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December 29, 2007

Three Day Window

Two days and 1,140 miles later, we have returned to the barn. All restrooms on the return trip were up to code. Our week in Missouri/Kansas was restful and full of family fun. Some highlights follow.

The morning after the disgusting bathroom escapade, we were comforted by this enormous beacon of Jesus.

Perhaps it is some sort of water tower, or perhaps it is a covert missile silo. Or perhaps it is merely what it purports to be.

One of the major reasons for driving to Missouri is John.

John is my father. He was born and raised in Nebraska and now he lives in Missouri.

The day after we arrived at my dad's house, we drove west to Topeka, capital of Kansas, to visit various members of my dad's family, including cousins Sarah and Geoff.

And my grandma, Mary Swanson.

Back in Missouri, we baked cookies.

And ate bratwurst.

Sitting before the wholesome glow of the holiday hearth, we received our traditional Christmas eve gifts from my stepmom Judy.

My step brother-in-law King and I were given matching penguin pants.

And Robbi some pregnant lady pajamas.

The next morning, we had Christmas proper. There was a new stocking this year, presented by proud Grandpa-to-be John.

It contained a few small objects.

A rubber ducky that lets you know when the bath is too hot.

A very soft rattle shaped like Tigger from Winnie the Pooh.

And a Winnie the Pooh hat. The hat got me. It pushed me right over the edge.

To top it all off, my stepsister Gina and King gave us a Brooklyn Bridge onesie. Although you cannot see it, I was weeping hysterically as this picture was taken.

Other emotional gifts included this oversized tub of fabric softener, which pleased my stepsister Courtney to no small degree.

Later we unwrapped the mini co-sleeper, in which our child will eventually spend a great deal of its time.

Iggy was an unwilling participant in the Christmas cheer.

As the day continued, we cooked.

We tramped about in the snow.

And for some reason I shaved, a decision I have come to regret.

In her ongoing quest to better understand the Swansons and their ways, Robbi took a leading role in preparing the Yorkshire pudding this year.

She was delighted watching it bake.

We all agree that this year's pudding was the best we can remember.

Christmas at my dad's house is a festive affair, with much energy devoted to atmosphere.

Candles, for example, are everywhere.

We ate a lot and went to bed groaning.

The rest of the week comprised more eating, sleeping, tramping around in the snow, and more eating.

One day, we went over to visit our friends Ali and Matt, who have a little girl who is not only cute and well-behaved but also sweet and wise beyond her sixteen months. We practiced what scant parenting impulses we possess.

Margo was very good at pointing out all the cats in this book to Robbi.

And was a champ when it came to identifying my nose.

The night before we left to drive back home, my family threw a surprise baby shower for us. The first part of the shower included really tasty desserts from an Italian bakery.

It turned out, there were clues that should have alerted us to the fact that a shower was in the offing. For example, this tiny bottle, part of the baby-shower-themed table confetti that littered the tablecloth.

We got a lot of nice gifts, including a baby towel, some baby booties, and a baby snot remover. I was holding it together pretty well until we opened the Pooh Bear pajamas and matching cap.

Turns out I'm a sucker for little hats.

After the useful gifts, there was a second round of presents for the baby.

Including:

This plastic bag (the label reads "Baby's first toy")

And these thumbtacks.

Fun for the whole family.

Also, some mousetraps.

What better way to keep Baby's little fingers away from the family cheese?

Not pictured but also appreciated: a package of razor blades, a tube of superglue, a bottle of tabasco, and some permanent markers.

And a cigar. And some tiny baby handcuffs. Pink ones and blue ones, just to cover the bases.

The next morning we left for home.

The drive was uneventful. The lone excitement came when we were stopped for gas and some pregnant lady started cleaning our windshield.

Just past PIttsburgh, we saw the windmills.

Home again, we set up our co-sleeper just for kicks.

We read aloud from one of our new baby books on the drive home, and had baby on the mind.

After admiring our loot, we immediately put it away again, painfully aware of the cat dander falling like rain on all of baby's belongings. It is a foregone conclusion that our child will live in a dusty home. But we can at least give it a day or two of clean bedding before this happens. We owe it that much.

Tuesday night we depart for Massachusetts, where Robbi and I will be teaching a winter term course together at Williams College for the month of January. We have assembled six writers and six visual artists who will work in pairs to create work that combines both words and pictures.

