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

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

my new NPS arrowhead tattoo

It is perhaps unprofessional to get weepy on the way to a meeting. I could blame it on the surroundings and my gratitude that they are covered in beach grass and white cedars and not condos and tennis courts. I could blame it on nostalgia. I could also blame it on being a little nervous whenever I meet a new client - especially when I am extremely anxious to work for her due to the first two reasons.

But really, it's the nostalgia that's a problem.

My father spent his whole career working for the federal government. Now while there is much that can be said about the federal government that is unflattering, that is not the point of this entry - and not only because there is apparently some new law which allows it to take my lovely Towers if I am perceived as a threat to said government. The point of this entry is that the National Park Service makes our country a nice place to live. My perception may be a bit skewed and self-centered, since right now it affects me so greatly. The National Seashore has preserved much of the land near my home.

My dad started working for the Park Service when he was in college. His first project was the lettering on some sign in Battery Park. He showed it to me once. He also showed us many many other parks during our childhood. All our vacations were taken via station wagon and plotted from park to park. Today I realized that we probably spent less time in the visitor's centers and more time in headquarters, giving us a sense of the humanity involved in each park. I vividly remember wearing a hard hat at one of the sites that wasn't open yet. I dug my dad and so have a fondness for these places.

They are a little like McDonald's, these headquarters, in that if you are put in one blindfolded, you know that you are in a National Park Service building. I don't know why or how this is. Today I looked around trying to pinpoint it exactly. It's just like time has stopped. Not that they are outdated (they were probably outdated when dad was still alive, so that's part of the mystique), they're just timeless. I happen to know that they are very up to date in many ways, so the 70's facade is - I think - part of the act.

I had mentioned to the woman I am meeting that my dad worked for the Park Service. I told her this in an email after my initial response, in an effort to explain the unreasonable number of exclamation points in my extremely enthusiastic "yes I would love to meet with you!" email. I do not tell her that I will jump through flaming hoops and charge her a quarter of my hourly rate just to see my name and National Park Service appear on the same check.

So I walk in the door and am greeted by a group of employees who are all very nice and helpful. I obviously need help because I am in their building and they do not recognize me. As it turns out, they are also wondering who my dad is - it is a small office and word has gotten around. I hold small hope that someone there knew him or knew of him. Let him please be alive and well in someone's memory.

After the meeting, my mom calls. I tell her all about where I was and she says "Oh! Dad would be SO PLEASED!"

And so I cry.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

They Might Be Giants, cont.

My sister called to tell me something. She didn't tell me the something because I was too busy prattling on about last night's concert. She had been polite and asked how my night was - that was her first mistake. If you have something important to convey, it's best to just leap right in without giving the other person a chance to derail you. With caller ID you don't even have to say "hello."

I have been thinking about They Might Be Giants all day. Well, I spent some time thinking about lunch, but even then I was humming "Twisting" or something else from Flood. I couldn't get the show out of my mind, probably since I don't see much live music anymore. Because now it costs more.

No, no, the shows themselves don't cost any more. I can still get in for free with my charm, connections, and ability to climb through a bathroom window. But the babysitters are killing me. Last night I bartered with our sitter, so it wasn't such a shock to the bank account. I told her I usually bill at $175/hour. She countered that she bills at $160/hour, plus a $20/hour hazard charge for each additional child. We agreed to call it even.

Gloating over my well-struck deal, I peeled out of the driveway and headed for the club.

I didn't even have to agonize over what to wear because, well, I'm married and old and no one cares what I wear.

I wish I had taken a small notebook with me, to record the geeky-smart-coolness factor. For starters, there were great t-shirts. One had a functioning graphic equalizer on it. I googled it to make sure I wasn't hallucinating (it wasn't that kind of rock show - the hallucinating sort - but you never know). Furthermore, people smiled at each other. Smiled! At a concert! Ridiculous. Fortunately the love-fest was kept short by the blazing white lights that suddenly turned on us, while the band filed grandly onto the stage.

Let me say that band members must not be prone to seizures. Flashing lights! Strobes! Disco Balls! No really, there was a disco ball involved. Smoke machines! Wait, that's just the humidity wafting in the spotlights.

In short, it was a real, stadium-type rock show.... in a 380 capacity beach club. Weezer did the same thing there. Their flashing "W" took up the whole stage. That's "W" for "Weezer" in case you are suddenly questioning the underlying politics of this post.

Honestly, it felt a little silly when Weezer did it. But last night was Freaking Brilliant. They had Cool Equipment. They employed an entire AV department. It was good. And I was right up front to watch it - to see that unmistakable voice in action. I always wondered what he looked like (which John is it who plays accordian? Linnell, I think. He's the voice behind "Birdhouse"). Their guitar player, Dan Miller, was stupendous on acoustic.

They were personable and funny and great and then they were... gone. John and John hid in their tour bus immediately after the show. Truly, hid. The woman I went with is friends with one of them and she pretty near needed a retina scan to gain access.

They must be awfully darn famous. Or pooped. Or maybe the bus is really cool inside and their tour manager has to beg and cajole them out of it for shows. I can see this happening.

At some point I let my sister talk. She's getting a new car. A very sweet new car. A very loaded new car. Which means her minivan is available for purchase.

I think not.

Friday, July 27, 2007

carbon footprints in the sand

When our house guests arrived on Monday, Bella took out her cell phone and turned it off. "We're here," she said, "don't need this any more."

They did not bring a laptop. They did not check their mail 57 times a day. They did not get and have to answer any phone calls while we were on the beach. They have the right idea in so many ways.

They both live within biking distance to work. And they do. I live within biking distance and I drive. I blame it on all my heavy stuff (why do I have a laptop that weighs more than a desktop?), but really it just makes it tricky to stop for a coffee and muffin on the way.

They also buy mostly locally grown food. We are doing a little better in this respect. I mean, we have chickens. But the chicken feed we give them is probably imported from Thailand.

But here's the real puzzle. They have mentioned that their jobs are not, how shall I say this, lucrative. Child care is an issue because the babysitters in their area make a better hourly wage than one of them is pulling in. And yet I would classify them as affluent. They have a lovely home and (this is my real Affluence Barometer) they eat better than anyone else I know.
They take care of what they have, they buy quality instead of quantity and I imagine they are really good at keeping to a budget. Which is surprising given the cornucopia of house gifts they brought us (new Harry Potter!).

I love their house. She's an artist and her home has always been stunning. He's a literary sort, adding a level of interest to their bookshelves. Whenever I go there, I take a notepad so I can remember all the interesting-sounding titles. A few years ago I followed him around a bookstore as he rattled off up-and-coming authors I should read. My favorite turned out to be Everything is Illuminated, by Jonathan Safran Foer, but there were lots of good calls.

They have a share in a local farm and get fresh vegetable deliveries weekly. They also get to go pick stuff when they want, so they always have fresh flowers around the house. I only have fresh flowers when I wait until after dark and harvest irises from the garden down the street. Okay, I don't really do that. But it's crossed my mind.

Anyway, tonight I was wishing Bella was still here because I just got home from They Might Be Giants - a band we both like a lot. I was close enough to the stage to confirm that both John and John have brown eyes. I sang all the songs I remembered of theirs from when I was in college, and watched all the people around me sing the rest of the songs. The people around me may still be in college.

They were all very nice, those They Might Be Giants fans. In fact, at the end when they sang "Istanbul, not Constantinople" and everyone was hot and sweaty and packed in like a commuter train, I noticed a smell. It was different from the smell of other band crowds. It was, in fact, the smell of soap.

Let it be known that They Might Be Giants fans are regular bathers. And for this I am very pleased. Even if the band didn't play Hippy Kitten.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Cheese Platters and other points of interest

When I picked up Lucy from her yoga class today a couple came out with a cat in a carrier. I ended up talking to them, and asked them how she was feeling. This invaded her HIPAA rights, but I only asked out of curiousity and not a burning desire to meddle in the health issues of a strange cat.

