I just checked my mom's blog, Somewise, and came across her recent entry about teaching ESL on the first day of kindergarten, when children have no idea how to interact. It's a pretty sweet sketch of day one.
The Internet: A Very Interesting Place

Recent search terms that have brought readers to this site in the last few days:
"as though guided" NPR
bridal and cathedral veil and korean
classism in harry potter
j lo's nipples
"garrison keillor" "minnesota" "single men"
"Michael row your boat ashore"+"mp3"
goldfish centerpieces
"Sparrows in England"
gwen stefani thigh boots
"forced into girlhood" (Denmark's google)
"hampshire" "no grades" "no classes"
the golden compass, sexist AND women (wha---????)

And of course your usual set of household concerns:
Crawlspace pictures
Crawlspace mold
Crawlspace opening detail
digging out crawlspace long island
(and sadly,)
opposum crawlspace


Open House

She almost drove right in, but hesitated instead. It seemed wrong to park in a stranger's driveway. They looked at each other. "Better park on the street," he said.

The young couple pulled themselves out of the car. She was dressed in a stray tank top and her adventure pants; he hadn't shaven in days. She shrugged. "Let's just go in," she said. They walked up the steps to the house and through an open door.

"Hello?" she called. They were standing in a foyer flanked by a sitting room, next to a wall covered in about 25 black and white portraits of babies. The babies all looked about the same; long-cheeked, faintly dour, musty, cloaked in white caps and white gowns, looking at something just beyond the camera. "Hi there!" said the portly realtor, rushing down the stairs. "I'm Richard." He smiled toothily and shook hands with the couple.

Richard led the way through a small and awkward sitting room, past the larger living room, and into a beautiful, sun-filled kitchen. She touched the granite counters. "Have you looked at other properties in Weston?" Richard asked. "No, we were just driving by," she said. "We're trying to get a sense of the market," said her unshaven husband. "We saw your sign," she said. Richard nodded as if he got it. They didn't have any money. But then he started pitching Weston as a place to live. "#1 school district in the state," he said confidently. She took a packet from the granite counter. Photo after photo of the house, and then the fact sheet. "Lots of trees," continued Richard. "Doesn't get any quieter than this." He was wearing a brassy green tie.

He sighed, pivoted on his shiny, tassled shoe, and began to lead the way out of the kitchen. "Don't be fooled by the electric stove," he said. "This house has gas." The couple nodded solemnly and headed up the carpeted stairs. Two full baths and three bedrooms, all beautifully lit. "This parquet pops right up," said Richard, pointing to the floor. He found a closet with hardwood floors and showed it to the couple. In their minds, they were ripping up the parquet floor, and exposing gorgeous hardwood.

"I think you'll agree that this is quite a value at $879,000," said Richard. The couple smiled. She looked out the master bedroom window, into the immense pines. "Now, there are a couple pony stalls out back, and a tack room," he said. Soon they were standing in the stone horse barn. There was a goat hutch a few yards away. "I think this would make a great wine cellar," said Richard, flicking on the tack room light. "What about horses?" she asked. "Could you keep horses on this land?" "Oh, sure," said Richard. "Many people in Weston do."

They traversed the land, past the garage, through the big yard, and looked down the hill and through the trees to the old stone wall that marked the back of the property. The couple both breathed in deeply. Richard led them back inside and made one more pitch before they shook his hand goodbye and passed the wall of babies. "Not bad for our first open house," she said. He laughed as they got back in their little car and drove down the quiet, quiet road.



The little boy ran around and around in a big loose loop, laughing hard. He was gleeful, two years old, and clutching a free white pen light which was lettered: "REVELS, Charles River Conservancy." His soft red hair flew up in the air and he pounded the grass with his sneakers, which were equipped with red lights that flashed as he ran. Night was falling and the sky was clear. He raced around and around his parents and godparents, gleeful just to be outside, in the grass, on the banks of the big river. He ran so freely that he would stumble, fall, look up at his mama, and then push himself up to standing. First his feet on the ground, then his bottom in the air, then finally, with some effort, his hands off the ground, and he was ready to run around in another big loop. A little boy began chasing him, just for the thrill. They both laughed hysterically.

Bunches of people clustered on either side of the river, singing a chorus to one another across the river. "Michael, row your boat ashore," sang a lady into a microphone. "Hallelujah!" sang one side of the river. "Milk and honey on the other side," sang a man into the microphone. "Hallelujah," sang the other side of the river. On the Weeks bridge stood a conductor, bathed in a spotlight, flanked by a large puppet of a North African river goddess, pointing to first to one side of the river, then the other. As it began to get darker, the big spotlight in the nearby truck shone on people and made them radiant with white. Nearby, crew teams sped down the center of the river, their single light reflected in the smooth blackness of the Charles.

