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November 28, 2007

Idiots'Fest 2008: Subscribers that Rock

On our recent drive to Georgia to see my brother graduate from boot camp, Robbi and I started planning a small dinner party for a group of friends in Chestertown. Three hours later we had laid the groundwork for a full-blown gathering of writers, musicians, and friends. The idea was that the performers would all be drawn from the Idiots'Books subscribership and that the entire subscribership would be invited to spectate. We have been planning and scheming for a few weeks now, and the general outline of the weekend is set. It is our great pleasure to announce that the first annual Idiots'Books literature and music festival, Idiots'Fest 2008: Subscribers that Rock, is in the offing.


Although the majority of the festival will take place on Saturday, February 16, we're going to kick things off the night before at the Rose O'Neill Literary House at Washington College here in Chestertown.

Robbi and I are going to do a reading/slideshow from a couple of our books while two musician friends, Brian Slattery and Drew Bunting, provide underscoring in the vein of old school filmstrips. We intend not to practice but to try it and just see what happens.

Afterward, Brian and Drew will perform an acoustic set, the two playing some combination of guitar, banjo, fiddle, and mandolin, and both of them singing. It is possible that I might join them on harmonica for a song or two. There will likely be folk, blues, bluegrass, old-time, and possibly some speed-metal to be heard.

For those that do not know, here are Brian and Drew.

Brian Francis Slattery

Brian is an incredibly versatile (and badass) musician who specializes in clawhammer banjo and old-time fiddle and who can credibly navigate the guitar, mandolin, and a few other instruments, from what I understand. Here is an awesome depressing song that Brian recorded with a group of friends. Brian is the one singing and playing the banjo. If you aren't tempted to do yourself in after hearing the song, you probably weren't listening closely enough.

Michael Andrew Bunting

Perhaps no one more seamlessly integrates punk rock and the life of the cloth than our friend Drew Bunting, musician and Episcopal priest. I wish I had a link to some of Drew's songs so that I wouldn't just have to tell you what a gifted songwriter, musician, and singer he is. From being the most beloved musician in our college class, to fronting bands that range from old-time to punk to gospel, Drew has rocked the music scene in every town in which he has lived. He has released two albums (Treat Your Buggy Well and I Want to Believe) and is currently working on a third. It is Drew's general preference only to be pictured standing behind rowdy children.

Drew, Brian, another friend Ilya Garger, and I formed the core of an old time band called The Motherpluckers during our Williams years. We used to perform in party dresses, big hats, and shit-kicking boots. Do I need to say more?

Hearing Drew and Brian play together is a rare opportunity. I know you won't miss it.

On Saturday, things will move to Bookplate, a used bookstore on Cross Street in Chestertown run by our friends Tom Martin and Sarah Myers. We have done several readings there over the past year and all of the Idiots'Books are for sale there. And they have a huge empty back room that we are going to fill up with you all on Saturday, February 16.

My friend and stand-up comedian Victor Wishna will kick things off mid-afternoon. I have it on good authority that Victor is "the third-funniest Jewish comedian in New York."

Victor gave the main toast at Robbi's and my wedding, and he used the opportunity to expose my many weaknesses, character flaws, and embarrassing moments. Those attending Subscribers that Rock can reasonably assume that I will be publicly depantsed again. If you think you might enjoy this sort of thing, by all means add it to the list of reasons to attend the festival.

(It is worth noting that I have never in my entire life seen Victor look as serious as he does in the photo above. He is, in fact, a friendly, gentle guy.)

ADDENDUM: This just in from Victor, anxious to shed his "stern guy" image. Here he is in the midst of telling a hilarious joke. If you could see the audience, you would note how rapt and delighted they were at this moment.

After Victor does his thing, Robbi and I will do another Idiots'Books slide show/reading, premiering at least one new book in the process. Provided the experiment from the evening before has not gone horribly wrong, Brian and Drew will add music.

Next up will be Brian Slattery once again, this time in the guise of writer. This past August, Brian released his first novel, Spaceman Blues: A Love Song. Click here to read a bit about the book and peruse some of the incredibly positive reviews.

Here's the catch: Rather than merely "read" from his book, Brian will be singing from it while being accompanied by a slate of musician friends (all subscribers, I assure you).

