Friday, July 31, 2009

And one more move to do...

As I write this, I am sitting in my office on campus which also has to be packed up and moved in the next week. This is a good thing--a new shiny office (with windows and brand-new furniture) up on the second floor with the rest of the department awaits me, but the very thought of packing another box (with books!) is cringe-inducing.

Also, this is my 500th post! Cool.


You know what's an awesome feeling? Waking up in your new house. And being an official Shepherdstownian (sp?).

The move went very well yesterday. If you are moving somewhere in this area, I highly recommend Rockwell's Moving and Storage. They sent over a four man crew who got everything packed and unpacked in less than two hours. Amazing. (Of course, I probably helped a bit by knocking off a decent chunk of time with my own full-car trips the day before.)

After they were gone, it was back to the old apartment to pick up the boys, who were locked in the bathroom. First, I did about 90 minutes worth of cleaning there. Then back to the house with cats in tow. I let them out to explore--which they did very slowly and tentatively at first--as I ate a quick lunch.

Then back to the apartment again to finish cleaning. I had to shampoo the carpets, wash the vinyl floors, etc. At this point I was already so tired (having slept less than 2 hours on Wednesday night after spending all that day loading and unloading my car) that it took every ounce of strength to haul that Rug Doctor up and down the stairs. I considered coming back today (Friday) to finish it all up, since I had until 5:00 today to get out. I didn't want to do that, since I had a 9:30 meeting with my department chair today and the cable guy coming between 2 and 5 (love those 3-hour windows), but I just didn't think I could get everything done before the landlady left at 5:00 on Thursday.

But then I saw that my landlady was (for some reason) staying in the office later than she usually does and I used that as motivation to get it all done. So I did. I was like Popeye full of spinach, if Popeye full of spinach was also a whiny, bitchy, tired girl who was basically crawling up the stairs as she vacuumed them. I don't even want to think about what I looked like (a sweaty mess) when I finally stumbled into her office to hand in the keys. Here's a hint, though: she said, "How's it going over there? About as much fun as a funeral, right?"

I also look like I am a beating victim--bruises all over my arms and legs from boxes and whatever. Lovely stuff. I can't help it: moving is like a full-contact sport for me.'s all worth it because A) I am officially done with the old apartment and B) now comes the really fun part: unpacking. (And I mean that--I like unpacking.)

Oh, and Bing and Wesley are doing great. Right now they are kind of like little stalkers, following me from room to room (or at least floor to floor), but they are also having fun--chasing each other around, playing, sleeping, eating, etc. It's like they are their regular old selves, but just a bit excited and hyper-aware. But I think they love their new house already.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Closing went well today. The whole thing took less than an hour and was actually kind of fun. I was moving stuff into the new house by 12:00. Four absolutely packed carloads, some more packing, and a decent amount of cleaning later, I am WIPED out! Let me take a moment to sing the praises of my Mazda 3 hatchback, which can fit a ton of stuff into it once I put the seats down.

Anyway, the movers come tomorrow morning to do the rest--all the furniture and heavy lifting (books, etc). But already, I've made progress settling in and making the place feel like home.

Tonight, one last night in the old apartment. And then on we go! Thanks for all your well-wishes. I've got awesome friends.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tomorrow's the day...

The closing is tomorrow at 10:30! Packing is almost all done, too.

Wesley (complete with laser eyes) high on a stack of boxes. (Photo made more dramatic by me holding the camera on the floor.)

To tell you the truth, I am feeling a bit overwhelmed right now, but excited. I am not sure if I'll be able to sleep at all tonight. Maybe I should take lessons from Wes.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Studies in American Humor

Well, look here: it's the latest edition of Studies in American Humor. Cool! Let's have a look at what's inside. issue edited by my good friend, Gretchen (whose book you should read and buy, by the way)? Cool!

And what's this? It certainly looks interesting! But let's get a closer look...

Yeah, baby! That's me!

Saying good-bye to the neighbors...

