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October 31, 2006

The Empress

Those of you who have visited our home know about our antiques turned into lamps. We were turned on to the idea by our friend Maggie Adler, who lives in Williamstown and runs a side business turning found antique objects (from vintage microphones to gas pumps) into interesting light fixtures. Our most beautiful pieces are of her design. But we've taken to finding our own antiques and having them wired up by a lampmaker in Upstate New York.

I'll devote a future entire entry to a tour of our collection, but today I'll focus on our most recent conversion. We were browsing at an estate salvage warehouse in South Baltimore a few years back when we spotted 1950s hair dryer tucked into a back corner. It was in great condition and we immediately wanted to own it, but we weren't sure what exactly we would do with it. It's quite large, as you will see in the photos below. Anyway, we took it home and it sat in our basement in Baltimore, gathering dust and occasionally raising minor interest among our visitors.

A few months back, while up in Williamstown for my sister Andy's wedding, we dropped it off at the lampmaker to see if he might be able to wire it up with a bulb so that it might serve as a floor lamp. A few weeks ago we were back up there and picked it up. Our wildest dreams for the Empress have been realized.

Now, instead of drying beehives, the empress illuminates the lap of one sitting in the luxurious overstuffed leather recliner.

The fellow who worked on it modified the wiring so that the switch that originally controlled the air flow now turns the lamp on and off. He does really beautiful work.

The Empress can be appreciated from all angles.

To see more of these lamps, check out Maggie's site: www.lightbymcadler.com. She does elegant work. And is a very nice person.

Posted by bogenamp at 06:50 PM

October 29, 2006

Selling Out

I've been a reluctant blogger lately. Dragging my heels. In part because I have been perpetually behind, writing about things weeks past. Today I will take a break from the crushing backload and talk about today.

Today we are in Reston, Virginia at the Central Atlantic Region conference for the Fedeated Garden Clubs of America. We are here to sell Seiko's pottery to aspiring Ikebana flower arrangers. Seiko is something of a celebrity in the Ikebana circles, and the people who come to our booth are consistently disappointed to find Bob, Robbi, and me and not Seiko, who is in Tokyo at present.

We left Chestertown at the crack of dawn on Friday morning.

See how cheerful we look, how full of excitement for the adventure ahead? Within five minutes Robbi, Iggy, and I were dead asleep while Bob navigated the van through the early darkness across the Bay Bridge and around the DC beltway to Reston. Reston is, apparently, a planned community, though it seems decidedly un-deliberate to our untrained eyes.

We arrived at the Hyatt and Bob disappeared to find Dineen, who was in charge of the boutique. While he was prowling about the bowels of the hotel, I spoke to Robbi, who was feeling decidedly less enthusiastic about the day than she had upon our departure.

Iggy sensed an opportunity in Bob's absence.

Once Bob figured out where we were supposed to go (Ballroom A), we moved the van to the closest access door and started to unload. Of course, we were there a full 8 hours before the actual commerce was to begin, so we had the place to ourselves. We settled in for a long, leisurely, deliberate setup, which is just how Bob likes it.

We were so outrageously early that even Dineen had yet to arrive, so we did not know which tables were to be ours. So we made a large pile of boxes in the middle of the room. Eventually Dineen showed up and told us where to go. Robbi and I opened boxes so that Bob could see what he was working with.

Robbi and I thought it might be helpful to set up some pottery on the long table. Bob quickly disabused us of this notion. Bob has a complex and intricate scheme for pottery placement, wholly beyond our powers to comprehend. We watched in mute amazement as Bob did his thing.

Eventually, more pottery appeared on the table.

Robbi and I were feeling a bit rough. Bob had gone to sleep at a reasonable hour the night before. We had tried to adopt this reasonable approached, but failed, and had turned in about 1:00, meaning we managed about 4 of the 8 hours of beauty sleep we both seem to need to feel and look our best.

Case in point:

Believe it or not, Robbi is trying her very best to smile.

Since Bob seemed to have the setup situation in hand (and about 7 hours remaining in which to accomplish it, we headed back to the van, which was at this point parked in the adjacent garage, pulled out our sleeping bags, and conked out for about three hours. By the time we awoke, Bob had placed about 6 more pots.

We helped out some more. Eventually the table was ready for our hordes of customers.

Our long table from the middle of the room:

From the left:

At my perch:

From the right:


A few hours before the boutique opened at 4:00, the other vendors started to arrive. Some of the other items for sale include metal garden scupltures, orchids made of soap, zanily-painted wooden people for one's garden, and a cookbook full of photos of late/middle-aged women in the nude. I'd post some shots here if that didn't violate the terms of copyright.

We had a few modest sales during the 4-7pm period that the boutique room was open. But the turnout was largely disappointing. Hoping for better luck over the weekend, we piled back into the van and headed west to the home of our host for the evening, Wild Bill Marable.

This is Bill in his garden on Saturday, but I want you to have an image of the man in mind as I describe him.

It was pouring rain as we left the Hyatt. We drove 45 minutes on paved roads before turning off onto Ropp Road, where Bill lives. According to Mapquest, Ropp Road is "partially paved," but there appeared to be no pavement in sight as we slid in the mud of the narrow, hilly road. We passed a number of attractive houses on either side of the road and I began to think the accounts I had heard of the dire rusticity of Bill's house had been exaggeraged.

