Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Londres

My Christmas present to myself is 10 days in England. So there.

I have knitted 3 hats since I've been home. The process is exceptionally easy with a round knitting loom, and a delightful, mindless activity to keep my hands occupied.

I'd love to get into theatrical hair and make-up. Prosthetics and fake blood and bruises and wigs are just neat. Sadly I don't believe my work experience affords me much of a chance to get a job in this field without re-training. "Okay, what are your credentials?" "Well, gimme an hour and an angle grinder and I could probably make you some scissors..."

I got a little creative in the bar the other day and came up with a tasty new drink. If it already has a name I can't find it, but its an ounce of peach schnapps, two ounces of white wine (i used a chilled Pinot Grigio), two ounces of grapefruit juice, and a splash of club soda. It is very refreshing and not too sweet. I shook it and strained it into a balloon glass filled with ice. Garnish with a grapefruit slice.

Ow, I just burned my tongue on hot tea.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Sentimental Truth

Since the moment I could recognize sounds I've known and trusted the voice of radio personality Garrison Keillor. I can recall hearing A Prairie Home Companion from my baby seat, clad in my rumpled Sunday best, sucking on my fist and dozing off to the comforting drone of Minnesota's finest humorist. The words, incomprehensible to an infant's ears, meant little, but the deep, calm meter of his monologue was just the remedy for the morning's stresses of an itchy dress, a hard pew, and brimstone.

Twenty years—and a few religious crises—later I was struck by just how deep an impression those car rides had made upon me. Keillor's voice, and indeed even the opening bars of "Tishomingo Blues" to this day elicit in me such feelings of safety, of well-being and warmth, that any place I hear them instantly feels like home. Though the coziness generally dissipates after a few moments, I still find it remarkable that I've established such a deep connection with the voice of a complete stranger.

The discovery that I was hardly alone in this sentiment led me to appreciate and quietly covet the power of vocal presenters—particularly those of National Public Radio. When an undergraduate classmate jokingly mentioned that I had "one of those NPR voices" after I'd read a particularly soporific piece of prose I secretly hoped it was true, and I could find a use for it. Studies and social nights in Canterbury validated the utility of my regionally-neutral American voice, particularly in November of 2004 when it was a bit incriminating to sound Southern. My calm, trustworthy NPR voice still tends to come out when I address large groups of people—namely excitable children and sobriety-challenged adults who tend to panic around sailboats. It finds use when I answer phones for pledge drives and leave voice messages for strangers, but I've always wanted the chance to read the news, review a book, or simply declare the time of day in a broadcast. Would my desire to speak on the radio be sated by a simple "the current time is ten fifty-seven pm" announcement? Probably not, but if it was all I got I hope I would continue to relish the moment.

This is the sappy and saccharine but true reason behind why I want to study broadcast journalism. Now I have to figure out a professional, dedicated, and experienced-sounding reason to write up in 250 words and submit to the masters program alongside two references from professors or professional contacts who have actually read something I've written. (Wherein lies the greatest trouble—no one who knows me academically or professionally has ever needed me to write anything more than my name for any academic or professional purpose. Any ideas?) I may be biting off a bit more than I'm prepared to chew. Or pay for.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Virginia

I began writing this story from the comfort and warmth of a motel in southern Virginia, before it was actually over. I finished it in the comfort and warmth of my bedroom in South Carolina.

I have omitted names out of respect for people's privacy. Everyone I encountered was incredibly nice and helpful and I intend to send them Christmas cards.

The story began Sunday morning, shortly after I had exited the train which had brought me from my thanksgiving festivities in New York City back to my car in Baltimore. It was drizzly and cold but not awful and the roads were reasonable. I knew that traffic was supposed to be bad—it was the last vacation day of the Thanksgiving holiday—but from where I stood, and indeed throughout most of my trip it was tolerable and even normal. I believe I'd caught one of those weird travel pockets, where everyone else encounters a horrible ordeal—traffic, fog, driving rain—but I was whisking along at or just below the posted speed limit, pretty close to on time.

My destination was home. 450 miles or so. My vehicle contained everything I'd had in Baltimore, minus a few ruined items of clothing that had since been donated to charity or interred in a landfill. I was listening to Boy, by Roald Dahl, and was doing the automotive equivalent of mooing along with the herd. I was content.

I stopped for gas about twelve miles from the North Carolina border.

I happily printed my receipt—about $22 for 12 gallons of gas, and popped it into my center console. I figured I would eventually frame it. I eased my car back onto the street and pointed her toward the freeway—I-85 South, toward Carolina.

I rolled up to a stop at the large intersection before the interstate and waited for the left-turn light to go green. It did so in due course and I mounted the onramp. It had signs indicating you should be aware of some curvy-ness, which I acknowledged just like any other road warning. I was smoothly accelerating, and had been doing so for about four or five seconds, when I saw the curve. I think I was going about 35 miles per hour—the yellow sign recomended 25. I saw that it was a tightish curve, and tapped the brakes. As I came around it, however, I realized a bit too late that it was a tighter curve than I'd initially believed, and attempted to slow down further while turning the wheel to follow it.

This did not make my brakes very happy, apparently, and the anti-lock mechanism began to engage. This did not help matters, as it caused the wheel to jerk frightfully. I held on, and kept the wheel aligned, but the tires were already set on their trajectory—about 10 degrees from the pavement. I skidded to a stop on the embankment. It was just before 7 pm.

I didn't hear any bumps or crunches, but the hill was essesntially a soup of red mud and grasses. After ascertaining that I was okay I hopped out to see how things looked. The car looked essentially okay except for one rather important thing—when the rear tires slipped down off the road they sank instantly into about eight inches of mud, the upshot of which was that the rear bumper got caught on the asphalt and quite literally popped off.

Not wonderful, I told myself, but not the end of the world. I'll need a tow truck. I hopped back in the car and, with shaking hands, dialed AAA. The phone was answered by a kind lady who, as per company protocol, asked me if I was in a safe place. I believed I was.

That's when the shouting started.

Two middle-aged men and several of their dogs were running toward me, yelling something incomprehensible. I stepped out to see what was going on and was greeted by a small, excited hound of some persuasion. They remained incomprehensible even in close proximity, but were basically asking if I was okay. I said I was and was on the phone to get a tow truck, I'm sorry to have alarmed you. I climbed back in the car to speak to the AAA lady. The men kept shouting and one pulled open the door. He hollered for me to get out. I refused, pulled the door closed, and locked it, rather terrified of his bloodshot eyes. After a few confused moments in which the lady on the phone asked me where I was, I saw a fire department vehicle pull up, lights and sirens blaring. I unlocked the door, which set off the alarm. Christ on a bike.

After fumbling with my keys until the alarm quieted I stepped out to hear one of the men shouting, a bit more clearly, at a fire department member a few inches from him.

"we live on the hill there, we saw the car go off'n the road, we thought it was on the roof so we dialed 9-1-1." then to me, "you need to slow down there on that curve."

"Thanks. No, really."

One of the fire department members, of about 7 in the vehicle, came and asked if I was all right, said that EMS was going to pull up in a second and check me out. I expressed appreciation for their concern but was fine and really just needed a tow—I'd be able to handle it from there. As I said it, the remainder of the uniformed men slogged up the muddy hill and swarmed the car–they popped the hood and disconnected the battery so as to prevent the airbags from deploying and inspected what they could of the damage in the dark. A police car arrived.

After inquiring as to my well-being, the officer asked for my license, registration, and insurance information. I climbed back into the car and found these bits of paper and plastic and handed them to him. He walked back off to the squad car.

I lifted my phone back to my ear. The nice AAA lady was still on the phone, and asked me to ask someone where I was. I said I didn't know, and asked another police officer. "We're handling it," he replied, "now please follow the other officer back to the car." Baffled and still trying to get a tow, I continued trying to describe my location until the second officer stated, "the tow truck is already on the way. Your insurance will pay for it." Shit. Insurance.

I thanked the nice AAA lady and hung up. I approached the squad car, and the cop unlocked the door and offered me a seat. I left my feet on the road as my shoes were muddy. He was filling in what looked like a mountain of paperwork.

"How fast do you think you were going?"
"I think about 30, 35 miles an hour."
"You sure?"
"Yessir, I couldn't have gotten up much faster than that. I'd been stopped at the red light just a few yards back."
"hmm."

"So what happened?"
"That curve—i just didn't realize it was as tight as it was. I turned too late, my brakes locked up, and I was off the road. It wouldn't be so bad except for the mud."

I looked through the windshield and saw a tow truck operator hooking a line to my rear axle. The fire department members, now a dozen or so, were standing around looking bored.

The police officer got my attention again.

