Friday, March 30, 2007


Turkish Tower and downtown B'more skyline
Looking west over Druid Hill Park Lake.
Madison Ave (NorthEast)
Mrs. P on the stoop

My herpetic knee

I find my biannual physical exams amusing. Yes, I go twice a year, because 11 years ago I had an adventure with malignant melanoma, and my GP likes to measure my moles regularly.

I find the mole-measuring very amusing. There's a mole on my stomach that he was measuring today, and he said "It might be a bit wider than last year, but I can actually stretch it out if I want to, so I'm not sure", and he started pulling at my skin with his fingertips pushed into my stomach above and below the mole. He was laughing and claiming the mole looked like a bird, or a shark, or a lemon, depending on how he stretched or scrunched it. I suggested the mole might look wider because I'd put on 6 pounds over the winter. We agreed that it was actually the same size as before.

I've been going to the same GP since I was 13. He did my first high school athletics physical before I joined the track team. Now he's doing my physical a year after foot injuries ended my running career. He's great, but some of his assistants are morons. Today I groaned when he let an assitant take my blood sample. I'd had her before, and she'd stuck me five times before finally finding a vein. My veins stand out like ropes, just like the veins on all southern PA backwater rednecks. This time she hit the vein first try, but didn't push in far enough, so the needle was in the outside of my vein. She couldn't figure out what was wrong and was manipulating this fat needle stuck in my arm when the glass collection vial fell off onto the floor. She reacted trying to catch it and in doing so pushed the needle far enough in to draw blood. A nice crimson jet resulted, and a huge mess. I've never in my entire life laughed at my own spurting blood, but today I couldn't help it. Then, after cleaning up and collecting three vials she started sticking adhesive things all over my chest and arms for an EKG. "Uh, you might want to shave me before putting those on," I suggested. I'm harrier than a '70s porn star. "It's ok," she said. "These things won't pull out hair." She clipped the machine to my adhesive things, did the reading, and promptly yanked the adhesives off, removing huge patches of hair and causing me to yelp. The tentacles on the EKG reader looked like wilted Chia pets, and I looked like I'd been attacked by a Humboldt squid. I think she was angry I laughed at her.

My BP was 106 over 65 at the beginning of the appointment--I wonder what it was when I left?

Doc looked me over and found a tiny clear bump on my knee. He asked me about it, and I told him I get them occasionally on my knee and they go away. "I think you've got herpes," he said. "On my knee?" I asked. "Sure," he replied. "You can get herpes anywhere. I'd advise you keep your knee away from your wife." "You're not serious," I said, but he was, and he was vigorously washing his hands. "These bumps don't ever burst and scab over," I told him. "I doubt they are herpetic." "You're probably right," he said, "but keep your knee away from your wife's private areas."

How the fuck could I have gotten a herpetic knee? I simply can't imagine--and I have a pretty perverse imagination. Who, I wonder, gave me herpetic knee? Perhaps I'll phone up old flames and demand to know if they gave me herpetic knee. Will there be a new drug for herpetic knee along the lines of yellow toenail drugs and restless leg medications? "Ow, Doc, my restless herpetic knee!"

My wife will be horribly disappointed that I can no longer knee her in the groin without protection.

So True

You Belong in Amsterdam

A little old fashioned, a little modern - you're the best of both worlds. And so is Amsterdam.
Whether you want to be a squatter graffiti artist or a great novelist, Amsterdam has all that you want in Europe (in one small city).

Actually, much as I love Amsterdam, I would never want to live there. I'd be incoherent too often. I'd like to live in Bruges or Brussels or some other city close to Amsterdam.

Of course every European city is close to Amsterdam by Eurorail/air. We drove up from Rouen and it took about five hours.

Thursday, March 29, 2007


After Kyle Sampson's testimony, Congress must act immediately to impeach Alberto Gonzales. Enough is enough.

A Beautiful Day

We finally met the neighbors directly across the street from us. Other neighbors we've met have referred to them as The Mayor and First Lady, a title earned after 6 decades living there.

Returning from the park we saw Mr. and Mrs. P. out on the stoop, where they held court in the warm evening air. He stood to the side of the marble steps, leaning over with his elbow on the top. She sat just outside the door on the threshold, stooped herself. They looked to be in their sixties but are in fact 85 and 83. We rushed over and introduced ourselves and promptly formed up into pairs. Cha and Mrs. P. chatted about the neighborhood and Cha's work as Mr. P. told me stories about being a cook in the Army and going ashore at Normandy and moving through France into Germany. He told me about each house on the block, and which ones he'd helped restore during a previous revitalization in the 1960s. What Mr. P. must have seen, as Reservoir Hill moved from its lofty top-tier economic status into a racially mixed middle class region, then following a short period of white flight it became a black middle class neighborhood, and following the deaths of many long-term residents Reservoir Hill descended sadly into a struggling ghetto with pockets retaining mere hints of past dignity.

