Wednesday, August 30, 2006

New Beginnings, Ragged Ends 

Another year, another crop of kids. The seventh graders are overwhelmed by homeroom's end; the eight graders turned surly and distracted, all-over adolescent overnight. At the close of the hour-long, rules-laden assembly at start of day, some kid wants to know if hugging is okay. I think he's serious. Happily, it seems to be acceptable, as long as the feeling is mutual.

Work is exhausting, but my new schedule leaves me clean half-days "free" to work with teachers and other classes in the lab, a big improvement over last year's sporadic and hard-to-schedule on-off hodgepodge. The new principal is sincere, eager, easy to work with. I begin to expect big things.

Back home the elderkid pulls a Delilah on herself, chopping a jagged hairline from brow to ear with her project scissors when her mother's back is turned. I try to be disapproving, but, honestly, she's worse the the eight graders.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:19 PM | 1 comments

Monday, August 28, 2006

A Tale of Two Children 

Cassia couldn't sleep, so I took her outside in the damp night to listen to the bugs buzz, the peepers peep. Her year-and-a-half eyes glowed wide with wonder as walked down the driveway, the pitch black before us, the garagelight fading behind us. Afterwards, she gave me a snuggle and said my daddy clear as a bell before asking for Mama, and bed.

Meanwhile, Willow had a hissy fit out at the stream this afternoon, so we cut the fishing short and fumed back through the woods together, though if she were old enough to make her own way back, she would have. She pulls at her sister, and natters loudly if we try to talk to anyone else in her presence. Tonight, on the phone with my mother, of all the wondeful things we did this weekend, she chose to share did you know that we were pulled over by a policeman in the car?

Once, the wee one was practically prehuman, cute but essentially object. Once, the elderkid was sweet, generous, gracious and gentle by default. I suppose they'll forever see-saw, too, on their own wobbly curves, sometimes in sync at high or low, sometimes like today, just a study in opposites.

Ah, who am I kidding. I love 'em, God bless 'em. Even if their reaction to my daytime absence were to remain forever diverse and unpredictable, I miss them terribly when I'm working. So long, summer vacation. Hello again, teacher's life.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:52 PM | 1 comments

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Glad, Glad, Glad 

Malcolm Gladwell has the ability to make me interested in anything. This week, it’s the dependency ratio, a vital economic conceit in which the ratio of non-workers to workers in any pension system turns out to be amazingly powerful predictive factor for long-term systemic potential -- including impending corporate doom -- to a factor of about 40 years out.

I know, it’s the kind of article you skip over first time around, and read later because there’s nothing else around to read. But it was, honestly, fascinating, and I wish you'd stop reading this blog and go read it right now. Gladwell's blog-based follow-up helps us chew the gristle a bit, too.

I’m glad there’s a Gladwell. It gives us someone to aspire to, without the threat of jealousy.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:59 PM | 1 comments

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Tiny Voices 

The wee one's language develops exponentially these days. She's not yet threading words together, but the world is full of nouns and desires, from new potty to her favorite internet video, inflected appropriately as request or demand in her babyhigh soprano.

Meanwhile, elderkid's voice is all over the place. In the background, sometimes, I hear her singing to herself, playing with the sound of words until they lose their meaning, and usually to the tune of something Disney.

It's time to notice these things, I think; all too soon I will be gone more than here again. Monday's professional development day, Tuesday's classroom set-up and faculty meeting are the flesh hitting the water. The kids arrive Wednesday, bright from the August sun. Under the surface, a faculty still reticent to change lurks like a swordfish.

Inside my head, the buzz of workyear begins. Tasks whirl around each other in my brain, naming themselves out loud, making a whirlwind of my once-summerquiet head. Distant at first, by Wednesday it will be a full-blown constancy, nagging and loud and eternal, blurring my vision and keeping me from fullness with the ones I love, at least until another summer.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:20 PM | 1 comments

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Blogging For The Sake Of Blogging 

Sunset over Westview Farm, Monson, MAWent into school today, to check in and meet with the new principal for a bit. Bumped into a few familiar faces, but mostly the place is empty and seemingly untouched since the Spring. Didn't seem like work has started as just one of the things I had to do today.

