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

Saturday, May 30, 2009

opera

There are two new posts over at Opera Betty - because who doesn't want to know more about really classy 19th century hookers?

The Aria Serious blog, done by the San Diego opera, asked what people were listening to this weekend, so I told them about the Decemberists and Boris Godounov. It seems they, too, listen to the Decemberists and now I like the people at Aria Serious even more than I did on Thursday.

It shouldn't surprise me that people who listen to and perform classical music also listen to other genres. I grew up around classical musicians who were crazed party animals, after all. While it is not surprising, it is comforting. It's like the macaroni and cheese of musical memory, this tossed salad of genres. We all want to know that there are others like us. Even if they're smart.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

the lighthouses are easy to find

I was thinking I should do a little Cape Cod tour guide thing, where I direct you to the places that are quintessential Cape without being tourist traps. Would you like that? I would. When I go on vacation I like to avoid the places that are just there for the tourists. I like to know where the locals go. Except that time in Stowe when I was sent to the gas station for coffee. I like to know when locals go places that fit in with my perception of where the locals should go.




I thought of this while I was at the Beachcomber for opening night last week, along with a silly number of locals. I looked around and thought about how it is the perfect model of a beach bar. If someone wanted to build an authentic beach bar, they should take some notes. And even then, it would fail because it would just be a copy of a beach bar.

Then I checked my mail and found a link to this article by Rob Conery, the Cape Cod Times' fishing guy. It's a great glimpse of local life.

Rob was at the Beachcomber last week, too, so you know he knows his stuff.

Another place that looks like a tourist trap but isn't is the Land Ho in Orleans. I don't know why I think it looks like a tourist trap - its legend status, maybe? Lined up at the bar you'll find a virtual Who's Who of local contractors. I have spent a great deal of time next to them - arriving at 5:05pm sharp in my glory days. Everyone has stories about the Ho. The best one I've heard is about when it burned down many, many years ago. People seated at the bar went obediently to the parking lot when the fire alarm went off. Then they went back in and finished their drinks. I imagine they looked a bit like the salty fishermen in Rob's article.

Tonight we're going to check out Woody's Eastham Lobster Pool, which is operating under new ownership this year. We're going because I am so devoted to you and want to give you a complete picture of the Cape dining experience. And because I don't want to cook.

Oh, and you should also go to the drive-in when you're here. And you should go to Nauset Ice Cream in Eastham. And you should without fail see a play at WHAT (Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater). And you should ride the bumper boats in Harwich and eat sushi at Mac's in Wellfleet and take a hooping class in Orleans and grab a sandwich at Sam's on your way to Coastguard beach.

Oh my lord I am so glad it's summer.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sailing 101, episode 1

Tomorrow we learn how to rig the boat. I think that's what you call it, yes? We've been learning things via book and dry erase board while gazing out over the water at ospreys and daydreaming about having a house with a view like this, or a boat in a harbor like this, or a house boat, or a... I'm sorry Mr. Sailing Instructor Man, were you saying something? I have no idea what he's talking about, but the view is stunning.

My point being, I have no idea how to rig a boat. I know that ropes are not called ropes. They are called LINES or sometimes SHEETS. I thought when people talked about sheets they meant the sails, since, you know, sails kind of look like sheets. Sheets do not look like ropes unless you have twisted a sheet into a rope and are using it to lower yourself out of a window. Or so I've heard.

Instead of "sheets," the sails are called the Main Sail (not pronounced Main Sail, of course) and the jib. Or, "the big sail" and "the little sail" if you are me and my sailing buddy. We are trying to learn the real words for things but it's not taking.

So tomorrow we'll go out and haul up our mainsuls and our jibs with our halyards. I am told the boats will be on trailers and I wonder if the trailers are equiped with motors, making the little boats rock from side to side in a stomach lurching manner - like a mechanical bull. That would make sense because it's probably easy to remember how to tie a bowline (not pronounced bowline, of course) when you are on dry land and nothing is swinging at you trying to knock you unconscious.

I have practiced tying bowlines on dry land and, if I may say so, am quite good at it. I am also good at the bathrobe knot. I don't know what bathrobe knots are really called because it's not in my book. But I did manage to get our whole side of the room calling it a bathrobe knot. Oopsie Daisy.

Getting the lines to go where they're supposed to go should prove interesting. It looks like threading my sewing machine, except bigger and blowier. I think about this a bit and find myself humming "she broke the needle and she can't sew, walking the dog...." It's a sea shanty.

I am totally cut out for this sailing nonsense.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ask a Trout, part deux

Sugarplum: "Ooooh, I just saw a mouse! I've never seen a real mouse before! It came out from under the cupboard and ate a little piece of Hunter S. Tomcat's food. It's really cute."