Suddenly the road seemed to end in front of us. We pulled to a stop in front of a heavy gate. A sign on the gate read, "End of State Maintenance." Apparently Bill's house lay beyond the sign. Here's where the trip got interesting. For the next .6 miles, through the driving rain, Bob navigated the van up hill and down gully, our van lurching sometimes at alarming angles, sometimes at terrifying ones.

When we finally arrived at the top of the hill on which Bill's house sits, he was waiting for us. The fire was lit. The interior cozy against the winds outside. We were ready to rest on solid ground. We were ready to be inside and out of the rain.

Bill heats entirely by woodstove. Here is the main stove, the top of which doubles as a toaster.

Bill had been cooking in anticipation of our arrival. He offered us some tea and tended to his various pots and pans. Here are Bob and Bill in the kitchen:

We took our tea and retired to the living room for a spell. The second woodstove is here. It was also doubling as a cooktop for the evening's soup course: chicken and corn. Delicious.

Here is the stove and Bill's chair.

The house is not Bill's, but he has been living there for the better part of 30 years. Apparently, Bill, a generally genial and likable guy, ingratiated himself to a wealthy landowner who said that Bill could live on his land "for the time being." This tenuous arrangement continued for 25 years. Eventually the old man died. When the time came to execute his estate, the old man's granddaughter was considering selling the farm. But ultimately decided not to. Apparently she had only seen her grandfather smile once. The smile was capture in a photo of her grandfather taken with Bill. This unique gift of a smile was reason enough to make her decide to continue honoring her grandfather's wishes. Bill's tenure in the house is still day-to-day, but he likes it that way. It keeps him continually aware of the precious and tenuous nature of everything, he told us. It keeps him appreciating things in a constant and immediate way.

Bill's living room ceiling:

The main course that night was venison in a rich gravy on a bed of roasted vegetables. We also enjoyed a mountain of fresh sliced tomatoes from Bill's garden.

After dinner we sat in the living room and talked and I immediately fell asleep in my chair. Robbi hustled me upstairs and we went to sleep. In this comfortable bed, I slept for eleven and a half hours.

I might have slept longer, but Robbi awoke me that I might not miss the "bumpin" breakfast that Bill had prepared. Eggs, home fries, homemade sausage, coffee, fresh squeezed orange juice.

After breakfast, we took a tour of Bill's garden. Bill doesn't have a regular job. He picks up work here and there, including helping out in our booth at the Philadelphia Flower Show and fishing in Alaska. But basically Bill gets by on not much cash. And his garden is his primary dietary mainstay. He shoots a deer or two when they encroach on the garden. He butchers a pig and cow now and then. But mostly he tends the soil and does a lot of canning.

Bill seemed at home in his garden.

Unlike most gardens, in which the gardener puts as much work into maintaining the neatness of the rows as to the cultivation of the crops, Bill's garden is an unruly sprawl. He walked us around and showed us a dizzying variety of vegetables, herbs, fruits, etc., but had I happened upon this "garden," I wouldn't have known it from the jungle.

Except for the tomato plants, perhaps. They were 10 feet tall and still producing fruit on October 28.

Apparently, Bill has unwittingly created a new bean through years of germination.

He told us about it in a matter-of-fact sort of way.

Bill's bean is a cross between a lima and some other kind of bean I cannot now remember the name of. It grows in a a green bean-like pod. The bean is delicious, apparently.

To set the stage, here are a few shots of Bill's house and Bill's yard. Around the house is open farmland. A river surrounds the property on three sides. Eventually the farm may be reclaimed and turned into condos. But I hope that it's not until Bill moves on of his own accord.

While Bill showed Robbi and me the garden, Bob sat on the porch enjoying the view of the countryside. Notice the big skillet on the side of the house. Bill says that, using it, he can make breakfast for ten people at once on his outdoor fire pit.

After breakfast we packed up and headed back to the Hyatt for more disappointing commerce. More on that to come.

Posted by bogenamp at 11:36 AM

October 19, 2006

Kitchen Shelf

I'm desperately worried, suddenly, that the exciting parts of this story might be behind us. There is great drama in transformative construction, oversized televisions, nocturnal romps with Ikea bookshelves, explosive canine diarrhea. I've spoiled you with plot until now. But today's entry is about a shelf. A kitchen shelf. A small gesture to improve our home. No more or less.

Our space has no kitchen. No running water. No counters or cabinets. Our kitchen is the 6 foot wide toolbench we bought on Craig's List a few years back for the house in Baltimore. It is made from Maine barnwood, apparently. It's rustic and weathered and deeply oiled. It suits us. And fortunately, it works fairly well as a countertop. The shelf below it works fairly well as a pantry.

To the walls we have added a few shelf-like things. See the photo above. On the left is a two-tiered shelf made out of an old Quaker Oats crate. It reads "Eat Quaker Oats" and works very well as a spice rack. To the right is the shelf that is the subject of this entry. She how it has a mantel-like quality? We believe it once hung over a fireplace. It was one of the many treasures we found when cleaning the three decades of stuff out of our space.

In fact, there were two such mantels. The other is now painted the color of the trim and hanging above our bed. For books, contact lens solution, Itty Bitty Book Light, etc.

But this mantel on the "kitchen" wall was needed to clear some space on our countertop workbench. Since we don't have an oven or stovetop, we've had to improvise, making those kitchen accessories that play secondary roles in most households into our staple means of meal prep.