"I'm writing you a ticket for reckless driving."
"What? Reckless? I just said-"
"You lost control of the vehicle. Legally, that's reckless driving."
"But sir, I wasn't going that fast, I just wasn't aware of the shape of the road. I'm not from here."
"I know, I know. And I suggest you take that up in court. Seriously."
"I'm sorry?"
"I'm legally obligated to write you a ticket for this, but I think you need to contest it in court. I'm setting you a court date for January 20th."
"Sir, I'm sorry, but this just isn't right. All I need is a tow."
"If there's more than $1,ooo worth of damage I'm required to write a ticket."

I glanced back at my bumper, fully intact and popped back, delicately, into place by the tow truck's cable.

"You think that's a thousand dollars worth of damage?"
"Maybe."

He showed me where to sign and informed me that he would not tick the box indicating I could pay the ticket by mail. My signature affixed, he handed me the large ticket, my registration, license, and insurance card. I climbed out of the car, slightly dazed and beginning to grow angry, and began to wander toward the car and all of my posessions.

The car was nearly in position to be hauled up. As it returned to the road I watched the rear left tire squish oddly off the wheel where it hit the asphalt ridge. Well shit.

I stepped back and found myself surrounded by firemen. They were chatting amongst themselves, and I overheard the line, "well, its not as bad as the one this morning."

"What was that?"
"we pulled another car off this spot this morning. Right here. You're prob'ly the fourth, fifth person we've pulled off here this month. This curve is treacherous."
"Whoa. Well, that makes me feel a little better."
"Yeah, people come down the onramp thinkin' they're going okay, then wham, they get spun off."
"I didn't think I was going too fast..."

A fireman glanced into the car and saw my handbag in the passenger seat, my colorful wallet peeking out of it. "Want your pocketbook? Or anything else out of the car?" Pocketbook. I'm really out in the sticks. He handed it to me. I later hoped that I'd thanked him.

I called my mom. I believe it was the second time I'd called her and begun with, "Hi mom. I'm okay, but..." The car was pulled fully onto the tow truck and I began to look at the damage. Tire, bumper, mud. Was that really it? All this for what could easily be handled with duct tape?

I heard myself swearing and choking up. Great, you're in front of dozens of people who you've just told you're a rational and sane person to have on the road. I dimly heard mom encouraging me to relax and get a hold of myself. Seeds of doubt and fear began tracing across my mind. Were you speeding? Did you jerk the wheel? Did these people put this here as a trap? Does this town depend on car accidents? Are they evil? Are they aliens? The reds, yellows, and blues of emergency vehicle lights were growing misty and confused in my eyes, like a dirty kaleidoscope. I realized my hands were shaking and dimly registered that I might have dropped something.

The tow truck driver was trying to subtly get my attention. He opened the passenger door of the cab and I clambered awkwardly in. My shaking hand fumbled to close the door around the odd parcel of paperwork it still contained.

The driver looked to be in his mid sixties, large and strong. My mouth fired off, babbling thanks for his help and a variety pack of other asinine information as he smoothly completed a three-point turn and started off back up the onramp. I was a bit surprised that we weren't going out and around until I glanced up and saw three fire trucks, punctuated by lines of road flares, blocking the entryway.

"Sheez. I had no idea this was such a big deal. These folks work Fast."
"This happens often enough that we got a routine set up. They had plenty of practice this morning."
"I'd heard about that. Was that one as bad as this?"
"Yours ain't bad."
"I'm sorry it caused such a fuss—seems like every fire department in the county answered."
"Don't worry about it. Not much else goes on around here. Everybody wants to get involved."

Feeling a bit like Arlo Gutherie I fell quiet.

In a matter of seconds we were pulling into a Citgo station full of cars and tow trucks. I hopped out and followed him into the store, where two men and two women, one of which looked near my age, were chatting. He handed me a business card and disappeared into the garage, where two cars hovered overhead on hydraulic lifts. A forty-something man with sandy hair and a goatee grinned at me.

"Here she is! How's the car?"
"I broke it."

Everyone laughed and smiled in a pitying sort of way, and I heard several renditions of "they need to do something about that curve–you're the second one today" while the girl behind the counter asked me where I was from and if I'd need a place to stay. After everyone expressed their sympathy for my distance from home, she called her friend over at the Comfort Inn. Calmed and somewhat less confused, a message arrived from the accounting branch of my brain. License. We've lost track of the license. Eyes and hands–look for it. I obeyed. It was gone. The goatee'd man was orating.

"You know, I think they could save a lot by paving over where that gravel is—y'know, putting yellow lines on it to show that it ain't road, but if people skid off they can get back on. 'Cos you and that guy this mornin', you coulda just got back going if the gravel weren't all wet and gouged out. Folks run off an they come back in and smooth out the gravel, but five, ten people skid off there a day without gettin' hurt and gouge out a hole. Then it rains and all that turns into mud. Till you come along and skid into it and what with the mud an the hole you fall in an get stuck."

"Well you know the state ain't gonna do nothin about it until somebody gets real hurt and sues. Till then they'll just blame the drivers and hand out reckless drivin tickets. Did you get one?"

"I did. I was pretty surprised." I showed the girl the ticket and she nodded. "I think I dropped my license."

"Did the cop hand it back to you?"
"Yeah, I must have dropped it in the mud."
"Well who was the ticketing officer? Maybe you dropped it in the car."
"Er...C. S."
"I'll give him a call."

She picked up her cell phone and hit a button on speed dial. "Hey darlin, could you have a look around in your car... yes she said you handed it back to her but she dropped it... no she's got everything else... call me if it turns up. I'll talk to you later."

Paranoia flared again. Are these nice people in cahoots with the cops? What kind of a set-up is this?

"You all gotten to know the police force?"
"Aw of course. My husband's a state trooper. C.S. is a good guy—the sheriff's real tough on 'em. I intend to give him a piece of my mind about sayin you were drivin reckless over there, though–he knows how bad it is, 'specially if you ain't from around here."

After a few more moments of shuffling in which I returned to the tow truck and searched around my seat i found myself getting back into it with the friendly goatee'd man and taking a quick ride over to the Comfort Inn. He lowered the ramp in the parking lot so i could get my passport out of a notebook in a large suitcase in the back. I dragged it inside and was met with the tastefully decorated lobby of a business-class motel and an attractive lady in what I guessed was her late 60's from her whitening, smoothly tucked-up hair. She smiled at me from across the high check-in counter.

"So here's the girl of the hour."

She began typing and looking for a room for me. I asked if they offered a AAA discount and she looked at me over her glasses. "I'm giving you every discount I can find." I wanted to hug her. She placed me in a downstairs room with two queen beds for $40 a night. I discovered later that this was just about half their going rate. I signed the check-in agreement and she asked me to call her when I got settled.

With my driver's help I offloaded about half of my worldly possessions into my large, clean room. I attempted to tip him and he backed away quickly. I hoped I hadn't insulted him. Inside, door triple-locked, I settled in to call my insurance company and parents. My first call to the insurance company ended suddenly—I heard crackling and shuffling akin to someone else in the same house picking up the phone which the agent did not hear. I asked if perhaps her quality assurance monitor was messed up and the connection was instantly severed. I tried again. This call was successful and, after providing her with as much information as she required and reminding her I was stranded far from home, a different agent assured me that someone would call me first thing in the morning. It was 8:30pm.

I placed the call to the front desk on the motel phone and the same thing happened. Shuffle shuffle click. I tried again, weirded out, and informed the desk lady that I'd gotten in and settled, thank you so much. She reminded me to lock my doors and get some rest.

I called my mom and told her I thought my phones had been bugged. She told me I was exhausted. As she's a healthcare professional and tends to be right about these things I believed her.

I set my alarm for 8 am and crawled into bed. It was 10pm.

After about fifteen minutes of sleep I was jerked awake by clock radio honky-tonk and continued the pointless stream of arguments I'd been mulling over all night. I called the insurance company again and was given the name and number of my case's assigned agent. The agent wouldn't reach his desk until 11:30am. Check-out was at 11 so I went back to the hotel desk and the same nice lady gave me the same nice price for the same nice room for another night. We chatted a bit and watched Law and Order on the big lobby television while I waited to make my phone call. She had been an upwardly-mobile actress in the Village back in her day, but she got married and didn't want to raise her family in the City. She tried to continue acting in regional theatre in upstate New York but was prevented by her race. She did some dancing and modeling for some Black-community pageants but grew disgruntled quickly with the prejudice that prevented her from pursuing her dreams.

I called the insurance guy again. No answer. I left a message. To pass the time I wandered over to the tow company's garage—it was visible from the hotel—bought a soda and settled in to chat with the folks who ran it. They were mostly family and the man who'd collected the car was the patriarch and owner. A number of family members and regulars wandered in and out to pass the time—one of which was a retired cop. He'd heard about me already and recounted with amusement that back in the day he sat at the end of that onramp to catch speeders on the freeway. This was really convenient as every time someone wiped out on that curve he'd just have to back up to help them out.

