Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Light, Refracted 

Now with songs about rainbows! Also today: what IS on the other side?

A practically unbloggable day, mostly because after years of bigbang prep school graduation pomp and end-of-year ritual as the boarding community empties out of itself, lugubrious and slow, it turns out public school goes out with a whimper. Has it really been 180 days since that first prepubescent kid showed up in my classroom, half a foot shorter and temporarily, oh so temporarily, reticent?

If I believed in omens, though, I'd have to say tonight's weather trifecta -- a perfect rainbow, superimposed over a sharpstick lightning storm, against a reddening sunset -- was closure enow. Certainly was the biggest damn sign I've ever been shown, anyway; an hour long and slotted perfectly into the treegap before us as we drove over the mountain from a long family afternoon in Northampton, itself a kind of heaven: playground play, window toyshop shopping, supper with Mom in the organic restaurant, sorrel soup and perfect crab cakes while the rain started outside.

Surely the universe was trying to tell me something. And funny, how rainbows bring folks out of the woodwork to gawk in the streets, grining at each other and the sky in turn. I slowed the car coming through town to yell at a few teens out for a stroll, enjoying their first night of summer, that they were facing the wrong way. Their gleeful exclamations fading through the open window as I drove off were reward enough. Mission accomplished, for another year.

And now, today's bonus...my favorite songs about rainbows:

posted by boyhowdy | 9:38 PM | 1 comments

Monday, June 19, 2006

Stop, Stop, Baby 

BoingBoing post about this flickr pool of stick figures in peril got me thinking about street signs obscure, obscene, and in particular that o-so-tempting negative space all red and low-hanging on the bottom of your average stop sign, like in this over-worded example.

But not for me the "Stop War" sign, nor the political "Stop Bush", truly. My humor tends towards the wry and the minimalist. Perhaps "Stop...Looking At Me Like That". Or even "Stop...Collaborate and Listen."

My brother brought a "No parking" sign home when we were kids, erased letters, fixed it up to say "No s fer at u" with only a bottle of white paint. From there I learned to blot words off newspaper columns until a poem was left. If you use a nice fat marker, what's left slides down the page like a rockfall.

I've always envied his visual sense. But I want no less to bring joy to the randomness of the universe.

It's the same inner drive to giggle, I think, that causes me to pay double tolls "for the guy behind me" on the Turnpike once in a while, just to see the mayhem begin in my read view mirror as the unknown beneficiary tries, valiantly, to pay for his rightful share. The same that makes me want to add an asterisk to the Yield sign, and footnote it, so that all might know that, if you say the word "Yield" a couple of times too many, it sounds really weird.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:44 PM | 0 comments

Come And Go, Come And Go 

A turtle halfway up the mountain this morning, a greygreen midsized snapper just beginning its journey across the road. A refugee from an old joke? Roadkill waiting to happen? I wanted to stop, but I wasn't ready to save the world just yet.

From there the same two geese as yesterday, and the weeks before, so still I startled the first time they moved as I passed. Until that moment I had thought that they were decoys, movable and re-posed daily, for, I suppose, the entertainment of daily commuters like myself.

And then the peak passes into early sunlight like the 178 mornings before, and with it the long view into Springfield valley, spread before me like, I dunno, a patient etherized upon a table.

Halfway down the busses join the procession. Before we know it, we are pulling in together.

In school the kids are restless, in line and overheated already at 8, there on the playground asphalt during the morning fire drill; we spend the remainder of the day trying to figure out which seventh grader pulled the alarm.

Summer comes. Games in class today, and shortened periods so we can all enjoy the student bands after lunch in the too-hot auditorium. Desk-cleaning tomorrow, and a graduation ceremony, an early dismissal. One last morning drive over the mountain to go.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:26 AM | 0 comments

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Ahhh! Damaging Straight Line Wind Gusts!*
*Alternate title: Help, Help, I'm Being Oppressed! 

Don't know why there's no star up in the sky...

Weird weather coming. The National Weather Service releases a severe weather alert, which says:




Plan for tomorrow: lie around panting. Hopefully, by the time the family arrives for Father's Day it will have begun to cool off a bit, and we can move on to the alcoholic fluids.

Also, apologies for the cut-and-paste caps. Man, those national weather service folks make such a big deal over everything.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:28 PM | 0 comments

Heat Sonnet 

Hot today, and hotter tomorrow.
Summer comes early to New England,
Our slow Winter long forgotten
Among the greening of Spring.