I was awed and humbled by the arc of their lives. Mr. P. overheard Cha mention art teaching and mentioned that he himself was not only a painter of houses, but also a self-taught painter of pictures. At his suggestion Mrs. P. gave us a tour of the first floor of their charming old house, where several of his paintings hang. They were impressive, including several accomplished family portraits, a clever oil featuring two Jewish men drinking beer ("Them's his Jews," Mrs. P. said in explanation), a lovely portrait of a rooster and two hens, a colonial or Revolutionary-era parlour scene of three gentlemen seated in a grand library with mugs. Mr. P. had also done extensive murals on the walls of the house, but sadly these had decayed into disrepair, with grandchildren's artwork taped over top. "He don't paint no more because he done got lazy," Mrs. P. said and laughed. When she laughs she claps and then throws her hands in the air, a gesture particularly endearing to me, as my paternal grandmother also did so.

As we returned to the stoop their daughter arrived, herself in her fifties and a former principal in the City school system. "I'm typically the docent on the tour," she lamented. "Mother is not an entirely incapable stand-in, but omits much of the vital history. Some day I'll take you through with more context." As her father resumed telling me house and family histories, she corrected him from time to time, gently but with a teasing tone. He said someone had died twenty years before, and she said "More like 45 years ago. I was a young girl when he left us."

"You're still a young girl," Mr. P. replied, and she stroked his wispy hair. The entire P. clan is full of humor and thus they retain a remarkable youthful vigor, a twinkling in the moist bright eyes set in sagging faces.

The daughter told us her father and deceased brother were at one time amateur magicians of some renown. Mr. P. had constructed his own illusion machines, including a guillotine, a sword-box, and a "lady-sawn-in-half" table. "They violated child labor statutes by forcing me to work as an unpaid magician's assistant. The worst part was rehearsing every night in the basement for weekend birthday parties."

"You wasn't unpaid," Mr. P. said. "You got ten percent of the proceeds for each show."

"Ten percent of five dollars!" she protested.

Is there anything Mr. P. had not done? Electrician, painter, artist, teacher, magician, soldier, contractor, unofficial Mayor...

At this point we met another neighbor, three doors down from us. A slight man with Einsteinian bushy black hair, dressed all in black himself, and effecting, dare I say, dare I use the cliche? Pourquoi pas? He was effecting a certain je ne sais quoi.

"Here's another of your nice neighbors," Mrs. P. said. "And all the way from Paris, France. This is M."

"I move here because in France I read the name Reservoir 'Ill and knew I had to come," M. said with a sneer. We spoke French briefly, but were chided by the others, who began teasing us and yelling random words of European origin, like "cappuccino."

M. mounted a convertible sports car after announcing he was due in Providence, RI for a date in seven hours. "The drive will take six and a half, so I must leave now!" he shouted, waving and winking.

And thus we add more good folks to those we've met already, and we learned that for two decades our house had no roof, and no rear wall.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Signs of the Apocalypse

Scientists are confounded about the cause of a startingly precise hexagonal storm in Saturn's atmosphere.

I believe said storm was caused by the fact that Oprah has selected Cormac McCarthy's The Road as her latest Book Club selection.

VISA: It's everywhere you ain't

A representative of the bank who controls my credit card called yesterday. She went through a list of recent charges, asking me to verify them. More than $500 was spent at an online catalog called BooStore, and another couple hundred at some joint called 2BSports. These purchases were not authorized.

The representative said someone had opened department store credit accounts using my name and birth date, but that they were investigating this and had already notified the major credit bureaus of possible fraud. She said after our conversation the credit bureaus would be advised of actual fraud.

This must have happened very recently because nothing was amiss when we financed our new house. I've experienced credit card fraud before. Three months after a stay in Rome somebody used my VISA number to buy thousands of dollars worth of auto parts and car stereo components in Urbina. Someone else used my VISA to purchase an internet service in Reims, France two years ago. In both those instances, however, there was no actual identity theft. I suppose nearly everyone will deal with this at some point in the information age. Thank goodness the folks running my account caught the suspicious activity before it got out of hand.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Welcome to the neighborhood

Walking to the Park on Friday I passed a guy sitting on the stoop outside his apartment building. I said "hello" and he replied: "You ain't fooling nobody, Mr. Officer."