All of this was much too complicated for someone who is only two. He was also getting clumsier with his movements, stumbling and losing direction. Suddenly, the little boy ran into a stranger. When he hit the knees of the older man and looked up in surprise, his face was overcome with doubt and fear. He looked around for his mother. She waved, he regained his senses, and ran in another loop. Alas, another crash. He was tired. When he got up and began to motor again, Mama grabbed him, swung him around, higher and higher, until, wham! he landed in his stroller. He began to cry when he realized he'd been tricked.

The movement of the stroller soothed him, and walking away, in the dark, leaving behind the big puppets, the spotlight, the crowds, the singing, and the river, it grew quiet again. It was the first night of his third autumn, even if he didn't know it yet.


High Kicks

We're learning to swing dance, and we had our first class last night. Five couples, each person hand in hand with their partner, Christine leading us all in the "feel" and the rhythm, enjoying the pleasure and reliability of having to lead and having to follow. One couple's youngest daughter just left the nest two weeks ago, one couple is getting married in six weeks and has hired a swing band, and there was us, on the night of our third anniversary, dancing around a high school gym, married two and a half months now. Afterward, we stopped at the pet store and I held Madison, a black pug baby, just before she headed to her new home.

I am sometimes tempted to make this blog have some sort of theme, some kind of grander meaning than a record of what I find interesting. It could be about children's book publishing, which might bore a lot of people, or it could be about cooking, but then it could only get new entries periodically. Right now, if it has a theme, it's marriage, pugs, and various outrageous presidential poll results.

Perhaps the theme could be: "little stories." I could write true stories. I might write a few less entries, but even today's entry could have been more interesting if it was a little story.


My Baby Just Cares for Me

I love this chilly weather. Fall is my favorite season, and I get so invigorated by the coolness that creeps into the air. Not by the coolness that creeps into the apartment, though. I'll have to start digging out my sweaters and slippers soon.

Yesterday we returned to Habitat for the first time since the wedding. We just went to visit, hike and explore, but I became utterly giddy and giggly and insisted that we walk all the way down the path I took as a bride, and stop where we stood before our audience. It was really wonderful, somehow. We looked out at the patch of grass where our dearest friends and family once sat, witnessing the start of our marriage. And we peered under the patch of evergreen where people sat and ate and talked, and we felt all happy and warm with memories. I never lent much credence to a wedding being the happiest day of your life, but it sure was very, very special and unique! It certainly could have been the happiest day of my life, if I knew how to compare happy days.

And then this morning I was listening to the radio in my office, and on Jazz Oasis came the Nina Simone song we "first-danced" to. I hadn't heard that, either, since the wedding, and I got all teary.

That was a very special day!


Chills Down My Spine

Yikes! THIS is terrifying!!! And Matt's right...it is strange that Maine is perfectly tied for Bush/Kerry. Oh, gosh. I keep trying to look for the bright side (like...there will be so many angry activist organizations, and...perhaps this will set up a good Hillary 2008 campaign) but the bright side seems to dim and disappear beside my worst-case scenarios. Hell, even my more realistic scenarios, like, god, four more years with an inarticulate nitwit who loves to vacation, leave me depressed. Agh!


Good Finds

Although there aren't really enough hours in the day to ever get fully acquainted with this site, I do enjoy a shot of Bookslut every now and again.

The other day, needing to add some quick content to my site (for work), I conducted a phone interview, which I recorded directly to my computer using Audacity (and some hardware). I promptly made it into an MP3, and when I wanted someone to transcribe the interview, I just went to Contracted Work.com, found ProDocsServices.com, who asked me to upload my MP3 file (which was far too big to email) to DropLoad.com. Dropload emailed ProDoc, let them know there was a file waiting for them, and when they picked it up, emailed ME and let me know they'd picked up the file.

For $30, she'll have the transcript emailed to me by Thursday. If only it were that easy to register to vote, or to find a good doctor, or something slightly more useful.

I don't really understand DropLoad.com; how do they afford to offer a free service that must require a great deal of server space? Also, why does the title bar of their loading page read "secrets"? I'm not sure I'd trust them with confidential files.

Then again, I'm terrible at understanding Internet business models, even in 2004. Why is Blogger free? Especially now that they've done away with that old ad bar at the top? I'll never understand. I like it, but I don't get it.

Another good find is Sherman Cafe in Union Square, of course, where I hung out for a bit today. My wireless card was acting up, though, and so I had to leave sooner than I'd hoped. If only it was cheap to get my Palm Pilot online, things would be a little more efficient around here...