Other things I had to do today: buy milk, watch the baby develop OCD (Messy! Wipe?), stack a good row of freshly delivered cordwood. How good to do an honest day's labor, use a little muscle, a little brain. Thanks to the Internet for some informative info re: proper stacking technique, which you'd think would be pretty obvious, but I suppose it doesn't hurt to be sure.

There are baby cows at the local farm-slash-creamery up the hill, and the sunsets are beautiful over the fields. Willow and I went fishing for an hour before supper yesterday with nary a nibble, except for the mosquitoes, which are pretty bad the time of year. Summer winds down, and not with a bang, either. But the days are good, if generally uneventful.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:32 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


I've spent 24 hours turning up mold in every corner of the basement: under rugs, behind the fridge, hanging from the strings which once held preschool paste projects. From a room where our predecessors had their pool table, I personally removed over hundred stacked, half-brokendown boxes swarmed with the stuff.

The sour stuff even seeped into the once-clean clothes stacked neatly on the futon at the base of the stairs. I saved what little I could, and have now turned to running prefolded stacks through the wash.

Not sure how I'll manage to save the futon mattress, though. Or the hardwood sideboard and matching chairs, fuzzy with green hair. Or the boxes of stuffed animals and playroom toys, all organized by type and developmental stage, each waiting for the little one to grow a few months more. Or my sinuses, damnit.

Am starting to suspect, in fact, that the entire basement is just plain unsalvageable. Certainly, I can't go down there any more. Not now, with the worst of it exposed to the stirred-up air.

But it's here I'm more worried about. The door to downstairs sports a few green spots by the base. Floorvents leak poison as I struggle to clean the rest of the place before the kids come home tomorrow with their mother. The very air is toxic. I've just sneezed all over the keyboard, in fact.

I'm out of here for a haircut, with windows open to the sun. Here's hoping the world looks a little brighter when I return. Or at least less humid, and a whole lot less sour smelling.

posted by boyhowdy | 2:14 PM | 1 comments

Monday, August 21, 2006

Cleaning House 

If you haven't heard from me for a few days, it's because I've been cleaning the dumping spaces. Yesterday it was the garage, where the walls have crept in on our carfootage until we could not pass with doors open. This morning I start on the basement, where a green mold patina blossoms on every leather surface, and a hundred empty boxes remind us that we never really finished moving in.

If all goes well, I might have time to clear the brushpiles from along the driveway tomorrow afternoon between a much-needed haircut and supper with Dad. Such possibility grows distant, however, as time goes on, and the mold begins to affect my sinuses.

Everyone understands the idea of Spring cleaning; airing out the nooks and crannies after a winter cooped up in the house is intuitive. But we're messy people, Darcie and I, and the kids seem to have inherited our trait. We've spent a year tidying, mostly for company, mostly in a rush, and it's these semi-private dumping grounds -- the basement, the garage, even the wood's edges -- which have sufered from our eternal struggle to keep the place cosmetic.

Too, what with the school year starting up again next Monday, time is running out for such projects. Soon my days will be filled with children, and my evenings full of family. Soon, full days will be too precious, and the air too cold, to do other than hunker down, and be close to my kids after long weeks of work and early rising, and fill the house with winter's nest.

Thus, Fall cleaning. Unrealistic as it is, I remain ever hopeful that the spaces I sweep and unclutter today will remain so. More probably, we've made enough room for another year's accumulation. Until the Fall comes twice, then: may these places become rooms, that we might fill them with our love.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:22 AM | 0 comments

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Ten Years...So Far 

She wore her wedding whites, put her hair up like she used to. So beautiful, and glowing with the magic of that simple dress, the bright blue scarf above it. I wore a tie, in case anyone cares.

We left the kids with her parents, drove downtown, parked in the lot in the center of Brattleboro. There were naked people in the parking lot, just standing around. Everyone looked, but nobody said anything.

