November 13, 2006


I am not a good speller. I am a terrible speller. In spite of being a person who writes a lot and even edits occasionally, I can't seem to remember how to build words out of letters in a manner that agrees with the prevailing dictionaries. Usually the spell-checking software in my word processing program usually masks this shortcoming, but the blogging software we use offers no such safety net. And so I am at the mercy of my own worst tendencies.

The other day Robbi was reading a recently posted entry and made some comment about my terrible spelling. She was shocked at my consistent butchering of commonplace words. "Were you really tired when you wrote this?" she asked. She was trying to be nice. We had a conversation and I admitted my solid lack of spelling chops. She smiled to herself and admitted that she took a certain glee in knowing of my deficiency. In our creative partnership, I am the word guy. She is an excellent speller. It pleased her to know that she has a leg up on me, word-wise, in this important way.

It would be as if I suddenly discovered that I could draw amazing caricatures, not one of Robbi's strengths.

Alas, I cannot even draw a plausible box.

I have been told that spelling is not linked to intelligence. And I cling to this theory, purposefully not seeking research that might prove otherwise. But sometimes I wonder...

This is all to say that I apologize in advance for the many errors that might plague these entries. If you, like Robbi, take a certain pleasure in knowing my achilles, I harbor not ill feelings. It is very late, after all. Perhaps that's it.

Posted by bogenamp at 03:30 AM

May 30, 2006

Regaining Momentum

Our apologies to you faithful readers. The Barnstorming has been a dull place of late. After the blistering progress of April, May has been a snoozer. We went back across the Bay this past weekend, to stare longingly, once again, at the unfinished walls of our unfinished home.

To our delight, we learned that our carpenter, one Michael VanSant (photo to come), is ready to begin construction this coming weekend. He just started a new job in which he is responsible for monitoring and maintenance of a machine that date stamps eggs. Soon all eggs will have a "born on" date, apparently. His hours are long, but he has Friday-Sunday off. And so the really gratifying part of the Barnstorming is about to begin. Tune in this time next week to see some walls, door frames, etc.

Posted by bogenamp at 09:40 AM

April 30, 2006


We drove over to Chestertown Friday night just in time to catch Metropolitan at the college. It's a movie about the New York deb scene that I first saw back in high school. I remember loving it then, mostly for the dialogue and the characters. Seeing it again I realized how many jokes I must have missed the first time around. I didn't know then about Brook Farm or the Hamptons or what a debutante even was. I was just fascinated at the idea of people not much older than me sitting around in tuxedos talking like that. The director was there, and we talked to him afterward. He seemed like a nice guy. He spoke a bit about making the film on a tight budget, and concieving of the project at every stage in terms of the limitations of production. They had no crane for fancy camera movement. They had simple cameras. Unknown actors. Little experience. I think that much of the movie's charm comes from these limitations. It is quiet and naive but also successful in setting a tone and painting some wonderful characters.

We hadn't had time for dinner before the movie. Back at the house after, Seiko made us cold noodles with nori and memmi. Then Robbi and I took a walk by the water. There has been recent construction in the park where we like to walk at night. Huge piles of dirt and a new bulkhead and we worried that they were going to build more houses. To our relief, they now seem to be putting the walking path back in. New houses would ruin what is best about the park: the quiet, the dark, the ability to sit on the benches there and listen to the water lapping against the bulkhead, the ropes on the boats slapping against the masts, the metal rings of the rigging singing as they collide, the barely perceptible sound of cars sliding across the Chester River Bridge a half mile away. The park is our back yard, just a few blocks from the barn, and we have it to ourselves every night. We sit on a bench and Iggy races around like mad, sniffing in the cattails by the water's edge.

Posted by bogenamp at 09:05 AM | Comments (1)

April 23, 2006

Sunday Night

I'll keep this short, because the good stuff is below. The final push took some doing (and some frantic machinations while Bob and Robbi were taking naps on Saturday afternoon). Bob, in all his wisdom, is somewhat plodding when it comes to making decisions, espeically about the fate of ancient treasures. And I can sympathize with agonizing over whether to send an old tire rim to the dump or to the auction after having given it shelter for the better part of three decades. I sympathize because I have the same problem when it comes to things.

