‎"...a little 'trouty', but quite good" ~ Eve Kendall, North By Northwest

Saturday, June 30, 2007

schmoozing

On my way out of the driveway this evening I was flagged down by my niece who suggested I take the pail and shovel off the back of my car before driving off. She also told me to drive carefully because there was a bunch of drunk people at the end of our street.

When I rounded the corner I saw a 5 year old girl with curly red hair dashing across the grass. I do not know if she was drunk. It's so hard to tell with children.

When I got all the way around the corner I saw everyone else. Lots of families, lots of regular normal people. There was a tent, banquet tables, and folding chairs all over the place. There was a game of frisbee in full swing. People were laughing and chatting together.

As it turns out, it was a funeral.

For the record, I'd like something like that, please.

Because oh boy do I love parties. Tonight I went to Gallery Night in Wellfleet, where all the art galleries stay open a little late and have receptions. I forgot to wear my Birkenstocks, which was too bad because I would fit in better in Wellfleet with them on and also because you have to park and then walk from gallery to gallery and there many, many galleries. A sherpa would actually be a good idea. Especially since, if the truth must be known, I don't own Birkenstocks.

Chickens, yes. Birkenstocks, no.

Gallery receptions are perfect for shy people because you can look as though you are there for a purpose other than being around other human beings. You can talk to people about art. Or admire their hats. Or you can just show up, eat the Spam cubes and leave.

I would like to write an art column for a newspaper and review the openings based on the food.

There have been times in my life when I have offset my grocery bills with gallery reception suppers. I always appreciate it when they have fresh fruit - to keep the scurvy at bay.

Tonight was not one of those nights because I got to go out to dinner with some friends and a couple new aquaintances. One of the new acquaintances told us about how she may be singlehandedly disrupting the horseshoe crab life cycle. Apparently the wading boots she wears to go fishing are the shape and color of female horseshoe crabs and the males find her simply irresistible.

Ew.

I didn't talk to her after that. Not because of the horseshoe crab thing, but because it turns out she is a writer and writers intimidate me.

We all have our thing.

During the course of dinner we all made plans to do this and that. I hope that we do actually follow through on the plans because as much as I want to have a big party when I die I think I'll enjoy them more alive.

Friday, June 29, 2007

smug and artsy

Tonight for dinner we had a Parmesan tomato tart with herbs from the garden and a spinach salad also from our garden. I am feeling very smug. Yes, most gardens are better looking than mine. Yes, many are better producers. But we just ate spinach out of our very own garden which we started from seeds with our very own hands. At this moment I don't give two hoots about all those gardens who think they're any better.

Take that.

The coop is almost done which means we are starting to plan the Coop Warming Party.

The coop is, shall we say, not what I expected. It is large. It is grey. It does indeed bear some resemblance to the Hirshhorn. It has a spiral staircase, down which our hens can descend into their courtyard. I'm afraid that is my fault, because I was teasing Chris - something like, "what next, a spiral staircase?"

You have to be so darn careful around that guy.

When he went off to work he asked if I could please print out some large images of paintings for the inside. So far I have that really famous photograph of Martha Graham and a Hieronymus Bosch painting - you know, so they can see what happens when good hens misbehave. That's in reference to Hieronymus Bosch, not Martha Graham, for the record.

I guess if we're down to decorating and picking out a china pattern we must be close to getting them out of our livingroom. Although I really like the sound of them cheeping, they are smelly and should be fertilizing our lawn.

The thing is, Chris likes to build stuff. For years - years - we had a geodesic dome in our yard. It was supposed to be a garage, but never had the plastic shrink-wrap put on. So it was lawn sculpture. Since it was supposed to be a garage, and since it is a dome, you can imagine the size of this lawn sculpture. We were sort of the talk of the neighborhood.

Then we had kids and that meant other kids started coming to our house, mistaking our artwork for a jungle gym - not realizing that it was art and would skewer them like St. Sebastian if one of the struts came loose.

We dismantled it before the lawsuits started pouring in.

So he's been looking for a new project. And it is the coop. And since it was built almost entirely of salvaged materials, there is no reason why it won't be the first of many themed coops. I am hoping for a Zen Monastery Coop next.

(exit humming)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

the right accessories

Today I drove around with a croquet set and a beach basket on the front seat of my car.

I am quite sure I looked like a J. Crew model.

The beach basket is actually a market basket I bought in Spain. I went to a local market one day and noticed that most of the women were hauling their escarole around in these big, fabulous woven baskets. Thusly:

Notice that I am getting very lazy about photographing my own stuff since it is so easy to do a search for any image you could possibly need. This is far less beaten up than mine and infinitely more photogenic.

Anyway, I like buying useful local things when I travel, so I bought one. I filled it full of the other useful local things I bought and used it as a carry-on for my return trip. One is wise to not check through 84 pounds of majolica flower pots and several liters of olive oil, after all.

In the airport, someone stopped and asked if I had just come from Morocco. When I said no he looked dejected but then explained that the basket I had purchased in a SPANISH MARKET was in fact made in his home town. I don't know why I thought it would have been made in the town I was visiting. Heaven knows nothing useful is made in my own town.

Despite its dubious origins, I have used it well. Its latest incarnation is Beach Basket and it is perpetually packed with sunscreen, extra bathing suits, a couple towels and a change of clothes for Studley.

Studley frequently needs his clothes changed due to a) an inability to differentiate between his bathing suit and his regular clothes and b) the alarming speed at which he approaches any body of water. He is also a very messy eater. And he likes to pour dirt on himself.

Anyway.

The croquet set came out of the basement and will just have to do for now. It is the set I had growing up and is Recreational Quality. Our still-as-yet-unnamed league is going to have to have a bake sale so we can purchase Professional Quality equipment.

Because we really really want it.

Two of the players who attended our clinic came with their own (monogrammed) mallets, which were carried in their own purpose-built croquet mallet bags.

We had croquet equipment envy.

Mostly because it made us giggle.

So I had a sub-standard croquet set in my car which is probably why the whole day fell apart willy-nilly. We like to think of ourselves as Ladies of Leisure, but we do actually all work (although one was referred to by her husband as his "semi-retired wife" when she took the clinic. Sweet!).

Sometimes work gets in the way. Sometimes Lots of Work gets in the way.

But don't you fret, we will reconvene next week.

And in the meantime I will keep the basket and the mallets in the car because they look so darn good.

Surfboards. Pffft.

What next?

What sounds like a train but is not a train?

I don't know either, but Lucy and I both just heard one. There are no trains here.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

the way things look

Inspired by the view last night across the creek, I've been thinking about how things look from outside.

When Chris and I got married we had a mini-moon and went to the North Shore (north of Boston yet still in Massachusetts). Our first destination was Rockport, where we drove and walked and explored and decided important things about our new marriage such as where to stay and what to have for dinner.

At one point we had a beautiful view of the harbor at twilight. There was a restaurant right on the water and it looked simply magical - what with all those people sitting in the twinkly lights having dinner in this beautiful spot. We envied them and decided to have dinner there.

We got a table by the window and now - voilà! - we were those people.

And that's when we noticed that if you are sitting in the twinkling lights you can't actually see the twinkly lights. In fact, all we could see from the window was darkness. They could at least have floated some candles in the harbor for us, no?

Fortunately this was not a metaphor for our marriage.

Or maybe it was. Because since there was nothing but darkness outside, we turned our attention to the menu in front of us.

And then because we are poor planners and because the thrill of the hunt is half the adventure, we started looking for a place to stay.

We found a place that was also right on the water, The Yankee Clipper Inn. We fell asleep to the sound of waves on the shore. When we woke up we watched lobstermen check their traps. It was every bit as beautiful and perfect as we thought it would be. And we found it because we drove by and noticed the lights reflected in the water.

Sometimes I drive up to Trout Towers in the evening when all the lights are on inside and I think now there's a place I'd like to be.

In partial darkness you don't see the unfinished projects, and the lights look like a big Welcome sign.

Sometimes when I get bogged down and frustrated I have to step outside and look back at my home from a quieter perspective.

And that is a metaphor for life.

Bolt Risk, two

My dill is two feet tall and has flowered. Must pay closer attention to garden.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Usual Suspects

Tonight was Fred's birthday. Well, not actually his real birthday, but close enough for those of us who decided to celebrate it tonight. I missed an earlier party for him because shortly before it was starting Studley found it wise to pour dirt over his head. His own head, not Fred's.