Before then, though, Robbi is hoping to finish the illustrations for Volume 12, which will be a different sort of book.

Posted by bogenamp at 07:09 PM

December 22, 2007

Kind of Grody

So we've been driving across the country, and the trip has been mostly uneventful. There was a DQ stop somewhere in West Virginia.

A few hours later, well into the heart of Ohio, we pulled over for some gas and a pit stop.

We both had to go, but I let Robbi have the first crack at the restroom while I pumped the gas. She is the pregnant one, after all.

A few minutes later she reemerged with the warning that the restroom was "kind of grody." I took this into advisement as I headed there myself. The restroom was one of those exterior restrooms, often subject to less rigorous standards of cleanliness.

Armed with this knowledge and in light of Robbi's warning, I opened the door with a mixture of concern and curiosity. Yet no degree of warning could have prepared me for what lay behind the metal door.

It was, in all honesty, the most disgusting restroom I have ever seen. The sink was not attached to the wall, the toilet was akimbo and filled with foul fluid, the floor was flooded, miscellaneous pieces of discarded plastic were strewn about, and the place stunk like a sewer. As horrified as I was at the thought of actually using the restroom, I was even more afraid of refusing to use the restroom after my pregnant wife had braved its horrors with no more complaint than "it's kind of grody."

I did what had to be done and exited as quickly as possible.

Here's another angle, to give you a better sense of what I had to endure.

I returned to the car and asked Robbi how she could have possibly survived the restroom. She looked at me with something like pity, laughed, and asked if I had, perhaps, neglected to notice that there were two restrooms, one that was merely "kind of grody" and another, my restroom, that was unquestionably so.

Relieved though I was that Robbi had not taken our unborn child into that unholy chamber, I must admit I felt a little duped.

We shared a laugh, but as we drove away I could not help but wonder what diseases I might have contracted in my brief sojourn in the darkest, grodiest corner of Ohio.

We rest tonight in Terre Haute. Iggy is not happy. Apparently, we forgot to bring her food.

Posted by bogenamp at 01:45 AM

December 21, 2007

The Constigootion of Magoo

I've been mulling over whether or not to pitch Magoo to Milton Bradley or one of the other major gaming companies. But then I think of how the world would be a better place if we all just shared our belongings. In the spirit of cooperation and holiday cheer, I present to you the full Constigootion of Magoo, vetted by the members of the executive committee and available for your reading pleasure.

If you don't know what the hell I'm talking about, click here for the full story of the genesis of Magoo.

In one hour, we will be driving to Kansas City. I will sure to post the highlights of the trip. Which is to say, be prepared for a very dull post.

------

Rules of Play and Parliamentary Procedure for
MAGOO
As conceived this Sunday, the Sixteenth day of December,
Two-thousand and Seven,
The Rules Committee having convened
To ordain and establish
This Constigootion
Standardizing and specifying the Rights and Rules
for all Players of
MAGOO

ARTICLE I:
All rules of the original Mattel game known as UNO apply unless overridden by the articles and amendments contained herein. Amendments to the Constigootion shall be known collectively as the Maglossary.

ARTICLE II:
MAGOO is a gentleman's game.

ARTICLE III:
Rules of play may be amended only by a regular or an emergency session of the Rules Committee, the Rules Committee being comprised of those players in attendance. A motion to convene may be brought to the floor by any player and, once seconded, shall summon a meeting of the Rules Committee.

Any such meeting which occurs between rounds shall be known as a regular session. A regular session of the Rules Committee shall be chaired by the dealer of the previous round or, in the event that a regular session precedes the first round, by the player who owns or rents the site of play.

Any such meeting which occurs during play shall be known as an emergency session. An emergency session shall be chaired by the dealer of the round underway.

Proposed changes to the rules of play may come from any member of the Rules Committee. A rule shall be considered ratified and in full force and effect once put to a voice vote and agreed upon by more than one half of the Rules Committee. Be the committee evenly divided, ratification shall be considered to have failed.

A rule change or amendment agreed upon during an emergency session of the Rules Committee shall be considered in full force and effect immediately upon adjournment of the Rules Committee.


AMENDMENT I:
MAGOO has not ended until all but one of the players has discarded his entire hand.