The hose runs warm now.
The dog pants at the door.
We close the windows early,
Preserve the chill of night,
The pressure of the rotating sun
Against the dew as it rises.

Watch as noon approaches
Outside our glass cocoon,
The green glow of the world
In a lightly clouded rain.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:21 AM | 0 comments

Friday, June 16, 2006

Yearbook Days 

So little learning in these last days of school. Children on the cusp of summer fiddle in their seats for halfdays, end up outside in the hot sun of already summer, eating hot dogs, signing shirts.

To a teacher, each shirt signing is a sexual harassment suit waiting to happen.

Summer, summer. Summer comes, like a storm on the horizon. 8th graders on their way up to the high school count the minutes until they once again sit, low men on the totem pole, on a new school wall.

Passed the yearbook out yesterday during lunch, I their intrepid advisor behind the table with the master list, standing behind the few remaining yearbook staff for one last time as they shoved the glossy blue hardcovers into four hundred hands or more. Never sold enough, but there was a surplus for this my first year; I'm already plotting ways to improve next year's process, next year's book. Maybe it's not the most important of my mandated tasks, but it's good to have something so concrete to show for the year.

I decided to only let 8th graders sign my book this year. Let the rising elders begin the year with incentive to buy one. They'll forget, as they will so many of our lessons. But somewhere, in the back of their blossoming minds, the world is crystallizing around these thousand truths. It is why we teach, after all. And such folly to demand more of them than this great task, this great rememberance, this great change.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:48 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Where We Are Is Here 

Got paid to play laser tag with 13 year olds all afternoon. Kicked their butts, mostly, as the 13-year-old mind is all action, no strategy. Sore tonight, but hoorah for field trip day, where you get to shoot your students.

Back at school this morning and for the rest of the week, I've got kids cleaning computers with q-tips and rubbing alcohol. No, I'm sorry, they're "learning proper computer maintenance and care" as part of my computer curriculum. Well, it gets the place clean, anyway.

The book is writing itself in my head. I can feel it. Meanwhile, the calendar begins to fill for the impending summer. May the words make it out alive, amen.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:41 PM | 2 comments

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A Taste Of June 

The crickets have returned, and with them the heat of the day, the coolness of the evening. We lie in bed with Willow, my wife and I, and sing: The Water is Wide, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, You Are My Sunshine. Our voices are raspy, but we still know all the same words; our cadence matches perfectly after years of duets, of listening to each other in cocreation.

Summer comes. At night the skies stay bright for hours, until the horizon glows, and the nightlight moon brings light to the trees. We dream of living in the fields again, in our summer tent city communities. Outside, the world buzzes with the hidden green of it all.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:32 PM | 0 comments

Monday, June 12, 2006

And Back Again 

Another week unblogged, but this time, I'm ripe with excuses. Wanna hear 'em?

We'll start with The Mysterious Illness, a three-day bout of high chills and fever, numbswollen glands in odd and embarassing places, and a fever-induced pelvis pain like you wouldn't believe. Spent much of two days in the hospital under a blanket, freezing to death at room tempurature, in fact. I've given more blood in a week than I've ever given, and I used to pride myself on my donor status.

Lucky my primary care physician finally noticed what turned out to be a fist-sized, entirely septic, horribly vicious spider bite on my calf, or I'd still be being poked in the abdomen even now. In my defense, I would have noticed that myself, had I not been such a total disaster both physically and mentally.

Disappointingly, I have yet to manifest any superhuman powers [insert spiderman picture here]. And I don't look like Tobey Maguire any more than I used to, either. On the bright side, the fever finally came down Friday afternoon, just in time for excuse number two: The Edith Jones Memorial Weekend, up in Rome, NY.

Darcie's Mom grew up in Rome; her father worked there, both at the base and at the press, and between 'em, that pretty much covered the major industries around Rome and it's upstate environs. The family plot is there, too, and we gathered there in the utterly violent cold and rain to sing her favorite hymn, it was nice to think of Edith one last time all together, and see her in each other's faces fondly.

Edith didn't really want a memorial, but I think the weekend functioned as a pretty good send-off, once the memorial itself was over. Those folks with memories revisited them, taking tours in the area, looking for old haunts grown rough with age. We ate at the Savoy, her old favorite restaurant, both Friday night and Saturday; the food was great, the piano player gentle on the keys and stuck in time like the rest of the place, and it was nice to watch old home movies with her bothers and their families there in the function room.

Nice, too, to have some time to hang with Ginny, and the rest of the family we know and love back at the house. Edith would have loved it.