She is feeling better. She is feeling better because she had just come from an acupuncture appointment (which I was assuming, as I had not noticed any cats in Lucy's yoga class). She also has a homeopathic doctor in London who is prescribing all manner of whatnot for her. She is beating Disease X, which I will not disclose for the sake of Cleomenes' privacy. Cleomenes being the cat. Not her real name.

While Lucy was in class, Studley and I were loitering. I got an iced tea and went to sit in the garden in front of the Chamber of Commerce. It's a little courtyard with nice plantings (I'm especially fond of the big clumps of ornamental grass) and some benches. A woman had added several chairs and a few little side tables, and was busy bringing out balloons and other little decorations.

She kept forgetting to ask me to leave, so I finally asked her if I should clear out. Quite the contrary, she asked me to stay for the hoopla. And she brought me a cookie. The Chamber of Commerce was having an open house and I was invited - it being open and all. It started shortly after I picked up Lucy, so we were the first to arrive. She even took pictures of us (probably so she could put it in the newsletter if no one else showed up).

I haven't been in the Chamber of Commerce for years. Why would I need to? I live here. But I always love going to information booths and community bulletin boards in other towns to see what's happening. So I nosed around ours and picked up a couple brochures. Some of the brochures were misleadingly lovely and I felt a little badly for the people who chose their accommodations based on graphic design. There were other places I had never heard of and wanted to check out. There were frisbees with weneedavacation.com printed on them, which is how my sister found a rental the last time she came to visit. I'd recommend it. I can recommend it because I don't work for the Chamber and can actually make recommendations without appearing to play favorites and without getting sued. I'll save that for Cleomenes.

Our houseguests have left and are probably home by now. As they were packing the car, Lucy went into the garden and found the first ripe tomato - which she washed off and gave to her friend. I took pictures of them in the garden so that I can finally show them how lush and bountiful it is. Yes, I am going to send them pictures of an eggplant with two blurry little girls in the background. They already know what the girls look like, after all.

Oh oh oh! I almost forgot! This morning we got a call from Heather, warning us that one of the roads connecting our house to the rest of the world was closed because there was a cooking oil spill. Really, with all the fried food our town goes through in the summer, it's amazing this doesn't happen more often and there aren't Emergency Cooking Oil Spill Route signs. We decided to head out of town in the Other Direction and go for breakfast instead of, you know, going to work.

It couldn't be helped.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Barnstable County Fair

The kids are going to sleep for a week.

We went to the tame, bay beach today - all the tamer due to the low tide. Where we are, when the tide goes out there's a mile or so of tidal flats. Which means shallow pools of water for the kids to play in and ages of damp, hard sand to walk on. High tide is the only time you can get a swim in, but low tide is a novelty and great with kids. It's especially perfect when the tide is high in the late afternoon, because it has come in over hot, sun-baked flats and is warm, warm, warm. Even by my standards.

But that has nothing to do with us. Not today.

Because when we finished with the beach we came home and treated the kids to another bath en plein air. And then we packed yet another picnic (we had lunch on the beach) and took off for the Barnstable County Fair.

I have learned that you HAVE TO go right at 4 p.m. when they open on weekdays, or you will be stuck in traffic instead of eating cotton candy. So we arrived shortly after 4, breezed in, scoped out the purveyors (cotton candy), and ooohed and ahhhed over the goats and sheep and pigs. Pigs are even smellier than chickens. We won't be getting any.

We said hello to some chickens that looked like ours. Lucy held a little chick, quite adeptly. We had dinner at a picnic table under the trees. The band was kind enough to start playing just as we began to eat. Jazz. Very dinner-y. I have realized that if you don't have a proper place in your house for people to eat, you should have lots of picnics with your houseguests. And there are less dishes.

And then we went to the rides. The older girls (ages 3 and 4) rode a couple of snoozers, just to make sure they wouldn't cry or throw up, and then they hit the little rollercoasters. If I forget everything else from this day, I hope I never forget the head-splitting smiles those girls had on their little screaming faces.

The fair is only here through the weekend. Very nice that we got to do it with our friends, who now think we live this crazy life of doing fun things all the time.

I'm starting to believe it, too.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

houseguests, cont.

The great thing about having house guests is that you have to go do all those fun things you don't generally do. Today we went to the beach, which is not so unusual. But instead of going to our tame little bay beach down the street, we opted for an ocean beach. Our guests had to get a little Atlantic time in, you know.

Fortunately Uncle Bucky is brave and strong and impervious to freezing temperatures, because he cheerily accompanied the two older girls at the water's edge. At the water's edge, not In The Water because although they are young and silly, they are not crazy. I stood with them for about 30 seconds before I had to admit that the water was causing undue pain. There was a time when I would have toughed it out, saying "oh, it's fine once you're in," just to defend my sandy spit of land. Water's too cold? Not your idea of a day at the beach? Don't be a pansy. But my friends were game and happy, so I could be the pansy.

And then when we had had enough, we went to lunch and had tuna tacos and lobster rolls and fish and chips. Because that's what you are supposed to do when you are on vacation at the beach.

When we came home we were all filthy, so we filled the wading pool with warm water and bubble bath and tossed the 4 kids in. The soap we used was kid-friendly so we hope it's good for the grass. In any case, our lawn has never been squeaky-cleaner. Adults took actual showers, inside, because we are considerate of our neighbors.

And then we packed a picnic dinner and headed to the Big City to see a concert on the harbor. It's this big sloping lawn and you see boats coming and going beyond the stage. I never really appreciated the Big City, but now that I'm finding spots like this it's winning me over. Besides, it has Trader Joe's.

We didn't go to Trader Joe's because we still have enough food for 6 meals a day. Plus the eggplant which is nearly ready to eat in the garden. They have not asked for a tour of the garden. How can they not want a tour of the garden? I did have a newspaper editor stroll by and admire it today, though. Fortunately not while four naked kids were up to their necks in soap bubbles. There are things I don't need to get in the paper for.

Monday, July 23, 2007

posh accomodations

Guests are here! Chris told them it was like an eastern bloc country getting ready for a visit from western diplomats. In other words, he gave us up. He absolutely cannot be trusted with state secrets.

I decided to have dinner in the driveway, next to the woodstove. We have a bunch of chairs and a little table, and I figured the kids could spill food on the ground instead of the floor. They did. They spilled all of it. And then they ran in circles around the yard while we ate the scraps.

It's okay because I bought enough food to provide 6 meals a day. Plus we had the first cucumber from the garden. A real cucumber from the garden, not one of the decoys I placed from the farmer's market.

I haven't sorted my spices yet, but am handy with Photoshop and created a trompe l'oeil cupboard cover which features attractively arranged pantry items, including spices. I'm working on one for the bathroom next, followed by the rest of my house.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

preparations

The last time I bought new towels for a house guest she went home, quit her job, drove across the country and moved in with me. I have friends coming tomorrow and there's a house for sale down the street, so I thought I'd give it a try.

I think I wrote about this phenomenon awhile back, where I panic, run around in circles and shriek "they're coming" until everyone else panics and cleans up. I call it housekeeping.

Heather excavated the guestroom.

Chris minimized the scrap heap in the back yard.

I went shopping for towels.

In my defense, I have also done about 97 loads of laundry. I have sought and found the maternity clothes I've been saving for my friend who will be moving in down the street if all goes well. I have stocked the refrigerator and I have not eaten straight out of a single container - although the lemon sorbet will be history before they get here.

Lucy and Studley cleaned their own darn room. I got them new towels, too, as a little "thank you" even though they already live here.

And I lined up an 8 year old babysitter to watch the kids once a week. Okay, I think that's illegal. But while I was dawdling this morning, chatting with some friends while our kids played, I asked them when their daughter would be of babysitting age. Because she already takes very good care of them. As it turns out, they are looking for a place for her to go once a week, and I'm looking for someone to keep them company once a week while I get some work done in the next room. And since I am paying her in fruit strips and cheese crackers, I don't think it's considered child labor.

So I come home and tell Chris about it and I also mention that we talked about someone who is so uptight they alphabetized their spice rack. Can you imagine?

"You used to do that," he claims.
"Did not."
"Yes, you did. Alphabetically, from left to right."