Reductio ad absurdum

Keith Olbermann did a great job poking holes into (and poking fun at) Alberto Gonzalez's lame TV interview with Pete Williams. Brief summary?

Uh, I know for a fact that these attorneys were asked to resign for reasons completely appropriate, but I don't know any particulars, nor was I at all involved in the process, but I do know why they were fired and it wasn't for political reasons, but I have no knowledge of the reasons they resigned. Other people who know my job advised me to fire them, so I did.
Hmmm. That's a bit like using the "these attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President" argument for firing the attorneys, and then claiming the President had nothing to do with the terminations, and no knowledge of the machinations involved.

Of course the enormous document dumps of emails and memos reveal that Gonzo and Rove and Miers and Bush were heavily involved.

Now Gonzo's senior counselor won't testify. Impeach the sonofabitch! Bush will only with great reluctance hang him out to dry because he'd rather have Gonzo inside the tent pissing out then outside pissing in, to paraphrase LBJ on Hoover.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Nothing doing

Sorry, no books or movies to blog about; until we get settled at the new place this 'blog will continue suffering its current half-assed hiatus. For a third weekend in a row I read nothing, and didn’t watch a film on DVD. I only caught half of half of a game of NCAA (and routed for a team I loathe—Georgetown—because they were playing a team I loathe even more—UNC). Normally I’m attached to the television during March Madness, but this year I’m entirely out of the loop. We did manage one episode of Deadwood, which remains satisfyingly ambitious, almost operatically so.

We also went to SCAN and dumped a butt load of cash on overpriced trendy furniture we’ll surely regret buying in a couple years. And to make things worse we bought said furniture in very vivid colors. God help us. We followed this up with bank-breaking trips to Home Depot and IKEA. Most of the weekend was spent shopping or assembling IKEA CD shelves.* I only say this because I spent two hours alphabetizing classical stuff last night, but I have too many goddamn CDs. Can't wait to unpack the frackin' books--perhaps I'll just roll boxes down to Normal's instead of opening them.

We also found an early ‘50s dining set we liked in a Fell’s Point antique shop, and a barrister’s bookcase and a library table to boot. We haven’t bought them yet, but are heavily considering renting a truck and going back tonight.

All that money we made selling the Towson house is going fast!

This year’s tax refund was less than half what we got last year. WTF? Nothing really changed on our end. We both made about 10% more money, but it’s not like we jumped up a bracket or anything. Jesus.

Saturday we bowled ten pins for charity. I hadn’t bowled in ages, and my consistency suffers. First game I bowled a 118, the second was a more respectable 183. Cha wants to join a league, as if we have time to do anything else right now.

Thanks to those of you who sponsored us. Pay us when you see us next.

*It only seems that way. We also spent a lot of time in the Park, and had a nice afternoon with Julio and Yo! Adrienne touring around downtown on a gorgeous day. You gotta take advantage of city life.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Verres militares

Pat Boone's terrible but strangely alluring album of heavy metal covers didn't include a song by Black Sabbath, but he came close, covering an Ozzy solo ditty and a Ronnie James Dio track. I couldn't have imagined any combination stranger than Pat Boone and heavy metal.

Until now: Seth alerts me to the existence of a Black Sabbath tribute album sung--in LATIN--by a medieval choir with period arrangements and instrumentals.

I need to own this:

The Secret Sharer

So my niece turned 12 this week, the two boys I used to babysit when I was a teenager are approaching 30 themselves now, my 20th high school reunion is this year, and my father-in-law is telling me that he has no will and he wants Cha to go to a lawyer in case he dies suddenly.

I'm not one to kvetch much about aging or getting old, but I do indeed wish I could slow the ride down. I feel I need a few months to catch up with the pace, to get back on track. New job, new house, new car, new furniture...the center cannot hold.

I dreamed I was in a group of four people and we were supposed to simultaneously BASE jump from a hot-air balloon at 8,000 feet. Before jumping we were supposed to write down secret thoughts about each other to trade after jumping. I didn't know the other three people in the group, but they were old friends to each other. I had therefore no secrets to share. On one envelope I saw someone had written "I hate Jackie." I didn't know which of my companions was Jackie, nor the handwriting on the envelope.