I took her out to Peter Havens, the fanciest place downtown, one of those reservation-only joints where the menu in the window doesn't list the prices. From our seats by the wall we could see a slice of Haystack mountain over the old brick facades and across the Connecticut River. We were easily the youngest people in the place, strangers in a community we once knew and loved, eating pheasant pate and escargot, venison and cherry-roasted duck in a sea of surrealist paintings. It was, to tell the truth, kind of romantic.

On the way home it was twilight. We stopped by the church where we were married, walked the garden, in the darkening light turned suddenly adolescent. She tugged my ring, I took her hand; bats fluttered in my stomach, in the trees, everywhere. And somewhere in the awkward dark we declared ourselves another ten years, and kissed, and held each other over an endless bridge of time; and went back home to our family, ready for the infinite future.

And I’d do it again in a heartbeat. All of it. Thanks, Darcie, for a wonderful ten years. Here's to a hundred more, one day at a time.

posted by boyhowdy | 4:38 PM | 1 comments

Thursday, August 17, 2006


Been stretching the end of summer a bit by tending to the yard -- mostly mowing and treeclearing, with a designer's eye towards an eventual deck. Started in on the garage this afternoon. Hey, I know it's not exciting, but it's what's going on.

Plan is to head up north to Brattleboro tomorrow, have a nice tenth anniversary supper at a quaint Vermont inn, and then leave the spouse and kids with her parents while I jet back home for a few days to finish what I've started.

I guess the theory here is that a clean house makes for a clean head. There's something deeply satisfying about making order of your own environment, and with your hands.

How odd to think that ten years ago tonight we were nightswimming, a country mikvah up at the lake. It was pitchblack, and cold, I remember. We would have gone all the way, too, if it weren't for that huge splash down the shore. Well, it could have been a bear.

Last call on those Random Rules mp3s, by the way. I've already posted the bluegrass instrumental Phish cover as requested; if you want one of the others, just ask and ye shall receive.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:58 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Internal Monologue 

Oh, look, Pottery Barn has halloween costumes. In August. They look comfortable, but I bet they're expensive...yup. Like I'm going to spend $99 for a ladybug outfit elderkid will wear for two hours. Oh, wait, that fairy outfit looks really cute...

And that's how I used to end up spending money we don't have on cute things for the kids. Hoorah for the Internet, where I know I don't have to act now, because, really, it'll still be there when I come to my senses and realize that Darcie always makes our costumes, and loves doing it.

Not sure how I ended up on the Pottery Barn mailing list, but I get email from them a couple of times a week, usually sandwiched between Planned Parenthood updates and those damn spam stocktips. This was the first one I actually read, mind you.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:08 PM | 2 comments

Random Rules
The Home Edition
Now with mp3 goodness!

Just 'cause we're not indiefamous like the usual schmucks over at the AV Club doesn't mean we can't speak inanely to our own random pod-play. Twelve oughta do it -- as an added incentive, I'll post up to five four more of the below as mp3s upon request (thanks for making the first request, hypercycloid!).

U2, Negativland

Oh, this is hilarious – some guy sent some outtakes of Casey Kasem swearing to the Negativland guys, and they mashed 'em up with that U2 song Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. My brother had this on vinyl when we were kids; it was really rare, because U2 sued them and they had to pull the album from stores.

I Fell In Love, Susan Tedeschi

I saw Susan Tedeschi in concert a couple of years ago, tenth row with my parents at the Calvin in Northampton. Amazing. Best blues guitarist since Bonnie Raitt. One of the best electric blues guitarists in the business, in fact. This song’s a bit standard honky tonk for me, but the riffs are great.

Left click to go download Fast Enough For You, Gone Phishin’

This is a bunch of unnamed bluegrass musicians covering Phish; I got a whole album of this stuff on here, some more bluegrass covers, a couple dozen string quartet covers. I love covers – like, half the songs on my iPod are covers of something. With the guitar instrumental in place of the lyrics this one’s really mellow, a perfect summer afternoon of a song.