Anyway, that's okay because we are the Usual Suspects and we have our own way of doing things.

A group of us has been celebrating birthdays for a few years now. I can't remember if we had kids or not when we started, but I think we must have because for reasons I can't at the moment fathom, they always go with us.

Fortunately it takes a village, as they say, to raise a child. And we're the only ones of this group who have kids, so our kids have a whole table of adults helping out. Yay for friends because I'd be a total nut job by now if I had to pay that much attention all by myself.

As it was, Studley needed some air toward the end of dinner and after walking him around in the oyster shells for an eternity I found my way over to the edge of Duck Creek, which is more of a salt marsh. We found a chair and sat looking out over the water at the buildings on Commercial Street with their lights and their gardens. There's something about sitting in partial darkness, looking in at the lives of others - especially over water. It's so darn twinkly.

And then the mosquitos found me and I figured the bill had come and gone so I took Studley back in.

Because it's his birthday, I though I'd tell a Fred story.

When I worked normal hours like a normal person I had coworkers. One of my coworkers happened to mention that she was partial to the opening credits of Last of the Mohicans, in which Daniel Day Lewis dashes through the woods sporting a loin cloth.

This stuck in my head because it seemed so incongruous. She didn't seem like the loin cloth type.

So when her birthday was on the horizon I thought of the most AV advanced person I know (Fred) and asked a favor. I'm pretty sure it was our whole birthday group who sat in Fred's guestroom and made a video of the opening credits - sliced and diced to create about an hour of running through the woods.

She was very, very pleased.

Almost as pleased as I was when Fred gave me that Harriet Russell book.

Thanks for having a birthday, Fred. Dinner rocked.

Monday, June 25, 2007

"I just love books - they're so decorative!"

A couple of days ago I mentioned that a musical reminded me of The Master and Margarita, not realizing that Andrew Lloyd Webber has plans to turn it into a musical of its very own.

Augh!!!!!!

What is the world coming to? Is nothing sacred?

There's a great bookstore in Denver called The Tattered Cover. When I was there they had two locations - my favorite being the one in Cherry Creek which seems to have gone missing.

Anyway, they had a t-shirt that said "the book was better".

So really, this book crisis I've been reading about lately isn't due to people getting all their information from the web. It's because all the best literature is being turned into musicals.

When the Cherry Creek location was open I loved sitting amid the bookshelves and flipping through random books. They had these big comfy armchairs and it was easy to pass a couple hours making a selection. And that's before you got to the magazines.

Sometimes I would pick up Opera News there so I could have it on my coffee table and be prepared to name drop if I ever had the opportunity. I didn't.

When I moved from Denver a bunch of people came from work and helped me haul my stuff down the fire escape to my Hertz truck. At one point I was told I should either stop moving or stop buying books.

I have lived in this house for almost 6 years - a record.

I once had a house guest who stayed for a few months. She read a whole shelf of fiction while she was here. It was like revisiting old friends because of course she wanted to talk about all of them. She was one of my favorite guests ever. Now that I think of it, I was in a bookclub with her when I first read The Master and Margarita.

How can you find out anything about a person if you don't have a bookshelf to peruse?

Ironically, that quote about books being decorative is in the movie version of Auntie Mame, not the book. Oh well.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Car & Driver

This weekend I drove three cars which were not my own. I had permission.

My car is fine. Thank you for asking.

In Chris' car I washed the windshield several times in an effort to set the cruise conrol. His car, and those around it, are very clean.

My mother's car, a pristine affair, is no longer pristine after toting my kids around.

The real challenge came in backing my sister's mini-van out of her garage. I have never driven a mini-van. I don't think I've ever pulled in or out of a garage. The garage is roughly the size of the mini-van. Maybe smaller.

I successfully extricated it from the garage and then began my search for the garage door opener - or closer, in this case. I rummaged through her glove box, I rifled through her cd's, I pawed around in every super-secret stuff-stasher tucked into the dashboard. No opener.

And then I looked up. There in the built-in console, where most of us have a dome-light and possibly a sunroof device, was a small picture of a house. The house had an arrow pointing up. Under the house were 3 buttons - because apparently people with mini-vans need those three car garages.

And I wonder, did the van come with the house? How did the van know how to open and close this particular garage door? Did the house come with the van? Are the pool, the playground, the bike paths, the house, the garage and the van somehow interrelated?

I have to go to bed now.

Musicals, part deux

I try not to go to musicals. I have previously addressed the myriad ways in which I do not enjoy them.

I do not like them in a box, I will not sing them with a fox.
I won't buy tickets here or there I do not like them anywhere.

Yes, I just came from Seussical, the Musical.

Not only that, I just came from the kids' version.

Granted, they were a bunch of kids who study musical theater seriously (is that possible?) and who had voices that were not difficult to listen to.

They were probably all great, but the Cat in the Hat was so completely head and shoulders above the rest of the cast I couldn't concentrate very well on anyone else. He was fluid and flamboyant. There were times when it was hard to tell if he was a benevolent trickster or something more Faustian. It kept reminding me of The Master and Margarita. A little eerie for a 13 year old.

Yes, I kept forgetting that he was 13. He had an awful lot of stage presence for someone who's 5'4". He was particularly good at staying in character when he was not in the spotlight and he did everything with a Cabaret-style flourish.

He has obviously seen a lot of musicals.

The parts of Gertrude McFuzz and Horton were also well done. But the Cat totally rocked.

And I'm not just saying that because he's my nephew.

So it will probably come to pass that my nephew will win a Tony for something on down the line and I'll get to go and I'll have some kind of late-life transformation in which I completely deny this aspect of myself (the musical-loathing one) which is so essential to my very being. And I will sit there quietly weeping with pride and joy and then smile until my face hurts.

Tonight I was just practicing.

You know, just in case he lets me go to some fancy award thing with him sometime.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Kiddletown

One year at Christmastime my parents proved once and for all that they love my sister more than me. They gave her Kiddletown.

I can't think of anything I envied more. It was a suitcase which, when opened, contained a row of plastic-molded houses and stores, with perfectly appointed plastic-molded gardens and pathways in front. I think there was even a playground or lilypond.

It was lovely.

We both played with kiddles, but it was definitely more her thing. They were these delicate creatures - about 2 inches tall with tiny, tiny bodies and large heads and long, flowing hair. Even the Fabio-esque male kiddles.

I, on the other hand, played with trolls.

I made them a house - a luxury spread constructed from shoe boxes stapled together and glued to a piece of plywood. It was lovingly decorated with handmade furniture. I used dry chickpeas as hardrolls. One cannot in good conscience call it lovely. But it was very fun to build and play in. I think the trolls were happy there.

It's the chickpeas that make me realize what has happened.

You see, my sister lives in Kiddletown. And by now you all know where I live.

Yesterday we spent the day at the pool in her subdivision. Although I did not get to sit with a trashy novel, it was pretty great.

I noticed a group of teenage girls in the lounge chairs at the deep end of the pool. I am strictly shallow these days, so I didn't chill with them. They wore string bikinis with words lettered into the quadrants: p i n k, or R O X Y.

I just got a new suit and am glad it is in style, what with the writing and all. It has the Preamble to the Constitution on it.

With the Periodic Table on the back.

There was a time in high school when I wished we lived in one of these neighborhoods. I like the sense of community - the fact that you can go to the pool or go for a bike ride and find people you know and hang out with them. It is something I have strived to emulate - although my own personal subdivision spans 6 towns.

I also like the idea of those European town centers, where people gather in the afternoon or evening without having to text message all their friends.

I think I am trying to turn Trout Towers into one of these town centers.

I have a better shot at that than turning it into Kiddletown.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

obstetrics, ornithology and other big words

I just came from Shaw's, which used to be Star Market. I still insist on calling it Star Market, although it is probably beginning to irritate people. Star Market is where we went when we vacationed here. It is where my mother shopped growing up. It is not right that there should be a world with no Star Market.

While I was paying, the girl at the register pointed out another customer with a baby. The bagger casually stated the age of the baby (in weeks) and mentioned that he had studied obstetrics. His name is Boran, which means that he does not live here on a regular basis.

He is young and I hope he is here on an educational lark and not because his country is plagued with locusts or some such pestilence.

These are the things I think about and these are the things I wonder, but what I know for absolute certain is that I will make sure he's the bagger whenever I have delicate produce in my grocery cart.

I must also note that a Carpenters song was playing while I picked out my produce, and two people were singing along. I was not one of those two people, as I have been asked repeatedly not to sing in public.

