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June 30, 2007

On the Tundra

Here is where we are:

A mere 17 hours after lifting off from DC, we touched down on the gravel runway of Coffee Point, a non-town on the shores of Bristol Bay on the Alaskan Peninsula, just across the water from Egegik, the Eskimo fishing village that is Iggy's namesake. Although Egegik has an airport with a runway large enough to land 747s (for the purpose of sending out enormous quantities of fish), it has only 116 people, 44 households, and 23 families (according to Wikipedia). It is a graveyard of old boats, corrugated tin structures, and a beautiful municipal auditorium (state law dictates that a certain percentage of the profits from all fish caught in the district be spent on civic resources).

Unfortunately, the internet connection up here is unreliable and weak, so although I have been able to send and receive some emails, I have had little luck in accessing Web sites, including the Barnstorming. I'm writing this in hope that I am eventually able to get a signal long enough to post an entry, but I am not optimistic of being able to include any photos. (Apparently, I just found out, I'll be able to include a few.)

We arrived late Monday night. After a three-hour delay in Anchorage, our plane finally landed in King Salmon, where we collected a seemingly cheerful Iggy.

Our worries that the trip might change her in some fundamental way seemed all for naught. In King Salmon we chartered a 5-seat bush plane to take us to Coffee Point. The pilot and one other fisherman sat up front while Robbi, Iggy, and I occupied the bench seat in the back. There are some great photos of Iggy trying to come to terms with riding uncaged in a bush plane, but they will have to wait for another day. The trip across the tundra from King Salmon to Coffee Point takes about 25 minutes. The plane flies low and the passenger is treated to a bird's-eye view of winding streams and shapeless lakes. There is no vegetation other than tundra grass and small, scrubby brushes. The climate is so harsh in the winter that nothing else can grow.

We landed and drove the short distance from the air strip to the family compound in a nearly-dilapidated pickup truck that had been left at the airstrip for our use. Reunited with Bob and Seiko and Roji, we enjoyed a dinner of sockeye and rice and then retired to our 6" x 8" plywood shack behind the main house. The "Detached Palace" as it is lovingly called by the Behrs, will be Robbi's and my sleeping quarters for the next month. There is a sleeping platform with an air mattress, a desk of sorts, and a lofted space for storing our clothes. It is uninsulated, but we sleep beneath piles of sleeping bags, and so we remain relatively cozy in spite of the 40-50 degree nighttime temperatures up here. While in the Detached Palace, Iggy inhabits a cardboard box with two old pillows in the bottom. She seems quite content in the box.

Tuesday was sunny, the first sun the Behrs had seen in about a week, apparently. In general the summer weather up here is in the 50s during the days, and usually it is overcast or raining. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the government entity that monitors the "escapement" or the number of fish that have so far made it up the river to spawn, no fishing was to happen on Tuesday, and so we spent the day getting our fishing gear together (chest-length waders, rubber rain paints, rubber rain jacket, boots, life jacket, nylon gloves, and elbow-length rubber gloves), getting our crew licenses (required for anyone involved in commercial fishing), and visiting friends. Although there are only four full-time residents of Coffee Point, each summer a makeshift and highly eclectic community of people from many walks of life assembles to fish. Many people come from families that have been fishing here for generations, most come from Alaska, Washington, or Oregon, and almost all of them are highly eccentric (ourselves included, of course). And so there were people to catch up with. I haven't been up here in four summers, and so I had to reconnect with people I hadn't seen in a long time.

The fishing so far has been highly disappointing. Although we can generalize a certain window within which the fish are likely to come (roughly mid-June through mid-July), each summer the "run" follows a slightly different calendar and pace. Some summers the fish come early and hit our nets steadily for three weeks, and other summers they arrive late and in an intense burst. The last two summers have followed this latter pattern, and so we fear that the assault will come any day now. Today we caught a mere nine fish, a total of 36 pounds. Robbi wasn't sure, but thinks that today's haul might represent a 32-year Behr family low for a full day of fishing. The funny thing is, we could catch 20,000 pounds tomorrow. It would not be without precedent. We hope it doesn't, but it could. If that many fish are suddenly in the river, we are not only overwhelmed with the task of removing them all from the nets, but the volume of fish all along the beach is so high that the folks who buy the fish (Japanese companies whose crane trucks roll up and down the beach to buy our catch mere minutes after we pull it to the shore) stop buying what we catch. If they stop buying, there is nothing to do but throw the fish (already dead) back into the water. Which is both depressing and incredibly wasteful.

But perhaps it is foolish to talk of catching too many fish on a day in which we have caught only nine. We contemplated doing a "fish dance" tonight, but none of us was quite sure how. Instead we had a tremendous feast of ham, sweet potatoes, green beans, and cranberry sauce. A sort of Thanksgiving on the tundra.

For those of you who wonder how Iggy is faring, she is having the time of her life. Coffee Point is like paradise for dogs. No roads, no fences, lots of things to smell and chase, cool days and nights, lots of dead fish to roll around in. Iggy has behaved well enough so far to be allowed to spend time in the "main house". The Behr compound is made up of a series of buildings all of which they have built themselves (out of salvaged boards and plywood, mostly) over time. In addition to the main house and the Detached Palace, there is an outhouse, the "old house" (basically a garage where the Behrs lived when they started fishing here 32 years ago) and the attached garage, a steam house (basically a small room with a diesel burner that heats water and allows you to take a steam bath), the Kumajo (our Japanese-influenced name for the structure where we hang nets and house the occasional "helper"), Roji's house (quite similar to the Detached Palace except for the fact that it is located on the edge of the bluff and was blown over in a 70mph windstorm over the winter, landing on one of our trucks and suffering a pronounced puncture in the side), which is currently at an alarming angle. I would show you a photo if I could. Since I can't, I will only say that Roji cannot currently spend time in his house and is actively searching for someone with a forklift who can help him set it back on its proper foundation, and a smokehouse (used for creating smoked salmon when we have the time to do so).

I referred earlier to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the "escapement." Basically, the Bristol Bay fishery is one of the few remaining sustainable fisheries in the world. The reason for this is that the state has long exerted careful stewardship over the fishery and has thus avoided depleting it. Each year runs of King, Red, and Silver salmon come through the Bay and up various rivers in search of the lakes and streams in which they originally hatched. The Department of Fish and Game knows approximately how many of each species of fish need to "escape", or make it past all the fishing nets up to the spawning waters, in order for the fishery to maintain itself. For the Red (Sockeye) run, this number is about one million fish. There is an "escapement schedule" which dictates how many fish must have made it up the river by a certain calendar date in order for us to be able to fish. If the target has been reached on a given date, we are allowed to fish. If it has not, we take a day off (like we did on Tuesday). There is a careful balance to strike between letting enough fish up the river and letting too many up. If too many fish "escape" they will lay their eggs on top of one another, causing eggs to die and the fishery to suffer. And so the fishermen have become an integral part in maintaining the health of the fishery. If we were to not fish in a given year, far too many fish would make it up the river and all hell would break loose.