Oh dear, it's true. But I am not sure what to do with this memory. Do I shake my head in disbelief at the hardened spice-sorter I used to be, or do I mourn the loss of my organized alter-ego?

It kind of makes me want to go fold some laundry.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Overreaching

My niece discovered a large bucket of birdseed in my mother-in-law's diningroom. We were not feeding it to her. We've stopped putting seed in the bird feeders because our cat is able to jump straight up and snag a bird right off the feeder. We've come to see the birdseed not as food but as bait.

By the time my niece found the bucket it had been commandeered by a large number of bugs and was promptly removed to the driveway. Every time I walked by it, a squirrel would jump out of the bucket and scurry up a tree. As the day wore on, the squirrel jumped a little slower and looked more and more like it might need a nap. Finally, there was no squirrel. The buffet was still loaded, but all the patrons were suffering from overindulgence. I could imagine tree limbs swaying and cracking overhead, taxed to breaking under the girth of birdseed stuffed squirrels.

Meanwhile, back at the Towers....

I got a catalog from Oriental Trading Company in today's mail. Remembering that I used to love doing such things, I told Lucy to get a pen and circle all the things she liked. She will, after all, have a birthday party within the next calender year and we will eventually be in the market for party favors.

There are about a dozen items she didn't circle. She will have 23 pinatas at her party. She will have enough stickers to wallpaper the entire house. There are not enough trees in the entire neighborhood to string the banners and streamers on.

I told her I'd think about it.

I'll think about it after I've completed my to-do list for the weekend. We have friends coming on Monday and although they've know us too long to fall for the "wow, they have such a great life" routine (in which we make our home and our lives picture-perfect for the extent of their visit), we do want things to be nice. You know, clean. So I've put together a list of things I'd like to get done.

Make a new curtain for the bathroom.
Paint the livingroom.
Find the guestroom and remove all items which are using it as a storage unit.
Replace all items in pantry with undusty and organic versions of current items.
Buy new towels and embroider Trout Towers crest, by hand.
Design Trout Towers crest.
Give the chickens a bath.
Place farmers' market vegetables in garden for harvest.
Clean children's room.
Clean children.
Rework Apalachian Junkyard motif in driveway with lobster traps and buoys.

Like the squirrel and Lucy, I think I'm out of my depth. I think I will save this list for my next guests and prepare for these guests by not eating straight out of the sorbet container. They'll probably appreciate that more than all of the above.

Friday, July 20, 2007

holier than thou

I drove up to my friend's townhouse today and noticed several people on her lawn, genuflecting. I had flashing thoughts of the apocalypse and wondered if maybe she had been revealed as the new Up and Coming Savior between the time I called her to let her know I was on the way and the time I drove up. And then I got closer and realized they were landscapers and it was shear coincidence that they were all kneeling at the same time and all happened to be facing in the direction of her front door.

How cool would it be, to be the one bringing the Up and Coming Saviour her Dunkin' Donuts coffee?

I don't think I've ever met anyone who made me want to genuflect. Or landscape. Although there was one guy at a Zen monastery who nearly inspired me to do both....

Ages and ages ago I got a course catalog in the mail from Zen Mountain Monastery, near Woodstock, NY. In it was listed an "Introduction to Zen" weekend. I thought to myself, I should do that sometime. And then I got sort of peeved with myself because I am always muttering things like that and never following through and it's such a waste because some of the things I want to do are actually worth doing. Although many aren't.

So I signed up. And then I made Chris sign up.

When we were signing in, the woman at the welcome desk asked if we had any dietary restrictions. I mentioned that I didn't do well with shellfish, so please no clambakes. The man who was rustling around in the supply closet behind her peeked out and glowed at me. I think he may have smiled, but who can tell with all that glowing? I thought wow, if that's what they turn you into here, I'm staying.

Fortunately for my employer, my landlord and my mom I am diametrically opposed to dedicating myself to anything more involved or demanding than breakfast. When I discovered that the man in the supply closet was one of the teachers and had devoted his life For Years to the study of Buddhism, I was kind of over it.

But I didn't realize it right away, and by then I was having a really good time. For one thing, it's just beautiful there. And then the people were amazing. One of the things they ask you to do is only bring simple clothes in muted colors - no patterns or Hello Kitty logos. And then you discover that when people aren't wearing distracting clothing, with which they are trying to describe themselves, it's easier to see who they are.

One of the things they did (this is where the landscaping part comes in) is "Work Practice". That's where you are given a job to do - vacuuming the stairs, polishing candlesticks, cleaning bathrooms, landscaping - and have to do it single-mindedly, as if you are still in meditation. Which explains why everything was So Clean. Oh, and if you expressed a desire for one area of work, or a strength or special skill at doing one task, that's what they DIDN'T give you to do.

They were very Zen that way.

Chris and I liked it so much that we bought Zen Mountain Monastery t-shirts at the end of the weekend, with which we can more efficiently describe ourselves as the sort of people with connections to a Zen monastery.

Heaven help the person who saw the shirt and asked us about it. Because we Would Not Shut Up.

I'd go back just for the food.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Gardening Tips

My slovenly, half-wit gardening technique is paying off! Among the pumpkins I noticed a large weed, larger than the others, with leaves like a tomato plant. On closer inspection I discovered tomatoes on the large weed. Hooray! A freebie! It is in the general vicinity of last year's tomato plants and although it is hard to believe there was a tomato we didn't eat, this is obviously the case.

This takes the sting out of the broccoli debacle. The big silvery green leaves now look like those crocheted doilies my grandmother used to put on the arms of chairs. Darn bugs.

I think next year I will rake in a bunch of compost (which already has plenty of seeds in it) and sprinkle tomato, broccoli, lettuce, squash, carrot, snap pea, cucumber and watermelon seeds in, willy-nilly. I will then wait to weed until things are vaguely recognizable. I might put a few flagstones in so we can get around in there, but that's IT. Phooey on this year's grand master scheme of timed plantings! Phooey on companion planting! And phooey, phooey phooey on broccoli bugs!

The sunflowers are still doing fine, thank you for your concern. Although they were almost not fine. Not fine at all. One of them appeared all scrunched up and bent over, which was surprising since it had been just tickety-boo the day before. So I inspected it more closely, which was a big mistake. It was all scrunched up because it was under seige. The whole top had been wrapped up by a spider - a really, really big spider - which I removed with the hose. I tried to free the plant and that's when I realized that the really really big spider was a furious Expectant Mother spider and boy had I better run. So I did.

I checked on it a few days later, after the expected life span of said spider had elapsed, and it is again tickety-boo. The sunflower, not the spider.

The discovery of the new tomato plant happened on our way to the beach. We go to the beach around 4:00 when every one else with any sense is going home. It explains our fabulous tans. But we just can't be bothered to get there early enough to get a parking space. And then it's hot, and crowded and, you know, sandy. So we wait. And it's still sandy but not so hot and not very crowded and I highly recommend it if you aren't trying to accrue Beach Hours but just want to go swimming.

We are not alone in this. Tonight we ran into a couple I know from a Former Life, and their twins, who are one month younger than Studley. Their son, Diego, sure does make Studley look like the pastey-white future captain of the chess team. At 20 months, Diego is already pulling off "Latin Suave" effortlessly as he saunters around in his Speedo. Studley is blissfully unaware of his own hibiscus-printed bathing trunks, which hit mid-calf.

I met Diego's parents when they first arrived in the U.S. and needed to learn English. One of my many, many jobs was teaching English to adult speakers of other languages. You know, ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages). When I first started teaching, I taught ESL (English as a Second Language) but then that was proclaimed Politically Incorrect because it implies that the student only speaks his or her native language. Which is just silly, because no one who has ever taught someone from another country would EVER assume they only spoke one language. They are smart cookies, those Speakers of Other Languages.

Our kids hit it off. Lucy even said "Hola" to Clara, and rolled the "r" when she said her name. Lucy and I are learning Spanish so we can tell secrets in front of Studley and Chris. They're boys, so they probably won't even notice. I'm thinking I should call my friends and set up a play date so their kids can learn English and my kids can learn Spanish.

