Tuesday, May 30, 2006

A Hot Time in Conroe

Late one night, when the teasips were in bed,
Old Sul Ross took a lantern in the shed.
The Aggie kicked it over, he winked and then he said,
“There’ll be a hot time in Austin tonight.”
--one of several Texas A&M fight songs (I think)

Took a drive down to Conroe, TX, on Saturday. Stopped at one of the finest rest stops in Oklahoma to partake of a turkey sandwich and some low fat Cape Cod chips. A longer drive than expected (13 hours), but only because we underestimated the travel time. The traffic was relatively light, and the weather was mostly clear. We had stocked in plenty of Pepsi, Diet Coke, and snacky foods, so the extra car time was not a hardship. We were on our way to meet Smitawich and Rossawich and to attend the nuptials of JPB and Doctor Fiancee on Sunday. We got in about 8:30pm, and immediately went to meet the couple of honor at a local for some drinks. At 1:30, after some shotgunned cans of Lone Star Light and a few broken chairs, Monkey and I were abed, sleeping off the road weariness (and the beer).

The morning brought ominous skies over the lake, which was problematic, since the wedding was to be held on a paddlewheel riverboat in the lake. But that wasn't until 7pm, so, Smitawich, Rossawich, Monkey, and I proceeded to IHOP for some breakfast and then to the Grand Theatre for a matinee of XMen III: The Last Stand. Not the best breakfast, nor movie, but entertaining nonetheless.

Back at the "resort," we watched a little NCAA softball, then prepared for the wedding. Smitawich's pants were a bit tight, I forgot my belt, but, all in all, we looked good. Monkey was especially smashing in her green dress, which matched my shirt. The prom-like ensemble (matching shirt with dress) was especially fitting for what we had deemed "High School Wedding Weekend". This moniker was arrived at after the beer episode of the night before (i.e., shotgunning cans of cheap beer that we brought to the bar ourselves (don't ask me how we got away with that), as well as the fact that someone (not in our small party, but connected with the wedding) peed off a fifteenth story balcony the prior evening. These two events, coupled with the "Senior Week" feel of the "resort" (four in a room, screaming kids, drunken spats involving security (witnessed, not engaged in)) led us to the name for the weekend's festivities.

The wedding was a blast. The ceremony, presided over by a friend of the groom's, was short and meaningful. The food was good, the tres leches groom's cake was great, the DJ was an interesting blend of musician and disc spinner (he sang and played sax and clarinet to some karaoke tracks), and the power outage was a minor, temporary inconvenience that gave everyone the opportunity to sing the continuation of the song that was playing when the lights went out. The weather held off and actually cleared up as the sun went down, and the general ambience of the riverboat was unique. Some of the pics of the boat itself didn't turn out due to the high humidity--the camera lens was just too fogged up. But here we have Rossawich, Smitawich, MerMaid, Fiddler Crab, Monkey and I enjoying the grub inside on the First Deck.

The post-wedding party was skipped by all but Smitawich. We were pretty partied out, and Monk and I had a long drive ahead of us Monday. That was a small adventure in itself. I'll tell you all about it tomorrow.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

I'd Rather Be...

On the way home from a humid softball game (Deadliners 15, Big D0gs 5), I had a thought. Or a memory. In conjunction with the last "question" of the previous survey/tag ("Four places I would rather be right now"), I was reminded of some words that were written on a piece of art I once saw at the Baltimore Museum of Art. The piece was a four inch tall, six foot by six foot "cube" of polished stainless steel and around the four inch edge were the words: "It is enough to image the place where I am to be somewhere else." I thought that was a fitting possible repsonse to the question. I also like the sentiment of the thought. I liked it then (I saw it at least ten years ago, and it stuck with me), and I like it now.


Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Four Things

Life goes on. A pretty exhausting couple of days at work, but the end is in sight, and, as tiring as it is, I have been treated to some amazing student work. It's been a real affirmation that I am doing some things right. Hooray for me.

Timmy Ocean tagged me today. Rather than ship out an email, I thought I'd just post my responses here. Play along in the "comments" section, if you like.