Every half-hour or so I called the insurance agent, but he never answered, and his voice mailbox was full after my first message. I dialed the call center and suggested that perhaps my agent wasn't in today and if so could I get someone else on my case so I could get things moving oh did I happen to mention I'm Stranded here have a nice day. They connected me to another voice mailbox with a message that clearly announced that its owner would not be in today. I called again, recounted the story so far in four part harmony and requested that something useful happen soon.

My agent called me. He was sick and had just gotten to work after he'd called in to say he couldn't make it and his boss said he had to. He sounded like he was running on Day-Quil. I felt like an ass for hating him up until this point. He was just a liability adjuster and, once he confirmed I was the only person involved, put my claim in to be handled by someone local. He got in touch with the garage and asked if a little bit of work—a tire and a mud clearing—could get her running well enough that i could get home. Someone noticed something a bit off about the front end and said they didn't think so, it needed to go to a body shop. The agent called a rental company and asked if it was possible for me to get a car after having misplaced my license. Her "no" response was so quick that he didn't press the issue. Not particularly helpful on any front, the agent said a claims adjuster would come out to evaluate the car and get things moving by the end of the day.

I used the hotel computer to hop online and entertain myself in between calls to keep myself occupied. A friend informed me that I was the sixth person he knew who had run off the road in the past two days. I told him he'd jinxed all of us. As the end of the day rolled around and my constant calls and messages led to a steaming heap of diddly-squat on the claims adjustment front I returned to the garage to ask if anyone had seen my license. The owner drove me over to the onramp and I slogged fruitlessly through the mud for a while. Upon our return to the garage his granddaughter, a pretty high school-aged girl who'd once played softball in my hometown, drove me up to where my car was stored and helped me dig through it. Again unsuccessful, I retrieved my laptop from the heaps of baggage and returned to the motel in the dark. I called my other half on Google Talk and allowed his soothing voice to quell much of my frustration. As soon as he dozed off it all came back, but it was a welcome respite.

Again, bed around 10. Fifteen minutes of sleep just before 8. More phone calls. Even less accomplished.

I puttered around between the hotel and the garage, making more friends. Tuesday's shop attendant was a soft-spoken woman of indeterminate age, probably around 40, who kept me entertained with conversation for several hours. I would periodically step outside to bug the insurance company and she would comment on how they were probably giving me the run-around in hopes that I'd get annoyed and cancel my service so they could fine me for breaking contract and not pay a dime toward repairs. Later, when my mom called to give me an update on her progress toward picking me up, she mentioned that she was surprised I didn't urge her to hurry and "get me away from this scary Stephen King novel." I really liked her.

An elderly, toothless man came and went periodically through the shop, occasionally making remarks to the attendant in a barely-audible wheeze. He told a number of racist jokes and got annoyed when I didn't laugh. They weren't funny. One in particular sounded like a threat. I didn't like him.

After a while it occurred to me that I hadn't eaten in about three days and the attendant pointed me toward the buffet restaurant next door. Named the "Down Home Country Restaurant" the buffet offered fried okra, green beans, kung pao chicken, lychees, sweet potato casserole, egg drop soup, peach cobbler, oysters on the half shell, stuffed portobello caps, crab ragoons, and about seventy other dishes, most of which contained meat. After sating myself on every vegetable in the place and consuming a cream puff I paid my $5.50 and returned to the garage, giggling maniacally.

After a while my mom arrived and thanked everyone she could find for being so nice and helpful while I was stuck here. We loaded up everything I owned, which took some pressure off of my car's flat tire, thanked a few more people, and crept back onto the dreaded onramp at about eight miles an hour. When the ramp straightened out mom relaxed, we sped up, and the car hurried up toward home.

The insurance adjuster finally called yesterday afternoon and said she'd get my car towed to a garage that was part of the company. I'll still have to go up and collect it when its ready—a 7-hour bus ride. This is assuming that the finance department actually pays out–they've been searching for loopholes since I filed the claim. Then in January it looks like I have a date in court. I'll let you know how that goes. The obnoxious part is the cop was right—even though the damage to the car is not extensive, the sheer cost of towing, driven up by insurance companies, and storage, driven up by insurance companies, compounded with my insurance company's refusal to do anything for four days, will easily put the cost of this whole incident over a thousand dollars.

This event has provided me with a valuable life lesson: I'm ready to move to England.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

unemployed and homeless

so. i lost my job.

snigger.

the season is over, the boats are shrink-wrapped, the spars are safe, the hangovers are receding, and everyone has scattered to the four corners of the globe.

well, everyone has scattered. some just scattered to other houses in Baltimore. others have flown to the west coast and beyond to Australia, a few are moving to new york, and one brave soul is moving to Maine. I'm going to have thanksgiving with my family before I come up with any more definitive plans than "move to New York, try again."

its all fine. i'm going to try and wash the taney out of my clothes for the next couple of days.

well, its not fine fine. i have just completely lost all of the friends i'd spent the past year bonding with. i feel that my likelihood of encountering any of them again hovers around a 12% chance.

The Lady Maryland's cook was picked up by his family on Saturday, and it blew all of us away to hear him called Grandpa. Their captain and mine have bought a Rover and plan to sail it from Myrtle Beach to Buffalo once the canals re-open in spring, and i might get a call to help on the transit. LM's first mate has bought a ketch and plans to sail it from Maryland to Maine soon, while her second mate has some rather Kerouac-esque goals in mind. Almost everyone has warm, homeward-bound feelings right now and hopes to re-connect with their estranged land-based families. I wish them the best, and happy holidays.

I'm not alone out of my crew when I express the sentiment that i'm not entirely sure where i'm going from here, or for how long, or why. We rode this gig like a runaway train until it suddenly stopped, flinging us off the roof onto our now bruised behinds, dizzy and perplexed.

Again...any suggestions for graduate study? Something cool i don't know about? Journalism looks like fun, but where is it going to get me that a BA in theatre hasn't? Radio broadcast also looks like...HEAPS of fun, but with competition and the fact that i've barely adjusted a knob on a stereo receiver i have a funny feeling i'm not an ideal candidate for admission. Alas. maybe i'll sign up for some welding classes in January, or try for some freelance theatre gigs with my sister. Or try and get a deckhand gig on the Lettie G. Howard. I don't know anymore. Doesn't anyone just...know what i'm supposed to do?

Aha! I'll take up religion.

tee hee hee hee hee

Actually, I discovered with my haircut (or lack thereof), if i wear an Under Armour black mock turtleneck thermal garment, i look like a priest. Its pretty funny. well, i thought it was funny. other people might say the more appropriate word is "offensive" given the context.

So technically i'm not homeless--i'm in a house now. An actual...house. It doesn't list to starboard at low tide, it doesn't creak in high wind, it doesn't make that wonderful sloshing noise and rock me gently to sleep...it just sits here bravely atop a scenic overlook with the bay beautiful but powerless down below.

On the whole, my housing situation's cool factor has warmed a few degrees. Oh well.

I'm handling it well, i think. At the beginning of last week it didn't occur to me how much i was going to miss my Taney mates and their little noises and behaviors to which I'd grown so accustomed. Seeing the light go on through the holes in the wall, hearing barely-suppressed music through someone else's headphones, hearing the sighing, the swearing, the snoring, the shaving, the shouting...when I left yesterday morning there was complete and utter silence. To say I exited in a hurry would be an understatement. I freakin' ran.

So there you have it. The boats are in exactly the same condition as when I arrived last year--a few things have improved, but a few others have degraded and need maintenance. The pier is vacant, the kids are gone, the crabs have been released and a light film of dust has already begun to settle. I am again looking for work, housing, and friends.

Did 2008 actually happen?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

wordle



wordle makes my life out to sound pretty damn cool.
thanks Kim.

yesterday marked the end of the LCF shipboard department's
sailing season. As of today, all of the boats are down-
rigged and half have frames erected for winter coverings.
Its all very sad, very cold, and very hard work. I spent
today at the top of Sigsbee's mast taking down blocks and
lines--I'd imagine that's the last time i'll ever be up
there. Weird. The sails are stowed, the spars are stored,
and we have 3 days left of employment.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Save the Day!...light

While I'm not a huge advocate of daylight savings' time, I am happy to fall back every year. After two or three weeks of waking up in the dark, it is wonderful to have at least a little more time of waking up to sunshine before that, too, disappears in preparation for winter. Ah, temperate zones.

So my absentee ballot application was mailed to the wrong address, bounced, and came back to the voter registration office. I got in touch with them and they sent out a new one...and it arrived today, November 3. (for anyone unfamiliar with the absentee voting system, you are first mailed a ballot application, which you fill out and return, and upon receipt of a perfectly filled out application, the actual absentee ballot is mailed, which you then fill out and mail back. its asinine, it wastes paper, it wastes time, and i put in for it with plenty of time to take care of everything, and South Carolina screwed up.) Thanks, SC. you've fucked me again. Way to withhold constitutional rights.