AMENDMENT II:
THE MAGOO
Proposed by Matthew Swanson and ratified by the Rules Committee on December 16, 2007.

The Magoo applies to numerical cards only.

A player shall not be limited to discarding one card at a time. He may play two or more cards should they add up to the number of the last card put down by the preceding player. These two or more cards shall be themselves of the same color but need not match the color of the card in play. For instance, if a green eight is in play, the next player may put down two green fours. He may also put down a yellow two and a yellow six. He may even put down a red two, a red six, and a red zero.

A player who uses this technique to discard two cards at once shall be said to have achieved a Double Magoo. A player who uses this technique to discard three cards at once shall be said to have achieved a Triple Magoo, and so on.

Players must say aloud "Double Magoo," or "Triple Magoo," as they make their play.

AMENDMENT III:
THE THREESOME
Proposed by David Turner and ratified by the Rules Committee on December 16, 2007.

The Threesome is not restricted to numerical cards.

If a player should hold three-of-a-kind, of the same color or of different colors, he may forfeit his right to discard to the pile and opt instead to hand his three-of-a-kind to the player of his choice, even if that player is already "out" of the game.

A player who uses this technique shall be said to have achieved a Threesome.

A Threesome must be broken up and discarded during regular play or reconstituted with at least one new card before it is given to another player, thus a Threesome cannot simply be handed around intact.

AMENDMENT IV:
THE PILE-ON
Proposed by Richard Flynn and ratified by the Rules Committee on December 16, 2007.
Bracketed phrases further amended by Richard Flynn on December 18, 2007.

The rules of the Pile-On shall be invoked whenever a Draw Two or Wild Draw Four shall have been played.

Should a Draw Two be discarded, the next player shall have four options:
1. He may play another Draw Two of any color. This shall have a cumulative effect upon the subsequent player, forcing him to draw [two additional] cards.
2. He may play a Reverse of the same color, reversing the direction of play and forcing the original player of the Draw Two to draw [the indicated number of] cards himself.
3. He may play a Skip of the same color, skipping his own turn and causing the very next player at the table to draw [the indicated number of cards]. Note that a Skip works differently in the context of a Pile-On than in regular play.
4. He may play a Wild Draw Four, allowing himself to choose the color of play, and forcing the next player to draw [an additional four cards].

Should a Wild Draw Four be discarded, the next player shall have three options:
1. He may play a Reverse of the color named by the player of the Wild Draw Four, reversing the direction of play and forcing the original player of the Wild Draw Four to draw [the indicated number of] cards himself.
2. He may play a Skip of the color named by the player of the Wild Draw Four, skipping his own turn and causing the very next player at the table to [the indicated number of cards]. Note again that a Skip works differently in the context of a Pile-On than in regular play.
3. He, too, may play a Wild Draw Four, allowing himself to choose the color of play, and forcing the subsequent player to draw [four additional cards].

A Pile-On shall continue until a player has not a Draw Two, a Reverse, a Skip, nor a Wild Draw Four to discard. This player must draw cumulatively the number of cards dictated by all the Draw Twos and Wild Draw Fours in the Pile-On sequence.

AMENDMENT V:
THE SOCIAL
Proposed by Matthew Swanson, amended by Christian Vainieri and ratified by the Rules Committee on December 16, 2007.

The Social is not restricted to numerical cards.

Should four or more cards of-a-kind appear consecutively on the discard pile, no matter their color, a Social shall be said to have been achieved. A Social continues until a player wishes to discard a card that does not match the face of those in the Social. This player must declare an end to the Social and request that all the cards comprising the Social be obscured. The dealer must oblige.

A Social shall be said to have been obscured when it is removed from the pile and placed face down at a corner of the table. Subsequent socials shall be obscured in the same fashion and added to the same pile at a corner of the table. This pile must be claimed by the first player "out," forcing him back "in." He is then free to play the obscured Social pile regularly or in the form of Threesomes.

A Social having been obscured, the card that preceded the commencement of the Social becomes the active card in play, dictating both face value and color for resumption of the game.

AMENDMENT VI:
THE STRAIGHT
Proposed by Christian Vainieri and ratified by the Rules Committee on December 16, 2007.

The Straight applies to numerical cards only.