Interestingly, it completely removed the Jane's Addiction song I have had stuck in my head for the last three days.

Today we went back to Pilgrim Lake. Off in the distance we saw a pair of swans. As they swam toward us we noticed that there were three babies. Cygnets, I believe. We were careful not to scare them and they came right up onto the beach. They sunned themselves for awhile - the babies napped. They stretched and yawned and moseyed farther onto the beach. I was, as usual, wishing I had my camera. And then, as the male came closer and closer, I was wishing I had brought my swan-repelling safety cage. Let me tell you, wild swans are pretty big when they are standing on the fringe of your Mexican blanket.

We survived.

But next time I am totally hanging our lunch basket in a tree.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bolt Risk

Today while I was waiting for Lucy to finish her yoga class I read a review of Ann Wood's book, Bolt Risk.

I know Ann. I knew she had written a Bukowski-esque novel. It hadn't occured to me that the book was based on events in her life.

Fleeing the boredom of the tinsel town fringe, she lands a job as an exotic dancer and falls for Adam, lead guitarist of the popular thrash band Z, six feet four inches of raw talent, stud beauty, and unrestrained ego. Thus begins a droll and harrowing ride through the underworld of Los Angeles strip clubs, dive bars, and drug motels that sends her to a mental hospital, where she is astutely classified as a ‘bolt risk,’ a kid who is very likely to escape. Here the author recreates the absurd daily world of Girl, Interrupted with a remarkable toughness that laughs in the face of institutional horror.


Okay, I didn't know she was a stripper in Hollywood. I didn't know she had been committed.

I have looked and looked for the John Buffalo Mailer review of Bolt Risk online - that's the one I read in the hallway of the yoga studio (the building also houses Leapfrog Press). It was brilliant. He talks about how she picked a fight with him and then drank him under the table.

I can see that.

There are other reviews here.

So I finish reading about this woman I know and all her addictions and dark secrets (are they still secrets when you write a semi-autographical book about them?) and I look at the time and walk to the end of the hall where I take off my shoes and go into a room filled with new age music. I pack the kids in the car - the kids who take yoga and will probably take up cello - and drive through one of the most quaint, rose-bestrewn, towns you'll ever see. A town where you just might find yourself chatting up an exotic dancer who can turn a phrase.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

out of the office

When I first started working from home, I took great pains to not let anyone know I was working from home.

That was four years ago. Today I delivered media kits to a publisher while my kids sang The Ants Go Marching One by One at the top of their lungs in the car. The cat is out of the bag.

The thing is, the longer I work from home the more I realize that there are lots of us pretending we're in an office when we answer the phone (when actually we're making a pb&j).

I know this because we keep ending up at the beach together.

Today the kids and I went to Pilgrim Lake, where we interrupted a couple teenagers kissing on the lifeguard stand. Actually, we didn't interrupt them. That would imply that they stopped. They did eventually leave, though, and then we were all alone.

All alone at a public pond in June. How can this be?

We listened to the bullfrogs and the redwing blackbirds. We watched turtles and stalked fish. Lucy swam and Studley excavated the beach, forming an island just off shore.

I thought about the teenagers. Did we scare them? Are we a walking Health Class Movie? After School Special?

I imagine that they live or are vacationing near the lake. What a completely perfect setting for a summer romance. I hope they remember it forever.

Next time maybe I'll give them some space.

Monday, June 18, 2007

to your wickets!

I have been looking forward to today for a long, long time. Today was my big day. Today was the beginning of my new obsession. Today was my reason for not joining the gym.

Today was my croquet clinic.

Today actually started several weeks ago when I saw the clinic in a flyer sent to me by Heritage Museum.

I called three friends. I said, "I have another completely queer idea I hope you'll want to do with me." They said yes immediately.

I am so lucky to know people who are enthusiastic adopters of the truly ridiculous.

This morning I was up at the crack of dawn ironing my white skirt. My job does not require me to iron much, so this was a big deal. It is only slightly scorched.

The clinic was held on the museum's parade grounds. We show up, choose our mallets and are introduced to our Croquet Coach. He is a two time National Croquet Champion! He is featured in several videos! He is the Director of USCA Instructional Schools in West Palm Beach!

Halfway through the introduction I get the giggles.

The four of us, after all, are old enough to be respectful of other sporting subcultures - and yet not old enough to be at a clinic which is held at 10am on a weekday.

It is hard for us to take any sentence which ends in the word "croquet" seriously. And the term "croquet champion" is really more than any mere mortal under the age of 70 can hear without falling to the closely shorn grass in fits.

Just in the nick of time, we are unleashed onto the field. There are 33 of us and we are asked to divide up into pairs and play in groups of 4. Yes, this is mathematically impossible. Plus, there is a chance that not everyone will get to play at once, so pairs may be cycled in willy-nilly. We are afraid of being split up and quickly head off to a course, where we start trying to remember what we've just been told. We get impossibly confused and need help.

And then we get pretty good at it.

A reporter shows up and starts taking pictures. She asks us if we are from Sandwich and when we say no, she looks disappointed and moves along.

The Croquet Pro drops in and gives us a few pointers. He keeps using croquet jargon and one liners suitable for bumper stickers. My favorite was "you are in position to wreak havoc." I think I have always secretly hoped to be in position to wreak havoc.

We are playing in teams of two, so when one team scores a wicket things get a little loud. We are easily identified as the foursome who is high-fiving and perhaps swearing. We mean no disrespect, but it is just so gosh darn exciting.

Here are the croquet grounds. We are not in the picture:



Note that the other players have moved slightly away from us. Needless to say, no one chooses to cut in.

But the reporter comes back. We are irresistible.

We are unmissable.

We are under 70.

We decide not to join the Heritage Croquet League, even though it will get us half price membership in the USCA. We are a little afraid we will have to play with other people. Instead, we vow to play as a foursome every Thursday, going from lawn to lawn. Some of our lawns are in disrepair, but our Two Time National Champion Croquet Pro assures us this is not a problem.

We finished the day by having tea (the full Windsor Tea with tea sandwiches and scones and little desserty things) at the Dunbar Tea Room and continued planning our croquet future.

We are having a league logo designed, and t-shirts made. Our application to become a USCA affilliated club is in the works.

We are croquet players.

Things I can't wait to mention

In my usual Pollyanna fashion, I am reporting from the field.

Yesterday we went to the Beachcomber for dinner. While we were eating, my sister-in-law mentioned that a guy at the bar had just dropped a dollar bill and should one of us go tell him? While she was saying it, some other guy walked across the patio and did exactly that.

I am pretty sure it would have gone the same way if it was a $20, because.....

Next to our table there was a basket-style purse - you know, the kind that doesn't actually close at the top so you can see the change of clothes and the Nikon camera and the wallet next to the LOOSE CASH. I don't know about the other stuff, to be honest, but there was definitely loose cash. Several people came up and asked if it was our bag, and expressed concern - not that we may all be blown to bits, but that someone's stuff was there for the taking.

We did finally mention it to the waitress - you know, report all unattended bags to a person of authority who brings you your Goombay Smash.

We figured if it was one of those Scary Unattended Bags we would
a) die instantly because we were next to it
b) all be together.

And a completely unrelated thought: I have complained of being "pecked at" for the last couple years. And then I went and got chickens. What's with that?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Baseball 101

Vacuuming in the dark
Vacuuming in the dark
There's only one thing that I like
And that is vacuuming in the dark

I am sitting in my livingroom with just the light from my computer and the chicken's heat lamp (yes, it is June and I have a heat lamp in my livingroom) and I am vacuuming. Or at least Jessica, the robot vacuum, is vacuuming. It's really very gratifying watching her little green "clean" light zig zag across the floor.

And so now if you happen to like They Might Be Giants you too are humming the song.

You're welcome.

When I married Chris the only sport he watched was chess. That is who I married and I never imagined he would be replaced by a nearly identical version that is rabid about baseball.

But it happened and he is fond of watching games and dropping little phrases like "runners at the corners" and pronouncing RBI's as ribbies instead of saying Are Bee Eyes like the rest of us. He never does anything halfway, that guy.

And so when he landed the Cape Cod Baseball League as a client he was, well, euphoric. He gets to do all his weird high tech stuff but he gets to talk baseball with people who actually know what's going on. And he's shared some things with me which I found interesting.

Fun Fact #1: One out of six professional ball players played for the Cape Cod Baseball League.