Four jobs you have had in your life:
1. house painter, Eagle Painting
2. sales associate, Macy's
3. Jack of all trades, from accounts payable to zen provider, Baltimore Quality Meats/Belvedere Caterers
4. teacher, Columbia Public Schools

Four movies you would watch over and over:
1. Raising Arizona
2. Joe Versus the Volcano
3. The Maltese Falcon
4. Cool Hand Luke
5. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence
6. Jaws

Four places you have lived:
1. Columbia, MO
2. Columbia, MD
3. Perry Hall, MD
4. Baltimore, MD

TV shows you love to watch:
1. Lost
2. NCAA basketball
3. Cardinals baseball
4. House
5. Homicide (I STILL miss it)

Four places you have been on vacation:
1. Bar Harbor, ME
2. Eastern Kansas (RV birding trip)
3. Bethany Beach, DE
4. Ocean City, MD

Four of my favorite foods:
1. crabcakes
2. stuffed flounder
3. chili
4. kielbasa and sauerkraut

Four places I would rather be right now:
1. on a sailboat in the South Pacific
2. on an island in the South Pacific
3. at a raw bar in Cross Street Market
4. on a plane on my way to the South Pacific

Monday, May 22, 2006

A Little Bit of Perspective

Sometimes things go so wrong that the world just closes up on you. You get so stuck in a place full of obligations and assholes, full of deadlines and dumbasses, full of bad breaks and workloads that you can't see anything beyond yourself. All you can think about is how bad you've got it, how hard it is for you. You're so tired, so burnt out, you can't think you can wake up the next day and face it all over again. Then something happens to make you realize that things just aren't so bad as they seem.

My partner teacher was diagnosed with ovarian cancer on Friday. She was in to work this morning, but left before first hour began. She packed up her stuff, preparing for the end of the year, talked to several people personally about what she was about to go through, and left. She most likely will not be back before the school year is over. There was this tremendously ominous feeling of...well, it's painful and difficult to say...those of you who are intuitive might know where I'm going with that thought, but I'll be damned if I'll write it down. A few people, well-meaning people, mentioned to me today how tough it would be for me these last days of school, dealing with two block classes, final exams, and such without Partner Teacher around. This is true. It will be a hassle. It will be a lot of extra work. But, Jesus, compared to what she's going through, what do I have to complain about? And that's what I told them.

Her prognosis is unclear at the present, but some news today gives all of us who care about her hope that she will recover quickly and well. It was certainly a hard and emotional day for me, but I guess today especially was a huge reminder that whining about how hard you have it is usually nothing but narcissistic bullshit, and, compared to people with real, serious problems, it's just bad form.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Mowing the Lawn is Better Than Nothing

Cashier toothpick stuck in the ground
Tiny lawnmower to mow me down
I could get lost in a lunchbox
Lie low in the mittens in the lost and found.
--Soul Coughing, "Down to This"

A better weekend than last, this time around. For some reason, last weekend was just a wash. I felt like I did nothing (pretty much because I did nothing), the weather was dreary, my allergies were a pain, and I was beat all weekend. This weekend was productive and warm and mostly sunny. Friday night was fun; Saturday was full of errands, lawn mowing, reading, and a trip to a mediocre out of town restaurant; and today was a busy day of birding, cleaning, pizza and appointment TV viewing/fellowship.

Tomorrow begins the last full week of school. Exams start on Friday and finish on the 31st. Memorial Day weekend brings a drive down to a wedding in Conroe, Texas, which means I'll miss the airshow again this year. And after school is out, the Monkey and I are headed to Maine!

I'll try to post pics of the dryer later this week!


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Proof of Something. Just Not Sure What.

I heard a sound.
I turned around.
I turned around to find the thing that made the sound.
--They Might Be Giants, "Fingertips"

Y'know, I hate movies based on stage plays. Other than Casablanca (from the play Everybody Comes to Rick's), Twelve Angry Men, and Inherit the Wind, most of the movies I have seen that were originally plays have a certainly static quality to them. The dialogue, which seems to work on stage, strikes a forced, flat note on film. The mise en scene that is, I guess, real or stunning or fitting for a stage, just looks like a boring room in a boring house on film; the film director has to work really hard to do something to justify the camera's presence on the set of a movie adapted from a stage drama. It just never works for me. It always just feels like an episode of American Playhouse (which actually plays better than a filmed adaptation of a play).

Why do I bring this up? This past weekend, Monkey and I watched Proof. John Madden (the OTHER John Madden) directed. Gwyneth Paltrow reprised her London stage role as Catherine, the brilliant, scared-she-might-go-crazy-doing-all-that-math daughter, and Anthony Hopkins (brilliant, went-crazy-doing-all-that-math, dead dad Robert), Jake Gyllenhal (drum-playing-anti-uber-nerd-math-geek-afraid-he's-over-the-hill-at-twenty-six-kinda-got-a-thing-for-Catherine love interest Hal), and Hope Davis (controlling, bugging-out-of-Chicago-while-Dad-goes-ape-shit-crazy-but-now-he's-dead-so-I'm-back-to-tell-you-how-it's-going-to-be sister Claire) joined her for a filmed adaptation of David Auburn's 2001 Tony Award-winning play. Auburn also wrote the screenplay, so the film has every possible chance to be a--well, you read the last paragraph.