They are:

Brian Wecht on sax and keyboards. Brian is a college classmate. We have recently decided to become best friends.

Rich Flynn on bass. Rich is awesome. He is so awesome.

Aidan Shepard on drums. I knew Aidan when I lived in Williamstown and he was not yet the accomplished percussionist he has become. He is a mysterious fellow, powerful, terrifying.

This photo really says it all.

Drew Bunting will join the fun on guitar and/or mandolin. Here's another look at Drew, sans child. See how unhappy he looks?

And, potentially, I could play harmonica. We'll see.

In case you're worried, Brian has done this sort of thing before, and that time, at least, it worked pretty well. Click here to listen to some cuts from his reading at Barbes up in Brooklyn a few months ago. It's really something to behold.

After a short break, the aforementioned Brian Wecht, a fellow who has been studying mathematics and physics basically nonstop since the day he was born, will give a short, riveting lecture on an esoteric topic that will probably make your brain ache. From what I hear, he will be accompanied by musicians. I can provide no further details at this time.

After Brian W's lecture, our featured guest, novelist, short-story writer, essayist, and film critic Jim Shepard, will be doing a reading.

Jim has been my literary mentor since college, and is one of the greatest teachers I've ever had. He is a finalist for this year's National Book Award for fiction for his story collection Like You'd Understand, Anyway, and we are deeply honored that he has agreed to join us.

You may read the New York Times review of Like You'd Understand, Anyway -- by none other than Lemony Snicket -- here.

You may peruse and purchase Jim's six novels and three story collections here.

You can read a nice interview on the topic of Jim's latest novel, Project X, here.

After Jim's reading, Brian Slattery, Jim, and Victor Wishna (who has released a book of interviews with the greatest American playwrights) will be on hand to sign their books and make pleasant small talk while we set up dinner. Although the plan is still a bit hazy, we plan to serve barbeque and appropriate side dishes in vast quantities. The food will be available for a small donation.

Around 7:00, or whenever we get done eating, Drew will gather the musicians for a full-blown concert. In addition to playing a hearty stable of original tunes, Drew is likely to dabble in far-flung and unexpected corners of the musical universe.

There are likely to be contests and prizes. It is even possible that Drew and the others will perform Free Bird. I cannot say.

Eventually, we will all go home, but there's no predicting when this will be. All that can be said for certain at this point is that this is going to rock. And that you are all invited.

We're hoping that you are taking out your pen right now and circling February 15 and 16th on your calendar.

Posted by bogenamp at 09:46 PM

November 27, 2007


I spent the first part of last week in Baltimore. While I was gone, Robbi busied herself with a secret project meant to surprise me upon my return. Although she bought the fabric more than a year ago, and although it has been many a late afternoon that she has reflected wistfully on how nice it would be if she had the time to take out the Bernina, I was indeed surprised to arrive home to see our new curtains hanging in the windows.

Although the stated purpose of the curtains was to shield the neighbors from the sight of me prancing about in my unmentionables, I am delighted by the soft red light that lands upon my desk in the mornings and late afternoons.

And I like how curtains make it easier for one to see the wind.

We were recently invited to dinner at our friend Adam's house. He served us oyster stew.

And set his table with beautiful silver, including spoons that, apparently, used to belong to Oscar Wilde.

Maiko has been visiting from Vancouver.

We took a walk in the park near our house over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Last week, Maiko performed a traditional Japanese tea ceremony at the Academy Art Museum in Easton (with Seiko assisting).

Seiko, meanwhile, had a run-in with Iggy last week. While frisking together in the yard, Iggy's huge enthusiastic nose made forceful contact with Seiko's face.

This photo doesn't really do justice to her shiner. She has been telling people that she got tangled in a bar fight.

I have been making books for the next Idiots'Books mailing, which will go out in a few days. Some lucky subscribers will be receiving two books this month. In addition to Volume 11, George Washington Slept Here, those who have just renewed their subscriptions for a second year will also find Mr. Flipper Liked Cod when they open the envelope.

I made 200 copies of Mr. Flipper, a simple saddle-stitch with only one trim, while watching the Patriots hold on against the upset-minded Eagles Sunday night.

To express our profound sadness that Maiko's visit was coming to an end, we grilled salmon last night.

Our Alaskan sockeye goes well with grilled portobello mushrooms and roasted red peppers.