That's actually the only fun fact I know. But I have learned that not only are the players strutting their stuff for the scouts, everyone else is too. Except, hopefully, Chris.

Because apparently this is how you become an umpire or a broadcaster or an announcer or a peanut salesman. I was chatting with one of the broadcasters yesterday, who patiently explained it all to me.

And it makes sense, because they don't just put you on the radio or national television because you know someone who knows someone who knows someone.

And the more I learn about this summer baseball league business (which I know nothing about) the more it reminds me of something I do know a bit about: summer music festivals.

You see, I grew up in New England in the Rockies - with a displaced Bostonian for a mother who was bound and determined to recreate her east coast upbringing in a small Colorado mountain town.

One of the things she was involved in was the Colorado Philharmonic, a summer orchestra made up of music students from all over the country. The competition was rigorous and they were all very, very good.

And sturdy. They played three concerts a week, with morning and evening rehearsals whenever there was no concert. Except on Mondays, when they collapsed. There were completely different programs for each concert, so by the end of the summer they had performed (let's say it was 10 weeks) 30 concerts - somewhere around 120 pieces of music.

That's completely insane.

What's also completely insane is that we went to nearly all of them. I know my classical music, boy howdy.


It was a pretty cool childhood. And I have often wished I could recreate it for my kids. Okay, they have a beach and we had rodeos, which are smelly and dusty. But still.

Mom, if you're reading this, stop here.

There is no music festival in my town. But there is a summer baseball team. And although I have never done it, I hear it's really fun to go to the games. And if it's not the same content, it's the same spirit - college-age people who are working really hard toward what they want to accomplish, and having a blast while they're doing it.

And my kids do get plenty of music. Just this morning my brother-in-law was playing guitar on the front porch.

That, my friends, is something I never had growing up.

There's only one thing that I know how to do well
And I've often been told that you only can do
What you know how to do well
And that's be you,
Be what you're like,
Be like yourself,
And so I'm having a wonderful time
But I'd rather be whistling in the dark
Whistling in the dark
Whistling in the dark
Whistling in the dark
Whistling in the dark
Whistling in the dark
Whistling, whistling
Whistling in the dark
-TMBG

Happy Father's Day

Recently our babysitter was on her way to Morocco when she missed a flight and found herself alone in New York. She is a very capable young woman, but at the time she just wanted her mom.

Because I always think of myself when people tell me stories, I thought about when I really, really wanted my dad.

When I graduated high school I spent all my babysitting money on a trip to France. I had a sweet babysitting gig and was rich beyond measure. At the end of two weeks I was ready to come home and spent the day dashing around Paris making last minute purchases. I checked out of my hotel and as I signed over the last of my travellers checks I discovered that my passport had been stolen.

I went back up to my hotel room, tore apart everything I owned, established that it was nowhere to be found and wailed, "daddy!!!!" Dad, you see, was the patron saint of all things organized and could be counted on to make everything right.

He did not materialize.

The hotel took the checks without proper identification and I went on to the airport to explain my predicament to the airline. On the way, I called my aunt (who was going to meet me at the airport in Boston) from a payphone and told her I wasn't coming home yet. No time to explain, as the coins tink, tink, tinked their way to the end of the call.

I then made my way to the US Embassy. I walked up to the nice man in uniform in the guard station and said "my passport's been..... waaaaaah!" He hands me a pint of ice cream and a spoon and asks me to please not cry. I had been so strong, but those father-figures get me every time.

I ended up getting travel papers from the US Consulate and flew home the next day. When I called my family from my aunt's house my dad answered the phone. All he said was, "I am so proud of you."

Likewise, my babysitter discovered a surrogate mother-figure. This complete stranger helped her find a place to stay and basically took care of her until she could get on a flight the next day.

Where would we be without these people?

The unfortunate side of having a really great parent is that sometimes they die. I don't mean to be a downer here. It just seems that sometimes that happens. Some of us are lucky enough to have heard something like "I am so proud of you" or "I love you more than toast" from that parent, and others find a surrogate to say it for them. Because I am quite sure that all parents meant to say it but perhaps they thought we just knew.

And sometimes, after that parent is gone, we still find those people who hand us ice cream when we need it, who clean off our headlights when they are muddy, who explain complicated things to us and still think we're smart even if we don't get it right away.

My dad was a seriously smart genius. He knew how to use a slide rule. He was also particularly good at forgetting to pick me up from student orchestra rehearsals. In fact, he pretty much forgot to pick me up whenever it was up to him to pick me up from anything. And he didn't do vacations very well. He'd rather be at work, where he could concentrate on something, fix something. Sitting around with his family at the beach was not his idea of a good time.

But he checked our tire pressure faithfully, drew us painfully accurate directions when we were going places and did background checks on our apartment rentals to make sure they were architecturally sound and properly equipped with emergency exits.

We never, ever doubted that he loved us more than toast.

Although he's been gone for several years, I still miss my dad. But I am always grateful when I see his essential dadness in others. I am especially grateful for the one who most frequently hands me ice cream when I need it, changes my oil faithfully and explains complicated things without making me feel stupid. Even if I did forget to buy him a card.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Housing Crisis Over

My neighbors probably think I'm abandoning my family and surreptitiously moving out.

I keep going to my car with bags of stuff. Which I take somewhere. Lots and lots of bags of stuff.

So if they were watching carefully - the way, for instance, I watch them - they would also surmise that I was taking my family, the dogs, the cat, the chickens and the inlaws with me. It's that much stuff.

Actually, I'm still just taking things to Goodwill (or Salvation Army, or those Planet Aid boxes, I am not picky). What amazes me is that not only is my house not collapsing in on itself due to the vacuum I am surely creating, it's darn hard to tell that anything's gone. Where oh where oh where did we have all this STUFF?

It must be the chickens and all their accompanying hoopla.

They have had a big day today. This morning my friend Audrey dropped off an enormous box - big enough for all 5 chickens to scurry around and not knock over their water tower. On the side of the box is a large note that says "Cake is under this box. DO NOT TOUCH."

Which begs the question(s):
1) Good heavens, how big was that cake?
2) Why would anyone heed a note like that?
3) Does anyone out there need a refrigerator box?

Because now I have an extra. No, I'm not carrying it back.

This box is infinitely better. It has the shipping labels on it to show us which way is up. And it's much larger than their last cardboard box.

My chickens are living in a double wide.

We managed to get them transfered without any escapees - although they tried. They are squirmy and squalky and not quite as cute as they once were. Yes, they are teenagers.

As lovely as their new home is, I am anxious to get them outside. I have visions of them free-ranging it in the late afternoon - eating all our bugs and inspiring local painters to set up their easels across the street.

Just think, you're driving along and suddenly something black with silver speckles emerges from the daylilies. Seriously, after what we've been through they better at least contribute some aesthetics to our yard.

Speaking of aesthetics, I hung our hammock today. It's pretty much rotted to threads, but you can't tell from a distance and it really makes the yard look heavenly.

It's so important not to look at things closely.

Housing Crisis

I ran into some friends in town today. They were gathering leaves from a particular tree to feed to their silkworms.

Suddenly chickens seem so pedestrian.

And speaking of pedestrians, they have dug up some of the pedestrian crosswalks here in Mayberry. I am proud to live in a town where apparently the foot traffic has worn out the pavement.

I encountered the crosswalk several times today, as I was on a mission to find a larger box for the chickens. The one they're in now is indescribably smelly. They are also in close quarters, now that they are the size of Welsh Corgis. And the Hirshhorn isn't ready yet.

I went a few places and finally ended up at a home supply store - you know, crown molding and dishwashers. They are good at figuring out what I mean when I don't know the correct technical term for whatever I need to fix my house. Or my leaking pool toy.

I went straight to the appliance department, where I found no one. And then a gentleman walked up and asked if I needed help finding someone to assist me. I stammer a bit and then say, "well, do you work here?"
"I'm the owner," he says, "but I don't work here."

I am abashed in the way I am when I discover that I've been sitting next to my Congressman on the plane. Surely one should recognize one's own Congressman?

I don't know why I should have known the owner of Ye Olde Building Supply Store, although I did go to a Chamber of Commerce meeting once.

I get over it, and ask if they can spare a large box. They can.

It's a refrigerator box.

Now way back a ways I believe I addressed the issue of not having a car big enough to haul things in. I called a few larger-vehicled friends, but no one was available. It was getting late and I didn't want to seem ungrateful and just leave the box there (it also looked like rain), so I went back and told them I'd go ahead and carry it home.