One of the most interesting (and often depressing) things about living in this apartment complex is that there are lots of stray cats (at least a dozen adults) that live in the area. All of them are pretty much feral--no way they would let a person touch them. Several of them, though, are infatuated by Bing and Wesley and frequently come up to the patio doors to "visit." Wesley loves it. He gets so excited and whines and whines for me to let them in--something I would never do of course, since they could have all kinds of diseases. And some of them probably would come in too, so long as I didn't get too close. Again, they love the boys, not me. Bing loves the visitors, too, but doesn't want to admit it. He's like that.

Anyway, the other night, I had some leftover chicken that I didn't want to save and that the boys didn't want to eat (they aren't that big on people-food), so I broke one of my own rules and put it out for the strays. The way I figured it, it would be a bit of a good-bye feast from us to them. Plus, Bing and Wes would get some enjoyment out of the visit.

In the time it took me to load the dishwasher, two of our more frequent guests had arrived and were happily chowing down: one of the tortie-colored females who go ga-ga over Wesley (I call them his girlfriends) and an orange tabby that I call, for lack of a better name, "Less Attractive Bing." And yes, I've gotten a lot of grief for this nickname. Over the winter, he was the one cat I fed kind of consistently, since he huddled up against the front wall of the apartment and looked kind of sad, sickly, and cold. But despite all my care, he never let me get that close to him. Vogel once suggested that it was because I called him "Less Attractive Bing." I protested that I never called him that to his face. She said, "It doesn't matter. He knows." Oh well.

So here's some video of the Good-Bye Feast.

It was actually pretty cute--both the tortie and "L.A.B." would take little eating breaks to come up the window to visit with the boys. (I should add that them getting that close does make me just a bit nervous, but my cats are up to date on their shots and their flea preventatives...but still...)

After they left, the boys kept waiting for them to come back...

That was both sweet and sad. Poor strays...they really do break my heart sometimes.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Three quick links...

1) Fancy Fast Food. The posts at this blog are certainly creative, but they also kind of make me want to throw up.

2) Vanity Fair's executive literary editor, copy editors, and research department take on Sarah Palin's resignation speech. This is all kinds of awesome and I kind of wish they would do it for other political speeches--from both parties, because this kind of poor writing is definitely a bipartisan problem.

3) Les Lye, who played Barth and just about every other adult male character on You Can't Do That on Television, just died. This show was a favorite for my little sister and I when we were kids.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Two poems...

Things are a bit strange around here these days. There is, after all, so much going on and at the same time, so little. The move is soon (very soon!) and along with that comes all these emotions: anxiety, excitement, even a bit of sadness over leaving this old apartment, and the general feeling of unease that comes from being unsettled. Part of me wants to go to sleep and wake up on moving day. Part of me wants to freeze the clock.

Moreover, it's been so very quiet these last couple of weeks. That's good and bad, I suppose. I like the time I've had to get work done--reading, writing, taking notes, working on my article and conference paper. Being able to do those tasks uninterrupted (without even classes to teach)and realizing that it is my actual job to do these things is, of course, quite wonderful.

And yet sometimes it gets lonely--loneliness exasperated by that lack of teaching I mentioned above and the day-to-day busy-ness of the semester. I find myself missing lots of people and wondering where in the world the summer has gone. Classes start in less than a month, which is (yes, you guessed it) good and bad. I thought I'd have a chance to do more and to see more people. It's hard to shut my brain off at night--I just lay there thinking and planning and worrying and thinking and...well, you get the point.

Anyway, all of this is a long set-up for an (admittedly somewhat pedantic) point about the poems below and poetry in general: when I found them (on the "Poem of the Day" podcast), for a moment, they kind of lifted me away from all of that stuff I've listed above but then dropped me back in that world feeling somewhat better, or at least, somewhat different. And that's very cool.

1) "Pumpernickel" by Philip Schultz. This one goes a place I didn't really see coming--takes us from bread-making to poetry writing and reminds us what both arts do--and why we do them. That last line is just amazing. Oh, and it inspired me to bake some bread this afternoon.

