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October 31, 2007

Leaving New York

My last day in New York began well. I have long been a fan of smoked fish, and so I was unable to resist the "Lox on Lox" advertised in the menu at Norma's.

Lox on Lox was, as advertised, a mountain of lox. The bottom layer was a bagel, toasted, coated with a healthy serving of cream cheese and covered with an astonishing amount of lox. The middle layer was a bagel, toasted, coated with a healthy serving of cream cheese and covered with an astonishing amount of lox. The top layer was a mini bagel coated with a healthy serving of cream cheese and covered with an astonishing amount of lox. On the very top was a little cup made out of lox filled with three kinds of caviar. Surrounding it all was a veritable garden of red onions and eight of the largest, fattest, most delicious capers I have ever eaten. After eating it all, I had to wash my hands.

Whereupon, I found The Airblade.

I beheld the Airblade. The fine print promised a speedy, gratifying hand drying experience. It was with trepidation that I thrust my hand into The Airblade, as instructed. While The Airblade went about its noisy business, I had the distinct impression that the skin was being removed from both of my hands. The Airblade finished. I removed my hands, expecting a Sahara-like dryness. I found instead that my hands were still soaking wet. Pulverized but wet. I used a paper towel. Hand dryers just don't work. If The Airblade didn't get the job done, I fear that nothing will.

It was a busy day. An interview, a meeting, another meeting, and then a frantic walk back to the train station as moments ticked town to the departure of the 6:20 regional. I could not help but stop and take this photo, though. I turned my head to see the Empire State Building bearing down on me in the dying light.

I arrived home to find Iggy still wearing her party hat from Bob's birthday dinner a few nights past.

A lively, festive girl, she is always the last one to admit that a party has ended.

It was good to see that certain things proceeded apace in my absence.

According to the pregnancy tracker widget mounted in my dashboard, 18 weeks have elapsed. Only 154 days to go...

Posted by bogenamp at 09:14 AM

October 29, 2007

New York

I'm in New York and have been since Thursday. Robbi came up with me, but has since returned to Chestertown. Why are we here? For a number of reasons, a mixture of work and play.

The train ride up was pleasant. I bought Robbi some cheese and crackers on the strong recommendation of Mrs. Emily Vainieri.

The Amtrak cheese and crackers tray is really quite nice and includes two Babybel cheeses. It kind of makes one feel sophisticated and European, as if the Alps could be seen out the window instead of New Jersey.

All feelings of sophistication melted quickly as we arrived in Penn Station and caught the 1 train down to Christopher Street.

We have been staying with our friend David Turner. As you will learn below, he is a very famous actor.

We dropped off our stuff at David's and headed to midtown, where I was a registered participant at the College Board conference. Why was I participating in the College Board conference? The reasons are too dull to recount. And so I will show you a photo of the silver trees we found in a park.

New York is kind of like Oz to people who live in Chestertown.

We spotted the legendary Flatiron Building without really meaning to.

We walked all over the city, taking in the sights and smells. Eventually we happened upon a swank Greenwich Village baby boutique. I was more horrified than tempted by this carriage.

But I do like the sleek, Euro-rad baby bouncer.

Apparently, the small plastic baby is not included.

I was taken by this $160 outfit.

And Robbi was taken by this one, only $230.

In the end, we ended up leaving with a glossy postcard advertising the baby bouncer. Which was free.

We will clothe our baby in a potato sack or trash bag, depending on the weather.

Later that night we saw...

...a Broadway show featuring our good friend David Turner. The Ritz, a Terrence McNally revival, takes place in a gay bath house in the 1970s, stars Rosie Perez, and features a lot of really muscular guys in towels (or less). In other words, it's perfect to take your grandma to.

After the show, David took us on a tour of the set, which is a fantastic, three-story affair. But due to union rules, I could not take photos.

There are no union rules about photographing David in front of the theater, though.

Friday night we got together with my high school friends for Shabbat dinner.

From left to right: Holden, Matt, Victor, and me.

The food was delicious.

Robbi was particularly pleased by the homemade chocolate covered strawberries.

Holden and Michelle just got married a few weeks ago. They are already old hands.

It rained on Saturday morning. And since he is an actor, David had to go to work. Robbi and I found our way to Elephant and Castle for a rather nice brunch.

After brunch, it was time for Robbi to go back to Chestertown to return to the piles of books she has to illustrate. I walked her to the subway.

And bid her farewell.

Later that night I got back together with my high school buddies to watch game 3 of the world series.

Some of you may remember Edgar, the outstanding French Bulldog that lives with Holden and Michelle.

Edgar is psychotic and thinks that he is large. One of his favorite games is savagely attacking his puppet friend.

I love Edgar. Apparently, I might get a chance to dog sit him in the spring.

Last night, David and I stayed in and enjoyed a roaring fire while watching game 4 of the Series.

This morning, I enjoyed the breakfast of champions.

