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March 31, 2007

Who Are You, Patrick E. Naugle?

Imagine my surprise and delight when, taking the dog out for a pee just now, I found a mysterious package sitting on top of the mailbox. The return address read: Patrick E. Naugle of Elgin, IL. Not knowing a Patrick E. Naugle, I assumed that the package contained unsolicited marketing materials. But the size and heft of the package suggested otherwise. There was too much substance to be the product of a blind solicitation. I opened the flap, peered inside and found . . . the complete third season of Six Feet Under.

While I have not yet watched the DVDs to make certain that they work, I have looked inside the package for some explanatory note and can confirm that all five disks are accounted for. There is no mark or message contained therein. Perhaps it is coated with a fine powdered toxin that aims to end my days? So far at least, the thing has not exploded.

What's more, it is only 11:00am, a full two hours before the mail usually comes. I feel as if I have stepped into a parallel plane of existence today, recieving gifts from unknown persons, recieving early mail. Robbi left at 4:00 this morning to accompany her dad on a pottery-selling junket in DC, and I am trying to get some freelance writing done. The mystery of Patrick E. Naugle and the unexplained gift jars me a bit. I'm having trouble concentrating. Perhaps I should just give up and watch Six Feet Under.

Alas, the problem is this, while I have seen and very much enjoyed Season One of Six Feet Under, I have not yet contrived to get my hands on Season Two. So while the gift of Naugle is incredibly exciting, its realization will have to wait until some other unknown benefactor sees fit to provide me with the preceding narrative content.

The real travesty would be if I did know Patrick E. Naugle and have simply forgotten him. Perhaps he is one of the students I once interviewed during my years as an admission officer at Williams? Perhaps he is one of the children whose fingers were not amputated as a result of my important two weeks of work for door hinge safety device manufacturer Fingersafe, USA?

Perhaps Patrick E. Naugle is a pseudonym for the governing deity of everything, trying to send me a cosmic message in mundane trappings? I'll have to watch Season Three carefully.

I love you, Patrick E. Naugle.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:59 AM

March 28, 2007

Busy and Then Some

While I was eating my way through Kentucky, Robbi stayed behind, laboring away on Volume 6. Such was the vigor of her industry that late last night we called the work completed. Today we printed out our first official copy and, as is our habit, signed and dated it. We sometimes remember to take a picture as well. Today we remembered. And so you may see it.

Yes, this is a true sneak peek, folks. Meant to titilate and delight those of you who are subscribers. And meant to send those of you who have not yet taken the plunge into a kind of anticipatory angst. What will this book be about, you wonder? How can I live, knowing that I will not know? Any of you subscribers who are enabling non-subscribers to not subscribe by quenching their anticipatory angst should be ashamed of yourself. Ultimately, you're encouraging behaviour that will lead said subscription-leecher down a slippery road of mendacity and self-loathing. Which will lead you down a similar road. In time, not only will our non-subscribers be riddled with angst, but so will the enabling masses that call themselves subscribers. You see what I'm saying. It's a lose-lose.

But moving on to the "Then Some" part of this entry, fresh on the heels of printing, binding, and stuffing Volume 6, which will go out next Tuesday with hopes of reaching our noble subscribers [not you shifty, dissembling non-subscribing hordes] by the end of next week), we are headed to DC this weekend to do another gallery installation. J.T. (of Hot Brown fame) is the Assistant Director of a new gallery, H&F Fine Arts, in the Gateway Arts District of Mt. Rainier, MD, just outside of DC. He has asked us to do a semi-permanent wall painting in the gallery's boutique, which will be carrying our books.

Here is the space in question:

It's 13 feet tall and about 7 feet wide, including the little jog in the wall. Our charge was to create a wall painting/mural that would 1) serve as an exemplar of what Idiots'Books "does" 2) create a visual anchor that will draw people's attention to the shelf of Idiots'Books that they might buy them, and 3) create an image so stunning and eye-catching that passersby on the sidewalk and street might be compelled to abandon their previous engagement and visit H&F Artworks instead.

Our wall can be seen through the front window.

Another challenge is working around this fire alarm, which sits at about eye level, right in the middle of our wall.

Robbi has come up with a clever solution for incorporating the fire alarm into the heart of the action. You will see.

Here are Karen and Cheryl, the two women who own and run H&F. We'll post a better picture of them at some point. When I took this picture, I had only known them for a few minutes. Not long enough to insist on a head-on picture for a Web site. Just well enough to feel like I could get away with a shifty, sideways picture.

We are heading in to DC on Sunday afternoon. We're going to start work when the gallery closes, just after 3:00pm and work until we're done. Robbi estimates that it will take us all afternoon and night Sunday and straight through Monday and Monday night. So any of you subscribers (and blameworthy, iniquitous non-subscribers who still call themselves friends of ours) should feel free to stop by the gallery any time between 3:00pm Sunday afternoon and 3:00am Tuesday morning. Come peer through the window at our bleary-eyed progress. Come bring us plates of warm food.