I've known two Jackies in "real" life: a trailer trash aunt who likely had a fling with my father, betraying my mother and my uncle at once; and a tough Jersey girl in the English program at York College. I hated neither of them.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

On the Lam

Oh my goodness. Too bad E. Howard Hunt died early this year. He could have lined up for the hush money likely flowing from Cheney's coffers at this moment.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Reason for optimism

I actually enjoyed Bush's latest presser. One could wear out a copy of the DSM-IV flipping around to diagnose this guy's neurotic ticks: his defensiveness, his hypocrisy, his projection, his anti-social tendencies, his thinly veiled hostility, his martyr complex, his infantile regression, etc. I propose someone craft a Bush addendum to the manual's next edition.

Sure, W's latest performance introduces no character traits unfamiliar to Bush critics, but his approach is tinged with a new desperation. That smirking cowboy confidence is gone. He knows he's in deep shit, and when he contradicts himself (near the end he says that under his proposal his staff will answer questions "out there for everyone to see"--that's not true, as his proposal is that his staff will answer questions behind closed doors, with no transcript allowed) it's clear this is a flailing man adrift in a sea of unreality. W. is assured of only one thing--his place in history as one of the greatest buffoons ever to wield power of consequence.

How long must we wait for W's inevitable Nixonian moment, boarding Marine One a final time in utter disgrace? For the first time in six years I believe it might actually happen.


En lieu of actually working, I surf the Internets and daydream while staring out the window at the police station and parking garages behind our building. Soon I move offices and pick up a lovelier view (of the University), but I will also have an office mate for the first time since I quit teaching.

Eh, who cares? My work habits, such as they are, will not change.

I need to compose an exercise teaching sixth graders compare and contrast skills. Typically such exercises are no problem. Today, however, I suffer curriculum writing block. I was cranking out the curricula before a morning meeting about cooperative learning philosophy and the underpinning research behind its four separate schools of thought, set up itself as a cooperative learning exercise wherein we broke into small groups and taught each other material in order to reinforce our recall. Any creativity or impulse to labor was drained during that exercise.

I work with people for whom Piaget, Vygotsky, Dewey, and Slavin are equivalent to the writers of the four canonical gospels. The various works of these venerated sages are quoted and exegesized on dry erase boards resembling Talmudic texts. I amused myself making assumptions about the political leanings amongst proponents of the various schools of thought: the Social Darwinist Motivational Perspective, the Leninist Social Cohesion Perspective, etc.

Perhaps a coffee will get me back on track.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Is you is

Typically I work 6:30-3 and I'm walking around the park by now on nice days. Tonight I have an appointment with the tax preparer in Towson, however, so I'm working 8:30-5. Awful hours. I watch the gorgeous day extinguish itself with no possibility of participating. By the time I leave the tax man's all shall be dark.

YouTube cheers a bit:

Monday, March 19, 2007

Dog Gone

We got a flurry of phone calls this afternoon. A lady searching for her lost cat happened to see my post of a found Shepherd mix on the same listserv as a post for a lost Shepherd mix. Greta's owners were very happy to see her again, and brought two bottles of wine, a large bouquet, and a tub of blooming orange tulips when they fetched her this afternoon.

I'm devestated and happy all at once.


It's a rare treat having a dog in the house. Oddly, the same thing happened 11 years ago when we bought our first place--The Dazzling Urbanite and I found a Husky in the alley behind the bookstore and I put her in our new house and filed a found dog report. At that time we were mostly moved in but were still taking boxes out of our last apartment, and the frantic owner called within two days and took her happy dog home. Now we're barely into our second house and we have another stray dog and I've filed another found dog report. As in the first instance, we've quickly bonded with our new houseguest, who sits calmly and stares at us while we're watching Deadwood, as if curious to understand how we can resist her charms. Frankly I can't for long.

I played sock tug-of-war, fetch, and had a blast puppy wrestling. I don't get to do those things much because of Cha's allergies. She's not sneezing yet, but of course the house isn't full of dander the way it could be later--she did ride in the car with the dog for twenty minutes with no trouble. If we don't find the owners--or if the dog was abandoned--Cha already wants to keep it. If not we have a neighbor who wants her, or maybe Cha's brother will. The dog's incredibly sweet, and a good barker. She seems to be well-disciplined and house-broken. We allowed her the run of the place last night as we slept. She found a small plastic aquarium plant we never use and took that into the kennel Julio and Yo! Adrienne lent us, but didn't chew it up. There were shoes and stuff everywhere but she picked up the one thing resembling a toy to play with. The dog refused to sleep upstairs with us. She wanted to sleep by the front door on the floor. Either it's because she's very protective, or because she thinks her owners are coming to get her. Poor little thing. I hope she wasn't ditched.

