Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Next year should prove eventful.

As for 2010, I find that it's hard to characterize a whole year based on a handful of events that just happened to occur during that time span. It might be better to reflect on the recent past in terms of personal growth or artistic accomplishments, although I think in some ways I'd consider this year a failure on that account.

I'm glad that Jeanine was a part of my year. She helps me reconnect with my playful, spontaneous side. Maybe I do the same for her. Either way you look at it, we have fun playing together.

I can't reflect on this year without mentioning my mom. It has been nearly a year now since she died. Her house has been sold, and her belongings are either with the survivors or in unknown homes. It's still strange and sad that she is gone. It was perhaps a blessing for her that she went quickly. I have at least one small additional tribute planned for her early in the upcoming year.

For now though, December is waning, and it is dark and heavily raining.

Currently listening to: Twinsistermoon "Then Fell the Ashes..."

Friday, December 24, 2010

Right now, I'm in the middle of the eye of the Christmas storm. All of the preparations are done, but the gifts are as yet undistributed. The weather is likewise in the middle of a lull, with an air of anticipation hanging over the valley. Much rain has happened, but more rain is coming.

I was raised with a secular version of Christmas. Personally, I've always been drawn more towards paganism, with the Winter Solstice having more intrinsic meaning than the christian holiday that has supplanted it. The Earth sustains us, but I guess if some people need a complex mythology to help sustain them, then that's okay too. After all, we are all made of stories. Each day adds a new page, or if you live an interesting life, a new chapter. I remember being a child and living through Decembers that seemed to last for the duration of a trilogy. Now it seems December is over and done with in a sentence or two. In the future, the month will no doubt flash by in mere words.

May you all have a wonderful holiday season, regardless of which traditions you follow, and if you must consume, do it with care.

Currently listening to: Thomas Bel "For Lorn"

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

After having to contend with a bit of cloud cover during the first few minutes of the lunar eclipse, we changed locations and got treated to an unobstructed view of the moon getting eaten by reddish shadow. We watched as the bright disc shrunk to a fingernail crescent and then to nothing, leaving behind a coppery shadow moon. The last time a total lunar eclipse occurred on the Winter Solstice, the year was 1554, a year when a great many more people no doubt viewed the gradual erasure of the moon with alarm. Come to think of it, I'm sure there are plenty of people who still get all bent out of shape about it. I base this supposition about a story I once read about how some people reacted during the 1994 earthquake in L.A. Apparently, at least some people who were awakened in the wee hours of the morning by that particular earthquake got rather scared upon exiting their homes and discovering a bunch of "new" stars in the sky. Of course, most people knew that the power outage caused by the quake made it easier to see the night sky, but a few called 911, asking the no doubt amused operators on the other end of the line if the earthquake had somehow caused the extra stars to suddenly appear. I wonder what these same people must have thought when the moon gradually turned to blood last night? We'll probably never know.

This morning, Jeanine and I got up before daybreak to watch the Solstice sunrise, but didn't hike up to our usual hilltop. We figured that, since it had been steadily raining for the last few days, the hike might leave us look like we'd been wallowing in mud. Instead, we walked out over that weird new suspension footbridge that appeared over Highway 280 sometime over the last year or two. The pigeons were still asleep on their wires, and the clouds cooperated by opening up to the east. There were just enough of them to make the sky interesting, and we stayed there together as the light washed over us, bathing us in an orange glow and finally waking up some of the nearby pigeons.

Then we had doughnuts. Welcome to Winter.

Currently listening to: B'ee "Songs to the Sun"

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Outside, the rain is pounding down so hard that earlier it sounded like there was a helicopter hovering over my home. The apartment is bathed in the glow of Christmas tree lights. For the last couple of holiday seasons, due to the fact that there isn't much space where I live, we've gotten a tiny little tree. This year, Willow and I just said to heck with it, and got a 7 foot tree. It touches the ceiling and makes it hard to get through the front door, not to mention making the patio nearly inaccessible.

It was this very inaccessibility that prevented me from going on onto the patio earlier, when I noticed a small, moist bunny squished up against the glass of the sliding door, perched on a pile of wet cardboard. The poor thing looked miserable, and to make matters worse, I didn't have anything on hand that a rabbit might eat. I decided to go grocery shopping, making sure to buy some rabbit munchies while doing so. Of course, when I got home, the rabbit was gone. Later, I told the property manager about it (actually, this isn't the first time I've seen this rabbit, and there is another one about somewhere too) and she had the idea to call another tenant, one who works at a veterinarian's office. The tenant, in due course, showed up at my door with a small pet carrier and a blanket. With a little effort, I managed to squeeze past my tree and out onto the patio, but the rabbit wasn't hiding there anywhere. Fortunately, where he was hiding was out front, over by a neighbor's walkway. We came at the little critter from both sides, and soon I was holding a very fluffy, but very wet, little bunny in my hands. An Angora rabbit, I think. The woman gently put it in the carrier and went home with it, saying that it would be easy to adopt it out. It's a good thing she has connections with the rabbit rescue people.

That's at least one rabbit who won't be dying of exposure this holiday season. I'm not sure if it's an escapee or if it was abandoned by its owners, but either way, there was a lack of responsibility involved. Domestic pets often either die in the wild or cause other animals to do so.

Friday, December 17, 2010

My first day of vacation coincided with the onset of a cold. My throat was sore this morning, but that has now morphed into a runny nose and general malaise. Because of this, I've spent the afternoon drinking tea and reading, which is something I often do anyway. I just do it less guiltily when I'm sick. Illness: the new cure for guilt.

Last night, I felt fine. Jeanine and I went and saw Om in San Francisco. On the way there, I discovered that the miles of brake lights winding through the hills of highway 280 look like a lava flow if you squint your eyes just right. It pays to be easily amused.

Our new tradition of being on top of a certain nearby hill on Solstice morning might be thwarted by rain next week. Perhaps we'll still do the doughnut shop part of the ritual though.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I was shuffling through multicolored drifts of moist Autumn leaves and thinking about dog crap when all of a sudden a large, gray rabbit popped up in front of me. It hurriedly hopped away and attempted to hide under a dumpster. I didn't even try to catch it. I'd tried that yesterday when there were two of them, and they laughed little rabbity laughs at my attempts. Somebody nearby should have done a better job of securing their hutch.

As for my thoughts of dog crap, I often ponder it when I'm walking near my place, mostly because the parking strip is mined with little brown gobs of it, nicely hidden by the aforementioned Autumn leaves. The parking strip is the last pit stop before their owners drag them over to the nearby dog park. I just know that any dog crap in the park itself is quickly scooped up, mostly because other people are watching. People like to appear to be responsible citizens when fellow citizens are nearby. This reminds me of a woman we saw inside Color Me Mine (a paint-it-yourself ceramics place) yesterday. One of her small children dropped an unpainted ornament, breaking it. She mildly scolded them and was heard shushing them when they talked about it later. I gave her the benefit of the doubt, but was almost certain she was going to sneak out without saying anything. Sure enough, she did. It gave me great pleasure to tattle on her. After all, she'll have to come back to get her ceramic pieces after they've been glazed. I'm not sure if the employees will confront her with the broken merchandise, but I fantasize that they will.

Why do I care? I don't want dog crap on my shoes, and as for the woman, I really hate it when parents do this kind of thing in front of their children. Her kids are well on their way towards learning that personal responsibility is for suckers, and that things only matter if other people see you doing them. I don't want to live in a world populated with people like that. If I had been absolutely certain she hadn't said something about the incident before leaving, I would have confronted her on it then and there. Now I'm wishing I had.

