seen at folk festivals. Before they were indie. When their music sounded the same.

Unless it's a very, very slight tendency towards the obscure and morbid found in everything from band names (cf. Death Cab for Cutie) to lyricism (cf Sufjan), it seems the main difference between indie and folk is little more than audience designate -- as if the very fact that bunch of SXSW-hittin' twentysomethings were standing up at a venue made something not-folk.

Which is silly, and a bit like saying that, because adolescents read more fantasy than anyone else, anything adolescents generally read must be fantasy.

So much for post-post--post-modernism. I'm calling the genre fakefolk, or perhaps faux-lk, until further notice. Please join me in designating the very concept of "indie" officially dead.

In other news of impending independence, I've been back at work one day and already we're counting down the weeks (7) until summer vacation. Can I get a whoop whoop for the teachers and students in da house? Thanks, y'all. Now get back on the bus and get those damn white strings out of your ears.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:53 PM | 1 comments

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Last Night In The Sun 


DSC00827
Sunset over Delray Beach


Technically it's another night, back on the Barnes and Noble balcony squeezing a few final hours out of yet another whirlwind week in the heat and humidity. The kids sleeps soundly back at the cubanero rental, resting up for the long haul back North tomorrow.

Sunday will bring two planes, car returns, driving to and from. Apple juice in the lab again, surely -- I can feel the weight of baggage literal and metaphorical as if I had brought it here into the cool breeze. Work and school again in the early morning the following day loom ahead. Monday comes ever too soon.

It hasn't been all sunshine and light. The strain of travel got to the elderchild early this time around. Having a DVD player in the rental car got a bit too good; by the end, we could do little to top it; the contant threat to leave her in the car became more promise than anything.

In the end, this week's lessons include the sad truth that there's little to relax about when you're traveling with two wee ones. It occurs to me in the midst of our final highway drive home this evening, Willow whining about Cassia screaming, that it is a rare moment indeed for all four to be in sync, but so easy for one to drag the others down. Fun with children on the road is a frantic affair, much like chasing a high.

Into every swim a little sand must scrape, I suppose. But what a swim, and how warm the water. They're a handful, and I love them dearly. And no childless couple could ever know the sheer joy that is four of us, big to little, in those everrare moments of smiles and light.

Willow was so sweet with her old prep school friends today, disbursed souls like ourselves, now Floridian transplants happy to welcome us into their tiny townhouse. Cassia's knees are bloody from falling down in short pants, but she turns around so quickly, smiling, moving on, it's hard to imagine her as the tiny infant she was when we first set off on the road, bereft of home, prospects uncertain, the last time we hit sand and surf.

And so we move on, ever the wanderers, ever on the road, always together. The sun sets on another vacation. But somewhere, it is always rising, floating into the sky, light as my heart when they are by my side.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:57 PM | 1 comments

Friday, April 21, 2006

Please Vacate The Premises 

Still vacant, er, vacationing. Life remains relaxed and warm. My neck is sunburnt, but we've had much cooler nights since we discovered the air conditioning.

Many, many more pix up at flickr, some even right side up. Click here for evermore zoo, beach, fountains, and an especially wonderful series of shots featuring my father's father and his tiny greatgranddaughter; see below for the rotated teaser.

I'd write more, but it's not properly my night out tonight. I just popped off to upload the pictures, and to pick up some cheesecake for the goodwife's evening of decadence. She's waiting at home with a fork, so I better go. Keep smiling, folks...




Great Grands. Ain't it grand?

posted by boyhowdy | 8:35 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

This = The Life 

DSC00351

I'm writing from a Barnes and Noble balcony, enjoying my first try at wireless, vanilla latte at my side. It's warm up here above the midweek bustle of CityPlace. Warm, and just quiet enough amidst the world.

At the table next to me, two earnest greybeards debate the meaning of life in their heavy euro accents; two down, a trio of overtanned students study and chat, wasting their $3.95 fiddling with their iTunes playlists. I identify with both, feel young, and feel wise.

Down below us the traffic zips by. The Gap turns off its lights. Florida begins to wind down for the evening.

It's been 89 and humid here in West Palm Beach, which is a bit above our family tolerance. But we've been making the most of it. Yesterday, early supper with my Grandfather, almost 91 and still going strong in his retirement villa; today, four hours in and out of the car at Lion Country Safari, a perfect dry rub on a row of St. Louis Ribs at Tom's Barbecue.

CityPlace is our saving grace, our latenight haunt. In the dark the antique streetlights glow like our skin after a day in the sun. The fountains burst forth in ballet on the hour and the half hour, thrilling the little ones. Willow grows fearless, leaning over the cement barriers into the spray, dancing into the night among the startled, smiling crowds. We stand in line for ice cream, prompt the ever-cheerful Cassia to wave at the crowds of cooing old ladies. It's hard to imagine the kids happier, really.