How do they determine how may fish have "escaped" up the river when deciding whether or not we be allowed to fish? The answer is wonderful: a high school student sits in a tower that looks a lot like a lifeguard chair and counts fish as they swim over a white stripe at the bottom of the narrow part of the river. Really. That's all there is to it.

We listen to the radio at scheduled intervals to hear announcements from the Department of Fish and Game as to when we are next permitted to fish. Typically, the "openings" begin in accordance with the tide. Usually we are allowed to put our nets in the water about an hour after the tide starts coming in and are usually allowed to continue fishing for the length of the tide (approximately 8 hours). We are "set net" fishermen, as opposed to "drift" fishermen. This means that we set our nets out from the shore. Each net is 50 fathoms (100 yards ) long, and extends into the water roughly perpendicular to the shore. The net moves back and forth from the shore into the water on a triangular rope system, each corner of which is held by a 10 foot "screw anchor" and a series of pulleys. The opening begins at a precise time (11:30am tomorrow, morning is our next opening, for example), and one of the most important things about what we do is getting the nets into the water as soon as possible after the time of the opening, but not a moment prior. Since there are nets every 100 yards up and down the beach, most of what a fisherman catches during a particular opening is the fish that are currently in the river between his net and the net 100 yards upstream. It is therefore incumbent on a successful fishermen to get his nets wet immediately after the opening. If he is even a few minutes late, he might sacrifice the majority of his catch for the fishing period, as the fish that might otherwise have been his would have already moved upriver to the next net and any other fish would be blocked from entering his net area by the net downstream. Consequently, there is an enormous advantage to setting out one's net even 30 seconds early, and so the practice is not only dishonorable but punishable by steep fines ($5,000 for even a few seconds early if the state troopers catch you).

Perhaps this is enough fishing background for the time being. I wish that I was able to supplement all of these explanations with photos, but I have not yet found a way to do so with the current connection. We are lucky to have internet at all. One of the fishermen who runs a fairly large outfit between our compound and our fishing sites has satellite internet and generously allows others access to his signal. Sitting on a four-wheeler (our primary means of transport up here since there are no real roads) outside his cabin, I am able to raise enough of a signal to send and receive emails. With any luck, I'll be able to post this, too.

More tales to come when the heart of the fishing actually begins. Last year the Behrs went from a similar trickle to a torrent overnight. And so we must be prepared for anything tomorrow.

Feel free to write emails if you're dying for better explanations of any of this fishing stuff, and I'll do my best to post answers. I'm familiar enough with it now that I forget how strange this world is and how much there is to explain.

Please forgive the inevitable errors. No time to check my math. I hope you all are well.

Posted by bogenamp at 02:32 AM

June 25, 2007

Alaska Ho

In the 36 hours since last we slept in a proper bed, Robbi and I have been in New York, Baltimore, Chestertown, Washington, Seattle, and now Anchorage. It has been a long, long day. Right now we are sitting in the Anchorage airport enduring the second half of a three-hour delay. From here we will travel to King Salmon on a small jet, and from there to the gravel air strip of Coffee Point on a 5-seat prop plane.

Day two of MoCCA was fine indeed. We set up the booth a bit differently, favoring stacks of books instead of just one copy of each on the shelves.

We imagined that the psychology of plenty would induce people to buy books like bandits. Did it work? We sold many more books than on Saturday. But we must admit that this could also be related to the across-the-board price reduction.

The day started slow, and Robbi was glum.

But then the people came, and came in droves.

Here is proof that someone came to our booth.

Our friend Jason Liang showed up.

Robbi and I both knew him in college, though in different ways. Jason helped direct a play I was in freshman year (along with David and Christian among others), and Robbi and Jason were art friends. In addition to being a computer programmer, Jason draws comics. Which is why he was at MoCCA.

Then Rich showed up, which made Robbi so happy.

We sold quite a few books in the afternoon, with Ten Thousand Stories and My Henderson Robot being the top sellers. Understanding Traffic was a surprise favorite, and there was a good deal of interest in both For the Love of God and A Bully Named Chuck. We sold at least one copy of each book, and all-in-all, considered the show a success. In addition to selling books, we wandered around with copies of our smaller books and traded with other self-publishers. As a result, we came home with an enormous pile of comics from every corner of the comic world. We also got a chance to meet and talk to one of our favorite comic artists, Lilli Carre, whose work we love and recommend that you buy, especially Tales of Woodsman Pete, which is her finest work to date. It is a steal at $7.

Six o'clock came and the time came to leave. Here is final shot of friends:

With Rich's help we hauled our stuff down to the curb, threw it in the car, and hit the road.

Robbi drove. The sun was bright. Robbi consented to wearing my sunglasses, the same sunglasses for which I have been mocked many times before. Robbi is a cursed hypocrite when it comes to my sunglasses.

As we left the city, we gloated about the fact that our side of the road, away from the city, was flowing freely while the other side of the street, into the city was not.

We bade New York goodbye.

When hunger hit, we stopped at Roy Rogers and ordered curly fries. We found one curly fry that took its work very seriously.

We headed south over the Delaware Memorial Bridge.

And promptly hit a wall of traffic trickling toward Baltimore and Washington. People returning from the beach. At some point in the future I will go on a proper tirade against the beach. About why it is a terrible idea to go sit in the sun with a bunch of other people, about how the beach is a dark conspiracy meant to bring us into gloom, about how no one actually likes the beach even though many people think that they do. But today is not that day. For today I will say that we left I-95 and headed toward Baltimore on 40, determined not to commingle with the deluded beach people.

Eventually we got to Baltimore, where we picked up Iggy from Christian and Emily. From there we drove to the Baltimore airport to get our rental car.

I in the rental car and Robbi in the station wagon, we drove to Chestertown. We got there around 1:30am. Robbi packed the three coolers of produce, bread, rubber gloves, dog food, pillows, mail, socks, and other assorted miscellany while I packed the rental car, dealt with a few Idiots'Books mailing, and prepared the barn for our departure. At 4:00am we were ready to leave. It was raining torrentially as we pulled out of town.

We arrived at Reagan Airport in DC around 6:00 this morning.