Our quasi-kitchen contains:

toaster oven for toasting
another, larger toaster oven for baking
George Forman grill
very large rice cooker
Japanese water heater thermos thing (very handy)
crock pot

Of these, the two toasters, the microwave, the rice cooker, and the water heater get a lot of playing time. The Foreman is called in on third down for chicken breast preparation. The crock pot will be brought up from the minors when stew/chili season arrives.

I mentioned the new shelf, but I realize it's not really the subject of the entry. The entry is really about the kitchen at large. The new shelf is but a featured component of this discussion. I'm losing control of my blog. Without meaningful action to report, I am drifting helplessly, away from the shelf and toward the kitchen at large.

Rather than face this reality, I'll radically change the subject. To how sweaty I get on a run, for example.

I mean, yuck. The photo is relevent because it features both the new shelf and the kitchen in general. Otherwise, it really wouldn't fit here.

Another view of the sort-of kitchen before I let you go. Here Robbi and I are making dinner. I know, bare-chested me is just about enough to make you lose your appetite (maybe THAT's what made Tanker ill?), but fortunately Robbi is looking the other way. It looks like I'm making garlic bread, so I imagine we're having lasagna (the only thing I know how to make).

See the crazy little clock above Eat Quaker Oats? A gift from my mother made from a bread pan, two spoons, and other items one might find in the kitchen. It's a cow, in case you can't tell.

See what I mean? The romance, the adventure of the barnstorming is grinding to a halt. From here forward we're mired in the mundane realities of daily life.

I'll try to show a little skin from time to time to keep you coming back.

Posted by bogenamp at 02:53 PM | Comments (2)

October 18, 2006

Do Unto Others (as you would have your dog do unto theirs)

This may seem like an entry about dogs. It's not. This is an entry about my friend Emily Piendak and the ways in which I have wronged her. The interesting thing is that my ill treatment of Emily has translated into Iggy's treating Emily's dog Ruby in similar thoughtless ways.

Chris and Emily were going out of town a few weeks back. And so they asked us to look after Ruby. They dropped Ruby off. What does Iggy do but immediately stuff her entire head into Ruby's bag of food, treats, and toys?

In this way, she is less subtle than I. But I have made a minor career of insinuating myself into Emily's business. On two occasions I have drunk from her glass of water, once at my house on the Fourth of July and another time at a rib joint. On the rib joint night we bowled. Once, when it was Emily's turn, I got up and bowled instead. I got a strike. That's not the point. The point is that it was Emily's turn. Finally, on two occasions when staying at her house I used her towel.

Emily has been patient about these indiscretions, but my trespasses have not gone unnoticed.

Watching the blatent violation of Ruby's bag, feeling the collective weight of Iggy's shame and mine, I told her to stop.

But did she stop?

The real trouble began when Ann came by to see if we wanted to go to the park with Tanker. Of course we said yes. As soon as we arrived, Iggy started acting like a complete jerk to Ruby and firting with Tank, generally behaving like a prize idiot. At one point she ran off with her long legs, just to show everyone how great she looks when she runs.

Ruby took advantage of the opportunity to have a word with Tank. From where I stood, it sounded something like, "Hey, Big Boy." From where I stood, it looked like Tank was not entirely unhappy about Ruby's advances.

Iggy soon realized that no one was watching and admiring her and quickly returned to sniff out the trouble. In the photo below Ruby is saying something along the lines of, "What? I didn't do anything. Innocent! Innocent!"

Tanker is saying something like, "Uh, two girl dogs is better than one."

Iggy said nothing. She gave Tanker a long cold stare as if to say, "Cold bed tonight."

Speaking of Iggy and beds, I think it will not be hard to convince you that this is not Iggy's bed. As Emily's water is also mine, Ruby's bed is also Iggy's. Or so Iggy believed. She was shocked at my suggestion that she remove herself from Ruby's bed so that Ruby might enjoy it.

She utterly ignored me.

Ruby looked the other way, trying her best to prented that she really wasn't interested in the bed in the first place. She is a stoic, like Emily always willing to turn the other cheek no matter how thick the insult.

Iggy's bed is much larger than Ruby's, mind you, so as to accommodate her much larger body. It was nearby and empty. Ruby, though she would have fit in Iggy's bed with room to spare, is a polite dog and did not take advantage of the opportunity to lie upon it. (Just as Emily has not taken advantage of the many opportunities to drink from my water glass or use my towel.) Sensing the opportunity to teach Iggy an important lesson about how it feels to have one's bed violated, Robbi climbed in.

This piqued Iggy's attention.

From where I was standing, it sounded like Iggy was saying, "Uhm, that's really not cool."

When the time came to turn in, the planets realigned. Iggy got into her bed, Ruby into hers, and I into mine.

And thus passed the first night. The two got along so well the next day that when the time came to turn in the next night the whole concept of "my" bed and "your" bed got thrown out the window. There was just "our"bed. After a night spent thusly, the two are perfect friends. All acrimony erased, all jealousies washed away. Iggy has agreed to ask from now on before sniffing, biting, grabbing, or sleeping on or in Ruby's things.

Emily and I will probably have to come up with a different means of bridging our differences.

Posted by bogenamp at 04:14 AM | Comments (2)

October 17, 2006

The Big TV

In the annals of moving no task was perhaps greater or more daunting than that of moving my most prized posession, namely the 56 inch internal projection TV. Ever since the beast was gifted to me by my mother in the winter of 2001 (she could no longer stomach the looming bulk of it in her home), it has been a mainstay of life and a reality of moving. From her house on Southworth street to the spacious living room of 45 Blackinton. From there to our second story bedroom on Hemlock Lane. Then to Jones Street in Savannah. And then to the basement of our Baltimore home.