I realize that my failure to tap into the vast cultural and commerce-based opportunities of the metropolitan New York area might be profoundly disappointing to many the aspiring urbanite, but I am not a city guy.

Nevertheless, David and I put on our finest tonight.

We took the 1 train uptown.

It was loud.

After our ride uptown, we both were happy to emerge again into the city.

Our destination was a restaurant at 64th and Broadway where we met David's parents for dinner.

As I type, he is at the Magic Flute at the Metropolitan Opera and I am sitting on his couch watching Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers take on the Denver Broncos.

Just the way I like to enjoy the city.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:39 PM

October 28, 2007

Pumpkins

We have been in New York City for days, which is why there has been no posting for a while. There is plenty to report on our busy days here, but first things first. Halloween is almost upon us, which meant that I was compelled to buy some pumpkins the other day.

Robbi is a Halloween enthusiast. She loves getting dressed up, she loves handing out candy on the doorstep, and she starts getting excited about the Chestertown Halloween parade months in advance. I, on the other hand, am a curmudgeon. When we lived in Baltimore and I was left alone one Halloween night a few years ago, I turned out the porch lights and hid in the basement. I'm not proud, but there was a good football game on.

The point of the story is, absent the motivation of making Robbi happy, it probably wouldn't occur to me to carve pumpkins. But I do like knives.

Especially this one, a really fancy vegetable-slicing knife we got as a gift from my father.

Truly terrifying when removed from its protective packaging.

But really quite effective in taking on a pumpkin.

As shown.

Robbi and I each have our own approach.

And our own results.

We endured the heckling of the peanut gallery.

But eventually were done.

Apparently there are experts who can analyze one's handwriting and discern such things as personality type, age, and criminal record. I am certain that similar insights could be gleaned by careful examination of one's pumpkin carving choices.

Please feel free to share your observations. As long as they are not unkind.

Posted by bogenamp at 03:57 PM

October 24, 2007

Little Blue

One day a few years back Robbi and I woke up one morning and decided that we needed to simplify our lives. Things had gotten too complicated, too tiring. We had too many commitments. And so we were going to say no to a few more things. We were going to stop running around like crazy all the time.

This was when we lived in Baltimore. We lived on Falls Road, at one point the major north/south thoroughfare through the city, and now a minor road that flanks interstate 83. We decided on that morning to start driving north on 83 to see where we ended up. The road took us out of the city into the rolling green countryside north of Baltimore. It took us through small towns and open fields. It was beautiful, the road we lived on.

Eventually we found ourselves in Southern Pennsylvania, the road lined with trees. We were feeling good. Life was feeling simple again. The sky was blue. We saw a sign by the side of the road. It said, Weimaraner Puppies.

The sign threw Robbi into a highly agitated state. While my dream dog has always been the Boston Terrier, Robbi has always had a soft spot for Weimies, and so we followed the sign until we found another, and another, and eventually we found a farm, where we parked our car and met Iggy. The rest is history.

She was six months old when we got her, roughly the same height and length that she is today, but only half the weight. She was a scrawny little thing, still very much a puppy, but not that outrageously cute form of early puppy. We missed out on that part of Iggy's life.

The other day, on a lark, I decided to google blue Weimaraner puppy, just to see what I found.

Here it is.

Pretty cute, but I'm sure she would have been a handful.

She may not have simplified our lives, but she has added something simple to the mix.

If you don't have a dog, consider getting one. They stink and drool and crap, but yet...there's just something nice about unconditional love.


Posted by bogenamp at 02:21 PM

October 23, 2007

Calling Suburban Maryland

With the recent mailing of Volume 10, The Clearing, to the Idiots'Books subscribership, year one of Idiots'Books officially came to an end. This meant that the 100 or so people that signed up in October 2006 for full-year subscriptions had reached the end of their allotted bookage. As all subscription services do, we sent out a series of reminders, gentle at first, then slightly more urgent, then downright manipulative. Our final ploy was to design a postcard featuring a variety of lame excuses for not having done something accompanied by a phrase meant to cast he who had failed to resubscribe in an unflattering light.

The postcard was accompanied by a pre-addressed, stamped envelope, thus compelling the reluctant resubscriber to spend $80 so as not to waste $.41. However counterintuitive, the strategy has been moderately successful. Until yesterday, when an envelope arrived with the postmark "Suburban Maryland."

Let's reflect on that for a minute. Suburban Maryland? Not a very helpful geographical distinction. There are, for example, several cities in Maryland, all of which have outlying suburban areas.

The contents of the envelope were even more cryptic: our resubscription card had been filled out with the following phrase, an obvious allusion to Idiots'Books Volume VI.

The mystery was completed by what was missing from the envelope: namely, a check. The question now is whether this unidentified denizen of "Suburban Maryland" intended to confound us or merely forgot to include the check (and the accompanying identifying information) in the envelope.

Only time will tell, I suppose. But if you are he who intended to resubscribe, know this: you will receive no further books until you identify yourself and submit payment in full.