A player shall not be limited to discarding one card at a time. He may play two or more cards should they form a descending or ascending numerical straight with the card in play. Cards played in this fashion must be of the same color as the card in play. A Straight may change directions from descending to ascending within a single player's turn, thus seven, eight, seven, eight shall be considered an acceptable progression.

AMENDMENT VII:
END-OF-PLAY CONDUCT
Proposed and ratified by the Rules Committee on December 16, 2007.

Upon conclusion of play, the losing player shall display the last card discarded in his upturned palm. All players must then chant in a gentlemanly fashion: "Magoo" and "Huzzah." The number of times "Magoo" is chanted shall be equal to the number of players in the game, minus one. All but the last "Magoo" shall be interrogative in inflection, while the final "Magoo" shall be declarative. Eye contact with fellow players is desired but not required. "Huzzah" should follow immediately the declarative "Magoo" and be a general expression of merriment delivered to the room at-large rather than to a specific player.

AMENDMENT VIII:
THE FLYNN
Proposed by Christian Vainieri, David Turner, and Matthew Swanson and ratified by the Rules Committee on December 16, 2007.

A player who loses five games of MAGOO in a row shall be exempt from exclaiming "Huzzah" upon the conclusion of play.


The RULES COMMITTEE
Baltimore, Maryland,
This Sixteenth day of December,
Two-thousand and seven.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:13 AM

December 19, 2007

New Rules

It has been quite a week. Last Friday in Baltimore, there was a bowling baby shower for our friend Courtney, who is due in about two weeks.

Matt Westbrook of the democratic Westbrook family was there.

Courtney, the guest of honor was employing untraditional bowling technique.

Scott, the man responsible for her Courtney's current predicament, had an interesting shirt that seemed to be written in Martian.

But further investigation revealed the true meaning of the shirt's message.

As soon as Scott discovered what his shirt actually said, he took it off immediately. But I'm not going to show that here.

Courtney opened her presents, one of the necessary evils of baby showers.

Fortunately, there was also duckpin bowling. My team lost in the semifinals, but won the consolation game.

Later, we went over to friend Beth Duncan's house for a sleepover with Beth and Supi Loco.

We thought about doing our nails. I have for some time now been trying to persuade Beth to give me a pedicure, but for some inexplicable reason, she continues to resist. So instead we gave Supi and Beth their Christmas presents.

Those of you who don't know Supi probably aren't aware of her intense love of pirates. Hence, the pirate launcher we gave her.

She really loves Scooter, her cat, hence the crazy cat lady figurine.

Beth got the "Naked Men in Oven Mitts" refrigerator magnets, but Supi immediately snatched them away from her and demanded them for herself.

Beth finally got Supi to give the magnets back by offering this snow shovel in exchange.

The next morning, I continued my love affair with Spud.

Robbi and Beth ate oatmeal.

At one point, Iggy and Spud exchanged conspiratorial whispers.

I wonder now if whatever they discussed had something to do with Spud's new rain slicker.

Later that afternoon, our friend David arrived on the train. We picked him up and brought him to Chestertown for a short visit. On Sunday, David and I drove back to Baltimore to hang out with Christian and Rich Flynn, who is awesome.

For a long time now, my friends and I have enjoyed playing Uno. We play Uno with an uncommon passion, for uncommonly long stretches of time, and with some rather uncommon ritual components. For example, we don't play to see who wins. We play to see who loses. Getting rid of one's cards first, usually the point of Uno, bears no special distinction in our version. Nor does going out second. But going out third, providing one is playing with four persons, as was the case last Sunday, is everything. For, by finishing third, one avoids being the "Big Loser." The "Big Loser" is he who is left with cards in his hand when all of the other players are done. The "Big Loser" has to hold the losing card against his forehead and endure the utter humiliation of his "friends" pointing at him vigorously, shouting "Big Loser, Big Loser, Big Loser, Big Loser." There are exactly four utterances of the phrase, "Big Loser," no more and no less. And after the fourth "Big Loser," everyone claps for the big loser while saying "Yeah!", thus rebuilding his shattered self-confidence and preparing him to play another game. Does this sound childish? Trust me when I say that it is not. It's actually quite wonderful.

On Sunday, David was the first Big Loser of the evening.

