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

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Real Trout Towers

It's always disconcerting inviting people to Trout Towers for the first time. It's even more disconcerting when I invite one of you.

By "you" I mean people who have come to know Trout Towers through what I've written - real-life friends who know me and read the blog, and internet friends who have become real-life friends. You have an image of what it will be like, and I don't want to let you down.

In general, I think people are let down.

After all, it is just a house. There are no turrets. There's not a widow's walk. We do not have topiary shaped like chickens.

There are signs of life around the house I notice only when people are coming over: the drift of items tucked in and around shelves; ceiling lights we didn't find a fixture for and forgot; handprints on walls; half-finished projects. It's as if we lit the house with candles all week and then brought in stadium lights for when guests arrive. Stadium lights are very unflattering.

All of this is not what I think of as Trout Towers, nor is it what I think of as I hatch cockamamie plans for parties. I don't think of the failings until it is too late and guests are en route. Hiding in the bedroom is out of the question because that's where people put their coats.

I could try to blend with the coats, but here's what happens: Once there are coats on the bed, I start seeing Trout Towers the way it really is.

People arrive and I remember that I love them. I offer food. They offer food. We are all so glad to see each other, everything else melts. The stadium lights shift their focus from the flaws to the friends. They are radiant.

At some point I realize I've invited five times as many people as I have chairs. (This is why I don't do dinner parties.) I worry about being a good hostess for a few seconds and then am derailed by something shiny - like friends connecting with other friends, or someone's baby falling asleep in my arms.

I am suddenly, unspeakably proud of my home. Because this is Trout Towers. This unselfconscious buzz of people and kindness. I don't have the shiniest candlesticks or the nicest countertops or the most organized bookshelves. I do have the most interesting friends with the biggest hearts and the greatest talents. As some very wise person once said, "the ornaments of a house are the guests who frequent it." They pretty much go with everything.

People may very well be let down by the lack of chicken topiary. Believe me, I feel their pain. But as cozy as this pile of coats is, I'd rather hang out with my friends and family.

That's where Trout Towers is.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving

A friend shared this with me the other day and I thought you should have it. Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Trout Towers.

LET US GIVE THANKS

Let us give thanks for a bounty of people
For children who are our second planting
and though they grow like weeds
and the wind too soon blows them away,
May they forgive us our cultivation
and remember fondly where their roots are.

Let us give thanks:
For generous friends, with hearts as big as hubbards
and smiles as bright as their blossoms;
For feisty friends as tart as apples;
For continuous friends, who, like scallions and cucumbers,
keep reminding us we've had them;
For crotchety friends, as sour as rhubarb
and as indestructible;
For handsome friends, who are as gorgeous as eggplants
and as elegant as a row of corn,
and the others, as plain as potatoes and so good for you;
For funny friends, who are as silly as Brussels sprouts
and as amusing as Jerusalem artichokes,
and serious friends, as complex as cauliflowers
and as intricate as onions;
For friends as unpretentious as cabbages,
as subtle as summer squash,
as persistent as parsley,
as delightful as dill,
as endless as zucchini,
and who, like parsnips,
can be counted on to see you throughout the winter;
For old friends,
nodding like sunflowers in the evening-time
and young friends coming on as fast as radishes;
For loving friends, who wind around us like tendrils
and hold us, despite our blights, wilts, and witherings;
And finally, for those friends now gone,
like gardens past that have been harvested,
but who fed us in their times
that we might have life thereafter;
For all these we give thanks.


-- Max Coots

Monday, November 8, 2010

Warning: reading this post may result in psychosomatic itching

This is one of those "I wish the post I'm about to write had been posted a week ago so I could read it" posts. In fairness, it probably was posted somewhere - I was just too freaked out to find it.

I mean, my friend was too freaked out. I'm writing this post for a friend. Ahem.

My friend has a child named Pat. It could be a girl or boy - I can't remember. All I know is that Pat was sent home from school with lice. My friend, Mrs. Full Tilt Panic the third, did what she did best. She freaked out.

It's possible that Mrs. P cried more than Pat did. She did a lot of hand-wringing. It was one of those times when you look around for someone who knows what to do and you're the only one standing there. 

As Mrs. P put lice shampoo on her child, Pat said "let me get this straight, the shampoo kills things, so you're putting it on my head."

"That's right," said Mrs. P. "Now be a good little Pat and close your eyes tight."

The shampoo killed neither Pat nor the lice.

So they moved to Plan B (which in this case has nothing to do with birth control, so don't try it for that). The school nurse, God love her, suggested they use olive oil. The olive oil made Pat's hair shiny and Mrs. P's cuticles have never looked better. Olive oil smothers lice, so in no time at all not a creature was stirring on Pat's head.

But Pat still couldn't go to school because it would have taken 3 weeks to get the nits out. So they had a nit-picker come, and here's what they learned: Nit-pickers are awesome.

They also learned how to do it themselves. You just need the right tools. 

Don't bother with the shampoo because the bugs have outsmarted it and become immune. Instead, slather hair with olive oil before bed and put it up in a shower cap. It needs to be on the hair for 8 hours. In the morning, comb hair with a LiceMeister comb. That comb is your ticket to back-to-school, because it gets the nits out. Comb thoroughly (you'll need to brush the tangles out first). Swish the comb in a bowl of water after each swipe, so anything you catch can be dumped and not relocated. Boil the brush and comb.

Wash hair with dish soap to cut the grease (lather up twice with dish soap and then shampoo normally).

Repeat nightly until you're not getting anything out. After that, comb every 4 days in case anything got through.

Wash clothes as soon as you change, and put bed linens in the dryer on hot for half an hour every day until the coast is clear. Rule of thumb: if it won't fit in the dryer, vacuum it.

The Nit Picker told Mrs. P that lice have a way of resurfacing at school, so it's a good idea to comb once a week. That way you comb them out before they have a chance to do their thing.

I guess it's about birth control after all.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

internment

I realized the other day that children are basically interns. They share our work space (life) and learn how to do what we do (live) so that they can hit the ground running when it's time to get a real job (life).

Like interns, they learn the most by watching us do our jobs. They see how it's done in real life and learn to apply what they see. Things like "using a fork" come to mind. Like interns, we give them projects as we feel they're ready for them. They pour their own juice, they dress themselves, they make their beds. Little by little, they take over their job responsibilities - which we fine tune as they present finished projects. My son, for instance, often puts his pants on backwards. We're working on that.

In return for putting their own pants on, we give them food, shelter, clothing, and a steady paycheck of unconditional love.

Which is why it's such a drag we can't sometimes fire them.

Because, you see, they don't act like interns. You say, "please put your popsicle stick in the trash" and they look at you blankly. You find the popsicle stick in their underwear drawer. You say, "put your shoes on, it's time to go" and they respond with "why? You're always the last one out." Show me one intern you wouldn't fire for that.

There is no recourse with Human Resources. They stopped taking my calls ages ago.

Why is it so hard for kids to just do what we ask them, already? Don't they see that it is their job? I come home from work and every single thing I do is questioned.

Why do we have to eat that?
How come I have to put my own clothes away?
It's bedtime?!?! I'm not even tired. This isn't fair.
He hit me first.
She hit me first.

Or they don't say anything, but have obviously decided the request to not leave the loaf of bread on the kitchen floor was rhetorical.

It ends up being like that Nike slogan except instead of open roads and a nice typeface, there's twirling eyes and a face the color of the cherry popsicle now melting in my shoe.