And you're not getting another free stamp.

Posted by bogenamp at 05:44 PM

October 22, 2007

One Wedding, Two Dinners, and a Brunch

We had a fine weekend in Baltimore. There was no drama, no surprises. Christian and Emily got married. End of story. But the wedding proper did not happen until Saturday evening. The journey began, as it often does, with a drive south on Maryland 213. For a while we had the bad luck to be trailing some port-a-potties.

An ill omen intensified by foul weather on the bridge.

Things got a little more promising when we stopped by to visit our afflicted friend Courtney, whose "condition" is a bit more advanced than Robbi's.

By the time we got to our friend Beth's house, where we were staying for the weekend, we were in fine spirits. Especially when we got to play with Spud, Beth's new dog.

He is a docile, tractable pug. Basically a huge ho. I love dogs like that.

We got dressed and headed downtown to Pazo, a swanky tappas restaurant.

There were incredibly big olives to be had.

And an arrangement placed in a hollowed pumpkin.

Not surprisingly, Emily attended the event.

As did Christian.

As did Christian's parent's, Deborah and Humberto.

Also present was Christian's friend John. John is all about taking care of the ladies. He does things like push in their chairs when they sit down.

I wanted to tell John that his old-fashioned notions were not appreciated, that Robbi was offended by this sort of condescending behavior.

But apparently, this was not true.

He is a sly, sassy one, that John.

The food was excellent and the service better. The place seemed like a thoroughly high-class joint, so imagine my surprise when my dinner fork was imperfect.

I was tempted to raise a major stink but got distracted when Christian started doing his patented duck imitation.

It was a nice meal with some nice toasts. Sometimes, people said amusing things.

Other people said heartwarming things.

And then John said something unprintable.

Truly, a man must have his standards.

Though Christian's sister, Amy, seemed not to mind.

After dinner, we were encouraged to take the pumpkins.

Though Christian seemed not to approve.

Thus ended day one of the wedding weekend. Sleep followed. I woke to the following sight. In addition to her many other gifts, friend Beth apparently gives a mean manicure.

See?

Try as I might, I could not convince Beth to give me a pedicure, something I have always desired. A group of friends and I were playing a Canadian game called Don't Be a Dork a few years ago. It is an interactive sort of game with periodic group participation exercises. We were charged, by the game, to think of the person in the group who had the nastiest feet and then to speak that name aloud at the count of three. Everyone thought. Everyone counted to three. Everyone spoke his choice. And I was greeted with a chorus of voices articulating in unison my besmirched name.

I must confess that I also voted for me. Still, the consensus hurt.

Beth indicated that it was enough that she was willing to be my friend in spite of my feet. Actually coming in contact with them was out of the question.

And so we got dressed, my feet as hideous as ever.

We headed for Christian and Emily's place, where pictures were underway.

Aunt Peggy was looking fabulous.

But the bride was radiant.

Her father and uncle Art were all spiffed up for the big day.

Deb and Hum seemed ready to see their boy wed.

John seemed poised to stab someone with a letter opener.

I was glad that there were no chairs for him to pull out for Robbi.

Robbi was more than ready for the "Chris and Emily get married" part of the weekend.

I was ready. (I only wear toilet ties to the weddings of those I love dearly.)

Christian and Emily wouldn't stop making out.

But apparently, they were also ready.

So we headed for the church.

There were hijinks with the veil.

But aren't there always?

We headed in to the chapel where they were to be wed.

Emily chose the space because her parents got married there, as did her aunt and uncle. It is a beautiful little room with lots of gilded paintings and not many seats. As such, it was a small, intimate wedding party of sixteen.

In spite of appearances to the contrary, Emily was really quite pleased to be getting married there.

This guy was in charge.

He performed a beautiful service, much of which was sung by a cantor. It was my first Greek wedding service, and so I was unprepared for the degree of ceremony. Throughout the 40-minute service, there were various exchanging of rings, the wearing (and unwearing) of crowns, a procession around the central table, and lots of standing up and sitting down. I wasn't really sure at what point they actually got married, but eventually they did. The whole thing was lovely and emotional. I cried recklessly. Fortunately, right when things were getting out of hand, the wedding ended.

We headed back downtown for dinner a Callie's Court.

See how different Emily looks as a married person?

Christian's and my good friend David was not able to attend the wedding on account of his being on Broadway at present, but he wrote a toast for me to read. Those of you who know David will not be surprised to hear that the toast was incredibly funny. But also incredibly heartfelt. Apparently, there are people that really love Christian and Emily in the world.

There was a toast.

Then Robbi and I presented our wedding gift, a book about Christian and Emily and their coming to know one another and falling in love. Robbi did a reading.

People laughed in the right places.

Our dinners arrived.

Mine was delicious, but since he arrived with eyes, I tried my best to empathize with him before eating him.

I'm not sure the exercise did anything to improve the taste.

We played that game with spoons and noses.