As you know, our space in the barn is on the second story. As soon as Bob heard of my intentions to relocate the big TV to the barn, he began a vocal campaign to prejudice me against it. A smaller TV would better compliment the relatively modest space afforded by the barn, he reasoned. And adding the big TV to the listing on our Baltimore home might sweeten the pot for a potential buyer. Finally, if maintaining size was my aim, a large variety of flat screen models were now available. It was with the final argument that I realized Bob was really fishing for excuses. In no other context would he suggest that good money be spent on replacing something that one already owned. The fact was, he knew he would be enlisted to assist with the task of moving and he had no interest in spraining his back in the interest of the proverbial idiot box.

But we lured him with promises of Netflix and Movie Night, complete with inducements of popcorn and a likely perch in the overstuffed leather recliner. In the end I believe it was our unwillingness to bend, our clear and shining vision to live in harmony with the big TV that swayed him. Bob is, beneath it all, a grand romantic, and he could tell that I truly loved the TV. That without it, I was but a shell of a man.

That, and the secret we learned from the affable repair man who nursed the big TV back to health when its picture failed early in our Baltimore days: the big TV, a seemingly impenetrable mass of oak, mirrors, and electronic guts, can be made significantly less heavy by the removal of its projecting apparatus.

Moving the TV from storage was not difficult. It was, thankfully, made with casters which enabled us to wheel it gently from the storage unit to the van and from the van to the base of the barn stairs. At which point we removed the guts, girded our loins, and hefted the sucker with pain and deliberate study step by step up to the second floor.

We did not photograph the adventure. Not only were our faces contorted in the pain of burdened labor, but we were too terrified of losing our grip and being cruelly crushed. Only when the TV had been safely delivered to its predetermined resting place did we stand back and admire it.

We made one fatal error in judgment in moving the big TV. Thinking that the casters might mar the newly finished floors beneath the its awesome weight, we placed it on a scrap of carpet and slid the whole affair across the floors. This was a good plan in theory, but it was fiberglass fibers on the bottom of the carpet, beneath the awesome weight of the big TV, that ended up scratching the finish.

Our big TV has landed, safe and sound. There have been several movie nights. Bob has each time been offered the overstuffed recliner, and he has yet to decline. But we live with the reminder of the television's bulk. The long scratches run the length of our space serve as a daily reminder that the day will come when we wlll be called upon to summon deep resolve and move this sucker again.

Best not to get lulled into a false sense of security, I say. Every man suffers beneath the weight of a bittersweet burden. The big TV is my cross to bear.

Posted by bogenamp at 04:14 AM

The Last Stand?

For those of you clamoring for yet more photos of me straining uncomfortably in the rafters, this entry will provide great satisfaction.

Thinking ahead to winter, we decided that the time had come to complete the epic task of insulating our living space. The last great liability was the storage box that we constructed above Robbi's bookcases. All that separated us from the Florabana warehouse on the other side of the barn was sheets of 3/8 plywood. No problem in September but a likely sieve when the temperature drops.

I was enthusiastic about the prospect of more insulating. I have developed a certain noble reputation in certain circles for my skill with a roll of fiberglass. I was eager to renew whatever of Robbi's affections for me come from watching me measure, cut, and staple insulation in place. We sized up the situation and realized that Prodex would be the best candidate for the job. Plus, we were motivated to use up the surplus Prodex before Bob tried to use it for some other purpose or before it was stored away in some dark corner to gather dust and molder in perpetuity.

I climbed to the rafters and Robbi assumed her place on the cutting floor. I shouted out measurements, and she delivered. The resulting work was awkward, unpleasant, ocassionaly painful, and ultimately gratifying.

There was no good place to sit, see?

But we got the job done.

Notice that Robbi had the good sense to wear a mask.

When we were finished, we bagged up the scraps and threw them away. Some day I may insulate again, but I will not be disappointed if that day is far from now. The task completed, we began cleanup of the warehouse, which has for some months resembled the staging ground for a minor war.

If you are reading, Bob and Seiko, thank you for your patience and generosity. Soon the inevitable clutter and disorder of the warehouse will be wholly yours once again.

Posted by bogenamp at 02:14 AM | Comments (1)

October 16, 2006

Art on the Chester

Among her many pursuits this fall, Robbi is teaching a class at Washington College, the 9th oldest college in the US, and the only one to which the original GW knowingly gave his name. She is a visiting lecturer in the art department and her class is called called Digital Imaging. This mostly involves teaching Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator with some art concepts thrown in for good measure.

Donald McColl is the head of the art department at Washington College. He is an affable, energetic guy who is extremely excited to build his department. The college added a new full time art professor this fall and has a healthy stable of adjunct professors, of which Robbi is one. To celebrate his newly robust department and to build a bit of unity, Don chartered the College pontoon boat and invited the entire department for a picnic cruise.

Here we are setting out.

And here we are settling in. On the left, in the blue and yellow rainoat is Ann, Donald's wife. She was our hostess and, as we left the dock, immediately made sure that each of us had a drink of our choosing. The gentleman next to her in the blue shirt is Drew. He teaches drawing and painting. Next to him is Aileen, art history professor. Captain Don is at the helm. Next to Don in the back is Monica, the new art professor and performance artist. Next to Monica is Denise, who teaches photography. You already know Robbi. As usual, she is smiling.