Still, the blogging would have started last night, were it not for End Of Year Grading, our third and final excuse of the evening, and due first thing tomorrow morning. 'nuff said, there. If there is a teacher out there who actually likes the number crunching and score-fiddling that the rest of us find such a year's end buzzkill, I'd be happy to trade papergrading time tit for tat.

My blogger's voice has been lost a bit to the antibiotic-induced delirium, but I relinquished my doctor's note at work this morning, so I guess it's business as usual from here on in -- if by "business as usual" you mean brainfried and ready for summer. One week and counting until the last day of the school year...a week and a day until the bookwriting begins in earnest. Viva la blog!

posted by boyhowdy | 8:45 PM | 2 comments

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

In The Afterlife 

...and I feel fine.

It's 6/6/06, and the news is full of halfhilarious musings about the end of the world, a party in Hell, and the well-timed release of a totally unnecessary remake of The Omen. Here in subjective-land, it's also day 6 of 6 in our 6-day class rotation. Oh, and it's my father's birthday today. He's 60.

Of course, I'm not superstitious (knock on wood). It's funny to see the kids wandering the halls with their fingernails painted black, like a goth population explosion. But surely the achy lymph node in my groin is but a temporary symptom of something mild and temperable.

Still. Give it another two weeks, and it really will feel like the end of the world, albeit the usual temporary one. Heading into a school building after the school year has ended is surprisingly like walking into a post-rapture world.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:30 AM | 8 comments

Monday, June 05, 2006

Mundania, And Then Some 

Read two Neil Gaiman books (American Gods and Nancy Boys) in 48 hours. Wrote half a poem -- fragments, mostly -- but it never fell together. Tried several times over the past few days to log in, but the world kept getting in the way.

The countdown to the school year's end seeps into everything we do at work. Students stream raucous and uncouth through the hallways on their way in and out each day like salmon on their last few runs. In my rare free periods there are budget numbers to clean up, year-end reports to word and weave. Grading looms on the horizon, and after that, summer.

The sky peered blue around the clouds this morning for the first time in a week or more. This evening while my wife prepped tomorrow's birthday supper -- my father turns 60, and there will surely be more to say about that as the week progresses -- elderkid Willow and I sat hand in hand on the porch steps and watched the last technicolor fade from the very tops of the candlestick trees, the oaks and pines that line our yard.

I sang her to sleep tonight with the old school song, and thought while I sang of how much I miss those few fleeting things which made the boarding school existence so overwhelming, so whole: singing, suits, the pomp and ceremony.

A year ago the schoolyear would be over, and the great release would be upon us. Thirty years, and there I was her age, furtive after lights out, reading books in the hallway light while my parents murmured upstairs. My voice is slipping away, I think, but it is not lost. This new halflife takes some getting used to, but there will always be another year.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:23 PM | 1 comments

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Rain, Rain 

A half hour of uninterrupted thunder Thursday afternoon was only the prelude to a halfhour deluge -- one unmatched in my experience since the punctual monsoons of Bangladesh.

The gutters overflowed in minutes, flooding the flowerbeds. The suntent blew away, caught on the laundry lines. We sat on the porch with the kids, stared wide-eyed at the storm, growled back at the thunder as the day grew dark three hours too soon, and stayed that way until night.

Now here it is 48 hours later and been raining forever, running the gamut from dizzle to downpour. The world is wet and dim and terrible. New oak leaves and treefuzz litter the driveway. Lawn washes away. The last stalks of Spring drown in their beds.

Inside, the ants come marching out of the sinkdrain. The cat sulks by the front door, and will not go out. We find our own light -- go to the mall, have a chinese lunch, come home again to clean and bathe in the florescent glow. We pray for sun.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:29 PM | 0 comments

Friday, June 02, 2006

Attain Perfect Bliss In 5 Easy Steps 

Step 1: Discover fresh soft sugar cookies in pantry. Open package. Put cookie in mouth like a dog with a frisbee. Put package on table.

Step 2: Open fridge. Discover new milk behind the old milk. Pour milk into glass.

Step 3: Take three more cookies out of package. Break cookie in half. Dip in milk. Stare into space thoughtfully.

Step 4: Remove just-remembered jar of Nutella from cabinet. Get butter knife out of dishwasher.

Step 5: Attain perfect bliss. Several times.

And forever dream of Nutella cookie sandwiches.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:52 PM | 1 comments

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Hello, Goodbye (and Happy June...) 

