Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
(Testicle Festival in Rock Creek MT, 9/2002.)
I can't believe that it's been almost six years since I met Jamie & Regina--that is really, really difficult for me to wrap my head around. I haven't seen Regina for two years, and I haven't seen Jamie since shortly before she took off for Moldova with the Peace Corps in '05...
...which is why Memorial Day weekend in NYC stands to be pretty awesome, I think.
Monday, April 28, 2008
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
I just happened upon this old picture tonight, and thought it serendipitous that it's exactly four years old today. Now, Owen's almost five years old, and Emily says he's probably up to my shoulders already (he's SO TALL!), but I wager he can still do a pretty good "I'll come right at ya!" with a broom. I like to think I'm at least partially responsible for that.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
That fall, even though the director told me that my audition for the part of Aunt Eller had been the best, I was banished to the chorus with the other freshmen, left to skirmish over bonnets and who got to twirl one of the limited number of parasols during Ado Annie’s stirring rendition of “I Cain’t Say No.” (Even at the time, I wondered where a bunch of farm girls in Oklahoma would be getting all those fancy parasols from, exactly, but I recall this observation flying clear over the heads of the other chorus girls as they kept busy hoarding the best shades of lipstick and the laciest bonnets. This was one of the first signs I got that maybe in the future, the backstage area, with its pragmatism and persistent aura of sarcasm, would be the place for me.) There was a senior who’d also given a good audition, and the director gave the role to her, telling me that if I paid my dues I could probably land a speaking role in the spring play. I didn’t hold it against the chosen one, though, because she was funny & kooky & rebellious, and when she ran for homecoming queen she taped Weekly World News clippings all over the school with “VOTE 4 ERIKA” hastily scrawled on with a Sharpie. Clearly, if anyone else was prepared to do Aunt Eller justice, it was her.
I was only 14, so for after-school stuff I had to rely on my mom for rides home, mostly (even though I had an older brother attending the same school with a car at his disposal, but that’s a rant for another day). Mom’s patience for night after night of rehearsals (and pep band, and jazz band, and all the other pastimes of overachieving band geeks like me) had a tendency to wear thin, so eventually she started pestering me to pester other kids for rides home. Luckily, a neighbor down the road next to ours was also in the play, and after I offered Joe a lump sum to cover the extra gas it would take to go two miles out of his way a few nights each week, we had ourselves a deal.
I’d known Joe for years--we were in the same 4-H club when we were younger--and he was always interesting company, one of those intensely intelligent people who manages to be utterly down-to-earth and completely brilliant at the same time. He & his brothers had lived in Pakistan for a while when they were kids (their parents were missionaries), and it always lent the whole family a very exotic air even though they were from here--like they probably listened to a lot of public radio and spent their evenings in thoughtful debate about things they’d seen on Nova or building model cities, while over at my house, we were fighting over who got the next turn on the Super Nintendo and whining about having to do our math homework.
One rainy evening as we were zipping home after a rehearsal, the headlights flashed on something in the distance laying in the road. When we got within a car’s length of it, Joe pulled over and we got out to investigate--it turned out to be a porcupine that had apparently been struck dead by a car.
My reaction: “Oh, poor porcupine.”
Joe’s reaction: “Let’s gather quills!”
So we stood there for a few minutes in the rain, on the otherwise deserted road, dabbing a dead porcupine with a rolled-up t-shirt Joe found in the back of his mom’s Volvo station wagon. And as the drizzle slid down, and the car idled, and the wipers intermittently flitted across the windshield, "Piano Man" sang out of the speakers, and now whenever I hear that song I think of that night.
Friday, April 11, 2008
George, I can hear you...George?
Remember last night, when I was being a Wendy Whiner about the "excessive" (my word, not yours) weather coverage messin' with my Office-watching?
I'm sorry. (Well, mostly--I still think you guys could shrink down your school closings crawler, but that's neither here nor there.)
Blizzard warning: extended until 8 P.M. Saturday.
Over 10,000 without power in Duluth for parts of last night (down to around 7,500 now).
Northland News Center's video is knocked out, so the morning news round-up is like an old timey radio show.
Forgive me, George. (And thanks for that "don't go out and drive unless it's an absolute emergency" advisory--I owe you one for the day off.)
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Tonight on the local news they WILL NOT SHUT UP about the impending blizzard (or as I've taken to preemptively calling it, "THE MEGASTORM," which must be said in a "Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!" monster-truck-rally style voice for proper effect) which is currently passing over The Northland. Does it sound like it could be a doozy? Sure. Are strong winds and big heaps of snow important to know about in advance? Yeah, why not. What I take issue with is this:
1. By 5:00 tonight, they were already running tomorrow's school cancellations on TV. (Yes, they'd already canceled school for tomorrow, practically before school even got out today.) As a former representative of a quasi-Homeland Security project, I am all about preparation. I keep a first aid kit, a sleeping bag, a tent and two changes of clothes in my trunk. I have a winter survival kit in my glove compartment. Hell, out in Helena I kept a stock of emergency water in case of an earthquake. However, did we really need tomorrow's school closings to be scrolling constantly from 5:00 P.M. until the 10:00 news? Right in the middle of the first new episodes of The Office and 30 Rock in, like, six months? And sure, if they just scrolled along the bottom like a sensible little CNN-style banner, that'd be fine--but no, the Northland News Center instead puts them in the television equivalent of large-type font for the elderly and/or visually impaired. No exaggeration, it takes up a quarter of the screen. Their slogan as of late is "We give you more," and well, they may have been giving me more school cancellations, but they were giving me less Office. Which was kind of the opposite of the "more" I would ideally be looking for.