Mama, You’ve Been On My Mind, Peter Mulvey

Mulvey’s one half of Redbird, so I’ve seen him a couple of times, but only with Jeffrey Foucault and Kris Delmhosrt. The raspy basso needs to grow on you for a while, but it’s worth it. He recorded this album (Ten Thousand Mornings) in a T stop on the Red Line in Boston; some songs, you can hear the trains come in.

Virginia Wolfe, Indigo Girls

I was so into the Indigo Girls when their first few albums came out. This song is kind of catchy, an anthem, not their best but a good sample, I guess. Biggest lesson here is, if you want to flesh out your vocal sound to something quirky, almost angelic, use the Roches for your backup singers – they don’t come in until 3 minutes in, but it’s worth the wait.

Wolfman’s Brother, Phish

Ah, there’s the stuff. One of their best jams, hornful and radio-ready at 4 minutes, all the silliness and funk intact. Off Hoist, their last truly great album, though I suppose for sheer comprehensive conceit you’d have to go with Rift. Mike Gordon is a bass god second only to Victor Wooton.

Let’s Make A Family, Mark Erelli

A silly little ditty about family that goes on for far too long. I liked Erelli plenty when he was a singer-songwriter -- the country music swing is a bit much for him. You can practically hear him grinning throughout.

And They All Look Broken Hearted, Four Tet

This is okay for background – mellow, harpish strings, jazz cymbal brush. I liked the Four Tet cover of Iron Man; I guess I must have downloaded some other stuff of theirs afterwards.

Stem, Hayden

See, I don’t even know what this is. Maudlin hair rock ballad thing, though the vocals are kind of Evan Dando harmony, in a good way. That’s what I get for being so indiscriminant with my mp3 downloading.

Five Days In May, Salamander Crossing

More folk bluegrass. Do all iPods get into these genre ruts? Anyway, this one’s nice and pleasant. Salamander Crossing rocked.

Steal My Kisses, Ben Harper

Beautiful beatbox. Catchy chorus. Fun to sing along to. (sings) “Always have to steal my kisses from yoooo…”

Act, White Rabbit

For a while, some mp3 blogs were trying to be the first to collect and post every cover of a song. A few gems in those lists, but I ended up filling my hard drive with really awful music. Like this one. Classic tune, cheesy 80s synthpop cover.

Um, sorry. What? Twelve already? Okay, let me know if you want to hear any of this for yourself. Not sure the RIAA would care -- it's not like I'm AV Club Famous or anything.

posted by boyhowdy | 2:11 PM | 1 comments

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Back To Mundania 

Check-ups and dentist appointments. Solo shopping while the kids nap. A bit of cleaructting in the yard: the big pines raised to make room for firewood stacks, the forsythia cut back from the bulhead. Far too much time on the Better Homes and Gardens arrange-a-deck software, dreaming of next summer.

In the evening, feeling fed up and cooped up, with no planned direction we follow a rumor, discover Fenders, a drive-in burger and ice cream joint by the shores of Holland Lake. Willow asks the ride the mechanical horse. Cassia holds out her hand, begs for quarters. Waterskiers fly by across the busy vacation road, their laughter drowned by the buzz of their towboats.

On the way home I stop suddenly at the dam runoff, remembering fishing gear still in our trunk. Cassia and Darcie walk home; Willow and I drag the bottom for hours, until it gets too dark to see our own lines. The weather is fine, the company sweet and grateful for the attention. Willow learns to cast, hits fifteen feet out on the nose. We catch nothing, and care not.

The curious suspension between summer and school year is much as it ever was. The back of the brain tickles with the rowing awareness that, soon, the world will expect things of you again. Each moment becomes overwrought with portent; soon, faint deperation will begin to flavor the minutes.

It's probably true of all teachers: in Fall we lose the ability to become one with the universe, lean into the system instead, like stepping onto a moving sidewalk, teeter for a moment, get our bearings, ride ever onwards.

It's a different life, this coming electrical storm, one no less fulfilling and full for what it is. The worklife is so western, so absent of Zen: I love it when I'm there, and in the groove...but I don't always love the me that lives there, if you know what I mean.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:59 PM | 1 comments

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Wanderer, At Home
A return, in improptu doggerel 

The sand is gone from tween his toes.
His tan begins to flake.
About the sterile house he goes
shedding sunlight in his wake.