The last piece of "Busy" is really quite exciting. A few months ago now, the folks at Artiste Locale, a shop in St. Michaels, MD, a town about an hour south of here on the Eastern Shore, asked us to consider writing a book about St. Michaels that they might sell in their shop. We chewed on the idea and found it to our liking. I wrote a draft, which I shared with our friends at Artiste Locale, and which they found to their liking. While I was off breakfasting on the Mega Ho Triple, Robbi did some initial illustration studies. We came up with concepts for illustrations throughout the book. Last Wednesday we made our pitch, complete with various printing scenarios. The folks at Artiste Locale seemed pleased, but we decided not to count our chickens in spite of the rising excitement we both felt.

Later on that very night we learned that they had decided to partner with us on having the book printed professionallly, in Hong Kong of all places. We'll be ordering 2,500 hardcover books. Meaning: they will look and feel like real books AND we won't have to print, trim, paste, score, staple or in any way bind them. They will be delivered nicely wrapped in crates. It's really quite a stunning thing to contemplate.

Our book will be titled, St. Michaels, The Town that Fooled the British. Lest this title puzzle you, have a look at the sign that one sees when one drives into town:

Apparently, when St. Michaels was about to come under attack as part of the British offensive in the War of 1812, the townspersons of St. Michaels contrived an ingenious scheme to hang their lanterns from their rooftops and from the tops of the masts of their ships. This clever maneuver caused the British, who anticpated that the lanterns would be hung in typical relation to the ground, to fire their cannons too high, thus overshooting St. Michaels, and failing to do much damage in the warring scheme of things. By all accounts (other than the sign above), the whole story is a bunch of hoo-hah. But since we care little for historical fact, we decided to tell an apocryphal story in our apocryphal way. Perhaps things didn't happen as we suggest, but we contend that 1) they could have and 2) it doesn't matter if they didn't.

Apparently, Artiste Locale has been able to sell a few of our books in spite of its being the off-season. Here's the nice display they put up near the front of the store.

According to Marnie, one of the folks at Artiste Locale, they stratigically position a few "man-friendly" items at the front of the store so that the husbands have something to do while their wives venture to the back of the store to browse yarn and other unmanly items. In addition to our books, which have been getting some major air-time from the husbands, man-friendly items include hollow wooden drums and rock candles. We are simple, predictable creatures, we men.

I must admit, when I went into Artiste Locale for the first time, I went right to the hollow wooden drum. And then to the rock candle.

The last part of "Busy" is Volume 7, which is already under way. It would be premature to tell you much about it, but I will tell you (subscribers and base, contemptible non-subscribers alike) that my research for Volume 7 involves eating fried foods and watching zombie movies.

Got to go get started now, actually.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:42 PM

March 25, 2007

I Eat Kentucky

Note that this entry will be long, dull, and potentially nauseating. If you don't care for basketball, grease, or the state of Kentucky, please check back in a few days, when we will return to the subject of deliberately decorated paper.

For the stalwarts among you, here we go.

Every year my dad and I pick a city in which to watch the first two rounds of the men's NCAA basketball tournament. We get together, watch basketball, bond, eat poorly. We both invite a friend each year. This year Dad invited his friend Chris Robinson and I invited J.T. This year we chose to go to Lexington, KY, in large part because of Lexington's prominent place in the annals of college basketball greatness. The University of Kentucky Wildcats have won seven national championships, second only to UCLA's 11, and are the winningest program (in terms of overall wins) in the history of college basketball. That's some heady stuff.

Dad and his friend Chris Robinson are big University of Kansas fans. KU is another of the great storied college basketball programs, also among the top five in all-time wins. And though I, too, have a soft spot for KU, my heart bleeds blue for Duke, my mother's alma mater. Duke has pretty much owned college basketball for the past decade. As a result, everyone hates Duke and loves it when they lose. I take this personally. My passion for the Blue Devils is nearly pathological. Years like this one, in which they struggled all year to close out games and went out in the first round of both the ACC conference and national tournaments, are very, very painful.

Most of you probably care little about all this basketball talk, but the trip to Lexington was basketball-based, so it's important to lay a little groundwork.

Onward to the good stuff. J.T. and I embarked early last Wednesday morning. We decided to drive.

The trip was unremarkable, but interesting. J.T. filled me in on the DC art scene. We stopped for lunch in a place called Nitro in West Virginia. Nitro features some mighty fine nuclear power plant steam stacks. J.T. confessed that he was interested in contriving a picture in which it would appear that I was jumping over the Nitro nuclear facility. I was wary, not because the challenge was not a delicious one, but because I had packed lightly for the trip and had no backup pair of jeans should the Annapolis debacle happen to repeat itself. We agreed that I would make the jump on the return trip. Just to make things interesting, we declared that I would only make the jump if Duke won its first-round game. Which seemed, at the time, like a given.

Eight hours after we left Arlington, VA, we were in Lexington. J.T., as it happens, is from Lexington. Which means he knew all of the best places to eat.

Such as Columbia's, one of Kentucky's oldest restaurants, right downtown.

Columbia's is where my tour of Kentucky cuisine began in earnest. Dad, Chris Robinson, J.T., J.T.'s mom and I got a table in the back. I had been fasting since Nitro.

At J.T.'s earnest recommendation, I ordered the Nighthawk Special, which he described as a steak floating in a lake of butter surrounded by fat fries. Here is the Nighthawk.

Ooh La La!