We had given Iggy some good drugs in anticipation of her first plane ride. When the time came to surrender her to the baggage people, Robbi was glum.

Iggy looked glum, but was probably just stoned.

I said my farewell, and we parted ways.

On the plane to Seattle we slept like the dead.

From Seattle, we flew to Anchorage, where we got to visit with Iggy for a while. She seemed well, if still a little stoned.

With any luck, we'll be leaving Anchorage in about an hour for King Salmon, which is a jumping-off point for many of the high-end Alaskan tour packages and also the jumping-off point for everyone headed to Bristol Bay and its environs for fishing or canning. The King Salmon airport is a one-room affair. At this time of year it is teeming with wealthy people in Patagonia fleeces embarking on high-end tours or scruffy-looking people traveling with coolers of produce. The contrast is even more stark on the return trip, when the fishermen and cannery folks are one month scruffier and also unwashed.

If we are able to get to King Salmon in time, we will charter a bush plane to Coffee Point, where the Behrs have their fishing compound. If we are not able to get to King Salmon on time, we will sleep in a huddled pile on the side of the road, hoping that it is not too cold tonight.

We are crossing our fingers that we get there on time. We are also crossing our fingers that when we land at Coffee Point there is a tremendous meal of fresh salmon waiting for us. The unhappy alternative is that we will arrive and immediately be hustled into full rubber suits. If the fishing is under way when we arrive, we will head to the beach and dive in. Such is the way of things in Coffee Point.

This might be the last entry for a while. Although there is some possibility that I will be able to catch a stray internet signal using the "can-tenna" that Maiko's boyfriend Daryl designed, there is no guarantee that it will work this year, and no guarantee that there will be time for any activities as frivolous as blog writing.

I will do my best to send photos from the front, however. What we do up there is strange indeed, but terribly interesting.


Posted by bogenamp at 09:06 PM

June 23, 2007

MoCCA, Day 1

This entry will be short because I am weary, but I promised updates from the show, and so I shall report.

We rose and drove to the Puck building (named so for the gilded statue of Shakespeare's energetic fairy on the premises). Robbi dropped me off with a big pile of books and a white wooden shelving unit and went to park the car. Immediately after she drove away, the long line of eager vendors started to move, and I was left to tug the precariously-laden handtruck with one hand while doing my best to lug the shelving with the other. In other words, it was great fun.

Here are the way too many books we brought. We are dreamers. And fools.

Eventually Robbi showed up and we rode the freight elevator up to the seventh floor.

"Was the ride up to the seventh floor in the freight elevator an important part of the day?" you might be wondering. "Not especially," I say in reply. "And why, then, did you think it important to show us a photo of this unimportant moment?" you might rejoinder. And to you, I say that the Barnstorming is all about dull moments and the quiet dignity they portend, that this is the motto of the Barnstorming. "I did not know the Barnstorming had a motto," you say, surprised and disappointed by the lameness of the motto. Alas, this motto is born, like so many mottos must be, I fear, of postrationalization. An unimportant photo is posted on a blog and suddenly a team of bureaucrats is hired to justify its existence.

Eventually we got to the seventh floor.

We found the seventh floor largely deserted and wondered if we were, perhaps, in the wrong place. But we found table S44 and proceeded to set up the booth.

Until realizing that we had left the black sheets that cover the table and the rather shabby looking white shelving unit back at David's apartment. And so I descended from the seventh floor to the ground level (note that I have spared you from having to view a photo of this important moment from my day) and walked the mile back to David's apartment to pick up the sheets. And the mile back to the Puck building. And up the elevator again to the seventh floor. When I got there, I found Robbi, uncannily, in the same position in which I had left her.

We set up the booth.

Robbi felt empowered.

We mugged with the booth.

And then the show opened. The main exhibit area for MoCCA is on the ground floor of the Puck Building. The seventh floor, known lyrically as the Skylight Ballroom, is for the unlucky rabble who did not sign up on time, and so we are situated far, far from the main hubub of commerce that is the first floor. In some ways this was pleasant in that it was quiet and relaxing compared to the riot of the ground level, but in other ways it was disappointing in that the crowds were fairly thin throughout the day and were, even at their heights, not what one would call a din or a riot. But still it was satisfying to stand behind the table while people looked at our books.

We did not sell a great number of books for much of the day. People read and smiled, chatted and admired, but only a few shelled out actual bucks. We kept our chins high. I shilled from time to time, trying to create the appearance of an enthusiastic mob.

The strategy was not what you might call a roaring success.

We did make some new friends, trade our books for the books of others, sign up one new subscriber, hand out many other subscription forms and free postcards, collect a healthy handful of names on our mailing list and catch up with old college friend Jason Liang, who happened to be strolling by.

But we did not sell a lot of books. We dug deep into our marketing background and came up with a brilliant strategy that we will try tomorrow: dramatically slashing our prices! I mean, it's pure genius.

Comparing our prices to those of many of the other folks selling books on the seventh floor (bastard stepchild floor, to be sure), we were a bit higher across the board. A big reason for this being the fact that we print in full color (most comics are black and white or else consist of an extremely limited color palate), but when folks are wandering around MoCCA with limited funds in their pocket, it suddenly becomes a matter of competing for limited resources. And so we will gamble profits for exposure tomorrow and see if we can lure a few more fans into the fold.

At 6:00 the thing ended and we went back to David's apartment to collapse and watch TV.

The miracle of the day came later. Robbi found this, a mutant cherry, that she claims "looks like a butt."

Her words, not mine.


Posted by bogenamp at 10:52 PM

June 22, 2007

Before the Storm

We are lying in bed, still and silent for the first time in what seems like weeks. We are gazing out the window of the bedroom of our friend David's apartment in New York City. He is in South Africa filming a documentary and we are here resting on the eve of the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Arts festival which begins tomorrow morning.

Here is the view as of a few hours ago:

This is the view from the bed itself. If you walk toward the window and look down, you can see a pleasant park below and the coming and going of life in a big city in several directions. A moment ago we were drawn to the window when a large group of people in strange costumes started singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" at the tops of their lungs. This sort of thing seldom happens in Chestertown.

The last few days have been busy ones. Late Wednesday night, Robbi framed her monoprints.

Here is a shot of the finished version of the print she was working on the other night:

And here it is framed.

The prints really come to life when framed out by the clean white lines of the mat. Robbi does her own framing, but orders the frames themselves online from a place called Metroframe. They do a great job and have fantastic customer service, so if you want nice frames but can't afford to go to a nice frame shop, Metroframe is a great resource.

Here are the three finished pieces. For this show, she did one medium-sized and two small prints.