And though it was not my intention in taking this picture, I have to say that, seeing it now, I think Robbi could have a very credible career in mime.

Back at Christian and Emily's house after the meal, we decided it was high time to let down our hair. Emily took this literally.

Hairspray is a wonderful, terrible thing.

We decided to play a bit of Celebrities. Those of you familiar with the game will appreciate the fact that "Emily Vainieri" and "Mrs. Emily Vainieri" both made appearances in the pot.

Here is Robbi evoking the sun god Ra in round three.

Eventually everyone got really tired, even the man and the woman of the day.

Yes, Christian and Emily are married. And nothing could please us more.

Coverage of the brunch to come. Suffice it to say that there were bagels.

Posted by bogenamp at 09:24 PM

October 18, 2007

In Need of Genius

Sometimes I'm mystified, wondering why we choose to let animals run free in our homes. I say "we" in the royal sense, knowing full well that many have the sense to just say no to pets. I admire those people. They are wise. They are strong. While the rest of us suffer the mess, stench, expense, and hassle of animals, these wise, strong people are sitting peacefully in their quiet, clean homes, enjoying the expensive olives and cheeses that they bought with the same money I have been spending on Science Diet, greenies, and vaccinations. Don't know what a greenie is? That means you are wise and strong. Stay that way. Resist temptation. Avoid kennels and greeting cards.

I am looking forward to the arrival of our child for, even though the thing will surely take cost, mess, and hassle to a whole new level, the animal-to-human ratio will once again be even. If there is a war, we humans will be better equipped to put up a fight. We lose that war daily now for want of reinforcements.

For the last few weeks, our situation has been even more dire. In addition to Iggy, Oscar, Lily, and the two fish Nopay and Attention (named by Seiko as a testament to their unwillingness to acknowledge her in a doting way), we have been the foster parents of Petey, a lonesome beagle who lives down the street.

Petey's rightful owner is living in an apartment that doesn't allow dogs, so Petey is living with his grandparents in Chestertown. Beagles are, as a breed, prone to despair when left alone, and so Petey spends his afternoons with us, terrorizing Iggy and drooling on her head. This contributes to the aforementioned stench of her. But I digress. Petey is a good boy. When not gnawing on Iggy or trying to mount her, he is really quite well behaved.

Robbi was feeling a bit rough last night. We're busy working on another project and, as usual, we have waited until the waning hours and find ourselves in panic mode. Last night was muggy and thick, and Robbi was hot and grouchy, and even so, there was really only one remedy for what ailed her.

The genius hat is just as effective on hot October evenings as it is on cold February mornings. The desired mood adjustment was swift.

Part of Robbi's joy was derived from her recent acquisition, a box of new x-acto blades.

"New x-acto blades?" you say, with some skepticism. "That doesn't sound like very much fun."

I counter by asking whether you read that packaging carefully. Did you, for example, happen to notice the quantity of blades that Robbi ordered?

Why settle for a package of ten or twenty x-acto blades when one can have 500? Why run the risk of running out of blades in one's lifetime when one's children and grandchildren could one day use blades from the very same box?

Viva la x-acto blades. Viva la one-to-one human-to-pet ratio. Viva la Christian and Emily, who are due to wed on Saturday. Tomorrow we head to Baltimore for the first of several celebratory meals.

If you harbor a long-suppressed intention to marry either Christian or Emily, you are running out of time to show up and stage a dramatic intervention. Plus, you have to admit that these two seem fairly well matched. I mean, they are practically interchangeable.


Posted by bogenamp at 08:15 PM

October 16, 2007

George Washington's Bare Butt

The following ad appeared in this week's copy of the Kent County News.

Yes, friends, we have now stooped to making light of the father of our nation. For those of you willing to join us in this irreverant pastiche, Idiots'Books is offering a 2008 calendar which features no fewer (and no more) than 13 full-color paintings of our first president in a variety of compromising positions.

Subscribers will be sent a copy in due course, but those non-subscribers who want to purchase one for their kitchens, bathrooms, or local houses of history, will be given a chance to do so online soon. The calendars will also be available at Chestertown's own Bookplate later this week.

Posted by bogenamp at 11:06 PM

October 14, 2007

SPX 2007

As was the plan, we set off for DC Friday morning, taking a wild swing through the heart of the city to deliver some art and finding ourselves eventually in Bethesda, where the Small Press Expo has been happening for many years now. We arrived and checked in. We found our table. We started to set up.

SPX was being held, as these things often are, in a hotel ballroom.

Our table covering had grown rather linty. And hairy. Damn cats.

It didn't take too long to set up.

The thing started at 2:00. While waiting for the crowds, we had some lunch.

Eventually, people came to look at our books.

Even Pete came. Pete Everett. Perhaps the nicest guy I know.

The first day of the show was satisfying, but not extraordinary. We sold some books, met some folks, saw some other work we admire. In fact, as soon as I have the time to do some sorting and scanning, I'll do an entry featuring some of our favorite stuff from the show.