Just. Do. It.

Now.

With interns, you ask them to do it and they do it. If they don't think they can do it, which is totally fine, they ask for clarification. You set them straight and they do it. Or you fire them. You say, "I'm sorry, this isn't working out. Since you are so good at making all the decisions around here, I think it's time you left and formed your own company. Have a nice afternoon."

With children, when it's time for them to leave and form their own companies, we get all nostalgic for the popsicle sticks and the wrong side around pants. We realize that part of what they were learning was how to make their own decisions. They learned how to ask questions. They developed negotiation skills.

The physical tasks we assign them are a forum for learning bigger skills. The natural consequences they encounter in their childhood workplace carry through to their adult workplace. If, for example, they leave their clean clothes on the floor, there is a possibility the cat will throw up on them.

These are life lessons. Our job is to keep those paychecks of love coming, even when our interns don't seem to want them. Our job is to show them the best things we know, so that they can figure out their own best ways of doing it.

When it comes to kids, the only pink slips should have ruffles. And maybe popsicle stains.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

rotated pigeon inversion

Busy! So busy!

I've been writing, just - you know - not here. And it's really taking a toll on my real-life life. Without this place to put my little stories and thoughts, I tell people things over and over and over. My friend's son who played the Sheriff in Robin Hood even though his name is Robin? He never again wants to hear how Studley gets all shades of confused when we refer to him as Robin instead of the Sheriff.

"Robin! Let me tell you this adorable story about my son!" Good lord, that sentence ages me by about 4o years every time I so much as think it.

And then I've started telling random strangers things that they really don't need to hear because I've stopped telling you. Because you're not strangers, obviously.

These things have got to come out because little stories are like sneezes and if you suppress them they will put your back out or dislodge an eye.

Completely unrelated:

Yesterday I was interviewing an artist I like. At the end of the interview she asked where she could pick up a copy of the paper. Neither of us lives in the town where it's published, so I didn't know where to send her. "You can find it online," I suggested. "I'm never totally convinced they'll print what I write, so I always check to see if my column is online on Fridays."

If that doesn't inspire confidence, I don't know what does. Hey! Thanks for the interview! I'm gonna run right home and write something that no editor in his or her right mind would want to publish!

The self-denigration gene runs strong in my family. It's a good thing I'm not a surgeon. Me, to patient: "wow, I've never seen these scalpels look so shiny! I hope I don't mess them up. I'm kinda new at..... hello?... hey, where'd everyone go?"

Here are some of the shiny scalpels I wielded recently:

This week I wrote about how picnics crush fear like rock crushes scissors. It's in The Magazine of Yoga. The Magazine of Yoga lets me write a column every month even though I haven't taken a yoga class in years. They seem to think that since my brain does a convincing rotated pigeon inversion, the rest of me is let off the hook.

Rotated pigeon inversion sounds like it could be dinner.

Speaking of dinner, last month I wrote about the Zucchini Principle at TMoY.

I can't believe there are people who actually encourage me to write this stuff. It's as if when I was in high school, wishing on all those stars that Justin Myers would call me, the stars said "unbeknownst to you, Justin Myers is gay. But we'll make it up to you down the road a bit."

For the record, Justin is not the boy I wrote about in my latest submission at Polite Fictions: What Happens After the Kiss. The assignment was to write about what happens after a pivotal moment. I liked this one.

My alter ego, Opera Betty, has a radio show on womr.org on the second Sunday of each month. It's about opera but it's like if highbrow scowled a lot.

Both Opera Betty and Trout Towers are on Facebook. It's way easier to write two sentences than one blog post. Who knew?

You know what else is harder than it looks? Writing about pop-culture. It turns out what I write about mostly is stuff that makes people cock their heads and say "what even is that?" Which does not qualify as pop-culture. So let's all pick something weird that I know about and make it popular so I can write about it on MamaPop, okay? That would be great. Let me know by Sunday night - I write every Monday. Who doesn't love Mondays? Hmmm?

My favorite MamaPop post to date is the one on Sarah Ruhl's Vibrator Play.

And with that, I think I'm out of all danger of dislodging an eye.

Bless you.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

learning the ancient ways and staining pretty much my entire kitchen in the process

Don't distract me, I'm making jelly.

On my stove, right this minute, is a pot of simmering beach plums. I cannot tell you what a miracle this is. But first I should tell you what a beach plum is.

I don't know what a beach plum is. On our way to go pick them I said to Sugarplum, "if someone threw a beach plum at me, hitting me in the head with it, I wouldn't know it was a beach plum." She was quiet a minute before asking "why would someone do that?"

It's good sometimes to have these conversations, if only to assure us she's not the product of agamogenesis. Her sense of humor comes from Chris' side of the family.

Beach Plum Jelly. Cape Cod is known for its cranberries because no one will give up the location of the plums. Notice the lack of landmarks in the photo. I had to have it certified and run through an anti-4square processor before posting it. I was practically blindfolded and driven to go pick them but everyone knows I can't remember squat these days and am directionally disinclined anyway.


If you are hit in the head with something about the size of a concord grape that looks like that thing in the photo, you've been struck by a beach plum.

Even if you can find the silly things, you can't just go and make the jelly. It doesn't work that way. Someone has to teach you. The directions I was sent home with today? They're not what we did in my friend's mom's kitchen. They print the recipe in the newspaper. They cut the recipe out of the newspaper. They put the recipe on the counter. And then they do something entirely different from what's in the recipe.

I don't know how I made the cut, but if someone asks if you want to pick beach plums and make jelly, you cancel your vacation plans and go. And take your minion so you can pick a lot in a short amount of time. Lord knows when you'll be allowed near these bushes (trees?) again.

We picked so furiously there may be a baby bird in here somewhere.

These are yummy, by the way. I always thought beach plums were something you couldn't eat until you had stewed them for 48 hours with an entire bag of sugar. Like rose hips. "Beach plum" sounds like a euphemism for something, doesn't it? New Englanders are good with such trickery.

When you cook them down according to nothing you'll find in the paper, they make the most beautiful juice you've ever seen. Crayola should make a crayon called Beach Plum Jelly Juice. It's that pretty. I think I will dye my children that color in the morning so I can love them even more.

One step, the one I'm doing now which is why I have all this time to not tell you how to make beach plum jelly, takes at least an hour. When we made jelly this afternoon with my friend's mom, I heard we had to wait an hour and said "Yay! Harbor Freeze!" She was probably counting on that and snuck in a step while I was at the harbor eating ice cream.

Again with the New England Trickery.

I'll let you know how my batch of jelly goes tonight. They sent me home with a jar from the batch we made together, so if all goes horribly wrong with mine, I'm sending it to that show on NPR that figures out such things.

Car Talk, I think.

And that's if I don't get picked up by the FBI. I sent a beach plum photo to facebook with the caption "blindfolded and taken to undisclosed location" and it didn't load for about six hours because it probably put up red flags from here to Kentucky.

That's really going to throw my mom because when she finds out I know how to make beach plum jelly I will become her very most favorite youngest daughter ever - and then when the fbi calls, thirty seconds later, she'll have to deny knowing me.

Do you see? Do you see what it does to people? It's no wonder they don't tell you where they are or what to do with them. They are trouble, I tell you.

Delicious, Crayola-colored trouble.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Beachwear

When I told the dressing room attendant at the swimsuit store to brace herself for the screaming, she probably thought I was kidding.