And here is one of the smaller ones up close:

Thursday we drove to Baltimore to dispense with our various pets. The cats hate travel. And somehow they can tell when we are planning to force them to get in the car and go somewhere else. In the 10 years of life with me, these cats have moved 13 times. And so they are well familiar with the subtle happenings that precede a major life change. Doing his best to mount a resistance, Oscar crawled up inside the box spring of our bed. We spent a long time looking for him around the barn and outside before I practically tore the bedroom apart, knocking our shelving unit from the wall in so doing.

Eventually the cats were crated and put in the car along with two months worth of litter and food:

Oh, how they hate it in the crate:

Back when I had no money to speak of, I used to take the cats to the vet in an orange crate with a cookie sheet on top. I stopped doing this when the vet started looking at me like I was a foul abuser. Now that I am a lowly bookmaker, I was tempted to return to the orange crate method, but I doubt that Oscar's girthy midsection would fit. He is a large, large cat.

We crossed the Bay.

And took the cats to the home of Supi Loco. I've mentioned it before, but Supi has a cat with whom she shares her home. His name is Scooter. He is very polite. He is soft and small. He and Susan have a special relationship built on trust and mutual regard. Enter Jabba the Catt and his sister. Things got a little testy.

Lily behaved like a total pill and was immediately banned to the basement. Oscar, (bulging, rotund) gentleman that he is, spent some time getting to know Scooter. Scooter didn't know what to make of Oscar's terrifyiing luminescent eyes.

Scooter made some horrible, mournful sounds.

But they worked it out. Or else Scooter got completely demoralized and gave up. I can't really tell which.

We ate dinner with Supi and our good friend Beth Duncan.

And then hit the road.

We had successfully rid ourselves of two animals, but one remained. Iggy was to be left with Christian and Emily...and Ruby, who always enjoys company.

I don't know if I've mentioned it here before, but Christian and Emily have recently joined a cult that espouses, among many other strange beliefs, the benefits to health and mind of sitting directly on the floor. I kid you not. Furniture of any kind is strictly forbidden.

I was mocking them considerably (as I am prone to do to anyone whose beliefs differ in any way from my own) when Robbi decided to join the cult as well.

Which put me in a funk.

We said our farewells to Iggy and headed home. It was about 11:00 by the time we got back to Chestertown, but there was much to be done.

Books to pack into boxes:

More books to make:

There was also clever booth signage to construct, dishes to wash, recycling to go out, and a barn to clean.

Eventually we were done. And calm returned to the hayloft.

We saw the floor for the first time in weeks.

After catching a few hours of sleep, we loaded up...

...and headed north, but not before stopping at the farm stand to not touch the ducklings...

...and stopping in Middletown for gasoline and awesome action photography.

Over the Delaware Memorial Bridge.

And up to the big city.

Perhaps this is a reflection on us, but this is how Robbi and I prefer to spend our time in New York, gazing pensively through a window at large buildings while reclining on a bed in an air conditioned room. We have neither big buildings or air conditioning in Chestertown. But we have lots of time for being pensive.

We did venture out to pick up our MoCCA name badges and get some wood-fired pizza for dinner. We even splurged on an exquisite-looking cheesecake from a fancy bakery, another thing that we do not have in Chestertown. After putting the spine cloth on 26 more copies of My Henderson Robot, enjoying some cheesecake, and staring pensively through the window at the lights of the nighttime city, we will go to sleep a full six hours earlier than we did last night and hopefully be more sprightly tomorrow for it.

Check back for photos from MoCCA tomorrow. I cannot promise that there will be ladies with battle axes and tight leather pants, but people, we can always dream.

Posted by bogenamp at 08:57 PM

June 21, 2007

Coming Up for Air

There has been no time for reflection of late. It has been a time of folding, cutting, stapling, banging, scoring, punching, taping, pressing, and living in squalor. It has been a time of weariness and clutter. It has been a time of roller derby.

"What?" you say, suddenly more interested. "Did he say roller derby?"

Oh yes I did.

But first things first. Happy Birthday to Emily Piendak who managed to turn 30 late last week. We drove to Timonium in recognition of the solemn event.

Of course there was cake.

Emily did us the kindness of making sure it wasn't poisoned.

After the cake, there were golf clubs.

A girl only turns 30 once, right?

There was even a Big Bertha, which, it turns out, is as big as my head.

Knowing Christian to be the type that gets antsy and jealous when other people get presents and he doesn't, we brought him a gift of his own: bacon-flavored toothpicks.

Five minutes after opening the gift, Christian's teeth were cleaner than they'd ever been. His mouth was resplendent, if a bit bacony.

After cake and golf clubs, we went to roller derby. Emily deserves all the credit for making this happen.

I briefly considered telling you in great detail about the many rules of roller derby, but I realize that it's late and that the nuance really pales in comparison to the fundamental point: women on skates try to knock each other down. Do I need to go on?

Roller derby isn't exactly easy to photograph, but here are some of the "roller-girls" warming up. They are delicate flowers, the roller-girls.

Actually, that's not true. The are like stout oaks who could crush you with a glance. Especially my favorite, Flo Schizzle.

You may admire Flo Schizzle from afar. You may photograph her when she is turning the other way. You may violently yell for her to knock someone down. But you may not say, "Hello Flo Schizzle, you delicate flower." At least, I wouldn't recommend it.

There are four teams in the Baltimore league: the Junkyard Dolls, the Mobtown Mods, the Night Terrors, and the Speed Regime. There being four of us, we quickly formed factions.

Christian was rooting for the Night Terrors.

And Emily for the Speed Regime.

The Terrors and the Regime just happened to be squaring off in one of the two "bouts" of the day. The tension between Christian and Emily was palpable, each of them talking smack, calling members of the other's team "delicate flowers" (though conspicuously quietly for smack talk, most likely in an attempt to avoid being overheard by one of the delicate flowers in question).

Roller girls were everywhere,

Knocking one another down, thrilling us considerably.

The gurney waited to accommodate mishap.

Fortunately there was none. The evening ended peacefully with a latenight drive back to Chestertown.

Where reality returned. This is the reality. Our barn may be too small.

Witness the clutter:

And this.

I am sure we are offending the combined gods of OSHA and Martha Stewart.

We will be condemned to the eternal torment of picking up scraps of trimmed paper.

In the midst of the chaos, a godsend arrived. A brand-new paper trimmer with the ability to cut through 300 pieces of paper in one mighty slice.

Our current cutters cut through 30 and 10 pieces of paper respectively, so the new machine represented a potent upgrade. Behold its mighty lever arm.