After the show ended, we drove back into the city to the house of a friend, Stella, who had prepared some truly excellent crispy toast/tomato/mozzarella/prosciutto/balsamic/olive oil thing.

Living without a kitchen as we do, we sometimes forget that such things can be prepared, and often are, by people not that much different than ourselves. So struck were we with the aesthetics of the treat that for a while we sat, content just to look, unable to actually eat. And then we got over it and ate with enthusiasm. It had been a long day.

After dinner we played with Stella's very small dogs.

Ethel

And Frank

Combined, the two of them probably weigh the same as one of Iggy's legs, and yet they terrorized her relentlessly. Iggy is a huge wuss. Takes after me.

In the morning, we stopped by a neighborhood farmer's market.

The tomatoes were nice and red. The apples were nice and firm.

Back at SPX, we decided to try a new strategy for day 2. A lot of comics have really colorful, graphical, vivid, exciting-looking covers and are entirely black and white inside. Our covers, on the other hand, are rather spare, employ lots of white space, and are generally less visually arresting than the insides of our books. At a place like SPX, getting people to stop and open the books is the biggest challenge. And so we displayed a number of our books open on the table, that Robbi's illustrations might have a chance to catch some eyes.

The strategy worked. We got a lot more traffic the second day, and a lot more sales. Like this one (actual sale, not simulated).



And look at this happy couple, dreaming of the ways in which their lives will improve as a result of having been introduced to Idiots'Books. It warms the heart.

I had to take a picture of this gentleman, who apparently wears only purple suits.

He wore a different purple suit on Friday. I wish that I had thought to take a picture.

Sales were so lively that we actually sold out of a few titles. Facial Features of French Explorers was the first to go, followed by Understanding Traffic. Ten Thousand Stories was the top seller, however. By the end of the show, people were coming by the table telling us that they had been directed from earlier browsers to check our stuff out. It made us feel good.

Back at Stella's, we took the dogs for a walk.

I decided to do some experiments with the wide-angled lens.

The results were satisfying.

We went to downtown Bethesda for some dinner. On the way back, we came upon this upsetting sticker on the back of a sign.

For those of you who cannot read, the sign says, "I hate Duke." This statement is directed not toward European royalty, but toward my beloved Duke University Blue Devils, and if I may conjecture, most pointedly toward their very fine men's basketball program. As a Duke fan, I found the sticker hurtful. I looked to my companions for support. What I found was Stella, leaping with delight.

Stella is a fan of the Maryland Terrapins. Maryland fans tend not to think much of Duke or Duke fans for that matter. It is amazing that Stella and I are on speaking terms. Or should I say, were on speaking terms. After her latest display, I might have to reconsider.

We headed back over the bridge this morning and stopped on the way back at the outlet malls not far from the 50/301 split. Robbi has begun to feel somewhat confined by her clothing, and the time had come to consider some wardrobe enhancements.

After being turned away by Old Navy, we found our way to Gap, where there was a small, yet serviceable maternity section. At this point we were too caught up in a whirlwind of choosing, trying on, and evaluating to take any photos, a thing that I very much regret. For those of you who have not seen maternity pants, they are demoralizing garments. Though remarkably useful.

As was the case when we returned from the Museum of Comic and Cartoon festival last June, we have an enormous box of books and comics that we acquired at the show to go through. There are a lot of people doing really wonderful things out there. I'll share some of my favorites in days ahead.

Posted by bogenamp at 11:46 PM

October 11, 2007

Idiots at SPX

I suppose I could have given you all more notice, but in case it is of interest to any of you, Robbi and I will be in Bethesda, MD, at the Small Press Expo tomorrow and Saturday. SPX describes itself as "America's premiere independent cartooning and comic arts festival." We will be standing behind a six-foot table peddling our wares along with hundreds of other people who make books and self-publish or have their work produced by small presses.

The majority of the other folks will be selling books that fall more neatly under the "comics" umbrella. As has been discussed here before, we are outliers to this genre. In fact, the organizer of SPX wrote me a cautionary email indicating that, even though our books were "rather nifty looking", we weren't exactly comics, and so might be disappointed by the lack of interest displayed by comic purists.

We are prepared for potential ostracization.

But it would be swell to see some of our ardent fans (and friends) there, strolling the aisles, lunging toward our table with lusty consumer desire, yelling loudly and with enthusiasm about how much they like our books and how, had they ten thousand dollars hard cash, they would spend every penny on Idiots'Books, again and again until we ran out of ink.

Any takers?

Anyway, the SPX is at:

Marriott Bethesda North Hotel & Conference Center
5701 Marinelli Road.
North Bethesda, MD 20852
301-822-9200

The hours are:

2pm-8pm on Friday, October 12 and
10am07pm on Saturday, October 13

The price is $8 for the day or $15 for the weekend.

We hope to see you there.