The weather has been rainy and bleak for the past few days. Late last night, Robbi went out for a walk by the river.

The water was high and some otherworldly sounds were emanating from this grating. Iggy was terrified but unable to resist the temptation to investigate.

She may be trying to persuade us of her courage in light of her recent expulsion from the big bed by her big brother.

Iggy and Oscar seemed to have made their peace, though at what cost to Iggy's self-esteem I cannot say.

We have, as a result, been more than usually lenient when it comes to her continual desire to lounge on the couch in the afternoon sunlight.

Sometimes Iggy is a beautiful creature, and other times she looks like a bizarre alien thing.

In parting, I must confess to using the wide angle lens to exaggerate the point of Robbi's bulge. She is, in fact, still far from house-size, though she knows it's coming.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:22 PM

November 26, 2007

Big as a House

You need not tell me that Robbi, being just past the halfway point of this pregnancy, is going to get a lot larger in months ahead. It is a medical likelihood that the 14.7 ounce fetus will grow to six, seven, eight, or even nine times its current size before emerging in grand fashion. I accept this as one accepts in a vague hypothetical way the premise that one day the mighty sun will fizzle out and leave us very cold. For just as I look into the sky each morning and see that mighty ball of burning gas, resolute and eternal, when I saw this photo of Robbi, seemingly ready to go Krakatoa, I was equally unable to accept the inevitable conclusion suggested by the evidence before me.

Robbi is going to get bigger than this? It's difficult to fathom.

Posted by bogenamp at 09:36 PM

November 23, 2007

Don Johnson Swanson

We woke early this morning and headed out to visit Robbi's OB. The occasion was her five-month ultrasound, during which we got to observe all sorts of wonderful things. For example, we got to see the feet, both of which were kicking enthusiastically. The arms also made an appearance, as did the spine. The baby was curled in a ball, apparently, so getting a good look at the face was not easy. We did get to see that the thing has lips and a tiny nose, but we were not able to determine whether the child will look like Robbi, for example, or whether its genetic roadmap will include the same rough patch of gawky mid-adolescence through which its father had to slog. In the course of thirty minutes or so, the doctor took us on a tour of every nook and cranny of young Swanson-to-be. He even showed us a cross-section of the developing brain, including the "devil's fork" that indicates strong development in the frontal lobe. We saw its tiny bladder, which was full of liquid, a sign that the fetus has been swallowing amniotic fluid, something that fetuses of 21 weeks are supposed to be doing. Its tiny liver was evident, as were all four valves of its tiny heart. We even got to see the cord of muscle that keeps one of the heart valves from opening the wrong way.

The only part of the child we did not see was the "groinal region." I had wondered if, in the heat of the moment, we would crumble and demand to know the gender of the child. But we did not. The mystery persists. The speculation continues.

The doctor took lots of pictures, but we were only given one to bring home. Here he/she is.

If you can decipher the above, you are a better interpreter of prenatal architecture than are we. The doctor did explain what was going on in this picture, but we both seem to have forgotten. I'm fairly certain that there is at least one arm pictured, and maybe two, and that the bulbous knob featured to the right of the frame is my young child's head.

Perhaps this glimpse will provide fodder for those who seem bent on naming this child. Know this: the high bid for naming rights stands at $400. And although I will not reveal what sum will make you a winner, I can say that the reserve has not yet been met.

Posted by bogenamp at 04:19 PM

November 17, 2007

My Mother-in-Law is a Rock Star

Last night we drove to the Academy Arts Museum in Easton for the shwanky "members-only" party that marked the opening of Seiko's show.

Robbi was really excited to be there.

Immediately upon arrival, we could see that Seiko has reached the big time.

The show was stunning.

The containers Seiko chose to include demonstrate the wide range of her work.

She introduced some new forms.

Some new ideas.

And some wisdom.

My favorite piece is this massive, multi-piece construction meant to suggest a cloud.

Many friends were on hand.

Including Maiko, who will be performing a tea ceremony next week at the museum.

And Rima, proud Idiots'Books subscriber.

Donald and Ann, The parents of Iggy's boyfriend Tanker were there. Donald and I practiced being wise and sophisticated, something that comes naturally to neither of us.

Robbi and Ann practiced being sexy ladies, which both of them do with a comfortable ease.