Monday mornings Grandma rose an hour early to make rye,
onion & challah, but it was pumpernickel she broke her hand for,
pumpernickel that demanded cornmeal, ripe caraway, mashed potatoes
& several Old Testament stories about patience & fortitude & for
which she cursed in five languages if it didn't pop out fat
as an apple-cheeked peasant bride. But bread, after all,
is only bread & who has time to fuss all day & end up
with a dead heart if it flops? Why bother? I'll tell you why.
For the moment when the steam curls off the black crust like a strip
of pure sunlight & the hard oily flesh breaks open like a poem
pulling out of its own stubborn complexity a single glistening truth
& who can help but wonder at the mystery of the human heart when you
hold a slice up to the light in all its absurd splendor & I tell you
we must risk everything for the raw recipe of our passion.

2) "Tree" by Jane Hirshfield. Perhaps I related to this one because of the upcoming move and packing up (and thinking a lot about) my own "clutter of soup pots and books." Things that, even as I carefully wrap them in paper and bubblewrap, seem so minor, so unsubstantial, when "immensity taps at your life."

It is foolish
to let a young redwood
grow next to a house.

Even in this
one lifetime,
you will have to choose.

That great calm being,
this clutter of soup pots and books—

Already the first branch-tips brush at the window.
Softly, calmly, immensity taps at your life.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Wesley in the Window

Because I am confident and self-assured enough to have two alliterative cat video posts in a row...

...and because I don't want folks to say I favor one cat over the other.

By the way, he isn't looking at me when he turns from the window. He's looking at Bing (in his box) who was shifting around a bit anxiously when he saw me paying too much attention to Wes.

Countdown to Closing

So I am about ten days from closing, which means there is lots of packing going on here. Sometimes packing is all I can think about. I lie in bed at night and think, "Now which kind of box would work best for the spice rack?" And then there are all the other calculations (complicated by my disdain for living in a disordered space or half-packed): When do you take the pictures off the walls? (That happened today.) When do you pack the DVDs? (Not yet.)

Lately, of course, I am obsessed with boxes--finding them, stacking them, getting the most out of every inch of them. I've got them stashed strategically around the apartment. There's a fairly decent sized stack upstairs in the bedroom and I headed up there today to get one for some kitchen stuff (a few odd bowls, some mugs, etc.) I needed one that wasn't too small, wasn't too big, one that was nice and sturdy. And I knew just the perfect one...only one problem...

It was occupied. Lately, this box in particular has been Bing's spot. He sleeps there all the time. Originally, it was actually sitting with its opening on top and he would jump in that way. I almost jumped across the room the first time I found him in there. Somehow, he flipped it and has been sitting, like a "Bing Diarama" ever since. (They've always loved moving boxes for this reason.)

It's worth noting that this box is the highest box on the highest stack of boxes in the room. (This would have been more obvious earlier in the week, before the rest of the boxes started getting used.) And of course it is--this cat enjoys looking down on the rest of us.

The big question, of course, is how long I continue to let Bing occupy such a desirable and useful box. I've asked a couple of friends who are firmly in the "don't you take his box away from him!" camp.

I tried to talk the matter over with him today...and you can see how quickly I crumbled.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Visiting Allison...

Last week, when Shannon drove up for a short visit, we took a quick trip about an hour North to visit with Allison and her family. And we took Mini-Jane along. Some pictures:

Shannon, Cameron, and Allison. Matthew (Allison's son) and Greg (Allison's fiance) were there, too, but they both kind of disappeared after dinner.

Cameron on her scooter, with Mini-Jane riding along. Right about this time, Cameron started asking me, "Can I keep her?" I had to be the bad guy and say no.

I snapped this one when Cameron was shaking her head "No," I think in response to me asking for Mini-Jane back. As you can tell from her smile, though, she thought it was all pretty funny.
So that about sums up my time with Mini-Jane. In the next couple of days, I'll put her in the mail and she'll spend some time with the Tran family and baby Abigail.