Posted by bogenamp at 03:53 PM

Upstate

In the first few pages of Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49, our protagonist Oedipa Maas receives some unwelcome news and consequently tries "to feel as drunk as possible." In the ensuing moments, she thinks of disparate things, including a hotel room in Mazatlan, a Bartok concerto, a bust of Jay Gould, and of "sunrise over the library slope at Cornell University that nobody on it had seen because the slope faces west." The professor of the course for which I first read Lot 49, Stephen Fix, did his graduate work at Cornell, and drew our attention to the mention of the library slope, which is called Libe Slope, and which, until yesterday, I had never seen.

Yesterday I saw the slope at night and today I saw it in bright daylight.

The occasion was a visit to Ithaca to visit my good friend Ilya Garger, who spent most of his formative years there. Ilya has been spending his time in Asia for the past five years or so, and so I have not seen him in some time. If you are set on sending him flowers, he now lives in Bangkok, though I warn you, he hates it when people send him flowers.

Here is Ilya.

I met Ilya sophomore year of college. He lived on the same floor of the same dorm, and the first time I saw him, he was carrying a banjo, an instrument that had recently captured my imagination. I think the banjo was the key to our friendship, because we did not, on surface seem to have a lot in common. Since that first day with the banjo, we have discovered a vast number of shared affinities, such as: pizzas with mushrooms, sausage, and black olives; running on hills at night; and discussing esoteric postmodern essays that neither of us really understand. These are the makings of a lasting friendship.

Last night we walked around the Cornell campus, which is really quite lovely. We saw the famed Libe slope, ate some pizza with mushrooms, black olives, and sausage, and walked across some bridges strung across the massive gorges for which the Cornell campus is known.

Here is a rather unsatisfying photo of the distance between the bridge and the bottom of the gorge. One must travel to Ithaca to really appreciate the gorges.

The Cornell art museum, designed by I.M. Pei, is supposed to look like a sewing machine. I can see it.

While standing on Libe slope, I tried calling Thomas Pynchon to talk about old times.

Alas, he did not pick up. Probably has caller ID.

Ilya and I then decided that it would be fun to ski, sled, or slide down the slope. Seeing this sign, we were quickly disabused of the notion, though we learned that the slope might be misused in a way that we had not previously considered.

Left without many options, I decided to try my best to look east yet not see the sun rise over Libe.

It worked.


Posted by bogenamp at 10:54 AM

October 08, 2007

The Treacherous, Cluttered Road

I've been feeling very fancy these past few days, basking in the suddenly comfortable environs as the heat pump blows cool air in open defiance of these unseasonably warm October days. I've been saying things to myself like, "This is one swell barn," wishing there was someone to give a high-five to. Unfortunately, Robbi doesn't really do high-fives, being for the most part level-headed and not the type to gloat, even to oneself.

Then, last night, we went on a walk with the dog, and I had a stark realization. Air conditioning alone does not a luxury living situation make. Although our hayloft is getting more comfortable by degrees, there is still the matter of getting to the hayloft from the outside of the barn. Here are the sequence of movements that led to my epiphany.

We return from the walk. In spite of her small, muddled brain, Iggy does know where she lives.

We walk through the drying room, inching along in profile to avoid the sundry tools, bins, crates, boxes, bottles of motor oil, etc. This room is particularly fun to navigate when carrying groceries.

We walk through the main studio, doing our best not to knock any of the beautiful yet fragile Seiko pieces off of the various tables.

We turn 90 degrees, and are greeted with the sight of our utility sink/water supply/dishwashing area. We often wave fondly at this font of sustenance. We do our best not to knock roughly against the horse harness mirror thing.

We take another sharp right and behold the door that leads to Seiko's pottery storage room. Iggy often stops here for reflection. And because she can't open doors.

And here we are in the pottery storage room/stairwell/overflow tool storage. The camera angle prevents view of the wall o' tools, many of which would make fine museum pieces in museums dedicated to old rusty tools. There were a lot more dried plants hanging from the ceiling before I knocked them down.

Up the stairs.

Round the bend at the landing (where we take off our shoes). We have grand visions of insulating and hanging sheetrock over the exposed beams in the stairwell. Grand, grand visions.

We take another sharp turn into the hallway area between our big room and the bedroom. Notice where our will to paint ran out of steam. Grand, grand visions.

And then we arrive in our hayloft, where renovation has made a sanctuary against the bare studs and dusty railings of the outside.

A popsicle before bed.

Better when shared.

Bob and Seiko are doing some renovating of their own. The time had come to replace the carpeting in Seiko's shop. Consequently, all of the furniture and pottery had to be removed.

The old carpet had to come out.

It's funny how much larger a room room can look when its empty.