In addition to the beautiful containers, the variety of plant material was something to behold.

There was a real live banana flower, for example.

And a King Protea.

And one of those, you know, little green balls in a cluster plants. I love those.

The crowd was huge and appreciative, and Seiko was a huge star. The best part of the evening was how much fun she clearly had.

If you live within driving distance of Easton, and if you have the time, I strongly encourage you to check out the exhibition. It is beautiful and unique, just like my mother-in-law.

Posted by bogenamp at 05:38 PM

November 15, 2007

This Weekend in Easton

Something very special is happening on the Eastern Shore this weekend and will continue happening through the next three weeks. Seiko Behr, potter, Ikebana master, and my mother-in-law, is the featured artist in a one-woman show at the Academy Art Museum in Easton, MD.

Many of you have seen Seiko's pots around our house and some of you may have received them as gifts. They are wonderful, organic containers meant to serve as vessels for traditional Japanese flower arranging, or Ikebana. Seiko has, over the years, developed a wide canon of original concepts, merging beauty and function in creating containers sought after for their originality and elegance. She has emerged as one of the leading figures in the American Ikebana world.

It is your lucky opportunity, then, to have a chance to see the largest-ever exhibition of Seiko's work, for the next three weeks in Easton. The show opens to the public on Saturday, November 17th and runs through Friday the 30th. In addition, Seiko's daughter, Maiko Behr (my sister-in-law) will be conducting a formal Japanese Tea Ceremony on November 19th at 2pm (cost $5) and Seiko will be conducting a flower arranging demonstration at a luncheon on November 29 (cost $40).

If you have never seen Seiko's containers, you will be in for an enormous treat. If you have seen her containers, but have never seen them with actual Ikebana arrangements inside, you will be in for an eye-opening experience. Although Seiko's containers are inspiring in their own right, they are transformed and animated by the company of organic branch and flower material, meticulously arranged. The fusion of the two artforms is stunning. Meaning, do yourself a favor and come see it.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:56 AM

November 14, 2007

Looking for work?

Friends, it has come to my attention that one of my favorite people in Chestertown is looking for help. That's right: Adam Goodheart, Hodson Trust-Griswold Director of Washington College's own C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience (who once pretended to climb, with Robbi, from the maw of a giant inflatable vagina) is looking for a new Program Manager.

Here's what Adam has to say about the position:

"I'm looking for any fabulous young (or young at heart) person who loves history in an offbeat, not-necessarily academic way, and might like to be our new Program Manager at the Starr Center. This person would be a kind of den leader for students, doing things like leading road trips to battlefields and weird museums, taking new freshmen out for three days aboard Sultana, coming up with cool and exciting projects during the year ... as well as helping to run our lectures and other public programs. It would be an amazing job for the right person, I think. It could be a nice opportunity for someone who on the side is is writing a novel or carving little figures of George Washington or doing oral histories of old goose hunters."

The more official job posting can be found by clicking here.

And the Starr Center's Web site is here.

Let's consider a few things together. The person in this job would be:

1) working for Adam Goodheart, who is, by all observable indicators, a truly outstanding guy. Also funny and smart. And sexy.

2) conveniently close to our barn. The Starr Center is approximately 23 seconds from here, if one is moving at a full sprint.

3) helping me redeem the hefty finder's fee that Adam has promised if the eventual hire comes to him by way of this posting.

In all seriousness, this is a great job, Adam is a great guy, and the Starr Center is an amazing resource. And I really need that finder's fee.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:39 AM

November 13, 2007

Janet Jackson

Unhappy with the celebrity look-alikes turned up by Robbi's efforts of yesterday, I decided to take matters into my own hands by submitting a more representative photo.

What I learned was a bit puzzling.

Notice how there are no white males among my closest celebrity companions. From this I draw a number of potential conclusions:

1) I am utterly unique, and the universe of white male celebrities is yearning for a face like mine to join its constellation.
2) Faces like mine are not celebrity material.

I prefer to leave the question unresolved and thus preserve the possibility of a coming greatness.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:06 AM

November 12, 2007


As scheduled, my brother graduated from his Basic and Infantry training last Friday morning.

We gathered on the parade grounds, where there was a Striker with a large machine gun and tubes for firing surface-to-air missiles.