It's been a few years since my dad stonily bought my first bikini at the mall. When we reconnected with the rest of the family he said "sorry we took so long. The cashier dropped Susan's suit on the floor and it took 20 minutes and security to find it."

Since then things have.... changed.

When I drop my current bathing suit on the floor, it takes me 20 minutes to find my purse, my children, and the random small dog that may have been walking by at precisely the wrong time.

Things are different now. Maybe in some ways they're better.

How could it be better, this judging of suits by what they do cover instead of what they don't cover, you ask? It's all a matter of what you look for in a beach day.

There's a disconnect between what I think of when I hear "beach day" and what I experience on a beach day. When I think of spending the day at the beach I imagine reclining chairs set under a canopy. I picture iced drinks with mint leaves. The hors d'oeuvres have no sand in them. I do not know where these things exist, but I've lived at the beach for about15 years and I can tell you, they're not here.

For years I went to the beach, sprayed myself with fryolator oil, and passed out from heat exhaustion. I'd wake to find myself caked in sand and sweat. And then I'd wrap myself in cold, damp cloths to ease the sunburn. I am by nature the color of a fish belly.

So how does my beach scenario change, now that I'm wearing bathing suits that take up an entire dresser drawer? In a word: kaftans.

I am of an age where I can wear kaftans. Kaftans are the next best thing to a canopy and, if I'm not mistaken, are the ticket to being invited under a canopy. "Nice lady! Please come sit with us under our canopy and teach us to play mah jong! Have a drink! I do hope the condensation doesn't spot your lovely kaftan." I still don't know how to play mah jong, but I won't let that get in the way.

I have always loved long flowing things, but back in the day they interfered with my tanning efforts. Bathing suits were selected for the tan lines they would not leave. These days no one wants to know where the tan stops so there is simply no point in exposing any more of me than is necessary (I have lovely ankles).

Kaftans have an air of cool sophistication. The bikinis which I choose not to buy (you're welcome) do not have an air of cool sophistication.

In a kaftan I will be unruffled. I will be a serene oasis in a landscape of sweaty, sandy, overheated, sunburned humanity. I will be the woman that all the other women hope to be when they are of the right age to wear a kaftan.

And if it doesn't work out exactly like I had hoped, I will at least have something nice to put on when I go out to feed the chickens in the morning.

I just wish I had thought of this before I tried on all those suits. I bet the dressing room attendant does, too.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

punk rock agriculture

This morning I peeked in on the kids while they slept. They were so cute - all relaxed and floppy, with little smiles on their sweet faces. It made me want to shriek "get up! get up NOW!" at the top of my lungs because the child-shaped dents in the ceiling would have made me giggle for years.

But I didn't because I am good at keeping up appearances and the appearance du jour is Responsible Mother.

I have made this little Domestic Nest here for myself which looks quite convincing to the untrained eye. We have chickens and vegetables and a tire swing for crying out loud. We don't even live in the country.

Then you look a little closer and you notice that our corn, which is still juvenille, has gone and dyed its hair. When we shuck it we'll probably find multiple piercings.

This is the sort of thing that happens to us. We try to do something normal (corn in your flower bed is normal. We read it somewhere) and everything goes all King's Road on us.

We should probably just roll with it. We'll change our chickens' names to Wendy O. Williams, Exene Cervenka, Nina Hagan, Lena Lovich, Patti Smith, Palmolive and Amanda Palmer.

We need more chickens because I could go on like this for ages.

People ask us about the chickens all the time. How much work they are, how many eggs we get, what on earth possessed us to get chickens - stuff like that. They think they would like to have chickens of their own to name but they don't do it because they're not in the same position we are.

For a long time I thought they were under the impression that we have some kind of innate agricultural leanings, which we don't. We have bookwormish leanings and culinary leanings and musical leanings that run from opera to punk rock but no, we have no agricultural leanings.

What I have come to realize is that it has nothing to do with agriculture, this perception people have of us. We are not agricultural people, we are people who don't care what the neighbors think. That's what they mean by the position we're in.

Or maybe they just know how awesome our neighbors are. Our neighbors are so awesome they've taken to reading Bukowski to the corn when the rest of us are sleeping.

And to them, I look every bit the part of a responsible mother.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Chris still wonders how much of this story is true

Years ago I ran over a bunny rabbit in the road on the way to my friend's house. It was not on purpose.

Since it was on the way to my friend's house, I had to pass the scene of the crime on a regular basis. On one trip I noticed that at the exact spot of the bunny's demise there was a fresh repair in the road. The lines of tar looked like a message and for just a second I wondered if the road was trying to communicate something. Perhaps it was a warning to other bunnies. Or maybe the psychic impact had a thermo-dynamic effect on the pavement, causing it to crack in ways that could be read like tea leaves.

I began looking at other tar repairs, wondering in turn what each one meant. Some were obviously just repairs but many were intricate and meaningful. Maybe the paving crew was Hindu?

One day not long after the Bunny Incident, Sugarplum and I were on a walk through the White Cedar Swamp. She noticed some markings on a tree and because I am not to be trusted, I told her that those were notes left by the fairies and gnomes who live in the swamp. Most of them were love notes, I told her, pointing at one.

I realized the pattern I was pointing to was the exact same pattern as the one in the street.

I wonder how many times the lies I tell my children are actually true.

Over the next year I saw it in:
1) a tattoo
2) graffiti
3) soba noodles left on a plate next to me at a sushi bar

Then I was at a party and the man next to me said that he was a prophet. He seemed pretty smart and totally not weird or anything so I asked him about the symbol I kept seeing.

Turns out he had said "prof" not "prophet" but as luck would have it he taught Bible history, which was handy because I had started wondering if it was something in Aramaic and maybe I was channeling a dead priest and if so did the stigmata hurt?

I drew it for him on a cocktail napkin. No, he told me. It was not Aramaic. But he offered to look into it and tucked the napkin in his pocket. Astonishingly, I never heard from him again.

The last time I saw it, it came tick tick ticking out of my fax machine quite out of the blue. There was a new Persian restaurant in town and they were faxing over their menu.

It means soup.

Monday, May 24, 2010

elsewhere

At first I was perturbed with the universe for breaking our new washing machine just before Memorial Day weekend. I mean really, the timing couldn't have been worse. All our clients are kicking into full gear and we are simply not in the mood to wash our clothes in the stream.

Then I realized it was the best possible thing because you know what makes you want to do things like write press releases? An impending trip to the laundromat. I have gotten more things off my back-burner list in the last few days, all in the name of avoiding the laundromat. Sorry kids! Looks like we're stapling towels around you again for school today! Mommy is sooooooo busy.

One of the things I got done was edit a submission I wrote for the Magazine of Yoga. I had sent the first draft off a week or so ago and when the editor emailed me back it was more like having a personal trainer than an editor. Also a therapist. In the face of hauling 18 loads of laundry across town, her suggestions seemed surprisingly manageable. My post went up on the site this morning. (woot!)

Eighteen loads isn't much of an exaggeration.

It was also my turn at Polite Fictions last week. We're finishing up the alphabet of regret and I wrote U is for Us. You might like it, unless you're my mother in which case you should skip over the swearing part.

And finally, Opera Betty is getting a radio show! We go into production very soon. Right after the washing machine is fixed and I repair the staple holes in all our towels.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

speaking of needing our eyes checked

We had much chicken drama this morning.

