Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Boom Boom Clap

Eldest had a birthday party last week, at the little red caboose in City Park. My back took the stain remarkably well. Tolstoy and his boyos spent the night, and after the kids went to sleep we tossed back a few cold malted beverages. Fun evening. Great cake.

Oh my God, was it great cake.

Eldest has a tendency towards the treasuring of material things, for reasons I will not go into now, so it is heartening to me that the birthday CD mix I give her every year is always among her favorite gifts. She keeps them all; if they break, she asks me to burn a new one.

This year, a new wrinkle. All her favorite songs up to now have been culled from the tastes of the lil hux and me: Dylan, the Beatles, Springsteen, Alanis Morissette, KT Turnstall. This year new influences are entering the mix, bubblegum tweener pop music, mostly Hannah Montana. It was a sweet moment to hear her (and boyo one, no less) sing along to it on the ride home. I could summon up some snark about Ms. Montana representing pre-packaged pop stars and the idolization of celebrity, but since I was singing Monkees tunes at about the same age of my own boyhood, it would ring false. I like the Monkees. And it is hard to get more pre-packaged than them.

And here's a confession I feel free to make since few of you know my real name: I have a sneaking fondness for Hannah Montana's "Hoedown" ("boom boom clap, boom de-clap-de-clap"). If you accuse me of this in my actual life I will of course deny it, and promptly delete this post. But I feel my secret is safe with you.

Don't let me down.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


So.  Had a great time for the first 4 innings of the Father's Day baseball game Sunday.  I was at the concession stand getting hot dogs and beer, turned around to get some ketchup packets and snap!, a sharp pain in my back, like a knife.  It was hard to even breathe, let alone walk.  Took me several minutes to get my composure, then I made my slow and painful journey back to the seats.  Incredibly, I took the beer and dogs back with me.  No spills.

We stayed for the rest of the game.  I was relatively pain-free as long as I remained standing, supporting myself against the railing.  There are worse places to throw out your back than in the middle of a baseball game on a gorgeous summer afternoon.  And the Sky Sox beat the Las Vegas 51's, 13-4.  It was a fun day.  Got to play catch on the field with the girls before the game. They got free baseball gloves. And they're actually pretty good gloves!

Getting out of the stadium and into the car was pretty dicey (another reason we stayed: avoiding the crowd).  Out of the car and onto the downstairs couch (where I've been ever since) was similarly difficult.  And the first night was painful and spasm-riddled and not something I ever want to experience again.

Better now.  I can't get up or down from the couch without help, and pain.  Lying motionless I'm fine.  And I can lie on a couch motionless with the best of them.

So.  I'm reading undemanding fiction and watching whatever movie I can snag on the DVR.  Last night was Dreamcatcher.  Absolutely awful.  I rather enjoyed it, but that's just the muscle relaxants talking.  Tonight is Ride With the Devil, which is about a period of the Civil War I'm pretty familiar with.  Ang Lee directed it, which bodes well.  Jewel is in it,  which does not.

p.s.: Got another story published.  Baby Teeth, in fiction@work (an early draft is here).  Had to tussle with the editors about the last sentence.  I like tussling with editors.  It means they give a damn about the story.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


That new header image is of Ida and Dactyl, an asteroid with its very own tiny moon.  I've always loved the photo.  Reminds me of a parent and child, bonded by gravity, rotating around a common center.  Plus, I didn't know asteroids could have moons. 

A coupla cool comments about the photo in my last post (see below).  Margaret said it looked like a stellar semi-colon.  Laurita said her kid told her it looked like the moon was hanging by a thumbtack.  Nice.  I will never look at the Venus-moon pas de deux quite the same way again.

Woke up at 4 a.m. yesterday to drive out just east of town and look for Comet McNaught.  Didn't find it.  It was oddly enjoyable still; I parked on a country road and cracked open a beer and scanned the sky right around Perseus with binoculars til the beer was gone.  Went home, went back to bed.  I'll look for it next month, after it's passed around the sun and is heading back out to its home in the Oort Cloud.

The Mets have won 6 games straight.  A half a game outta first place.  Of course, this weekend we play the Evil Empire (the Yankees, for you uninitiated), so anything could happen.  We're also going to see a AAA ballgame on Sunday to celebrate Father's Day.  Free gloves to the first 1500 kids!  And we get to have a catch on the field before the game.  Big Fun.  Hot dogs will be involved. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Bad photo. Lovely sight.

My favorite night skyscape is the crescent moon and Venus hanging in an evening sky. I like the rhythm of it, the way it occurs in bunches, Venus and crescent together for two or three nights in a row, then gone for a month, then back. And after a few months Venus will go away for awhile, loiter as a morning star for as long as a year. But it always comes back. And the whole dance begins again.

Had a long, difficult day yesterday. Being greeted by this sight at the end of it all made me better.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Rambling (+ Zombies)

I cleaned and organized my shed this weekend.  I cannot overstate how much satisfaction this gave me.

Mets swept the hapless Orioles this weekend.  First to last to first to last to second place.  Like being on a pogo stick.

Do they make pogo sticks anymore?  Are they considered too dangerous for children, and gone the way of the lawn dart?

Because I'd really like one.

I'd also like a didgeridoo, and have asked the Hux for one for my birthday.  We shall see.

Enough rambling.  Here's some very dramatic video of the problem-plagued Japanese Hayabusa Asteroid explorer returning to Earth over Australia this morning.  The fireball is the probe burning up in the atmosphere; the little dot below and to the right is the hardened bit that contains asteroid samples.  It was recovered in the Australian outback this morning.