There was a Bradley Fighting Vehicle.

There was a band.

As the ceremony began, a barrage of machine gun fire was heard from the far end of the parade grounds, and then the Striker and the Bradley tore across the open space, stopped, and deposited soldiers who then proceeded to deploy canisters of purple and green smoke, behind which they crouched and pointed their guns in menacing fashion.

There were some speeches and a lot of marching.

After the graduation was official, but before the soldiers were released, my brother's platoon was called upon for one last bit of training.

And then my brother was officially a soldier.

His drill sergeant seemed unwilling to let go.

I had packed for the trip to Georgia in haste and had, consequently, forgotten to bring the shirt that actually goes with my bright orange toaster tie. Meaning, I know that this brown shirt with blue stripes is not its natural companion.

Though my new Army sweatshirt worked pretty well, I think.

And even better with my navy blue blazer.

We posed for some photos.

Robbi modeled her new shirt.

As the crowd dispersed, I caught sight of a truly remarkable jacket and asked permission to take a photo.

After the graduation, my brother had to register for Airborne, a process that took about six hours. So we wandered around the base for a while. Fort Benning has 350,000 residents and covers an enormous area. Eventually found our way to the Airborne training facility. Sometime in the next three weeks, my brother will jump out of these towers...

...and will use these ripcords to simulate the velocity, angle, and impact of landing after jumping out of a plane.

My mom and I checked out an old plane.

Eventually my brother was cleared for a three day leave.

And so we took him and his buddy, a guy from Syracuse, back to my grandparents' house in Atlanta, about three hours north. It was 6:00pm and the guys hadn't eaten since 7:00 that morning. We bought them a family pack of chicken (12 pieces, 6 biscuits, large fries, and a tub of slaw). They ate it all.

The next day was my brother's birthday.

We had a party and lots of my cousins came. Even though Don Johnson Swanson is the first child on my dad's side of the family and the first among Robbi and her siblings, my cousins on my mom's side have been more productive.

And so I got to practice my budding dad skills on various babies.

Liam and I got along fairly well.

Katjie and I hit it off famously.

Lydia (who is actually my cousin) told me all about kindergarten while playing with Iggy.

Lydia fed Iggy more treats in one day than Iggy has ever before eaten in one day. The treats were "Greenies", a treat meant to freshen a dog's breath. All the next day, Iggy's poops were deep green. And ever so fresh.

Things were going so well with the babies that I started to gain all sorts of confidence regarding my baby skills.

And then I tried to spend some time with Maddie, and I realized in a crushing moment, that I still have a lot to learn.

Maddie cried so hard that she stopped breathing in her rage and briefly turned blue. I kid you not.

Later that night my mom gifted us with our first piece of baby gear: a Becco baby carrier, a lovely, functional item recommended by our friend Marigold, mother of Huckleberry Haske. You may read about her many maternal exploits on their family blog.

Robbi tried on the Becco.

I tried on the Becco.

We are ready to do this, I tell you. Or maybe we're not. It's entirely possible.

The next morning we bid farewell to my Gram and Pop and then we headed north for home.

Instead of castles, the state of South Carolina offered us a beautiful rest stop.

On the way north, we spent a few hours in Durham, NC, where I used to live. As much as I love Chipotle, the original burrito of my heart is produced only in Durham, at the Cosmic Cantina of 9th Street. Robbi had never been. I aimed to change this.

As was my custom back in the day, I ordered the Giant Steak Burrito.

Earlier in the day, before I thought of stopping in Durham, I had resolved to start eating more sensible portions.

But faced with certain kinds of bliss, some resolutions are better forgotten.

Or at least deferred until tomorrow.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:34 PM


The rest of the weekend in Georgia was great, and I have a long post ahead of me, but since I have heaping piles of work on the immediate horizon, I will send you elsewhere for the time being--for a bit of diversion on Idiotsbox. I promise you will not be disappointed if you choose to click here.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:16 AM

November 08, 2007

Turning Blue

By way of introduction, here are my sister Lindsay and her husband Casey.

They got married in the middle of the summer, and I had not met Casey until yesterday. They made the long trip from Portland, Oregon, for the same reason we did.

To show our army pride.

