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KIDS (permalink) 11.30.2009
so perfectly bella
on sunday marty and i took bella and alex to the symphony thanks to some tickets gifted to us by friends. the show was part of a special series geared towards kids. the performance is an hour long and includes several well-recognized excerpts from popular classics. before playing the pieces the conductor would turn to the audience and point out and explain a technique or two that could be heard in the next song sometimes going as far as having the musician(s) demonstrate what he was talking about so it could be better identified in the piece.

at one point i turned to to look at the profiles of bella and alex. seeing their faces lit by the stage and their eyes wide with interest and intrigue at this new life experience warmed my parental fire. my arm was already around alex but i reached over further and placed my hand on bella's arm. she looked at me and i smiled at her. she reached up and took my hand in hers and held it in her lap, both of our gazes returning to the show. after a few moments she removed her hand from mine, pushed my fingers closed and nudged my hand away. i brought it back to where it was previously resting in alex's seat. after a moment i sensed something in my hand. i opened my fist to find bella had pressed her used gum into my palm before closing my fingers around it and sending me on my way. when i looked at her she was still watching the show but had a coy and knowing smile across her face.

hours later i'm still conflicted about how i feel that this tacky ball of chewed juicy fruit will be the symbol i remember from my first attempt to expose my children to the arts. that said, i am thankful (and fortunate) she didn't place a scorpion or human eyeball in my palm.

TV (permalink) 11.25.2009
john had him some options
during the purge of the home next door, our kids got loads and loads of stuff that the neighbors thought might be of interest to them. we're talking magazines, stickers, paper, magnets, curious shipping containers, and on and on. of all the interesting baubles that came into our house, this old school notebook with about ten pages left in it has to be my favorite.

PERSONAL (permalink) 11.24.2009
our neighbors moved into their home in 1962. this was six full years before i was born. or 47 years ago if you rather. last night was the last night they will sleep under its roof because at 10am today they are getting into a car and driving north to chicago to live in a retirement community near three of their daughters.

the couple, both widowers of previous marriages, have been together for many years and are well into their 80's. medicine-wise, the most either of them ever take is an occasional aspirin. they walk to church. they walk to the nearby university to hear lectures. they walk to our local business district to listen to concerts. they are both in great health but are just being pro-active.

norma, the lady of the duo, is more ready. she is the one driving the move. she said she knew she was done after having the gutters replaced. after the work she looked up at them said to herself she hoped to never do another repair to this aging home. additionally, her thinking is that if something happens to one of them, unexpectedly, she doesn't want the burden of a five bedroom home with fifty years of possessions to fall onto just one of them. while it is a fair point, wally, the male of the team, isn't done yet. he's still living and enjoying being in the zip code he's spent the lion-share of his life in, having grown up just blocks away where his father owned a corner pharmacy as well as his own career teaching german at the local high school.

watching the dismantling of a home over the last few months has been sobering. i can't help but think how that will one day be me. that one day i will be expected to step aside and let a younger version of myself step into my place, sleep in my bedroom and eat meals in my dining room. that my children will one day return, knock on the door and tell the current residents that they grew up here, and can they come in and look. all of this wrecks me.

yesterday after the moving truck had left, wally pulled marty and i to the side and said that bella had come over to their house, knocked on the door and said to them in a very heartfelt and official manner that they were the two best neighbors anyone could ask for and she was very sorry they were leaving. marty and i were both surprised at bella's initiative. and it was easy to see that wally was touched if not even moved by bella's gesture. i sincerely share bella's sentiment and will miss the couple who generously and kindly helped marty and i settle into our first home and teach us some of the history and ropes of the community we are now part of. farewell. your village will miss your presence.