Behind most messed up children are equally messed up parents. It's another one of those self perpetuating cycles.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I'm sitting in my office chair at camp, with the heater vent rattling away on the ceiling above me. For some reason, I've been feeling the need to go back and read earlier blog entries, and have even gone so far as to pull out my old paper journal (you know, the stuff people used to write on before we all started being born with laptops grafted to our fingers). The paper journal contains a lot of relatively bad writing - I always figured that since I was the only one who would ever read it, I could be lazy and cut corners where style was concerned. It's also much more private and personal than anything I've written here. As for the early blog posts, I find that I like them more than the recent ones. Maybe rereading them will re-inspire me. I sure hope so, because I've felt quite uninspired lately, perhaps because I feel like I've written it all before, or perhaps because I've become dangerously used to spending too much time consuming what others have created rather than creating on my own.

As for now, I'm sitting in the middle of a camp of sleeping children. As usual, a lot of them arrived at camp on Monday with inadequate supplies. A case in point would be the girls with blankets that one of my coworkers described as "thin as towels". Uh, it's COLD at night here. You'd think that parents would send their kids to camp with what they need. I know that some families can't afford a lot, but I find it hard to believe that a home could be without at least one serviceable blanket. Good thing we have extra supplies, mostly things left behind by other kids and washed by me in the middle of the night. Right now, the dryer is spinning around with some newly washed poo clothes (that would be clothes which recently contained poo) plus a sleeping bag and pillow case which were discovered to be slathered with shampoo (again - what the heck??).

Time to do some reading now (uh, I mean consuming what others have created...), or maybe time to raid the giant box of candy that appeared on the table in the staff room. So many options.

Currently listening to: Current 93 "Faust" (remix by the wily Andrew Liles)

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Today is the day after my 43rd birthday, and I'm spending it inside with music and books. The rain promised in the forecast is finally sweeping the region, and I can see tossing trees under gray skies out the window, a sight that fills me with gladness - a kind of aesthetic joy that I've yet to successfully put into words.

Yesterday, I spent the day with Jeanine. We ended up at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, where we spent a number of hours peering in at toads and snakes, as well as taking in a planetarium show and wandering the other exhibits. I always come away for the Academy inspired in some way, usually in ways relating to my continued fascination with the diversity and beauty of life on this planet (although my idea of beauty tends towards creatures like snakes and toads).

The end of the year approaches, and I find myself reflecting on changes I want to make. I hesitate to call them "resolutions", but that's more or less what I mean. I almost feel like I've slid into a second childhood this year, at least as far as my increased concentration on entertaining myself is concerned. At least I haven't run out and purchased a Porsche. My idea of entertainment still revolves around my music obsession.

Currently listening to Chu Ishikawa "Tetsuo" soundtrack.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Jeanine has introduced me to the adventurous pastime known as Letterboxing, which could be described as the low-tech version of geocaching. Follow the link and check it out. There are all sorts of different ways to be creative with this. Both of our daughters are excited about it too, both because of the intrinsic merits of the hobby and because many of the letterboxes are hidden in parks and other fun places. For instance, the next one I plan on finding is hidden near an ice cream place.

Other than this, there really isn't a whole lot new to report. The season is slowly sliding towards Winter, with temperatures dropping and occasional rainstorms bringing much needed water to the area. I had my first tofurkey this Thanksgiving, which is funny when one considers that I've been vegetarian for over 20 years now.

I've been posting more often over at my music blog, mainly because I've been going to a lot of gigs lately. Right now, I'm disappointed that Einsturzende Neubauten, who were scheduled to play in San Francisco on my birthday, have canceled their tour due to problems with obtaining the proper visas on time. I'm still looking for something to do instead. Perhaps we'll go whale watching or something.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

All Hallows Eve has come and gone again. Dia de los Muertos is getting smaller and smaller in the rear view mirror as well. This is a holiday of memory, of remembering the dead. This year, of course, I remember my mom. I remember who she was and celebrate how she lives on in our memories and personalities. I think that, in a lot of ways, I am very much like her. How much of this is nature and how much is nurture I'm not sure. Still, I'm reminded of her somehow or other every day. Today, while chaperoning Sophie's field trip to Peralta Adobe in San Jose, I found myself asking the question, if something is not written down and is no longer remembered, is it history? I guess that is sort of like the old philosophical riddle, "if a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound?". People are still split on that one, but I fall into the camp that clings to the belief that it doesn't, since the definition of sound that I'm familiar with states that it isn't sound if there is no receptor. Food for thought, if nothing else.

Speaking of food, or candy anyway, Hallowe'en was fun this year. Jeanine and I took the kids to one of those ceramic painting places to paint plates. There was no studio fee for customers in costume, so we showed up all decked out and ready to paint. Willow was a witch, Eva was a messed up doll, Jeanine wore a balloon spider hat, and I zombified half my face with Jeanine's paints. Fun. Next, we went across the street to the Retro Dome for a sing-along screening of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Willow got a golden ticket in her goodie bag, which netted her some extra chocolate. Then, of course, we went trick-or-treating. Toward the end, Willow actually started complaining that her bag was too heavy.

After some beautiful cloudy, drizzly Autumn weather over the last week or two, the skies are once again depressingly blue, although there's a chance of rain again over the weekend. Rain is always welcome.

Currently listening to: Marissa Nadler "Ballads of Living and Dying" on vinyl, because vinyl is cooler.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The first real rain of the season hit yesterday, and we spent a lot of time walking in it and waiting for the puddles to get deep enough to jump in. Willow was amazed that the pumpkin patch was still open despite the weather. I went to the park with Sophie and Willow, and after finding an old tennis ball, we played "monkey in the middle" on the rain slick basketball court. This was after we played a game where we pretended that our reflections were upside-down people underneath the cement. That made the girls laugh uncontrollably. Sophie spent a good deal of time stomping on hers, because that's the kind of girl Sophie is.

It's good to have an injection of Autumn energy. More rain is forecast for the coming weekend too. Let's hope it pours.

Currently listening to: Lo'Jo "Fils de Zamal"

Thursday, October 14, 2010

During lunch today, as we ate vegetable stir fry with fake beef, Jeanine and I simultaneously wondered aloud if producing more unusual varieties of mock meat would be scandalous. For instance, would there be a furor over mock dog? What about house cat flavored soy product? And for all of the culinary adventurers out there, should vegetarian substitutes for endangered species be made available? Siberian Tiger patties? (I must insert here that I hold a very dim view of people sick enough to actually eat the real thing - that's not really culinary adventure, but more of a species-ist power trip). People have eaten mammoth too, although I'm not sure if any of the scientists involved in that particular tasting are still with us. And sure, food companies would have to hire as taste consultants people who had eaten the real animals in question, but it is possible, isn't it? I'm tired of fake beef, pork, and chicken. I'd like to try some fake muskrat, or perhaps fake penguin. Why do food companies have to be so unimaginative? They could probably just make up weird flavors too, and dispense with consultants altogether, for the simple reason that most people wouldn't know dog meat from wildebeest meat, or condor steaks from polar bear jerky.

That said, we vegetarians already seem to have more options than people who stick to meat. I've been vegetarian for over half my life, and have seen the whole "meat substitute" end of the food spectrum go from one miserable make-it-yourself powdered hamburger substitute to a huge range of vegetarian products, made out of everything from mushrooms to soy to wheat and beyond. There is even one vegan cheese that actually melts like real cheese. If they can make it taste just a little more convincing, I might actually go vegan.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sometimes I feel that I concentrate more on the icing than the cake. A lot of my energy is directed towards entertaining myself, whether it be with music, film, novels, excursions, or otherwise. Not that there is anything wrong with entertainment, of course, but I often get the feeling that I should be planning more for the future, both for me and for my daughter, or at the very least, be giving these kinds of things more thought than I do. Part of this lack of planning comes from my dislike of dealing with financial institutions, bureaucrats, and paperwork, and truth be told, my dislike of phones.

I've built a comfortable little world here in the present, but I'm not sure it's a self-sustaining one. I do have thoughts of home-ownership, job advancement, and the rest of that kind of thing, but for some reason, it has never been a priority. I feel like I sacrifice the future for the present, and wonder if that's really any worse than sacrificing the present for the future. The present is now, while the future is always uncertain. I think I should strive for some middle ground at least, but at the moment lack the inspiration and impetus to do so. Instead, I'll simply write about it, and remember that it is always a good thing to be prepared for any eventuality.