He took it well, poor fellow.

Then Chris got unlucky, and was named Big Loser.

Then Rich was the Big Loser. Then David again. Then Rich again. Everyone was the Big Loser but me. I started gloating about my Uno prowess, confidently predicting that I would never be Big Loser.

Sometimes such hubris has a way of kicking one in the teeth.

After a while, we got adventurous, frisky even, and started proposing new rules. For example, we decided that instead of placing an 8 on an 8, one could place two 4s of the same color on the 8 instead. Or two 2s and one 4 of the same color. And so on. You get the picture. We decided to name instances of this phenomenon a "Magoo."

Why?

I cannot say. But, believe me when I tell you that we were so taken with the Magoo that we decided that it should be the namesake of a whole new game.

Further, we decided that in the game of Maggo whenever a player accumulates any three of the same kind of card, of any color, he may use one of his turns to hand the entire pile of three to any other player.

Further, if any four of the same kind of card were played in succession (regardless of color), those four cards were placed to the side, forming a pot of cards that the first player to "go out" would be forced to add to his hand.

We kept adding new rules like these, dizzying ourselves with the complexity, but driving ourselves into ever higher bands of hilarity.

I am lucky have some very good friends.

When the evening wound down and Rich was forced to drive back to New Jersey and Christian was forced to go to bed, David drafted the "Constigootion" of Magoo, which will be posted here soon, as soon as debate by the rules committee has ended. Magoo is a very nuanced game. I would hate to ruin its inevitable debut upon the world scene with less than perfect explanatory documentation.


Posted by bogenamp at 07:01 PM

December 14, 2007

Basically a Total Weenie

Yesterday we went to a party put on by Washington College's CV Starr Center (for the Study of the American Experience) and hosted by Adam Goodheart of recent oyster stew fame. The party was a jolly affair. We drank hot cider and nibbled on cheese and had animated conversations with several friends, old and new. As we were leaving, we noticed quite a ruckus on the front steps. Adam was instructing one of my fellow guests in the lost art of uncorking one's bottle of champagne using a saber.

Fascinated, I demanded an opportunity to try for myself.

So Adam removed the foil.

And demonstrated proper handling of the saber.

I assumed the position, and received my instructions. Proper technique dictates that one rub the blade edge of the saber up and down the neck of the bottle to agitate the contents and increase the pressure therein. Then, in one decisive downward thrust of the arm, the blade is driven into the lip of the bottle, causing the entire end of the bottle to dislodge itself, the cork still surrounded with a circle of glass. It is really quite dramatic. I was looking much forward to doing it myself.

And so I rubbed the blade up and down the neck of the bottle, waiting for the pressure to build. The crowd hummed with palpable excitement.

When I felt the time was right, I brought the blade down squarely on the lip of the bottle and...

...absolutely nothing happened. The blade glanced impotently off the end of the bottle and the crowd grew hushed. Undaunted, I tried again. The crowd grew excited again. I rubbed the blade up and down the neck. I waited for the moment to feel right. I brought the blade down and...

...to my horror, the blade glanced lamely off the bottle. The crowd was silent with pity.
My shame was thick and undeniable.

I tried again. This time the crowd was unwilling to place its hopes in my rapidly plummeting stock. I warmed up the bottle. I waited. I struck. I failed.

People covered their eyes and refused to acknowledge what they had just seen.

To make the humiliation complete, I tried and failed a fourth time.

I shrunk to approximately four inches high. I handed the bottle and saber over to another gentleman, who succeeded on his first try.

The crowd returned to full joviality and reveled in the spoils of my opponent's victory.

Dismally, I picked up the cork and ring of glass, a symbol of what might have been.

Adam tried to console me.

I was feeling a bit better until I learned that this young woman had also succeeded in sabering a bottle.

Apparently without even trying very hard.

My sense of self worth is at an all-time nadir. I need a good jumping competition to revitalize me. Or perhaps some duckpin bowling. This evening we head to Baltimore for the bowling baby shower of our friend Courtney, who is due in just two weeks.

There's nothing quite like bowling to restore a damaged ego.