I apologize if you are getting hungry. One of the best things about the Nighthawk is that it is preceded by the Diego Salad. The Diego, a towering mound of finely chopped iceberg lettuce drowned in the dressing of your choice, has a puzzling name to be sure. J.T. could not offer a story of origins. So instead of contemplating my Diego, I ate it. Right after taking this picture.

I apologize if you are getting hungry.

While chewing the Diego, I placed a call to J.T.'s girlfriend Bren, who had done her best to warn me off the Diego. It seems that Bren has some classy standards when it comes to salad. I left a message politely disagreeing with her on the merits of the Diego.

I was not the only person to attempt the Nighthawk. Dad got one, too. So did J.T.

As much as I loved dousing tender forkfulls of steak in the butter lake, I was somewhat covetous of what J.T.'s mom Jo ordered, the incredibly tempting Hot Brown, pictured here once more as evidence of my deep admiration.

I apologize if you're getting hungry.

After not eating the Hot Brown, I was incredibly full, and yet. The best was yet to come.

Blackberry cobbler with ice cream.

It's probably a good time to mention that Kentucky, Kansas, and Duke fans don't always get along. All three teams have beaten one another in really important games. And all three want to be thought of as THE premiere basketball program. KU can claim to be the early home of James Naismith, who invented basketball, and home to legendary coach Phog Allen. Kentucky has a lot of championships and the most wins all-time. Duke has three championships and the best record in the past decade. All three are great. But there is only room for one at the top.

Thus, bitterness and hostility, deep-seeded and potent, swirl like hurricane winds in the hearts of all three. Dad, Chris Robinson, and I were in the heart of Kentuckydom. And so it seemed appropriate to wear our KU hats.

Even though the lamp above our heads was waving a different banner.

Throughout the evening, we were "given a hard time" by the Kentucky fans in our midst. We're talking about Montague/Capulet type tensions here. In general, people try to keep the rivalry fun and genial. But this is not always possible.

The streets of Lexington were full of people expressing their enthusiasm for the Wildcats, even though the Wildcats were playing in Chicago in the first two rounds, and not in Lexington.

Grilling on the street, in the rain, is par for the course for an enthusiastic Kentucky fan.

Thursday morning, we headed to Cracker Barrel for morning sustenance. I neglected to photograph my pile of french toast, but it was plentiful and delicious.

Dad warmed himself by the roaring Cracker Barrel fire.

Bellies full and hearts aflame in anticipation of basketball, we headed to Rupp Arena, storied home of the Kentucky Wildcats.

The view from our seats:

In the first game, we watched Louisville demoralize Stanford. Louisville is a mere hour's drive from Lexington, and the entire arena seemed full of their crazy fans. Stanford went down hard. It was not a competitive game. The second game featured Texas A&M v. Penn. Penn did their best to give A&M a good contest and held their own for a while. Ultimately, the game was not close. And yet we enjoyed watching.

After the first two games, they empty the arena, so we ventured forth to compete with the other 23,000 people for seats in a restaurant. The first place we went had a four-hour wait and so we moved on. Fortunately, J.T.'s insider knowledge led us to Hutchinson's, a drugstore/soda fountain that has been owned and operated by the same folks for decades. We sat right at the counter and ordered our food as hordes of uninformed fans marched past in search of a sports bar.

I ordered two chili cheese dogs (again, no photograph) and a milkshake.

The soda fountain.

A nice stained glass window.

Old scale/character reader.

After eating our fill, we headed back to Rupp for two more games. Ohio State easily downed Central Connecticut State, and in the only really competitive game of the day, Xavier won a nail-biter over BYU.

My Duke Blue Devils were playing their first-round game versus the Rams of Virginia Commonwealth University at the same time as the OSU/CCS game, and so I stood in the lobby of Rupp, watching the game on a small TV with no sound. I was alone, content to watch my team build a 13-point lead. I felt fairly confident, in spite of Duke's tendency, all season long, to blow big leads in the second half. Alas, VCU kept making three-point shots. It was horrible. Duke kept playing basketball like a bad basketball team. The lead shrunk. It was horrible. My heart sunk. With 6 minutes left in the game, the OSH/CCS game let out and suddenly I was surrounded by hundreds of Louisville fans, all of whom HATE Duke. Each time VCU made another three-point shot, the crowd went wild while I sat there in mute agony watching my dreams crumble into a bitter-chalky substance. There was one other Duke fan in attendance. He stood next to me, fidgiting uncomfortably. The final buzzer sounded. Our team had lost, failing to advance to the round of 16 for the first time in 9 years. It hurt. It hurt.

The last game ended after midnight, and so we headed back to our motel to rest.

It is, perhaps, a good time to say a few words about the room that dad and I shared. I will leave out the names to protect the guilty, but our accommodations were not without character-building flaws.

For example, our toilet stood out at an odd angle to the wall.

In addition to the obvious aesthetic problems this caused, it made mid-night peeing somewhat hazardous. One has certain expectations about toilet alignment. Minor injuries were narrowly averted.

Also, this piece of metal stuck out from the side of my bed frame.

I stubbed my toes on it twice, once in a way that compelled me to say horrible things.

Additionally, the only available chair had a microwave sitting in it. And the carpet was bubbled as if the room had recently been under water. And the TV cabinet was well out from the wall.

Why? I cannot say. A less charitable Duke fan might cite some fundamental lack in the fiber of Kentucky as the underlying reason. But I am not that kind of Duke fan.