As for the present, the school year is well underway. We're in the middle of the fifth week of science camp for the season, and there is an unusually small group of kids at camp this week, just 108 kids and four teachers. It's almost like not working. I did get one week in the field a couple of weeks ago, and it was a nice change. It was also the hottest week of the season so far, although we've been having record-breaking warm temperatures this week as well. Perhaps it is the warm weather that has inspired Jerusalem Crickets to interrupt each night time talk I've done so far this week. The kids, for the most part, were excited by their presence, with some even wanting to hold them.

I've not been spending any time and energy looking for a classroom position lately. Job prospects in that area seem rather grim at the moment, and I'm actually having second thoughts about going the classroom route. I'd love to have a classroom, but I want to find one that is right for me, not one chosen out of any sort of desperation. In other words, I'm going to be picky while I can afford to be, keeping in mind that I only have a certain amount of time to clear my preliminary teaching credential, this last being the only real pressure on me at the moment. I think I'll step up my attempts in this direction at the start of the new year.

For the time being, I'm enjoying my daytime freedom with the icing, reading novels and listening to music. This past weekend, Jeanine and I went on a 14 mile hike through Rancho San Antonio, passing Deer Hollow Farm (where we went on our first walk together) and following the trails all the way to Hidden Villa (where I had my first taste of working with kids outdoors). We spent around 6 hours hiking, sharing the trail with quail, rabbits (more than 30 of them, I think), Whiptails, Chipmunks, deer, an unfortunately crippled Wood Rat, and a small Gopher snake. It was sad to see the Wood Rat, covered in flies and with a mangled left hind leg, hopping disconsolately along the side of the trail, as if it were imploring some airborne predator to come take it away. Such is the cycle of life though. We all cycle through the beauty, the bliss, and the suffering, hoping all the while that the beauty and bliss will trump any misery sent our way. I'm sure that the rat has since gone on to provide a blissful meal for some opportunistic predator, an event which would also serve to end its suffering.

As for Jeanine and I, we suffered a bit from blisters, but those will pass. Maybe we need better hiking shoes. Perhaps I should plan to get some.

Monday, October 04, 2010

This is the first day this year to really feel like Autumn. The sky is a mottled gray and there is a chill in the air, which of course has given me a blast of energy.

September vanished in a blink, with the last week of it breaking temperature records across the Bay Area. I spent the week in the field, hiking with kids from 5 different local private Catholic schools. We dripped sweat, but had a great time anyway. I even tried out a new way of teaching about the rock cycle, grouping the kids into trios and having them act out parts of the rock cycle while the rest of the group got to guess which part. I think I'll keep doing that one. This week, I'm back in the hub at night, keeping watch over sleeping public school kids.

We went to the zoo over the weekend; Willow and I, and Jeanine and her daughter. We checked out the new Pancake Tortoises and all of the old favorites like the Flying Foxes and Alligators.

Not sure where I was going with this post. I think I just felt the need to check in here. It's also because of the weather, I think. My posting has been haphazard of late, for no reason other than I haven't been in much of a reflective mood. Maybe it's because I'm happy. Maybe I've just gotten out of the habit of writing every day. My schedule once made that easy, and I never managed to work it back into my schedule once things changed. I've lately been experimenting with writing when I don't actually feel like doing it, and have had a certain amount of success in producing results that, while not groundbreaking, aren't complete crap either.

Hopefully I'll have more to say before October vanishes too.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

After a couple of weeks off, I've stepped back into my role as night supervisor up at camp. We've started off the season with 210 kids from 2 different local schools, along with the expected homesickness issues kids away from home for the first time often deal with.

The changing season is once again re-energizing me, as it always does. Summer, despite the fun of working at summer camp, in some ways seems like an annual low point for me spiritually speaking. Nothing important ever seems to get accomplished during the Summer months. This month, however, marks the two year anniversary of me moving into my current apartment, and the one year anniversary of my relationship with Jeanine (or of our first walk together, at least). I'm happy.

That said, I feel like I'm in a creative rut. I've never been able to force creativity. Hopefully inspiration will find me soon.

Willow has started playing soccer again, and I am once again struck by how much I like watching her play, but have absolutely no interest in watching anybody but her play. Fatherhood will do that kind of thing to you.

I look forward to the falling leaves and rain. I look forward to walking in the hills during tarantula season.

Currently listening to: Sanna Kurki-Suonio "Huria"

Thursday, September 02, 2010

If I keep the windows and doors closed, my apartment retains the morning coolness until about noon. I'm just now beginning to really feel the heat. The forecast calls for temperatures in the high nineties today. Woe.

I notice on the news that another oil rig has exploded in the gulf. My response to that is to redouble my commitment to walk when and where possible. One of my plans this summer was to buy a bike, and I still haven't done that. Target has cheap ones, but I'm trying to avoid going there as well because of who they choose to donate money to. Too bad the local bike shop is so expensive. Walking it is.

Speaking of local shops, the nearest mom & pop pet store (Actually, I think at least 3 generations work there) is having its rent raised, a fact that will precipitate a move, so I might have to travel further afield for pet food too.

Willow has her first soccer practice of the season today. She's worried because all of her teammates are strangers. I told her that they won't be strangers for long, which didn't seem to reassure her much. She has become quite a worrier lately. Poor girl.

My favorite college professor once mentioned that 90% of the things we worry about never come to pass. Not sure if she made up that percentage or not, but it is comforting somehow. I think that was in her Sociology of Happiness class. Willow, of course, would probably fall into the category of people who would ask, "what about the other 10%?"

Currently listening to: Embers "Memoria In Aeterna"

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

With school in session once again, I would like a few Autumn clouds now and then. The days have been warm and blue, with a bit of breeze here and there, but I haven't yet detected that distinct autumnal smell in the air. Everything is dry and the hills are golden with spent Summer grass.

I wonder what kind of Winter this will be.

Next week is our in-service week at camp (truncated to four days due to the holiday), and the week after that finds me back in my old role as night supervisor. I'm going to try a little harder to land some substitute gigs this season, or maybe even renew my attempts to find a full time teaching job. I've got some ideas rolling around inside my head.

My immediate compulsion is to wander into the hills with my camera and take pictures. I want to record the sounds out there too. I want to see the first drops of rain send up little puffs of dry Summer dust. I want to hear the insects and amphibians sing.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The summer heat, which has been missing for most of the season, has enveloped the Bay Area like a wet, sticky blanket, making me all the more anxious for the Autumn clouds and wind to arrive. I want to see leaves dancing in the streets, and I want to smell imminent rain in the air.

Right now, it's 11:00 PM, and things still haven't really cooled down. I'm in the middle of a week off, and haven't really accomplished much, although several small tasks have been completed. I bought some pet food, and some windshield wipers. That counts for something, I guess. I've also been attempting to catch up on my reading, my music listening, and my movie watching, which is the kind of thing that truly makes this a "week off", and not a "week during which I accomplish tasks that I've been putting off doing for one reason or another".

Sometimes, doing nothing is important. It's a good way to recharge.

Currently listening to: Mountains "Mountains" CD

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Yesterday, as I sat in my dead van while vultures circled overhead, I took a moment to reflect on how lucky I am.

For one thing, I had vultures to look at. I don't usually see Turkey Vultures circling over residential neighborhoods, yet there they were, lazily circling above me. Also, the timing of my breakdown was perfect. It could have happened the day before when we were down in Monterey at the aquarium, or earlier in the morning, before I'd driven Willow to her first day of school. As it was, I had nothing planned for the remainder of the day, so it was a perfect time for something to go wrong.

It's all about the timing. Things are always going to go wrong because that's the way life is, but they are always somehow less wrong if the timing is right.

Now, with more time and money passed under the bridge, all is well again.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Summer is almost over. School doors are yawning wide, drawing children back in out of the sun and fun of what seems to be an ever diminishing Summer break. Willow starts school on Monday with a somewhat heavy heart because she didn't get her first choice of teachers, although her disappointment stems more from the fact that not all of her friends are in her class.