This morning I woke at 5:30 to the "I have to PEE NOW" dance. I took the dog out and two collarless pit bulls approached us quickly from the south end of Madison. Fortunately they were more curious than aggressive and I got the dog back in the house just as the pits arrived at our doorstep. Loose pitbulls in the neighborhood--great. They were scrawny little things, and obviously had been on the run for some time, but that's not a comforting sight.

If we don't get a response to the found dog report I suppose we'll have to name her and make some decisions. Yo! Adrienne said she looks like a Molly. If the owners are going to reclaim her I hope they do it soon before we become more attached. Right now I'm torn between hoping nobody calls and hoping they do.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Found Dog

We found this very friendly German Shepherd mix running up the exit ramp at I-83 and Timonium Road. If you lost her or have any information, contact me at the email address in the side bar. She's likely not much more than a year old, if that. Approximately 35-40 pounds, very good-natured and disciplined.

Friday, March 16, 2007


And I, to whom a great vision was given in my youth,-you see me now a pitiful old man who has done nothing, for the nation's hoop is broken and scattered. There is no center any longer, and the sacred tree is dead.
Black Elk Speaks made me terribly sad, but it is a beautiful book. Inside are eyewitness accounts of the Battle of Little Bighorn and the massacre at Wounded Knee. Also inside are Black Elk's monumental shamanic experiences. He was vested with great power and nonetheless saw his people fade away, overrun by the greedy and false Wasichu. The descriptions of his visions are quite interesting for anyone interested in symbolique or altered states of consciousness or spirituality, and its value as a historic document of Native American culture and tradition--and the genocidal campaign to wipe these peoples out--is obvious.

Today's Work CDs

The RZA, the GhostFace Killah, Method Man, and Dirty Ol' Bastard are excellent motivational speakers when you're writing curricula all day.

Dust to duct

The contractors who refurbished our house put the wrong size filter in the furnace, and didn't even attempt to seal the gaps around the filter with duct tape. During a gut remodel, a lot of dust and debris ends up in the basement, and when the furnace was fired up without the appropriate filter in place, a good portion of that dust and debris ended up in the duct system. The entire house was consequently coated with a thin layer of grit, and more grit was drifting down each time the HVAC kicked on. Try settling into a new place and keeping it clean under those conditions. I used to do drywall work and each morning in the new place I'd awake with that long-forgotten gritty taste in my throat.

No more. I hired some guy with a big blue sucking machine to suck all the stuff out of our ducts yesterday. Said duct sucking was quite satisfying, and if you have ducts you ought to get them sucked. It is expensive, but worth it.


I had only one positive reaction to Superman Returns; having endured such banality I assumed I'd at least be spared an equal dose for a while. Hollywood couldn't possibly produce a duck like that again in short order.

Wrong. Remember the duck that was shot and put in the freezer and lived? And then had cardiac arrest and was defibrilated and lived again? That duck had a lot in common with the returning Superman, and has just as much in common with the new Bond. At the risk of being labeled a film fuddy-duddy who can't suspend his disbelief long enough to enjoy a goofy action flick, I pronounce Casino Royale (with Cheese) abysmally stupid:

Men can jump forty or fifty feet through the air in a single bound. Over and over. They leap like fleas. The first chase scene was something out of Spiderman or The Matrix. And it was boring, almost as boring as the 45-minute Texas hold 'em match that makes up much of this trainwreck.

More than $100 million in cash apparently fits into a tiny metal brief case, even though earlier in the same movie $100 million took several large trunks in a convoy of vehicles to carry around.

James Bond is a new 007 now, today, at this minute. M muses that she wishes Bond were around during the Cold War, thus rendering completely senseless the only bit of the Bond franchise with any remaining dignity--its chronology.
Of course I must note that the new Bond actor is appealingly gritty and dark and is certainly the beefiest Bond ever. Daniel Craig had a curious affect on the libido of the other person inhabiting my house, who was unaware there was any incoherence in the script at all, and who spent 30 minutes after the finale rewinding and rewatching dripping bathing suit scenes.

I could hook her up with more sensibly written real pornography.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


Ok, I laughed quite a bit, but didn't bust a gut excepting when Borat completely disgusted Bob Barr (the look on Barr's face is priceless). I also very much enjoyed Borat's visit to the mansion on Secession Lane with his friend Lynell. The drunk, overpriviliged, moronic, racist, misogynist college kids? I could have done without that reminder of life in Towson.