Posted by bogenamp at 01:44 PM

December 13, 2007

In Training

We have signed up for a class to learn all about the process of bringing a child into this world. The class will be in early February, for eight consecutive hours, at the Chestertown hospital. Apparently, we will learn all sorts of useful things, which is good, because my current level of knowledge about how to bring a child into this world is very low. This much I can say: I was reading in our Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy the other day and saw the checklist of things to bring to the delivery room. I was extremely heartened to see that, along with some of the more obvious items for the expectant mother, the book suggested that one bring "snacks for your birthing partner." That's me! Snacks FOR ME. I felt very included, especially since some of the other pregnancy books we've read seem to take the attitude that the father will not care about the baby and might actually hate it. In all seriousness, these books have long sections about how the mother will have to try very hard to make the father take an interest in the child and to expect disappointment when it comes to the father's participation in the child's nurturing. Perhaps the members of my sex are more disappointing than I realize. Perhaps such incentives as "snacks for your birthing partner" are needed to make us feel invested in this whole child-rearing thing.

The child birthing classes are still a ways off, but we did have a bit of parent training last night. Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while will remember Tanker, Iggy's boyfriend from across the street.

Tanker and Iggy get along incredibly well and seem to share some secret affinity that makes their relationship truly unique.

Tanker, unfortunately, has been out of commission for the better part of a year recovering from a hip replacement surgery, probably the result of an injury sustained on this snowy romp.

He has recently recovered, however, and so the relationship has begun anew. And it has thrived! So much so that a few nights ago, Tanker's mom sheepishly asked us if Iggy might come over for a sleepover. In spite of my paternal concern (is she too young for this sort of thing? is Tanker a gentleman?), I acquiesced, and yesterday at 4:30, Ann came to fetch my Iggy away. Not fifteen minutes later we received an email indicating that Tanker and Iggy were having a heck of a good time, and just fifteen minutes ago I saw them walking by outside the window, side by side on a brisk morning walk.

It is strange not having her lying beside me, but I realize that part of my duty as her adopted father figure is preparing her for the world and knowing when the time has come to let go.

I am certain that I will be among the most enlightened (and, armed with my snacks, probably the best fed) father-to-be in those classes in February. I will do my very best not to gloat.

Posted by bogenamp at 12:30 PM

December 07, 2007

Into the Wild

On Monday we drove to Lexington, VA, to conduct a bit of business. I was required to wear my jacket.

When the business was done, we drove west along route 60/64.

About 30 miles later, we reached Douthat State Park, and made ourselves comfortable rustic cabin #6.

The cabin had many appealing features. Such as:

A big stone fireplace.

And rustic door-opening hardware worthy of a Little House on the Prairie book.

But what got us most excited were its more conventional offerings. Such as:

An actual stove top!

And and oven!

A sink with running water and drain!

Complete sets of matching cutlery!

And four matching plates, none of which was cracked!

There are probably not many visitors to the rustic cabin for whom the offerings of the efficiency kitchen represent a major step up. Suddenly our barn kitchenlessness weighed heavily upon me. But my gloom was short-lived. A hearty dinner was before us.

Though Douthat offers rustic cabins of many shapes and sizes, we chose the smallest version, in which the massive stone fireplace and bed are in the same room. This was a remarkably cozy arrangement.

The next day we set out for a short hike, a kind of warm-up for the much longer hike we would take the day after.

We climbed along the line of a ridge. It was steep, and we took frequent breaks.

We had purchased a new fanny pack/water bottle holder thing, but had neglected to remove the tiny fasteners that keep the water bottles attached to their holders before the thing is sold.

This made actually drinking the water a taxing affair.

Eventually we found ourselves high above the lake.

After we had climbed as far as we could, the path led us back down into the valley. We came to a crossroads and consulted our map.

But the signage was unhelpful.

Intuition led us around a bend and suddenly the lake was before us.

Robbi did remarkably well, considering her present imbalance.

The day was cool and clear and blue.

I show you the following photo for point of contrast with a photo you will see below. Study it well.

After our hike around the lake we returned to our rustic cabin for dinner, movies, and cards. We made another fire. A lot of it ended up in my hair.

We turned in early in anticipation of the long, steep hike we planned to take the next day. The next day we realized that a long, steep hike was probably not the best idea.

Eager not to miss out on the snow, we headed out instead for a short, flat hike around the lake.

Here is Robbi cheerfully modeling her maternity parka, the generous hand-me-down of our friends and recent parents Jose and Luciana.