I've got a slight cold, which is unusual for me. I spent my early childhood eating dirt (and apparently anything else that wasn't nailed down) to build up my immune system, so as an adult, I rarely get sick. This just means that it's doubly irritating when I do.

There is one final week of summer camp, but I've decided not to work it. I made the decision early in the season, figuring that it would be nice to have an extra week free so I could engage in more spontaneous activities. Since we ended up taking a mini-vacation the week before last, I'll probably use the week to get things done. They may be fun things, or they may be necessary things, but whatever they may be, next week they'll get done. That's the plan, anyway.

The last week of summer camp flew by like they all have. The unusually cool summer has caused a notable shift in what kind of wildlife we've seen, as well as when we've seen it. This week was more typical, with the only snakes in evidence being Rattlesnakes. I had one of those Crocodile Hunter moments this week - I was standing in the midst of a pile of rocks when something started rattling very close to me. I stood still for a moment, and finally spotted the snake under a rock about 2 feet in front of me. It had just shed, and was sitting next to its old skin. Not one to leave nearby stones unturned, I decided to check the rock between me and the snake, and sure enough, there was another Rattlesnake under that one too. It had also just shed, so I waited for it to crawl away (I knew it would do so quickly, because I'd seen this particular snake enough times to know its personality) and then grabbed the old skin. Back at camp, we used the skin, some strips of paper, and a laminating machine to make some pretty cool bookmarks.

Night fell, and the corner of the building sneezed out bats into the woods. I hadn't noticed they'd been roosting in the attic. Every so often, I'd look up and see a few more shoot out over our heads. It makes me want to go up into the crawlspace.

The last night hike of the season went well, with only 25 kids in my group (Summer night hikes can have as many as 40 kids, but rarely do). We spotted a couple of big bucks early on, and quietly crept up the trail towards them. Every time the nearer one raised his head, we'd freeze. The head would go down, and we'd creep closer. We got within about 15 feet before they relocated to a more inaccessible area. Later, a Great Horned Owl flew over our heads, alighting somewhere up in a big Douglas Fir tree.

We could hear the music from the nearby Mountain Winery venue, which is located in the foothills to the north. As we silently sat in the chaparral, I pointed out the cricket song surrounding us, and then the human song (and sounds of cheering) from the concert. We discussed noise pollution and light pollution. We gazed at stars, contemplating time and distance. Then, we made our way back to camp, where marshmallows and a small fire awaited. Soon, full of marshmallows, the kids were in their sleeping bags.

It wasn't until the next morning that I found out that the music (a band called Swell Season was performing) we'd heard was destined to be a prelude to a tragedy. The night before, one coworker had noted that the concert seemed to end suddenly, and another had heard sirens. I hadn't noticed. Too busy listening to owls, maybe.

A man had climbed up onto the backdrop behind the stage, and jumped off it, hitting a monitor just feet from the band's singer. He died at the scene. Needless to say, it was a shocking end to the concert. It struck me that this kind of suicide (and suicide it most definitely was) was an act of selfishness and rage, because this man made a decision to kill himself in front of a large number of people, thus altering many of their lives forever, especially those of the children present. Killing oneself can be done in any number of ways or places away from the presence of a large audience. My thoughts on this were confirmed when just a little while ago, I read that the man was out on bail for domestic violence, false imprisonment, and assault with a firearm. I'm in no way trying to diminish whatever the man was going through, and I can't say I in any way understand it because I haven't walked a mile in his moccasins, but I just hated to hear that he chose such a public venue for his final act. I wonder if he thought he'd get his (posthumous)moment in the spotlight this way. In our media saturated society, it's almost odd that there aren't more public suicides. Let's hope there aren't copycats.

Here's a link to an article about the tragedy.

Friday, August 13, 2010

We're back from a quick roadtrip down to Anaheim, where Willow and I, along with Jeanine and her daughter Eva, spent a total of 27 hours inside the boundaries of Disneyland and the new(er) California Adventure park next door. Willow turns into a pumpkin at around 11:00 PM, I've discovered, but can be perked up by additional roller coaster riding, fireworks, or light shows of other kinds. We had a fine time hurtling around the parks, and I got to relive my childhood to a certain extent. There is just no beating the nostalgic smell of rides like Pirates of the Caribbean, and even the updating of said ride (to tie in with the movie franchise) proved to be subtle enough to leave its nostalgic power intact. Willow's only real dislikes were the Indiana Jones ride (too "freaky") and Splash Mountain. The latter might have been a better experience for her if we'd done it earlier in the day before she got tired out. As it was, the photo (taken as the boat plummets into the "briar patch" at the end) showed her with a look of abject terror on her face - a fact that somewhat embarrassed her as well. Of course, she loved Space Mountain, which is a high-speed roller coaster ride through a darkened building. Er, I mean space, of course. There is sometimes no telling what will disturb the young.

On the way back, we beach hopped and stopped at the Madonna Inn which, among other things, features a waterfall urinal in the men's bathroom. You can even buy a postcard of it, and I did, although at the moment I'm not sure where it is. Taking Highway 101 back north took longer than our trip down on I-5, but the scenery and beaches made it a worthwhile detour. The crescent moon seemed to be keeping pace with us off to the west, dragging its lower point along the black ridges of the coast range before slowly being swallowed by shadows. The sky turned orange before darkening to night, and by the time we got back into the Bay Area, it was nearly 11:00 and Willow was in dreamland.

We've even managed to make it to Santa Cruz and to the Winchester Mystery House this week, although the latter trip made Willow concerned about ghosts for some reason.

Speaking of ghosts, my mom's house is now virtually cleaned out. There is one small pile of belongings awaiting a final storage run, and for some reason, the broken microwave oven. The people my dad hired to take everything away were amazingly thorough, taking the washer and dryer, the refrigerator, and even some kitchen drawers and medicine cabinet shelves, but not the damn microwave. I wonder why they left that.

It is beyond strange to see the house empty, devoid of all the things that made it a home. There are still traces here and there, of course - the things I carved into walls, and the stickers on my old closet door, plus other tiny bits of personal detritus too small to amount to anything.

The rest is just dust and damage.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Looking back through my old posts, and then looking at the calendar, I have just noticed that I missed the 8 year anniversary of this blog. Time is a funny thing, and lately it just seems to be increasing in velocity. Summer is almost over, although this impression is bolstered by the fact that kids go back to school weeks earlier than I did as a child. Some kids start school this Monday. Willow starts in a couple of weeks. So much for having long, carefree summers.

We're going to try and pack in lots of fun over the next couple of weeks.

I just realized that we skipped dinner! Willow is laughing about it. Time to go eat now.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The waxing moon is framed both by my open sliding-glass door and by the dancing silhouettes of leafy tree branches. It is also partially obscured by encroaching overcast. It drew me outside for a few minutes, just so I could more fully experience this unusually cool and overcast July night. I'm back inside now, and I've paused in my reading to write for a few moments. Inspiration to write still hasn't been hitting me as often as I'd like, so I'm taking advantage of my current desire to type before it vanishes into the graveyard of unrealized intentions.

Summer camp has been in full swing for weeks, and the late Spring rains have made a big difference in the presence of local flora and fauna. The grasses and thistles are towering and thick, and I've found a greater variety of small animals than usual. The Summer temperatures have been relatively mild as well and, with the exception of a few hot days, one might think it was still Spring.