And as soon as they learn Spanish I am renting an apartment in Barcelona for a couple weeks and drinking teeny tiny coffees on terraces until I've spent all the money I saved on a Spanish tutor. I'll unleash the chickens in the garden while we're gone, so they can fend for themselves and add another dimension to my new Chaos Theory gardening plan.

And then I will write an article for Mother Earth News which will fund Studley's new Speedo.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

animals, dead and not dead

Today after a frustrating and frazzled morning Over The Bridge I decided I needed to take the kids to lunch. Since we were Over The Bridge where there are chain restaurants and since my mother had endorsed it due to all the animals, we went to Bugaboo Creek Steakhouse. She did not mention that all of the animals were DEAD.

There was a restaurant in Vail that I refused to go to (even though they were alleged to put new toppings on nachos once you got down to naked chips) because I found the stuffed lion over the doorway entirely too creepy to walk under.

I have a friend in Alaska who was married to a trapper who did a little taxidermy on the side. I asked her once if he could do a weasel or marmot or some such slinky animal in a semi-reclined pose, such as one might strike while sitting on top of a piano singing "Lover Man, Oh Where Can You Be". She asked him and he explained that there are only so many manikins that are used as a base. You know, the half-spring with teeth bared, the quietly napping, the proud yet dead magestic gaze.

She is no longer married to him. I don't think there is a connection between their split and his unwillingness to taxiderm a weasel seductress. I'm not sure what I would have done with it anyway, as I try really hard not to have dead things lounging around the house.

So there we are, having lunch under the gaze of two young bear heads. I finish first and while my beloved offspring are taking their time eating I think I should take advantage of this and have a quiet cup of coffee while I wait. That way they are busy and not bugging me, and I'm busy and not bugging them.

But it has to be good coffee, so when the waitress stops by I ask her if she's a coffee drinker. She is. I ask her if their coffee is good. "Today," she tells me, "it is terrible." They have a new provider and it tastes "somewhere between burned and twice-brewed", which sounds unpleasant. I am surprised and delighted that she told me the truth and suddenly Bugaboo Creek Steakhouse is a viable option for lunch when we are Over The Bridge.

Which is saying something since I am vegan this week.

Okay, I'm not actually vegan.

But I've made it through most of the recipes so that's almost the same thing. The most remarkable thing, and the thing which would probably make a difference in the long run, is that I've been eating breakfast every day. One morning the suggestion was whole grain pancakes, recipe not included. I wracked my brain trying to figure out how to make vegan pancakes. I don't have any fake eggs and am not convinced that cooking with soy milk is a good idea (although I am weirdly okay with it on my cereal). And then I thought wait a minute, I'm not actually vegan. And made regular pancakes. I figured if it was so dang important they would have included the recipe.

Besides, I can't be vegan because I have CHICKENS and I don't want to hurt their feelings.

Beach Fires

I thought about pulling over and introducing myself to the people touring the house for sale down the street. But I like my neighbor and want her to be able to sell her house if that's what she wants to do. I'm not sure if I'm an asset or a deal breaker. I like the idea of someone moving in who considers Trout Towers an asset to the neighborhood. My fear is that someone will move in and then start getting us all to change - you know, in an effort to increase property value. I don't know what I think they'll do, maybe pave the road with clamshells and get everyone to have matching, nautical-themed window boxes. Those of us who already live in the neighborhood know that property value and quality of life are not interrelated.

But fires on the beach are definitely related to quality of life. We are late this year - usually we start having bonfires in the spring, as soon as we can do it without being snowed or sleeted on. There is some merit to waiting. One year Chris and I went early and had a fire all to ourselves. As we sat on our blanket we noticed that the sand around us was moving. After dark, in the early spring, the beach is covered in disgusting bugs known as sand shrimp. I have never gotten myself off a beach faster.

Last night's fire was free from infestation. We went with some friends who are in town to play a show tonight. So they brought a guitar and we sang one or two lines of about 700 songs - with various voices chiming in with a few words here and there when no one else knew them. I don't think we knew one song all the way through. I especially liked it when we got to a guitar solo and one of the guys would bust out a "bweeee, bah, bayaaa, bwah, bwah, bwaaaaang...." Musicians are funny people.

Beach fires are one of my favorite things about living here. When I was growing up we used to come here on vacation. We always rented a cottage in the same neighborhood, so I saw the same group of kids every year. Night after night they'd go down to the beach and build a fire. In a moment of uncharacteristic courage I would go hang out with them - although I'd usually try to place myself someplace so one of them would encounter me and invite me along. It got ever so slightly easier each year as I got to know them. They were very nice about including me, but I never stopped being intimidated by them. I had visions of them having bonfires on the beach while I was back in Colorado at school. I imagined they did it all winter. They had the most perfect life, those kids.

Even though we accidentally set one of our blankets on fire and got sand in the package of hotdogs last night, I never forget what a perfect life it is when I am on the beach at night with friends. I am hesitant to wash our clothes because they smell like beach fire. And because I hate doing laundry.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Making the world a better place, one cowboy at a time

I was friends with her before she married into the restaurant/catering business. I am not so shallow as to chose my friends based on their culinary connections. But boy did she marry well.

We have been through good times and bad times together. Frankly both of us have very short term memory and tend to remember only the good times. By this I do not mean bad times in our friendship. We have not had those. But we have had boyfriends and jobs and housing and pets and surely somewhere along the line we were sad about one or more of the above.

But mostly not.

Although I love most any kind of party, I am partial to the ones that celebrate something - like, oh, say, a BABY SHOWER. Especially when the guest of honor is in the restaurant business. See where I'm going here?

The party was at the Reef in Brewster, a restaurant that sits at the 5th hole of the Ocean Edge golf course. There's a patio with seating and an outdoor bar overlooking a pool, so you instantly feel like you're on vacation. It's very resorty in a come-hang-out-here kind of way.

It was not, in other words, your average baby shower.

It's almost impossible to have an average baby shower these days. I mean, how do you invite all the moms you know when some of the moms you know are men? So it was everyone, even the kids. Who were in the pool.

They came out of the pool in time to have Mexican food and fried plantains.

Plantains!

I had a little chat with her husband and talked about how I get all my work done between 8pm and midnight, after the little darlings are sedated. He expressed an interest in my friend doing the same so they could raise their own child in their own home. I wish I had gotten that statement on video because it is very important to my future happiness.

Playdates! Day after day! I mean, raising children is hard work and I WILL NOT stand for it when someone implies that I am "just staying home" but think....

Out for coffee with the kids!
Shoe shopping with the kids!
Playground with the kids and coffee and new shoes!

My life will be perfect.

On our way out, Lucy was given a party favor which I actually photographed because it was uber cute. Uber duber cute. Except you can't see it because my computer is not at the moment on speaking terms with my camera. They're like that sometimes.

She is my Cowboy Crazy friend. There were cowboy hats decorating the gift table (I was going to photograph them too but they were completely buried in gifts by the time I thought of it). There were bandanas under the buckets of flowers on each of the tables. There were cowboy rubber ducks for the kids. And there were Gingerbread Cowboys for party favors. Rididculous. Not enough to make me want to run home and watch a western, but pretty darn great.

It's probably just as well we didn't stay for cake, since we gave them our Nordic Track in exchange for a couple dinners at their restaurant years ago.

We're good like that.

Caleb update

I just got a call from my friend Audrey. Caleb opened his eyes yesterday, and can sit up. He's way ahead of the curve and doing great.

And 250 people showed up for the prayer circle last night.

Honestly, how cool is this? I love humanity.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Attack of the Khakis

What is it about wearing khakis with white t-shirts for a family photo?

There is a certain time of day that you can be sure to see a cluster of khaki-wearing people wandering through the beach grass on this dune or those flats. Vacation plans go like this:
go to the beach
shop
eat fried food
have family photo taken

I didn't number them because they are not always in that order. But many, many families have their Christmas card picture taken while they are here. It's big business. And I have full license to make fun of them for wearing khaki shorts and white t-shirts because at this very moment if I look over the edge of my laptop I am staring straight into my own eyes. I am wearing khaki and white, and am surrounded by my family and my sister's family. We all match. We are standing in beach grass.

Guess whose idea that was.