We noticed this weekend that the space seemed smaller when empty. Somehow the clutter had created a sense of endless expanse. Pacing out the dimensions of my new home, I realized that we would have to get rid of more pieces of furniture than we had originally imagined. And of more of the "things" that fill in the spaces.

In recent weeks I have been making bold proclamations to Robbi about how I am going to "throw it all away" when the time comes to move. Those who know me well (my poor father has had to suffer storing the boxes of childhood legos, playmobil, and star wars figurines I have been unwilling to part with all these years) will be surprised by this attitude. Has he turned a new leaf, they might be asking? Alas, I know that when the time comes to make the hard decisions about my lifetime of accumulated belongings, I will break down in sheer panic at the idea of parting with a single treasure. All of them are tied to memories. I'm so bad at remembering, I need these physical anchors.

But the limits of space will impose a discipline. I'll just need to take a nap one afternoon and have Robbi and Bob make the hard decisions for me. I'll wake up in the aftermath and look at my newly pruned existence. It's a liberating thought.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:49 PM

April 16, 2006

We Have a Winner

Sorry all. You can put away your copies of Audubon. The mystery has been solved. Our pal Christian actually knew that this strange green creature was none other than the mysterious Luna Moth, but consulted Google to be sure.

Though common along the Eastern seaboard, Luna Moths are rarely seen due to their nocturnal tendencies. The one we saw was obviously confused. Also, they only live about a week as adults. Perhaps we were bothering the poor fellow in his death throes.

If you see Christian, be sure to treat him with the reverence and respect of which he has just proven himself most worthy. And see if he'll give you his prize sub. He claims to be uninterested in eating at any restaurant frequented by Luna Moths.

Posted by bogenamp at 08:16 AM | Comments (1)

April 13, 2006

Bee Babies

Tonight we arrived in Chestertown and sat at the kitchen table with Bob and Sekio as they were finishing dinner. Bob shared his cake, the gift of one of Seiko's longtime Ikebana classmates, and we ate it and drank tea while Seiko told us the story of eating "bee babies" while growing up in Japan after the war.

Bob and Seiko's friend Heidi, with whom we had dinner two weeks ago, makes custom art clothing. High end hand-made garments, often in silk. One of her customers was unable to wear silk, apparently, being allergic not to the silk itself but to a starch secreted by the silkworm in producing the filament. The customer also spoke of an aversion to the smell of silk.

As Heidi was relaying the story of her customer, Seiko was reminded of the smell from her youth, the oily sour smell of silkworms.

There is a Japanese delicacy (the name of which I cannot now remember, but the literal translation of which is "bee babies") that consists of sauteed bee larve. Prepared, they are crunchy and served hot. Once when Bob and Seiko were traveling in Japan as adults and arrived unexpected at an inn in some town, they were served bee babies as a special acknowledgment of their honorable visitor status. Eating the bee babies then, and enjoying them, Seiko realized that she had been misled in youth.

Her grandmother had served bee babies regularly when Seiko was a child. Knowing them to be a delicacy, Seiko tolerated them, in spite of their bad smell and unpleasant texture. In addition to being a special treat, she was told, they were good for her health, an important source of protein when meat was scarce.

What Seiko's grandmother had called bee babies were, in fact, dead silkworms, soaked and reconstituted, treated with soy sauce and sake, and sauteed with ginger to mask the pungent smell. The silkworms were found at the core of every cocoon unwound carefully to extract the precious thread sold for extra money or used to make garments. They tasted terrible but they did represent an important source nourishment. Calling them bee babies was a way of putting a positive face on an unavoidable circumstance, and a means of inducing willful children to do what was the best for themselves in a difficult time.

I have heard so many wonderful stories from Bob and Seiko both over the years. It's time to start writing them down.

Posted by bogenamp at 09:58 PM | Comments (1)

April 12, 2006


We've talked about the "where" and "what" with allusions to the "how" and "with whom." But we haven't really gotten to the essence of why we are storming this barn. And so I'll do my best to explain. Briefly. I notice that my entries are somewhat long-winded. And lacking photos. I need to get Robbi to show me how to add the photos.