So, I had a great week in Philadelphia. The kids were awesome to work with, we made and ate some delicious food, i discovered new bars and new beers, i slept in a real bed, and, what fabulous timing--the Phillies won the world series while we were in town! It was fun to watch the revelry in the streets after that--that was until they started lighting things on fire and looting. Didn't quite grasp how "hooray we won" translates into "hey, lets break shit!" but oh well, i've never been a Phanatic.

I also discovered one of those awesome bookshops in the old part of town--called the Book Trader, it had scores of volumes stacked right to the ceiling, confusing, tight, twisty, irregular aisles, funny lighting, that old-book smell, a huge upstairs, and the best shopkeepers i've yet met. I bought six classics i've been needing to read for about eleven dollars and practically skipped home. (by "practically" i mean "i skipped home.")

On the slow, difficult transit up I took a number of photos of the bridges we went under in the C&D Canal (chesapeake & Delaware). as soon as I retrieve my camera from Sigsbee i'll be sure to share a few. It was a very pretty, if laborious, trip up--the current was strong against us the whole way, it was freezing, and the wind was directly on our quarter, which meant the main wanted to jibe the whole freakin day. Most of the time we held it off or allowed it to jibe safely, but steering was a relentless battle against the wind. A positive upshot of the current was that when we finally did get into Philadelphia, the entire exterior of the boat had been cleaned of algae. Who'd a thunk it.

The transit back was quick and easy by contrast. Whereas on the way up we averaged about 3.7 knots, the way back we averaged 9.3 and made it in 14 hours. Instead of two days. The wind was still on our quarter, but the current was helping at an amazing clip (that same amazing clip we were fighting before) and practically threw us into Baltimore. The buoys, anchored against the onslaught of water, looked like they were motoring past as the waves broke around them. I'd never thought to personify a buoy before, but it was pretty funny.

I finished James Michener's Chesapeake! I knocked out the last 500 pages in about 4 days. I was sad to see Rosalind's Revenge go. Say what you will about the power of the seas and the perpetual motion of nature that maintains the universe's constancy... Dammit, I Liked that house!

I'm currently about halfway through The Kite Runner, which I borrowed from a crewmate after I ran out of pages. While transits can be tough, there's also rather a lot of down-time when you're not on the wheel. While I'm not enjoying the story per se, it is excellently written so far.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Fillie

Sigsbee will be heading up the Bay to Philadelphia beginning tomorrow morning. we expect to arrive on Sunday, but will not be sailing Saturday during what is expected to be gale-force winds and unpleasant precipitation. We'll be in Philly for just over a week running sails with a youth program. It should be an adventure. I've got my long underwear all clean and ready.

Today marked the annual shipboard Jack-o-Lantern contest, bumped up a bit on account of our iminent departure for the frozen north. Mildred Belle won hands-down, with a beautifully carved design of a white perch...on fire. In close second ran a delicately rendered hellcat, entered by Snow Goose of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. An attractive lighthouse scratched out by the Lady Maryland crew earned them a third place ranking, and Sigsbee's crew pulled fourth with a delightfully vindictive depiction of the Mildred Belle...on fire. And sinking. All pumpkins will be visible for the next little while on Pier 5 on their respective boats.


I am currently open to suggestions as to what I should go to grad school for. I'm not hugely interested in maths, sciences, arts, languages, medicine, law, or history. Unfortunately I can't find Small Engine Repair at the Ph D. level.

Monday, October 20, 2008

pretty boats

This past week Baltimore played host to the Parade of Sail, the pre-game show for the Great Cheasapeake Bay Schooner Race. I experienced the joy of participating in the parade from the deck of the Lady Maryland, who went on to finish second in the race. In honor of yet another of my birthdays, I decided that this year's celebration should be of boats, which are a touch prettier than rats. Please note, as usual, all photos are mega-huge, and were taken by me in Baltimore's Inner Harbor.


Small, private schooner Martha White. Raised two questions: Are they really all that into flour? Is that really all bottom paint?

Pride of Baltimore II firing a cannon salute in the Inner Harbor. The ensuing audio battle among vessels Pride, Constellation, Gazela, Lady Maryland, Mystic Whaler, and others led to the National Aquarium at Baltimore to call over the VHF "please stop firing your cannons. You're scaring the dolphins."

Sigsbee! Aw, I'm sorry you didn't get to come, darlin. She's lookin' sharp.

Baltimore Clipper Amistad. -Wait, That Amistad?- Yes, That Amistad.


Schooner Mystic from a Boston Whaler.

Square topsail schooner Sultana, from Chestertown, Maryland. Judge her size compared to the people on deck. She's a perfect miniature. And a good friend of Living Classrooms.


Schooner Virginia. has a reputation for being bad-ass. Broke a gaff during the race. I heard everyone is okay. Is it just me, or does she look like the kind of boat Darth Vader would captain?


Schooners Virginia and When and If?, under Lady Maryland's main. So much canvas.


Mystic Whaler, a beautiful vessel in and out, and excellent hosts. Thank you for throwing a great pot luck!

I'll try to add a Lady Maryland "Fear the Pink" shirt soon.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

hot sauce, spider webs, and a gallon of coffee

So. I've been out of town.

Having a blast, by the way. Two weeks ago found me in St. Michaels, MD, running some day programs for Eastern Shore kids, which were a lot of fun (if fast!) My crew and I spent nights alternately weathering rain and enjoying brightly starlit skies from Sigsbee's deck after delicious meals cooked over a lead-melting burner. (a welcome backup after a propane tank attachment mix-up. Big Fire make Fast Dinner. And perhaps the most perfect popcorn i've ever tried.) The crew transit back, a trip of several hours, was passed enjoyably, if a bit noisily, thanks to the addition of four bottles of hot sauce and a box of crackers. Yeowza! (technically we only tried three--the fourth was saved to be shared with the captain of another vessel. After watching the reactions of tasters, I'm rather glad I wasn't tempted to try the fourth.)

Last Friday was spent in drink and revelry at the annual Maritime Magic gala, a large party/concert/auction/local restaurant sampler/boozeup to benefit the Living Classrooms Foundation. The music was great, the food was excellent, free, and largely vegetarian, the vendors were friendly, and nobody fell in during my M.O.B. watch. I'd call that a success.

This week found me on a 3-day trip to Kent Island, complete with an entire department-load of insurance agents on a team-building adventure. Also known as a lovely few days on boats, some lovely restaurants, and plenty of lovely beer. They were generally pleasant people, and though we flatly lost the sailboat race against Lady Maryland, no one was hugely surprised and it was a great day on the water in any case.

An odd thing occurred while we were crossing the bay toward Baltimore--in a rather nondescript area of open water we happened to pass through a giant cloud of bugs. I don't know what kind exactly--they looked like largeish flying ants, but with pointier aft ends. They may have been larval wasps or juvenile versions of any number of interesting critters, but needless to say I spent most of this time cowering behind one of my coworkers as the bugs whizzed past. Most of them passed by without even noticing Sigsbee, and the ones that did land on deck were easily shooed off it again. We passed through them in about twenty minutes at 5 knots, so do the math and tell me what the diameter of the bug-cloud was. Seriously. I'm pathetic at math.

Anyway, we got back to the dock and tidied up the boat, and in the process of tying off the gantline a member of my crew happened to look up and see that every line, every lazy jack and halyard was decorated with hundreds of delicate webs--the entire rig was covered in a filigree of arachnoid fibers. We assumed these had something to do with the bug-cloud, but we really have no idea--no one had heard of six-legged or winged insects with the ability to produce a web, and none of them appeared to be ballooning anyway. Some theories we proposed, but later shot down included:

-the Francis Scott Key Bridge, which marks the entrance to Baltimore's Outer Harbor, just doesn't have cargo ships passing under it like it used to get and is overrun with spiderwebs.
-the bugs were being attacked by minute ballooning spiders and we just interrupted, which led to all of the webs appearing to be over four feet long
-we were attacked by something at the dock overnight (this theory was dispelled when we saw the same webs covering the Lady Maryland's lines, and LM anchored out pretty far from land because the water gets too shallow for her)
-our captain is actually a spider and we've just never noticed.

Any ideas?

in any case, my crew has been rather busy lately and, on account of this, have managed to go through three bags of coffee beans in about three weeks. Is that normal for four people?

The Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race is coming up in a couple of days, and boats from up and down the eastern seaboard have been showing up in droves in the inner harbor. Its been a lot of fun to see. I hope to get a chance to schmooze with their crews.

One more thing. This piece of psychadellic art gave me pause to wonder--it looks hand-painted by a giddy stoner with no concept of life-like colors, patterns, or ratios. I think a new religion or at least emphatic cult should form around this clear proof that God trips on acid.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

pout, grin, laugh, scream

I was tootling around in the local organic home store, Blue House, today, and came across numerous things that I want but, sadly, even if I could afford them, would be completely useless to me. The Taney is a wonderful home for what it is, but it has its limitations.