There are times when having no actual experience with raising chickens may be considered a handicap. Or a blessing. Jury's still out.

We have 5 baby chickens and 5 grown up chickens. The babies are not all babies - two of them are teenagers - but none of them can vote so for the purpose of this post, they are babies. We got two of them and then for reasons known best to the chicken people, waited a few weeks for the next three. I think they were backordered. Or they didn't have our size and the hens had to hatch more. It's complicated.

At any rate, we had two shifts of baby chicken boxes in our livingroom. When it came time to move them out (bigger little ones), we put them in the Tea House, which is an auxiliary coop that neighbors Camp Chicken. All was well.

Yesterday we (Chris. This is all Chris' fault) decided to move the smaller little ones out too. We put them in the Tea House. Lines were drawn. Alliances were formed. The babies hid in a corner.

Chris (this is all Chris' fault) suggested we put the bigger little ones in with the grownups. A pecking order was formed, with the bigger littles firmly at the bottom. All was well until bedtime.

The bigger littles did not go into the coop, so Chris (see above) put them in after the others had gone to bed. He then looked all over the yard for the escaped little littles, found one, lost one, found two, captured one, cornered the other and then discovered all three inside the tea house. They should move to New York and do street corner shell games.

All was well.

I went out at 5am to let them out and make sure they were all alive in case we had to "drive some to summer camp" before the kids woke up.

The larger littles were lying in a pile in the corner of the coop.

There were only two chickens in the tea house.

As I started to pack up the larger ones' stuff for camp, they miraculously came to life and ran out with their new friends. Fakers.

There were still only two chickens in the tea house.

I told Chris, who insisted that there were three in when he closed them up but claimed it was all his fault anyway. I pretended it wasn't. We went back to sleep after we had looked high and low for the third chicken. She had obviously stolen a neighbor's car and driven herself to summer camp.

This is the one who kept squeezing through the fence into Camp Chicken yesterday, where she ran around terrorizing everyone before squeezing back through to the safety of the tea house. She is a firebrand, that one.

Which is why we should not have been surprised when we looked out an hour later to find she'd returned.

This is Trout Towers and we have a chicken with an attitude.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

the science of optometry

It has come to my attention that I can't see as well as I once could. This is most apparent when someone presents a splinter to be removed. I cannot see the splinter and estimated guesses as to its whereabouts are under-appreciated.

After a period of fretting and hand-wringing and worst case scenario-izing, I made an eye appointment. That appointment happened yesterday.

Eye appointments are fabulous. You should really make them more than every 15 years. The chair is comfy and they even give you a place to rest your chin. All chairs should come with foot and chin rests. Once you are nice and comfortable, they ask you to do things that are much less repulsive than the other things you have to do in the course of a day.

You read letters, top to bottom, until you get to the line of hieroglyphs. The hieroglyphs are there to trick you.

Then they ask you questions. I get asked questions all day long but I don't know the answers to those questions. Those are questions like "why are we so far over budget?" and "who totaled the company car?" The optometrist asks questions like "which one's clearer? A or B?"

I like questions I know the answers to. And if I get them wrong, who will know?

I could tell I was getting them right because the more I answered, the better I could see. It was like magic! Toward the end, the letters looked like they had been cut with a scalpel from black construction paper.

But that's not the interesting part. After the "exactly how blind are you" part of the exam, they start looking at the eyeball proper. They put drops in your eyes and after dropping the drops they say "that's yellow highlighter" and you're all "hahahahaha! that's funny! as if you would actually draw on my eye with a yellow highlighter!" and you wipe a little laugh-tear from your eye with a tissue and it looks like a bug got squashed in your eye because the tissue is bright, bright, bug-gut yellow and it turns out they did actually just put yellow highlighter in your eye.

Just as you are deciding never to trust them again, they put another drop in your eyes and tell you they are testing the pressure. The drops will make your eyes feel like they are wrapped in double stick tape.

Finally, they put drops in your eyes to dilate your pupils, and send you to the waiting room to look at magazines but not read them because you have yellow highlighter and double stick tape in your eyes.

When they get you back in the chair, they tell you they're going to look inside your eye with a bright light. What they don't tell you is, they are looking inside your eye for ants which they then set on fire with the light and a magnifying glass. It's the only possible explanation for someone to point a light that bright at you. Also, I know that's what they're doing because after they do it, all you can see is exploding ant fireballs.

And then they tell you you need glasses, which you pick out while still under the influence of exploding ant fireballs.

Which explains a lot.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

educating children

Okay so who here was awakened by breakfast-making children at 5:30 this morning?

Part of me was all "no Susan, Do Not Ruin this! Be a good sport! Do it for the children!" and the other part of me was all "who super-glued my eyes shut?"

I resuscitated myself enough to chose from the menu (created two weeks ago): Cheerios, toast, rice cake with peanut butter, peanut butter sandwich. I also got to pick something to drink. Studley had asked me a couple days ago how to make juice. He said "I know you start with water and salt, but then what?"

I had coffee.

But this isn't about me and my search to find a culinary institute who accepts 7 year olds. This is about why I am suing my own mother for emotional distress.

She came over this afternoon because we made her. I'm sorry, but there is just one of her and five of us so it goes that way. With her she brought the Heifer International magazine. It has pictures from all over the world and lots of animals - right up our alley.

"Look!" she said to Sugarplum, showing her the picture on the back. "Isn't it cute?"

Sugarplum looked at it quizzically. "What is it?"

It was a picture of two people and a very cute baby something or other in a pen. Frankly I had no idea what it was so I said, "well, read about it. There's a paragraph right under the picture."

Sugarplum, who reads voraciously and has been known to correct our spelling, looked at it again, looked more puzzled and handed it to me to read.

"In just three months in 1994, more than 800,000 Rwandans were killed in one of the worst acts of genocide in recent history...."

That? Will put you right off your peanut butter rice cake and salt water.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

sensory overload

I am alive.

And I have nothing.

So I thought I'd tell you all about how things have smelled around here lately. You know, in case you don't have 5 baby chickens of your own hanging out in your livingroom.

They are smelly.

It's the teenagers that are the worst. Two of the babies are 3 weeks old and they are classic teens. They are gawky and clumsy and smelly and I swear if they weren't covered in feathers they'd have pimples. Technically they should stay inside another week but we have had enough. Enough!

You know what else is smelly? Fish sauce. When we were on vacation (we went on vacation) we went to a Vietnamese restaurant and had caramel fish. So I looked it up and lo and behold, it's really simple to make! You caramelize the sugar and add 1/3 cup fish sauce. That's the hard part because when you add the fish sauce to the hot sugar, you have to evacuate the entire neighborhood. It smells like someone lit a hamper of dirty socks on fire.

Studley told my mother-in-law, "it smells awful but it's dinner." I can't believe they ate it. There is no way I would have eaten anything that smelled like that when I was a kid. No. Way.

But enough of the stink! What are we listening to, you ask?

Well last night Chris was playing this total emo song over and over and over again and if I didn't know better I would have been on the phone with the Samaritans. I don't know exactly what the Samaritans do, but there's a sign as you come over the bridge that says "Desperate? Call the Samaritans" and this seems as desperate a case as any. Can't you just picture him sitting in a bean bag chair, in the dark, listening to this song over and over again?

Meanwhile, I'm upstairs wanting to drown myself in the sink.