Posted by bogenamp at 12:34 PM

October 05, 2007

Big News/Little News

Now that we have been living on the Eastern Shore for a full year, we thought it was time to get a new primary care physician, and so we made appointments with the doctor Robbi's dad sees. Yesterday we were all set to drive to our appointment, only to find that the office is about a 40-second walk from our front door. And so we walked. The doctor sent us away, ordering a full battery of bloodwork from each of us, and so this morning we headed to LabCorp to get our blood drawn. You may not know this, and might find it shocking and improbable, but I am a tremendous weenie when it comes to needles. As recently as four years ago, I had to bring Robbi with me when I got a vaccination. I've been working on accepting the fact that the needle doesn't actually hurt and that I am unlikely to actually die when punctured, and today I had perhaps my most successful blood draw to date. I didn't even get lightheaded. My dream is one day to have enough nerve to donate blood. But I'm still years away.

On the way home from LabCorp, we stopped by the new bakery/cafe to check things out, still stinging somewhat from the recent trauma.

A smoothie set Robbi smiling again.

French toast did the trick for me.

But I digress. I promised big news, not a recap of breakfast. The big news is that while I was in Texas, Robbi secretly planned to have the long-anticipated air conditioning system installed in the barn. We looked into such options as central air (expensive and cumbersome to install), window units (loud, ugly, inefficient and a violation of historic district rules), and the heat pump (a relatively new technology more popular in Europe than in the US that both heats AND cools efficiently, effectively, and quietly).

Here it is. A fellow named Dwayne installed it for us.

It tucks in rather unobtrusively above the hutch.

Out back there is a compressor.

Much smaller than the typical A/C compressor.

Perhaps some of you will be disappointed that our rustic, hardscrabble barnliving setup has been compromised and besmirched by the addition of cool air. Though I sympathize with your desire to romanticize our existence, let me tell you that life in a hot hayloft is not noble enough to offset the horrors of humid Maryland summers. We are sanguine about our embrace of technologies. The washer/dryer, the heat pump, and the DirecTV dish.

So that's the big news. While the hot Maryland sun beats upon our metal roof, we are cool inside, comfortable and once again able to concentrate.

The heat has been particularly troublesome for Robbi as a result of the "little news."

Perhaps the observant among you noticed in the Lake George pictures, but Robbi has been growing somewhat rounder of late, in particular in the midsection. Her "condition" will become increasingly conspicuous in coming weeks, and so we are happy to report that the impending child in question is slated to arrive in early April. Which gives us less than six months to try and figure out where the hell we're going to put it. Let's just say that choosing a color for the nursery is the least of our present worries.

On the way home from breakfast we stopped by Pride and Joy, Chestertown's own child apparel boutique.

I tried on this Scandinavian baby-carrier thing.

It was remarkably comfortable and easy to wear, especially when worn without a baby.

In other news, Oscar has taken over Iggy's little bed.

Iggy and Lily are getting along surprisingly well.

The Volume 10 mailing inches ever closer to happening.

And Robbi is going full-bore in painting the panels for our Chestertown 2008 calendar.

Somewhere amid this squalor and menagerie, we'll find a place to put a baby. Thank goodness they are so small, so quiet, and so very well-behaved.


Posted by bogenamp at 02:23 PM

October 04, 2007

Living Large on the Eastern Shore

We have received a few clippings in the mail over the past few days. You see, we aren't so good about reading the paper, and so we rely on people who are to let us know when we happen to be mentioned. As far as I can tell, both of the pieces that follow appeared in the Star Democrat, the paper out of Easton, MD.

This one is a reprint of a story that appeared in the Kent County News a few weeks ago:

And this one must have come out a few days after our recent reading at Artiste Locale.

To remind you all, St. Michaels, the Town that Somehow Fooled the British is available for purchase online. It is hardcover and professionally printed, and does include an illustration of famous abolitionist Frederick Douglass doing a cannonball into Donald Rumsfeld's swimming pool. It's got all the makings of a family heirloom...

Posted by bogenamp at 08:43 PM

October 03, 2007

Northeastern Exposure

On the heels of my visit to Texas, I needed some cool, clear air, and so we packed up the car and drove north to Lake George, New York. Robbi's dad and his sister, Robbi's Aunt Mimi, spent their childhood summers in Silver Bay, NY, and Robbi's grandfather built a little cottage there years ago. Here it is:

We drove up on Friday. Saturday we set out for a bit of a drive along the lake. We lunched in Ticonderoga.

Robbi talked me into buying her a caramel apple.

After lunch, we picked raspberries.

Rather, Robbi picked raspberries while I kept a lookout for trouble.

Eventually I found these strange little bugs.

On the way back to the cottage, we stopped in the cemetery where Robbi's grandparents are buried.

Theirs is one of the most beautiful headstones I've ever seen.

The day was glorious, and we were near a lake, and so we decided to do some kayaking.

The water was incredibly clear.

There was one short, low-end kayak with a heavy handle and one long, high-end kayak with a light paddle.

Guess who got the nice kayak...

...and was subsequently much faster?

Things were going well, when suddenly we came upon some danger.

Sitting as I was in the low-end, slow, cumbersome kayak, I was nearly overcome by the danger.

But then I dug deep and found the courage to confront my fears, and found, to my surprise, that I love danger. A lot.