Namely, I don't have a stove. Therefore all the nifty tea kettles and cookware they have is completely useless to me. I'm also strictly forbidden from using my electric kettle on the ship, so I can't even use their nifty teabag teapots that i find so adorable. seriously, i live in a place that is highly opposed to the idea of me feeding myself--and for good reason. the wiring around here is historic. anything that draws enough electricity to boil water in three minutes or less is probably a hazard.

Something else I come up short on is windows. I have a 9" porthole, and though it is a very nice porthole, I don't believe the curator of the museum would be very happy with me if i installed a window box below it. Which means, sadly, that all the seeds, planters, and biodegradable flowerpots they sell are not intended for people like me.

I'm also a bit shortchanged when it comes to tables, dressers, and other furniture that appreciate decorative accents. No matter how many doilies you put on them, gunmetal gray cabinets will never look cozy. And vases? recall what I mentioned about portholes and imagine how happy fresh flowers would be in my floating cellar. (And while I suppose filling them with dried flowers is always an option, I really don't have enough cobwebs in my room to pull off the full Miss Havisham look.)

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I had a delightful epiphany today--I have decided that my sister's as-yet-unscheduled wedding must be officiated by a woman with a delightful Scottish lilt--something in the vein of NPR's Fiona Ritchie.

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I happened across this album cover in the record store and nearly did a spit-take. I've never heard of this performer or his music, but sheez. (please note, incidental readers--this is not a joke or an insult directed toward the cover's subject, but is rather a reference to the musician's eerie resemblance to a friend. Eerie.) Sarah, you must see this.

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Another shortcoming of living in a museum is the frequent reminders of which tourist demographic is most likely to visit them--families with young children. A note of advice, parents of toddlers: Children Have No Need to Tour Historic Ships, Watch Movies or Plays, Visit Theme Parks, or Experience Fine Dining Until They Are At Least Ten (10) Years Of Age. Prior to that, you're just wasting your money. And pissing people off. Of Course she's throwing a tantrum. She's 3--its dark, cramped, smelly, confusing, and boring in here! Don't make your child bear with it--learn from it. They don't cry when they're happy.

Monday, September 15, 2008

sketchup

"When the installation process is complete, you should see a SketchUp application icon (it looks like a little house.)"

Oh Google, this is why I love you.

In other news, I'm feeling much better now, I've removed all my facebook friends who vocally support Sarah Palin, and i'm most of the way through Alan Weisman's The World Without Us, which i daresay is a thoroughly enjoyable book about the end of the human race. I'm sure everyone else has read it twice by now, but I tend to wait until books' hype has cooled somewhat before embarking upon them, so as to not appear hip.

In other news, I'm on the search for a nifty, useful, likeable tablet pc. I'd prefer a linux interface, but I have a number of constraints to that end--I like Google Talk far better than Skype for its crystal-clear audio interface and obviously greater stability (though those concerns may not be noteworthy on a faster, happier computer than this 1998-edition Dell Latitude dual boot Win2K/Ubuntu 5gb hd/45omhz pentium II--hey, don't laugh. It was free, and i'm grateful for it.) and unfortunately Google and Linux are, if not mortal enemies, not the best of friends. I tend to avoid downloading anything i don't desperately need and store all photos, music, and misc online, where I have more storage and I believe safety than on this rather senile machine.

I don't think I'll buy anything while i still work for LCF--the Taney's thick steel hull prevents any semblance of wifi from penetrating into my room, and I don't really have much need for more than I have--everything that requires a faster computer and a newer GUI is generally an idle amusement that keeps me cooped up in here when I should go outside and be sociable.

I still haven't bought a pair of Earth shoes, but I may go ahead and get some today. If nothing else, i'm going to get some new Keens for winter. and maybe an additional pair for the rest of the season. yay Keens!

Wow. I think this may be my first product-oriented blog. I generally don't talk about stuff, i talk about thoughts. But thankfully my mind has been blissfully vacuous these past few weeks and all I've concerned myself about has been shoes, computers, and boys.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

sniffle

I enjoy the Wombats. particularly the backing vocals. I think everyone should.

I recently bought my first set of Grundens foul weather gear. they are mighty.

I have a bad head cold. the first thing that goes when I get stuffy is my balance. then everything gets funny. then starts the coughing. now i've hit the slap-happy-headache stage. I think its Grayhounditis. When in doubt, blame public transit.

Since I moved to Baltimore, New York City has become less of a hated, feared, nasty place and more of a haven for fun drunken weekends and culture. NYC, I don't hate you anymore!

I still panic in crowds though.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

people feets

has any reader worn or tried out a pair of Earth shoes? i'm really curious about them--i hear good things, but they're a bit too expensive to buy on the off chance that they're comfortable.

I'm heading to NY tomorrow afternoon to visit with a foreigner who is quite dear to me. No details to follow.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

out and about

i have been very busy with work the past few weeks. A nasty side effect of this is that i've had to endure the torments of sunshine, fresh air, and human interaction and leave my poor computer behind in the dark. O the woes of life.

I spent today scraping and painting the hull of the Lady Maryland with her crew in Georgetown. As a direct result of this, I shall be showering with steel wool. I'm sadly too claustrophobic for tyvek suits and safety glasses, and only direct orders could get me to wear a respirator. Things...around...face... eeurgh. don't like. The disposable outfits help you avoid absorbing the antifouling bottom paint through the skin, so by now i should have absorbed enough copper to spend like 27 cents.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

orzo with chopsticks

and eggplant in bed. Nothing says "single stateroom accommodation, shared kitchen facilities" quite like it.

I think my home hits bottom and leans to starboard at low tide. i typically go to sleep on level and wake up tilted about 5 degrees--not enough to make me fall out of bed but enough to make me hold on in my sleep. Life's little quirks.

When it comes to ranking ginger ales, Blenheim's is at the top, The Ginger People's ginger beer is second, Reed's is third, and all others go in the recycle bin. Mmm.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

claustro-angria

I'm not claustrophobic in the typical sense of the word. I do not fear that the walls are closing in, nor do I feel that I'm drowning in small spaces...i just get very, very angry. I become a fiery ball of elbows and feet, kicking and throwing whatever I can find to get it away from me. Frequently this makes matters worse as now I'm not only still in a small, confined space, but all my stuff is broken.

My home is a small, confined space with lots of pointy-outy areas to hurt yourself on.

I need a cup of tea.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

go species!

I got a charge out of an Olympics-themed Visa advertisement which emphasized the unifying human element of the games. maybe its not the athletes' countries that make you cheer for them, but the fact that they're human, and hey, you're human too, so their accomplishments are your your accomplishments...at the widest level of classification. We admit its a bit of a stretch, but hey, we're Visa--one of three globally unifying entities, the other two being death and taxes.

Friday, August 08, 2008

ubuntu

I have changed platforms. I am very happy.

Unrelated, but longer, side note: A recent Charlotte Observer column mentioned the columnist's child enjoying a spray park--quite literally a large concrete slab dotted with sprinklers and sprayers for the express purpose of running through. Think of it as that fountain at the mall you always wanted to jump in, but your mom wouldn't let you. All the water is chlorinated and recycled, so in these drought-ridden times it's a far more eco-friendly option than setting up a sprinkler in the yard for your runts to jump through. I would seriously love to find this park and run around in it...except perhaps after all the little sticky tripping hazards have gone home for dinner.

The thing is, when I was a kid I hated running through the sprinkler. It was absolutely no fun. Not the sprinkler bit--that was a delight. What made me sulk and sit it out was the boys. We typically set up a sprinkler when there were numerous kids to play in it--on neighborhood-friendly holidays such as July 4 and the like--and there were always dozens of kids who wanted to splash around. Most of the kids were fine with waiting our turns to run through it, but the neighborhood rascals would grow tired of that quickly and decide to turn this harmless garden tool into a weapon or a game. After ten minutes of jump-splash-whee the event suddenly turned into run-spray-argh or some bizarre, confusing team-based contest in which we were required, usually by an older, blond male, to run around or through the spray before the contraption tilted and hit a designated mark or person. It never made much sense, it wasn't fun for the girls, and I usually wound up getting an elbow to the face and storming off to cry in a dry lap. Well, initially dry.

The thing is, i've always hated games. I don't enjoy having an objective to my leisure time and I despise abiding by arbitrary rules. I've always sucked at video games for that reason--while most players are off trying to kill other players or obtain weapons, I'm contenting myself with exploring the game space and trying to talk to other characters. I usually wind up being killed within minutes. I tend to drive safely in racing games and was actually mocked ruthlessly for asking a game owner what button flipped indicator lights. Apparently blinkers are not commonly used in Mario Kart. I've never gotten the point of Mortal Kombat, found myself bored and lost in Doom, and only enjoyed X-Wing until the Imperial troops came into view and started firing. The star background was fun to fly around in...that is, after I figured out how to take off from the mothership. That sort of fiddly stuff is needlessly difficult. In any case, I don't understand physical or social competition outside of the biological imperative to earn a mate, and will never understand how an afternoon of playing in the sprinkler can be improved upon by adding rules. Particularly the common childhood rule of "if you're not playing the game, you can't play in here." Okay, fine. I'll take my sprinkler and go.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

labels

this evening I have spent an inordinate amount of time labeling my blog posts. In so doing, I have proven to myself that I'm a fairly predictable person with very little to say. Regardless, the blog is now fairly well compartmentalized. The only labels I have refrained from adding are "the Man, Man", "why people are stupid" and "existentialism" as these three themes recur with such frequency it would be a waste of a category. Labeling each post "why people are stupid" is akin to going through the dictionary and labeling entries "word."

