Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Boyhowdy and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day 

The kids woke me up early, and I couldn't go back to sleep. We only had cheap coffee for breakfast, and I hate cheap coffee. I threw my back out picking up a tennis ball and now when I shift my weight or cough it's like I'm passing a kidney stone.

It was a terrible, horrible, no good very bad day.

I spent three hours on hold this morning, listening to faint muzak, only to get yelled at by some irritated guy at the Department of Education who insisted that he couldn't answer any of my questions until they received my transcripts -- only once they do get 'em, they go right ahead and weigh my case for Licensure before I can send anything in to support it.

The lady at the mortgage company needs me to fax her a copy of a letter set by her own company, but expected us to know that our bill didn't reflect reality, and now we owe a late payment that we all agree we didn't incur.

My increased frustration with the universe made me cranky, and I took it out on the kids. Then I felt far too horrible about it to be able to deal with them crying. Then I felt guilty for not dealing with them, like I had made a mess and was now refusing to clean it up, and leaving Darcie holding the mop. Then I yelled at my mom at dinner.

It was a terrible, horrible, no good very bad day, one of those where nothing goes right, everything has ominous far-reaching consequences, and it all slips through your fingers.

Some days are like that. But, Lord, please, not so many.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:41 PM | 1 comments

Monday, June 26, 2006

The Glow Of Summer 

Now in five fun-tastic colors!Just finished a single-bid ebay auction to find ourselves proud owners of 500 8-inch lightstick bracelets for under 40 bucks (and that includes shipping and handling). They cost three bucks apiece at those 4th of July celebrations, which is totally nuts, but in bulk, they're totally worth it.

Last year, we ordered a couple hundred, used 'em to help keep track of the kids in folk festival crowds at night, and in the backyard, too -- for that peace of mind, I'd pay much more than a couple of cents per. The remainders lasted all year, and made for great special-treat fun at bedtime in the long winter months.

Wanna join the fluorescent crowd? GlowUniverse sells 'em direct, but the ebay route tends to be even cheaper. Better, if you order right now, they'll actually arrive before the 4th.

So make your life a little brighter -- at these prices, you can literally give them away. And why not? Glowsticks keep us all young and full of wonder.

posted by boyhowdy | 5:04 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, June 25, 2006

A Matter of Perception 

Hilarity at home tonight after a long overnight up north with Darcie's family. The baby gives voice to a dozen animals or more, from a duck's honk to a bear's growl, but attributes to her elder sister the lion's breathy roar. Willow says that I am old, but Mama is "still new"; pressed, she cannot explain why.

When they sleep, I am restless, unwritten. The book outline was done two months ago. Sitting down to write the first few words has become herculean. Has it been talked out too soon, made moot by too much preemptive discourse on the subject?

Used to be I could recognize the moment, seize it. But then, that was when deadlines were imposed from outside, and writing was all that needed to be done. Now I struggle just to write the blog, let alone write about how it has changed my life.

Blank paper used to be a gift -- when did it become so heavy? I make a long list of home and landscape chores that need to be done this summer, from ant eradication to woodpath-clearing, and, having done something, turn to fiddlebrain pasttimes, far from the maddening page.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:43 PM | 0 comments

Friday, June 23, 2006

Family Secrets 

It rained earlier, and it's getting dark. The roads teem with toads washed from flooded lairs; it's like a horror movie, almost, and they're unavoidable. Back home, the summer's first fireflies have begun their nightly flit and flicker.

I'm on my way back from a quaint town in Connecticut, all tobacco farms and rustic clapboard malls that spell their name with extra letters just to fit in. My mother's sister lives there, just an hour fifteen as the crow flies; it seemed so close, I felt bad sending Aunt Lil down on the bus.

I stayed a half hour, maybe. Was polite, talked teacher's unions, grandchildren and weather, drank rapidly a glass of water. Things were just starting to get comfortable after years without contact when I made my excuses.

So much unbloggable in the last few days. Sometimes, I wish I didn't know so much about other people's secrets. It would make blogging easier, anyway.

It was a hundred times more lonely coming back without Lil in the car.

But those who hope to keep their friends and relatives close must cultivate trust. It seems loneliness and silence are the sun and soil of any good blogger who hopes to keep his family secrets. And thus we give our selves family, though it costs us our diaries, leaves us only poetry, and the facts of the matter.

Round the corners, then, and around the dark roads with the brights on. Light tunnels into fog, the recursive world comes at you out of the darkness, and you deal with it as it comes, just to survive.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:20 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Lensless World 

Mom's old video camera wouldn't show or capture images, and it was too dark for the digital camera, as I've never figured out what shift in settings might stabilize pictures taken in near-darkness, from a great distance, of moving bodies.

But technical (and positional) difficulties nothwithstanding, it's hard to call tonight's pre-school graduation ceremony and performance anything but a successful milestone. Willow was exuberant and wiggly -- easily overshadowed, yes, and not yet as confident as the kindergarten five year olds, but certainly a force to be reckoned with, if not tomorrow, then very soon.

I took a few pictures with mom's high-end non-digital, but mostly I waved, my hand in the three-fingered sign for "I Love You", blew kisses. In between songs, Willow looked for us in the crowd, over and over; found us, grinned happily, held up her own tiny three-fingered sign, which she checked visually to make sure it was right before thrusting it out at us like cupid's arrow.

It was good, in a way, to end up different, more connected to her and to the event, rather than join the myriad ranks of videographer Dads surrounding us. Years from now, when we unpack tonight's thinpaper diploma from yet another childhood collection, it will be that connection, that moment made when our eyes locked in pride and mutual delight, the shared happiness of her growing spark of selfassured personhood, which we remember best, and cherish.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:52 PM | 0 comments

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:

...OPPRESSIVE HEAT ON SUNDAY WITH SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS EXPECTED MONDAY AND TUESDAY...

HIGH TEMPERATURES ON SUNDAY ARE EXPECTED TO REACH THE MID 90S...THE HOT TEMPERATURES COMBINED WITH DEWPOINTS IN THE MID 60S WILL BRING HEAT INDICES NEAR 100 DEGREES. HEAT EXHAUSTION CAN OCCUR WITH PROLONGED EXPOSURE TO THESE HOT CONDITIONS. YOU CAN REDUCE THE EFFECTS OF THE HEAT BY LIMITING OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES IN THE SUN DURING THE HOTTEST TIME OF THE DAY. ALSO...DRINK PLENTY OF NON-ALCOHOLIC FLUIDS.

ON MONDAY...ISOLATED THUNDERSTORMS ARE EXPECTED TO DEVELOP IN THE LATE MORNING OR EARLY AFTERNOON... THESE STORMS MAY BECOME SEVERE PRODUCING LARGE HAIL AND DAMAGING STRAIGHT LINE WIND GUSTS. IN ADDITION...A LINE OF THUNDERSTORMS MAY MOVE IN... FROM THE WEST LATE IN THE AFTERNOON OR EVENING. THE PRIMARY THREAT WITH THESE STORMS WOULD BE DAMAGING STRAIGHT LINE WIND GUSTS.


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.

DSC01169

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
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