Dear Sugarplum, thank you for not acting like a girl in the presence of mice.

Dear mouse, I'd thank you to act more like a mouse and show some degree of fear of our cat, whose sole purpose in life is to eat you.

Dear Hunter S. Tomcat, get off the couch and eat the mouse already.

And now on to more pressing matters, specifically, the latest edition of Ask a Trout.

I know, I didn't expect another one this quickly either. I would pass it up if it weren't such a good one. You ready? Today's question that brought some hapless googler to Trout Towers is:


Can a multiple personality mother live alone?

That depends on several factors. Are the mother's children over 18? If not, then no. Unless she leaves them with one of her other personalities. If she can do that, she's home free. If not, she has to suck it up like the rest of us.

As for living alone while all those other personalities are milling about, that depends on if the single mother is an introvert. If the single mother is an introvert and the other personalities are gypsies, hobos, or drummers in rock bands, then yes, she could find herself living alone.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

STDs (the s stands for social)

This morning I came out to the livingroom all bleary and rumpled and eye-rubbingly ruined, and sat down at my computer to see what had happened in the night. It's what I do.

I opened my email and noticed that a friend had sent me a message on Facebook and I clicked the link in the message. As I clicked, it was like when you lock your keys in the car and as the door is swinging closed in slow motion you are soundlessly shrieking "noooooooo!"

Because of course it was a virus link.

It was not even a cleverly disguised virus link. It said something like, "hey, click this executable." I am an idiot.

And I said "HONEEEEEEEEEY!"

And Chris said, "yes dear?"

And I said, "I think I just lunched my computer."

And he looked at it and said, "yep."

And this is all just perfect timing because I work from home for businesses that are getting Very Busy right now. And Chris works from home and afield for businesses that are getting Very Busy right now. And I can't be without my computer and all the files stored therein or else the Very Busy Businesses will be angry with me. And Chris can't stay home and hold my hand while I weep because his Very Busy Businesses will send live parakeets to eat me alive if I keep him from showing up for work.

Simply put, I/we do not have time for this right now.

While Chris was dinking with my computer, I sent a text to all my FB friends warning them not to open any emails from me and for the love of all things holy DO NOT click the link. About 5 minutes later I got a text back from the single most insanely busy person I know. The message said, "too late."

And I wrote "OMG I am SO sorry. I am such an idiot. I can't believe what an idiot I am. Who, I mean, WHO is stupid enough to click one of those links? I am so so so so sorry." and then I realized that he had fallen for it too and I decided not to send the text because I didn't want to give him a virus AND call him an idiot all in the same morning. Which is a waste because it took me 25 minutes to text.

Chris got my computer stabilized and showed me where to stick the epi-pen if it goes into apocalyptic shock while he is away. I have never missed him so much as I do right now. Except maybe when he was across the country for days and days and oh my lord I am so glad I didn't have Facebook when he was on tour.

Which makes the word of the day: small blessings.

Or maybe: external hard drive.

Let us pray.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Ask a Trout

This is the first of a new advice column I thought up just this second. It is called, as you have surmised, Ask a Trout. In this column I will answer questions that have been directed to me through the wonders of Google. I figure if people come here looking for answers, I should dish them up - even if it is long after they have wandered off muttering to themselves.

Today's quesion is "What to get for someone's birthday who doesn't like cake?"

At first I thought this was an unfair question as it's so obvious. And yet, when things are obvious to one person and perplexing to another, it is often the case that the unperplexed person has a natural gift.

I have such a gift.

What to get for someone's birthday who doesn't like cake?* Well, since you're the one who's going to be eating it and sending them a video, it doesn't matter what the birthday person likes or doesn't like. The answer for today is: cake.

Do stay tuned for more Asking of Trouts, won't you? And if you can get here by cleverly asking Google a question, more power to you.


*Who doesn't like cake? That's just wrong.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Buster the Wonder Car

I have no stories.

I am fresh out. I look inside and there is nothing.

A couple mornings a week, I take a turn driving Sugarplum, Studley and Giselle (Sugarplum's friend) to school. As soon as the seatbelts click they start yelling "Ms. Trout, tell us a story!" And usually I do.

They all start the same: "Once upon a time there were two little girls named Giselle and Sugarplum, a little boy named Studley and a driver named Ms. Trout. They were on their way to school in their little car." And then the car shrinks to the size of a chipmunk or turns into a rocket ship or helps the fairies rescue their queen from pirates. It is an industrious car.