Today was the "turning blue" ceremony for my brother and the other members of his battalion. During the ceremony, which happens the day before they actually graduate from basic training, the soldiers are presented with their Infantry Blue Cords, which are worn on their right shoulders and which signify that they are members of the Infantry.

The families waited with anticipation.

Suddenly, a thick blanket of smoke filled the area as Metallica's Enter Sandman began to play.

The soldiers appeared, yelling through the smoke, and arranged themselves in formation.

My brother, who was named a leader in his battalion, stood at the front of the formation.

There was a speech, and then the soldiers were given ten minutes to spend time with their families.

Here he is, PFC John Alexander Cook.

PFC John Alexander Cook giving his mother a big hug.

My sister Lindsay showing her appreciation for PFC John Alexander Cook.

Here is my brother's dad Jack attaching the Infantry Blue Cord to my brother's shoulder.

Casey, mom, my grandma, and I made up the Army pride t-shirt brigade.

My brother with a couple of his closest friends from the battalion.

After the informal family time, the soldiers got back into formation. Apparently, they had left their barracks messy, which compelled their drill sergeant to exact some last-minute punishment.

To his credit, the drill sergeant joined his men in the drill.

It was clear that my brother had made a positive impression on his two drill sergeants.

After the ceremony, I volunteered to carry my brother's pack. It weighs 40 pounds.

Robbi felt compelled to try.

It was a failed experiment.

Alex showed us some of their training facilities.

Including Eagle Tower, where they did all sorts of rope climbing and rappelling exercises.

After the Turning Blue ceremony, Alex was granted an eight hour leave. So we headed to a barbeque place to get things started in grand fashion. Casey and I got competitive about ribs.

We both rose to the occasion.

But, ultimately, I think, both of us lost.

Right across from the restaurant was a Babies R Us, not exactly Robbi's favorite store.

I have, of late, become fascinated by the abundance of baby furniture options, available in a wide array of colors and configurations.

Baby clothes are so damn cute.

I'm fairly certain I wouldn't have written that sentence six months ago.

It wasn't until much later on tonight that Robbi and I remembered that today is our four year wedding anniversary. It was my mother that reminded us. Neither of us is very good with dates.

So we took this picture to commemorate the day.

And this picture because the statue was so strange.

And this picture, because from a certain angle, this sculpture of a little girl catching raindrops on her tongue is downright terrifying.

But today belongs to PFC John Alexander Cook. We are so proud of you. Tomorrow is graduation. I hear that there is going to be a tank.

Posted by bogenamp at 09:54 PM

November 07, 2007


Apparently, castles are big in South Carolina. We stopped for gas not long into our drive today and there were two castles within eyesight of the gas station/Wendy's/DQ/Stuckey's multi-purpose extravaganza at which we stopped.

Both castles, apparently, had something to do with video games.

On one hand, there was Stormin' Norman's Video Games.

And on the other, there was Castle Video Games.

The whole situation raised a host of questions. Such as: how do the folks at Norman's feel about the other, clearly superior castle? Even if Norman's game offerings were on par with, or even superior to, those of Castle Video Games, wrenching feelings of castle inferiority would haunt them, right? Norman's has no knights, for example.

Norman's has no massive wooden door.

So which came first? Did Castle Video Games invade the peaceful town, acting like the Wal-Mart of the "video game stores in castles" world, flexing it corporate muscle and shaming poor Norman's? Or did Norman's, the upstart renegade mom and pop dare to dream, taking on the comfortable fatcat Castle Video Games in a daring act of grassroots castle-based video game commerce?

We can only wonder and cheer for the little guy. But one has to ask, if there were to be an actual battle, do we think that Norman's would stand a fighting chance?

We drove on.

As we entered Georgia, we passed this gigantic peach.

Iggy took a nap in the crook of my arm.

We marveled at the web of highways.

We enjoyed the late afternoon light on the bricks.

Robbi got irritated at something she saw.

It may have been this billboard.

We left Iggy with my grandpa in Atlanta and proceeded to Columbus, where tomorrow we will see my brother for the "family day" that precedes his boot camp graduation ceremony. I have brought along my "Proud Army Brother" t-shirt for the occasion.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:09 PM

Travel Tips

We have just passed a restful but short night in the Day's Inn of Gastonia, North Carolina. We are en route to Columbus, Georgia, where, tomorrow morning, my brother will graduate from Army boot camp. The family is convening to celebrate his accomplishment and wish him well. But Columbus is far from Chestertown, and so we had to make a pit stop last night.