By the way, could you imagine the football coach-turned-analyst John Madden directing this movie? ("Okay, Gwynny, you're over here. Okay? And, you know, you're mad and sad and glad and all at the same time, like you just finished a big turducken, and you feel good, but then, the bus driver tells you that the fridge is not working on the bus, so you you're mad as hell, but then you realize there's a chocolate creme pie for dessert, but you can't eat another bite, and the pie is not going to last without the fridge, and you just feel tremendously unhappy about that...uh, you know? And Jake, you stand here, okay, and you want to kiss this girl like the dickens, but then Hope...HOPE! Okay, Hope comes in as you go in for the kiss and--BOOM! Okay? Okay, let's do it. Check the gate!")

Anyway, the film was everything I was expecting, which wasn't much. It wasn't bad, it was just a filmed adaptation of a stage play. And a good play, too. Saw it in KC. At the Unicorn. It was a good one.

On a related note, I was in the Language Arts Resource Center today, and I saw the book V for Vendetta, you know, the graphic novel that was turned into a movie. When I opened it up, it wasn't a graphic novel at all. It was a regular novel. Or, as it was termed on the cover, a "novelization". So, what I held in my hand was an after-the-fact novel version of a film based on a graphic novel. A novelization of an filmization of a comic book. I imagine next we will be seeing the (Ack!) musical version on Broadway. (See Wicked, a (Ack!) musical based on a book written about characters from a book that was made into a movie--"What a world! What a world!")

Oddly, what I sat down to write was not about plays turned into films or films turned into novelizations or anything turned into (Ack!) musicals, but about how lately I've been having weird visual things happening. I sometimes think I see something moving in my periphery, yet turn my head to find nothing there. This happened at lunch today. I thought I saw something darting or scurrying or whatever little things on the ground in your periphery do, but when I turned, there was nothing but carpet there. This has happened at least a half dozen times this week. Plus, I have been misreading things. Last night, I was reading my current before bed book, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. The chapter was titled something about the theory of happiness. I read the whole chapter, and it really had nothing to do with happiness. It didn't dwell on unhappiness or discuss much in the way of any specific emotions. It was about the hero and his sixteen year old neighbor sitting in a subway station gauging the degrees of baldness of the people that passed by. It was a job they were doing for a wig company. I looked at the beginning of the chapter three times before I realized it was the theory of hairpieces. Not happiness, at all. Earlier today, I misread a subheading on a web page about short stories as the Era of Masturbation instead of the Era of Modernism (which to some literary scholars may actually be the same thing, so I guess I can give myself a pass on that one--but does that make the Period of Postmodernism the Period of Postmasturbation? I am going to stop here on this particular tangent. Y'all can thank me later.).

The whole point of this is that there is no point, I guess. The end of the school year is perhaps bringing on some stressors that are manifesting themselves in weird visual signals. Or maybe I'm just losing touch with reality a little bit. No big deal, either way.

By the way, the Outlaw Birders had a good Sunday. It was cold, but a Nashville warbler made up for it. Also, and I say this with all dry sarcasm intended, the new dryer is simply fabulous.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Temporary Anachronism

The pump don't work
'cause the vandals took the handle.
--Bob Dylan, "Subterranean Homesick Blues"

Yesterday morning, Monkey discovered that the clothes weren't drying. Such a discovery was not a good way to start off a Saturday. It was already colder and drearier than I wanted it to be; the dog didn't make coffee when he woke up, so I had to do it; and I'm out of bagels. Needless to say, I was not in the mood to deal with broken appliances.

Of course, I went to look at the dryer. I believed Monkey. I had no idea how or if I could fix it. I was pretty certain that we were going to be making a trip to Sears or Lowes or someplace like that. But I had to at least make an effort. Family tradition mandates, actually, that before purchasing a new dryer (or any appliance, large or small, for that matter, from a transistor radio to a thermonuclear reactor (neither, technically, I know, are appliances, but, you get the picture)), I must attempt to fix the old dryer.

I should have unplugged the dryer, taken it apart, tested its parts, bought replacement parts, tested them, used some duct tape, mildly electrocuted myself, used some gaffer's tape, cut my hand open, fallen somehow, cursed the dryer, prayed for the dryer, and, generally, spent the balance of Saturday determining that I was incapable of fixing my dryer, then spending Sunday purchasing hauling and installing a new dryer. I didn't.