They look at me in that way I am becoming accustomed to.

I tell them, "it's a small town - I'll probably see someone I know with a truck in the parking lot."

So off I go, with a refrigerator box perched on my head. Lucy is maneuvering the stroller. There is no one in the parking lot.

Rather, there are a lot of people in the parking lot, but no one who is willing to make eye contact.

So I think, well surely there will be someone I know driving past. It really, really is a small town and you can't go anywhere without seeing someone you know.

Actually, you can.

I hear my yoga teacher's voice in my head: shoulders back and down, shoulderblades flat, move from the core. Blah blah blah. It was breezy and I felt like the flying nun. I make it home and stuff it in the enormous truck that I am too much of a pansy to drive - safe from the rain which has miraculously held off

I am still surprised that I didn't see anyone I knew. But since it is such a small town, my picture will probably be in the paper tomorrow.

Imagine if I had silk worms.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

B Movies and Fairy Tales

There are several things on my mind today.

First, I took a walk and happened to pass the parking lot of a newspaper office. I tell you, the bumper stickers alone can give you a pretty good idea of what's going on in the world. There's a reason these people are in journalism.

And of course that made me think about the phenomenon of bumper stickers in general. There are several modes of bumper stickerism, which include separating yourself from the world at large and showing the world at large that you are not who they think you are.

I like doing the latter, which is why I'm looking for a Llangefni Public Library bumper sticker.

I have never been to Wales.

That's not totally true. But I was 12, so it doesn't really count.

And since I am flaunting my World Travelerness, I will tell you the story of the Week I Wasn't a Princess.

Back a very long time ago I went to Monte Carlo. I did not intend to go to Monte Carlo, but I was persuaded by a stranger on a plane to go. If this is sounding like the beginning of a B movie, just wait. It goes totally mainstream.

So despite my protestations (I'm not That Kind of Girl so don't even think what you're thinking. And I was backpacking and didn't have a thing to wear) off to Monte Carlo I went.

I was put up in a really really lovely hotel. I was bought 2 complete outfits (including shoes, handbags & jewelry) at Christian Dior.

Are you thinking of a movie with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere yet? Told you.

And I was taken to parties and I helped translate when he bought art and we ate out and I had my hair done every 12 seconds and he said "you must feel like a princess in a fairy tale."

And that's where he was wrong. Because I was brought up feeling like a princess. I had parents who taught me manners and made me feel like I was worth something. I even know which fork to use most of the time.

I did not feel like a princess. I felt like a poodle.

And I was thinking about this because today at the library I found a particularly lovely version of The Princess and the Pea, by Lauren Child and Polly Borland. It is beautifully and creatively told - not at all nauseating. Lauren Child, the author and illustrator, is a freaking genius. She made these exquisite dioramas which imply that she spends way too much time gazing lovingly at Anthropologie catalogs.

"You see," said the king, "a real princess is not only mesmerizingly beautiful and fascinatingly interesting but, most important of all-"
"She has manners," said the queen.
"No one should ever travel without them," said the king.

Here's a review.

If one must have fairy tales on one's shelves, this is a fine one.

And Monte Carlo is in itself a fairyland - with or without Christian Dior.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Provincetown

Today I had geek errands to run in Provincetown. I made Liz go with me because there is simply no sense in going alone. If you're going to Provincetown and it's not February you have to pay for parking. If you have to pay for parking you may as well go to lunch, do a little shopping, get a chai shake at Spiritus and, oh, run the errand. And that is just more fun with a friend. Unless you are going bathing suit shopping which is sometimes better done alone.

The first bathing suit I bought after Lucy was born I bought in Provincetown, with a male friend. He busied himself among the sneakers while I hauled armloads of suits into the dressing room. I found something, but it was a little red surfer dress that could be worn on the beach. "Yeah," he said, "I didn't think that was going to go well."

He is still alive, but barely.

Today was better. We went to lunch at Patio, which used to be Cafe Blasé. It is right on Commercial Street and has a large patio, where you can sit and eat and watch the world go by. There is nothing better than a sidewalk cafe in the summer. When it was Cafe Blasé they had these big paper lanterns in all colors on the patio. It was beautiful and made me want to go there all the time - even though the food was consistently underwhelming.

The lanterns were gone but the food was much, much better.

We went there because we had a brain block - like when you go to the library and can't remember any of the books you wanted to get. There are about 18,000 restaurants in Provincetown. I like many of them, and have wanted to try several of the others. But I just couldn't think.

There's Edwige, where Shannon and I blew our budget when we were broke beyond words and just went in for an appetizer but really really needed to do something extravagant.

There's Napi's, with its amazing brickwork and local art. There are half a dozen new restaurants that have sprung up since last summer. There's a new restaurant that's where Piggy's used to be, but neither of us knew where Piggy's used to be.

But what I really love about Provincetown is the architecture and the downtown layout. I love the little alleyways. I love the houses with their tiny, jubilant gardens and architectural ingenuity. I love the combination of business and residential.

I have stayed at a couple places there, and would like to do a more thorough search for the perfect inn. There are so many and they are all so different - definitely worth exploring. When you stay there - even just for one night - everything changes. There's time to wander and relax. You can explore more. The first time we stayed I went for a walk early in the morning and found Angel Foods - a small market where I got coffee and muffins to bring back for our breakfast on the deck.

We were so close to home, and it was such a vacation.

The day trips are a little more frantic. There is a series of missions and now that I actually have $5 for parking (do not park on the pier if you can avoid it), I don't have to drive all over town looking for a spot on a tiny side street. I kind of miss those days.

Today Liz and I parked in the $5 lot and took care of the basic needs of summer. And as we made our way from from one end of town to the other we began planning our to-do lists for future visits.

Because you always have to go back.

and more details



I can't believe I forgot to mention this in last night's post.

If you have not seen Harriet Russell's book "Envelopes", stop reading right now and go find it. Or at least check out her website. The book covers alone will make you want to read every one of them and I will totally understand if everyone is rendered unable to read my blog as a result of the enormous package that arrives from Amazon (assuming you have the right house number on it). And of course you have to order her book while you're at it because it's neat to have around and handy at parties when there's nothing else to talk about.

Harriet Russell lived at one of those quirky addresses growing up and got mail addressed to all sorts of transmutations of her actual address. But she got the mail. So when she was in or freshly out of art school, she started sending herself mail with creatively concocted addresses. She'd make the addresses into crossword puzzles, dot to dot, word games and so forth. She'd draw maps of how to get to her flat (yes, she's in England). Heaps and heaps of these envelopes were delivered to her. Many of them have the postal carriers' notes on them, since they actually completed the puzzles. The book is full of pictures of these envelopes.

It is brilliant brilliant brilliant and a nice reminder that there are actual human beings out there and not just machine cogs.

Monday, June 11, 2007

details, details

Recently we discovered that we don't live where we think we live. You see, Chris had ordered some computery stuff for somebody and needed it the next day - so he had it overnighted. But it didn't show up. So he calls UPS and as it turns out, we don't exist. It's the small matter of our mailbox number being different from our house number. That in itself is a long story based on my mother-in-law making up her own house number so she could get her mail delivered separately. It's worked for years and no one's ever questioned it.

Until the substitute UPS driver couldn't find our house.

But all is not lost. Not even the package, because it turns out our neighbor down the street and around the corner works at UPS and heard our name and address being tossed around. She brought the package on her way home and had no trouble with the misleading house number - because we live in the Finley's old house and that's enough for most people in town.

I explain about the house number thing and she says "aw, that's nothing. We have people say, 'there's a house number but it's under the wisteria' or 'our street is really just a driveway but we named it.'"

The last time I used Mapquest to find my way somewhere around here I was glad I looked at the map instead of just printing out the directions. There were at least 4 turns that had no street signs. None. Or the signs are there but all the letters have fallen off. I hear it gets worse the farther north you go. It's a sort of Natural Selection process. You know, "if you can't find my house, you're not invited."

Unless you're a package we've ordered, on which our continued employment depends.

As I'm standing there chatting with our down the street and around the corner neighbor, I realize with horror that it is her family that I sometimes buy plants from and she is standing in my driveway with my yard all exposed and stuff. I am glad it is late and very dark.

I ask her about fig trees anyway. As I have said before, everyone around here has at least two jobs, and it's nice when you can ask the same person about both shipping and pruning.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

moodswings and sunscreen

Some days are just plain better than others.