VIDEO (permalink) 11.20.2009
recycle friday
two things that have come up in the last 24 hours that i thought were worth revisiting.

first someone asked me to find the link to this previously posted video from 2006 for them.

and this second one came up at a dinner party last night.
click for the extended story

SOCIETY (permalink) 11.19.2009
choose wisely
everyone is chasing something. everyone that gets out of bed in the morning at least. what people pursue in life varies, but for most it probably falls into one of the obvious categories: money, status, fame, belonging, love, acceptance, comfort. it seems that when you reach a certain mature age, say forty or thereabouts, you look around and if you're still with the pack and feeling nourished, all is good and well and you bear down keeping your eye on the person in front of you and your ears tuned to the person behind. if you find yourself trailing too many in the group, or in the wrong race altogether, you pull up, winded. what a defeated contestant in this state does next is wildly unpredictable but most call the collective actions of these folks a mid-life crisis.

given where i'm at in this race i'm seeing runners throw in the towel in alarming numbers. the disintegration of an adult's life with decades of momentum behind them is a bewildering thing to behold. and when children are involved, a tragedy, for sure.

WIFE (permalink) 11.18.2009
at this time of day she doesn't have time for nonsense or jest
this last monday morning i was not stirring from sleep. marty sent the boys up to wake me. they jumped on the bed, climbed on me with their bony knees, kissed my head at funny angles while giggling, poked me in my usual tickle spots, and pushed on my head like it just might roll off the bed. they got nowhere. discouraged and bored, they gave up to go play downstairs. twenty minutes later marty had a bout of true concern. she thought i was dead up there. she later confessed that had she found i had expired in the night she would have had to take the kids to school before dealing with me. i studied her countenance after these words and could tell she was being truthful. my face told her i saw this. defensively she said, "come on, please, i mean give me a couple of hours to wrap my arms around this. i just lost my husband and became a single mother all on a monday morning."

KIDS (permalink) 11.17.2009
my little rock math star
i was going to build a couple of chicken wire pens in our backyard to compost leaves. it occurred to me that if i installed them over our raised kitchen beds, we could use the decomposed leaves to nurture the soil before our spring planting. when i told marty of this plan she said i should have bella measure the beds to see how much chicken wire we needed because they were working on area and perimeter at school. when i passed bella during my chores i pointed to the kitchen beds, handed her a tape measure from my belt, and asked if she could sketch them out and measure their length and width. she was headed to friend's house so groaned slightly at the delay but took the tape measure from me and continued on.

the next time i passed through the kitchen, this is what she left me on the counter.

click to enlarge

BOOKS, QUOTES (permalink) 11.13.2009
a dressing down to rival all dressing downs since the inception of the dressing down
what follows is a two-paragraph excerpt from philip roth's indignation. the latter paragraph quickly became my favorite all-time, ever paragraph ... and i've read a fair share of paragraphs.

Never before had I witnessed such shock and solemnity—and fixed concentration—emanate from a congregation of the Winesburg student body. One could not imagine anyone present who even to himself dared to cry, "This is unseemly! This is not just!" The president could have come down into the auditorium and laid waste to the student assemblage with a club without inciting flight or stirring resistance. It was as though we already had been clubbed—and, for all the offenses committed, accepted the beating with gratification—before the assault had even begun.