Right around 2:00am we pulled in. The Gastonia Days Inn had been our destination from the start, both because it was geographically situated at the approximate limits of our driving endurance and because, according to Robbi's research, it is "pet friendly." What does this mean?

1) we pay an extra $5
2) a crazy schnauzer barks like mad every time Iggy walks past the room in which it is spending the night
3) Iggy gets her own bed

Frankly, the idea of her own bed unnerved her, and she ended up sleeping on the floor.

She also had to eat her dinner (and, subsequently, her breakfast) out of a two-cup pyrex since someone forgot to pack her dog bowl.

Though any inconvenience or discomfort she might have felt on that front was surely made up for by the scalloped hand towels.

Those who do not know me will probably not be shocked to learn that, as a man who loves his comfort, I travel everywhere with four fine pillows. The scalloped hand towels were but the extra icing on my cake of luxury.

All in all, the Gastonia Days Inn was a nice place to pass the night. Keep it on the short list of places to take your dog on vacation.

And now we travel to Atlanta, to meet up with my mom and Dean and travel to Columbus with them. More stories of the main event to come.

Posted by bogenamp at 08:54 AM

November 05, 2007

Chesapeake Life, take two

Loyal readers will remember that we were mentioned in the February 2007 of Chesapeake Life magazine. An exciting proposition, to be sure, the only downside of which was the editor's fundamental misunderstanding of our core. Indeed, we were described as "children's books", which caused us to worry about the delicate young minds that might inadvertently read our books and be forever scarred.

We were much happier with our mention in the November issue of Chesapeake Life, the focus this time being on the release of St. Michaels, the Town that Somehow Fooled the British.

Here's a closer view, for anyone who might want to read it.

And here's a link for anyone who might want to buy it.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:28 PM

November 04, 2007

Baby Names

We spent yesterday afternoon in Baltimore. On the way out of town, we paused on the Chester River Bridge to take a picture of the boats assembled along the water for the yearly downrigging.

By the time we got to the Bay Bridge, the skies were blue.

There is a rather dramatic monument to George Washington in the middle of Baltimore.

We hung out at Christian and Emily's for a while. Two weeks into their marriage, they still seem to like one another. Iggy and Ruby have come to the point in their relationship where they know how to share a bed.

Later, we went to our friend Beth Duncan's house for her long-anticipated housewarming party. The party was so fun that we had no time to take pictures. So you will have to use your imagination. As we milled about, chatting and nibbling, the quesiton of baby names came up a time or two. Our friend Sara recounted the name given by a friend of hers to a snow white cat: Pile of Coke. Which led to discussion of whether "Pile of Coke Swanson" might be a good name for the yet-to-arrive child. After all, the child will be mostly white. Sara's boyfriend Nolan added "Machine Gun Boner Swanson" to the mix. And, not to be outdone, the eternally amusing Supi Loco suggested "Don Johnson Swanson."

Opinions on these options and further suggestions are welcome.

At the end of the night, we went back to Christian and Emily's to pick up Iggy. Fresh off a night on the town, they were looking awfully spiffy.

We, on the other hand, were looking rather wrinkly.

Don Johnson Swanson...it has a certain ring...

Posted by bogenamp at 12:29 PM

November 03, 2007

The Morning After

As threatened, we had a reading last night. In fact, we had three.

We arrived at Bookplate around five to see the place had turned into an Idiots' bonanza.

In addition to our usual display...

...there was a table for displaying prints from the calendar...

...and another table for displaying the prints that wouldn't fit on the first table...

...and yet another table for displaying various best-selling titles and a bowl of caramels.

Blurred for intentional artistic purposes, of course.

Bookplate proprietor and friend Tom Martin put out quite a spread of wine, cheese, and other tasty things.

In addition, he got us each a turkey dinner from the church on the corner of Cannon and Cross Streets.

It was fabulous and all homemade: turkey, stuffing, mac cheese, slaw, oyster fritters, green beans, cranberry sauce, gravy, sweet potatoes, a roll, and a slice of pound cake. Just the sort of sustenance one needs in advance of a reading.

Our good friend Sarah Myers was there, taking care of things, taking care of us.