In spite of the strange room features, I slept well. Dad slept well. The next morning we set out for downtown Lexington.

Our first stop, at J.T.'s recommendation, was Tolly Ho, a 24/7 joint on the UK campus that is known for shady characters and outstanding breakfasts.

I surveyed the menu. And ordered...

...the Mega Ho Triple.

Because, I mean, how could I not. It was delicious. After eating it, I was in pain.

After breakfast, we moved on to history.

As I mentioned earlier, we chose Lexington because of the greatness of the Kentucky basketball tradition. Again, because of J.T. and his insider's connections, we were able to get the inside track on experiencing this legacy firsthand.

J.T.'s mom works for the State, but her office happens to be in the same University of Kentucky building that houses the early arena in which Adolph Rupp, towering figure of college basketball lore, coached his championship teams of the mid-1950s. Jo let us into the storied Alumni Gym, which is now used primarily for UK volleyball practice.

Here is a rare sight: KU fans standing willingly by a UK logo. Just doesn't feel right.

Dad took some shots.

Next we walked a few hundred yards down the road to Memorial Gym, the home of UK basketball between Alumni Gym and Rupp.

The door was locked, but we sneaked in the back, wound our way through the basement corridors, and eventually found our way onto the court through the chute that the team once entered through.

Here is the Kentucky basketball bling. They are way decorated.

At this point, it was about 11:00 in the morning. Since it was the second day of the first round, we wanted to find a place to watch the games happening elsewhere throughout the country. 16 games would be contested before midnight and we wanted to watch them all. At J.T.'s recommendation, we chose Two Keys, a sports bar frequented by the UK student crowds. Fortunately for us, it was spring break, so we had the place to ourselves. To begin with. At 11:00am we had our choice of tables, so we picked a centrally located table from which we had easy views of 8 televisions. We proceeded to order food and watch games for the next 13 hours. This is what we do come tournament time.

Here are the "two keys".

Here are a few of the TVs at our disposal.

Here is the really big one.

Here is my lunch, a buffalo chicken sandwich. The Mega Ho Triple had not entirely exited my stomach by the time I ordered this, but the time had come to eat. This entry is about eating, after all.

As the day turned to evening and the evening turned to night, Kentucky fans started arriving in droves to watch the Kentucky/Villanova game, which was to be the last game of the evening. Kentucky boosters appeared, handing out various Kentucky spirit items. Such as these fine plastic beads, which have since been gifted to my outstanding wife.

The game was close, but Kentucky prevailed, sending the mobs of Kentucky fans into demonstrative delight.

This one agreed to pose for the rare photo of a Kansas fan and a Kentucky fan not glaring at one another. This photo was only possible because the Kentucky fan was happy and drunk, and because my father is such a magnanimous fellow.

At the end of 16 games, we were ready for bed.

We rose the next day and headed back to Tolly Ho. We found parking near the arena, paid our ten bucks, and then marveled in the generosity of the parking attendant, who volunteered to drive us the 12 or so blocks to Tolly Ho. What was the catch, we wondered. There appeared to be no catch. We're Kansas fans, you know, we said. And although he was a self-professed Kentucky fan, the fellow did not glare, sneer, or reverse course. He dropped us off at Tolly Ho with a smile and kind words. It was staggering. He would not even take a tip. We learned a lot that day, we KU and Duke fans, about the pockets of goodness within the vast Kentucky fandom.

This time I ordered an omelette which, though not small, was not quite as disturbing a breakfast as the Mega Ho Triple.

Oh, and hash browns, of course. I needed something to put ketchup on.

After Tolly Ho we headed back to Rupp for two outstanding second-round games. We watched Ohio State pull the ultimate comeback against a scrappy Xaivier squad and Texas A&M prevail in heroic fashion against a Louisville team backed by a decidedly partisan crowd. Both games were amazing basketball.

After the game, we went back to Two Keys to watch more basketball. In retrospect, I wonder if there is anything better in life than college basketball and the Mega Ho Triple.

The next morning, it was time to leave. I collected J.T. from his mom's house, and we set out for home. We did stop in Nitro, but in light of Duke's demise, did not take the jumping shot. We did make a pit stop at a gas station there, in which I observed some interesting political commentary.

We also stumbled upon a point of sharp disagreement regarding the gender of the attendant at the gas station. I was absolutely convinced that the person was a woman and J.T. absolutely convinced that the person was a man. We debated the point at some length, each providing supporting evidence, but neither could convince the other to change his mind. It was maddening. And fascinating. And diverting, as we wound our way up, down, and around the West Virginia hills.

We reached Arlington around 5:00, a few minutes into the Kansas/Kentucky second round game. Tempted though I was to watch the action, I knew better than to push J.T.'s and my friendship by subjecting it to a test from which one of us would emerge disappointed and, by definition, somewhat hostile toward the other party. And so I drove on, smiling sweetly, though inwardly while listening to KU beat Kentucky into a fine blue paste on the radio.

It is important to note that the weekend had nothing to do with basketball, cheeseburgers, or androgynous gas station personnel.

Rather, the weekend was about spending time with our parents.

All the rest is just a good excuse.