We are moving to Chestertown because:

-we want Robbi to have the time to establish herself as an illustrator
-we want me to have time to write stories and, eventually, to get into an MFA program
-we want to have time to produce books together
-we want to have time to read all of the back issues of McSweeny's, Believer, and The New Yorker that are waiting on our shelves. And time for other reading: books and blogs
-we want to help Bob and Seiko with things, to make their lives easer
-we want to live closer to Bob and Seiko because it sounds like a nice way to live
-we want to have time to write letters again (I must write to my grandparents, for example)
-we want to get out of the city
-we want to be able to go to Alaska together in the summers and to the Flower Show together in March
-we want to be less stressed out all the time
-we want to be less tired all the time

There are other reasons, of course. There are thousands of reasons why this is the right thing for us to do. But perhaps these are the main ones. Robbi, am I missing anything?

Posted by bogenamp at 08:11 PM | Comments (2)


It has been gratifying in recent days to learn of the expanding readership of theBarnstorming. We are pleased that others are interested in this project of ours and that some have even taken the time to "comment." Not wanting to take for granted the technological savvy of our readers, I will take a moment to note that anyone who feels compelled to respond to an entry may do so by clicking on "comments," which is in grey just below, with the number of said "comments" in parentheses just after. We received three such comments yesterday:

Steve was apoplectic at the thought of us resorting to the drop ceiling option. How would we have known of his earnest feelings had he not written a comment? Katrinka wanted to let me know that "someone is reading," and from this comment I was filled with a great, sweeping joy. Ming ranted on about nothing and everything. This was also welcome! Join the conversation and tell us what you really think. We're ready for your best shot.

Mean comments about our dog, while permissible, will be viewed as a sign of bad breeding.

Posted by bogenamp at 08:18 AM | Comments (5)

April 10, 2006


Regarding Robbi's otherwise excellent entry below, I think it worth noting that Smelly (whoever that is) actually scored 119 in contributing to the depantsing of the lawyers. I have a deep reverence for detail.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:27 PM

April 09, 2006


We're back home after two days in Chestertown. The dog is pleased to be back in her space after having spent several nights consigned to her cage, and we are happy to be back in our own beds again. Tonight we celebrated Christian's birthday with Baja Fresh and bowling. Dahna, Robbi, and I formed one team and Christian, Emily, and Sarah the other. It was lawyers v. non-lawyers and I am happy to say that the non-lawyers edged the esquires in the first game and creamed them in the second. I think Christian had a good birthday anyway.

As for things barn-related, we made progress on several fronts this weekend. Bob and I finished pugging most of the clay. There are still 10 or so bags of a reddish clay that Seiko uses very occasionally and about 20 of the brown clay mixed with sand that she uses for sculptural pieces that require more structure. Robbi kept up the good work upstairs while we pugged, clearing out the formerly impassable central space, opening up an artery for the light to pour in. We got a glimpse of how nice the space will look when it's finally clear of debris. Bob and I loaded much of the large furniture into the van to take to the auction at Crumpton this coming week: a fairly nice roll top desk, a few old dressers, a very dusty upholstered chair, a child's desk, an decrepit foosball table. I carried a bunch of old mattresses and bed components down and Bob will haul them to the dump this week. There are one or two more loads to go to auction or the dump, but we're getting to the point at which much of what remains must be saved and artfully relocated. Piles of lumber, buckets of old piping and PVC, bags for Florabana, rolls of paper, flashing, old doors, and many other usable components.

We found a long piece of framed glass with an etched design that Bob had had made for the Imperial Hotel when they owned it. We'd like to find a way to use it in the new construction. We also dug from the pile the windows that we hope to install between our two offices once they are built.

We are coming to peace with the thought that we might need to resort to installing a drop ceiling as a means of economically finishing our space. Not only would it be less expensive and far less difficult to install than sheetrock, but we would also have much less space to heat and cool. Economically speaking, the drop ceiling option might leave us the opportunity to insulate the walls and create a space that is usable year round instead of only in the temperate months. Also, we could install much more insulation above the drop ceiling than we could between the roof and the sheetrock, furthering our savings on heating and cooling. We would lose much of what is barn-like about the space by covering the beams and the lofted space, but we might need to make that sacrifice for the sake of usability and comfort. When we make our millions we'll be able to tear out the drop ceiling and do things right. For now, however, we'll be able to have a very nice space in which to execute these plans of ours.

Next weekend is Easter and a three-day weekend. We should be able to get a lot done.