Chestertown, which was at one point the largest port in the US, is approximately 12 miles inland. Not long after Boston had its famous Tea Party, Chestertown hosted its own, with one important distinction. Unlike Boston, where the rebel colonials dressed like Indians to divert blame, the protesting Chestertonians wore their own clothes. The whole affair can be relived on an annual basis at the Chestertown Tea Party reenactment. At a predetermined time, a skirmish erupts in the center of town, a block or so from the barn. A group of rowdy colonials then marches down to the waterfront, boards a small vessel, paddles out to the waiting Schooner Sultana (more on the Schooner Sultana later), boards the larger boat, engages in rowdy fisticuffs with the British soldiers, and eventually tosses the soldiers into the water. It's a hoot. I have twice been asked to participate, but in the role of an ousted British soldier, which would have meant unceremonious tossing. I suppose one has to pay one's dues and be tossed for a few years before getting to be a tosser. Perhaps this will be my year to be tossed. I'll be sure to post my decision well in advance so that you may come watch if such a thing would make you happy.

Drew and Aileen, with the Schooner Sultana in the background (as I said before, more on the Sultana to come).

Captain Don took us two miles downriver toward the Bay. We found a cove and docked. Ann pulled out some mighty fine wraps, salads, and deserts. It was really quite nice. As we ate, we complimented the hostess on the spread. It gratified her to no end. See?

In the background here is the aforementioned Schooner Sultana. Though I'll likely botch many of the details, the Sultana is a recreation of a boat from Chestertown's merry colonial days. The boat was made by local craftsmen and supported by private contributions. Its hull is made from local Osage Orange. It has sails. It is quite nice. Etc. Kids go on educational cruises on the Sultana. It was out trolling under sail as we whizzed by on the speedy pontoon. Don considered having a "gam" and then taking her by force. As far as art guys go, he is pretty tough. Don is a 24 enthusiast. He and I often talk about our admiration for Jack Bauer. Had it been just Don and I and Jack Bauer we would have totally hijacked the Sultana. But there were other sensitive artist types on board and ultimately, we didn't want to upset their stomachs.

After the picnic was finished, we admired the late afternoon light for a while, each of the artist types on board offering his or her suggestion as to which landscape painter's work the sky most resembled (I was shot down for my suggestion of Seuss).

We headed back. Always a generous sort, Captain Don allowed Aileen a try at the helm. Reluctant at first, Aileen eventually discovered the contagious power of the throttle bar and soon had us heading home at an outrageous clip.

Well fed, in good company, serene, stoic. (Sultana.)

And here she is again. I've been learning in my time near the water that all boats are girls. Boat people take this fact very seriously.

So as not to leave you with a lasting image of stoicism, I submit a smile, which is indicative of how I felt as we approached home.

We slipped into our moorings as the last rays of light fell. It was a lovely outing. Thank you, Captain Don.

Posted by bogenamp at 04:14 AM

October 15, 2006

300 going on 301

This year Chestertown is celebrating its tricentennial and the town has been partying nonstop. From Mayor Margo Bailey's Official Opening of C-300 at Town Hall in April to May's Old Chestertown Gala Garden Party to the Colonial Ball in June, from July's beard contest (no, I did not enter) to Augusts's "Horses to Hummers" parade, featuring the Budweiser Cyldesdales, the people of Chestertown celebrated in style.

We had long been looking forward to the premiere event on the September calendar, an all-you-can-eat crab feast featuring hot air balloon rides, fireworks, and the lilting tones of the Bay Country Gentlemen. We decided to treat Bob and Seiko to tickets as thanks for their generosity in putting up with all of the junk still remaining in their house.

Bob and I are of the same mind when it comes to crabs. We like the way crab tastes and are willing to pull apart a few crab bodies in the interest of getting to said meat, but neither of us has the patience or interest in taking it much further. All-you-can-eat crab feasts are somewhat wasted on us, because we pretty much throw in the towel after two or three crabs. Fortunately the food line also featured pulled pork, hamburgers, grilled chicken, corn, slaw, potato salad, and other fine eats.

Like watermelon. What's that you say? Weren't we under a tent? Why was Bob wearing shades?

Because Bob is a badass, I say. The man eats watermelon in style.

Here is Seiko, posing with one of her victims. I refer not to myself, but to crab number #14. At this point she was roughly halfway done.

One thing that the C-300 Crab Feast committee failed to anticipate was our need for crab-destroying implements. Hammers and picks and hacksaws and the like. Fortunately the man sitting next to me had brought a pocketknife with a heavy handle along. He generously let us use it as a bludgeoning device. Robbi demonstrates. Though she could not match up to Seiko's appetite for crabs, Robbi did a respectable job putting them away.

Pocketknife guy was to my right and Seiko to my left. Both were crab enthusiasts. Pocketknife guy sat down before we did, so I have no idea how long he had been at it before we got there. But the man consumed an unearthly number of crabs in the hour and a half or so that we sat there. Between bites, he derided me for eating pulled pork, chicken, corn, and slaw. It was inconcievable to him that, given the abundance of crabs, I would choose to put any other substance in my mouth. Emboldened by his criticism and seeing that I wasn't putting up much of a fight, Seiko joined in, insulting my pedestrian tastes from the left flank. The two double-teamed me for the better part of an hour, using me as their whipping boy in the proxy war they were staging as each tried to outcrab the other.