The family I observed tonight was walking on a path through the dunes, with beach grass on either side - a sea of light green with spots of sand. It goes with any decor. I watched them whenever I took the time to look up from my enormous platter of nachos at the Beachcomber. In other words, infrequently.

Yes, I took my children to a bar and fed them nachos for dinner.

They were not vegan.

Lucy also had the kids fish and chips - you know, to round out the nutritional value.

We went there because we were supposed to be meeting friends (friends - if you are reading this, we ate your food). Even after I figured out that they weren't coming, I was tempted to order the usual left side of the menu (appetizers) and pretend I was planning on sharing it with them.

I settled on the nachos.

The table next to me pointed to my nachos and asked the waitress what it was. And then they watched me until their own enormous platter came. I thought maybe I was expected to invite them over, since I had food and they didn't. Maybe it's a cultural thing, from wherever they're from. Maybe they were just besotted with my children's impeccable table manners.

We were eventually joined by some friends - emergency spare back-up friends. He asked if I had noticed the family photo on the dunes and related his desire to somehow get into the background. They may have chosen that particular dune for the level of difficulty involved in an outsider managing to ruin it. Sneaking up from behind is pretty much impossible without a parasail.

But I have not stopped thinking about how to accomplish it.

So if you are at someone's house admiring the family photo on their mantle and you happen to notice an inflated duck sprouting out of someone's head, you'll know it's me.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

out and about

Here are a few things I noticed around town (since I did absolutely nothing but fold laundry today).

At the bus stop there was a group of people who looked like they were waiting to be captured in a white line woodblock print. They had suitcases and backpacks and looked like they were going places. One man had a wildly printed shirt and a straw hat. It reminded me of this, by Diane Johnson:



I often see things around here that remind me of paintings, especially in the early evening when the light is perfect.

I also saw a sign that said "Patio Seating". It was in the one spot on Route 6 where there are no buildings.

At Arnold's there was a line the length of the building. I have never been to Arnold's. Is that possible? I think it is one of the restaurants where you place your order at the counter and they come and find you at picnic tables when your food is ready. I am not a connoisseur of fried fish, but apparently this is the place to get it.

I am a connoisseur of onion rings, though, and can tell you who has the thin stringy ones and who has the panko crumb ones. If you need to know.

A house guest asked me once why there are so many fried seafood places on Cape Cod. I didn't know the answer then, but obviously there are so many because if there were fewer, the lines would wrap the entire way around the building.

There are also a lot of ice cream places on Cape Cod. But no one ever asks why there are so many of them.

Nauset Ice Cream is the place to go out this way, while Four Seas is reputed to be Completely All That in the Big City Region.

The nice thing about Four Seas is that when you say you're going to Four Seas it sounds like you're saying 4 C's, or Cape Cod Community College. So you sound like you're taking some extra classes, instead of bulking up for the winter.

Today Studley got his hair cut. Now he is even Studlier. On our way into the salon, a little voice said "hello!" from above. We looked up and there on a stair landing next door was a little girl in a white dress with the biggest smile known to humankind. She was taking care of her baby sister, who chatted away at us. They were still out there after the haircut, blowing bubbles.

Happy. Happy. Happy.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Daisy Crockett, Frontiersperson!

Last night we took the kids to see "Daisy Crockett, Frontiersperson!" at WHAT. It was press night, so there was just a smattering of obligatory children. They announced a reception at the Wicked Oyster afterwards, which was clearly aimed at wooing the press and not us. We did not go.

Because I am not the press. But just you wait, because word will get out about how much free publicity I give and venues will be BEGGING me to come. And with that in mind, here is my review.

First of all, I have to admit that growing up in Colorado I developed a healthy loathing of westerns, the Wild West, and everything I learned in the 4th grade during the segment on The Western Expansion (although the salt clay topo-map of the state was sort of neat).

I don't know why this is. My friend who grew up in Wyoming is totally in to all that. She even had rodeo-themed baby shower invitations. Very cute. I believe my baby shower invitations had the east facade of the museum of modern art.

So it is with trepidation that I sat through a play - a children's play, no less - titled "Daisy Crockett, Frontiersperson!". But very quickly I remembered that I am fond of the Beverly Hillbillies. And I also remembered that Stephen Russell, who wrote the play, is a very funny individual. There were a lot of lines that sailed over the heads of the shorter crowd - not unlike those old Bugs Bunny cartoons. I liked that the band members frequently left their instruments, scurried around back and appeared on stage. I especially liked the 6-foot-something bass player who doubled as Davy Crockett's mother.

Here are two of my favorite bios from the program:

Elliot Gallagher (Band, Friendly Indian) has played the violin for 9 years, the ukulele for 10 months and the fiddle for two weeks. This is his first play ever. He enjoys quiet music, candlelight dinners, and long walks on the beach.

Holly McCarthy (Eleanor [the spoiled starlet]) is pleased as punch to be returning for a 3rd season with W4K (WHAT for Kids). In addition to a BA in acting, Holly also has a cat named Beans. She'd like to thank Stephen for the opportunity to play herself onstage, and she reminds the cast to leap whenever possible.

Chris had to leave early. Wracked with curiosity, he asked Lucy first thing this morning how it ended. "Everyone came back on stage and bowed!" she said. She also told him that she liked the part when the pirate wore the chicken costume. She has absolutely no idea what the play was about, but she enjoyed it immensely. And Studley stayed awake.

We all can't wait for their next production, "Jack! A Rock 'n' Roll Fairy Tale", in December. Because we like play titles with exclamation points.

I'm sure I'll be invited as press.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Caleb Potter

I had a whole bunch of smarty pants stuff to tell you today. But then I went to Wellfleet and noticed all these signs that said "Pray for Caleb".

And tonight I got this link.

There is such an incredible outpouring of love and support for Caleb Potter and his family. I wanted to share it with you, because it's a fine display of what community should be. And check out this article in the Cape Cod Times, because it will make you happy.

I am not going to give a dissertation on prayer here, but I do feel that gratitude is some of the most powerful prayer we know. And all I can feel right now is gratitude - for Caleb, his family and his community.

Because apparently there is not so much wrong with our society after all.

Be well.

--

More links:
Cape Codder
Provincetown Banner

If the spirit moves you (Caleb is self-employed and uninsured):
Caleb Potter Benefit Fund
Donations may be made in person at any branch of Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank or mailed to the bank at P.O. Box 697, Wellfleet, MA 02667.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Circus!

I am very fond of free tickets. I will go to nearly anything if someone gives me tickets.

And for some reason, this happens frequently. Yesterday I was offered 4 tickets to the Russian American Kids Circus, which happened this morning. I took Lucy and Studley and Lucy's friend who, to simplify things, we'll call Lucy.

If you clicked the link above, let me just say that they have a very good photographer.

Lucy and Lucy were on the edge of their seats the whole time. There were batons! There were hula hoops! There were unicycles! There were more batons! More hoops! More unicycles! And Tumbling!

About the time the audience was sighing a collective BIG WHOOP, they showed us just what a big whoop it is. They had several volunteers come up and try, with varying degrees of spectacular unsuccess, to stand on a ball.

This made the standing-on-a-ball-while-juggling bit much more impressive. So impressive, in fact, that Studley could no longer stand the tension and fell asleep. Lucy and Lucy, still on the edge of their seats, are gaping.

I must say, there have been shows that I enjoyed more, but rarely have I felt more sainted.

There were a few moments - the good ones - that made me think of my niece's gymnastics competitions. My niece makes it all look elegant - almost effortless. At her competitions I, too, am at the edge of my seat and gaping. And then Lucy spends the next 3 weeks pretending she's in a gymnastics competition.

My niece has stopped gymnastics in favor of Life. It is hard, I imagine, to be a teenager and devote ALL your spare time to something that has ceased to be all-consumingly thrilling. So she was sensible and stopped.

It was fun for all of us while she was doing it. And because we have seen what she's capable of, we know whatever is in her future she will make look elegant and effortless. She's just that way.

Happy birthday to my favorite wrangler.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

obstacles

I am too grumpy to blog tonight.