Eleventh of the Month Club

Disclaimer: this post is mostly for Shannon, who I think probably feels I haven't been whimsical, silly, or wacky enough during my time with Mini-Jane. That's probably true, but I did my best, Shan!

Real Jane, over in Azerbaijan, has instituted the 11th of the month club, which you can read about here. Mini-Jane and I were sure to celebrate in the time she spent with me. The gist of it: each 11th of the month, you have a drink (or more) to mark one less month until Real Jane comes home on 9/11/09.)

May. (It was a rough month, okay?)


And July--just this past weekend. We were feeling like it was a wine-night, kind of unusual in these parts.

Mini-Jane Meets Academia

As I mentioned earlier, after spending time in Virginia (twice), Arkansas, and New Jersey, Mini-Jane came home with me after Alumni Weekend. (See here for some background if you don't know who Mini-Jane is. And some more pictures of our adventures so far here.) It became apparent pretty quickly that life with me is not nearly as exciting as life with the Hollandsworths (babies! chemisty labs!), the Lobes (12 cats! lab rats! yard work! crafts!), the Nagles (another baby! a classroom of fourth graders!), or the Flegals (real Jane's family! Christmas! presents!). What is life like here in Heidi-ville? Well, poor Mini-Jane found out...the short version: lots of teaching, grading, reading, and writing. Not a bad life, but not it doesn't make for the most exciting pictures.

Mini-Jane with a stack of final exams.

Collapsing on a stack of papers. I guess she doesn't know that you aren't supposed to grade in red. It's bad for students' self-esteem or something...

But it's not all bad! Sometimes we get to dress up! Here she is with me on graduation day.

Mini-Jane soon learned that "summer break" isn't exactly the break it's supposed to be. Even when we hit the road for a trip to Greensboro, we still had to get work done. Even David got in on the act, working on his dissertation with Jane's help.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

"Heidi is the girl who knows what's cool in school."

Yesterday afternoon, my phone rang.

"Tante Heidi? It's Olivia. I have to tell you something."


"There are these Sketchers called Heidi Hi-Tops. You need to get them."

"I do?"

"And there's a song. You need them."

Apparently, my five year-old niece and nephew got very excited when they saw the commercial below and insisted that they call me to tell me all about it.

One question: how in the world did the people behind this commercial recreate my high school experience so perfectly?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Summer Reading

It goes without saying that there’s been a lot of reading going on here this summer. In terms of “work reading,” I’ve been thoroughly immersed in him and her. And then there was my Summer I class. But all work and no play gives Heidi a dull summer, so I’ve been doing lots of “fun reading,” too. Here are some highlights:

1) The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz. Everyone’s been talking about this book for awhile now, and for good reason. I picked it up in January, plowed through the first 100 pages or so, then had to put it down as the semester got really crazy. For me, it just wasn’t the kind of book I could read the way I read for fun during the semester—30 or 60 minute clips before bed or longer blocks over weekends. Once May hit, though, I turned back to it and read it in long and indulgent sittings. And it’s amazing—what a book! It might sound cheesy, but it’s almost like the book is alive in your hands. That’s just the way Diaz writes—the prose is so alive, so vibrant, so rich. And the characters are unforgettable.

2) When You are Engulfed in Flames, by David Sedaris. I am cheating a bit by calling this “Summer reading,” since I bought this book over a year ago when I was apartment hunting with Vogel in Philadelphia. (The receipt is still in the book and served quite well as a bookmark.) But, after I read the first few essays, I let it get buried in a stack of books by my bed, only really picking it up again in May, once the last exam was graded. If you liked David Sedaris’ earlier books, you’ll like this one, too. All the things I love about Sedaris—his funny observations about language, his unashamed revelations about his own character, and the way he sometimes slips sentiment into his cynicism—all of that’s in here, too. I always read with a pencil nearby. I have a habit of making little smiles in the margins when something makes me laugh. At some point, I realized how pointless these marks are in a book like When You are Engulfed in Flames. It’s like pointing out ants at a picnic or something.