His garden bloomed while he was gone.
It sports a hundred blooms unknown.
Each, like the lawn, is overgrown,
too tall to hold weight of its own.

And so he lies, like these bright flowers,
on shaded concrete steps, and waits
for hours, for the coming Fall,
And dirties the house with his plates.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:28 PM | 1 comments

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Last Thoughts, Cape Cod 2006 

Willow, on Tuesday's dunewalkI'm swearing off seafood for a while. I've had enough oysters, lobsters, scallops, and cod to fill a fisherman's freezer. Last night's lamb chop was a relevation.

I swear that guy playing guitar down the street last night was Evan Dando. I mean, his rendition of It's a Shame About Ray was impeccable.

If I didn't smoke, I'd never see the Perseids. Just can't beat shooting stars over the darkened sand.

After experiencing both, though the secluded vacation spot has merit when you've got time/space to just sit/be, for family affairs, living close to both town and pier is worth fronting the main drag into it.

Elderkid's an exhausted mess: off her sleep schedule, on a constant ice cream high. Me, I've taken to drinking a beer or two every day -- a dangerous habit.

Cassia, Exploring NatureBut like a diamond forged from fire, baby-no-longer is transformed. Who grows an entire first-tier vocabulary in just two weeks? Plus, the way she offers her hand, then physically drags us around to do her bidding is just...beautiful.

The drive tomorrow is going to suck -- Cape Cod bridge traffic is notorious. (Random aside: When I was a kid I went down to the cape with a friend; I remember pacing the car, seeing guys having beer out the side of their van while it sat in traffic, a turtle-pace party along the line.)

But I'd walk the 200 miles if I thought there was no better way.

Cape Cod has had its moments. The sulfuric smell of the sea rocks my universe. But, man, I can't wait to go home.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:01 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Cape Cod Catch-up: By The Bay 

Finally figured out that I had changed my DNS settings; switching 'em around again reinstates my network access, so here we are ready to recap.

Tuesday the wee one got the earache that had been going around, so we spent the afternoon at the clinic, and then in Provincetown for a bit of pharmaceutical shopping. P-town was a mess as always, hot and crowded with tourists and shirtless dogwalkers strutting their homosexual chests, but we bumped into new in-laws Jesse and Jaimee, also childless, and shared a bar beer, which was a nice mid-day respite.

Tuesday night we left the siblings and new cousin-in-laws at the beach, headed out with Mom and Dad and the kids to the Cape Cod Melody Tent for this year's Acoustic Planet tour: Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Del McCoury Band, and fiddle virtuoso Natalie McMaster, first separately and then, finally, together in an absolutely incredible jam session. Third row seats, the stage in-the-round on a rotating stage, so we got to see the fingerplay up close. Amazing experience, all 'round.

Cassia managed to sleep through the encore, but Willow was a trouper; for her efforts, Victor Wooton (yes, THE Victor Wooton) threw an authentic Flecktones trademark -- pink stuffed hippo in a beret -- to Willow as the show came to a close, and then waited while the guys in front of us got the message and passed it back, which was the nicest thing ever. I totally covet the hippo, and have asked Willow to put it "up high" when we get home, so we can always remember this day.

Wednesday was a transitional day, with the newlyweds and her sister's family off for various worldly parts; mostly, we packed and cleaned, and said goodbye throughout. That night -- last night -- Darcie's parents arrived to take their place; we walked down to the pier for fried fish, and headed down to the bay shoreline, where the tide was so far out you could see the trapped bluefish jump to catch the bennies. Willow and I watched a shark feed, all fin and sudden flip like a mini-Jaws; some guy caught one with his squidbait, so now she can tell the world she's petted a shark and lived to tell the tale.