We don't even have a bean bag chair and he wasn't really even listening to the song. He was doing something audio-engineerish to it. And to do the audio-engineerish thing, he has to play the song even more than I played J. Geils' Freeze Frame album.

It is no wonder audio engineers have all those fork marks in their foreheads.

As for how things look around here, no one has stepped up to be a full-time (pro bono) housekeeper. The house is the visual equivalent of fish sauce.

I trust you will now be more grateful for the next three weeks of silence. You're welcome.

xxoo,
her Troutship

Monday, April 5, 2010

for what ails you

Have you ever noticed how much stuff there is in Chinese restaurants? Bamboo and chimes and flutes and fans and auspicious this and that. It must be working because the Chinese restaurant that made me think about all this has been in town for at least 15 years. That's pretty impressive, considering how hard we are on restaurants around here. They usually leave town in tears after a year or two.

I see their decorations/good luck symbols, and wonder if we'd do well with some sprigs of bamboo at Trout Towers. Maybe a red door. Or a water feature that's not in a hamster cage. There are so many things we could do to luck the place up. But then, what would people think?

Would they think we felt we were somehow lacking? Would they look at our carefully arranged whatnots and conclude that we have skeletons in our Helpful People closet? That our bread is apt to mold? That our mice are anemic?

Same goes for those stone bracelets that look like rosary beads. You know the ones? They're made of rose quartz or amethyst or hematite or something else that's good for whatever your issue may be. I pick them up, run them through my fingers and wonder what they're for. Then I imagine a total stranger pointing to it on my wrist and saying something like "can't keep a boyfriend, eh?" I can totally see myself yelling at an unsuspecting passerby: "I can keep a boyfriend just fine, thank you!" which I would then have to explain to my husband.

I was not raised in a tradition rich in auspicious signs and wonders. However, I have created my own tradition of never telling anyone what I'm afraid of. Did you see Witches of Eastwick? It's a bad idea to answer the question "what are you afraid of" honestly. Putting cures all over the place is like wearing a rope of garlic around your neck. You can't shrug off the wooden stake in your backpack with an explanation of arachnophobia.

I think the answer is in finding enigmatic cures that aren't part of the usual repertoire. We like to keep people guessing. Our cures come and go because everything comes and goes so we have to keep changing our dosage. Right now these cures include:

Two baby chick in the livingroom = hope
Piles of spring clothes on the way into the kids' drawers = growth
Piles of discarded clothes on the way to Good Will = gratitude
Half-eaten apple crisp in kitchen = happiness
Extra family members = community
Dining room floor covered with art supplies = activity

There are more, but they're secret. All I will tell you is that they make it difficult to walk through the livingroom without tripping. Others are filling the chairs and a couple are stashed on top of the fridge. They all have meaning, if you give me a minute to think about it.

And you thought we didn't have all this stuff strewn about on purpose.

Ha.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

of goats and undergarments (not in)

I have always been jealous of Chris' job. Not so much the plugging things in and making things work part as the going out and listening to live music part. Every time I try to justify a night out with the girls and cite all the nights he's been out listening to music, he pulls the "I am a sound engineer and they are paying me" card. And then I'm supposed to feel all bad for him because all he does is work work work and he never has any fun and boo hoo for Chris.

I don't know why it took me so long to figure this out, but I finally wised up and got a job at a theater. As part of my job, I have to go see live theater at least a couple times a month. I am a genius.

Last night I went to my first job-related performance. When I asked the production manager if I could come, he said "yes. But for marketing purposes only. You're not allowed to enjoy yourself."* I assured him I was only coming because of my deep commitment to my job. It had nothing to do with my deep commitment to getting out of the house and mingling with like-minded adults.

I don't get out much, so the "what to wear" question was an issue. What are arty, theater types wearing these days? I settled on a long, black dress that doesn't fit me very well in the first place and is constructed poorly in the second place so I have to pretend it's strapless because by the end of the evening it has scooted around to the point of being essentially strapless. I remedy both issues by wearing a rubberized condensing tube, which extends from my knees to my armpits.

Question: When you wear a rubberized condensing tube, where does the rest of you go? Do you get taller?

Since I live in a community where people try not to look like they dressed up on purpose, I had to dress down with a pair of riding boots. I have these Frye boots I found in a consignment shop on Newbury Street years ago - which I've realized were in the consignment shop because they are steel belted and you feel like Cinderella's sister getting into them.

Between the tube and the boots, it took me about 45 minutes to get dressed, leaving me a little sweaty and out of breath.

I arrived at the theater unable to breath comfortably and with the sneaking suspicion that my boots were giving me muffin tops. There were a few people in the box office, who I let clear out before asking my coworker where the VIP employee seating was. She invited me to come around to her side of the ticket window, at which point I noticed she had a baby goat sleeping in a banana box behind her desk.

Apparently I work for the little theater that Kafka built.

Let me here state that this is not a Waiting for Guffman type theater (not that there's anything wrong with that). Last year they did things like The Blue Room by David Hare, The Bald Soprano by Eugene Ionesco and Speech and Debate by Stephen Karam. They do exactly the kind of theater I want to go see. And they have a company goat.

Take that, Chris. It's work.

*I am their marketing director. This potentially puts my blog into the murky area of posts for pay whenever I write about things that happen at work. I have resolved this by writing posts of no value whatsoever.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

cultural exile is nice this time of year

I am a firm believer in the "you get what you ask for" school of thought.

Before you start hurling produce at me, I will admit quite frankly that you get a lot of other stuff, too. This cannot be denied. So maybe the thought should be "if you want something, you should ask for it."

I mention this now because when I moved back to Cape Cod I was concerned about sending myself into some kind of cultural exile. At the time, you could not even get an espresso in my town (which is practically immoral).

To make matters worse, I was moving here from Denver, where I attended gallery openings, subscribed to opera and ballet, frequented live music venues and practically lived at the Denver Center Theater thanks to a friend who worked in the mailroom but didn't like theater and gave me all his comps. I also went to arthouse movies because they were in historic movie theaters and they made me feel all smartish.

And then I moved to a fishing town. Which is great, don't get me wrong. Driving through town and seeing boats all wrapped in plastic for the winter is mind-boggling to someone raised in the mountains. There are stacks of lobster traps in the yard of the commercial fisherman next door and I can't think of hardscaping I'd rather look at (unless its a teahouse. I like teahouses).

The biggest problem was that I wanted both the lobster traps and the city culture: Edgy theater; foreign films; art that doesn't match the couch (more on this later as it seems I've become a couch-art matching housewife); Moroccan food delivered to my door and a community of like-minded people. That last one is the zinger because if you have a community, eventually someone learns to make Moroccan food.

Anyway, I just now realized I have everything I thought I was leaving behind. This month WHAT (which I've had a crush on since moving here) is starting Cinema WHAT and showing dozens of movies that will make me feel smartish and less like a couch-matching housewife.

I have been missing that smartish feeling. The whole time I've been here, I've been looking for things that give me that smartish feeling. I asked for it, relentlessly.

Now I find that there's art and film and food and poetry and music and espresso, right here in my back yard. I have no idea what to ask for next, but I better make it good.

What are you asking for? What makes you feel smartish?

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Outermost Radio

I have now been on the radio twice, which makes me a consummate professional. Or a consommé professional. One of those.

Last Friday I was a guest on the English Breakfast Show at WOMR in Provincetown. This required that I get up and out at an absurd hour so as to arrive in Provincetown by 8a.m. Provincetown is not particularly close to me, so I thought I should leave myself some time. I woke up at 5:30.