3) Butterflies Dance in the Dark, by Beatrice MacNeil. My parents picked this book up for me last summer when they took a cruise up North and stopped in Cape Breton. MacNeil was signing copies of her book in a little shop. My dad says he read the back, thought it looked interested, and picked up a copy for me—complete with inscription from the author. (“To Dr. Heidi,” it reads. My parents never miss out on the chance to tell people that I have a PhD. If I did it, it would seem obnoxious. When they do it, it’s kind of cute, I think.) Anyway, the book is enjoyable and not at all what I was expecting. Mari-Jen is unlike any first person narrator I’ve encountered before: she’s intelligent and creative, but also suffers from a learning disability and, later in the book, something quite like mental illness or at least severe emotional disturbance. At times, I found myself tired of her and her reticence. But MacNeil renders her with rich detail and real skill. What is also accomplished quite well, I think, is a vivid depiction of the region. I am also quite fond of Alfred and Albert, the main character’s twin brothers. They might be my favorite thing about this book.

4) Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpha Lahiri. This book had been on my radar for years and I’d already read three of the short stories in this collection—and loved each one (“This Blessed House,” “Sexy,” and the title story). I’ve blogged about Lahiri before here. Not much to say except that each story in this collection is amazing. Considering only the stories that were new to me, “A Temporary Matter” stands out for its absolutely devastating conclusion. Lahiri is absolutely one my favorite writers still working today. Part of me can’t wait to dive into Unaccustomed Earth, her new collection. But there is also a part of me that wants to put off reading it, since once I am done with it, I’ll have to wait who knows how long for another Lahiri book.

5) The Madhouse Nudes, by Robert Schultz. Schultz teaches at Roanoke (he started there a couple of years after I graduated), and I found out about this book after reading that it had been selected by the newly-formed Lutheran Writers Book Club. I picked up an old library copy online for a couple of bucks. Like the MacNeil book, this one wasn’t what I expected, but if you are interested in how the body is represented in art (especially the female body), Schultz gives you plenty to think about. He’s also a poet—something that shines through again and again in his beautiful prose.

6) Portisville, by Steve Cushman. Steve and I were first-year TAs together at UNCG. We even shared an office at one point. He’s a great guy so it makes me happy to hear he’s found success. Last summer, I picked up a copy of the book at Ed McKay's in Greensboro. Once I began Portisville, I had the distinct memory of hearing Steve read the first chapter at his thesis reading back in 2002—a testimony to the power of that chapter. The reviews of Portisville on the back cover describe it quite well: “lean, cool prose…a story crackling with reality,” “taut, raw, and gritty.” Steve’s got a new collection of short stories out which I might have to pick up.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

More on Buffy vs. Twilight

The creator of that awesome clip writes about why he made it here.

Some key passages:

"As an aspiring feminist guy, I wanted to speak out about issues of sexism and gender oppression in media but I wanted to do so carefully and intentionally. That’s why I chose to focus my critique on Edward’s patriarchal behavior in Twilight rather than on Bella’s actions. I didn’t feel it was my place to lecture her on desire (even in remix form), especially since her character is already disempowered by the original screenplay to the point of absurdity. So I built each scene around Edward, and then looked for appropriate responses from Buffy. Sorting through seven seasons worth of witty dialog and dramatic footage from Buffy was a lot of fun, and telling the tale through her and her friends’ perspective allows us to understand the messages underlying the mythology of the film and the TV show in a new way – and to enjoy the process. I should note that I am not the first to make this critique of the Twilight series, nor did I invent the process of re-imagining pop culture stories. I was inspired by women who have been creating fan fiction as self-conscious creative communities since before I was born. I was heavily influenced by fannish vidding as well as by feminist critiques of popular culture, especially those of bell hooks, whose writings have helped opened my eyes on issues of race, gender and love."

But I think this is my favorite part:

"In the end the only reasonable response was to have Buffy stake Edward – not because she didn’t find him sexy, not because he was too sensitive or too eager to share his feelings – but simply because he was possessive, manipulative, and stalkery."