Friday, July 25, 2008

CTY

Anyone who is curious as to what i've been doing for the past month would gain insight by visiting Here, then Here. (note, the second "here" is only the trip 2 bit, not one, three, or four.) The Sigsbee kids kinda got distracted and never finished blogs for days 7-9, but you may rest assured that they enjoyed themselves.


Kids navigating, Sigsbee Trip 1. Please note that, as usual, photo actual sizes are mahoosive.

The rest of this blog post is going to sound like a "Dear Mom and Dad, I'm having a wonderful time at camp..." letter. be forewarned. my favorite event on the Sigsbee trip was kayaking around Wye Island. i'd forgotten how delightful that pursuit is. Feels good to row, you know? And it kept the kids occupied without my having to entertain them, which is always a breath of fresh air. And my favorite event with Lady Maryland was whale watching--while the trip was nausea-inducing, i'd never seen humpbacks up close before and it was amazing.

Baby Humpback Breaching, Gloucester, Mass. The kid is just farting around waiting for its momma to surface.

I met some very interesting people--both adults and kids--on these trips, and I'm glad i got to go. I had no idea that my first night in Gloucester would be spent in the company of Angus the Shipbuilding Giant on a midnight tour of a half-built tea ship. Or that full foundations existed for the sole purpose of disentangling marine mammals from fishing lines. (and no, i don't believe they've ever disentangled a duck-billed platypus. its a polite, inclusive-sounding term for whales.) I also tried my first ice-cream made with cardamom. yum! The girl who served it up, in Provincetown, Mass, was one of those pretty lesbians with a buzz-cut and a thick Ukrainian accent who has no patience for people who can't make up their minds on what flavor to get. I didn't dally.
Gloucester Light

This past week I actually spent back on Sigsbee doing day trips, like usual, except with some rather unusual groups. Imagine a trip of ten 16-year old male drug addicts and seven cops. They were surprisingly interested in bay ecology. I think some of them got a lot out of it. Then imagine a trip of two 16 year old female drug addicts and 2 cops. and 4 crew. It was the most relaxed, comfortable, easygoing trip ever. I never knew I'd have such a pleasant time with junkies.


Not Sigsbee, but similar. At Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, St. Michael's Island, Maryland. I watched her raise sails. Its really hard to take pictures of the vessel you work on from afar.

Have you ever met a kid who looks and behaves exactly like you did when you were their age? Its eerie. Since April i've seen two of them, one girl scout and one with a city camp last week. Interestingly, both of these girls were completely nuts, had loud, sort-of annoying voices, and latched onto me within seconds of their arrival. They're both about 10 years old now, blond, healthy, science whiz kids with total comfort talking to adults but little patience with or acceptance from their peers. I still argue that if it hadn't been for my science teachers grades 7-9 I could be a rockstar biologist by now. But I didn't learn anything new for four years and eventually lost interest. (to be fair, my 9th grade science teacher went on maternity leave three weeks into school and we had an intern for the rest of the year.) Anyway, i'm a bit weirded out by these little carbon-copy mes running around--i mean that's two kids who've gone on trips on sigsbee in four months. Think how many else there must be. And how many came before me. And how many are thinking the same thoughts as me right ....Now.

Sorry. got a bit existential back there. Everyone come through okay? Good. Make sure your seat belts are buckled and your volume is turned way down 'cos I'm going to post a video down here, but please note that it is shaky and has a lot of wind whistling around. Allow me to share...Whales! out of sight of land but near Gloucester, Massachusetts. Courtesy of Captain Bill's Whale Watching Charters. We did have our own neat adventures with whales on the lady maryland, but by then my camera was full. And most of them were Finback whales, which aren't nearly as playful or fun as Humpbacks.


Saturday, June 28, 2008

prey

Has any group of scientists done an environmental impact study on the utter removal of mosquitoes, biting flies, no-see-ums, and fleas from the planet? What would happen if we forced the extinction of predatory insects? Who depends on these horrible creatures for sustenance? What else needs them, aside from themselves? Does the right to live extend to critters that prey routinely upon humans?

I am covered in tiny bites from an outing this weekend--there's some from skeeters, some from no-see-ums, some from who knows what--about 50 in all, all of them itching and swollen. I even have them on my legs, and I was wearing long pants. Natural bug repellent does nothing (except make me smell like a candle) and DEET-containing sprays are very bad for you if you don't wash them off daily (long camping trips? showers? ha.) I can't figure out how to avoid these things while still performing my job, but an idea popped into my head regarding their forced removal from the world.

Mosquitoes are known carriers and transmitters of disease. These horrible animals suck up infected blood from one mammal, carry it around a bit, then shove it uninvited into the flesh of another mammal, infecting and frequently killing them, without ever contracting the disease themselves. This made me wonder--to what extent do mosquitoes interact with other skeeters? do they have skeeter mixers? Is there a way for humans to play their game back at them--infect one mosquito, and have it pass a skeeters-only disease to the rest of them? I know poisons are supposed to work like that for colonies of cockroaches, but would it work with a disease? How could that backfire on us? Could the disease mutate and infect humans, or infect all insects, upsetting the food chain? Would they pass it to one another or would it just die with one? Could it be mixed into bug spray--if buggy bites, buggy dies--without being harmful to the wearer? So far I think all insect killers are harsh chemicals that kill by dissolving the critter where it stands, which isn't exactly pleasant for people and pets. I don't want to wipe out bugs altogether, but I seriously can't see any particular value for bugs that bite me but don't wind up being eaten by frogs and birds. Can we isolate the blood sucking bug community and level it?

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So I just did a store location search for Barnes and Noble Booksellers in my area, and lo and behold, the first hit was none other than...the Barnes and Noble Bookseller I can see from my porthole and actually could hit with a well-lobbed book of my own. Wow. Impressive. Some mornings this brain of mine forgets my name. Can I trade it in?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

We Apologise for the Inconvenience

So. Erm. Wow. I've had an interesting week.

It begins last Wednesday, when I flew out to Berkeley for my cousin's wedding the following day. It was a beautiful civil ceremony with sunflowers, beautiful mountains, heartfelt vows, numerous interrelated organisms, silly songs, delicious cake, and too much wine. The following days were filled with family, alcohol, sushi, amazing food, alcohol, Napa, family, excellent friends, alcohol...and precious little else. The weather was beautiful, another cousin's purse was stolen, a dog wandered into the reception hall, the eggs at the hotel breakfast were decent for being so geometrically pleasing, my old house was empty for summer, I installed Kim's window box and held a sweet kitty...and then it was time to fly again.

I arrived at the airport at 9:45pm for an 11:45 flight. The check-in area was completely empty aside from my airline, which had a massive line. All four attendants were working frantically but it was hectic. I waited, numbly, for my chance to get my boarding card cum grocery receipt--seriously, it was ticker tape with a bar code--and just as I approached the desk with 45 minutes to spare, i was asked to stand aside so people heading to Indianapolis could move through. Passengers whizzed through as I stood, confused, and watched the clock tick by. Their flight was early, and was trying to leave early for some reason. That seemed suspect. Eventually they ran out of Indiana-bound customers and I was allowed to check in.

Uh-oh. My flight time was listed as 10:49pm, a time which had come and gone a while ago. The attendant didn't appear concerned. My confirmed time, however, and the time listed on the departure board, which read On Time, were still both 11:45. I thanked the man and hurried off to security to figure out what was going on.

The security line was long but moved quickly, and as I mooed along with the herd I studied another nearby departure board. This one had my flight listed as Delayed. The next time I looked, the flight time had been changed. 2:00A. Some innocent, optimistic part of me hoped that meant 2 minutes after, but the jaded, realistic area of my brain hung its head.

Yes, the flight was delayed until 2:00 AM. Both the 10:49 and the 11:45 had been shunted to this plane, so it was to be packed. Would-be passengers waited, cracking frustrated jokes about missed connections, until they dozed off. People shouted at the desk attendant, who got annoyed and shouted back. I curled up on the freezing floor, after deciding my connecting flight time was surely a misprint, and attempted to sleep. I failed but did get a great carpet mark on my face. When I got up again, shivering violently, I met up with the now-calm desk attendant. I asked if we would be accommodated for somehow in Milwaukee if our flights were insane. She didn't think we would. 'What if I pitch a fit to them?' I suggested. "I think that's an excellent idea. Go for it." she said, with genuine zeal.