Today was not promising to be one of those days. I got up ridiculously early, against my will, and then took care of the needs of various people of various ages with varying degrees of righteous indignation (my mother-in-law is always the most gracious, and the one who has the most right to not be). I also took care of the chickens, who love me.

In the process of taking care of the chickens I opened the top a little too far, allowing Honalei to escape and run around the livingroom while Nod, Narnia, Gondor and Oz all chirped and flapped their encouragement. When I finally caught her I let Lucy and Studley pet her a bit. That'll teach her.

I was feeling particularly taken for granted (read: sorry for myself) today. While doing my morning stuff I drove by a hotel and noticed the pool with lounge chairs arranged around it. I thought about how nice it would be to just sit by a pool all day and read a book. Swim a little, sun a little, have a little lunch, repeat. But this is just not in the realm of the possible anymore. I have people I'm responsible for and even on my days off I don't get to do things that are just for me (although I am taking a Personal Day in a week or so and believe me, you'll be the first to hear all about it).

So I grumped my way through my morning and then I was supposed to go to a meeting in The Big City, so I called my city friends to see if we could get together while I was in town.

They were not in the city.

They were at their cottage on the lake and they asked us to join them there. By the time they completed voicing the invitation I was pulling into their driveway.

The cottage is tucked into the woods and is a quintessential beach cottage. It's been in the family for generations. Wood paneling everywhere, screen porch, picnic tables in the yard, a small and efficient kitchen, couple of bedrooms, a latch on the bathroom door instead of a doorknob (I don't know why this is important for cottages, but it is). I didn't snoop as much as usual, but I'd bet there's Yahtzee and that puzzle that's a picture of marbles. And a bunch of paperbacks and probably checkers. There is most likely sand in the closets, the drawers and behind the books.

There's a short, rough hewn stairway that leads down to the lake through the trees. The beach is sandy, as is the bottom of the lake - at least until you get deep enough to swim and not put your toes in the muck.

The beach is about as big as my livingroom and is bordered by trees and rocks, making it a naturally occurring playpen. The kids made sand castles and splashed. Lucy, aka Esther Williams, swam. And swam.

And I sat in the sun and waded in the water (still chilly) and had lunch and chatted and watched the Men Folk put the dock in for the summer. And after a few hours I moved my chair into the shade because I am of English descent and destined to remain fishbelly white.

A consummate professional, I blew off my meeting.

Eventually I noticed the sun glinting off the water in that suspiciously late-afternoon way and I started very slowly gathering our stuff. Lucy jumped off the dock 500 more times.

And then we were running out of food, so it was time to go.

I took dinner to my mother-in-law and when I came up Lucy had gotten into her pajamas - because she wanted to do something nice for me.

We had dinner and read stories and when I tucked the kids in bed they hugged me and kissed me and thanked me for being such a great mom.

I would feel guilty if I weren't so darn happy.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

There's no place like home

Another day, another party, another house to snoop around in.....

Today we went to my friend Laxmi's house. Admittedly she's really more of an acquaintance, although I have tried to ingratiate myself because I am fond of saying her name.

Next to their door is a little plaque that says "Welcome to our home away from home." Knowing that they live here year round, I think oh goody, they have a sense of humor like mine. I once bought some napkins that said that. They were a dollar and sometimes I like to pretend that this is our summer house. It is also our winter house.

But Laxmi and her husband are from India and this really is their home away from home.

They live in a single-story, grey-shingled, white trimmed house, same as everyone else. But then you walk in and promptly leave the country. Everything is simple and sparse with ornamentation tucked into all the details - like a dark canvas that someone has scattered faceted jewels on. The walls are all painted rich hues and candles in votives flicker everywhere. The plain tile floors are studded with patterns and the curtains are all sheer with ornate embroidery and tiny mirrored bits. Their dining room has a low table that they can all sit on the floor around. I think this is especially neat because I saw it on Six Feet Under once.

I love it when things are not what they appear to be from the outside. I love homes that tell me a bit about the people who live there.

I was once a nanny in Germany. From time to time I would be loaned to a family up the street who had lived in Brazil. In this very German home they had little touches of Brazil - a very ornate sink in the guest bathroom, a distinctly South American sculpture on the landing - tucked all around the house.

And then I came back to the U.S. and started living in my own homes. Although I didn't do it consciously (does anyone?), I have surrounded myself with those touches that tell a story - who I am and how I got here and what remained important along the way. I have moved several times and have probably furnished entire college dorms with my discarded stuff.

Not attractively, but still.

Sometimes the laundry shrouds what my home has to offer - something I need to remedy. Maybe it's time to throw a party of my own, which will force us to clean and do some emergency landscaping. Or maybe I will tell my friends that the editors of Very Famous Magazine are coming to do a story and photoshoot on me and my chickens and will they please please please come help me fix the place up?

It might just work.

What the World Eats

Since I seem to find myself in people's kitchens on a regular basis and because these things interest me, I was thinking I'd start a photo-essay project wherein I would photograph the various pantries I encounter.

Cool, huh?

Inevitably, when I think of a really great idea I discover that somewhere, somehow, I have already been outdone.

Check this out.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Sparky

Today was the last day of school. Lucy was dismissed at 11:30 and we all descended on the beach for a picnic lunch. I am so sorry if you were there trying to have a civilized afternoon of sunbathing. You were out of luck.

If you don't have kids, it's a good idea to choose an ocean side beach with enormous waves, a rocky precipice and some sharks. Then you'll have some peace and quiet.

When Lucy goes to parties she stays with me for most of the time and then she launches herself into the midst of the fray and never wants to go home. I was that way today. I knew I was supposed to mingle with the other parents, with my daytimer handy so I could plan playdates, pony rides and what-not, but I wasn't in the mood. And I don't have a daytimer. So I sat on our blanket and watched the kids play in the water for about 2 hours. And then a friend came by and pleaded with me to come over and visit and then I wouldn't shut up.

I had to tell everyone about the chickens, after all.

And then the topic turned ever so slightly to "what do we do with the hamster over summer break" and we discussed the distribution of classroom pets for various vacations and that in turn reminded me of Sparky.

Sometimes it's best to leave me on my blanket with no tempting segues into unrelated stories.

But Sparky was once a classroom goldfish, and so the story was related and so I was justified.

Sparky went home with my sister one year when she was teaching in Colorado. She then moved east and of course took Sparky with her. I helped her drive across the country. It was the middle of summer and we were in her Corolla with no AC, a rooftop carrier and a carload of her whole life's possessions. Yes, we got a flat tire in the middle of Nebraska at 3am and had to completely unpack the trunk in search of the spare. Neither of us had ever changed a tire before. It took probably 2 hours.

Sparky rode up front with whoever wasn't driving. The driver had to keep alert for potholes, railroad tracks or whatever and would holler "Fish!" when danger loomed. The passenger would instantly wake up and grab the fishbowl, acting as a human shock absorber.

Suddenly, taking my sunflowers on a roadtrip isn't so surprising, now is it?

We made it to DC and successfully moved my sister into her posh garden apartment with a view of people's ankles from its only window.

That night, in the middle of a sound, sound sleep, I sat straight up in bed because I had heard a gentle splat. Frantically I felt around on the top of the bookcase, grabbed Sparky and tossed him back in his bowl.

He lived for a couple more years.

Meanwhile, back at the beach....

Lucy has found yet another friend and I become acquainted with her parents. We set up a play date before I realize what I'm doing. I may even have instigated it.

And as we're leaving a little girl I've never seen before walks up and says "I live on Curvilinear Circle - the third house on the left, it's number 11. My phone number is 888-555-1212. The chemicals are in the pool so we can't swim yet but it will be open soon."

It seems we have an open invitation. Most people know better than to do that with me, but she is only 5 and probably has not heard. I feel slightly smug with my new knowledge.

And then on the way home I wonder how many people Lucy has given her phone number and Google Earth coordinates to. She may have said something like, "just come on in - sometimes mom doesn't like to answer the door."

Thursday, June 7, 2007

My Favorite Martian Chickens

Today I was sent on many missions which I did not understand. I drove to an audio store (which is different from a music store because there is nothing there that would suggest music. May as well be auto parts as far as I can tell. Of course, I'm not all that familiar with auto parts, either). Fortunately I was expected and they recognized me immediately as Chris' Trophy Wife. They were very helpful and carried a large and heavy something or other to my car. They told me to stop pouring beer in the speaker.