I've rented a storage space and I've been busy filling it with belongings that have been gathering webs and dust in my mom's garage. I've also been collecting and sorting my mom's stuff, deciding what to put in storage, what to give away, and what to simply dispose of. Her postage stamp collection is now gone, and several other items have been spoken for. Much remains. I got the bright idea to raffle off some of the stuff at our weekly Summer Camp raffle. So far, I've donated some ridiculously hard jigsaw puzzles and a framed self-portrait I drew in college. The self-portrait was raffled off, but returned because the parents of the camper thought it was "creepy", although I've heard that they now want it back. Strange. Perhaps our raffle needs some explanation: the raffle is a spectacle in which humorous crap, mostly of the flea market and garage sale variety, is bequeathed to young children. It is always highly entertaining and just the sort of place where things like self-portraits and impossible puzzles can be given away for a laugh. The puzzles are actually of good quality, and the humor in this case has to do with their extreme difficulty. For instance, one puzzle, entitled "Green Fog" has pieces which are all exactly the same shade of green. Another has the same image printed on both sides of the puzzle pieces, with one side being rotated 90 degrees. I like to think that my mom would have appreciated the humor of it all.

This week also brought with it the exciting discovery of a couple of creatures I hadn't seen around camp before. The first was a small, tan Praying Mantis in the meadow. It blended in perfectly with the dry grass, and I only saw it because it made the mistake of moving. The second was a Sharp-Tailed Snake, which I found curled up under a section of tree trunk near the front lawn. This was exciting to me because it's the last local snake species I had yet to encounter in the wild. Now I can cross it off my list. The snake itself was much less excited, and indicated its displeasure at being discovered by pooping on me.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

It is nearly 10:30 PM, and still warm. Tomorrow ushers in the fourth week of summer camp (already???) and I have to get up early to make sure Willow is ready in time for us to go get the three older kids at their dad's house and drive up to camp in time for me to help out at the check-in table. The kids have a good time at camp, but I think they all wish they could sleep in.

Jeanine and I got nearly all of my mom's remaining books boxed up today, leaving only a few cookbooks and a series or two of natural science books for later boxing. Not to mention a few other odds and ends here and there, I'm sure. I continue to stumble across and set aside interesting relics of my childhood, and plan on finally renting a storage space later this week. I think that the act of removing all of the things I want from the house will make me feel like I'm closer to being done with the whole process. It's strange and sad seeing the empty shelves and bare sections of floor. A home is once more becoming a house.

Currently listening to: Susanne Roseberg, Christophe Deslignes, Jean-Lou Descamps, & Theirry Gomar "Out of Time and Country", and wondering why they didn't just think of a band name.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Summer is a time of coasting, at least for those of us whose jobs are tied in with the school year. I’ve been spending my time working at Summer camp, hiking dusty trails, splashing in the pond, baking under the Summer sun, amusing children, eating ice cream, and generally living the easy life. In fact, sometimes I think it’s too easy. I haven’t really been challenging myself this Summer, instead I’m choosing to fall back on tried and true activities from past years.

I haven’t really been taking the time to reflect much either. Visitors to this blog, if they haven’t jumped ship due to the lack of recent updates, will notice that I haven’t been posting as regularly. The same goes for my music blog. I just haven’t felt like writing and reflecting lately, and I haven’t been able to work out exactly why.

I’ve also not been putting much effort into looking for a teaching position, mostly because it is Summer, and it’s harder to think about that kind of thing during the time when school isn’t in session. In fact, the only area where I’m making progress is in my continuing efforts to clear out my mom’s house. Even so, I slacked off on doing that for a couple of months now, and it’s only because I now have a self-imposed deadline that work continues.

I’m going to try and get back on track with this blog now. The time feels right.

Currently listening to: Matt ElliottFailed Songs

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Every time I travel, I bring a journal book along. For this trip, I only managed one entry, so most of this was written at home, meaning that some of the details may be fuzzier than they would otherwise be. Since this is both a personal and a music review, I’m cross posting it on both of my blogs.

06/01/10 Heathrow Airport
This, the morning of our departure for home, is the first time that all of the conditions needed for journal writing have been met. By this, I mean finding myself in a seated position while awake. I blame my inability to properly chronicle this trip on our decision to stay in a hostel. By the time we got back each night, at least some of the various people sharing our room were asleep, meaning that we couldn’t, in good conscience, turn on any lights. Not that this seemed to stop others, but then again the others in question were usually inebriated European teenagers.
We’re on the plane now, right smack in the middle of a Boeing 777 as overhead luggage compartments click shut around us and travelers jostle past each other to reach their assigned seats. I’m not sure how much sleep we got last night, but I know it wasn’t much because we stayed up late at Nidge’s place, talking, drinking tea, and listening to music. Nidge, much like David Tibet, is enthusiastic in his book recommendations, so I came away with some hastily scrawled authors’ names and book titles (note: I’ve since looked up some of the titles on ABEbooks, and am convinced that Nidge is trying to impoverish me). This morning, after a breakfast of tea and toast with lime marmalade, he drove us to Heathrow.
Of course, this trip began with a lack of sleep as well. Greg and I both got about 3 hours of sleep before waking to be shuttled to the relative ghost town of a 4:30 AM San Jose Airport. The flights were relatively uneventful (which is just how I like them), as was the first changeover in Denver. Next, we stopped in muggy Toronto, where the outside temperature was reported to be 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Out the windows, thunderclouds loomed, and soon a canned voice reported that there would be flight delays due to the weather. Luckily, our flight wasn’t for over 4 hours, so Greg called Toronto recordist William Davidson, who promptly hopped on public transit to rendezvous with us at the airport. In due time, we spotted him wandering around baggage claim. We sat and caught up for a bit, and before we had to go, he handed over a series of one-page comic books and some 3” cdrs. Pleased we were.

*End of actual journal writing – let the typing commence!*

The next leg of our journey was longer, and I made my way through most of Michael Slade’s Crucified, in which a great number of people meet their ends in the jaws of Catholic torture devices. At Heathrow, we waited in the great big line so we could get our passports stamped and enter the country. Then, it was onto the Piccadilly tube line into the city. Our hostel was slightly beyond spitting distance from the Bayswater tube station, and soon proved to be a haven for young travelers. As we entered, a young lad with a large Mohawk was exiting. The staff sort of looked like high schoolers, and the interior of the building brought to mind a college co-op. Our room had triple bunk beds, and the bathrooms were humorously tiny, so much so that one had to step over the toilet to close the door. We set our stuff down and emerged back into the muted London light.

The HMV Forum, where the concerts were to take place, wasn’t hard to get to, but nobody was around when we arrived. We meandered off, and got some coffee, if I remember right. We definitely wandered uselessly around Camden Town for awhile. The record store that I remember being there wasn’t in evidence, so eventually we ended up back at the Forum. After chatting with some folks at the back entrance, we got Colin Potter to emerge from the bowels of the space, only to find that the rest of Nurse With Wound was down in Camden Town so Steve could buy a vibrator to use on his guitar (ala Lips from Anvil?). We let Colin get back to the business of setting up. Coming back later, we went in and ran into Nidge Ince, Jose Pacheco, Joolie Wood, Simon Finn, Maja Elliott, David Tibet, and a few others. Hellos were said all around, to the tune of the soundchecking Nurse With Wound. Eventually Nidge wandered over with all access passes for everybody, and sometime later we all gravitated toward the lobby and the various merch tables set up there. Money changed hands. I met Darius, who had previously been only a name I saw online (Greg knew him from previous trips), and who was running the Nurse With Wound merch table. Time wore on. Eventually, the doors opened and people flooded in.
As the flood of people swamped the seats, Simon Finn, accompanied by Joolie Wood on violin and Maja Elliott on keyboards, started his set with a trio of songs from his 1970 release (40 years ago!) Pass The Distance. “Where’s Your Master Gone” segued into “Hiawatha”, and this was followed by “The Courtyard”. The addition of Maja on keyboards fleshed out the songs, making them sound more like the original recordings than they have on the other occasions I’ve seen Finn live. Of course, Joolie’s sublimely sad violin and beautiful backing vocals is always a treat as well. After “The Courtyard”, we were catapulted forward in time for “Rich Girl With No Trousers”, and then back again to the seventies for “What A Day”. Next, Finn played “En Passant”, which was to be the only song played from his newest CD, Mice Laugh And Rats Sing. The set was rounded out nicely by the sublime, fatalistic “Accidental Life” and what is perhaps his best known song, the rabid, frothing “Jerusalem”.