Unfortunately, the new trimmer, which we bought on the cheap, was assembled sloppily (by others, mind you) and is not quite square. So although the entire stack of books I made using it were produced with a previously unknown efficiency, they are also all slight parallelograms.

Even Robbi got into the action.

In our overwhelming optimism that we will be able to stir up interest and sell a few books at the MoCCA festival this weekend, we have been making huge piles of each of our books including nearly 100 copies of Ten Thousand Stories, by far our best seller.

Robbi had the good sense to bring a folding table from the other side of the barn. This way we could make books and watch movies at the same time.

I wish that she had had this epiphany long ago.

For a long time now, Robbi has been growing her hair for Locks of Love, the rationale being that she doesn't feel that she is doing any real "good for the world." After months of waiting for her locks to reach the appropriate length, she realized that the time was nigh.

Before:

After:

Between "before" and "after" she ran through the various stages of dramatic hair transformation.

Anticipation:

Action:

Surprise:

Wicked glee:


Jouissance:

Perhaps it is a subdued jouissance, but believe me when I tell you that the girl is happy. She hates having hair. She would especially hate it in Alaska, where we will be exactly four days from now.

(Note that no butcher knives were actually employed in the course of Robbi's shearing. A professional haircutter was charged with the removal. A trained actor was used in the dramatization.)

Late last night, after the hair cutting, we did a dry run with the MoCCA both, getting a sense of how we might set it up come Saturday morning.

We like it. The black cloth, a perfect complement to our pervasive white space, really makes the books pop.

We're going to make a bit of signage, have our business cards on hand, and will see what comes to pass.

Tomorrow we head to Baltimore to deposit our cats in the basement of a dear and loyal friend, the fetching, witty, and benevolent Supi Loco. I will be curious to see whether she is still our friend after spending a month with fatter and fattest.

I leave you with a parting shot of Emily's birthday party. I strongly recommend the roller derby. Because it is the sort of thing that makes this world remarkable.

Happy Birthday, Emily. Can't wait for next year.

Posted by bogenamp at 01:11 AM

June 17, 2007

Busy Robbi

We are running out of days. in addition to preparing for MoCCA and packing for Alaska, Robbi is also trying to finish a major freelance project (illustrated wedding invites) and some fine art (a series of clay monoprints) for a gallery show this summer. There is very little lounging in the barn these days.

Robbi spent the majority of her waking hours today on the other side of the barn in the little nook she has carved out for "messy" art that can't be done in our living space. Monoprint making, which involves a huge slab of wet clay, lots of wet slip (basically colored chalk in sludge form) and noxious chemicals. The process is interesting. The quick explanation is that she uses different colors of slip, various stencils, and some dry chalk that she shaves or grates into tiny pieces for the purpose of adding texture to the composition. Layer by layer, she builds a colorful tableau in clay of various colors and designs. When the clay surface is how she wants it, she takes some synthetic material that is best described as an enormous, thick dryer sheet and places it on top of the slab.

Unfortunately, I did not photograph the process of laying down the color, which is too bad, becauase it's something to see. Making monoprints is the apsect of art in which Robbi does not need to use her conscious, thinking mind. Instead, she uses color, texture, line, and form in a way that seems almost desultory. More often than not, the finished product comes together beautifully, however.

Anyway, once the material to be printed upon has been placed on the slab, Robbi uses a spoon to apply pressure, thus pressing the clay to the material and transferring the image, via layers of clay, to the material.

Apparently clay and this material have opposite electric charges, though I can't now remember which is positive and which is negative. Unlike other printing techniques in which the "plate" is unchanged by virtue of being used to make a print (transferring ink, for example), clay monoprinting creates the finished image by literally transferring layers of clay to the finished surface. The "Mono" comes from the fact that it is not possible to pull more than one print from a given composition. Once the top layers of clay have been pulled from the slab into the material, the slab is changed and Robbi must begin the process of image making anew.

Once she has thoroughly rubbed the entire printing area with the spoon, Robbi checks the image to gauge the success of the transfer.

If a given area has not transferred thoroughly or crisply, she will replace the material and keep rubbing with the spoon until she is satisfied with the finished product. Here is the other end of today's print.

And here is the finished product.

A few details:

Robbi's monoprints are almost impossible to capture in a photo, At least, I've never seen a photo that does them justice. The real beauty of the prints comes from the textural nuance, the tiny vibrations that create a sense of depth and abundance and the joint satisfaction of energy and intense stillness.

One down, two to go. She'll have three new prints in an upcoming group show at the Carla Massoni Gallery. More details will be forthcoming when they are known.

As for Robbi's other major project, she was commissioned to create a series of invitations to the wedding of a friend's son and related events. The invite for the rehearsal dinner is a highly intricate affair. I'm not even sure how to describe it except to say that it has moving parts like a pop up book. As the invitation is opened, an illustration of the bride and groom that appears on the front of the illustration flips 180 degrees and becomes part of another scene drawn on the back side. It's really something and, as you might imagine, is a nightmare on the production front. The degree of skill required leaves me unqualified to assist, and so I am reduced to photographiing the fun as Robbi:

Prints:

For this sort of thing, she uses the Epson printer, which prints with excruiciating slowness but produces lovely, velvety washes of pure color.

Scoring:

She scores so that the panel that flips can flip with a pleasing precision.

Cutting:

She must cut to create the flipping effect. That's about as far as my understanding goes.

Creasing with the bone folder:

You know, swank invitations need nice sharp folds.

Each invitation takes a solid 10 minutes to make, which is why Robbi is still at her desk in these wee hours rather than in bed where she belongs.

It's going to be that kind of week, I fear.


Posted by bogenamp at 01:54 AM

June 16, 2007

A Whole New Look

I've alluded to it here, but it bears repeating that Robbi and I are headed to the Big Apple next weekend to peddle our wares at the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art Fest. Here is the festival advertisement, provided to us by the organizers with the purpose of luring enthuisastic mobs. Are you easily persuaded by such marketing? We shall see how it works on you.

If you are in New York next weekend and would enjoy swinging by to see what the MoCCA Fest is all about, the essential information about where to go and at what time can be found by clicking on this link, but the basics are that the Festival runs from 11am-6pm Saturday June 23 and Sunday June 24 at the Puck Building (293 Lafayette at Houston in Manhattan). We will be on the seventh floor standing behind a six-foot table, trying our best to explan what we are and why our books represent a solid reason to part with one's cash.