The flight to Milwaukee, Wisconsin was uneventful, and I did manage to sleep in that dizzy, nauseated, in-flight sort of way. I always wake up from that every few minutes disoriented, in considerable pain, and still tired. A fourth-grade boy near me, who had been politely asking me questions about air travel since we checked in, had begun mimicking my actions. I'd stretch, he'd stretch. I hung my glasses off the tray table, he hung his glasses. I dozed off, and when I woke again a few minutes later he was cuddled to his mother, his sleeping eyes smooshed into her shoulder. It was cute.

We arrived four hours later, at 8:00AM, and immediately formed a quiet mob around the gate attendant's post. Surprised and very busy she asked us all to wait for our questions until she had gotten the same plane loaded with passengers for Atlanta. We did, patiently, only to find out that thirty passengers, bound for Orlando, had just missed their connection while they patiently waited. Apparently San Francisco had not mentioned that there might be problems, or indeed that the flight had been delayed at all.

I was confirmed through on a flight that would leave in exactly 10 hours, at 6pm. They didn't have any options open for an earlier flight, and they didn't have any means of putting me in a hotel during the day ("had it been night time, ma'am, of course...") but they did offer me a $10 complacency coupon which bought me exactly 1 mini-pizza, 3 breadsticks, and a medium soda at the concourse pizza hut...three hours later, when the restaurants opened.

While waiting and wandering idly I happened to espy a departure board with a listing on it for Washington, DC that left at 2:00pm. What joy! I can get to Baltimore easily from there, and will get home much earlier, I thought to myself. I hurried to the gate attendant, who agreed that that was a fine idea and printed me a brand-new boarding pass, cutting out 4 hours of waiting.

I thought.

The 2pm flight was delayed a little at the gate. Just 30 minutes, and what did I care? There was a train every hour. We boarded, enjoyed the seat belt demonstration, and settled in to watch the day pass in fast-forward as we headed east. Er...North. West? Oh certainly not South. Ah, East again...no...Damn that river looks familiar...

Yes, we flew in circles. Big, lazy circles, for over an hour while the control tower in DC held us out of their airspace. There's a big storm, ladies and gentlemen, and its just not safe. The pilot cut another big donut to show everyone on both sides the scale of the anvil-shaped clouds. But...erm...we're running out of fuel. Oh dear.

Another forty minutes found us landing without ceremony in Dayton, Ohio. Half an hour passed while crew and remote operators ummed and erred as to whether we should get off. Eventually they decided we must all de-plane, if only to use the restrooms, and handed us nifty plastic boarding passes to show we belonged. I used the free internet console down the hall and considered getting a drink. I didn't, which was just as well as we shortly re-boarded, found all of our stray passengers, clipped in, revisited the safety lecture, and shot back into the sky. It was 7:30pm.

The pilot had been offered a small window of opportunity by the meteorologists as they projected the storm would have moved a few miles away from the airport, if briefly, in about an hour and a half. We flew to a strict timetable and were able to land comfortably, even as a giant lightning storm raged a stone's throw away. It was highly cool to watch from just under the cloud level, as electricity coursed down from our elevation to make contact with the ground below. A few more minutes and I was marching toward the Metro station and eventual freedom.

Except. The first train was no problem. I had to connect in Chinatown. The connecting train conductor caught my eye as I ran toward the open doors, arms flailing, and pressed the Close button. We all shouted, helpless, as the near-empty train raced away, and settled in to wait the measly ten minutes until the next one arrived.

I arrived in Union station ten minutes too late to get a ticket for the 9:30 train to Baltimore and settled in to wait for the 10:45. A young Starbucks employee suggested I get a triple-shot mega-massive latte, and I took him on it. He was nice, and rather cute, if a bit young. I pondered my rapidly-increasing age and read a little further into Something Happened, by Joseph Heller, which I'd picked up in Berkeley a day and a half before while waiting to go to the airport.

The waiting area filled up slowly, and when time for our train to arrive arrived, we were asked to follow a pleasant train employee...not to the train, but to a smaller waiting room. He apologised, but the 8:40 train had broken down en route, and our train was being used to push it to the mechanic. It was around this time that I started laughing maniacally and the air filled with little golden stars. They wouldn't go away, but I knew they weren't real. I called my mom. She informed me that I was hallucinating from exhaustion, but I wasn't crazy. Reassured, I began to cry and said if the train broke down, I was going to walk home. She suggested that this was a bad idea, and said so in such a calm, soothing voice that I figured she was probably right.

11:15 rolled up and we all boarded, midnight rolled around and we all got off. I got a cab, shared some jokes with the friendly cabbie, was dropped off at my door, showered, and crawled into bed. It was 1:00 this, Tuesday, morning, 29 hours after I left Berkeley, 16 hours after I was supposed to be home. I missed a day of work but my coworkers were glad I made it home safely.

And I did it all without screaming.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

nag champa

I knew there was a reason I should only call my mother from the grocery store--it provides me with means by which I may wander aimlessly and look at things without wandering aimlessly across town until I'm lost. Today I foolishly called her from outside a cafe and wound up following the harbor halfway to the marine terminal before my battery died. I looked around, gained my bearings, and immediately ran for cover as the storm which had been tiptoeing behind me suddenly leapt. The nearest shelter was a head shop with a patient kitty in the doorway who graciously allowed me to scratch his ears before ushering me toward the rack of colorful, beaded skirts. Compelled to at least browse while the sudden downpour ravaged the streets, I did my best impression of a shopper and examined their wares with what I hoped was a look of genuine discerning interest. The store was packed with low-cut summer dresses in Egyptian cotton, which I've always coveted but have always found disappointing on my own form. Typically these frocks are cheaply made for growing teenage girls who will have only fleeting encounters with them--the bust is cut for small, high breasts, the waist is practically aligned with the hips, and there's simply no allowance for a behind of any kind. I must pause here and note that I never had this figure--by the time I lost my baby belly I'd grown the large, jiggly thighs I continue to despise today and completely bypassed the svelte high school body so many women regret losing.
Imagine my delight, then, when I idly tugged one of these gossamer garments from the hanger and found it was cut to flatter a grown-up's shape! I tried several on and found each delightfully comfortable and attractive. Gleefully I skipped from one rack to the next, for the sheer joy of trying something on and having it fit. Thirty dollars and the backside of a raincloud later I emerged from the shop, triumphant, resplendent in bright, flimsy fabric and a pair of $3 paint shorts. Ah, consignment.

I'm heading to Berkeley for a wedding later this week. I'm excited to revisit my old haunt and hopefully will have time to catch up with friends. If you're going to be around, do let me know.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Heat Index or When A Gallon Just Isn't Enough

So it's pretty dern hot and humid out. This weekend saw the first day of hazardously hot weather for the greater Baltimore area so the computer voice on the weather station had helpful tips and reminders for how to stay safe. In addition to the temperature, wind, and waves, the weather voices occasionally are programmed to offer little quips such as "turn around--don't drown!" and "on frosty days, cover your delicate seedlings and bring potted plants indoors." While the voices are a bit more sophisticated than the typical "Alvin" speech replicator, they nevertheless sound pretty funny when called upon to say anything more than "at Thomas Point Light House, Fog was Re-ported. The TEMperature was Nine-ty Four deg-rees. Now for some Ob-Ser-Va-tions from the surrounding A-rea."

In any case, I realized I drank 5 liters of water today and still felt a little dehydrated. We've reached a point at which it's just too damn hot to eat, but if you don't eat you get even woozier with nothing to hold your water. Bleh. Interestingly, this hot weather has brought with it the smell of salt and a number of breathtaking lightning storms, pretty much overnight. I'm glad I got my hair cut when I did--curls plastered to the back of my neck would be intolerable right about now.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

picture time!

Buy Boat Mildred Belle (who just celebrated her 60th birthday on Friday!) in front of the Francis Scott Key Bridge. The buoy near the span is actually the Francis Scott Key Buoy, which marks the spot where the British boat was anchored during the battle. If you look closely, the buoy is a cone with the stars and stripes painted on it. The city had just put it out when I took the photo. By the dawn's early light, Mr. Key saw the star spangled banner nearly 4 miles away, at Fort McHenry, visible because the dern thing is 60' long. Mahoosive.

Pungy Schooner Lady Maryland. Near Dundalk Marine Terminal, Fort McHenry Channel. Taken from Sigsbee. I helped raise her topmast. Lady Maryland was built by the Living Classrooms Foundation, for the Living Classrooms Foundation, in 1986. She's 108 feet long.

Sigsbee interrupted a regatta recently down near Annapolis. While these little boats were impressive in and of themselves, with their spinnakers flying, Sigsbee and Mildred Belle ambling through with our historic selves made an impression.

Gratuitous Kitten Shot! Awwwwww look at the Teddy. he's HUGE. Memorial Day '08.