Today the man from the Council of the Blind came to help my mother-in-law learn how to get around. He also taught us how to help guide her. We can now get her through a door without one or both of us getting stuck. We know the proper way to guide her into her chair at a restaurant. We can get her safely and efficiently into the car.

We don't know how to get her out of the car.

At one point he got a little too observant. Now I am the first to admit that I am a little sensitive about these things, and I understand that he is just here as her advocate, but I don't need someone coming in and telling me there's too much stuff in the house.

I know that. And I am grateful for how many uncluttered areas have emerged, thanks to my niece. I am choosing to look on the bright side, please.

Fortunately we moved out of the house before things got ugly.

My mother-in-law had expressed an interest in walking down the driveway to her mailbox, so the man brought posts and rope and created an obstacle course across our otherwise pristine lawn.

Okay, it's not pristine. But it REALLY DIDN'T NEED an obstacle course. And he complained about the shape of our driveway. Yes, it's a little cracked, yes, parts of it are missing. People drive on it. These things happen.

Besides, that's not why I'm grumpy.

Tonight I made another dinner from my Vegetarian Times Vegan Spree, Spaghetti with Spinach & Mushrooms. Once thickened, the tomato broth resembled the sauce on Spaghettios. I got all excited.

It was nothing like spaghettios. It was, you know, good for you. My kids had seconds and thirds and declared it a "make again".

What is wrong with this picture?

holy moly matrimony

I think some friends of ours are getting married.

We were out to dinner with them awhile back and I keep thinking about our conversation and how I got all squiggly inside when I looked at them. I can't run this by anyone else because that would be Gossipy and I don't want to be the person who says "I KNEW IT! SEE? SEE? I KNEW IT!" I want to be the person who makes the cut for the wedding.

Since we ourselves have gone through the slash and burn process of editing a guest list, we appreciate how hard it is to make the cut. Invited guests are like rabbits. If you invite Jo then you have to invite Meg, Amy and ... oh heck I can never remember that last one. Beth?

So now, just in case I'm right, I have to be extra nice to them and invite them to all our parties (starting with the Coop Warming and moving right on through to the Croquet Invitational) and become completely indispensable. I love weddings.

But now that I think about it, they are more the eloping sort.

So not only do I have to ingratiate myself, I need to start a fund so that I can fly my family of 4 plus a nanny to Destination X because you need a witness even if you elope.

I have a lot of work to do.

I don't know why this is so thrilling to me. It's not that I don't like them the way they are now. I don't have strong feelings about Till Death Do Us Part. And many couples are totally committed without ever making their friends shell out the big bucks for a chiffon dress and prom hair.

But there's something giddiness-inducing about engagements.

Just yesterday I met another friend's fiancée. For reasons I cannot fathom, I was all hot and bothered about getting to know her. I think on several occasions I just walked up and stood there smiling at her.

I am pretty sure they'll have a blow out bash, so it wasn't just an effort to kiss up to the Maker of the Guest List. I don't think.

Maybe I just wanted a little bit of that euphoria. Maybe I just wanted to be around people who had figured out how to be happy.

Maybe I really do just want to be on the guest list.

Monday, July 9, 2007

"The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware."
-Henry Miller

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Diet for a Small Party

I like being told what to do sometimes. It gives me something to maybe not do, because there are so many things I have to do - if I don't do those things then I have to wear my bathrobe to the grocery store, or I will lose my job, or the state will step in and take my chickens away. I once signed up for continuing ed Spanish class so that I had something I could skip.

I am also interested in diets. Not in going on one, just the philosophy of them. I especially like the ones that talk about food a lot.

And so I love it when one of my cooking magazines tells me to go on a diet and gives me a whole week of menus. 21 meals that someone else has planned! I dig that.

Recently there was a Vegan diet in (go figure) Vegetarian Times. I looked at the week's worth of food and decided that everything looked delicious and undisgusting. In fact, it looked like what I eat anyway (if you add a lot of ice cream).

So I am on Day Two of being vegan. At this rate it will take me a month and a half to get through the 21 meals. It is not easy to eat pre-planned meals when you spend your time going from party to party. And although I like the idea of prancing around saying "I'm sorry, I'm vegan this week" I don't like the idea of missing out on the potato salad.

Today I had fresh fruit and whole wheat toast (no butter) for breakfast. And then I took the kids to lunch and was halfway through the tomato, basil, mozzarella sandwich when I remembered that I'm vegan. Fresh mozzarella counts as vegan, yes? And from there I took Lucy to a birthday party and - can you make birthday cake without eggs?

The vegan cakes would have been at yesterday's party, not today's. Today as I walked through their breezeway/mudroom and looked into their backyard, I thought oh, there's a pool! Why didn't they tell us to bring our bathingsuits? Maybe it's not their pool - right, see, there's the fence and what looks to be the neighbor's house - no, that's not the neighbor's house, that's the pool house....

I spent the afternoon eying the pool while chatting with one of the other moms.

The other mom, as it turns out, is the mother of Lucy's arch-rival at preschool. She has STOLEN Lucy's best best best friend (and come to her party). I act all nice and stuff to the mom, but I spend a good bit of time craning to see what she drove so I can let the air out of their tires on my way out. Although that would probably backfire and the offending family would have to have a slumber party at the best best best friend's house while waiting for AAA and the two girls would become even better friends while poor Lucy is home eating her vegan dinner.

It is not easy being the mom who makes everything right by micro-managing the universe. I did, however, score an invitation back - to swim! This is good because I am FRANTIC to get into that pool. It is just not right to stand near a beautiful, sparkling, clear pool in July and not go in.

And maybe, if I stay on this diet for another meal or two, I'll be ready to show up in a bathingsuit and spend the day with a woman who is half my weight.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Being there

Some people have lots and lots of friends.

Some people have friends because they live on parade routes. Others have friends because they are handy with small motors and irrigation systems. Still others have friends because once a year they throw the most amazing party in the entire known universe.

I am friends with those people. Finally.

For years we were "acquaintances", which means we knew about the party but never were invited. Not true, we were always invited, but usually right after it happened ("hey, you should have come!").

Have you read about those people in Manhattan who try to get their kids into the Right Preschool so they can hobnob with the other parents? That's what we did - minus the half-million dollar donation to a preschool to guarantee admission.

That's right, we got our kids to be friends with their kids, et voilà!

But enough about our methodology.

The party was today. There were three bands. There was food. There were chickens. There was a grill, with some cooked items languishing next to it. No one was paying any attention to the grill, the burgers, the Portuguese sausage or the whatever else was there.

Because someone showed up with a 75 pound freshly caught tuna.

I had flashbacks of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, watching the men-folk reduce the tuna to a pile of steaks. The fish had been out of the water for 2 hours when it arrived. It was a little like the tales of cows being stripped to the bone in under 5 minutes by piranhas. Except the tuna got a car ride.

And my question is, WHO has a table that is perfect for cleaning and parceling a 75 pound tuna on, just sitting around in case of such an emergency? Who? People with large boats in their yard.

We, on the other hand, feel proud to have an oyster shucking knife.

And it has just occurred to me that we are not friends because of our kids. It is because I managed to keep those blessed sunflowers alive. It was so worth taking them to DC with us.

I haven't been to their house in a couple weeks, and it's just amazing what can happen to a garden in a couple weeks. We all know what can happen to MY garden in a couple weeks, but a garden that's been planned and cared for by a trained professional does amazing things in a couple weeks. It was this gorgeous sanctuary, tucked away not far from the heart of The Big City.

I have perennial garden envy. Perennially.

The other notable thing is that I generally feel awkward at parties. I love them, mind you, but still feel awkward and shy. But in this place I feel so at home that it's almost not like being at a party. There are times when friends feel like an extension of oneself. Clever and talented extensions.

Like many annual parties, this one has changed over the years - first with the addition of Sarah (most likely improving the food selection) and then with the addition of their two kids and their kids' friends. It now starts at 3 in the afternoon. Those of us with kids stayed past bedtime, and even past dark. When it got dark it got a little trickier tracking them (short legs run the fastest) and we decided it was time to go. You know it's been a good party when no one complains on the way to the car.