"Does any one of you here," President Lentz began, "happen to know what happened in Korea on the day all you he-men decided to bring disgrace and disrepute down upon the name of a distinguished institution of higher learning whose origins lie in the Baptist Church? On that day, U.N. and Communist negotiators in Korea reached tentative agreement for a truce line on the eastern front of that war-torn country. I take it you know what 'tentative' means. It means that fighting as barbaric as any we have known in Korea—as barbaric as any American forces have known in any war at any time in our history—that very same fighting can flare up any hour of the day or night and take thousands upon thousands more young American lives. Do any of you know what occurred in Korea a few weeks back, between Saturday, October 13, and Friday, October 19? I know that you know what happened here then. On Saturday the thirteenth our football team routed our traditional rival, Bowling Green, 41 to 14. The following Saturday, the twentieth, we upset my alma mater, the University of West Virginia, in a thriller that left us, the heavy underdogs, on top by a score of 21 to 20. What a game for Winesburg! But do you know what happened in Korea that same week? The U.S. First Calvary Division, the Third Infantry Division, and my old outfit in the First War, the Twenty-fifth Infantry Division, along with our British allies and our Republic of Korea allies, made a small advance in the Old Baldy area. A small advance at a cost of four thousand casualties. Four thousand young men like yourselves, dead, maimed, and wounded, between the time we beat Bowling Green and the time we upset UWV. Do you have any idea how fortunate, how privileged, and how lucky you are to be watching football games on Saturdays and not there being shot at on Saturdays, and on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays as well? When measured against the sacrifices being made by young Americans of your age in this brutal war against the aggression of North Korean and Chinese Communist forces—when measured against that , do you have any idea how juvenile and stupid and idiotic your behavior looks to the people of Winesburg and to the people of Ohio and to the people of the United States of America, who have been made aware by their newspapers and the television of the shameful happenings of Friday night? Tell me, did you think you were being heroic warriors by storming our women's dormitories and scaring the coeds there half to death? Did you think you were being heroic warriors by breaking into the privacy of their rooms and laying your hands on their personal belongings? Did you think you were being heroic warriors by taking and destroying possessions that were not your own? And those of you who cheered them on, who did not raise a finger to stop them, who exulted in their manly courage, what about your manly courage? How's it going to serve you when a thousand screaming Chinese soldiers come swarming down on you in your foxhole, should those negotiations in Korea break down? As they will, I can guarantee you, with bugles blaring and bearing their bayonets! What am I going to do with you boys? Where are the adults among you? Is there not a one of you who thought to defend the female residents of Dowland and Koons and Fleming? I would have expected a hundred of you, two hundred of you; three hundred of you, to put down this childish insurrection! Why did you not? Answer me! Where is your courage? Where is your honor? Not a one of you displayed an ounce of honor! Not a one of you! I'm going to tell you something now that I never thought I would have to say: I am ashamed today to be president of this college. I am ashamed and I am disgusted and I am enraged. I don't want there to be any doubt about my anger. And I am not going to stop being angry for a long time to come, I can assure you of that. I understand that forty-eight of our women students—which is close to ten percent of them—forty-eight have already left the campus in the company of their deeply shocked and shaken parents, and whether they will return I do not yet know. What I reckon from the calls I have been receiving from other concerned families—and the phones in both my office and my home have not stopped ringing since midnight on Friday—a good many more of our women students are considering either leaving college for the year or permanently transferring out of Winesburg. I can't say that I blame them. I can't say that I would expect any daughter of mine to remain loyal to an educational institution where she has been exposed not merely to belittlement and humiliation and fear but to a genuine threat of physical harm by an army of hoodlums imagining, apparently, that they were emancipating themselves. Because that's all you are, in my estimation, those who participated and those who did nothing to stop them—an ungrateful, irresponsible, infantile band of vile and cowardly hoodlums. A mob of disobedient children. Kiddies in diapers unconstrained. Oh, and one last thing. Do any of you happen to know how many atom bombs the Soviets have set off so far in the year 1951? The answer is two. That makes a total of three atomic bombs altogether that our Communist enemies in the USSR have now successfully tested since they have discovered the secret of producing an atomic explosion. We as a nation are facing the distinct possibility of an unthinkable atomic war with the Soviet Union, all the while the he-men of Winesburg College are conducting their derring-do raids on the dresser drawers of the innocent young women who are their schoolmates. Beyond your dormitories, a world is on fire and you are kindled by underwear. Beyond your fraternities, history unfolds daily-warfare, bombings, wholesale slaughter, and you are oblivious of it all. Well, you won't be oblivious for long! You can be as stupid as you like, can even give every sign, as you did here on Friday night, of passionately wanting to be stupid, but history will catch you in the end. Because history is not the background—history is the stage! And you are on the stage! Oh, how sickening is your appalling ignorance of your own times! Most sickening of all is that it is just that ignorance that you are purportedly at Winesburg to expunge. What kind of a time do you think you belong to, anyway? Can you answer? Do you know? Do you have any idea that you belong to a time at all? I have spent a long professional career in the warfare of politics, a middle-of-the-road Republican fighting off the zealots of the left and the zealots of the right. But to me tonight those zealots are as nothing compared to you in your barbaric pursuit of thoughtless fun. 'Let's go crazy, let's have fun! How about cannibalism next!' Well, not here, gentlemen, not within these ivied walls will the delights of intentional wrongdoing go unheeded by those charged with the responsibility to this institution to maintain the ideals and values that you have travestied. This cannot be allowed to go on, and this will not be allowed to go on! Human conduct can be regulated, and it will be regulated! The insurrection is over. The rebellion is quelled. Beginning tonight, everything and everyone will be put back into its proper place and order restored to Winesburg. And decency restored. And dignity restored. And now you uninhibited he-men may rise and leave my sight. And if any of you decide you want to leave it for good, if any of you decide that the code of human conduct and rules of civilized restraint that this administration intends to strictly enforce to keep Winesburg Winesburg aren't suited to a he-man like yourself—that's fine with me! Leave! Go! The order has been given! Pack up your rebellious insolence and clear out of Winesburg tonight.
excerpt from indignation by philip roth