Cassia Meets the Ocean, and It Is GoodWe hit the beach a half hour before sundown, and get the place almost to ourselves. Cassia shrieks with glee at the waves, won't leave the water's edge no matter how forcefully it tries to bowl her over; Willow inches into the deeper waters, rolling with the tide, and comes up grinning every time. I swam out as far as I dared into the rough tide tonight, the water bathwarm and tart on my lips, and waved at them there on the shallow surf with Mama to show I was okay.

I'm more than okay. The yearbook's done, the school year almost over. My back feels better than it has in years. The dark jeans, black shoes and crisp blue-and-white checked shirts I prefer for their comfort mark me as one of the best dressed down here: quite accidentally, of course, but being well dressed in the crowds makes me feel like the world is in its proper place.

Now the kids slumber safe back at our rented Cuban villa with the wife in a bed once owned by J. P. Morgan. They're tired out, and I'm tired, too. We're missing the full bloom of our garden back home, and who knows if the new seed is growing into lawn in our absence. I spent the last leg of our flight down covered in apple juice and ice. The kids are rashy in the heat, and Darcie wilts visibly by midday.

But it's my night out, the night is still young, and I'm ogling the comedy club across the way as I wind the typing down. This is the life, and it's the sour that makes the sweet taste so good. Florida, I raise my paper cup to you. Enough with the blog -- I'm here to live.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:44 PM | 2 comments

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Afterthought 

I don't blog much anymore, it's true. Can't tell if the writing urge is waning again or if there's just too much happening. I hardly use the computer at home, fall behind on my mp3 blogging, don't bother catching up, skim when I finally get to this week's web.

Possible, too, that the words are merely coiling, ready to strike, a concerntarted force. Because the poetry is starting to trickle back. First I won that contest, and then, last night in the midst of yearbook, this circular thing, this sonnet of all things:

The moon is as bright as a streetlight
Tonight

Rising over the meadow
Like a knife
It parts the new tulips
Like a knife.

A thousand unshadows
Flood the paths between the trees.

The smell of woodsmoke
Has been replaced by
the smell of the woods growing
In our neighborhood.

It rises over the meadow
Floods the paths between the trees.


It's good to see the words come together so carefully again.

As summer approaches a teacher's vacation promises something new: a home of our own, a deck to build, a yard to tend; children to fill any hour.

Somewhere in it all I've been promised a first attempt at some serious writing. A novel, maybe. A sestina cycle. Kiddie lit. And it looks like it may just happen.

Something big is growing in me. I can feel it.

In the meantime, we're off to sunsoak. Back a week from Easter, with tales to tell.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:55 PM | 2 comments


Hiatus 

The yearbook's been put to bed after over 24 hours of last-minute pagesetting and creative solutions, thanks mostly to me, and a few kids who were available by email and managed to make a few pages each remotely in between golf lessons and soccer leagues. You can't imagine how good it felt to run through the pages in the cirtual booksetting, hitting "submit" with impunity, after being so far behind for so long.

It's hardly worth the thousand bucks, but I'll do it again next year, mostly because the yearbook publishing company has built everything from multiple image submission to cut and paste functionality into the new web interface, because I've learned (some) from my mistakes this time around, and because I can't say no to a new principal before he's even here.

The baby's birthday went off without a hitch -- both yesterday's private ceremony at the newly opened farm, complete with goats and burgers and cake batter ice cream milkshakes and today's family-full household. It was a bit overwhelming for the wee one, but she learned to say "egg" and "gapa" and "gama" and wandered fearlessly around the yard with everyone's dogs, so it's hard not to be proud.

Older sister got her first trike in honor of her first anniversary of sisterhood, but she seemed more interested in the easter egg hunt. Later, long after the relatives had gone, we spotted her wandering the newly seeded yard, still searching for any eggs unfound.

Folks were gone by three, so I even managed to squeeze a few hours in on the yard, finally getting the last of the moldy hay off the dirt. Spread seed in a matter of minutes with the verycool new seedthrower; uncoiled the new hose and soaked children and self in the waning heat; got filthy and felt fine.

Funny to think a year ago we were in the hospital with a new second child, tryingt o contain the older kid in the birthing floor hallways, worries about impending jobloss and homelessness while trying so hard to stay focused on the new miracle.

Now the yard is damp and dirty and the kids are all sugared out; the work is over for a while; it's school vacation, finally, after all this stress and bother: Now it's all miracles, and we're off to Florida to celebrate. Back in a week. Enjoy the Spring.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:58 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Procrastination Pays Off 


Still swinging, I swear!

Sorry for the long hiatus, folks -- too much coming down at once this week. Term grades were due Tuesday, for one thing...and that yearbook deadline hurts advisors more than you'd expect. Still to come: more lastminute layout madness, and the baby turns one on Friday.

Perhaps one day I'll do a proper post on the oddness that was Passover at our Universalist Unitarianist meetinghouse. Also the surprising meta-irony of a totally non-trayfe Yarzheit candle purchased at The Christmas Tree Shop. Oh, and teaching through a full-day coffee-only fast, to a school population which contains not one Jew out of 420 students. It's been a weird week to be Jewish, I guess.