And there were fireflies.

Friday, July 6, 2007

petanque is for sissies with no fashion sense

I'm a little peeved.

The front page (of the arts and entertainment section and therefore The Front Page) of my local paper has the headline "Petanque, anyone?"
"Twenty milion Frenchmen can't be wrong. That's how many people play petanque in France, according to Harwich's Francois Marin. He's slowly but surely introducing the sport, a French variation of bocce, on Cape Cod."
This, when I have just gotten inextricably involved in croquet? I am somehow missing the boat of lawn sport? Okay, whatever. Our t-shirts are cooler.

THEY DON'T EVEN WEAR WHITE.

It absolutely does not count as a lawn sport.

Them:
Us:

You see my point, I am sure.

I revisited the site of my croquet clinic today. There was no croquet and I had my children with me and so am a little dizzy from the 37 rides on the carousel. It is nearly 100 years old and apparently holding up better than I am.

From there we, again, went to tea at Dunbar. Lucy asked for apple juice and they brought it in a little pitcher so she could pour it in her teacup. She was in heaven. She had tea sandwiches and apple juice and was speechless.

Isn't it sweet how something simple and dainty like pouring your own drink from your own pot and eating tiny little lunches can make a child's day?

Oh, wait.

Yes, I love playing with my food. I love having my own pot of tea. I love the tiered tea service. I love recreating Devil's Tower on my scone with Devon cream.

There was a woman I recognized from the carousel, having tea by herself. I thought about inviting her to join us and then thought I am here with my mother and two small children, no one in their right mind will join us. I also noticed that she was enjoying herself.

Because eating alone is lovely. It is you and the food and the enjoyment of eating. I hope I always remember this.

I think she may also have ridden the carousel alone. While it sounds sort of lonely as I type it, I don't think it was lonely for her. Why, after all, do we need other people to validate what we are enjoying?

I am (or was, when such things were possible) a big fan of going out for coffee with a good book. I read The Second Sex, in its entirety, at The Daily Grind in Vail. I also used to carry a journal with me, so I would look busy. I was actually just enjoying my surroundings and whatever I was eating/drinking/watching.

These days I always have company, and I love love love that company beyond all reason. I love experiencing tea for the first time all over again, just by watching Lucy's face.

But it's also nice to have the bowl of Devon cream all to oneself.

Buy this CD

There's a cd of Beatles songs, covered by Cape & Islands artists (many of whom are friends of ours and so they are great great great). Carly Simon is on there too, even though we don't know her.

You can hear mp3's of the songs on the website and read all about Angel Flight New England, which is benefited by the sale of the cd.

So buy it already.

I am partial to tracks 11, 12, 3 and 10.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

burgers and lyrics

I am having a hard time deciding what to report on tonight.

I blame it on dinner. I had made these veggie burger things and asked Chris to watch them in the skillet while I went to pick lettuce. When I came back he had rescued them from flames but then added oil and proceeded to essentially fry them. They were, well, disgusting.

They probably would have been disgusting had they not been bathed in oil, but since they were bathed in oil I can blame Chris. They were not, however, as disgusting as the Love Burgers I bought in Boulder 20 years ago.

Before Whole Foods bought it, it was Wild Oats, and before Wild Oats bought it, it was Alfalfas. And before it was Alfalfas, it was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. Oh wait, wrong story.

Alfalfas, I believe, started in Boulder - because where else would it start? By the time I was there, there were 3 unique stores to choose from. The biggest one was starting to become what Whole Foods is now. There were things that the uninitiated shopper could recognize. The other two required some homework and were high on the intimidation factor. I am not sure why they were intimidating, but I always felt like a poser when I went in because I didn't know what anything was and yet I was trying to cook out of Diet For a Small Planet (which produced some of the worst dinners I have EVER made) and be all Bouldery.

They had a lot of bulk bins. Mostly grains and weird flours. One of the bins had something called "Love Burger" in it. There was a recipe that you could take - something like, "add oil and an egg, make patty, fry in skillet, choke down." It was really, really nasty.

I am at this moment becoming fearful that nutritious food has not gotten better, that I've just gotten used to it. Can this be? Surely not.

Over the years Alfalfas added all kinds of delicious things - they just didn't have additives or preservatives. They also had a spectacular bakery. By the time I lived in Denver one of my favorite things to do was walk down the street to Alfalfas, pick out a slice of cake, take it home and wait patiently for the coffee to brew.

Ah, health food.

At least tonight we had greens from the garden - which have probably no nutritional value but look divine on the plate.

Just think, soon (okay, in several months) we will have fresh eggs and I will be posting quiche recipes non-stop.

And speaking of chickens.... When we came home this afternoon we discovered that the chickens had made it up inside their coop and were cheeping happily in relative warm, dry comfort. We are so relieved. We thought we were going to have to redo the guestroom for them.

It is very fun to drive up the driveway and see chickens. They are much cuter now that they're out in the sunshine and we can see them properly.

This morning at a concert the performers asked the group if they had dogs, cats, hamsters, lizards etc. I could see Lucy patiently waiting for "chickens," so she could raise her hand.

Yes, I went to a kids' concert. I took my children. I think, probably, most people there took their children. That said, it was not as annoying as much of the kids music we run into. The songs were catchy, even. They wrote all their own songs, so there was no Wheels on the Bus action. Again, I am a little worried that this particular Kids Music Event was not quantifiably more listenable than other Kids Music Events - I am just getting used to them.

No. This can't be.

On my way out I passed the Band Van. And I looked in. No, it was none of my business what was in the passenger seat and I HONESTLY did not stand there reading but I couldn't help but notice what appeared to be song lyrics scribbled on a piece of paper.

And it made me happy.

Because seeing signs of things being created is kind of beautiful. And thinking of this person suddenly pulling over and scribbling makes me smile. Ideas and answers come all the time. You just have to pay attention - and have a pen handy.

And try not to drive off the road.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Fourth of July: report from the field

Happy fourth!

Today we went to Sue's house because she is a Useful Friend. Okay, okay, we like her even if she didn't live right on the parade route. But it's handy.

We drove through the crowds and pulled up to her house. At ten minutes to blast off we set our chairs at the end of her driveway, next to the people who had camped out overnight to get a good spot. AND THEN we ate muffins and fruit and drank orange juice because not only does she invite people over to share her good driveway fortune, she feeds us too.

Then the spirit of the occassion overtook us and we shared our food. A little.

Because we wanted to have our hands free to accept popsicles and tootsie pops.

Floatmakers around here have it kind of easy. Many people just trailer their boat and put some streamers on it. Others get a flatbed and then make it look like a boat on a trailer with streamers on it. There also seemed to have been a sale on inflatable whales, to wit:


The whale at The Farm gets to swim through a sea of hydrangeas. Spectacular.

This one appears to be pulling the boat. I have no idea who sponsored this one.

There were many more, but I was too busy with the popsicles.

One of the people we share the driveway with is a real estate agent and she knows just about everyone in the entire parade by name. How is this possible? How can she remember them all? When you take your exam to get a real estate license is it really just a memory test?

Several people yelled "hi, Chris!" from the floats. Chris does not know their names. He's not cut out for real estate.

After the parade we came home so I could wash the popsicle stains out of Lucy and Studley's red white and blue t-shirts. Lucy's has a sequined flag and she's been looking forward to this day since she opened the bag of hand-me-downs in March.

We also had to come home so Chris could put the finishing touches on the coop.

Which he did.

No, really, he did! It's done! We all gathered in the backyard for the unveiling. Chris documented the move-in, although he missed all the action in the livingroom. My niece opened and closed the screen so I could reach in and grab them (which is not easy, let me tell you. They are fast and fluttery and make a lot of noise and if I haven't mentioned it before they are SMELLY and so you're leaning into their box farther than you want to and trying not to breathe while they are running in figure eights at Mach 9). One by one I caught them, carried them downstairs and put them in their new coop. It was like a debutant ball.

Especially since my mother-in-law had gotten champagne for the occasion.

There are reasons I married into this family.