But lately, I can't make that darn car do anything. It is a great disappointment. If things don't change soon, I may have an identity crisis. You see, I don't drive a fancy car. I don't drive a clean car. I don't drive a car with dvd players and seat warmers and art supplies. I drive a car with pieces of lunch on the floor.

What I do have is the ability to transform that car into anything I want. I love making the kids shriek and giggle and gasp. They love that the driver always forgets the adventures as soon as they get to school because grown-ups don't understand magic. Often they take a fairy kiss or a butterfly's benediction with them to school. Souvenirs.

And yet, I am road weary. It just seems that we've done all there is to do.

I'm also afraid that if I don't get back up to speed soon they will lose interest and wander off. They will look forward to the days when other parents drive. They will read Seventeen and Tiger Beat and the Huffington Post. I will have lost them. I will have lost my chance to make the world just that much more impossibly real. The clock is ticking.

So tomorrow I'll start another story, and hope that it takes on its own life the way they used to. Maybe tomorrow there will be flowers growing out of fallen seeds in the back seat of the car. Maybe we will notice a village of tiny people living in the blossoms. Maybe I'll tell you more about my sailing class and how I can't concentrate on all those fancy sailing terms because the view is so spectacular.

Maybe tomorrow the stories will come back.

Monday, May 18, 2009

chicken tv

This morning I was out with the chickens when I spotted the Upstairs Neighbor making her way down the driveway. I picked up the closest chicken, who happened to be the one with feathers sprouting out of her head like a Boston fern, and gave her some air kisses from a safe distance. She's cute but not necessarily kissable, being a chicken and all. And then I sang her a little song.

We try to keep things interesting for the Upstairs Neighbors.

Sugarplum has a game called Pretty Pretty Princess. When you land on the right square, you get to take a piece of jewelry and wear it. I like keeping it handy so Chris and I can look like we are in the middle of playing it, by ourselves, when people stop by unannounced. It's harder to do this now that we're living on the first floor. Living upstairs gave us a little more advance notice and prep time.

I think the obvious next step is to play Pretty Pretty Princess with the chickens. They will eat the earrings, but I bet I could get some bracelets around their necks quite easily. Maybe I'll make them some little outfits.

With so many perfectly normal and upstanding people raising backyard chickens these days, it's hard to maintain one's status of The Crazy Lady Down the Street. My brother-in-law even went so far as to say that we are cool now.

He just sent me this article in the Washington Post by Adrian Higgins. Someone in the article referred to watching Chicken TV - which was nice because I thought we were the only ones who did that. I also thought we were the only ones who called it that. Apparently there are other people in this world who need to get out more.

Not only do we have chicken tv, but if you are an Upstairs Neighbor, you also have Trout tv. Like I said, we try to keep things as interesting as possible. Sometimes I consider going out to feed the chickens in something other than my pajamas, but then I think about what a huge disappointment that would be to the neighbors. People need their dose of flannel sock monkey in the morning.

Think of the money we save on cable.

Friday, May 15, 2009

dimmer

It's our fault that the planet is overheating. The ironic thing? It's our fault because we tried to do the right thing.

In the never-ending saga of What's Happening in Susan's Bathroom?, we last left Susan's bathroom with holes in the walls and an orange extension cord running through the hall to power a small lamp with a naked bulb. New light fixtures were safely stowed in the linen closet.

In a burst of optimistic productivity, Chris tackled the lighting situation. He hooked up the light fixtures and dashed off for a new switch because he didn't like the old one. The old one is in the hall and I think that Chris, the youngest of three, doesn't trust having the light switch where other people can get to it. That's just my opinion and since it's become abundantly more clear with every passing day that Chris and I do not think alike AT ALL, it's probably something else. Maybe it disturbs the air flow in the hall.

Instead of a light switch, Chris came came back with one of those fancy pantsy motion sensor thingies. You walk in the bathroom and it turns on. When you leave, it notices you are no longer fussing about and turns off.

Problems, in no particular order:

  • Studley is too short to activate the sensor
  • The light thinks we are too pokey and turns itself off in about 10 seconds

Okay, that's pretty much all I've got. I would mostly just elaborate if I kept going. For instance, I would tell you how if Studley got the light to go on (by jumping up and down and waving the bathmat,) the light would then go back off just as he was balanced on his tippy toes and trying to aim. It gets points for comedic timing.

So we use the override option and turn it on at the switch manually. And then we forget and leave it on. For days. That light has been on longer than any other light in our house.

And that, my friends, is how we are ruining the planet. You're welcome.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

horticulture

Dear Mother Nature,

Despite the obvious similarities (sunny disposition, delicacy, a tendency to overdress), I am not a flower. I do not need to be pollinated. Please stop. As flattered as I am by your attention, it is sadly misdirected. I will never give birth to a pine tree. I will never bear strawberries. And chartreuse is not a good color for me.