Though pocketknife guy may have consumed more crabs than Seiko, on a consumption per-pound of body weight basis, I'm confident she outdid him. He must have outweighed her by a ratio of 3:1, and she clearly matched him 2:3 on crabs.

Mark my words, Seiko is also a badass. She doesn't even need to wear sunglasses to know it.

It takes little time to eat a plate of pulled pork and get full. It takes a long time to get full on crabs. I finished my meal in about three minutes and spent the next hour or so watching others eat crabs. Eventually I digested my meal and began to get hungry again. I chanced to look across the table at Robbi, who had just removed the leg and claw of a crab. Given that she is my wife, it seemed natural that she might share it with me. It was, after all, only one leg and claw in the midst of an all-you-can-eat melee. I even asked nicely.

I met stiff resistence.

Robbi, I fear, is also a badass.

I'm doomed.

After the meal, we went home for a while. The crab feast was in the park that is about a 4 minute walk from the barn. When it got dark, we returned for the fireworks. We took a lot of pictures of the fireworks, but you really don't need to see them all.

We brought Iggy along, thinking she might like the fresh air. She spent the entire time sniffing madly in the grass for bits of crab, pork, corn, whatever might have been dropped there in the course of the day.

Posted by bogenamp at 04:14 AM

October 14, 2006

Day of Poop

Though she has often been pictured on the Barnstorming and often mentioned (usually as the butt of jokes), we haven't focused much on Iggy's well being and her feelings regarding the move to Chestertown. The fact is, she was reluctant at first. She is not a spontaneous dog, vastly preferring the known and predictable to new things and places. Though she enjoys new experiences within certain limits, she is wary of major life changes, and we worried that the barn move would throw her prematurely into the inevitable adolescent funk.

Little did we know that quite another influence would drive Iggy to the edge of angst. Instead of moping about how much she missed all her friends in Baltimore, hated the night sounds of Chestertown, was mortified to be living in a barn, etc., we now hear nothing but Iggy's endless plaintive requests to go outside and across the street to visit with her boyfriend Tanker.

Tanker is a jolly yellow lab, dog of Don (Captain Don/Jack Baur wannabee, to you) and Ann McColl. Iggy and Tanker became acquainted some weeks ago. At first there was blushing and furtive glancing on both sides. The pretense of indifference quickly faded, and the two soon professed undying enthusiasm for one another's company. And realize that Iggy doesn't just like Tanker. She loves him. She is fond of romping with most dogs and will run around with them for a while. But Iggy is standoffish and usually tires of other dogs quickly, preferring after a short while to return to us and continue on her way. But Iggy and Tank play together in a completely devoted way, and never seem to tire of one another. They take turns being submissive and dominant (Iggy is usually submissive to every other dog), and wrestle in a way that can only be described as loving.

The other day Donald and Ann asked us if we would take Tanker for the day, as they were going to be out of town. We went over to Don's house and ran through the Tanker care drill. They had asked us if we would just look in on Tank from time to time throughout the day, but we decided that it would be much more fun just to bring him over to our place. And so we did. He and Iggy played in the living room for a while, and then we took them to the park to play some more. They ran and wrestled and leaped and played tirelessly for about 8 hours. It was remarkable. I kept waiting for the big collapse, but it never happened. Until it suddenly happened. And we had two unconscious dogs on our hands.

Eventualy Don and Ann returned, came back to get Tanker, and Robbi and I cooked a lasagna for Bob, who was a bachelor for the evening on account of Seiko being out of town.

That's the nice, clean version of the day. That's the way we wish it had gone. In reality, the story is a bit less sanitary.

Here's a portrait of reality. Robbi is unhappy. Why is she unhappy? If only the computer screen had a scratch & sniff feature...

At one point near the end of the 8 hours of endless play we thought that it might be a good idea to take the dogs out to do their business. We did. Iggy did her thing. We were waiting for Tanker to do his. It is lucky that Robbi and I were both looking his way at the same time, because otherwise we would have missed the single most astonishing gasatrointestinal display I have ever witnessed. It lasted less than a second, but Tanker made it clear in a vivid moment that he was not feeling well. Robbi took him for a short walk while I cleaned up the mess. Hoping that he had done all that he needed to do, we warily brought him back inside. A few minutes later there was an afershock. Far less dramatic than the initial demonstration, but not insignificant. We did our best with a sponge and brush. Fortunately our sisal rug is a very forgiving color.

Let it be known, Robbi is very sensitive to odors.

The rest of the story is pretty much as reported earlier. Don and Ann returned. Tanker went home. Robbi, Bob, and I did enjoy a fine lasagna and then watched a movie.

Iggy did not rise from her bed until the middle of the next day and, according to accounts from Donald and Ann, Tanker was pretty much down for the count for the same duration.

If Iggy was aware of Tanker's little incident, she hasn't let on. In fact, her enthusiasm for him continues to grow. We worry that she might be a bit young to be having these kinds of feelings, but figure that she could have chosen a far lesser object for her affections. Like a poodle or weiner dog.

Posted by bogenamp at 04:14 AM

October 10, 2006

Fool's Errand

Convinced that our encounter with the queen sized mattress would prove the most traumatic aspect of our move from East Coast Storage into the barn, we started getting giddy as we reached the back of the storage container. We were to be out by the end of the month. Shouldn't be a problem, we said to ourselves.