Awful Library Books

A new favorite blog! (Read about the above book here.)

Some more favorites: here and here (a companion to the first one, of course), and here.

And then there's this.

Now I have to say that the historian in me (or at least the literary historian...ugh, that sounds pretentious) doesn't believe any book is really without value. And, importantly, that isn't really the argument these bloggers are making. Check it out here.

"Good things are twice as good in Cellophane"

Top Ten Ironic Ads from History. This list also includes that creepy James Dean PSA about safe driving. (via Andrew Sullivan)

Visit from the family...

A few pictures from one of the best parts of my summer so far: a visit from my mom, my sister, Colin, and Olivia. I don't have that many, in part because my mom and Tara were snapping tons of pictures the whole time and I'll just get copies from them. I still wanted to share a few, though.

We visited Harpers Ferry (both the National Historic Park section and the Historic District) and really enjoyed it. I think you could spend several days there doing all sorts of things. I really like this shot of Colin looking at the geese by the river. I love how he has his hands crossed behind him.

One of my favorite parts of Harpers Ferry was the John Brown Wax Museum (not a part of the National Park). Equal parts educational, campy, horrifying, and funny, you have to see it to believe it. I wish I had audio of my sister trying to explain slavery, abolitionism, and the complicated legacy of someone like John Brown to her kids. Case in point: the first scene represents young John Brown witnessing a slave child being beaten. Then came a scene from "Bleeding Kansas." Quite a challenge for a parent to explain. I must say, though, she did a great job emphasizing the bare bones truths: people should be treated fairly no matter what they look like and violence is rarely the right way to solve a problem.

The kids were mesmerized (and probably permanently scarred) by the body of Heyward Shepherd, the first man killed in John Brown's raid. It lays on the ground and when you hit a button, and as a narrator tells what's going on in the scene, the guy's chest moves up and down in the throes of death. Lovely stuff. It just gets better from there--John Brown on a stretcher during his trial (which is historically accurate, of course), and finally...

...Brown about to meet his doom. I was half expecting his wax figure to turn animatronic and fall through the floor, but thankfully (for the kids, at least) it didn't go that far. Still, even this image is a lot to explain to a couple of 5-year olds.

That same evening we had dinner at my mom's favorite Shepherdstown restaurant, the Bavarian Inn. It was a lovely night--we ate outside (in perfect weather for outdoor dining), the kids were well-behaved, the food was delicious, and as we sat there, the lightening bugs lit up the grounds around the inn.

Colin snapped this picture of my mom at the restaurant. I am struck by how much she looks like my late great-aunt, Tante Lieselotte, in this picture.

One last picture--another one Colin took--of Olivia and I at dinner.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Link dumping...

1) What the aliens are watching right now. (Trust me--this one is interesting.)

2) Kate has drawn my attention to My Life is Average. This is one of those A) "it's funny 'cause it's true" and B) "it's funny 'cause I can relate" blogs that threatens (because of A and B) to become kind of sad.

3) This year's Bulwer-Lytton winners. A couple of my favorites:

"The wind dry-shaved the cracked earth like a dull razor--the double edge kind from the plastic bag that you shouldn't use more than twice, but you do; but Trevor Earp had to face it as he started the second morning of his hopeless search for Drover, the Irish Wolfhound he had found as a pup near death from a fight with a prairie dog and nursed back to health, stolen by a traveling circus so that the monkey would have something to ride."

"On a fine summer morning during the days of the Puritans, the prison door in the small New England town of B----n opened to release a convicted adulteress, the Scarlet Letter A embroidered on her dress, along with the Scarlet Letters B through J, a veritable McGuffey's Reader of Scarlet Letters, one for each little tyke waiting for her at the gate."

4) From "Dear Plagiarist..."

5) Also, there's this. The music is the best part.

Finally, a Michael Jackson post...sort of.