I just went out to check on the chickens because it is getting dark and I think it might be my turn to stand guard with a shotgun in case the coyotes come around. The chickens haven't figured it out yet and are still standing around in the pen. They seem happy, but don't seem to realize that there are posh accomodations at the top of the spiral staircase. They have all been up there, mind you, because they are nosey.

Perhaps they know that chickens are not generally allowed in museums?

I don't know exactly how they responded to the move in because shortly after the hoopla subsided we put our red white and blue gear back on and went to a cookout where we knew practically no one and liked everyone. What are the odds?

I haven't been to a July 4th cookout in a really, really long time. I have no idea how we ended up with several things to do all in the same day. My inner hermit is a little freaked out, but kind of liking it. I might even go see CJ Chenier later. Or I might just watch the chickens.

Incidentally, Lucy and Studley both have "I heart DC" t-shirts, but they did not wear them today. Politics, after all, do not a country make.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

authentication

Sometimes people think we are not a real town. Sometimes people tell me, after they discover that I live here, that people can't afford to live here and it's all just second homes and summer rentals. This makes me wonder
a) did I forget where I left my first house? Do I have to go home sometime?
b) do they think I am a Member of the Staff and live in Employee Housing?

And because we are sometimes treated like an Epcot exhibit, I begin to wonder what an Epcot version of us would look like. This morning I made it my mission to take note of all the little things which make us look so convincingly authentic.

We went to Jo Mama's Bagels for breakfast. As we drove up I noted the guy playing guitar out front. The staff member playing the part of the guy playing guitar should be wearing a t-shirt and jeans, have dreadlocks, and appear as though he may be, possibly, a little smelly. He does not have to play guitar, but should look as if he might any moment.

Jo Mamas is a bagel store that The Monkees probably would have hung out in. There are chalkboards hanging everywhere with delicious things listed on them. There is artwork. There are many colors of painted walls.

We place our order and then Chris realizes he left his wallet in the car. This is usually my line. As he tells the girl at the counter that he needs to go for cash, a voice from behind us says, "hey, how much do you need?"

"I can spot you," he continues, "and you can just drop it off later." It is the owner of the used record store next door. He has known Chris forever. And he is a nice person. Little known yet obvious: if you own a record store called "Instant Karma", you are probably a nice person.

I am now stumped, as Epcot will have a heck of a time casting this role.

I give up on my new mission and go take a nap.

And then later I go to the Wellfleet Drive-In, which celebrated its 50th anniversary tonight. They are showing Ratatouille, so we take the kids (and our most childish friends). We pack a picnic basket and have dinner sitting in beach chairs in front of our cars. I would tell you about the movie, but I was too busy buying cheesey fries at the concession stand.

They used to play these old intermission clips which were probably from the 50's. There were dancing hotdogs, which I think were meant to lure people to the concession stand.

I hear drive-ins are going extinct. Who doesn't have great memories of going to drive-ins? I can't imagine them going away completely. Then I'll have to talk about them in a "back in the day" context.

Like used records and The Monkees.

Monday, July 2, 2007

WHAT

While I'm on the subject of NPR....

Sometimes they take their shows on the road - like "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" - and you can hear the audience chortling in the background. And sometimes I wonder to myself - is this a studio audience, like on Letterman? Who are all these people chortling?

In the unlikely event that you too wonder these things, wonder no more. It's me! Yes, me! Chortling! Even singing a bit!

Tonight we were given tickets to a show at the new WHAT. That's Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater. They built this new theater and we've been watching the progress. It's a big deal and we've been really excited to go - and yet not so excited that we've actually purchased tickets to anything yet. But we will. Probably. Maybe soon.

At this point I'm mostly just excited to get in the building. It's shiny and new and I don't know anyone who's been. I'm the first on my block!


We are there for 30 seconds of the opening reception (my fault. Couldn't decide what to wear) and then the lights flash and we go to take our seats. The usher looks at our tickets and says, "oh, those are upstairs." So we go back through the lobby, up the stairs and then come almost halfway down the inside stairs to our row. There is no balcony. Our row was slightly above the midline, so we had to use the upstairs. It's grander that way. Or maybe the higher seats are more money and so we get our own door.

I'm sure that's it.

Anyway, we know absolutely nothing about what's playing. It's called Selected Shorts.

When the the host starts talking I think to myself, "jeepers, he sounds just like one of those NPR people." And, as it turns out, he was.

I really do say "jeepers" to myself sometimes.

Just so you know, Isaiah Sheffer, looks EXACTLY like you think he looks. He was even wearing the khaki pants, black and white striped shirt and blazing white tie I would have imagined him wearing if ever I had imagined what he would wear.

And he mentions that NPR is recording the performance for rebroadcasting at an undisclosed time.

Yes, there was silly audience participation at one point.

The short stories were great, especially "Custody" by Pamela Painter. There was also a story by Michael Cunningham. There is just nothing in the world wrong with Michael Cunningham.

When it was over we still had time on the babysitter clock so we sped into town in hopes of scoring some sushi. Too late, but we did sit at the bar and chat with friends who work there. We were therefore in position to help tidy up a few oysters.

On which we descended like seagulls.

And then we came home, where we are glued to our radios so we can hear ourselves in the audience when they broadcast.

Our cellphones are off.

what next, indeed

A few days ago I heard a train.

This morning I heard Chris's phone ring while I was out in his car. I thought I'd take it in to him, so I dug around looking for it. It made another little bleeping sound but not enough for me to pinpoint where it was. So I called it. I couldn't hear it ringing, but when I hung up it made the little "someone just hung up on you" sound.

Very frustrating.

So I went inside and told Chris what happened and did he have a secret compartment he kept the phone in? He looked at me in that way which suggests I have two heads, and pulled his phone out of his pocket.

Apparently the reporter on our local NPR station forgot to turn off his cell phone.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Fireworks

Today Lucy said "is there anything greater than summer?"

I think not.

Tonight after dinner we walked down the street to watch the local fireworks. Real fireworks, not the brawly sort. Those are more in the winter.

The walk to the harbor makes me feel all warm and fuzzy and townie inside. People are out having cookouts. Some have bands. Many have friends they didn't know they had because they are well situated and parking is a nightmare.

Some are entrepreneurial. One boy (probably around 10) was selling painted seashells in his driveway. They were a dollar each (for the big ones). Now how can anyone resist a ten year old with painted seashells? Nevermind that we have our own painted seashells coming out our ears. We bought one. It's the prettiest one:


He painted the sunset (upper left) last year and couldn't believe it was still available. We chose some of his newer work.

And then we got to the harbor. Since we were there early this year - instead of careening down the road in semi-darkness - we walked around, bought a couple of neon necklaces and chatted with friends. And then we watched humanity gather. Lots and lots of humanity.

The really blessed ones were having parties on their boats. We could have a party on our boat too, but then we'd be sitting in the yard and unable to see the fireworks. I am obviously not part of The Boating Party, as I am photographing them from above instead of being on the boat taking a video of myself singing "Woohoo! Look at me! Me, on the boat!"

As usual, there was the ubiquitous painter capturing it all (the view, not my shameless behavior). To the best of my knowledge he is no relation to the boy who paints shells.

It is just so darned artsy around here.

The fireworks were, how shall I say.... not bad for local fare. And who really cares about the fireworks anyway? We have our clamshell and our neon necklaces.

tomatoes


ta da!

By the way

If you see me, please don't say you like my haircut.

It's not that I don't like the compliment. I really do. It's just that I am unable to keep from launching into a dissertation on why I cut it, how it ended up this short, the products I am finding helpful, etc.

I hear myself doing this and try to stop but then someone says it and off I go again until the person has wandered off and I'm still talking about my hair.

I am attending meetings, so soon if you say "is your hair really that curly?" I will say

You know, I didn't think it was and I was using this really expensive curl-enhancer but then I ran out and just put in some leave-in conditioner and low and behold the curls were still there so I guess it is curly, although I have to be careful not to comb it or it gets all frizzy but it's much easier than long hair although with long hair you can wash it and make it right and be good for a couple days whereas with short hair you wake up with a UFO perched on your head and you absolutely have to wash it every morning, especially if your hair is curly, which mine seems to be so I guess the answer is
"yes".