People started to trickle in. Including our new friends Kate and Nick, two very fine people who like windmills and work at Washington College. Nick and I are scheming on how to erect a windmill in the middle of Fountain Park in the center of Chestertown. But I digress.

At five minutes to 6:00, when the reading was to begin, we began to worry. The number of customers, at four, was less than the number of Bookplate employees and Idiots, at six. Given the lack of success of our Memorial Day reading, we were not unprepared for the possibility that Tom's bountiful spread might go uneaten.

Our concerns proved premature.

By 6:10 or so, we had a full room of eager fans.

I realize that the room does not look "full" of eager fans above. This is because I took the picture above during the period of pre-6:00 worry. By 6:10, when the room was full, I was too preoccupied doing my pre-reading crunches and windsprints to take photos. But imagine all these seats full. That, my friends, was the glory of last night.

We began the reading and Tom gave a very nice introduction about the pleasures of owning an independent bookstore and the fun he has had working with us over the last year. Last night's event marked the 11 month anniversary of our first-ever public event as Idiots'Books, a signing at Bookplate last December. (The link is worth checking out, if only to see the Facial Features of French Explorers/Death of Henry cake that Tom and Sarah had made for us.)

The reading was a decidedly Eastern Shore-themed event.

Robbi read St. Michaels, the Town that Somehow Fooled the British. As you might not know, copies of this beautiful, hardcover book are available for purchase from www.idiotsbooks.com.

I read from George Washington Slept Here.

The crowd found both books quite hilarious. I will make a mental note only to read in the presence of bottles of wine in the future, and only when a lengthy reception has preceded the reading. After the reading, we mingled and signed books and felt gratified. We were ready to go home and put up our feet when Tom asked if we would do another reading. It seemed another crowd had gathered. Were we game?

We were.

Here is the second crowd gathering.

Note the woman with the lovely blue hair. She is British and bought a copy of The Town that Somehow Fooled the British for her British Mother, which is kind of like buying Facial Features of French Explorers for a French explorer. A potentially combustible situation, in both cases.

The second reading went very well. In fact, one woman in the audience stayed for the second show and laughed even louder the second time through the material. We like this woman.

After the second show, we mingled and signed and were just about to go home and put our feet up when Tom noticed that another crowd had gathered and would we do another reading?

Well, the sheer hubris associated with a second encore trumped the fatigue and we gamely returned for one more show. The woman who had sat through the first and second readings returned for a third, laughed louder yet, and even added some helpful editorial comments. After the third reading we mingled and signed and then...

Tom pulled out the coup de gras, another personalized cake.

It was delicious. We all fought over who would get to eat Washington's face.

Tom pointed out that the cakemakers had misunderstood the apostrophe in Idiots'Books and had originally made it a comma. He insisted that they move the offending piece of punctuation. Evidence of this editorial oversight is written in the icing.

Our good friend Ken Castelli was there, on a one-night visit to Chestertown from his new home on a tiny island where there are no other people. He needed a bit of urban pulse, apparently. We were happy to be able to provide it.

Thank you Tom and Sarah for giving us a place to hang our shingle, for the wonderful cake, and for your unending support. We couldn't be idiots without you.

Posted by bogenamp at 09:55 AM

November 02, 2007

One Night Only

Tonight (and only tonight) at 6:00pm at Chestertown's Bookplate, Robbi and I will be reading from Idiots'Books Volume 11, George Washington Slept Here. The occasion is the first friday of the month of November. There will be cheese and wine and crackers. There will be pre-holiday cheer. We will be, as is our custom, projecting the images while reading the text. If the crowd demands it, we will also read St. Michaels, the Town that Somehow Fooled the British as it shares Volume 11's Eastern Shore theme. If the crowd demands it, we will do a second reading at 7:00. And another and another until the crowd grows weary and stumbles home.

Here is the ad from this week's copy of the Kent County News.

Note that George Washington and his pals do have boots. Alas, the boots are black and, on the newsprint, blended into the black background, the gentle white lines that defined them "plugged" by ink spreading freely in the loose fibers of the newsprint.

Which is all the more reason to come to the reading where the boots will be seen against a white background.

We hope to see you there but acknowledge that it would have been prudent to give you a bit more notice.

I blame Robbi.

Posted by bogenamp at 12:35 PM