My attempt to fix the dryer consisted of cleaning the lint catcher and, basically, shaking the thing. In case you have not figured this out yet, I didn't fix the dryer. Sadly, Monkey and I determined to purchase a new (relatively) inexpensive dryer. After approximately fifteen minutes of Internet research, we determined on a model and a store. We also determined on paying for delivery of the new dryer and removal of the old. This should happen today. I hope to have pictures.

Am I suffering from any guilt complex or some sort of familial obligation syndrome? No. I recognize the proud traditions of my people. I recognize that I may be considered an assimilationist for so easily deciding to spend three hundred dollars when I could have spent two days instead and saved twenty five bucks ($275 in parts, gas, band aids, ER visits). But, the way I see it, fixing appliances is not my strong suit. As well, my time is more important to me than money (it has to be: I know I have little money; I don't know how much time I have). So, with a heavy heart, I apologize to my forebears. I ask understanding and forgiveness. I ask that you not allow your hearts to grow heavy with disappointment. I ask that you prepare yourself for the day when I reveal to you my biggest secret of all. (I don' t do my own oil changes.)

Of course, in the mean time, our house looks like a giant department store store room. All of our clothes from Monkey's first (undried) batch of laundry hang from the door ways and the shower curtain rod. It's quite a sight. I offered to run a clothes line outside, but Monkey said no. She reminded me that we have neither the right line (we could improvise) nor clothes pins (really necessary?). But, after all, there wasn't that much in the way of clothes (it just looks like a lot hanging up in the house). And, theoretically, by noon today, we'll have a new drier. I mean, how exciting is that?!

In other news, the Outlaw Birders are preparing to descend upon Rock Bridge State Park in search of migrant and resident songbirds. I'll give you a full report soon.

By the way, the Deadliners moved to 3-1 on Wednesday, with a convincing 14-5 victory over Emory Sapp and Sons. A great all-around game, except for two things: I got picked off of third base (because I was standing there with my head up my ass), and our ten pm game didn't start until closer to 10:30. AND, we found out that after last week, the league has decided to reschedule all of the ten o'clock games by adding two extra weeks to the season. Sounds great, right? Right. Except that the Deadliners don't have anymore ten o'clock games scheduled! That's just too bad, huh? At any rate, we do not have to play into the long hours of Wednesday any longer.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

It's Not Easy Being Mean

I've been riding my bike to work lately. It's a satisfying feeling getting where you need to go under your own power, and travelling slower gives you the opportunity to really see your surroundings as you go. You just haven't seen road killed squirrel until you pedal by it slowly at 6 in the morning! Work is only about two and a half miles away, so I don't think I'm saving a boatload on gas (maybe $3/week), but that's not really the point.

Not much has been going down here in Central Standard. Another late-night softball game for the Deadliners, tonight. We were rained out last week (and the weather is a little threatening, tonight). I'll let you know how that goes.

Last week, on Saturday night, our school held it's third annual Kewpie Idol talent competition. I was a judge with two local DJs. I got to be the Simon-type-meanie judge. It was fun. I tried to be hard-to-please and funny without being hurtful to the kids. I think I did okay. Aunt James said I did okay. It was funny, on Monday, at school, some kids said things too me like, "You were so mean." Some kids said things like, "You were funny." Most kids, of course, didn't say anything at all. I went into Aunt James' room to grab a cup of coffee, and a young lady she was working with asked her, "Is that the mean guy?" I laughed!

Tomorrow night is the Coffeehouse for the school literary magazine, of which I am a co-sponsor. The student writers will read their work or talk about their art, and we'll try to sell copies of the magazine. It's a great celebration of the work the magazine's staff does (it's a beautiful magazine), as well as the amazing creativity of the school's students.

I hope to have more to say later. This weekend looks like it is going to be lovely. Monkey and I may go on a hike. The Outlaw Birders of Central Standard may hit the birding trails. Stay tuned.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Cinqo de Mayo

The fifth of May is just another date, to me. I mean, I don't get all excited for cinqo de mayo (much to the chagrin of the beer companies). I don't get worked up about St. Patty's Day, either. Or Valentine's Day, for that matter. Do I need a reason to go out and get stupid drunk? No. Do I need a reason to eat Mexican food? Hell, no.

The last time I went out to a Mexican restaurant on the fifith of May, they ran out of guacamole! Unbelievable.

Tonight, in protest, no Mexican food! No Mexican beer! Only cheeseburgers and Stag! Now that is a recipe for a great Friday night.

I just finished reading The Preservationist, by David Maine. A very quick, entertaining, and thoughtful read. A retelling of the Biblical tale of Noah's ark using multiple voices (including even the voice of God, of course). It's a little funny, a little touching, a little allegorical, and a lot well-written. I recommend it. The Preservationist--get ya some!