I don't really have anything to say about Michael Jackson or his death, but an unanticipated positive result of his death was Fox's re-airing of "Stark Raving Dad," one of the best episodes of "The Simpsons." It was great to watch this one again, but it made me realize (once again) something that hurts a bit to admit--an episode like this one (from Season 3), makes it quite clear how far this show has fallen. (This is something Amber and I have talked about a lot.) There is so much to appreciate in a gem like this including:

1) Homer standing out at work because of his pink shirt: A great little statement on conformity that would make Emerson proud. And we also hear Mr. Burns say, "Simpson, eh?" Seriously, when is the last time we heard that? Or even saw that much of Homer at the power plant?

2) Lisa's poem reflecting on her birthday which begins, "I had a cat named Snowball. She died! She died!"

3) The "insane" stamp on Homer's hand that he can't wash off.

4) The town's reaction to "Michael Jackson's arrival": "He's 300 pounds!" "He's white!" "He's dressed without flair!"

5) The fantastic "Happy Birthday, Lisa" song. (And Bart's first attempt at a song makes me chuckle, too.)

This is "The Simpsons" at its best: funny and wonderfully satiric, but also with a heart. So much of this is absent in the new episodes which seem driven by one or two jokes with no real purpose beyond them. (There are recent exceptions, of course, but they are few and far between.) I'll continue watching new episodes, but I really wish they could make episodes like they did back then.

Anyway, you might find the Wikipedia entry on this episode interesting, as it explains just how MJ's guest appearance came together.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The dog and the duck...

This made me smile and reminded me of dear, departed Fred the duck, and his rabbit friend, Todd, who used to live in our backyard.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Even more from Mike S.: his creative side...

So Mike S. was more than just a sweet-talker: he was also kind of creative. I can't draw to save my life (and wasn't any better back then!), so I imagine I was quite impressed by his efforts.

Take for example, this little font he designed. (Again, very hard to read unless you click on it--sorry about that.)

It's not tough enough to be any kind of code, but he did write several notes in it.

Then consider this sweet little drawing of us driving off into (well, away from, actually) the sunset.

Finally, lots of the notes had little drawings on them, like this one which features a "You may kiss the bride" illustration on top.

Transcription: "Dear Heidi, How was your Easter? Mine was great! Why don't you ever write back? I feel like I just waste paper. Oh, I finally got my new glasses. I look like a nerd. There a little tinted, but the guy who made them tinted them too much. That's why I think anyway. Love Mike."

So just how tinted should a fourth-grader's glasses be? That's not an easy question for a kid living on Long Island in the mid-80s, I guess.

Meeting Ainsley

On the last Friday in June, I got to do something I've been waiting to do since September: meet Rita's baby girl, Ainsley. Rita and company were down in the DC area visiting family, so we met up in Frederick (and visited Wonder Book, which was also super fun).

Some pictures from that day:

Check out the red hair and blue eyes. What a cutie she is! And she was so sweet and friendly. Within minutes of meeting her, I was carrying her all over the store and listening to her baby talk (which was mostly laughter and squeals of delight).

Mommy and baby. Mikey (aka "Daddy") was there, too, but I didn't get any pictures of him. Sorry, dude.

Yet another baby-napping in progress? It was hard to let her go and say good-bye to her, Rita, and Mikey again. I need to get myself up to MA for a nice, long visit.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

$240 worth of pudding...

This review reminded me that The State is out on DVD on July 14. It's been on my Amazon wishlist of some time now and would certainly make an awesome housewarming and/or birthday present. Just kidding. Kind of...

EDIT: I originally had a clip embedded here of the "$240 Worth of Pudding" sketch, but the clip wouldn't load properly, so you can just click here to see it.