Posted by bogenamp at 03:51 PM

March 24, 2007

Guilt Breeds Delay

I have been actively not writing on this blog of late. The crushing weight of expectation is keeping me mute. The 62 pictures of my recent sojourn in Kentucky loom, waiting for clever, insightful description. My failure to post is not born of complaisance. I do want to report on that trip. I want to let you know the many details, both prosaic and profound. And yet I cannot bring myself to write the entry. Perhaps I am reveling in the pleasure of potential or am fearful of a letdown if my words fail to satisfy. Or maybe I'm just lazy. Yes. It's probably laziness. Now that the declaration of my recent failures has been issued, however, I may be compelled to perform.

Here are some photos, a parting salvo as I try to resurrect some modicum of interest in this otherwise pathetic entry.

Here are friend Christian and I on Thursday morning, walking our dogs in the park near his (and Emily's) Federal Hill home. We spent the night with them on Wednesday and chanced to play the Nintendo Wii, a gift bestowed by Emily on Christian upon completing the Maryland bar two weeks ago. The Wii was extraordinary; I am deeply conflicted about whether or not it is a good idea to obtain one.

Here are friends Garet and Matt Libby (outstanding people), visiting tonight from Cleveland. Garet and I lived together both freshman and junior years of college. After a fine meal of local pizza, we played Sorry, a favorite game to which we have added some clever new rules.

It is good to have friends, if only to cite time spent with them as an excuse for not writing at length about travels in Kentucky. Tomorrow I'll have no friends, however. Just long and lonely hours alone at my desk. I shall write, with or without the attending joy, about my trip to the Bluegrass State.

I'm sure you are on tenterhooks. It is appropriate to feel this way. I'll do my best to keep your pending disappointment in check.

Posted by bogenamp at 12:54 AM

March 20, 2007

Back in the Saddle

I'm not sure what I can say. Robbi has said it all. I am an unattractive man with bad hair and suspect dance moves. I have spent the day moping around the house, wondering what I can do to to salvage my moribund relationship. I dug down deep. I searched my soul. What could I do to acquit myself to Robbi? Learning to dance better was out of the question. Some things just aren't possible. Her other complaint seemed to be about my appearance, over which I have some minor control. The genetics that define my round midwestern face and bulging midwestern underchin are incurable. But the hair. The hair, I reflected, had gotten a bit, shall we say, wild of late. Reflecting back, I realized that I had not cut the hair since leaving Baltimore in August. I looked into the mirror.

I saw a desparate man in need of help.

And so I made the only choice I could. I parted ways with the flowing locks that had become a living symbol of my freedom.

And I must say...

I cannot regret the decision. Nor did Robbi. She suddenly upgraded my status from "failing" to "adequate." I am on a kind of open-ended probation. It has been made clear that I ought not get too comfortable, that I am subject for review at any time.

Stay tuned for a soon-to-be-posted entry on my recent adventures in Kentucky, where I spent most of the past week watching the first two rounds of the men's NCAA college basketball tournament with my dad and my friend J.T.

I ate a lot of really tasty food in Kentucky and photographed all of it. Here is a preview of a Kentucky specialty, the Hot Brown. I did not eat the Hot Brown (which consists of turkey, cheese, bacon, cheese, cheese, bacon, and cheese). J.T.'s mom did. But golly, does it look tasty.

In describing the various meals I had in Kentucky, I resolve to reach new depths of tedium. To spite Robbi anew now that she has decided to keep me.

Posted by bogenamp at 01:46 AM

March 18, 2007

Return of the King

So, Matthew's coming back tomorrow.

I thought that I would post another unflattering picture of him to remind you all what you're missing, because I can:

It's pictures like this that make me wonder why I married him. And pictures like this:

But then, who the hell do I think I am?

One good idiot deserves another, I suppose.
He'll be back tomorrow. And then you'll be back to your long, overly-detailed, well-documented entries again.


Posted by ribbu at 03:39 AM

March 15, 2007

Too Busy for You Chumps

Just finished with this whole flower show dealie (final details soon)

and Matthew is off to watch basketball in kentucky, or some such nonsense. He left his computer at a friend's house en route, and surprisingly his super-low-budget hotel doesn't have internet access for him to use his dad's laptop. So - he won't be back until next week, and wanted me to write a note to everyone, in case anyone started to get worried or suffer withdrawal or something.

It suddenly occurs to me that now would be a good time to post some of my favorite pictures of matthew. These two are particularly heinous ones.

Believe it or not, when looking through all our photos, I found many more ridiculous ones of me than I did of him. Though there was no dearth of ridiculous photos of him. More to come, perhaps.

But I found this one, which is only somewhat apropos, given Duke's current standing as OUT IN THE FIRST ROUND.

I won't say anything more, lest I suffer the wrath of the Duke scorned.

Posted by ribbu at 10:22 PM

March 11, 2007

Signing Off

The time has come to say farewell to the Philadelphia Flower Show. Tomorrow is the last day. At 6:00pm, the crowds must leave the building and we must begin our marathon retreat. The rules say we must be out by 2:00am Monday morning, so we have roughly eight hours to pack our boxes, take down the booth, throw it all in the truck, and roll wearily home to Chestertown.

As angry as I still was about the presence of dinosaurs at the Ireland-themed flower show, today was much brightened by a visit by our good friends the Westbrooks.