I know it's been a while, but constantly crossing the threshold between my (semi-) airconditioned teaching lab and the too-hot, too-humid hallways outside has caused mega-headache, so let's keep this hodgepodge short:

Home: Solo-ed with the elderchild on Tuesday while Mama and baby went down to the Cape to see about plans for my brother's wedding this summer: supper, a trip to see the fire engines stage rescues down by the waterfall, and a quiet bedtime...nothing fancy, but it was like having a totally different child all day. Sigh...she's so angelic, so smart, so creative when she's not trying to compete with her sister. Other home news includes much yardwork, mostly. Pix of the Capehouse (mostly for relative perusal) are on flickr, natch.

Work: Discovered today that web addresses (including search strings) containing the letter sequence "hawt" are blocked through our school district's server, which sucks for anyone trying to study Hawthorne Heights or, say, Nathaniel Hawthorne. On the other hand, new adjacent lab is coming along apace -- it'll be nice to have XP in da house, as it were.

Play: Babble is sucking out my soul. But I did post some fun "Not Just For Kids" mp3s over at audiography this week -- feel free to head over, download, and join the community. I'd provide a direct link to my own entry, but it seems livejournal pages are blocked at work, too...

posted by boyhowdy | 11:24 AM | 1 comments

Monday, May 29, 2006

The First S'mores of Summer 

Sticky baby! Ah, the old skewer through Daddy's tongue trick.


posted by boyhowdy | 10:15 PM | 1 comments

Sunday, May 28, 2006

A Carnival of Senses 

Half a long weekend in Brattleboro, and boy, are my senses tired. Here's a trifecta for each:

Sight: A flurry of white on a downtown street while a hundred morris dancers shook and rang around me like the world's cleanest street gang. Downy woodpeckers, a series of tiny hummingbirds, an iridescent indgio bunting up against the windowfeeders at my inlaw's house. The glisten of poison ivy everywhere along the banks of the everexpanding stream that cuts through their property.

Smell: Lilacs rotting on their branches. Mown grass with a hit of gas from a borrowed mower. The comforting stench of evening cowfields in the first hot humid days of summer.

Taste: Lamb's liver and moose pate at the farmer's market; rough-grained bread, green olives, and a cilantro chutney on the side. A cold blueberry yogurt soup, spicy and sweet, at brunch with old friend Dan this morning. Wolaver's Pale Ale straight out of the boat cooler, bitter and mature, drunk in the hot afternoon sun.

Touch: Cold riverwater off the speedboat bow. Wet grass against my ankles, and my tinychild's light grasp against my smallest finger as we run together through a still-dewy lawn while the rest of the family is out. My wife's knees against mine, a barstool intimacy among the latenight cacaphony of our old college microbrew haunt.

Hearing: Cassia, like the Finding Nemo seagulls, chanting mine!mine!mine! as her sister teases her with soft desirables in the back seat. Willow, serious in the rear view mirror: Daddy, from now on I wish I could be called "Willow Tree". A thousand bells, a hundred giggles, a dozen half-familiar voices, the roar of the wind as the river rushes past all around us.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:31 PM | 0 comments

Friday, May 26, 2006

Meanwhile, On The Internet... 

The online forum for the town where I work continues to represent the worst of the Internet, but after this informative and hilarious exchange re: local firepit ordinances today, I continue to support the concept of the town forum.

Like the New Yorker before it, daily checkout Overheard in New York has begun a headline contest to mix up their usual hilariously-titled snippets of real stolen sidewalk coversation. Hope it doesn't have the same effect on their sense of humor.

Bumped into a VERY old friend over at the chatbox alongside new addiction Babble (Boggle + Scrabble). Fond memories in my head all day. Seems the virtual world is a small one, too.

Realized at supper today that we'd be all gussied up for prepschool prom and baccalaureate this weekend if we hadn't been summarily "rightsized" out of house and home at the end of last year. Thank God for soft landings. Had old school song Jerusalem stuck in my head all evening since.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:32 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Ten Reasons I Obsess About My Lawn 

  1. Because apparently, in some small and terribly flawed way, I see lawns as the ultimate symbol of homeownership.

  2. Because it embodies my inability to come to terms with the sheer gall of human terraforming in the face of nature incarnate.

  3. Because it keeps me from obsessing over everything else.

  4. Because I don't really feel comfortable around power tools.

  5. Because it is overwhelmingly present, everywhere you look, in every window.

  6. Because it is liminality incarnate, the inevitable surface-to-be-trod in passing between the world inside and the world without.