It has been around six years since I first saw Simon Finn on stage, and I remember my first impression is that he sounded a bit like Leonard Cohen. From my temporal vantage point in the year 2010, I’m not sure how I could have thought that. First impressions can sometimes be way off the mark, I guess. Time and repeated listens have convinced me that he simply sounds like Simon Finn. I find that I often really identify with his lyrics, especially when he touches on the subject of the alienating effects of societal reliance on technology.

Nurse With Wound was next, and started off in a relatively subdued manner. The line-up for the evening consisted of Steve Stapleton, Andrew Liles, Colin Potter, and Matt Waldron. Over the course of their set, they were joined on stage by Lynn Jackson, who sang some beautiful blues, and a trumpet player (named Rick, I believe), who trumpeted nicely. Steve spent the majority of the set bowing a guitar, and Matt was a little more restrained than usual, dispensing with his usual assortment of strange masks and visual props. Colin, behind his massive array of equipment, alchemically mixed and transformed sound in his usual wizardly fashion. From my vantage point at the back of the lower stalls, and due also to the relatively large size of the hall, the panning was especially effective, sending ghostly sounds swooping across the stage and into the ether. Andrew Liles occasionally got to rock out on guitar, especially toward the end where the atmosphere changed from drone to a chugging crescendo of noise. Then, like they did the last time I saw them in San Francisco, they ended their set with Steve taking the mic for a fun version of “Rock’N’Roll Station”.

In the lobby after their set, we ran into Joolie, Sam, and Sam’s girlfriend (whose name escapes me. Sorry). Sam, who I hadn’t seen since the last time I was in London (2002? 2003?) is now about 2 feet taller than I remember him. We pulled out cameras and commemorated the moment as people milled around us to buy more merch before Current 93 took the stage.

I hadn’t seen Current 93 in around 6 years, and things have changed a bit since then. The live line-up has morphed and massively expanded. Unfortunately, Joolie and Maja, (and Simon too, come to think of it) weren’t on stage. Baby Dee was handling keyboard duty, and William Breeze was playing viola (he’s good, but I still like Joolie and her violin better). The biggest change is that there are now drums, played by Alex Neilson. Oh, and a wall of guitars, played by James Blackshaw, Keith Wood, and Matthew Sweeney, with Andrew WK on bass. John Contreras and his cello were still present, and Andrew Liles was on hand to add his inimitable touch as well, punctuating the songs with altered sound. Perhaps the most interesting addition to the sound though was the oud playing of Elliott Bates, which really took over the newer songs.

The set was introduced in somewhat silly fashion by Sebastian Horsely, who was dressed like a dandified version of the Mad Hatter. Afterward, David appeared on stage with backup singer Sarah Dietrich, who soon proved to have a good voice but questionable dance moves. The first part of the set was given over to songs from Aleph at Hallucinatory Mountain and Black Ships Ate The Sky, as well as songs from the just released Baalstorm, Sing Omega. The oud was very noticable, standing out above the wall of guitars, and giving me the impression that the new album (which I hadn’t yet had a chance to listen to) was going to be a ferocious, oud driven affair (I’ve since listened to it, and discovered this not to be the case). I think this is the first time I’ve heard new songs live before I’ve had a chance to hear the studio recorded versions. Live, the newer songs definitely have more of a “rock” vibe to them, but in the usual skewed Current 93 way, which at times meant that the proceedings seemed more like some crazed tent revival meeting than a proper concert, with David as the preacher and Sarah Dietrich as the speaking-in-tongues woman crazily dancing in the aisle. The version of Black Ships Ate The Sky was interesting, being a much more jaunty affair, with a driving beat moving it along to the end.

Then, out of nowhere, Michael Cashmore (who has been notably absent from more recent Current 93 endeavors) appeared on stage, and the band dove into the back catalogue, starting with “Mary Waits In Silence”, and continuing with “In A Foreign Land…”, “In The Heart of the Wood and What I Found There”, “Whilst the Night Rejoices Profound and Still”, “Dormition and Dominion”, and finally, “Niemandswasser” (with coptic guru Stephen Emmel replacing Cashmore). It was wonderful to have Michael Cashmore up on stage, and it made me realize what the last couple of Current 93 CDs have been missing. It’s not that I don’t like the recent CDs – it’s just that Cashmore’s music and Tibet’s voice work so well together, and, in my opinion, the emotional power of the songs they created hasn’t yet been equaled by the current Current line-up (this despite the fact that there are a number of very accomplished musicians working with David. Also, it would have been nice to see a few more people up on stage – Joolie and Maja, for instance.

After the set was over, we ended up backstage, and got a chance to briefly chat with a few people, including Michael Cashmore, before realizing that we’d better head back to the hostel before tube service ended for a night. The first two legs of our journey were successful, but when we got to the station where we were to switch lines for the final leg, we discovered that the last train had departed 45 minutes previously. Luckily, all we had to do was emerge at ground level, cross the street, and catch a bus. Unfortunately, the bus wasn’t going all the way to where we needed to go. Fortunately, the bus driver told us he’d take us past his last stop and drop us within convenient walking distance of the hostel. At the last stop, he kicked the other (protesting) passengers out, turned off the interior lights, and drove us through the relatively silent London streets. We even got to see a fox cross the street in front of us, like a furry ghost in the night, looking like it was on a mission. We got dropped off at Notting Hill Gate, and walked back to the hostel, only realizing we’d missed our turn when we found ourselves at an unfamiliar tube station. In due time, with a small pause to photograph the moon, we found ourselves on familiar turf. Having forgotten to eat dinner, we fetched about looking for someplace to eat, but since it was nearly 2:00 AM we were stuck with a Subway sandwich shop (they really ARE everywhere, even in London). Due to some strange ordinance, they weren’t allowed to heat anything up after a certain time, so we sadly munched our cold sandwiches and made our way down the block to the hostel. Slipping silently into our room so as not to wake up the presumably sleeping occupants of the other bunks, we sweatily sank into our bunks and slept.

The next morning Greg woke up before me (like he did every morning we stayed there, I think) and woke me up to tell me that the time of free breakfast was ending. Once downstairs, we hurriedly ate soggy cereal, toast, and crappy instant coffee. Thus fortified, we started our second day in London. I called Andrew King and we arranged to meet up in nearby Notting Hill Gate. The day proved to be overcast and drizzly, which made us feel right at home. After getting there and doing some record shopping, we hung around the tube station, watching a tide of tube travelers ebb and flow through the turnstyles, until the frantic station employee got tired of shouting at people and decided the station was too crowded. Just as they were closing the station down and kicking people out, Andrew appeared with his girlfriend (I wish I wasn’t so bad at remembering names, because I’ve now forgotten her name as well). He took us to a nearby pub he liked, and we sat down and caught up a bit, with Greg and I opting for some very nice ginger beer, generously paid for by Andrew. I’d bought a CD from him online before the trip, so I collected that from him as well. The pub was quite nice, and also nearly empty. It filled up as we sat though, and by the time we left, there were quite a number of other people there.

After Andrew and his girlfriend had left to window shop at an antiquarian book faire, we ventured down the touristy marketplace chaos of Portabello Road, buying some old prints and detouring into Rough Trade to browse through records and CDs. Eventually, we ended up back on the tube and back in the general vicinity of the HMV Forum, once again having forgotten to eat dinner. We got in line to get in, but a Forum employee noticed our all access passes from the night before (still stuck to our jackets) and sent us around to the back entrance for new, different colored, passes. The benefit of this is that we could bring our bags and cameras in without a hassle. The benefit of actually having tickets in addition to the passes is that we had reserved seats in the lower stalls. The passes we ended up with identified us as members of the crew. Funny. I wish this kind of thing happened at all of the gigs I attend.

The show started early, with Rameses III kicking things of in subtle fashion. Other than a pre-trip Myspace listen, I hadn’t heard them before, and I quickly decided that I quite liked them. Their mixture of drones and delicate guitar work brought U.S. group Mountains to mind, and their set was a brief, yet blissful affair. I bought a pile of CDs from their merch booth.