Frankly I think Jackass was a funnier movie in the jerk genre. Is Borat worth seeing? Sure. Is it worthy of all that breathless hype? Nah.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Park

One of the best things about our neighborhood is its proximity to Druid Hill Park. From our front door I can go around the Reservoir and back for a nice 2.5 mile walk. There are interesting statues (like William Wallace, pictured) and pagodas and even several graveyards I've yet to explore.

Yesterday the tennis courts were full because of the fantastic weather. I saw some geese fly in by the cherry tree grove. Should be blossoms there soon.

As soon as I returned from my walk, the doorbell rang and Yo! Adrienne was there. She invited me to accompany her through the neighborhood as she walked the dog and we toured around Linden and Eutaw streets, looking at the grand old houses, some in sad disrepair, some remarkably well-preserved. It's fun to imagine how ritzy these old avenues must have been at one time, with the arched entry to the Park from Madison Avenue and the fantastic architectural details. We saw many pitbulls.

What was Reservoir Hill like when Gertrude Stein lived here, I wonder? The home belonged to her uncle, photographer David Bachrach.*

We went back to Yo! Adrienne's place a block up from ours, just as Julio returned for dinner break from his teaching gig at MICA. He asked if I'd like to go to his life drawing class and take off my clothes for a while, but the pay wasn't sufficient. The two of them are hiring a contractor to finish the third floor and dining room of their house. They've been doing the restoration work themselves since moving in nearly three years ago, but the task is enormous. Their house is also enormous, and gets lovelier by the day.

*I wonder if Yo! Adrienne knows this? She's a photo conservator at the Library of Congress, and recently was looking at a portrait of Geronimo about which little is known. She noticed under a microscope that reflected in Geronimo's eye was a female photographer and her equipment and several tall trees. The curator was excited by this find, to say the least.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Mentí, estoy mintiendo, mentiré

It's as if someone in the Cheney Administration is reading about Nixon's demise in order to brush up on how to unravel in the same manner. We've even had CIA guys with hookers again. The parallels grow more uncanny daily. Unfortunately (well, perhaps fortunately) we don't have cable TV at the new place yet. I can't see what kind of coverage the Gonzalez/Rove Justice Department purge of attorneys who would not use their office to suppress Democratic voters is getting. These guys love to purge and surge, they surely do.

Lots of good coverage at Kos (here, here, here). The WaPo and the Times appear to be working the story, almost to the point I'm considering re-subsribing.

It's a serious, serious thing, and yet another in a long list of articles of impeachment that need drawing up should be drawn up for this. Remember Harriet Miers' sudden departure last year? Now Gonzalez' Chief of Staff has resigned as well. Get them in front of Congress and seize their passports post haste.

Monday, March 12, 2007


If you puzzled out the twists in Mulholland Drive you'll enjoy doing the same in McCabe's Winterwood. Redmond's idyllic marriage crumbles after Catherine cuckolds him. She takes their daughter Imogen away and Redmond falls apart. There are several intertwined narrative reminiscences, some of happy family life, some of Redmond's forays into the mountains of his youth to discuss local tradition with an aged fiddler named Ned Strange, and some about his current life, wherein Redmond works as a cabby under an assumed name after faking suicide.

Troubling details begin to emerge for the attentive reader. Ned Strange, whose fiddling and story-telling and knowledge of Irish tradition Redmond admires, is charged with child molestation and hangs himself in prison. His ghost haunts Redmond, and ugly facts about Redmond's past manage to creep through his unreliable narrative.

Is Ned what he appears to be? Is he simply a crude doppleganger invested by Redmond with his own dark misdeeds and desires? I can't answer here without spoilers, but the actual events of the story are obscured by Redmond's telling.

McCabe channels John Hawkes and Ramsey Campbell in this bleak character study. I think Campbell's Obsession or The Last Voice They Hear are better riffs on the same theme, but McCabe's is well-done. I'd not read him before and look forward to others.

Been a while since I found the time to read a book. Feels good to start up again.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Speaking of Republican Presidential Hopefuls

There is one liberal in the Presidential race--former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. I saw him say this on one of the cable shows recently, as voiceover to footage of himself jamming out to Born to be Wild with his rock band:

There’s one issue I want to touch on. A key element of education is music and art education. It’s not expendable, extracurricular or extraneous. The future economy of America is going to be a creative economy. I am very passionate about it. Math, science and language scores improve dramatically when the student has music skills. Spatial reasoning is enhanced by music instructions. It is who we are. It defines us as a culture and a civilization. Very few people my age are still playing tackle football, but I’m still playing bass guitar in a rock-and-roll band.
Huckabee perhaps actually has values, instead of merely talking about them all the time. Hence the likelihood he'd win the Republican nomination is tinier than the remaining kernel of Bush's credibility.