Matt and me

And young Jennifer, curled wretchedly on the floor after four solid hours of flower show immersion.

I suppose that when you're four feet tall, the Philadelphia Flower Show is a lot about looking at other people's butts. This might be a fine passtime during sprink break on Padre Island, but at the Philadelphia Flower Show, there are not many butts you really want to get friendly with.

The show was outrageously busy today. This is a group of people waiting in line...


I am a firm believer that there is enough empty space in the world that there should never be more than, say, six of us in any square mile. We should all spread out a whole lot more.

If there was an opportunity to do so, I am convinced that people at the Philadelphia Flower Show would wait in line to wait in line. So that they could wait in line.

Between the long hours, the careless signage, and the inexplicable dinosaurs, The Flower Show raises my dander and accelerates my already fast metabolism.

To compensate, I have to eat a lot. Extraordinary amounts. Never knowing for sure where my next meal is going to come from, I eat two or three meals worth of food each time food becomes available.

All week it has been my job to fetch lunch for everyone in the booth. I have gone next door to the adjacent Reading Market to buy sandwiches or salads, according to the tastes of the day.

Every night we go to the same Chinese restaurant, Tai Lake. We go for the delicious food and to see Helen, our friend who works there.

Here is Helen.

I should have photographed our food. We eat the same thing every night, for the most part: fried tofu, salt squid, greens, chow fun, some sort of fish. Tonight we had giant oysters as well in honor of Roji's having arrived early this morning.

Here are the frogs we did not eat. That somebody else has probably eaten by now.

Here's something that we see on the walk between Tai Lake and Travelodge.

And something else nice that I saw.

The flower show has been fun, but it's time to go home. We're tired and ready to return to the barn. How do I know that we've reached the end? Robbi has started sleeping very strangely.

Apparently this has something to do with combatting swollen feet and hands, but dang, it looks uncomfortable.

Maybe this is what they were talking about when they said I wouldn't be able to take the barn out of the girl?

So long, Flower Show. It's been fun. Same time next year.

Posted by bogenamp at 12:11 AM

March 10, 2007

The Pennsylvania Ho

Now I'll admit that I used to work for a fancy design firm, but it doesn't seem to require a nuanced understanding of marketing to realize that this probably wasn't a good idea:

Rounding the corner:

Perhaps the members of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society are too cultured and genteel to accept the fact that their name might be misunderstood when thus truncated. Perhaps they were not concerned about appealing to base fellows like me who might find humor in the stranded syllable.

Inspired by the bad signage and freed by another slow morning at the show, I went in search of the meaning of the theme. Legends of Ireland. What did it mean?

I set out with an open mind. I encountered:

A spooky Irish graveyard.

Trembling with fear, I found garishly colored fountains.

Eyes smarting from the visual insult, I came upon a huge harp situated on a mountain of small glass stones, down the side of which flowed a gentle Irish spring. Did it bubble pleasantly? You bet!

Assuming I had found the Legend of Ireland, I decided to return to the booth. When I came upon . . . a beautiful rainbow. Look closely.

Which I follwed, of course, heart racing with visions of gold, or leprechauns, or lunch at the end of it all. Instead, I discovered the true meaning of the flower show. I kicked myself for being so naive. For thinking that the big harp was the point. What is Ireland all about? I asked myself. I felt like a fool, a misguided child. At the end of the rainbow, fearsome and toothy was the thing that ties this whole show together, the unifying impulse, the resonant Legend of Ireland I had all but forgotten. That we all must strive to remember.


Posted by bogenamp at 01:50 AM | Comments (1)

March 08, 2007

Oh Joe, Where art Thou?

It is a well-known tenet of Behr family philosophy that having a "real" job is a no-no. "Real" jobs interfere with one's ability to come to Alaska for six weeks in the summer and to spend two weeks preparing for and working at the flower show each March. Consequently, none of the three Behr kids have ever held a "real" job for more than a few months at a stretch. Until recently. When Robbi's brother turned to the dark side and took on a full-time teaching job.

Here he is, with his lovely friend Tracy.

Things could be worse. The teacher's schedule does allow Joe summers off to fish in Alaska. But we have been without his services this week. Know this: being without Joe is worse than missing just one person. Joe is strong and swift and powerful.

Lucky for us, Joe will be taking the redeye from San Francisco this Friday night so that he might be with us for the show's final weekend and take-down. I said it before and I'll say it again, taking down the booth, packing up the boxes, and driving everything back to Chestertown is a horrible affair. Joe's agreeing to come for this part of the show is like agreeing to come to someone's dinner party just in time to to the dishes.

Such is the generosity of spirit of my brother-in-law. Joe is good. Some would say that Joe is great.

In fact, when Joe was a young man, he wrote the phrase "Joe is great" a lot. On stickers. On the wall. Everywhere. Because, you see, it's true.

We still have a "Joe is great" sticker somewhere. If I can find it, I'll scan it and make it available to the readership.