I'm sure Robbi will post pictures of the progress. One still has to look closely to see what has changed. At a glance, the jumble remains. But the jumble is much diminished. And we are getting much closer to carving out our new home.

Posted by bogenamp at 09:37 PM

April 07, 2006


Midday now, and hours still until we are to arrive on the far side of the Bay. The day could be worse. There is a wrinkle that must be smoothed in one of my projects, but it will be smoothed and the river will continue to flow, as it will when I am on the other side of the Bay full time. I have little to say but wanted to post. Posting here feels like taking a small step toward a large step. There is so much to do in the next five months. 5 major projects at work, selling the house, building our new space in the barn. And a thousand smaller milestones along the way. One small step today, an articulation of yearning, seems to help. It is a conversation, this movement across the waters. Robbi, you're it.

Posted by bogenamp at 12:41 PM

April 06, 2006

Anticipating Tomorrow

I'm lying here in bed as the hour approaches 11:00, which experience suggests is the best time for going to sleep if I am to feel in any way prepared to face the day tomorrow. It is unlikely that I will make the deadline, given that it seems to take a full hour, once the intention of moving toward bedtime has been announced, for the delicate unwinding of the day to yield to the actual act of sleeping. There are teeth to brush and the dog to let out for a final pee. Robbi must be persuaded to abandon whatever enterprise she has devoted herself to and join me in the bed. I must record my final thoughts, fold up my computer. We must each recount and record our five favorite things of the day in the small red book that sits by Robbi's bedside. I have once or twice been forced, by necessity, to record our favorite things, but there is no jury who would agree that my handwriting even approximates legible, while hers is so fine and precise as to approximate type. I have to move the pillows and blankets just so, and adjust the cats, and put in my earplugs, and have a final drink of water. And so on. Before I can finally drift off to sleep. For a while. And then I'll have to pee. And then the dog will have to pee. And then I'll need a drink of water. And so then I'll have to pee again. It is a restless existence, being me.

Eventually the morning comes. When morning comes tomorrow, I will be glad, for tomorrow, at the very end of tomorrow, we are heading to Chestertown for our second weekend of barn cleaning. We made great strides last weekend, removing large gratifying quantities of materials from our soon-to-be living space: packing popcorn, cardboard boxes, piles of wooden shutters. We're getting to the nitty gritty now, where ancient belongings will have to be judged as treasure or junk and piles will have to be made to determine what heads to auction, storage, or dumpster.

And then there is the pugging, part two. Perhaps Robbi will post some pictures of last week's activities. Bob and I got approximately halfway through our project of reviving thousands of pounds of desiccated clay remainders, the sad chaff of Seiko's amazing work. This weekend we'll tackle the rest. Some potters throw their extras away. Bob believes in recycling, in spite of its being a slow and thankless ordeal, because the pugging is part of the process of pottery. It's important to him. And I admire that a great deal. We had a good time, surprisingly, just going through the motions of running old clay through the mill (kind of like a sausage grinder) again and again until it came out smooth and airless (there is a vacuum involved) and ready for Seiko's masterful hands to make into something rare and wonderful.

Time for bed now. All is lost. I'll be lucky to make it by midnight at this point. But I'm banking on there being pie on Saturday night, purchased from the Mennonites in the village square as part of the Saturday morning farmers' market. I'm moving to a place with a village square and a Saturday morning farmers' market. Can you hear the glee? I am smiling a mile wide.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:34 PM

Setting out

At long last I am free to comment on our brand new life. The new blog is launched and, for now, at least, it has no audience but Robbi and me. It is a tricky business, trying to document your life while needing also to keep essential details from public consumption. I suppose that's why diaries have traditionally come with a built in lock and key. One's private thoughts are often best left private. It is an odd phenomenon, this blogging impulse. Can one really express oneself with candor and precision when anyone might be listening? Perhaps the bloggers have no secrets, or no shame. Or perhaps they have wild, exhibitionist tendencies that must be aired in order to access their daily dose of satisfaction. To those of you who read hoping for pure, unfiltered access to my darkest nooks, I am sorry to have to disappoint. You wouldn't want a look inside, and I am unprepared to give you one. But I intend to chronicle the public face of the coming Eastward migration.

Posted by bogenamp at 04:04 PM | Comments (1)