So it was a speaker, then.

I don't even drink beer.

So I drive away and then discover that they didn't give me the jacks. "What are jacks?" my friend Sue says. This makes me glad because she is musiciany and she should know about things you buy in audio stores.

They are those things you pick up after you bounce the ball, of course.

So I am sent to yet another store to pick up jacks because the second store is right on my way to the third store. Although the third stop is not a store, it is a repair shop. It is where things go after people pour beer in them.

I pull up to the repair place and go in with whatever that thing is Chris put on my front seat this morning. I see no one behind the counter. I peer into the depths of the very long and narrow shop and say "....hello?"

There is a path down the length of the shop and on either side of the path is broken equipment piled literally to the ceiling. On a work bench is a computer looking thing from probably the '70's that I think I saw on my trip to the Air and Space Museum. I do not see any human beings.

So I look back out in the parking lot and there's a lanky man walking toward me. He says hello and precedes to step on an up-ended cassette deck which is apparently there for use as a step stool since there's no other way to get to the other side of the counter. He takes his position and accepts my broken something-or-other. He plugs it in, sticks a piece of wire in the back, checks for vital signs, connects some speaker wire and suddenly there is music.

It is a receiver, then.

I glance around the shop and ask if I need some kind of claim check. He tells me he'll just put it on our other work order. I am a little nervous about this but can't actually voice "how on earth are you going to know which something-or-other is his? How will you know it's even here? How?"

I leave quietly.

And when I return home, I see that a spaceship has landed in our yard. Chris is looking pleased, so I say "uh, wow honey, is that the chicken coop?" He nods.

"What does it look like?" he asks me.
"A really big spin-art thingy?"
"no"
"A septic tank?"
"no, someplace we've been"
"You built a replica of the HIRSHHORN???"

Yes, I have a chicken coop that will look like the Hirshhorn Museum. I ask if there will be a sculpture garden, which he confirms. He also confirms the center fountain. Our chickens are in trouble.

He tells me he's been looking at pictures of the building for weeks and finally found a site that has all the specifications. The building itself hovers over the fenced in free-range area.

I am so, so, so not making this up.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Have I got an answer for you

Two people asked me parenting questions today.

I was actually kidding in an earlier post when I said I was going to start dishing out advice, since I don't have any more idea about raising kids than I do chickens or broccoli.

But I don't have anything else to write about, so I'm going to run with it.

First of all my Colorado friend Erica called me from her kitchen where she was enjoying possibly her last quiet cup of coffee. She is due soon. She was wondering if when the baby comes there's some sort of brain chemical that kicks in, making you love the baby more than your personal space, uninterrupted sleep, barf-free clothing, intelligent conversation and all those other things you can forget about.

I have no idea.

Because I dig my kids. But I also miss going out to brunch and then going back to bed. Or making coffee and taking it back to bed. Or just staying in bed in the first place. So Erica, good luck with that.

Same day, different conversation. I am asked by a near perfect stranger how I manage to give my kids a nutritious dinner and get them to bed by 7. Do I have a system? Do I feed them prepared foods?

My kids are always fed, bathed and in bed by 7. I do this for me, not them. I will be putting them to bed at 7 when they are in High School.

I don't generally do prepared food because I like to cook. I was in a rush tonight so I was tempted with Annie's Mac & Cheese, but I had just told someone I made delicious nutritious meals every night, so I felt sort of obligated to at least try.

I made fried rice in about 18 seconds. I stir fried some broccoli slaw from Trader Joe's (if that qualifies as prepared food then, well, never mind), added sesame oil and soy sauce. What? You have no sesame oil? So get over it and use something else. Scramble an egg in the pan with the veggies, add the old rice still in the rice cooker from last night, toss to mix, serve with a dash of gomasio. What? You have no gomasio? Shame on you. Every kitchen needs gomasio. It's like having at least one really perfect lipstick.

Lucy's pretty good at cracking eggs and aiming them for a bowl, so she helped with that. This has the added benefit of her actually eating it, since she will eat nearly anything she made herself (except the peanut butter tomato sandwich).

We have it on good authority (a doctor Chris works for) that rice stays perfectly edible in a rice cooker on the "keep warm" setting for days. We generally keep it for three or four until throwing it out, still untouched. But it's a nice option.

I don't actually eat the fried rice myself. After the kids were safely tucked in I made a second dinner and invited a friend over.

And now she is gone and I'm making myself a cup of tea. My cup of tea and I will then go to bed and sit in the dark listening to the wind in the trees until I, at last tired of doing absolutely nothing, will go to sleep.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Other People's Stories

I think they read my blog at Barnstable Feed & Supply. They were nice to me today.

In fact, I'm starting to think that lots of people I run into out there in the world are reading it because suddenly everyone has a story to tell. I feel like I've been mistaken for the NPR story corps.

Today I learned that in the cemetery next to PJ's in Wellfleet there is a stone marking the grave site of a husband and wife. They died within an hour of each other in the 1700's.

I learned that in the glory days of Jacks Out Back there was Spaghetti Night. You had to wait for an hour or more to get in. The owners would arrive with everything in baskets - candelabras, tablecloths, bottles of wine. I only went there for breakfast and now feel completely cheated.

At the feed store they got a stool so Studley could climb up and see the new baby chicks. She starts chatting with me, eager to verify my identity.

Feed & Supply Lady: How many chickens do you have?
me: Five
fsl: Did you name them? (this is a trick question)
me: Yes. We have Cacophony, Calliope, Clandestine, Philistine and Endive (I make up names that are fun to say because usually I just get to type them. Yes, I pronounce it ahn-deev).

This only confirms her suspicions.

She tells me about her first chickens. Her mother is in the store and she keeps chiming in, for verity. As a child she got a job at a local circus. "There was no pay," says mum, "but the first day she came home with a big box of chickens." As it turned out they were all roosters. What a rip off. Apparently they had pretty much every animal imaginable growing up. I suddenly feel that I'm in good hands.

They tell me that there is no sales tax on items bought for chickens. Surely there is also a chicken credit we can claim next April?

This may really work out for us.

But not as well as having a neighbor whose daughter can fish. She brought over a big piece of freshly caught bass tonight. Our friends who generally show up when there's something delicious on the menu showed up. She brought this baked apple thing she found in her grandmother's recipe stash. Okay, she didn't find the actual apple thing, just the recipe.

Sometimes even now I can hear Mrs. Olson correcting my writing. With my luck she, too, has found my blog and is preparing to haul me back to that Junior High English class.

Monday, June 4, 2007

defining moments

Tonight when we were out getting a pizza I saw a guy I met ages ago. As soon as he was out of earshot I said to Chris, "he's the guy who said 'the thing I like most about New Year's Day is you end up having breakfast with a bunch of people you didn't know.'" I waited until he was out of earshot because he already knows the story and is probably tired of hearing me tell it.

Since I am painfully shy, I seem to align myself with more brazen friends so I can sometimes do things more interesting than cower in my closet. This was one of those times.

Many years ago, I crashed a New Year's Eve party with my friend Francine. We were so successful crashing that party that we crashed another one, taking a few new friends from the first one. And then we did it again. And so it went, into the morning, when a whole group of us went out for breakfast.

Although I have known him for years, I have never been more than sort of acquainted with Mr. Memorable Quote. He dated a friend of mine for a long time (more than a couple months), that friend in turn dated the guy who my other friend swiped from her before dumping him for the guy she married. Pretty far down the Aquaintanceship food chain, I'd say.

So he will always be "the guy who said...."

Whenever I see him, I tell whoever is with me the story. Probably the first few times I saw him after The Breakfast of Strangers I reminded him of his comment and how funny I thought it was. It's about all we have to talk about.

For years a former co-worker asked me if I was still seeing that nice boy who brought me snacks. Eventually I married the snack boy - now he has a name. He graduated from the one line summary.

I'm sure there are lots of people who I sum up in one phrase or story. The girl who had a crush on my boyfriend, the guy who ran over me on his bicycle, the french horn player who introduced me to opera, etc. That's who they are to me.

And I've just now started to wonder, how many people remember me by just one thing I said or did? And of course the logical, cringe-inducing next question: what was it?

Which is why I'll probably go back to my closet sanctuary.

Liz Kinder

This morning I gift wrapped one of Liz Kinder's bowls so I could send it out into the world, making it a happier place. And making someone like me more. I always like to include info about the artist, so I pulled a handful of little cards out of her file. And then I couldn't decide what to put in. These are a few of my favorites.