So, if things go all Andromeda Strain on us, and the zombie apocalypse begins, you'll know where it came from.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Baby Teeth

I wrote this as a 10,000-ish word novella some years back. It had its moments; overall it was a little misshapen, a little unwieldy. I condensed it to a paragraph last week, and like the result better. If I had simply done it this way in the first place I coulda saved myself a summer of writing.

Baby Teeth

Her name is Betty Bowens, though all the neighborhood kids call her Betty Bones, and she lives in the old house at the end of the street with her three dead children. They are dead; she is not, merely old, very old. Her children died of different causes, at different times: hit-and-run, cancer, suicide. Two were adults when they died, the cancer and the suicide. Her boy Tristan, poor lovely Tristan, he was the hit-and-run, he died at five. But here in her house, in Betty Bones' house, they are all children again, all toddlers again, their trikes endlessly squeaking down the sidewalk, their food endlessly spilling down their bibs. They need comfort when thunderstorms loom, cold washcloths on their foreheads when they are hot with fever. They gather in the living room every Christmas morning. They blow out candles on birthdays. They are losing their baby teeth, over and over again, forever smiling at her with loopy gap-toothed grins. She finds the teeth in odd places. Tilting in the drain of the bathroom sink. Rolling in the backs of kitchen drawers. Curling in the gray tendrils of her hair as she combs it out at night. She keeps them all in a fragile teacup perched on her windowsill, the cup now filled to overflowing, tiny enamel pearls dropping to the porcelain saucer below like tears, bone white and shining.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Our first day at the Sand Dunes.  The water winding through the sand.  The beginnings of the first sand castle.  Our youngest, the Lil Booger.  The dunes behind her, the blue sky above.

After supper that night (steak and hot dogs!) we watched a hailstorm cross the plains towards us. We didn't know it was a hailstorm, saw the wall of rain, saw the dust getting kicked up on the land. Seconds before the thing hit, it became clear we should get inside. Called the kids, grabbed the food, ran inside, pelted the entire time. This is the sunset that followed.

The second sand castle. Two seaports, irrigated fields, towers for the royalty and the rich, small mounds for the commoners. I asked the girls to name it, they had no interest.  We'll call it Clowncarnia.

The Hux and I at the base of Zapata Falls. Nice and cool up there. The water is melt-off from mountain snow, it makes its way down and around the dunes we played in all weekend.  When we got back home, it was 102 degrees. Yikes.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


I was raised Southern Baptist, back in a day when the Southern Baptist Church was not nearly as conservative as it is now (it made a hard right wing turn in the early 80s). We'd go to church Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, and Wednesday nights. I enjoyed it, though I am not involved in the church now. I remember them as nice people. I also remember being hopelessly bored, sitting in the pew, as the preacher spoke.

I thought I remembered resenting having to go to church on Wednesday nights because it meant having to miss Star Trek, but I just checked the Wiki and found Star Trek aired on Thursdays. Weird how memory intersects with reality.

One of my favorite memories about Sunday evenings is this: after the service, as the adults did whatever they did inside the church, the kids would gather in the deepening shadows at the back of the church with the pastor's son, Randy Nail (his nickname was "Rusty") and tell ghost stories. He told most of the stories, though I think anyone who wanted could take a turn. But the job of the littler kids like me was to listen, and listen in deep awe. I don't remember many of the stories. One was about people bowling with human heads. One was about a ghost in a river, a woman crying for her drowned child. I think most of the stories were made up on the spot. In retrospect it seems very much like an attempt to construct our own metaphysics, a religion designed for kids, one that made more sense to us than abstractions about original sin, heaven and hell, the vengeful Old Testament God vs. the New Testament turn-the-other-cheek leanings (although Revelations did have a Jason and the Argonauts flair I found appealing). Our metaphysics was built on stuff we understood, stuff that scared us, blood and skeletons, witches and vampire bats, bits we could stack and build and piece together like Lego bricks.

It's a life-long process, the architecture of belief, regardless of your faith, or lack of faith. Forever incomplete. I suppose Catholics would see the resultant structure as a soaring cathedral, all stained glass and basilicas. I see a modest wood and brick building that Midwestern Protestants inevitably produced, built on a human scale, low to the ground and sensible, surrounded by a well kept lawn, green and soft and free of weeds, beckoning us to play.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Went to the drive-in this weekend to see Shrek (not that good, but as I've said before, and recently, the movie is secondary to the experience).  The interesting bit: at the time we showed up the lot for Shrek was just over half full.  The lot for Sex and the City 2 had exactly two cars in it.  Two.  Clearly, not alotta demographic overlap between folks who want to see Sex and the City and folks who go to drive ins.  Not too many Manolo Blahniks at the concession stand.

Couldn't get to sleep when we got home, so tuned into Coast-to-Coast, who had an actual astrophysicist on (Neil deGrasse Tyson!), as opposed to the usual parade of alien abductees and ghost whisperers. He discussed, among many, many other things, Manhattan-henge.  On May 28 and June 12 the sun lines up directly with the grid of the city streets in NYC and sets right at the vanishing point between the canyons of buildings, in the center of the street.  Every city with a flat grid of streets and an unobstructed horizon (e.g. no mountains) has two "-henges" a year. The exact dates depends on the orientation of the streets.

The most interesting he said about it was that centuries from now, when anthropologists dig up the ruins of New York City (a simultaneously pessimistic and optimistic prediction; NYC will be in ruins, yet the human race will still be around), they'll conclude we were a race of sun-worshipers, and built the entire city to celebrate two dates: May 28 and June 12. Or, Memorial Day and the All Star Break. They're belivve our two greatest religious holidays honored War and Baseball.

As NYC grew to become the capitol of the world in the heyday of the 40s and 50s, during the post-WWII boom and the great baseball troika of the Giants, Yankees, and Dodgers, that doesn't strike too far off the mark.