Next up was Comus, who I was very excited about finally getting a chance to see. Like Amebix last year, Comus is a group that I thought I’d never get a chance to see performing. I had initially found out about them through David Tibet, first through Current 93’s cover of their song, “Diana”, and later when David played us songs from their classic release, First Utterance.

The reformed Comus features almost all of the original members, with the exception of the flautist/percussionist. They started out in fine form with “Song To Comus”, and followed that up with “Diana”, which, due to Current 93 having covered it, probably brought the most cheers from the audience. The first new song of the evening was “Out of the Coma”, which proved to be a fine return to form, with vocalist Bobbi Watson doing a stellar job of mimicking a ventilator. The frantic hand drums, soaring viola of Colin Pearson and crazed vocals of Roger Wootton were especially fun to experience. Next, they slowed things down a bit with “The Herald”, and then continued with two new songs; “The Sacrifice”, and “The Return”. They rounded out the set with the maniacal “Drip Drip”, and “The Prisoner”.

These New Puritans were next up, and like Rameses III, they were new to me. Unfortunately, unlike Rameses III, I found that they didn’t really appeal. There were interesting elements though. I like the fact that they had two bass clarinetists, and the pounding assault of two drummers, while nothing new, was quite solid. The vocals were virtually inaudible, and were, to my ears at least, rather pedestrian sounding.

Current 93 started the second night off with a truly blistering version of Comus’ Diana, with David snarling out the lines like a man possessed. This was followed by some new songs, including the crazed, carnivalesque organ driven “I Dance Narcoleptic” from Baalstorm, Sing Omega. The new songs came to an end with “Not Because The Fox Barks”, and then, once again, Michael Cashmore appeared on stage for a set of older songs, starting with “A Sadness Song”, and continuing with “A Gothic Love Song”. Following this, Bill Fay sauntered onto the stage, introduced himself and, accompanied by Michael Cashmore, gently sang his song, “My Eyes Open”. After the song ended, and the applause had ceased echoing though the venue, we were treated to “They Return to Their Earth” and “The Signs In The Stars”. For the encore, we got a massive, full band version of “Lucifer Over London”, which laid waste to the version I saw Current 93 end their show with the very first time I saw them perform back in 1996 in Nevers. The song ended with band members, one at a time, putting down their instruments and walking off, until only Sarah Dietrich was left, her acapella melody bringing the concert to a beautiful close.

The after party was in the venue, and once again it was one of those crowded affairs. We got a chance to say hi to Tony Wakeford and his wife, Rene, and spent some time chatting with John Contreras and a few others before saying our goodbyes. This time, Greg and I didn’t mess around with the tube trains. We walked out of the venue, immediately hailed a cab, and got back to the hostel in no time at all. Having had our fill of bad food, we persevered in our search for a restaurant and as a result our dinner was much better, thanks to a conveniently located Persian restaurant we’d missed seeing the night before.

The next morning, we found a cheap breakfast place and filled up on rather average fare. We wandered through London (and spotted some zombies in Trafalgar Square) before eventually meeting up with Matt, Colin, Joolie, Nidge, Jose, and a few others for lunch at a restaurant called The Stockpot. While eating, we were treated to a demonstration of a device called a Hopman Sound Transfer, which turned any surface it was placed on into a speaker, vastly amplifying sound. Kind of like having a portable P.A. system. Afterward, people went various directions, with one contingent rushing out to catch trains for homeward journeys, and Greg and I accompanying Matt and Colin down the street to window shop for effects boxes. We eventually ended up in a series of bookstores, including Foyles, which I note here because the next day Greg and I would find ourselves standing over chain founder William Foyle’s grave in Highgate Cemetery. Eventually, Colin and Matt left to catch a train, and Greg and I, after nearly going into shock at London movie prices ([Rec]2 will have to be seen another time) found ourselves down by the Thames, feeling somewhat touristy as we wandered near Big Ben, over London Bridge, and past the Millennium Wheel. After a dinner of very average Indian food, we crawled back into our bunks at the hostel.

The next day was mostly taken up with a journey up to Highgate Cemetery. I’d mis-remembered what tube station was nearest, but it worked out because we found a nice little bookstore, complete with a friendly proprietor with whom we discussed current events as we browsed, and who had helpful hints on how to best walk to Highgate. Our walk took us past Willow Road, and I added more photos to my collection of Willow signage (since it’s my daughter’s name). We then crossed Hampstead Heath, stopping to hobnob with some local wildlife activists. Once we made it to the cemetery, we paid to get in, and thanks to the fact that Greg was wearing one of their shirts, discovered that the woman selling tickets was a Sleepytime Gorilla Museum fan. Small world, especially when one considers that they’ve never played in England. Highgate Cemetery is divided into two halves, with the East side open to the general public, and the West side open only for tour groups. The cemetery just celebrated its 150th anniversary, and is so crowded that it is impossible to properly maintain all of the graves. Walking through the cemetery, especially on the west side, is like walking through a forest where a large proportion of the undergrowth is comprised of stone monuments to the dead. Ivy spills out of cracks and pours through the forest, covering smaller monuments entirely. Iron is pitted, rusted, and mummified in colorful lichen. The elements have weathered away sharp edges. The catacombs are full of rubble, and coffin nooks gape open, with the glass panes and velvet coffin coverings long gone. Outside the catacombs, the highest point in London has a mausoleum squatting on top of it, and its inhabitants have never been able to enjoy the view. The oldest grave sits anonymously in the midst of many others, so it was good we had a tour guide to point it out. On the East side, I took a photo of Greg standing next to Karl Marx’s monument, mostly because I have a picture of him holding hands with the large statue of Vladimir Lenin in Seattle. We’re just continuing the trend. Next up, Trotsky! Ha!

Afterward, we wandered down the hill and took the tube to Highbury/Islington, which happened to be right near the Union Chapel, where Matt, Greg, and I saw Current 93 way back in 1997, a gig which marked the first time we met Steve Stapleton - a meeting which eventually resulted in Matt becoming a member of Nurse With Wound.
We met Nidge and Joolie for dinner, and afterward, Joolie left and Nidge accompanied us back to retrieve our bags from the hostel. Bags retrieved, we tubed to Nidge’s place where we stayed up too late talking and drinking tea. Nidge, very much like David, is an enthusiastic book recommender, and Greg and I came away with lists of books to keep an eye out for (also some cdrs, an actual book or two, and some Rameses III CDs that Nidge had extra copies of. Yay!). Now, having looked for some of the books, I’ve found that only one of them can be purchased for under $100. Urgh.

In the morning, after we enjoyed a quick breakfast of tea and toast, Nidge drove us to the airport, where we mailed some postcards and I spent a few minutes writing in my journal. We spent the next 20 something hours traveling. On the local end, Jeanine picked us up at the airport, and we exhaustedly slumped off to our respective homes.

The good thing about these trips is that they tend to stay in my memory long after the fact. It’s an opportunity to step away from routines and responsibilities for a few days, and it gives one a chance to see, however briefly, old friends and foreign lands. I’m sure it enriches me in other ways as well, if not as much as I once thought would be the case. I used to attach an almost mystical importance to world travel, as if the experience would profoundly change me in some way. Now, being older, I take it as it comes, enjoy the experiences, and leave it at that. Change happens when we’re not looking for it. I for one am just grateful that I occasionally get to travel, experience sublime sounds, and spend time with friendly people. Who could ask for more? Well, maybe I could ask for more sleep. As far as I can figure out, I stayed awake for 35 hours at the beginning of the trip (on 3 hours of sleep), and for 24 hours at the end. More sleep would be nice.