Osprey nest on Day Marker 1, near Dundalk Marine Terminal. This little family just hatched at least two osprey-lets. This pair has been mated for life and returns to this nest every year after going their separate ways for months at a time. They're very protective of their offspring.

My room, from my bed. Yep. That's it. Home Sweet Taney.


My watch tan. I'm trying to get rid of it without burning the white skin.

And my sandal tan. I'm not bothering to try and get rid of it. Its just too funny.

Someone else's racing boat.

as of yet i haven't actually taken any photos Of Sigsbee, but I've taken dozens From her. You can kinda see bits of her.

Please note the original images are massive and not of awesome quality. I wouldn't bother waiting for them to upload. Well, they look great when they've been auto-scrunched by your browser. If your browser does the auto-scrunch thing. Mine doesn't.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

home

I decided to come home for my long Memorial Day weekend. I avoided I-95 and got here in a little over 7 hours, no traffic, beautiful skies, Jim Dale reading the misadventures of three wizard people over the car stereo.

I arrived home to find the house updated and beautiful--a room that I had painted back in February is now furnished in a funky post-modernist style, my bedding has been replaced to complement my room's hip brown and blue color scheme, Teddy is easily larger and heavier than Boots ever got (all lean--he caught a rabbit yesterday for me. what a sweet (horrifying) welcome home gift.), and all the neighborhood foliage is lush and deeply verdant, hardened and ready for a southern summer.

Yes, home--the land of mimosas on the back porch while the last of the morning dew turns to steam. The place where high school and college memories are encapsulated and stored as plaques and boxes of photographs. A house of gin, sushi, sofas, and...carpeting! the floor is soft! The effing Floor is Soft. CRAZY.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

clunk

today I whacked my head a good one down in the fo'c'sl, whereby I earned a fun little goose-egg right on my hairline. It already hatched into a throbbing headache and died down, but man, i hadn't clocked myself like that in a while--literally knocked myself down.

This was after waking up this morning without the ability to speak. My voice came out as a pinched, scratchy, bubbly whine that rarely peaked above a whisper and was a source of some amusement for my crew and students. I am currently enjoying a lovely throaty-coaty tea, donated to the cause by my friendly co-worker (who's been battling the same microscopic invader for some time now.) Mmm. Tea.

In short, today was a bit rough on the ol' upper body, but the kids were excellent and our helpful intern did my speaking for me, so things worked out okay. And though I have had "Nice Weather For Ducks" running through my head since i whacked it, I don't think I'm concussed.

Now please excuse me while I give this pink elephant directions to Candyland.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

musing fruit basket

So I finally saw Passing Strange this weekend, and dare I say--It was awesome before, and it has improved by leaps and bounds. And the cast, who were pretty before, have become even more attractive and fit. Leave it to Broadway to make men into Supermen.

In order to see PS, however, I had to go to New York. I took the Chinatown bus, an interesting venture by day. A nightmare in the dark. Imagine getting out of the cab to join an angry, shouting mob, inches from violence--half on the curb, half staging a sit-in on a nonmoving bus, about a third speaking English. The group had been waiting for hours for the 7:30 bus, which had never arrived. Another bus from another company had driven in and they all boarded, only to be told to get off, which they refused to do until their proper bus arrived. I believe the company had screwed something up or had simply decided to not run service out of the city that night, and they probably would have ignored the mob outside, but when they boarded the vehicle their hands were suddenly tied, so they got someone. A very sleepy someone who spent a disquieting amount of time drifting into the noise-ridges on the side of I-95. Terror gave over to exhaustion, however, and I napped fitfully until we actually arrived where we were supposed to in Baltimore. I hope the folks riding through to DC made it home okay.

I don't like New York. It is not a fun, or pretty, or pleasant-smelling place. It is an angry, noisy, competitive, paranoid, expensive, congested, compacted, compartmentalized place. It is a land of lunatics in the streets, excrement, shouting, insults, hassling, ugly buildings, and ugly shoes. It is a place where children board subway cars with boxes of candy and impart the same sob story to passengers as bums to make a buck because some idiot thought it would be a good idea to give children candy instead of drugs, not realizing they're contributing to the same problem. "With a good story and a winning smile, I can annoy people in public places into giving me money! Wow, these schmucks are a gold mine!" (Please buy candy from me--as long as I'm selling candy I'm not selling drugs. When I run out of candy I'll come back with drugs.) It is a place of romance in the streets. Damn happy people kissing other happy effing people on the effing sidewalk why don't they have the effing decency to be lonely and dejected like the rest of us...

It's just odd--New Yorkers are so used to their entire lives being on display, living crammed together like pickles in a barrel, that they're completely comfortable doing all of those private-moment things--making out, picking their noses, talking to themselves, pissing--in plain view of their neighbors. While there is nothing wrong with these actions, I think I would have a hard time adopting their comfort in doing them in public. Especially pissing in the streets. The city smells bad enough already. I remember being yelled at for kissing by a fountain not too long ago (and not even told to get a room. We were told to break it up. By a cop. This was in college, folks. I'd understand if i was like, 12.) Folks in the south find public displays of affection--anything more than a warm greeting--astonishing and offensive. (the same people who came up with abstinence-only sex education. Do the expect anyone to abstain? Of course not. But it's the closest they could come to not mentioning those things in polite conversation.) Ah, cultural diversity is not restricted to national immigration.

It rained today. It was cold and wet. The children, by virtue of this weather, were also cold and wet. It was not fun. There are few things less fun than trying to get fourth graders interested in phytoplankton when they are freezing, soaked, and hungry. I think being punched in the face is less fun, but may be more gratifying. I don't envy today's children--or their poor teachers, who had so much invested in the trip only to have it ruined by cruel fate--but I hope they can appreciate that we tried.

That said, I also didn't like today's children. They were a pack of spoiled self-righteous imbeciles who refused to pay attention--even when tapped on the shoulder--and their asinine conversations actually got Louder when the education staff spoke. I tried three times to politely get a pair of boys to stop chatting and interrupting my oyster station and they just looked at me like I was a mild annoyance and went back to their conversation. Until I manually separated them. When they made a huge mess at lunch nobody bothered to try and clean anything up, even when their teachers shouted at the slobs by name and dragged them physically to the mess site. They didn't even look guilty or try to sneak out of it--they just looked at me like it was my fucking job to clean up after them. We had to work very hard to get their nasty chicken and potato chips off the deck. Parents! Teach your children to respect other people's boats! DONT CLEAN UP AFTER THEM!! Once they've reached age 3 they should have a basic comprehension of their responsibility for their own cleanliness. Don't clean Timmy's room. Make Him clean it. If your kid makes a mess, make Her clean it up. Don't feel bad for Sarah because she spilled milk and then cried about it--eventually she'll learn that if she cries, you'll do the work. There is nothing more useless to society than a bad parent.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

spicy thai food causes sudden head colds

Passing Strange has been nominated for 7 Tony awards!!! HOLLA!

I would just like to thank all the little people who got me where I am today...on a sailboat in the Chesapeake...Still, as a member of the crew who built the first Passing Strange set, I somehow feel that it's okay to be proud of the show. My show. PS was the first show I built from scratch at Berkeley Repertory Theatre in the fall of '06 (the set for our first show of the season, Mother Courage, had been built in La Jolla as part of our co-production arrangement. we installed it but I didn't really take ownership of it. That and it was Mother Courage. I mean, c'mon, Brecht? Eurgh.)

7!

Sadly it does not look like it's been nominated for best most awesomest scenery the show no longer uses. Unless they do still use some of it. I doubt it heavily but it is possible. Maybe parts of the light wall? Or the curtain dropper rig? I worked on those things. I know the light wall has changed into something that splits and flies out, which is cool, but not what I built. Sooo... I doubt it. But it was our scenery when it was at the Public, so I can feel good about that, at least.

Congratulations, Passing Strange. If you win, I'm gonna pretend I won too.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Crossword Clues, or Why I Like Meeting Famous People

So my sister and her boyfriend are kind-of the awesomest people ever. He's one of the lighting guys for Eddie Izzard's new tour, Stripped, and by virtue of it coming to DC, I got a free ticket. In the light booth (for those out of the know, the light board operator must be able to see everything that happens on stage, so the booth is typically the best seats in the house.). And backstage passes. Mr. Izzard is a very pleasant and friendly man, if exhausted after making several thousand people laugh until they rupture blood vessels for two hours. I'll never think of badgers or dinosaurs the same way again.

This makes seven people that I've met who I've seen in crossword puzzles. "Ruehl," "Alec," and "Alda" are pretty standard; "Ballard," "Scheider," and "Linden" are slightly more ambitious; "Izzard" is just the crossword puzzle designer showing off. Not bad for a grunt, I think.

In checking the spelling of Roy Scheider's name a moment ago I discovered he passed away in February. I was a bit surprised and saddened. How did I miss that?