Eventually we came to the beach. According to the sign, it was open.

But there seemed to be no lifeguard on duty. And a sign suggested that swimming was not to resume until Memorial Day.

Those of you who know Robbi know that she doesn't do well in the face of authority.

So I filled in as lifeguard while Robbi took a brisk swim.

And afterward could not resist the opportunity to do some jumping.

Meanwhile, Iggy amused herself on the jungle gym.

We hiked on until we reached the dam responsible for the very nice lake.

We spent some time there trying to catch snowflakes on our tongues. They were huge, clumpy snowflakes, each practically a meal in itself.

We hiked on until we reached the same tangle of root we had seen the day before.

The next morning we signed the cabin logbook...

...and headed back home.

The skies were blue once again, and the light dramatic.

On I-81 we passed a couple of WWE trucks, and Robbi got very excited imagining the trailers full of steel cages and stacks of wrestlers packed neatly in their travel crates.

We had ordered a bunch of paper and other bookmaking supplies before we left, and so many boxes were waiting at the foot of our stairs upon our return. One of them, however, was from PetEdge. It contained Iggy's Christmas present. We couldn't wait and neither could she, and so we unwrapped her brand new large-sized dog sofa.

A searing curiosity soon turned to a dedicated sloth.

The upshot of all this is that Douthat is a wonderful place to go for a weekend away from it all. They have camping sites too, but the rustic cabins are wonderful and pretty cheap, considering how nice they are. The trails are beautiful, and there is a beach and restaurant during the summer months, if you're into that sort of thing. I recommend Douthat at this time of year, when it is empty and the ground is covered with dried leaves.

Posted by bogenamp at 06:38 PM

December 02, 2007

A Novel Idea

Back in our college days, Brian Slattery, Drew Bunting, Ilya Garger and I formed the core of a on old-time jug band called The Motherpluckers. Three of the four of us are going to be featured at Idiots'Fest 2008: Subscribers that Rock, but Ilya, who lives in Bangkok is not, as the plan currently stands. Geography is his flimsy excuse.

Ilya is lobbying hard for the venue to be moved to Bangkok, which we on the planning committee have so far resisted. His most recent suggestion, which admittedly has a bit of sex appeal, is to charter a 747 for the entire subscribership, fly from Chestertown to Bangkok to pick him up, then turn around and fly back. Subscribers that Rock would then be, in Ilya's words, "a 34-hour nonstop galactic funk party." Which, you have to admit, has a nice ring to it.

If any of you are in possession of fabulous sums of disposable cash and feel giddy enough with Ilya's suggestion to support the concept of a flying festival, we are willing to approach the Chestertown town council about getting a permit to land a 747 on High Street. A few hundred thousand ought to do it. Email me here if you'd like to underwrite the plan.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:30 PM

December 01, 2007

Eve of Departure

A few years ago for Thanksgiving, Robbi surprised me with a mystery roadtrip. She rented an SUV and we headed out for points unknown. We drove west from Baltimore on 70 and then South through Harper's Ferry, eventually on down to Shenandoah Natural Park, where we ended up eating our Thanksgiving dinner at a lodge along Skyline Drive. What I remember about the meal was the delicious gravy and the four kinds of pie I had for dessert. That, and worrying throughout the meal that Iggy, who had been left in the SUV, would be frozen stiff by the time we were finished eating. It was uncommonly cold for Thanksgiving in Virginia, and we were on top of a mountain to boot. It was ten below with the wind chill at the campground where we spent the night, but Robbi had brought a lot of sleeping bags, and Iggy, who crawled under them with us, provided sufficient furnace heat to get us all through the night.

The next day we drove further south, ending up in Douthat National Park, a beautiful little piece of the world near the West Virginia line. It was somewhat warmer at Douthat, and we took some long walks in the mountains. We're headed back this weekend for another visit, though this time we intend to stay in a cabin.

All of this is to say that I am unlikely to be able to entertain you with foolish pictures for the next few days. I leave you with this one of Iggy in her sweater, which I just packed for the trip.

The point of this picture is not really the sweater. The sweater is just a contextual excuse. The point of the picture is those big doe eyes that melt my heart. I'm going to cry like a fountain when that baby shows up.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:39 PM