Today has been pretty quiet, all told. Darcie and her parents, the kids and I walked over the nearby bikebridge, hiked a conservated island, and sat awhile in the shade by the marshbasin, watching the fiddler crabs scuttle up the beach. Plan for later was originally an ocean-side beach, but then, the plan was to leave at 2:30, and with deadline come and gone I'm no longer sure I know what we're doing here, now or next.

Willow seems more subdued without Felix around, though she's clearly exhausted, almost beached out. Cassia nurses and nurses and otherwise behaves as if she could really use a stable environment for a while. Jonathan Katz in concert tonight with my parents, which should be okay if we can manage to stay silent. Darcie's birthday was yesterday, and we've promised each other a date Friday night, but I wish we had had just a few minutes to ourselves, just man and wife, in the last two weeks.

Patty and Neil are talking about leaving pre-sunrise tomorrow to beat the traffic off the cape, and I kind of wish we were going, too.

This kind of vacation is neither vacant nor that elusive vacating of the usual stresses and strife of the homeworld. Some of that is just what happens when you have kids; some is what happens when you try to summer with your parents, and with a rotating cast of over 20 others, coming and going like fish darting in the rushes under Uncle Tim's bridge. But some of it is truly that our home is new enough, our life on the road no longer a necessity, our summer almost gone, and our lives intended to be smaller, our wanders shorter than this.

It's been nice to be in the sun, I guess. But all told, I'd rather be home, even if it makes the workworld approacheth sooner. We're counting days, wishing we had the freedom to leave on our own, and Sunday cannot come too soon.

posted by boyhowdy | 3:14 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Chaos, Continued 

Night swimming and outdoor showers. Endless seafood suppers: the freshest fried cod, clam chowder by the sea, Wellfleet oysters, lobster rolls galore. Beach days and long afternoons watching the kids totter around the patios, getting into mischief of one kind or another, while we coparent and chat with our new in-laws in turn.

Oh, and the wedding, of course. Which was beautiful, and uniquely theirs.

We've been three days in the second week house. The chaotic life of too much family and not enough time, too many hosts and not enough consensus wears like footprints on the dunes, eroding my psyche down to the bone. Felix and Willow -- once friends, now cousins -- begin to grate on each other, best friends but too young to know when it's time to take time for theimselves.

But town is close, and the pier is too; we walk down in pairs or families thrice a day or more, just to mix things up a little. I stay up until three, exhausted and sleepy, watch Adult Swim just to unwind. It is almost enough.

Darcie's parents arrive tomorrow, just in time for her birthday. Two weeks more, and my worklife starts up again as the school year, just visible on the emotional horizon, begins in earnest. I can't get the laptop to work with the broadband router in this new, second-tier capehouse, so this will be my last missive until Sunday, when we will be home, finally, and happy to be there, alone fulltime with my family and no one else, if only for the tiniest time before the workyear begins, and my soul is split, subsumed, fragmented for another year.

posted by boyhowdy | 3:15 PM | 1 comments

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Cape Heat 

Too hot to blog about an early start, the sweltering big top this morning, the kids in and out of the shower all afternoon.

Too hot to dwell overlong on the delightful breeze of the Vineyard ferry, or the fridge-to-oven transition, in infinite progression, of chasing the kids back in from the bouncy-horse in the yard at our old friend and late-stage MS sufferer Dan, who keeps his home at a frosty 61 degrees year-round.

Too hot to even consider a wedding tomorrow, unless the heat wave breaks, and fast.

Cape Cod as travel destination is seriously misleading. Every time you want to go anywhere it's a good hour and a half from here to there, but because it's still "the Cape", it seems perfectly sensible at the time. Back home, of course, we'd never head to Boston (a scant hour away) for the day, and certainly not five times in a week, back and forth like a wheeled metronome.

If the befevered and raspy-coughed wee one didn't sleep in the car, and if the car weren't the only air conditioned space we own, we'd stay, sit, melt into the deck chairs. As it is, we're 26 hours from the advent of wedding ritual, and if I have to take one more run to the grocery store, I might just keep on driving unti I end up home. It's only three hours, after all. Practically local, by Cape terms.

posted by boyhowdy | 4:16 PM | 1 comments
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