I have pollen in my hair. It is on my clothes. I have smudges in unflattering places where the larger parts of me brushed up against the car. I do not need to accentuate these larger parts with a yellow highlighter.

The big chunk of black metal in the driveway? It's not a flower either. It is my car. I admit it's hard to tell, since it looks more like a gigantic ball of yellow lint, but it is a car, not an overgrown gorse bush.

Please redirect your attentions to my vegetable garden, which needs all the help it can get. My beets, for instance, have gone missing. I swear they were coming up, and then there were none. They're like the characters of an Agatha Christie novel, if Agatha Christie wrote about murdered vegetables. Because I do suspect foul play.

Not fowl play. The girls have been under lock and key. I suspect other family members - specifically the family members who do not like beets. There are two people living here who may very well be going out at night and stomping on the areas around the beet markers. I need to switch my garden markers around. I will plant kale and mark it as beets. I can't stand kale.

I'm sorry, I forgot who I was talking to. Did I say I can't stand kale? I love kale. Nice job on the kale. Please don't extend pollen season.

It is hard enough to keep the house hosed off without coating my windows and covering my floors with yellow dust. It used to be that the dining room floor was covered in cereal and ants. Now the ants are tracking pollen into the far reaches of the house. Again: unnecessary. I have killed all my houseplants and we have neutered all the household pets.

Oh, pines are incapable of impregnating house cats? Stop looking at me like I'm an idiot. You're the one trying to knock up my cat.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

religion, white bread and other unspeakable subjects

The definition of "cult," according to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, is:

  1. Formal religious veneration
  2. A system of religious beliefs and ritual; also: its body of adherents;
  3. A religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious; also: its body of adherents;
  4. A system for the cure of disease based on dogma set forth by its promulgator;
  5. Great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (as a film or book).
The religion I grew up in, while completely white-bread in most respects, has been called a cult. The dance class I go to has been called a cult because people are kind of ga-ga over the director. I liked that "She Sells Sanctuary" song by The Cult in the '90s.

Hey, speaking of white bread. A member of our family can't eat whole wheat, so we buy some white bread. Stop judging me. I woke up the other morning to Studley saying "I made peanut butter sandwiches for everyone." He had used the white bread and no one wanted to eat it. So we gave it to the chickens. Who wouldn't eat it.

And speaking of cults and white bread, there's a religious community near here that runs a restaurant (see, I told you I had a weakness). I read their pamphlets when I'm in there and one of the things they talked about is how rats, given the choice, will eat whole grain bread and ignore the white bread.

I have no idea what that has to do with anything. Maybe that most of us at Trout Towers don't like white bread and therefore we are rats?

At one point I thought about getting my masters in divinity. I know, you had no idea. I have many such secrets up my sleeve. I didn't pursue it because what you study in the process of earning a degree in divinity is not what I wanted to learn. I was just noodling around with more dictionary stuff and the definition of divinity kind of nailed it. The degrees are about the study of religion. I wanted to learn about the state of being divine. I am sure that if you studied many different world religions, you would learn what it is to be divine.

When I went to the monastary in upstate New York, the Zen teacher observed that some people make a religious practice of seeking out religious practices.

I think I'd rather keep an eye out for everyday religious experiences - like planting gifted lemon balm, making a new friend at an airport, and eating brownies.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Church of the Risen Muffin

In the airport last week, the Krishnas came to collect a karmic debt I owed them. It's been a long time coming.

It took me off guard because he didn't look at all like the guy in Airplane. He called me over and handed me a cookbook, as if to say "surely you remember how delicious our cooking is? Ahem?" Except he didn't say that because he didn't actually know me. He was probably just channeling the chef from the Krishna house where I used to occasionally freeload.

If you've ever wondered how someone would get sucked into a cult, I think I can answer that. Or at least, I can tell you how I would get sucked into a cult, if ever one wanted me. I'd be the one saying "punch? I'd love some!" To date, no cults have expressed an interest. In fact, this particular organization was very polite about giving people a chance to scramble home before the... the... what are they? Services? Rituals? Ceremonies? No idea. I was on the porch, putting my shoes back on.

So. Back at the airport.

He handed me the cookbook and I recognized it as similar to a couple books I had once. I used to take them with me when meeting my sister's flights. I'd try giving them to her until she'd finally climb up on a chair and start yelling for security. Ah, good times.