We leave for New York next Friday morning, spend Saturday and Sunday in the big scary, loud, expensive, terrifying city, and then leave for the airport at 4:00 Monday morning. From the airport we will travel to Seattle and then on to Anchorage. We spend the night on the floor of the Anchorage airport and then take a short flight across the tundra to King Salmon. From King Salmon we hop into a 5-seat bush plane for the final leg to Coffee Point, where we will spend four weeks fishing for sockeye salmon with Robbi's family (as every member of Robbi's family has done for 30 summers running).

There will be much more talk about the salmon fishing in days to come, but for now it is enough to know that we are coming down to the wire, not just in terms of getting ready for the MoCCA Fest, but also for getting our lives in some sort of order before leaving the lower-48 for four weeks. There is a long list of tasks to complete and seemingly not enough days in which to check them off.

As for the title of this entry, I am referring to the Idiots'Books site, which got a minor face-lift today. In the case that we are able to convince a bunch of new people at the MoCCA Fest that Idiots'Books is something worth learning more about, we have added a new illustration to the homepage, an image that will hopefully both explain the frying pan metaphor (which seems to be a source of no small puzzlement to people at our readings) and nicely capture the spirit of Robbi's and my collaboration. Perhaps I'm giving the image too much credit, but I think Robbi did a fine job. Check it out here. And then check out Robbi's rather thoughtful explanation of our process in coming up with the idea.

In parting, I will tell you that Robbi and I went on a hot date tonight. We walked the 300 yards to the Prince Theater, where we attended the "Pasta Fellini" event. This involved eating delicious Italian fare prepared by the folks at the Imperial Hotel (adjacent to the Prince) and then watching Fellini's La Dolce Vita. It is an excellent movie. I'd like to understand it better by reading a good critical essay if any Fellini fans out there care to recommend one.

It also involved being the only two people under 50 years old in the entire place. I'm not exaggerating. I love Chestertown.

Posted by bogenamp at 02:05 AM

June 14, 2007

Good Riddance, Dawn of the Fats

I really hate to be that guy whose blog is overpopulated with cloyingly cute pictures of his various animals, and yes, I remember that just yesterday you were subjected to photos of my fat cat lying on his back and my exceedlingly shy dog cowering in the depths of her new travel crate. And yet I have little choice but to include photos of an episode that took place not two hours ago. Both of them in a surprisingly frisky mood for 11:00pm, Robbi and Iggy were playing with the dog frisbee. Robbi would throw it. Iggy would fetch it. That sort of thing. This simple equation was suddenly disrupted when Iggy got attacked by the dog frisbee, as shown.

At first, she was highly agitated and tried to extricate herself.

Eventually, she adopted a more sanguine position.

And for those of you who think I put the dog frisbee on Iggy's head for my own amusement, I tell you no, the dog did this of her own accord.

While not taking pictures of Iggy with her head stuck in the dog frisbee, I spent most of the day stuffing copies of Dawn of the Fats into envelopes with the corresponding letter, placing postage on the envelopes, and sealing the envelopes by licking each one. I am glad to be done and a bit queasy from the glue.

Be not fooled by Iggy's theatrical lounging by the mail bins.

She would have you believe that she was instrumental the envelope-stuffing, but I have it on good authority that she and Oscar spent the majority of the day not moving, both striving through inactivity to win the ongoing competition to see which of them can get the fattest.

Oscar is winning.


Posted by bogenamp at 12:21 AM

June 12, 2007

Production Day

The glamorous part of making books is getting to read them aloud in front of your friends. In order for the universe to maintain its delicate balance, however, there is the mundane reality of production.

Collating

Stapling

(And yes, that is X2, X-Men United playing in the background. Knowing that this was going to be a long day, I went to the local library and loaded up on substanceless movies that can be understood without much actual watching. In addition to the scintilating X2, I picked up War of the Worlds and Miami Vice. I will not comment on these movies since this is a nice blog that tries to avoid profanity.)

Here is a tall stack of Dawn of the Fats, stapled but not yet trimmed and folded.

The remains of the trimming

Stacks of finished copies...

...which are then stuffed into envelopes.

Magical, isn't it?

While I worked, Tom Cruise saved the world from alien invaders and Robbi cleaned up the other half of the barn.

Oscar had his own agenda.

And Iggy enjoyed the comfort of her new crate, the one which will soon carry her to Alaska.

We're hoping to bank enough good will toward the crate over the next two weeks that Iggy won't die of depression when forced to ride in the belly of a plane between here and Anchorage. Iggy fears change above all things. She is a very sensitive creature.

Posted by bogenamp at 11:54 PM

June 10, 2007

Ten Years Gone

Robbi and I have spent the past few days in Williamstown staring down the sober fact that it has been ten full years since we graduated from college. Yes, we and approximately 200 other members of the class of 1997 and their spouses and their many many babies gathered in a tent for a series of meals, drinks, and conversations. This entry is likely to be dull as rocks to anyone not in the Williams College class of 1997, but all are welcome to browse at your own risk. There is a nice story at the end and a few amusing photographs sprinkled throughout. Those who enjoy seeing photos of Emily Piendak with her mouth open are not likely to be disappointed.

To set the scene: Robbi and I worked all day Tuesday and Wednesday last week finishing up Idiots'Books Volume 4, Dawn of the Fats, so that it might be ready for our reading at Water Street Books on Saturday. Finishing Volume 4 mostly involved Robbi painting and me scanning. It was 48 hours of little sleep and many bad meals courtesy of Subway and Taco Bell. Sacrifices were made on many fronts. Our good friend and editor Matthew Westbrook even crawled out of his sick bed to proofread the thing for us. On Thursday we woke early and assembled 50 copies of Dawn of the Fats, that we might have ample copies on hand for Saturday's reading at Water Street Books, optimistic as we always are, that hordes of screaming fans will throw their hard-earned money our way in exchange for books.

We finished late afternoon, reflected briefly on our accomplishment, and then proceeded to pack the car. We were driving to Massachusetts, which meant that we were undisciplined in our approach to packing. We brought three large boxes of books, for example, and a very large suitcase. Robbi and I both missed the five-year reunion on account of its conflicting with the wedding of our good friend Drew. Knowing that we had been absent from the consciousness of many of our classmates for ten full years, we both wanted to make a good impression. Which meant packing many fine and stylish outfits, several varieties of shoes, and all the socks we could locate.

Not long after we started north, we became ravenously hungry. We feasted on Burger King in Middletown, Delaware, all the while railing against McDonald's, criticizing both its soullessness and the poor quality of its food. We complimented ourselves on having the good taste to prefer BK, and assured ourselves that our days of eating at McDonald's were in our past.

We picked up our friend David Turner at his parents' house in Ridgewood, NJ, somehow managed to fit both him and his suitcase into our already full car, and continued on our way. Eventually we stopped for gas.