PHOTO, KIDS (permalink) 11.12.2009
brace yourself
it may or may not surprise you to learn that the most zealous and enthusiastic participant of bella's girl scout troop is our very own alexander.

with anthony coming in a very close second.

PERSONAL (permalink) 11.11.2009
giddy with perspective
recently, walking home from work i passed a neighbor trying to remove a 50 year old retaining wall in his backyard with a rented jackhammer. i stopped and wordlessly watched him for several minutes. he paused from his work, wiped sweat from his brow with a sleeve and jokingly asked if i wanted a turn. my face lit up and i exclaimed, "really!". yes really. i ran home, flew up the stairs calling to marty as i passed by. i quickly changed my clothes and bounded back down the stairs and shot out the front door yelling a garbled goodbye to marty on my way out.

i could not recommend the use of a jackhammer more. both so you can say it's something you have done and so you can say it's something you don't have to do for a living.

KIDS (permalink) 11.05.2009
imagine the questions we'd be getting if we had a television.
bella recently confided in marty that she was glad that i, her father, had never taken the medicine that would have given me breasts.

when marty told me this i wanted to ask her what she felt would compel our eight year old daughter to make such a declaration. this is what i wanted to ask but instead found myself so dumbfounded i could do nothing but look at marty with my mouth slightly agape. and this would be the sixth time in my life i'd been struck dumb.

BOOKS (permalink) 11.04.2009
can the next one have pictures?
marty is part of a book club, or two. in these book clubs the one thing the participants have in common is not that they've all just read the assigned book, it is that they all have children and are desperate for a evening away. it's a guilty pleasure for marty but i'm in full support of her attending them. and not because i feel for her or want to support her interest or even because i feel it would be restorative to her psyche, it is because she always, always, always comes home with great and dirty and unbelievable stories about the woman at the gathering. entertaining stories. stories far more whimsical, slutty and enticing than one would find in some tired, formulaic overly edited tome.

my favorite morsel from the last outing was about this hyper cool woman/chic/mom from the neighborhood. when she lived in new york she was part of a book club and it was her turn to name the next book the group would read. running late, she dashed into a book store to grab the title she planned on suggesting but the store was sold out. desperately behind, she grabbed the neighboring text by the same author and presented it as one she vaguely recalled but liked and recommended the author.

over the next week as she read her last minute selection, she learned that this was an experimental work by the author and completely unlike her other works. and not only was it an experiment, but it was an experiment in erotic literature and one that seemed bent on testing the bounds of both sensual quantity and depravity. the woman was mortified. but she was also rapt by the pages and plowed through the epic, each libidinous tale of debauchery mortifying her more and more.

when she timidly arrived at the next book club ready to both explain and apologize, she was interrupted the group who insisted, unanimously, she pick the next book as well.

PHOTO (permalink) 11.03.2009
a new GALLERY IMAGE was posted today.
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