Back to the present-day airport. I told him that I used to eat at one of their houses. He asked me how I knew about it and I said, "it's the house with all the shoes on the porch, silly." I don't actually remember how I knew to barge in on them at dinner time. It's a skill I have.

Anyway, I bought the book.

And I was all excited about using it, but the very first ingredient in the very first recipe is "4 scraped coriander roots." Are you kidding me? I will have cilantro/coriander in the garden this summer and NO WAY am I pulling it up and chopping off its roots. That's uncivilized. Why would you do something like that? Can you amputate roots without harming the plant? Should I start a hydroponic garden so I can harvest coriander roots without pulling up the whole plant?

This is why I let them do the cooking for me.

One of our musician friends came by the other night and saw my new book. She asked me if I had ever eaten at Govindas, which is a Hare Krishna restaurant. And then she asked me if I had any lemon balm. When I said no, she pulled a small plant out of her pocket. A plant she had pulled out of her garden. By the roots.

I had no idea she was part of a cult.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Monday, May 4, 2009

Landed Gentry

Vacation, vacation, vacation, why must I always be on vacation?

I came home from our big Washington D.C. trip, washed some clothes, pet some chickens and dashed off for a girls' weekend away. It was a rebound vacation after I broke up with the long-term vacation.

The scene of this weekend's pomp and circumstance was set in the midwest, where the people are friendly and really bizarre storefronts are legion. We saw one little house, set back from the highway, with a sign that said "Airline Luggage." Judging (and oh, I do) from the exterior, they are selling lost luggage. If you buy a suitcase there, it's likely to be full of someone's stuff. Which would be kind of cool. Or kind of gross. Probably gross.

We were mostly in the St. Louis area, where I cannot highly enough recommend a restaurant called Rooster. I had a crepe with mushrooms, goat cheese, basil and roasted tomatoes. Mere words cannot do it justice.

Rooster is in one of those neighborhoods that's being salvaged from the wasteland surrounding it. I don't think I'm saying that in an east coast snobby kind of way, although I can't tell anymore. It's like having an accent. At any rate, I don't mean it in a snobby kind of way. I mean it in a wow look at all the gutted buildings and vacant lots kind of way. There are parts of urban areas that look friendlier than others.

I am awed by people who can look at the less friendly areas and see quirky, hip restaurants.

One of our favorite things to do on these girls' weekends out is find up-and-coming neighborhoods to explore. They usually have stores with things we've never seen and yet can still afford. Since it's usually artists who've tamed these neighborhoods, they're impossibly artsy - with restored architecture and compact gardens. Those gardens make me shake my head and say things like "if only our yard wasn't so BIG. We could have something painfully cute. Something tucked into a corner." Places that make people wish they had less to work with are kind of magical.

By the same token, these neighborhoods make me afraid for them. I know that it's a progression: gutted tenements turn into cheap neighborhoods for artists which turn into cafe-flecked grooviness which turn into new places to put Starbucks and Banana Republic. Not that there's anything wrong with Starbucks and Banana Republic. It's just that when they appear, everyone else has to move because no one can afford the rent anymore.

It's not a huge stretch to see a corroborating pattern in my own life. I never hit the gutted tenement phase, but there's definitely been a theme of picking up things that no one else wants and making them into something resembling lemonade.

I think I like the quirky neighborhoods because they most closely resemble the stage of my life I'd like to hang out in. I've been gentrified, but not completely.

Which is my way of saying that I've started taking sailing lessons. Prepare for comedy on the low seas. And go eat at Rooster. You'll thank me.

Friday, May 1, 2009

wifi to go

You will never guess where I am. Actually, I have no idea where I am, but if you are in the southern to midwest part of our country and you want to look up and wave, I may or may not wave back.

Can you believe they have wifi in planes? I think I have waited my whole life for this. What will they think of next?

I don't know if they had wifi on the first part of my trip today. I got on the plane and when I went to sit down next to the man in my row, he said “oh, goody!” not as sarcastically as perhaps he should have.

“Why thank you,” is what I should have said.

“You may reconsider that before long,” is what I did say.

Oh goody.

Overly friendly people on planes make me a little nervous. The last overly friendly person I met on a plane took me to a different country altogether and showed me the proper way to eat caviar and quite frankly I don't have time for that right now. I have places to be.

I did what any normal person with a friendly plane neighbor would do. I fell asleep just before takeoff.

But now I am on a different plane, wide awake. I am awake because I saw the wifi symbol on the plane and I've been jumping up and down begging to please be allowed to use it already. I am way, way up in the air, people. How crazy is that?

It's so awesome. The not awesome part is that my battery is dying already. Is there an outlet somewhere? Anyone? An outlet?

Stupid planes.