Posted by bogenamp at 01:08 AM

March 07, 2007

Snowy Philly

We woke this morning to snow, something which usually pleases me to no end but which is not a positive development on the Flower Show front. The people who tend to populate the Flower Show are the same type of people who do not like snow and the attending inconvenience. And so snowy days are slow and unproductive. We stand around a lot. We don't sell much. We notice the passage of time like a painful drip in a Chinese prison. The slow day did afford two opportunities: 1) I was able to enjoy the beef brisket sandwich from the market adjacent to the convention center. The non-snow-day lines have been prohibitive and so I have been eating from the salad bar four days straight. Today I breezed to the front of the queue and ordered my sandwich with little competition. It was delicious. 2) I was able to wander the aisles a bit taking pictures for Brian. And for all of you.

First, the snow.

And a banner I should have photographed and posted here days ago. By way of introduction. Here is the grand hall where the many people gather in throngs.

You know Seiko and Bob and Robbi and Maiko and me. You even know Wild Bill. But the Flower Show crowds call for extraordinary measures, reinforcements.

Meet Midori, one of Sieko's friends from the Philadelphia Ikebana chapter. She is an arranger from the Ohara school. And a wonderful, kind person.

And Ronnie, another Ikebana friend of Seiko's. She makes flower arrangements in the various pots around the booth. The arrangements make the booth look nice and show off the potential of the various containers we sell. Invariably the arrangements do their work. And somewhat too well. Invariably, our customers want to buy the containers with Ronnie's arrangements, even if a nearly identical one is sitting right next to it. The power of suggestion is strong. And so we do a lot of shuffling of Ronnie's arrangements.

Here's Ronnie. In a few weeks, she is moving to Dubai.

Until today, the show has been going well. In fact, we are starting to run out of certain items. Whether this is because we've sold more than usual or because we brought fewer, we are not entirely sure. Inventory management is a staggering challenge. In any case, since the opportunity might soon be gone, here is a tour of the booth and some of our more popular items.

Like the African Knobs:

Ok, admittedly the knobs are not among our top sellers. In fact, I really just like the name. The knobs fall under the category of interesting dried plant material for arrangements. One need only soak the African Knob in water for a few hours to restore flexibilty. At which point a branch of the knob might be shaped according to one's liking.

These round pots are made by a guy named Richard who lives in Maine. Each one has a small hole hovering above a small piece of kenzan so that one can position a flower or two. They run 18-28 bucks and are a very popular item.

And (here's a name for you), the Badash crystal, a nice combination of Jade glass and brushed steel.
Badash is imported from Poland. Very popular.

Angela Fina is a potter from Amherst, MA. She's a pretty well-known ceramicist and has been featured on the cover of Ceramics Monthly. We have been selling her stuff for a long time and sell a lot of it.

Another big seller: pieces of slates with a hole drilled through attached to a pot containing a bit of kenzan. It's the same idea as Richard's pots.

More on our booth to come. For now, let's take a tour of some other Flower Show oddness.

The dolphins, for example.

$12,000 each. Cheap!

And cacti. Which means more than one.

Artwork made entirely of real pressed flowers. They are spectacular.

Strange, squiggly blown glass things.

This booth is for a company that does stone patios. In order to demonstrate their wares, they built an entire stone patio on the convention floor. It must weigh tons. And yet...

Along similar lines, the folks who sell sheds saw fit to assemble various models in their entirety. I thought setting up our booth was pretty complex.

And a booth that specializes in deer deterrents.The little guy looks scared, doesn't he?

The show ends at 9:30 each night. Which means at 9:30 we start restocking the booth, filling its shelves and nooks and restoring the lost abundance.

One of my jobs tonight was replacing the bubble wrap. We use a lot of it, considering the large number of pots, vases, and other breakables we sell.

I feel that on a good night I would be able to parlay the picture of me hoisting an enormous roll of bubble wrap over my head into a good joke. Into some sort of humorous, yet resonant comment. One that might raise a chuckle, yet offer a culminating poignance, suggestive of the underlying human urges that move us all. That make things like the Philadelphia Flower show a yearly happening.

But I'm just too tired for that sort of thing tonight. And so I'll end with a picture of my dog. Whom I miss like the dickens.

Posted by bogenamp at 11:42 PM

A Quick Note

Never has Dominos Pizza tasted better than it did last night at 11:45 when we finally sat down to a dinner of take-out in our Travellodge hotel room. Never has my stomach felt quite so queasy as this morning as I suffer the post-effects of overmuch consumption of cheese and sausage. Yesterday was a long one. Today will be as well. I must now go attend to the needs of the many people who want to buy pottery, garden shears, small beveled mirrors, etc.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:02 AM | Comments (1)

March 04, 2007

Getting Better

I am truly touched by the number of people who, having learned of my not feeling well in the last entry, have called or written to express their concern, sympathy, and well-wishes for a swift recovery. That number, which is three, includes my father, my college roommate, and our friend Yarwen who (apparently) spends a great deal of time on the blog. Three is more people than I thought cared about me and my well being, so thanks, you three.

The three of you will be pleased to know that I am feeling better. The feverish disorientation has given way to a good old fashioned cold. I have been sneezing a lot and blowing my nose a good deal. But my head is back in the game.

Which means, I have been allowed to return to the booth. Yesterday we were open for about eight hours. From 8:00am to noon we weren't officially opened, but many of the other vendors and exhibitors came by to get a first crack at our wares. From noon to 4:00pm, the members of the Philadelphia Flower Association were allowed to come for a preview of the show. Today at 8:00, the doors were opened to the general public and remained so until 6:00 this evening.