I didn't have to wake up at 5:30 because really, how long does one need to get ready for radio? I woke up because I kept having those dreams in which my phone was ringing and the station was saying aren't you supposed to be here? Over and over again.

I got up and dressed and still had about, oh, seven hours before I was due, so I stopped by the bakery to bring them a little something. I heard the English are fond of kippers for breakfast but then someone sent me a kipper link and oh hork. I got scones.

The show started at 6am and they were in full swing as I drove north. It is very funny to hear oneself discussed on the air, let me tell you. They were playing songs pertaining to trout and towers and because my mind isn't what it used to be, I was all "oh my gosh! I have a blog called Trout Towers! Can you believe the coincidence????" Thankfully I figured it all out before I arrived and went on the air. Ahem.

Driving into Provincetown, it hit me what a crazy opportunity I'd been given. I was in a seaside artist colony, as a guest on a community radio show. Provincetown has seen the likes of Eugene O'Neil, Norman Mailer, Hans Hoffman, Robert Motherwell and so many more it's just ridiculous. When you drive into town on an early winter morning, it's easy to imagine all those people sleeping off the previous night. Under normal circumstances this revelation would have made me turn around and go hide under my bed.

I arrived way ahead of schedule, since in February there's no traffic and you can actually find a parking space. I sat in my car and listened to the show hosts banter on about what they were supposed to call me and what they thought I'd be like.

Despite my hermit tendencies, the desire to be part of all this was irresistible. And there were scones to eat. I went upstairs and proceeded to regale them with tales of Trout.

At one point I mentioned that I'm an introvert, which puzzled my host Sebastian. First, he sings at Showgirls (the drag cabaret in town) and does theater so it's probably hard for him to imagine how anyone could even be an introvert. Second, he wasn't wrapping his head around how an introvert is okay with writing so publicly. That's just plain silly. I'm not writing publicly. I'm writing on my couch, by myself, while my robot vacuum cleans up after my children. There is nothing public about this.

And the fact that people all over the world could tune in and listen to the radio show? Neither here nor there. I got to sit in a historic building, chatting with two new friends about nothing in particular.

I was invited to be part of one of the most creative communities you can imagine, and it was a blast. We can definitely chalk this one up in the "things you never imagined doing" column. Pretty neat.

And it's all because I sit on the couch writing, and you read.

Thank you.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Trouts on the move!

No need to avert your gaze; we are not spawning. We just went on vacation.

I was looking for places to go and realized all my research involved restaurants. I mean really, does it matter where you go as long as there's good food? So we went to Boston, which is practically like going to Europe on the cheap.

We stayed in the Custom House, aka the pointy pointy clock tower near Boston Harbor. It's historic. I can tell you all about it if you'd like. I can even tell you that the bathrooms were very clean and the rooms were quite lovely before we had our way with them.

And I can tell you that it's a block away from Quincy Market and even though you might feel like you're eating in the gift shop and it's totally cheating to grab meals there, you'll want to get the mac and cheese.

When we were done with the mac and cheese, we wandered to the North End and continued eating. We went to Theo's, Antico Forno and Taranta, with a little stop by Mike's Pastry just to be thorough.

The night we went to Taranta, Sugarplum told everyone in the hotel that "mommy is going out to dinner with two of her invisible friends." Specifically, TwoBusy and Ms. Picket of Polite Fictions.

When you meet internet friends for the very first time in real life, you should try stepping on the tablecloth and knocking over the table. You will have to catch dishes a la Crouching Tiger and your invisible friends will be very impressed. Or they will pretend not to know you.

You know what's funny about meeting invisible friends? You feel like a total stalker. You can practically finish their stories and you know all these personal things despite the fact that you have never seen them before in your life. It's wonderful and completely unnerving all at once.

Anyway.

Contrary to popular belief, we did not just eat. We went to museums. With our children. On school vacation week. Without sedatives.

As you know, we spent Monday at the MFA. On Tuesday we went to the Museum of Science (lightening!). On Wednesday we used our clout as Trouts and were admitted to the aquarium early, as guests. We were gloaty Trouts. On Friday we went to the Isabella Stewart Gardner and the ICA.

Coming from the Gardner, our view of the ICA was a little skewed. We usually like modern architecture and contemporary art, but after the Gardner we found it, how shall I say? Soul-suckingly barren. Also a little giggle-worthy as all we could think of was Unhappy Hipsters.

Chris and I discussed this in the privacy of the glass elevator. You have to be careful in places like that or you inadvertently become performance art. I wonder sometimes if modern museums have microphones that are set to only pick up hushed tones. These whispers are then broadcast into another part of the museum as disembodied secrets.

I think it's brilliant, actually, and if you are the curator of a modern museum, you're welcome.

I learned some things through visiting all those museums. If you are a 20-something looking to work/intern at one of Boston's fine institutions, I can direct you toward the best fit based on my fashion observations. I could absolutely distinguish between museums if I were blindfolded, spun in circles and then introduced to an intern.

I also learned that when parents sound smart when they're telling their kids something, they're probably reading from an exhibit card.

And that Bostonians are actually very nice and helpful, although it is a closely guarded secret.

And that after seven days of cannoli, it's nice to be home in sweat pants.

The end.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Museum of Fine Arts

We are in Boston. It is school vacation week.

We had this vision of spending lots of time in museums. We pictured wandering through galleries, eating fruit and cheese at a cafe, living the mythical life of city people.

We did not picture hordes of children.

We also did not factor in the very real possibility that our own children might not want to wander through galleries learning about different artists (although we are riveting). We did not picture them collapsing in the coatroom, too overwhelmed/bored/hungry/hot to go on.

When we got off the T, Chris said "wow, it's like Woodstock for short people" because oh my lord who's been having all these children? They were piling in in droves. And all we could picture was lines and pushing and waiting and probably some throwing up. We pictured our children, catatonic in the coatroom.

Which is not at all what we had in mind.

That's when the museum people handed us the brochure of kids' activities planned in galleries all over the place. Those kids scattered like blown dandelion poofs.

Our family favorite was the Where the White Things Are sculpture exhibit. The kids looked at a display of white sculptures and then made their own from white craft supplies. Sugarplum made a chicken from a plastic egg, pipe cleaners, silk flower petals and a doilie. Studley made a robot with a piece of styrofoam, a pipe cleaner and some googley eyes. It took them well over an hour, during which Chris and I took turns wandering through the galleries and eating fruit and cheese.

Then they made mythical creatures out of clay and we took turns in the Seeing Songs exhibit.

The kids carried their white sculptures all over the city, garnering comments and praise everywhere they went.

It was a really good day.

Yes, this is a shameless yet unsolicited promo for the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. But I figure why even have a web journal if you can't use it to publicly thank an institution?

Thank you.

p.s. We forgot their clay sculptures - a lion left lying on his back to dry and a slab of clay with holes, which is probably another robot. Feel free to add them to your permanent collection.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Cheap Seats

In the days leading up to a live radio gig, you will think of all kinds of smart and funny things to say on the air. You will not say any of these things.

You may or may not go completely paralytic when the radio host introduces you.

You will forget to mention your own role within the music industry. You will sound in turns like a 1950s housewife promoting her husband and a rabid fan of whatever band you're playing at the moment.

The bands you play may or may not make a mental note to never take your calls again.