We continued on and eventually came upon an island.

Robbi, in the faster, better, sleeker, more virtuous kayak got there first, and declared herself the discoverer, and therefore president, of the island.

I could tell right away that she was going to be a tyrant.

And so I opted to remain neutral, floating, unallied.

Eventually I remembered that while Robbi might be faster and more dexterous on water, that I was still bigger and likely to hold my own against her on solid ground. And so I decided to attempt a landing.

It was with great trepidation that I stepped on the virgin shores, unspoiled by the white man's footfall, wondering what marvels awaited me as I explored the untouched acres.

I found myself on some outer peninsula of the island and was uncertain how to make it to the mainland.

Eventually I found a path, treacherous, but navigable.

I explored the indigenous flora.

And found surprisingly little in terms of fauna.

Within 15 minutes, we considered the island officially "conquered."

There were no peoples to subdue, no minerals to extract, no acres to ruin with agriculture, not even room enough to build a mini-mart. And so we left, disgusted.

And headed back to the dock for a swim.

It seemed like an excellent opportunity to practice my jumping.

At first I was tentative.

Then slightly less tentative.

Then really not very tentative.

Then, frankly, downright untentative.

It was the best jump of my life. I may never jump again.

Later that night, back at the cottage, we played Rummicub with Mimi and her friend Carol.

I wish I could say that the cottage was as warm and cozy-looking as it appears in these pictures. It is warm and cozy, don't get me wrong, but the camera was doing something unreal with the light in these.

I don't know if you've every played Rummicub, but it is a lot like gin rummy, but with tiles instead of cards. Success in the game is entirely dependent on being good with numbers and recognizing patterns, etc., things that do not come naturally to me or Robbi. Mimi was being very patient and helpful, though, pointing out moves we were neglecting to make, thus keeping us from losing horribly each hand. In fact, Robbi was doing very well and was in a position to win the whole shebang. Until I got a really good hand and sent her packing (with lots of help from Mimi, I must admit).

I don't think Iggy appreciated having her picture taken a few minutes later as we went walking in the dark along the road outside the cottage. She was so thoroughly blinded by the flash that she ran into things for a few minutes. I felt bad.

The next morning we went hiking up to Jabe's Pond, a hike that Robbi remembers from childhood Augusts at the local YMCA camp. Apparently, the Jabe's Pond hike was the hike of choice for the "woozles," the particular level of the YMCA camp hierarchy that Robbi inhabited during the summers in question. She had graduated from "wee-woozles" but had not yet attained the rank of "chippy." She is still brimming with woozle pride, apparently, and even sang the woozle song for me.

We encountered impressive fungi.

And a large rock.

Two years ago, when Iggy was just a pup, she had been unwilling to try scaling the same rock.

Eventually we made it to the lake.

But the lake was not the point. The point was the day, the blue sky, the clear light, the perfect temperature. I enjoy living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, but my heart is in the northeast, and the day affirmed this.

The next day, we drove to Williamstown.

On the way, we stopped by the roadside for apples.

Robbi enjoys untraditional routes to obtaining produce (picking, buying from roadside, etc, and one of my duties as husband is remembering this).

We purposefully took back roads so that we could drive through Hoosac Falls, NY, the town where we'd love to live someday, in part because of this great big building, which has been for sale for years.

Our plan is to start a school with our friends as teachers and administrators. So far we have the following subjects covered: theatre, writing, art, music, math, history, psychology, religion, and probably some others. And we have a great head of school in Dahna Goldstein. And the school would have lots of brilliant attorneys, so we'd be fine when we got sued for not doing enough to prep our students for the SAT.

So if you like this idea and you'd like to get the ball rolling, please buy us the building and we'll get started.

We also drove by this patch of road to wistfully remember the day I hit a telephone, a possum, and got a flat tire in the course of five minutes.

The unexpected twist: I got the flat tire before I hit the telephone and the possum. I kid you not.

In Williamstown, we stopped at Water Street Books, to talk about doing a reading in January, when we'll be in town to teach our Winter Study Course.

We were very honored and gratified to see For the Love of God book shelved next to Love and Hydrogen, a book by Jim Shepard, our personal hero and mentor. It's kind of like a minor misshapen asteroid being shelved next to the sun.

Here is Jim, in a recent photograph.

Jim has just released a new book of stories called Like You'd Understand, Anyway. I encourage you to buy it and read it. For those of you who are more moved by New York Times reviews than by my recommendation, the folks at the Times liked it quite a bit.

We were in Williamstown not to admire the shelving of our books, but to see a performance of a traditional Japanese artform, part of a national tour of one of Japan's living national treasures organized by Maiko. But the performance was really interesting and wonderful and deserves its own entry. Which will be forthcoming.

That night we drove home to Chestertown. For those of you who have not had the pleasure, this is what the Delaware Memorial Bridge looks like at 3:00am.


Posted by bogenamp at 01:17 PM