There are chinks in Huckabee's warm and fuzzy armor. He has said troubling things about Creationism in schools, and who will go to Hell. But while most of the other 'moderates' in either party swerve rightward for votes, Huckabee swerves left.

The Moral Majority

Newt Gingrich--who recently admitted he was engaged in an extramarital affair while enthusiastically pursuing impeachment during Monica Gate--justified himself thusly:

"The president of the United States got in trouble for committing a felony in front of a sitting federal judge," the former Georgia congressman said of Clinton's 1998 House impeachment on perjury and obstruction of justice charges. "I drew a line in my mind that said, 'Even though I run the risk of being deeply embarrassed, and even though at a purely personal level I am not rendering judgment on another human being, as a leader of the government trying to uphold the rule of law, I have no choice except to move forward and say that you cannot accept ... perjury in your highest officials."
That sinuously evasive logic won't get you through the eye of the needle, Newt. You took it upon yourself to cast the first stone, which is contrary to the tenets of your belief system. Or is that belief system merely a facade contrived to fool the Christers and pulpit-thumpers?

Which paragon of family values will win the Republican nomination? I don't care how many affairs or divorces a presidential candidate has--but outright hypocrisy I can't condone. Gingrich hasn't announced yet of course, but I'm sure he'll join his fellow divorced adulterers soon.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Call social services!

You see the weirdest stuff on Flickr.

The Neighbors

I've met some of our neighbors already. The house just north of us is home to A and B. A is English and blond and is always carting her toddler around. Her politeness is typically intense. Sometimes I hear the baby laughing and gurgling through our TV room wall, which is much more acceptable than lame techno beats and Busch-drenched frat boys shouting over fussball. B operates an antique store in Hampden, and we'll likely be shopping there soon for a dining room set. The house just south of us is home to E, who is a hoot. He's got dreads down to his ass, and when he saw me Saturday he put his hands in the air and yelled:

"Oh I have WAITED for this day! I have WAITED for a neighbor for 15 years, that old empty house raggedy for years and I have a NEIGHBOR AT LAST!" (vigorously shaking my hand and patting my shouler) "I'm a snowboarding instructor and I'm orginally from West Baltimore--love your hat, man!--and I am LATE FOR WORK but YOU WILL BE LOVED here, just watch out because somebody will probably slash your tires. They don't mean nothing by it, just kids you know--that is one NICE spoon back chair--man I got to go get PAID but thank you Jesus this City needs a HUG you know and it will HUG YOU BACK. I'm already planning a welcoming neighborhood brunch for y'all, ask anyone they'll tell you old E knows his way 'round in the kitchen, someday I'm going to run a hostel or B&B out of this house you know if I can get my shit TOGETHER. BLESSED BE I am so glad TODAY."

I was moving stuff around in the basement and the back patio two nights ago and wafting over from E's yard was a most intriguing smell, redolent of Dutch coffee houses and 1970's Econoline vans. Mental note: E has access to some primo.

Two houses north of us are L and her son G. She's Puerto Rican from Harlem, and he's half-black. They are extremely nice, and we actually met them the first time we viewed the house. Theirs was rehabbed by the same people, and she invited us in and showed us around so we could see if their work was holding up under habitation. It was.

Across the way I've met J, who told me the neighborhood is safe so long as you stay inside after nine pm, but I think (hope) he was joking. There are three more houses being rehabbed on our block, including both enormous turreted end units at the corner of Whitelock and Madison. Those will likely run more than half a mill when done.

I'll have pictures up as soon as I can get Verizon to turn on the damn phone and internet at home.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200

I see that while I was at an office birthday luncheon I missed some big news. Given the rampant criminality of this administration, a mere perjury/obstruction conviction of Cheney's trusted henchman is small consolation.

It feels good, however. And bigger fish may yet fall.

Now the hysterical and breathless condemnation of this verdict by the Beltway punditocracy shall commence. Spinning and likely pardoning will follow. But Patrick Fitzgerald said when he originally announced these charges that he couldn't charge the real crime because of an impenetrable web of dissembling spun by Scooter and Rove and their ilk, so disregard the hot air about this being a non-crime cover-up. You'll hear a lot of that malarky.