Fourth of July

It's been a very quiet Independence Day here, but a good one. I did wander out (in my car) tonight, searching for some fireworks to watch. (I love fireworks.) I didn't want to wrestle with the traffic near the big Martinsburg City-sponsored fireworks, but figured I might be able to see some of the smaller amateur shows. (Fireworks are legal in this state, unlike NY where I grew up, and I am still amazed at the kinds of things ordinary folks can set off.) Anyway, I pulled into the parking lot of a supermarket really close to my house when I saw that some people were shooting off some pretty decent fireworks in a clearing just beyond the store. But here's the cool part: as luck would have it (and this was total dumb luck) that particular spot had a clear view of the city's big fireworks. So I sat there and watched them--over 30 minutes of pretty impressive stuff. It was strange: part of me was a bit down about watching alone, but part of me also loved it.

Anyway, here's a poem that seems sort of appropriate for today. I found it (you guessed it) on the "Poem of the Day" podcast not too long ago. There's also a great audio version here.

"Facing It"

by Yusef Komunyakaa

My black face fades,
hiding inside the black granite.
I said I wouldn't,
dammit: No tears.
I'm stone. I'm flesh.
My clouded reflection eyes me
like a bird of prey, the profile of night
slanted against morning. I turn
this way—the stone lets me go.
I turn that way—I'm inside
the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
again, depending on the light
to make a difference.
I go down the 58,022 names,
half-expecting to find
my own in letters like smoke.
I touch the name Andrew Johnson;
I see the booby trap's white flash.
Names shimmer on a woman's blouse
but when she walks away
the names stay on the wall.
Brushstrokes flash, a red bird's
wings cutting across my stare.
The sky. A plane in the sky.
A white vet's image floats
closer to me, then his pale eyes
look through mine. I'm a window.
He's lost his right arm
inside the stone. In the black mirror
a woman’s trying to erase names:
No, she's brushing a boy's hair.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Here comes the bride...

Yup, my little sister got engaged this past weekend. Congratulations Erin and Eric!

Tobias Wolff on Fiction...

One of my most fortunate recent discoveries is the New Yorker Fiction Podcast. Every month a writer chooses a story from the New Yorker archives, reads it aloud, and then discusses it briefly with the magazine's fiction editor. Coming across these stories is like stumbling upon a treasure chest. Just a few titles that I've been introduced to and fell in love with: "Reunion," by John Cheever, read by Richard Ford; "“How to Date a Brown Girl (Black Girl, White Girl, or Halfie),” by Junot Diaz, read by Diaz and selected by Edwidge Danticat; “The Gospel According to Mark,” by Jorge Luis Borges, read by Paul Theroux; "A Day," by William Trevor, read by Jhumpha Lahiri; “Bullet in the Brain,” by Tobias Wolff, read by T.C. Boyle; "The Wood Duck," by James Thurber, read by Jonathan Lethem; "Dance in America," by Lorrie Moore, read by Louise Erdrich; and "Last Night," by James Salter, read by Thomas McGuane.

(Yes--that's a long list, but what can I say?)

Anyway, just the other day I listened to another fabulous story, one of my favorites so far, "Dog Heaven," by Stephanie Vaughn, read by Tobias Wolff. But just as much as I enjoyed the story, so too did I love the post-reading discussion between Wolff and Deborah Treisman. I found myself stopping the podcast and going to back to replay Wolff's lovely description of fiction--and what he finds so appealing about Vaughn's story:

“In fact, we’re always living next door to worlds that we don’t suspect and the best fiction suddenly illuminates that thing that’s been beside us all along and makes us see it for the first time and makes us enter another world.”

That's great stuff, right?

Cover your heads...

This awesome email was waiting for me this morning (it had been sent to all Shepherd employees):

"Due to bat infestation, the top floor of Knutti Hall will be unavailable July 1st through July 13th. If you need assistance with classes, or other services connected with the top floor of Knutti Hall please contact your dean or my office and we will assist you."

So many questions...

Where did the bats come from? I was last in the building on Sunday and didn't see or hear any, which, in retrospect, is actually much creepier than having seen them.

Also, what in the heck are they going to do to get rid of them? And why will it take three weeks?

Just how many bats constitute an "infestation"? (And yes, I realize I probably don't want to know the answer to this question and the previous two.)

Right now, my office is in the basement of this building, which is "safe," I guess, but I should limit my deep cleansing breaths.