Camping on the Tip

We spent the weekend camping on Cape Cod. It was all beautiful and good, but the best parts of it were spent on the beach. It was the last weekend of the season for our favorite campground (a place from my childhood), and the ferns were beginning to get a little brown. Low, bent, scrubby pine grew out of the sand all around our tent, and lots of sunlight filtered through. One morning we awoke to baby wrens perched on the tent, their clawed feet visible through the filmy fabric, peeping their hearts out. They could fly just fine, but they still wanted someone to feed them. Sadly, we were out of practice when it came to regurgitating worms.

The coolest thing about camping so close to the ocean is hearing it all the time, and being swamped in stars at night. But it's also nice, when walking down to the beach, to come face to face with a seal or two. During one long hot beach walk, we tromped down the shore in the wet sand, about four feet from the spot where the waves came crashing down and sometimes reached up to lick us, and as we paused to look at an especially big wave, a seal emerged from the water. He was a few yards out, his shoulders, I guess, were above the water and he looked at us curiously. He had a slick wet head, small but visible ears, big black eyes and very long whiskers. We stopped, smiled and waved. He kept watching us for a while, and then sank back down into the waves. We kept walking, and he surfaced again and again, to look at us steadily. Before we knew it, there were three seals, heads above the water, all taking a break from fishing or swimming or whatever seals do on a warm Saturday morning in September. It was very hard to keep walking, but the sunscreen was becoming less effective by the minute, and so we eventually said goodbye to them and pressed on.

During one sleepy afternoon, we saw a bad movie: Vanity Fair. I like Mira Nair (because of Monsoon Wedding), and I like Reese Witherspoon (because of Election), and I love gorgeous, color-rich period clothing, but the story fell apart, and the editing was increasingly atrocious, and none of the good things could make up for the very bad story.

We did catch a beautiful Atlantic sunrise, which you can see too!

And Blue flew the radio controlled plane he built, the Gambler.

It was a really wonderful, late summer weekend. I always have a hard time ending really wonderful weekends! But now to work.


In the Wee Hours

When the alarm went off at 5:50 this morning, I decided that I may as well get out of bed even though I'm not cycling these days. I headed for the laundromat. It wasn't so bad; just me and one other guy, watching the sun rise to birdsong, lighting up the orange-pink sky over the Dunkin' Donuts across the street. In fact, I was feeling pretty pleased with myself by the time I got everything in the washers. Five full washers, two weeks of laundry for two people, whites together, delicates seperate, and it was only 6:30am. How productive was I?

Feeling smug, I leaned against my car and decided to have my banana. Sadly, I could not find my banana. It was not in the car. It was not in the laundromat. The other guy was not stealing it and eating it. Puzzled, I walked back to the washers. I remembered putting my banana into a laundry bag, just for the sake of transporting it. I swiftly opened the delicates and thrust my hand into the soapy water. And I pulled out a banana.

I did not eat my banana.

It was slightly unpeeled. And it was very clean. Too clean. Much cleaner than any banana should ever be.

But at least I caught it before the spin cycle.


The Times Reacts to Cheney's Terror Threat

I just couldn't not include this gem from Maureen Dowd today:
"It is a sign of the dark, macho, paranoid vice president's restraint that he didn't really take it to its emotionally satisfying conclusion: Message: Vote for us or we'll kill you."

Hee hee! And meanwhile the NYTimes is officially hating on Cheney in a sanctioned op-ed essay entitled A Disgraceful Campaign Speech. Too bad swing states don't read the Times.
Swapping One Online Community for Another

In an uncharacteristically impulsive move, I canceled my entire Friendster account today. I'm not really sure why; I think I wanted to know what it felt like. I had 60 friends, except most of them, while lovely people, aren't really my friends. That's just how it is; it really should be called Acquaintancester. My time there(besides renewing one friendship) was kind of wasted, and there were all sorts of cliques and rules I didn't understand. Like testimonials, for instance. Some of the least charismatic people had 40 testimonials; some people who are fabulous just had one (written by me), and only two people ever wrote ones for me. It just made me wonder, really. What does it take to get a lot of testimonials? And furthermore, what does it mean? Most importantly, I have a hard time keeping off of websites that I belong to, so this is the only way to do it.

I do feel a little funny about it, though, mostly because my 60th friend was David Brooks, set up by the Kramer & Mary camp, and Brooks was certainly my most entertainingly conservative friend. I was just getting to know the guy.

Yesterday I finally joined the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, and already am finding people I know on the New England list. I was drawn like a fly to the New Yorker festival, which I've wanted to attend for years, and now I am going to see reviewer-extraordinaire David Denby lead a discussion on The Way We Film Now: Documenting Reality. I can't wait I can't wait! Now all I have to do is see Capturing the Friedmans and Control Room before October gets here.