2. Everybody's acting like this is the first blizzard we've ever had. Newsflash: it's April. It's been snowing for the last FIVE MONTHS. Even if it turns out as bad as they're saying it might (50 mph gusts of wind, up to 20 inches of snow in some spots)...we're kind of professionals at living with snow at this point, aren't we? We spend half of every year with the stuff. We may not have as many words for it as the Eskimos, but the tally's probably close.
On the other hand, when the big storms come out, so does the big gun:
Oh, George Kessler. You make all the Office interruptions and footage of people swarming grocery stores for bottled water and Doritos seem worthwhile.
P.S. As of right now, we've got about 2 centimeters of snow on the porch.
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
"Each passerby had a quick choice to make, one familiar to commuters in any urban area where the occasional street performer is part of the cityscape: Do you stop and listen? Do you hurry past with a blend of guilt and irritation, aware of your cupidity but annoyed by the unbidden demand on your time and your wallet? Do you throw in a buck, just to be polite? Does your decision change if he's really bad? What if he's really good? Do you have time for beauty? Shouldn't you? What's the moral mathematics of the moment
On that Friday in January, those private questions would be answered in an unusually public way. No one knew it, but the fiddler standing against a bare wall outside the Metro in an indoor arcade at the top of the escalators was one of the finest classical musicians in the world, playing some of the most elegant music ever written on one of the most valuable violins ever made. His performance was arranged by The Washington Post as an experiment in context, perception and priorities -- as well as an unblinking assessment of public taste: In a banal setting at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?"
I'll warn you, the article's long, but it's honestly one of the most fascinating things I've read in ages (and the hidden-camera video clips are great, too). And it immediately made me wonder about the obvious question it raises: "Would I have stopped?"
I'd like to think I would have. I like to think I allow myself a certain amount of whimsy in my day-to-day life, a bit of frivolity and a sense of curiosity. I've always reminded myself of my mom in that sense--she's always "ooh"-ing and "ahh"-ing over things that catch her eye (sometimes to the point where my brother Whitey and I reference The Baby, The Immigrant & The Guy On Mushrooms with alarming frequency). But you know, who knows? If I lived in that kind of environment every day, would I grow numb to that sort of randomness, too? We don't have street musicians around here, so yeah, if someone popped up playing an accordian on Main Street, I'd stop for the novelty of it all. But if I saw it every day? And I was on my way to work, and hurrying along...?
One particular phrase in the article caught my eye, an excerpt of a poem by W. H. Davies called "Leisure":
"What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?"
Right after I read that, went out for my lunch break, and parked down by the lake where I park nearly every day. I eat my sandwiches, I read my magazines, I zone out. Well, today, right in the middle of that riveting routine, an enormous bald eagle came swooping down right over the top of my car. I don't know what drew it that far into town--I see them out by our house and further up the south shore sometimes, but never in Ashland like that--but there it was, swooping out over the patch of open water (maybe that's what caught its eye?), heckling the seagulls and scaring the bejeesus out of some loons. It hovered right above the water's surface--fish would appear in its talons, flopping and flailing. Sometimes the eagle would get the fish all the way to shore, sometimes they'd flop free and the eagle would dive into the water, swimming after the fish, doing some crazy bird breaststroke through the waves. I'd never seen anything like it.
This went on for almost an hour. Slowly, a few other cars pulled down into the parking lot--I suppose they could see the eagle from the highway above--and everybody sat in their cars (it's cold out today!), watching the spectacle out on the water. Slowly, the eagle moved away from our piece of shoreline, further out toward the coal dock & pilings away from the boat landing, but still some of us lingered, squinting off into the distance, catching glimpses of that big white head and those huge wings splashing in the water.
Was all this a happy accident? Did I just happen to be in the right place at the right time? Well, probably--if you sit in the same place almost every weekday of the year, yeah, you're probably bound to see something unique once in a while. But I couldn't help but see some greater significance in this moment--were those of us who had pulled over to watch the eagle the same people who'd stop and listen to a street busker? Maybe. Maybe not. Either way, I sure felt lucky to be there, and to have gotten the chance to stand and stare for a while.
Monday, April 07, 2008
Sunday, April 06, 2008
Thursday, 4:49 P.M.: Caller states daughter was threatening someone with a knife, says daughter is now at the beach making out with a male subject.
Thursday, April 03, 2008
"You are coming upon a period of change and liberation that will occur but two or three times in your lifetime, once between the ages of twenty-five and thirty-one and again between the ages of fifty-four and fifty-nine. During these time periods, changes will occur in your life that will free you from any restrictions upon your self-expression. New ideas and environments will be revealed to you, offering you innovative and exhilarating alternatives to the beliefs, habits and routines to which you've become accustomed. For example, you may find yourself involved in a brand new social circle, peopled with friends and acquaintances who are more progressive or eccentric than the people with whom you have generally associated. Perhaps you may accept a new job or shift into an unfamiliar and exciting line of work that will provide you greater freedom, challenge and opportunity for creativity. In various ways, this will be a personal era for adventure; head into uncharted territories and leave the old, worn down terrain behind you. Because these changes happen smoothly and gradually, you may not even understand their scope or significance."