You will laugh inappropriately when someone says "ASCAP" on the air.

You will wonder why it's okay to say ASCAP but not other, similar-sounding expressions.

You will worry about saying something that sounds like ASCAP but isn't. It will plague you that the vigilante sidekick who is usually on hand for bleeping is not in the building.

At which point you will realize you didn't check the lyrics of the songs you're playing.

Your radio host will note that you turn crimson when you are nervous.

You will want to give your house credit for the rising career of your Upstairs Neighbor. You'll want to list all the musicians who have lived in your house, hung out in your house, played chess in your house. You'll want to mention the musician who, for reasons that still escape you, installed mahogany clapboard in your shower.

You'll want to introduce the last song you play because the songwriter is practically family and calls you Mrs. Crusher. You then realize that if you did say all that, you'd be out of time before you could explain that it was not a reference to your girth.

You'll want to play the 6 cds that are still in your bag but notice that the studio is turning out lights and handing you your coat.

You will get home and discover that your internet friends were quietly, patiently listening from afar.

You will be so pleased and proud, you will find yourself unable to sleep.

--

p.s. If you feel so inclined, please go to the Cheap Seats' facebook page and be a fan. And then ask her nicely to have me back on the show. She fed me brownies and I would like some more.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Alive!

Brighton is snowed in and has lost power. She has a gas stovetop and a pantry full of non-perishables, so it will be at least three weeks before they have to eat the dog.

If worse comes to worse they can sit on the kitchen counter and warm themselves by the stove. I have no reason to be worried about them. And yet, I am.

They have no internet.

The kids have smart phones and so could just keep charging them in the car but the car is in the garage and the garage door is electric so if they want to charge their phones without draining the car battery they will first have to take an ax to the garage door. Which can be splintery.

And while the kids have smart phones, I'm quite sure Brighton does not and can you even imagine what she's missing on facebook right now? There is a Winter Emergency in her area and how will she know if she can't read all the snowmageddon posts?

To be prepared for a disaster, you really need a 5lb drum of beans, a 5lb drum of rice, a cubic acre of fresh water and a hamster-powered wifi rig.

Speaking of hamsters and natural disasters, people are always asking us if we're going to eat our chickens when they get too old to lay eggs. This is a totally unfair question because our cat has not laid a single egg, ever.

Our cat is extremely lucky it is not snowing here.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

it's possible I've had too much coffee

Lately Chris has been trying to figure out how we can use our skills and strengths to make Heaps of Money. This is funny because I've been trying to figure out how to use Chris' skills and strengths to make heaps of money for years.

This morning it was all rainbows and sunshine and twinkly lights and I knew I had the key to early retirement.

Have you seen the making of Prodigy's SMBU? It's the only way I can get Chris to listen to Prodigy. It shows how the mix was made - copying and pasting samples, changing the pitch, etc. Chris uses that kind of stuff all the time. Just not for Prodigy.

We have friends who have a rock and roll band and also a kids band. The kids band is the cash cow. Kids music is the answer, my friends.

We have kids. We have technology. We will start a band called Progeny, in which kids sing Prodigy covers.

We'll use samples from our current kid music library, like Dan Zanes' "hellooooooo" from his song House Party. It will be genius I tell you.

Chris thinks we should change the words. I think that defeats the purpose but I considered it in an attempt to humor him. I suppose we could change "smack" to "snack" but then we'd get sued for all the resulting eating disorders. He said "smack" is not the problem, which is disturbing because after all this time I had no idea he was pro-recreational drugs for kids/corporal punishment.

He says we could change the line to "snack my dish up" and now I have "change my pitch up/ snack my dish up" stuck in my head. A clear sign that it will be HUGE.

Chris agrees my idea is the key to early retirement. He says we'll never work in this town again.

He must think we'll have to move when Disney hires us.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Miss Spiritual Tramp of 1948

It's Doppelganger Week on facebook.

I boycotted it because I don't know how to post a picture of an actual doppelganger.

The Free Online Dictionary (which uses the words "free" and "online" and is therefore considered an authority in this context) defines doppelganger as "A ghostly double of a living person, especially one that haunts its fleshly counterpart." I seem to remember a doppelganger being the manifestation of a character's alternate personality.

It's really hard to get pictures of those.

I remember a Twilight Zone episode that had a doppelganger driving away on a bus, looking creepily out the window at the doppel she was ganging. But mostly I remember learning about them as a literary device in high school English.

Know what I realized? I can name every single one of my English teachers.

In one class we listened to old radio shows, watched The Most Dangerous Game and read Nine Stories, by JD Salinger. What do all these things have in common? I think that our teacher really liked them. It was like going to a city with someone who loves architecture. They show you what to look for and you never see it the same again.

When you are in high school, you are essentially a gang of doubles. One big bundle of potential. Which version of You will you go on to be? The only thing that's absolutely certain is you won't stay who you are. For this we are grateful.

If you're lucky, you have teachers who wrestle your attention away from the Tiffany's catalog long enough to teach you about things. Important things. Things like Who You Will Be When You Grow Up. But they don't call it that.

They call it English. Or science. Or whatever resonates with the you that's most you. At the end of each day and with every choice you make, another busload of old selves drives away.

I don't know about you, but I tried on countless versions of me. Eventually I chose one, but my evil twins are legion and I hold them near and dear.

They just don't photograph well.

Friday, January 22, 2010

writing and poetics

Well hello there.

We are 5/7 of the way through Opera Hell Week here at Trout Towers. I've been feverishly writing synopses over at Opera Betty so that our guests would be fully operational when they arrived to watch. I am in the midst of a Barber of Seville synopsis right now. For those of you unfamiliar with Opera Betty, it's as if a frat boy put down his everclear punch long enough to write a column on fine wine. Except it's not about wine and I don't drink everclear.

I also have a freshly penned post over at Polite Fictions. It equates retirement to a kind of slow death, which is one of my fears. Thank goodness we will have to work until we're 104. After that we'll be put in a museum.

Finally, I wrote lyrics for a country song despite a longstanding dislike of country music. Some friends wrote the music and I filled in the blanks based on their description of how it was to go down. Once it's recorded I'll have Chris make me some kind of virus which will have the song play on your computer every time you type the letter q. You're welcome.

You may now carry on with your carryings on.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

ballet boy

Long ago and far away, I dated a man from the Dominican Republic. He was a dancer and we spent most of our evenings watching either hockey or ballet. I was, I must admit, quite infatuated with the idea of dating someone from a ballet company. It is often the ideas of things we have a crush on, isn't it? The reality of our relationship is a little fuzzy, since my concept of it was so vastly off base. It turns out the real lives of Princes Charming are not made of organza and tulle, nor populated by wandering minstrels. I never truly accepted this discrepancy.

This is what I remember most about him: He said "There is enough ugly in life. Art should be beautiful." He said this because I tended toward the edgey, spikey, thinky kinds of art. I still do. But his statement resonated with me.

Here's what I wonder: If people end up looking like their dogs, do they also end up acting like their art?

Both of these make me nervous. I kind of wanted a pug (although Sugarplum nixed that when we read about eyes popping out). I think we do end up acting like our art. I, for one, get snippy if I listen to too many hours of old school British punk. I do not currently have much artwork that's the equivalent of old school British punk, but I used to. I wonder if it was his comment that weaseled its way into my tastes?