David did the honors.

And Robbi used the window washing thing to scrub the bird droppings off of our car. The birds of Chestertown hate us. Or at least they hate the trunk of our car.

Our journey continued. We got to Williamstown late that night. Returning to the place never fails to fill me with a mixture of joy and sadness.

The next morning we registered. But not before Robbi and David stuck their heads in these holes. I am not responsible for their actions.

Almost immediately we started running into friends. The temptation to embrace them and have fun was strong. But instead we went to Bennington, Vermont to see my brother. Not only is he my brother, but he knows a powerful lot about cars, working as he does for one of the premier restorers of vintage automobiles in the country. My brother's vast knowledge of cars was of interest to us since our "Service Engine Soon" light had just come on. And also since we knew ourselves to be 6,000 miles overdue for an oil change. On the strength of these two facts, we drove to Bennington for lunch.

My brother Alex, and me. This is the second picture we took. In the first picture, my triple chin was visible. In this picture, I look great.

Alex, who is not only knowledegable about cars but also incredibly manly, directed us to the local Meineke, suggesting that there was a good chance that our "Service Engine Soon" light would have the good sense to extinguish itself in the wake of a good oil change. It turns out, he was right.

Feeling better about our car (and therefore, about ourselves) we returned to Williamstown for a walk in the woods. David, Cathy Rose, Robbi, and I enjoyed a leisurely stroll in Hopkins Forest.

From this point, the weekend became a blur. We went to our first official reunion event, "Drinks" with our classmates beneath the tent. Not surprisingly, we drank, and then we ate. There was a great deal of talking, not a small amount of hugging, and, I realize in retrospect, not nearly enough taking of pictures. Here are a few, but many old friends with whom we reconnected will have to go undocumented. I suppose it's better not to ruin a moment of genuine human connection by whipping out one's camera, but your fun is accordingly diminished. Sorry about that.

Christian and me

Emily and Christian. What is in her mouth? Guesses are welcome.

David and Cathy cutting the rug.

Rich and Derek, two guys who will do just about anything for a piece of bacon.

And that's it for pictures beneath the tent. While not taking pictures I reconnected with many old friends. And, to my surprise, connected for the first time with a lot of people I'd never really talked to in college. I was gratified to find so many people doing so many interesting things, so pleased with their lives, so very successful in the production of children.

After eating a lot of ribs, a few of us sneaked off to a patch of grass near the graveyard to play some music. Brian Slattery anchored our efforts on banjo and fiddle while Dahna played the guitar and I chugged along on harp.

Robbi and others did an admirable job in providing us an audience.

While we were playing, a big group of people from the class of 2002 walked by, on their way to our 1997 tent to join the fun (as was proscribed on the master schedule). One girl sat with us to listen to the song. "Are you guys in the class of '72?" she asked. It was a horrifying question, one which begged the question of whether we looked like 57-year-olds. It was probably too dark for her to register the sadness on our rapidly-aging faces. In a flash of buoyant youth, she was gone into the night to rejoin her fellows while the rest of us sat around decomposing.

We rocked out for a while longer in the dark and then found our way to bed. Thus ended Friday.

Saturday morning Robbi and I slept in and then set up our projector to do a final run-through of our reading before heading to the bookstore for the real thing. We had done a fair amount of publicity for the event, sending a postcard out to certain of our classmates prior to the reunion, submitting a press release locally, and adding a blurb about our event to the reunion schedule. If our conversations Friday night were any indication, the effort seemed to have paid off. A lot of people were aware of what Robbi and I had been up to. Quite a few had visited our site. And many indicated an intention to attend the reading. Which was both exciting and incredibly nerve-racking. To calm my stomach while waiting for the reading to begin, I took this picture of the display of our books at Water Street.

I must have felt calmed, because I took no more pictures throughout the entire event. A fact that I regret bitterly now.

1:00 came and we prepared to get started. A few close friends had come, but many empty chairs remained. And then. The floodgates opened, and the place was suddenly packed. The audience was full of classmates and others, including my two great mentors, Jim Shepard and Steve Fix, both Williams English professors who taught me how to write. Also in the audience was Eve Biddle, a person I interviewed years ago when I worked for the admission office. Eve graduated from Williams in 2004 and is now an artist in New York. Check out her site. If you're looking for new ways to support the arts, Eve will put your hair to good use.

The moment came and we got started. We got the ball rolling with the back-and-forth repartee that is quickly becoming our shtick. I don't remember what we said, but it seemed to amuse the audience. They were particularly taken with some surprisingly candid things we had to say about our sex life. No less interesting was my utter lack of success in getting into graduate school. The audience was incredibly gratifying, laughing aloud at all the right moments. It was affirming to feel understood. People were enjoying themselves and it felt very good.

We ended the reading, as planned, with Dawn of the Fats, which went over even better than we had hoped. Afterward, there was a lot of hugging, some signing, and a great deal of relief from me. The weight of anticipating the reading lifted from my shoulders, I suddenly started enjoying myself a lot more.

Later that afternoon we attended the class of 1997 film festival. A surprising number of us have gotten involved with film production either by profession or avocation. As a side project while on tour with Spamalot, our good friend David Turner, wrote, directed, and produced a feature-length film using his fellow Spamalot actors. The film is spectacular in its own right, but considering that it was created by essentially one person, The Debut is an astonishing accomplishment. The film chronicles the story of two men, one a down-on-his-luck television star and one an aspiring stage actor, as their worlds and ambitions collide. Funny, touching, and structurally ingenius, the film also provides a voyeur's look into the inner workings of the theatre. David showed the first 10 minutes at the festival, but if anyone is interested in seeing the entire thing, write him an email and let him know you're interested.

That night there were more "Drinks" and another dinner. And more pictures, of course.

Dahna, Christian, and me.

Dahna's lovely bride-to-be, Sarah.

Me and my boys.

Emily trying to sneak up on Robbi and bite her.

Robbi and her "special friend" and her illegitimate child.

In reality, both the child and "special friend" belong to others, the child to Kirsten Paquette and the "special friend" to Garet Libby (formerly Asbury). Matt Libby is, in fact, a very nice guy. Robbi paid me the high compliment today of saying that in the "nice guy" category, I am kind of like Matt Libby. I glowed with the praise.

After dinner, we found a place to continue rocking. This time we were joined on fiddle by Amy K. Smith.

And on banjo by Josh Pierson.

Eventually we moved to the other room so that yet another classmate and musician, Brian Wecht, could join us on piano.