The time came to move the large Ikea bookshelf that has been sitting in our basement. It is tall and awkward, but not too heavy for the two of us to move. We put it on a dolly, wheeled it to the van, and discovered that no tricky angle, no amount of strenuous pushing was going to do the trick. The bookcase would not be traveling in the van and, lacking a big truck, we were fresh out of options.

Until Robbi thought back to her sixth grade roller skating party days and hatched a brilliant scheme. "We're not THAT far outside of town," she said.

Robbi's plan involves the dolly pictured above. This dolly, manufactured by Bob, was designed as a wheeled pedestal for enormous tupperware containers filled with many rolls of pugged clay. The wheels enable Seiko to move the enormous tupperwares out from under the counter when she needs new clay and back in again when she is done. The dolly was not designed for transporting enormous Ikea bookshelves on open roads in the dead of night. It was not designed for Robbi to stand upon, grinning like an insane person.

Keep these facts in mind, as we continue.

After going back to the barn to fetch the aforementioned dolly, we returned to East Coast Storage, at which point Robbi and Iggy thought it appropriate to have a bit of a race from the door to storage unit 15E.

If you felt a shred of suspense in regard to the race's outcome, you've obviously never seen either Robbi or Iggy run. Iggy is very fast. Robbi is very very slow. Plus, Robbi kept messing with the dolly, which was never intended to be involved in a race with a dog.

Back in the storage unit, Robbi shows off our challenge, the Ikea bookshelf. Do you get the sense that she has been watching too much The Price is Right?

You may be asking yourself why is she so cheerful. It is 11:30 at night at this point. Miles of uneven pavement lie between East Coast Storage and the barn, between me and my bed. Any why did the dog come along? It seems that a dog, however lovable, might very well get in the way in the throes of such an enterprise. "Do you think it's really a good idea to bring the dog?" I said, before we left the barn.

"Absolutely," Robbi told me. "It will be great. Fun for all. Rah!"

Did I mention how large and unwieldy, even tippy, the bookcase is? Did I mention that the dolly is not dextrous and nimble as other dollies are, that this is a dolly designed for moving tubs of clay 2 feet at a time and not for long-distance furniture relocation? Did I mention that it was the middle of the night, that the roads and sidewalks were terribly uneven, that Iggy is a spaz, that I am feeling very pessimistic about this entire endeavor?

And so we headed out, bookshelf balanced precariously on the ill-constructed dolly, rocks and gravel underfoot and under wheel, dog running crazily around to the end of her leash, jerking me painfully at the wrist, the dark night upon us like a pall, miles to go, and Robbi still grinning like a crazy person as if she's having a grand time.

Eventualy there were cars.

"This is the end of days," I decided.

You're asking yourself, wouldn't this have been far easier without the dog? Why did they bring the dog? What, are these people crazy, bringing this dog along?

If you weren't thinking that, you should have been. Even Iggy didn't think it was a good idea to come along. See how she sits in protest?

Below is proof that I agreed to participate in this scheme. If it looks like I'm almost smiling, it is a trick of the camera. I'm terribly unhappy. Miserable. Right after this picture was taken, I used an expletive. Robbi's eternal smile? It is a farce. Right after I used my expletive, she used a worse one.

This picture is a somewhat more accurate representation of my general attitude about the bookcase misadventure. See how Iggy, aware that her presence is contributing to my ire, still tries to comfort me? She is an awfully good dog.

Long story short: we kept going and going and going. Every 15 feet or so the bookcase would slide off the dolly, so we'd stop and set it back on again. Eventually we'd come to patches of sidewalk with gaping, unfriendly holes, at which point we'd have to carry the bookcase for a while, go back and get the dolly, set the dolly up on the other side of the obstruction, and then put the bookcase back on the dolly. This drill was also repeated every time we came to a street we had to cross. Once we got back into town, we gave up on the sidewalk altogether and wheeled the bookcase right down the middle of the street. This tack worked much better. My mood improved, if only very slightly.

Eventually we got back home.

Once home we had to carry the bookshelf up the stairs. We probably should have waited for Bob, but we were eager to enjoy the fruits of our long, painful, unpleasant, tiring, nearly marriage-ending journey. Somehow we managed to slide it up the stairs and lift it over the banister. Eventually it was in our room. Only after did we think to reflect on what we had just accomplished.

"That was a little nuts," I suggested.

"I'll admit it," she said.

As we drove back to East Coast Storage (in Bob and Seiko's car) to pick up our car, we speculated on how far we had walked/suffered with the bookcase. The entire ordeal had taken about an hour and 45 minutes. We both came up with a number in our heads and, at the count of three, each revealed our guess.

Amazingly, we both came up with 1.6 miles. On the nose.

We kept a close eye on the trip odometer the entire way there. Amazingly, as we pulled into the parking lot, the numbers read exactly 1.6.

Was this to be taken as some sign from above that our journey, though absurd, had been somehow appropriate/justified/wholesome/right? I kept waiting for a sign that would explain the necessity of bringing the dog along. No sign has yet appeared, though I'm keeping my eyes peeled.

The shot below was taken a few days later. To give you a sense of what role the bookcase is playing in our new home. Other than the wardrobe, in which we hang our nice pants, shirts, dresses, etc, this is our primary "closet."

For the bookcase we are grateful, in spite of it all.

Posted by bogenamp at 01:39 PM | Comments (3)

Moving In

As everyone knows, the most important part of any home is the place the food is kept, and so we hauled our newly-purchased diminutive fridge up the stairs and put it, according to plan, in the exact spot pictured below. Robbi and I actually managed to bring it up the stairs ourselves with no help from Bob. It was probably an ill-advised decision, but fortunately it worked out. Such was our enthusiasm to have a place to put the cold drinks, we could not wait for his return from wherever it was he was.