In the meantime, check out my contest-winning poem The Internet Is Such a Distraction (or Turns Out Gwyneth Paltrow Is Awesome) over at mp3blog extraordinaire Awesome Until Proven Guilty:
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art taller. Or sweaty. Or more awesome, and more temperate
Whatever that means...
[more]

AUPG bloghosts and sole jurists Travis and The Trick promise to send along mix CDs and "a bunch of awesome crazy stuff" when they can, which is cool, but it's really just nice to know I've still got it. 'Specially for a poem I tossed off merely to avoid the avalance. Did I mention the spouse is bugging me to quit my day job and write for a living?

posted by boyhowdy | 8:52 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Eleventh Hour Caption Contest Entry 




What can I do? They all have passes.



Also toyed a bit with they test for gravity in fifth grade now, Ms. Jenkins, but decided it wasn't universal enough. Wish me luck!

posted by boyhowdy | 9:32 PM | 3 comments


Untitled 

How clichéd to say
It was easier when we had nothing to lose.
How human to write it anyway.

And, though it is wet and cold,
Lie on the new grass
Under this three quarter moon.

This, too, will pass soon.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:55 PM | 0 comments

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Spring Mourning 

Mom calls from the car, I think, on her way back from temple. It's my grandfather' yarzeit this weekend -- the Jewish anniversary of his death, usually celebrated by direct descendants with candle and book, there in synagogue, rising into the prayer for the dead with a sprinkling of fellow mourners.

My synagogue lives inside me these days. So do book and candle, I suppose. I've chosen the blogging life in the sticks over standing alone with memory and thought in the crowd of a morning service.

I remember how soft his tan cheek was in the morning, how he smelled of aftershave and pipe tobacco, making eggs for us in his tiny kitchen, white undershirt and khaki pants. I remember his voice, laughing high and hearty; his focused eye in the workshop, the smell of solder, the glow of the television tube.

But I remember them less, each year. And those moments I do remember -- his pipe, his earlobes, his tan shoes -- grow more crystallized, become isoltated from the rest of him, as if a series of close-up snapshots could somehow comprise a being once vibrant and beloved in time and space.

Half a poem came today, before my mother called to remind me of the anniversary of his passage from illness into death. I wanted to bend it towards him after the fact, but our world is so far removed from the one he knew. I couldn't make it fit.

Our neighbors who we have never met
are burning leaves and stormdowned branches
In the yard behind the trees.

The air turns opaque with not-fog.
Smoke covers us. Ashes fall like snow
sparse and grey past the picture window.


Mp3blogger Kwaya Na Kisser has posted the best rainy Saturday mix of downloadable songs ever.

But if you need to cry, you really should be listening to The World Spins Madly On:

Thought of you
And where you’d gone
And the world spins madly on...

And remembering those once here to be loved, lest even their tiniest airborne fragments melt into the air and disappear.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:57 PM | 1 comments

Friday, April 07, 2006

Sometimes Songs Speak Louder Than Words 

Yearbook deadline. End of term grades. Schoolwide technology planning.

Too much expected, but not enough authority to make anything happen. No clear direction, few advocates.

Meanwhile my stomach roils like the ocean in a perfect storm. My brain is ever restless, flipping unspent coins long past their IOU.

I wake up on the couch at midnight, forehead burning too hot and nervous to sleep. Am starting to wonder if the stomachchurn is a sign that this job is too stressful, too undirected. It's hard to keep the voices out, even when I'm playing with the kids.

Sick. Tired. Impotent. Unfulfilled. Anxious.

Wide awake and dreaming of you.

I don't know the way, but I know this isn't the way. Bring on The Weepies, because sometimes the music gets it right:


Got an old ghost locked in my closet, I know I know
Got an old ghost locked in my closet, I know I know
I got, I got, I got to keep it there.

Came down on a bottle rocket
Found my heart right where I locked it
Last night like rain on chalk
It's gone like money in my pocket.

See those stars shining in your eyes and I know I know
See those stars shining in your eyes and I know I know
I got, I got, I got to keep it there.

(from
Keep it There, by the Weepies.)

For a free taste of the Weepies, check out their MySpace page, because MySpace pages have streaming musical goodness. Or, if you're podded, swing by Jefito's recent Weepies write-up, which contains two absolutely gorgeous downloads off their new album >Say I Am You, including new personal anthem The World Spins Madly On:

I woke up and wished that I was dead
With an aching in my head
I lay motionless in bed
I thought of you
And where you’d gone
Let the world spin madly on

And everything that I’d said I’d do
Like make the world brand new
And take the time for you
Just got lost
And stepped right through the dawn
And the world spins madly on.

And I let the day go round
And I always say good bye
I watch the stars from my windowsill
The whole world is moving and I’m standing still

I woke up and wished that I was dead
With an aching in my head
I lay motionless in bed
The night is here
And the day is gone
And the world spins madly on
Thought of you
And where you’d gone
And the world spins madly on


The Weepies: The soundtrack of your life. Better mood management than Muzak, that's for sure.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:50 PM | 0 comments

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
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