  7. Because it surrounds us, thus framing our very sense of microgeography, flavoring our sense of self.

  8. Because its required maintenance torments me.

  9. Because it is a breeding ground for the ants that will eventually consume the house itself.

  10. Because it really does look like it has mange.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:40 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

If Old Is Just A State Of Mind, Why Is My Beard Turning Grey? 

Wil Wheaton is here. You are not.

So I'm flipping through the Onion AV Club, because it's Tuesday night and Tuesday night means new Onion material, and I hit the feature article, which is basically Wil Wheaton gushing about the E3 conference (The Electronic Entertainment Expo, which is a gamer's wet dream), wherein I come to the following passage:
The Guitar Hero craze has hit 33-year-olds like me with the same fervor and intensity of the Pokémon craze hitting our children five years ago.
And the part of my brain that was halfheartedly interested in the cultural ramifications of a video game that, essentially, combines air guitar and karaoke -- which is ultimately about as exciting as it sounds -- is suddenly obliterated by the realization that Wil Wheaton! The kid from Star Trek! The peasized hero of Stand By Me! Is 33!

Yes, Wil Wheaton, child actor turned blogosphere darling, is the same age as me. And there he is in one of the hippest satirespots on the Internet, gushing about the E3 conference and how he showed up without press credentials and now he's watching Tony Hawk skate a fifteen foot halfpipe.

Meanwhile, I met Tony Hawk in Egypt when we were both in high school. He was already slapping his name on sneakers and boards. I had my hair cut to look like Duran Duran.

Tony and Wil, Wil and Tony. They're my generation, them and Snoop Dog and a whole host of the other culturally ageless, and they're so much cooler than me. I mean, here I am nursing a pinched nerve after a long day at the workplace amidst high anxiety pinkslip rumors, typing this amidst the destroyed livingroom leavings of a traditional nuclear family. We don't even have TV, my wife is putting the kids to bed upstairs, I blog too much about my lawn and my kids, it's like I'm a stereotype of adulthood, and there's Wil Wheaton getting paid to write about video games. Or not getting paid, I suppose, which is worse.

Not that I actually want to be at E3 -- indie music-and-film fest SXSW is more my style. And I realize that it's my own choices, the ones I continue to make because they're right and good and amazingly worth it, that keeps me here releasing turtles into the wild with small children instead of on the road with String Cheese Incident. But you get the point.

The top five things I missed doing, and now it's too late: Bonnaroo, skydiving, driving from one coast to the other in a beat up old car with a good friend, two other things I'd mention here if my students didn't read this blog.

Someone will surely point out here that I can do these things (well, the first three) if I want, and nothing's stopping me. But something is.


See, here's the difference between me and the rich and famous: they can still take off for conferences, and I choose not to.

In the end, Wil tempers his own article with a similar point, though his features a phone call from his wife and plumbing repairs. He ends up making some inane point about how games (like the conference itself) are there to give release from the mundane world. His tagline bio, at article's end:

Wil Wheaton mows his lawn on Sunday mornings, and rocks out to Guitar Hero every night.

But Wil is laying it on thick, and he's not fooling anyone playing the "I'm old and married and boring" card at the E3 conference with Tony Hawk. My lawn looks like mange. My house is a mess. I'm not writing an article for the Onion. I would never leave my wife home while I went to a conference unless I was going to be home for supper. The rest of us don't get to go to the front of the line.

[Two caveats:

First, that I must not be that old, because I keep giggling when I look down at my life insurance form and seeing AD&D Benefits (Benefit 1: you know how to handle a mace-wielding Orc, should the need ever arise).

And second, I've been rereading High Fidelity, and I think both language and tone are getting to me. Does it show?]

posted by boyhowdy | 8:20 PM | 3 comments

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Today, A Sonnet 

We spent Sunday prying rocks out of a dying garden:
flagstones and slate revealed between the rows,
a history of hands and knees, straw hats,
fingers deep in the dirt of ownership.

The minister is moving up the street from us.
We've been moving her garden piecemeal for days,
skipping church to run our hands in the dirt.
Her dog barks at us through the window.

We fill our trunks with a pathway-to-be,
two cars and two trips, the kids underfoot.
We talk of stepping stones in a river of grass.

We go home to plant lillies along the scar of winter,
fill ruts with flowerstems, rebuild God's beauty
at the base of the poorly plowed driveway.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:54 PM | 1 comments
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