Haint that a shame, Part IX

The things are gone. Empty and cold. The things. Look. The door opens, the things are gone. The other door. No things. Gone so quickly. The people. Alone. I’m cold. We are cold. He is here but they are not. The attic window, closed. Another door open, the things are gone. Dark and cold. The wind and dark, no flame. They were here. Gone so quickly. We look. They are gone. We wait. Empty and cold. Alone. He moves along the stair. He is here. We are. He moves behind. The doors close. Empty and cold.

[Photo courtesy of Poptart.]

Monday, March 05, 2007

The First Supper

We've been in the new house since Thursday. It's funny how everything takes on an odd tone akin to nostalgia, as though we're borrowing perspective from the future and using it up now. Every 'first' is remarked, discussed, and associated with warm feelings. Awww, we're having our first meal in the new kitchen, or I just watched my first DVD in the new house*, or This insurance bill is our first piece of mail here, or Awwww, I just pinched my first loaf on Madison Ave. Such bullshit! The first meal in our new kitchen was great, I loved it, and it felt special to sit down with my wife and talk and eat and look around. But shouldn't every meal be like that? Does mere novelty explain that heightened emotional valuation? I don't know the answer, but I even had one of these awwww moments when I saw my first rat scamper across the parking pad.

What the fuck difference does it make if it's the first time we do something in the new house? The Buddhists are onto something with that 'living in the moment' stuff. Taking a bath in the whirlpool tub the first time is nice, but it should always be nice. I know for a fact however that in two years it'll be ho-hum, another bath in the whirlpool tub, whooopedy-do.

I suppose I can blame the exhausting moving process in part for making things feel so special right now. We've been living in chaos for months, and it's going to take another month to get settled in. Yesterday we bought some curtains and hung them for the first time in our new house(awww). Our first expedition to Ikea** to furnish the new place(awww). But the moved-in chaos is much better than the pre-move chaos as it doesn't have the actual moving chaos ahead of it.

I'm sore as hell after five straight days of heavy lifting. I took my first two Tylenol at the house Thursday, and have achieved my first 10 since. My hips, knees, and feet ache like a rotted tooth.

*It was David Cronenberg's ExistenZ. My own disassociation with reality following several days of heavy lifting and weeks of unsurety made this selection appropriate. That and the fact it was the DVD on top of the box I opened after setting up the TV room.

**I loathe the local Ikea. The customers there are the rudest, most hateful bunch of schmucks anywhere on the planet, with absolutely minimal regard for other human beings. If a meteor crashed into the damn building on a Sunday afternoon the planet Earth would benefit dramatically.***

***I would include my own loss as a Sunday Ikea shopper as also beneficial to Earth.****

****My boss/editor always corrects me when I put the definite article in front of Earth, as in "The Earth." She says "Earth is the planet, the earth is dirt." I argued that Earth often takes the definite article, and she said I was looney. The curriculum we were arguing over was written by me***** for a book called Voyage to the Center of THE EARTH, however, so I won the argument.

*****She also hates the passive voice, but then again the passive voice is also hated by me.

Striving for normalcy

We owe a big debt to those poor unfortunates stuck with helping us move last week. The Thursday crew did the heavy lifting--BroJ and Big Al and our parents put in a full day and Teeny Weeny lent a hand briefly.

Friday and Saturday we had a great deal of help with the de-junkifying of our old place, including again our folks and also Leesha who very kindly drove down from Manhattan and helped with such delightful tasks as cleaning out the attic. Earthdragon and Poptart RULE--they gave us much of their weekend, and enough beer doesn't exist to repay them. Sandstress even provided photography services before we left the old place, and had a final run-in with the restless door-opening entity there. K'wali and Klezma showed late Saturday and helped haul boxes up and down the steps as well. Our moms are the best: mine provided her much-needed Jeep pickup for trips to the dump and house and put in four solid days of labor, and Cha's kept us all fed, did a lot of cleaning and box pushing, and minimized our trips to the Goodwill by reclaiming half the stuff we were dumping. We can't forget my niece Danie either. In between packing and cleaning she entertained us with pink tennis ball juggling. Awesome.

Thanks also to those Evite respondees who were scheduled to come but who were cancelled because of the quick and efficient work of the other volunteers. You guys also rock.

Now I'm back at the job with a pile of editing to do, but I feel I can relax. Today was my first automotive commute to work in something like 13 years.