The Democratic Circus: A Low Moment

Cheney is more dangerous and twisted than I thought:
Cheney Warns of Terror Risk if Kerry Wins

Doesn't this break some kind of campaign rule? If not, there should probably be a law that incumbents simply may NOT threaten the populace with bodily harm should they elect someone new.


Happy things

1. An expensive wedge of delicious sharp, dry parmesan
2. Reading e.e. cummings at a beautiful outdoor evening wedding
3. Getting a satisfyingly skanky haircut
4. Watching a mother cow gently lick her just-born calf
5. Getting the rare chance to watch a fisher crossing the road
6. Spending the afternoon at a broad, sandy cranberry bog
7. Petting young cows while touring a working dairy farm
8. Scratching a black and white goat behind the ears
9. Romantic candlelit dinners, frequently
10. Spending quality time at the new gym, weights in hand
11. Biking in the morning sun, past grazing horses
12. Chocodip creamsicle twist; a root beer float; peach-raspberry cobbler
13. Time and space to work on my own writing
14. A great book and a glass of wine

Each of these happy things was a part of my long, relaxing weekend. I'd say I made out pretty well.


Queen for a Night

Ilana's bachelorette party last night found us at a fabulous dessert place where we had small dinners and big chocolate, and then we headed for a drag bar. Was my favorite moment when we were all on our feet, dancing to "Goin' to the Chapel"? Or was it when the bride of the neighboring b. party started making out with the male stripper her friends had hired? Or was it when our bride donned her tiara and said she felt like a queen? Whatever the favorite moment, it was awfully good to be with so many great women, and celebrating one of my favorite women ever, my former roommate of six years. As time passes, I realize more and more how important that time was, living together. It was so reliable, consistently informative and enjoyable.

I also realize how odd it is that men go to strip clubs before getting married while women stick dollar bills in the g-strings of men who look like women. And it's not out-and-out parody; I'd prefer to term it pastiche, since the women get sexualized lap dances from the drag queens. Is it a way to participate? When we marveled at the one bride kissing her male stripper, one of our party speculated on what her fiance might be doing at that very moment. "Worse, far worse," she predicted. Happily, our bride (and her mother!) were not interested in kissing any men, but they didn't mind getting felt up by a few good queens.


Small Thoughts for a Big Morning

It's so beautiful this morning, so crisp and bright out. The Charles River looks so striking, flowing thinly over rocks, plant roots and geese feet, shimmering in the sun, falling under the bridge. The clam shells the raccoons opened, the islands that get covered with every big rain, the rabbits that grow by its banks all summer, until they are big enough to make it through an icy New England winter.

I may have to take back my 'rock is dead' proclamation from yesterday. D. bought me the Garden State soundtrack, and them Shins are pretty dang good. And I'm excited to hear the new Björk, too.


Finding Kanye West

Last Sunday night I stumbled across the MTV Music Video Awards, and in no time was deploring the sorry state of mainstream rap and much, much worse state of mainstream & alterna-mainstream rock. Three sets of contemporary rock showcased just how dead rock is. How dead is it? Really dead. I'm sure there's a stream of indie music out there that I'm just not motivated enough to access, but I've been trying to pay attention. And for all the trying, there was nothing that sounded original; the best stuff seems to be watered-down punk, and punk was done so much better thirty years ago. In another country.

I was feeling discouraged, too, listening to Fifty Cent and Jay-Z, both of whom I think are kind of boring. I just don't want to hear them talking about how great they are anymore. And I'm looking for an interesting sound--a collection of beautiful, engaging sounds. So when Kanye West burst out on stage, rapping hard and followed by a full church choir, I paid attention. He seemed to be rapping, first of all, not just mumbling and gesturing at the camera, himself, or a phalanx of strippers---and more importantly, he seemed to be rapping about SOMETHING, which put him far ahead of every other performer in every genre. His album, The College Dropout, came out in February, and he has produced a lot of current hip-hop, but I still wasn't interested until I saw him on TV, doing something that I so rarely see celebrities do: working.

I bought his album about an hour ago. I've only had time to listen to the first half, but about the first half, I can say: there was no song, no track, no beat, that disappointed. I'm very fond of the songs I have heard before (like All Falls Down and Jesus Walks), but Spaceship is an astounding, phenomenal song. I can't believe I've never heard it before. West's lyrics (and he included a lyric sheet with the CD---oh joy!) are personal, political, critical, spiritual, full of humor; in short, they are interesting. Yes, one half of one man's album has suddenly renewed my interest in contemporary music!