I am happy to report that Brian Wecht has agreed to be my friend. And I his. Although we knew one another in college, Brian and I were no more than casual acquaintances. And yet, in light of a few fine, mutually agreeable conversations over drinks in the tent, both of us have decided that friendship is the obvious next step. Lest you worry that I am rushing into this too quickly, let me assure you that Brian is a very nice guy. As nice as I? Almost certainly? As nice as Matt Libby? It remains to be seen.

While being nice, Brian played a rousing version of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin" that brought down the house. The only thing that might have topped it was Nathan Day's short, but memorable, solo on the whistle thing prominently featured at the start of Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited.

Brian Slattery, who does not make compliments lightly, was overheard commenting that Nathan had "played the shit out of" the whistle thing.

Later that night, Josh treated us to a rousing rendition of a Riverdance sequence he has been perfecting. It is his lone ambition to join the troupe. After seeng the photos below, I'm sure you'll agree that he has a fighting chance.

After Josh's Riverdance, there was no hope of the day getting any better, so we went to bed.

Thus ended Saturday.

This morning we arose and headed back to the tent for the final event, a bad breakfast with not enough food. By the time we got there, the bad food was gone, so we marched up the hill to the snack bar for a final meal before hitting the road.

I chanced to notice our class flag as I approached the snack bar. Apparently, every class has one.

After breakfast we said our goodbyes and headed home. On the way, we drove through Lanesboro, MA, in order to visit with an old friend of ours, David Moomaw.

For those who do not know, Robbi and I lived with David for two years (roughly the spring of 2001 through the spring of 2003). David is a fantastic human being with some special needs, and so the three of us lived together so that Robbi and I could help him and so that we could enjoy his unique perspective on the world. David now lives with a woman named Nancy and is having a great time. But we were very happy to spend some time with him again. We sang some songs, had a snack, and then headed outside for a piggy back ride, one of David's all-time favorite activities.

He's also pretty good at giving hugs.

The drive home was uneventful. I slept for three hours while Robbi drove and then Robbi slept for three hours while I drove. And then we were home.

In the relatively few minutes in which both of us were awake, Robbi and I reflected on the reunion, deciding that we are mostly pleased with the last ten years and where they have left us. May the next ten be just as unpredictable and full.


Posted by bogenamp at 11:28 PM

June 03, 2007

Dada, Here We Come

Yesterday Robbi and I dug deep into the closet and pulled out our closest approximation of "hip" clothing in honor of our reading at H&F Fine Arts. Understand that when I say "hip," I use the word in the relative sense. I'm not really capable of true "hip," but by donning a vintage shirt and a pair of polyester pants, I am able to pull off a weak imitation of someone with legitimate claim to the word. To her credit, Robbi is capable of looking hip. Until she opens her mouth. At that point she, like I, are exposed as the unfortunate clods that we are.

With our newly purchased projector in tow, we headed for DC, stopping along the at the New Carrollton rail station to pick up friend David Turner, who had taken the train down from NYC to attend the event. We arrived at H&F Fine arts a full 90 minutes before the start of the reception that was to precede the reading. A full two-and-a-half hours before the reading itself. My obsession with being places early is something Robbi graciously endures, though her preference would be to arrive breathless in the waning moments before something is scheduled to begin.

Our early arrival allowed for such activities as:

Admiring the mural.

Posing in front of the mural in "hip" art gallery garb.

Posing stylishly by the new projector (perhaps we'll send this shot to Justin P.)

Posing stylishly in front of the projected Idiots'Books logo.

It took us about 5 minutes to set up for the reading. Which left us an hour and 25 minutes to busy ourselves. While we busied ourselves Cheryl and Karen sliced cheese and salami. Yes, salami. There seems to be an Idiots'Books reading theme.

Eventually a wonderful thing happened. People started to arrive. Lots of old friends, some of whom we hadn't seen in years. Even the kind, wise, and humble Peter Everett showed up, accompanied by his lovely wife Veronica (who, it turns out, has the good sense to be a Red Sox fan). Scanning the crowd, Robbi and I were pleased. There were more than six people present. We would break the previous weekend's attendance record handily.

At 4:15 we ushered the crowd into the workshop room (yes, the same room in which Robbi and I spent one short, restless night in the midst of painting the H&F mural a few months ago) and got started.

We gave some opening remarks.

Were we cogent? I cannot say. Did we say interesting things? I dare not speculate. I can only say that we spoke for a few minutes before taking our position behind the projector. Our friend J.T. was kind enough to snap a few shots as we read.

We started with Facial Features of French Explorers before moving on to Unattractive and Inadequate. Then, to lighten the tone, Robbi read My Henderson Robot. There was some intermittent laughter that gratified us. In honor of the gallery mural, we read selections from For the Love of God and then ended with Richard Nixon.

Here is a shot of the crowd.

Do they seem to be enjoying themselves? People seemed attentive in spite of having to stand and in spite of the heat that grew each moment that the air conditioning was not turned on (out of respect for our gentle voices that might not otherwise have carried over the din of the compressors).

After the reading, we took some questions. To our delight, people had questions, even some really thoughtful ones. We did our best to answer them. Hearing interesting questions and being forced to articulate answers to them helps us understand ourselves better. Our friend and subscriber Dawn asked the most interesting question: what would the appraiser on the late 21st century's version of the Antiques Roadshow have to say about a collection of Idiots'Books, both in terms of their monetary value and their relationship to the Dadaist/Surrealist movement. I was delighted and a little stunned. What do you say in response to something like that? Later, at dinner, Dawn explained that the Dadaists/Surrealists used to get together and hang out and talk about "weird stuff", thus influencing and informing one another's ideas and work. Since we live in a barn in the middle of nowhere, Dawn pointed out, we are conducting our version of this conversation through letters and contests and the responses of our subscribers. She added that this type of thing doesn't often happen outside of the internet these days and that there was something different and worthwhile about the model of conducting our business with paper in epistolary fashion. At least I think that's what she said. Dawn, you may feel free to contradict or elaborate. [It is worth nothing that, in spite of this incisive observation, Dawn has yet to participate in any of our contests, citing her doctoral disseration as an excuse.]

After doing our best to answer various questions, we signed books, shook hands, talked to people, and had a fine time.

We drove up the road to Franklin's and had dinner with friends.

Today we have been like slugs. The rains have come to Chestertown, and with them the air has cooled.

Next weekend we head to Williamstown for our ten year reunion. Next Saturday we'll have our third reading in as many weekends at the town bookstore, Water Street Books. If you happen to be in the area, we'd love to see you there.

Thanks to our friends for coming out to support us yesterday. It was a real pleasure to share our work with all of you.

Posted by bogenamp at 09:18 PM