We thought better of trying to move the couch without his help. Here it is. Iggy is doing her darndest to protest our chosen location for the couch. I'll fill you in on the rest of the story: she loses.

But is resilient.

Our worldly belongings were either in the storage unit outside of town or at Bob and Seiko's house (which has recently resembled a storage unit). We had used a very large truck to move everything from Baltimore into storage. Lacking a very large truck this particular Tuesday morning, we used Bob's trusty van.

Here witness feats of strength as Bob and I move the rustic workbench (soon to be our kitchen counter) up the stairs.


Next we moved my desk and chair into the nook that was to become my office. Notice that I am not to be contented with one soft leather chair. The black one on wheels is for ordinary, everyday sitting, thining, typing, writing, etc. The overstuffed grey recliner is for really deep thoughts, ideas, writings, naps, etc.

Throughout the day, vanload by vanload, we just kept moving stuff up the stairs and into our new space.

Not to be outdone, Robbi insisted that we bring her desk up, too. Note that this is but one of Robbi's three desks (the girl needs her space), but we were so anxious to get back online that the moment the first desk was set up, the computer soon followed. Look how discontent Robbi is with the computer's failure to communicate with the internet. Look how indifferent the black cat Lily is to Robbi's plight.

I don't remember how much we managed to move in that first day. We didn't take a picture. I remember that the rest of the week was a blur. Eventually most of our furniture was in, along with a lot of our miscelaneous "stuff."

It looked kind of like this:

Or this:

Lots of things in the middle of the room needing to be put away. Lots of art to be hung.

Iggy was exhausted at the prospect, depressed even.

I must share one episode from the first day of moving. We were determined to sleep in the barn Tuesday night, which meant that we had to move the mattress and box spring. My first apartment in Baltimore was reachable only via a narrow stairwell through which a queen sized box spring could not possibly pass. So we have a split box spring that makes moving it a breeze. The mattress, on the other hand, is a bulky sucker. It's not overly heavy, but it's awkward, and Robbi and I had some difficulty moving it from the storage unit into the van. At first, we couldn't get it into the van at all, even through the back gate. But we realized that if we positioned it at an angle to the door, and pushed really hard, it might just go in. So we positioned it just right. And pushed. And the mattress got caught at the corners. But it seemed that just a bit more pushing might do the trick. So we pushed. And pushed. And suddenly the whole thing slid right through the back gate into the van. I was delighted. But Robbi was gone. She had disappeared entirely. Suddenly I noticed a pair of green shoes sticking out from under the mattress. I had flashbacks to my childhood on the prairie in Kansas, remembering the day that house landed on that witch, killing her and saving our oppressed people.

I heared the muffled cries of my outraged wife. I lifted the mattress to find...Robbi. Squashed, livid Robbi.

But we did manage to get the mattress in the car. And we did manage to sleep in the barn that night. It was just before bed that it hit me: I hadn't gone to work that day, and I wouldn't be going back again.

Posted by bogenamp at 01:29 PM

October 09, 2006

Monday, September 4

Reaching back over the fog of more than a month, I strive to remember Monday, September 4. We awoke to find a near-finished barn, but a dusty, cluttered near-finished barn still full of tools and dropcloths and with trim in serious need of painting.

The first order of business was to clean the place up. And, lucky for us, two of Bob and Seiko's friends, Yarwen and her husband (whose name, though pronounced "shoe", we don't know how to spell) were visiting for the weekend and, inspired by our project, were eager to pitch in and help us clean. The extra hands were much appreciated as we removed the clutter and began to mop.

And mop.

I could include many more pictures of people mopping, but really, would you want to see them? The fact is, the floor refused to be clean. I suppose the air was full of dust and other fine debris, and by the time one round of mopping was complete, a fresh layer had fallen. We kept at it, and eventually gave up.

But not before mugging in triumphant pose. (Iggy, who insisted on being in the photo, contributed nothing to the cleanup efforts.)

Robbi and I decided to get all "American Gothic." Not sure why. We were delirious by this point.

And here is the finished product, after the mopping madness concluded. Thank you so much to Yarwen and her husband for their generous hard work. Without them we would still be chasing dust bunnies to this day.

For the sake of contrast, let's remember back to the beginnings of our venture. Here is the same shot from the same place six months prior; witness 35 years of human debris:

After a few weekends of cleaning, sorting, dumping, etc.

After the cleaning, on the brink of construction:

At the end of the mad weekend of insulation:

Post drywall, pre-painting:

Painting done. Floors yet to go:

Floors done. Framing, and bookshelf remain:

One again, the work complete:

Deep breath. Contented sigh.

Once the place was mostly clean, Robbi and I took out the paint cans and began the touch up work. The trim needed serious attention as did certain parts of the ceiling and walls where we had banged them moving things about in the course of construction. There was an exciting moment when I knocked over the utility light only to stop it from crashing into the floor with a supririsingly deft (nearly ninja-like) move with my right leg. Robbi was astounded and admitted that she valued me just a bit more in the aftermath.

We have no pictures of touch-up painting. And really, would you want to see them?

Eventually we finished. We looked around in the darkness with a sense of accomplishment. And a countervailing feeling of dread.

Now we had to move.

Posted by bogenamp at 03:49 PM | Comments (1)