Like my dancer prince, I want life to be made of organza and tulle - I just want it to be smart organza and opinionated tulle. I want it to make the world better and smarter and edgier. I want it to be beautiful and honest and faithful to itself. I want it to lift things up, not cover them up.

It's a fine line, and I want to make sure I'm not going the route of rose-colored glasses.

It's also possible he just didn't want to go to art openings with me any more. Right after the art comment, he may have said "I don't especially like your friends and I don't understand their art and I think there's a game on." I just heard the bit about beauty.

It's the kind of things pretend princes say.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Opera Hell

Next week Trout Towers (the real Trout Towers, not the blog Trout Towers) is hosting Opera Betty's Hell Week: Seven Operas in Seven Days. People may or may not come.

It turns out all the operas we'll be watching need to be added to the Opera Betty site, therefore I'll be spending a bit of time there in the next few days. I've just added a synopsis for La Fille du Régiment. I have six to go. Here's the schedule so you can play along at home:

Sun: La Fille du Regiment
Mon: La Boheme
Tues: Tosca
Wed: Romeo and Juliet
Thurs: Salome
Fri: The Barber of Seville
Sat: Magic Flute

It seemed a nice mix of comedy, tragedy and nudity. Do enjoy.

Friday, January 8, 2010

in which I become hysterical and Chris is the sensible one, for a change

Chris likes to complicate things. He likes to figure out innovative ways to accomplish otherwise simple tasks. If I ask for a garden sprinkler, for instance, he will suggest we put in a rainwater aqueduct with a saltwater condensation desalinizer as backup.

So when he noticed a crack in the wall of the basement, he started devising plans. Complicated plans. Some of them involved lifting the house off the foundation. Others entailed leveling the slope our house sits on. None were easy. He was absolutely convinced that big, complicated measures needed to be taken, stat.

Fortunately, we know about 40 general contractors/engineers/smart building-type people. They all told him not to worry. If the crack isn't growing, which it's not, there's nothing to be concerned about. Several years have gone by, and the house has not collapsed. The crack has not grown.

Recently, Chris started clearing out the basement. It's a big basement, with years and years and years of rubbish and years and years and years of treasures all intermingled like a lasagna. He's gotten rid of a lot of stuff and organized what's left. For the first time in forever, you can see the walls. And that's when I realized that our house is going to fall down.

The wall is not just cracked, it's bowing. You stand in the empty basement and have this feeling that the earth is going to push right through and squash you flat. And if the earth doesn't squash you flat, the wall will give out and the house will squash you flat. Either way, you're toast.

So I run screaming from the house, put my children in the chicken coop for safe keeping and ask Chris what are we going to do what are we going to do what are we going to dooooooo? How soon can we get a new foundation or pour a concrete retaining wall or just excavate everything and surround ourselves with concrete pillars? Can we build flying buttresses? And why are you just standing there, Chris?????

In the midst of all this, Chris has been working on sound design for the studio and has decided where some new walls should go. These include a weight-bearing wall that runs the length of the house. Which we now have.

The weight-bearing wall is earning its sound studio keep, as it's already quieted some hysterical screaming.

Now I just have to go bring the kids back inside.

And cancel the guy with the bulldozer.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Hope is not actually a chicken, for the record

Two and a half years ago, I was at a friend's house when she came home with a box of baby chicks. They were kind of irresistible. I liked the idea of backyard chickens and told her they might be in our future, eventually. I just wasn't ready for all the chicken hoopla. Chicken hoopla being a building with a concrete floor and a fenced in run. Also an agriculture license, probably.

She convinced me there was no chicken hoopla. She told me you can have a simple coop in your backyard (at least where we live) and have a flock of one or two. She showed me coops you could build in an afternoon. She told me where to get baby chicks. She made me drink the punch.

I came home and announced my new found desire for chickens. Since I am the elitist prig of the family, Chris thought I was joking.

I asked for chickens for Mother's Day, 2007. I also asked for a small coop to put them in. Nothing fancy. I didn't want anyone to go to any trouble or expense. I wanted a coop we could move around the yard so the chickens could eat bugs and, er, fertilize.

We got three chickens. They lived in a small coop in the back yard until we lost one to a fox/coyote/neighborhood hoodlum in the middle of the day and moved them into the vegetable garden out front.

In 2009 we got more chickens. They are cute and fluffy and we cannot resist them. We became The People With Chickens.

The Upstairs Neighbor offered to build us a new coop, which he he did a few weeks ago. Our new coop is shingled. It has a sloped roof and trimmed windows and a bright red door. It has a fenced in yard that I could hang a hammock in. It has enough square footage and nesting boxes to house a dozen chickens. It is exactly what the chickens wanted.

It is also exactly what I wanted, despite the fact that it's exactly what I said I didn't want originally. Sometimes we don't want something because we're pretty sure we can actually have it.

Sometimes that something is chickens. Sometimes it's not.



Hope
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
-Emily Dickinson

Monday, January 4, 2010

dear anonymous

"Do we really have to know about this?"*

Short answer, no.

Honestly? I forget that you're out there. I don't call up random strangers and tell them all the details of my domestic life. I don't even do that with my friends. I'm more like the crazy lady on the park bench, telling stories. You're welcome to sit next to me if you want. I will give you some crumbs and you can feed the pigeons.

I write because I like stories, not because you have to know about it. Especially if you know us personally and really don't want to know. Too much information, I get it.

Slightly longer answer, yes.

I think we do need to know that sometimes people are fragile. No matter how confident they seem, people are sometimes tired and broken. I think we need to know that other people, people who like each other, sometimes argue. And that it's not the end of the world. We need to know we really are on the same team and even in moments of fury, we can see what we need to see. We need to know that other people are struggling with things, and finding resolution.

We have too many friends who held it together on the outside and then fell completely apart on the inside. While I respect the privacy of my home and family, I don't think it's bad for people to know that we're not the Stepfords.

It's not a reality show I'm running here, it's an online journal. Come sit on my bench with me if you wish, and I'll tell you stories.

But only if you want to hear them.

*asked by anonymous commenter on last post.

(thanks to everyone who had my back)

Friday, January 1, 2010

auspicious

So one day I'm sashaying around, all rock-starry, and the next day I'm at a party, hiding in the bathroom.

I would say "obviously, there's something wrong with me," but it doesn't feel like anything's wrong. It feels more like when you drop a glass on a tile floor and say "oh, dang. Someone should clean that up." Kind of pointy and splintery and scattered, but clean-up-able. It's not me that's in pieces. It's just this thing at my feet. It just happens sometimes. The crying. The hiding.

Still, spending New Year's Eve in a bathroom is not as auspicious as one might hope.

Equally inauspicious is waking up the next day to find oneself in the midst of a domestic dispute. Words were thrown. Someone may have implied that her partner, her spouse, her white knight would prefer it if she wore a ruffled apron when she cooks and cleans. Doors were slammed. House guests pretended not to hear.

"Mmmmm," they said. "This coffee's delicious."

Doors were opened. More accusations were hurled. "You make me out to be some kind of sexist monster," may have been said.

A sexist monster. This makes me inappropriately glad I have who I have. Because anyone who thinks it's monstrous to want his wife all be-aproned is okay with me. The pointy bits lose their bite. We are on the same team and there is hope for us. We are hugging in the kitchen, weeping. The houseguests look out the slider and point at things in the yard.

"See? There's a cardinal in the butterfly bush!"

And lo and behold, there is.