Here are some shots of the fully set-up Florabana booth:

Having a booth is like having season tickets. If you don't have them, you can't get them. And if you do get them, they will be nosebleeds or else behind the end zone. The Behrs inherited the booth from a guy who had been participating in the flower show for a very long time. As a result, the booth is centrally located on a busy artery of the vendor section of the show and has a loyal customer base. The same core of Ikebana enthusiasts come from all over the country and globe each year to buy the newest Seiko Behr creation. She often keeps the newest and best containers under the counter so that when her loyal customers come by, she can pull them out and have something special to show them.

Here are some more shots of the booth.

The front, where we display the kenzan (metal pins submerged in a lead base used in Japanese flower arranging), which means "mountain of swords" in Japanese; gardening gloves; gardening shears; hanging rooters; small mirrors; paper vases you can make and decorate yourself!; miscelaneous plastic stuff; etc.

Robbi stands on a stool by the kenzan. Talking about kenzan and demonstrating its use is pretty much a full-time job. Though many people at the show have heard of kenzan, few have seen so many shapes and sizes. We sell a staggering variety. We are awfuly proud of the fact.

At the back, where we keep the nice stuff, aka Seiko's pottery.

And the middle, where we huddle, completely exposed, while the throngs of eager conference attendees demand and shriek.

At the request of my friend Brian, who recently admitted his love of conventions of any kind as correlary to his love of obsession of any kind, I will share some photos from the rest of the show. I didn't have time to seek out the true oddness (there is far greater evidence of obsession to be found), but consider this a taste.

Metal stars of various colors and sizes (made to look distressed, because no one wants a new-looking metal star).

Large ceramic teapot fountain things (the maker of which is soon to do an installation at the Bellagio).

An enormous installation requiring tons of dirt, rock, and grass. It's almost like being outside. Except inside.

A really big harp. This might have something to do with the Ireland theme, but I couldn't swear by it.

And some sort of installation involving a man (leprechaun?) in a tree.

The flower show, in all its looming glory.

Much more to come. Seven days remain.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:50 PM

March 02, 2007

Sick in Philly

Yes, I am flat on my back at the Philadelphia Travellodge, on strict orders from Seiko to rest and recover that I might be useful this weekend when the Flower Show traffic begins in earnest. For those who do not know, Robbi's parents have a booth at the Philadelphia Flower Show. It is, I believe, the largest flower show in the country in terms of square footage or attendance. In any case, it is big. Lots of people come. And the Behrs' booth, Florabana, is a hot spot for the 10 or so days of the show. Bob and Seiko have been preparing for months, making pottery, acquiring stores of other items related to flower arranging (the theme of the booth). The other side of the barn has slowly been filling with many boxes of stuff. All of which had to be transferred from Chestertown to Philadelphia. This is where the large truck comes into play.

Here I am with the large truck and a metal shelving unit that will, eventually, become part of the Florabana booth.

Ingenius man that he is, Bob Behr has devised an ingenius method for getting the many boxes from the second floor warehouse to the truck in a smooth and efficient way.

Here are the rollers he bought at the Crumpton auction that enable the boxes to slide gently from the kiln room to the truck with one confident shove.

And here is the hoist, deliberately situated in the large opening that separates the warehouse from the kiln room.

I put the boxes on the hoist.

Lower the hoist.

Robbi unloads the hoist.

And gives the boxes a confident shove along the track.

And into the truck.

I belabor the intricacy of this arrangement to give due credit to Bob Behr, without whom we might have had to carry 500 boxes down the stairs.

Robbi withers at the thought of it.

The next morning we got up at 5:00am for the drive to Philly. Robbi and I drove the van (which contained the various pieces of the booth). Bob and Bill (Wild Bill who lives on the farm in VA) drove the large truck. Seiko drove her station wagon to the airport to pick up Maiko, who was flying in from Vancouver to work at the show. The flower show is a family affair. Roji (who will be missing most of the show this year because he has a full-time teaching job) is going to fly in next weekend to help us pack up and take down the booth. Which is a real show of filial loyalty, because packing up is the most hateful part.

Back to the play-by-play.

Once we got to the convention center, Robbi and I had to wait in line for a long time.

During the setup portion of the show, they let the vendors drive their trucks and vans right onto the floor, but they regulate how many can be on the floor at once (hence the wait). Eventually our turn came.

We pulled the various pieces of the booth out of the van and started to set up. First the tables.

Then the various wooden steps that turn into the display shelves.

Then the metal poles that support the metal shelves and the horizontal metal bars from which we hang the baskets.

When the shell of the booth was in place, we brought the large truck onto the floor so that we could unload the many boxes.

Eventually the many boxes were unloaded.

Which ended our work for day one of the 2007 Philadelphia Flower Show (theme of which is, Legends of Ireland). Which pleased Maiko and Robbi to no end. Apparently, they think they're tough.

The setup has continued the past two days, but as for how the booth looks, your imaginations will have to suffice for the time being. I have been banned from participation, sequestered in the Travelloge, rendered supine by decree. I'm not very good at being sick. Being still is anathema to me.

More pictures will be posted once I am allowed to return to the fray. I am crossing my fingers that it will be soon.

Posted by bogenamp at 11:31 AM | Comments (1)