Liz Kinder's artist cards:

My dad cannot believe I'm a potter. Neither can I, really. When he sees how much I produce he tells me I'm my "own little third world country."

It's sort of endearing.

Do you think that people might find that offensive? I never know anymore.

***

You might be thinking that while I was making this piece of pottery I was listening to something classy - the Bach B Minor Mass - or something edgy like Radiohead. I hate to break it to you, but I was probably listening to NPR, cursing at Terry Gross,
or worse.... grooving to "The Ultimate Air Supply"

***

I wonder if the fact that you're buying my pottery is any indication that you are also someone who gets depressed every time you walk into IKEA.

***

Signing "Liz Kinder, etc."

Perhaps the time would be better spent shampooing my hair.

I spend an hour every morning writing on the bottom of my pottery. My mom was visiting; we shopped. I took off my hat and, in the middle of the store she shrieked, "When was the last time YOU WASHED YOUR HAIR?"

I didn't know.

***

You're thinking that this card is going to say that this piece of pottery was made with loving hands by some underprivileged person.

I don't want to disappoint, but it was actually made by an overeducated girl in Philly who will probably blow the money on some ridiculously over-priced moisturizing product.

To Do List, revised (again)

Today was almost The Day Summer Forgot.

Last night it looked like today would be a prolonged state of euphoria. We were scheduled to go to a friend's house and hang out at the pond all afternoon. Just think, a day of swimming and not one trip to a public bathroom. And after that, off to a late afternoon concert for some dancing and dinner.

But the day started out rainy, and even though it cleared it was just too chilly and Lucy is the only one with a wetsuit. And when it was time to go to the concert I discovered there was a change of lineup and one of the guitar players was the ridiculously loud one that I like but cannot in good conscience subject my kids to (even with their tried and true earplugs).

Then I remembered the pool. Some friends of ours have a restaurant with a pool. One of our favorite things is to have dinner poolside and swim until we all fall asleep (thank goodness for floaties). We were all set to walk out the door when the phone rang again and it was news that the restaurant isn't open yet and the pool is empty. Fine if you're in the mood for skateboarding, not so fine if you're hungry and you've just futilely put your whole family in bathing suits for the second time today.

Then I remembered the trampolines. People had already gone this summer, so I knew they were open. In the car we went.

They were closed. But practically next door were bumper boats, and they were open. So we flung ourselves out of the car and booked two boats. Lucy had her own and Studley and I shared one. Chris was working and boy is he going to be sad (especially once he gets the $573 worth of photos I sent to his phone).

Really, I did it for the kids. But I have rarely laughed that hard. We were the only two boats and we chased each other around until I could barely stand up for the stomach cramps. We shrieked and sprayed each other with our laser-accuracy water shooters. We careened helplessly into walls, each other and docked boats.

When the time was up we obediently guided our vessels back to their docks - although it took us an additional 20 minutes to do so.

And then it was time for dinner.

Our kids are the products of two adults who were themselves raised on instant mashed potatoes. Lucy and Studley eat whole wheat bread and are not afraid of sushi. They know what couscous is. They request chutney on the side.

I took them to A&W.

I think when they get older I'll have to find some kind of summer camp to send them too, like normal kids. But I'm in no hurry because I think I need to be a good 30 years older before I can ride the bumper boats by myself.

And then I'll get a 6 for $30 punch card.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

broccoli

A few weeks ago Lucy and I headed to the garden to plant broccoli. When we were ready for the seeds, I discovered there were only 8 of them - since Lucy had eagerly opened the packet from the bottom on her way across the yard.

It is times like these that I have to remind myself why we are doing this silly garden in the first place.

Because it's not exactly increasing our property value, or our esteem in the eyes of the neighbors. It is so we can care for something and watch it grow and be amazed and then eat it. And yes, it's so the kids will know that vegetables don't just come from the store. And because I'm too cheap to buy all those fresh herbs at the Farmer's Market, and too snobby to cook without them.

So Lucy has planned and purchased and planted right alongside me each year. And our rows are not straight and our lettuce is mixed in with the spinach and sometimes we weed a patch only to remember that those were probably the beans we planted mid-summer. NEVERTHELESS we have 5 very closely spaced, very tiny broccoli plants.

It is SO exciting to see those first leaves appear. Because, if you haven't figured this out by now, I am not a gardener.

I do not know what I am doing. My Magic 8 Ball is annoyingly vague. I have googled, I have asked, I have blindly planted.

As it turns out, not being good at something is a great way to make new friends. If you want to talk about gardening, I am a very rewarding listener. And let me tell you, lots of people around here want to talk about gardening. I have a lot to learn from them and I am extremely grateful and non-threatening. My friend Sue is a master gardener and has a tv show, for crying out loud. I cannot compete. Given the competency of most of my friends it is remarkable that I've attempted this at all. I have no shame, apparently.

I planted the sunflowers outside a couple days ago and they are not acclimating well at all. Not At All. In the back of my mind I prepare to say "good heavens, I've gone and killed something again." Although I hope I don't have to.

The broccoli is encouraging.

So we will continue to water all our little plants and sing them songs. And in the afternoon the 3 or 4 of us will report to the vegetable patch to root around with our size-specific trowels. And on nights like tonight we will harvest greens to go in the latest Asian Noodle Salad and feel extremely proud of ourselves.

And maybe when we're all in the garden, looking puzzled and waving our trowels around, we are actually increasing some kind of property value.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Fridays with Studley

Here is my secret to perpetual happiness. It is also my secret to not fitting into my swimsuit and carrying a perpetually low bank balance. I like going out for lunch.

I like going out to lunch because it gives me something to look forward to after breakfast, and restaurants give me a safe place to talk to strangers. I adore talking to strangers.

Sometimes I go with other adults, but most often I'm in the company of Studley. Today was a Studley day. We went to Common Ground, which is run by a religious organization I know nothing about. The food is great, the people are nice, and the interior looks and feels as though hobbits built it. See for yourself:



Now that I've shown you, I realize that a picture can't possibly do it justice. All of the tables are in little nooks with rounded roofs and tables made from a slice of wood - edges left with bark and top urethaned to a thick gloss. Little benches are curved around the tables. No two are alike. All the surfaces are wood - wood paneled walls, wood floors, hand carved counters and work areas. It is dark and soothing. The people wear very simple clothing and are just as nice as can be. The clientelle is always nice too, and their clothing ranges from business suits to Misfits t-shirts.

They make a lot of their own food - certainly all of their bread. They have farms and raise or grow many of their ingredients. They also sell some of the things they make (although they are always low on their house dressing when I ask).

I always get an Iced Common Ground, even though I know what's in it. My friend Dawn bought the mix.... or whatever form it comes in. I think you brew it. She had a hard time making it come out like theirs - she tried milk, soy milk, rice milk, almond milk... nothing worked. So she asked them. Half and half. Everything is better with half and half. It also has carob, mint and yerba mate in it. Now just because I lived in Boulder does not mean I necessarily like this stuff. I generally hear a combination including carob and think "now why would I drink that?" It must be the half and half because this is delicious. I also got a taco salad - and what can possibly be wrong with a salad you dollop sour cream on?

Studley got the peanut butter and banana sandwich and when it arrived he said "thank you" to the waitress, despite his limited vocabulary of mama, stuck, avocado, soup, brush-and-floss and ow (which actually means "cat"). She said "you're welcome". My heart sang.

Yes, he really says "brush and floss."

Like I said, I don't know anything about their beliefs. But I always like reading about such things, so I picked up a pamphlet. From the pamphlet I made my way to one of their websites. And from there I made it to their related links page because I was still curious about the group. I think they are "Twelve Tribes". Again, they are super nice and make a mean taco salad. So I like them.

I left there feeling a trifle too wholesome and got myself a pedicure.

I had used up all my chattiness and was back in introverted mode, so it was up to Studley. He flirted shamelessly at the nail salon and when we left everyone said goodbye to him. He can work a room.

By the time we picked up Lucy from school, the sun was out and it was fine beach weather. The tide was on its way out, giving us ample acreage to splash in. Studley was knocked over by a 1.75" wave and got saltwater in his mouth. I almost pushed him over so I could see the scrunched up "ew, what IS that?!?!?" expression again. But people were watching.

Now that they are in bed it has decided to rain, which is making the whole world smell absolutely perfect.

Unless you're sitting next to the chickens. They're stinky.