Saturday, March 29, 2008


The first Saturday of spring break. Many of my students probably haven't even gone to sleep yet, having stayed up playing Gears of War all night. They're already bored, I bet--they're already wishing they could be back in my class. See, kids, video-games are not the answer: they are a diversion from Truth, a living death. Hey, I just saw a woodpecker fly into a knothole in a tree outside my window. I thought that only happened in cartoons. Nature!

That's a picture of my new favorite local band, Tugboat Jack. They played a fun show at the Warbird Brewery last night full of Johnny Cash, Hank Williams Sr., and some revved-up traditional bluegrass standards. Makes me want to pick up the banjo today and put new strings on it.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

First Signs

This is the early crew heading out to cross a half mile of late winter mud to get to the Yoder sugar bush yesterday, something that is starting to be a fun, first signs of spring ritual. The people there are as sweet as the maple syrup they are boiling in the evaporator room. A lame simile, but it's true. Every year, I leave thinking "I've just got to start drilling holes in my trees to make my own syrup," and I don't even care that most of our trees are Chinese Elms. Even if the stuff tasted awful, it would still be something I made, which is basically our sole purpose on this planet: to make stuff.

Cath is carrying what may be the first Vera Bradley bag that I am willing to say, publicly, is cool. It almost has an Anthropologie feel to it. Sure, there have been patterns in the past that I have liked, but none that I was comfortable enough to admit it to outside of a close, trusted, inner-circle of friends (okay, one other I can admit to openly is the classic Blue Toile). This pattern, called "Puccini," is still a prototype, and is therefore still being tested in wind tunnels and by rooms full of violent chimpanzees, but the early results have been promising.
Last year, I swear that they made the pancakes for you, but this year you were supposed to bring your own batter for the grills. My bad. Fortunately, Wes and Sarah Jane brought enough for all. B. got to man the tractor, a highlight for him, apart from the donuts the Yoders had for the kids.
Here, I predict, is the 2008 Christmas card photo that Wes and Sarah will use. It's that good. I love the way the firewood radiates in these, like, rays like it's one of them old-timey religious icons. That's what it makes me think of, anyway.

Friday, March 07, 2008

I knew him before he was big

A big drug dealer, that is. According to the Journal-Gazette, this guy here just got caught, allegedly, in possession of over three tons of marijuana, the largest pot bust in local memory. I didn't recognize him at first because it has probably been almost twenty years since I saw him last, but he is the younger brother of a pretty good high school friend of mine. We weren't great friends, but we hung out a lot. I got mad at him once when he lost my Dead Milkmen t-shirt, and he got mad at me when one time when I made out with his high school sweet-heart, but J.R. was always cool.

Anyway, I'm sorry that J.R. and his family are experiencing this. The McChesneys are an extremely nice, bright, and upstanding bunch of people. Such a shame.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

I am so good at art.

What a beautiful snow day that was yesterday, and I would have loved it even more had I known that we do not have to make it up at the end of the year. I sat around, had some mediocre coffee that I had roasted in my basement the night before and then made a really hard test for my Comp class and then made it a lot easier. And then, like most people, wasted time on the internet. I watched the mail-man pass right by the house because I didn't shovel our front walk. And the prospect of a day with no mail bummed me out, so I drew pictures for awhile.
I don't really draw, but last weekend my friend Clare showed me these "blind contour drawings" she'd done, and it made me want to try. I'd never heard of it before, but what you do is not look at the paper as you're drawing, and you don't lift the pencil, either. You can peek to see where the pencil is, but you can't move it while you're looking. I first attempted those two heroes of modernism William Carlos Williams and Wallace Stevens. I like Carlos the best, though he looks a little like Tintin with glasses instead of Snowy the dog. Wallace Stevens is a little bit of a disappointment, but not nearly as bad as James Wright.

It's funny. I wanted the Wright one to be the best, so it's like the left side of my brain, or whichever side is the one that can't draw, tried to control things too much. Pretty scary, but that's part of what's so cool about blind contour drawing: when they turn out ugly, you can say "hey, I wasn't even looking when I drew it, so shut your face." I haven't had to say that to anyone yet, but I will if I have to.

In other disastrous news, I made the mistake of listening to Terry Gross today, who somehow managed, in the first three minutes of her interview with David Simon, producer of the incredible show The Wire, to let out at least three major spoilers about season five. We just finished watching season four last night and were planning on waiting until the DVD's came out to watch 5, but now Terri has taken much of the fun out of it. After the first two major plot things slipped out of her mouth, I started running to the radio to turn it off, but not before she told me that XXXX XX XXXXXX XX XXX XXXX [redacted]. I couldn't believe it. Thanks, Terry. I always liked Diane Rehm better, and this just confirms it.