Note: If you want to read this post with links and photos, go over to my music blog.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I'm in the middle of a week in the field with kids. Here are some of our recent encounters with the natural world:

Yesterday, we looked up and spotted three Crows divebombing a flying Raven, no doubt in an attempt to drive it away from their nest or nests. It was far enough away that the violence of the attack wasn't apparent, making the whole interaction seem more like an aerial ballet. The Raven headed for the higher hills, still caught up in a flurry of beaks and wings as the Crows continued to press their attack. Soon, they were mere dots on the wooded horizon, and then they were gone.

Today, lifting a favorite piece of corrugated siding from the ground, I discovered the expected Rattlesnake, and a quite unexpected Field Mouse. The two were sitting mere inches apart. The Field Mouse looked quite startled, as if caught consorting with the enemy. The Rattlesnake remained inscrutable.

A few hours ago, we nearly trod upon a tiny Rattlesnake. It was so well camouflaged that it wasn't until it started frantically heading for the high grass that one of the kids spotted it. I headed it off with a plastic cage, and quickly had it safely contained. The little fellow was right next to the driveway heading up to camp, so he had to be moved farther into the field, for the safety of the snake and the kids equally.

I love my job.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Time is a funny thing, especially in the Spring. The northern hemisphere is gearing up for Summer in an explosion of scents and colors. I've traded some of my night shifts for day shifts, gladly going back to hike with kids though the green blanketed hills. Newness awaits around every bend in every trail, and under every log and rock. The kids all have Spring fever, and the promise of summer hovers around us like a swarm of strangely appealing gnats.

This week I'm back working nights. I seem to get more done during the day when my weeks of night work are bracketed by weeks of daytime work. Limitless time lulls me into a kind of torpor. Switching up my schedule energizes me, mostly because daytime work really cuts into the time I have to get all of the little things done, like housework and errands. In a way, working nights has spoiled me. On the weeks I switch my schedule, I miss the free time made possible by my nocturnal work hours.

It has now been over three months since my mom died. I occasionally find myself thinking she's still alive. My dad has pretty much wrapped up her financial affairs, but the house is still very much full of decades of accumulated possessions. I feel like my initial momentum has sped off without me. There are lots of other things going on too, of course. Willow and I have been spending a lot of time with Jeanine and her daughter, and I couldn't be more happy with the way things are going. I also bought a new lizard, a Columbian Tegu, to use for reptile parties, and am doing another reptile party in the middle of the month.

I feel a need to reign myself in and plan for the future on all fronts. I've been in a bit of a free fall in that department, spending too much, eating more pizza than I should, and generally not acting in a disciplined way. For some reason, my personal life is cyclical, with bouts of excess offset by periods of responsibility. It's almost as if the changing seasons drive my every act. Wouldn't that be the ultimate cop-out? Blaming poor habits on the seasons. Ha!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Yesterday, I provided animals and entertainment for the birthday party of a five year old boy. This was the second year in a row that I have been the party entertainer for him. I had with me various reptiles, a couple of arachnids, and a pair of hissing cockroaches. Willow came along too, and acted as my assistant. My favorite moment was this:

Me (holding cockroach): This has six legs. What does that make it?

Little girl: FAST!

Kids tell it like it is.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The wind is picking up and the clouds are moving in beautifully. Willow was a bundle of energy at her softball game, so much so that I wonder if changing weather affects her the same way it affects me. I always feel a burst of energy whenever the dark clouds spread across the sky. It's almost as if the wind-tossed trees inspire me to similar movement.

One cute moment during the game was when a member of the opposing team stopped running toward first base so she could help the girl at first base retrieve the ball. I love it when young kids thumb their noses at the whole concept of competition and help each other out like that. Good for her!

In a purely tangential way, that reminds me of a brief interaction I witnessed at camp last week. I was talking to a boy outside the camp office when a girl came out of the nearby girls' bathroom. She had obviously just finished washing her hands, because she was shaking them dry as she approached us. "The toilet is clogged!", she exclaimed. The boy looked at her hands in horror.


This is one of the reasons I keep this blog. I'd never remember this stuff if I didn't write it down.

Currently listening to: irr.app.(ext.) "Josephine & Elsewhere"

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Spring is definitely here, with warm days and mild nights replacing the moist greyness of late Winter. That said, I notice that it is supposed to rain over the next couple of days.

Nathan will be at science camp this week, and I'm actually working during the day, so I could be his field instructor. I worked the daytime shift a couple of weeks ago too, and will be doing three more weeks of days in May, all so a coworker of mine can work the nights and go to school during the day. I've been wanting to get back into the field, and he needs the money, so this benefits both of us.

I've just been showing Willow some of my blog posts from the year she was born. She is now old enough to appreciate them, and was especially amused by the fact that the first thing her sister did to her when she arrived home from the hospital was lick her. This is one of the many reasons I blog. It's an inorganic storage for the memories lost in my cerebral files.

We've been miniature golfing over the last couple of days, Friday night with Jeanine and her daughter, and yesterday by ourselves. Willow even got a couple of holes in one. She wants to go back and do it again today, but I think two days in a row is enough. Daytime golfing is more problematic anyway, because it seems to be a popular suburban pastime. Yesterday, we found ourselves stuck behind a group of five middle-aged, uniformly obese, potty-mouthed golfers. Finally, we just skipped a hole and played through. That's suburbia for you, I guess.

Today, a lazy Sunday stretches in front of us. We haven't decided what to fill it with yet, but I suppose it could be anything.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Here are some words I spoke at my mom's memorial:

I considered just getting up and speaking here without referring to any notes or script, but after thinking about it, I realized that reading something would be the perfect tribute to my mom, given her long standing love of the written word. On the same note, this has got to be the most fitting place in the whole world to hold her memorial, here in the library she loved, where she volunteered her services for hundreds, no, thousands, of hours over the years.
I could very well of spoken without a script, without even a single note to myself. I do it nearly every day to large audiences. Of course, the audiences I speak to are all in the 10 to 12 year old range, but that doesn’t make a difference. One thing I learned from my mom was that nobody, no matter what their age may be, should ever be talked down to. She taught this by example, by treating me and my brother with respect, and always allowing us to express ourselves, even when our methods of expression no doubt puzzled or annoyed her. I guess it’s a good thing she liked puzzles, the more annoying the better. In fact, puzzles were just the start of it. As I sort through her things, I’m reminded of her love of calligraphy, rubber stamps, postage stamps, cats, logic problems, humor, art, music, and so much more.
She also taught us the value of the written word, which is why I wrote some to share today. My brother and I both grew up to be readers and thinkers, and I feel we owe this to her. Of course, we’ve also inherited from her the tendency to chuckle at people who use poor grammar.
I have this image of my mom, spending a large part of her life stuffing her head with knowledge and stories, one book at a time. She gathered worlds of words under one roof, and was still in the process of transferring them all to her brain when she died. It is more than a lifetime’s worth of work, and now that task has truly been transferred to Greg and me. The reading will continue, both through us and her Granddaughter, Willow, who already shares not only her grandmother’s looks, but her love of a good story.
It’s strange how, when we end, our stories go on without us. Truth be told, they begin before we do as well. We just step into our own stories for awhile before bowing out again. My mom, her lines spoken, her part ended, has simply left the stage. Or maybe we should look at it as the last page being turned, and the book closing. I think my mom would appreciate the analogy.
My mom’s book closed in the heart of Winter, so this is the first Spring in 71 years that my mom isn’t here to enjoy. She can’t smell the blooming plant life, can’t hear the birds, can’t enjoy the warmer days. It doesn’t seem like a Silent Spring though. She lives on through those of us left behind, and I find myself appreciating the life she gave me with a little more care and a little more gratitude, as all around us the seasonal renewal sweeps us forward, continuing the cycle.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Happy Equinox! It seems like Jeanine and I were just standing on the hill watching the Winter Solstice sunrise, and now we're halfway to the Summer one.

Sophie is spending the night with Willow and me tonight, as she did last night as well. They're both passed out after a long day of running around. I love it when Sophie stays over, because I miss her.

Friday, March 19, 2010

With the Spring Equinox a day away, the temperature is verging on the uncomfortably warm. The contrast between today's walk to the post office, and the walk to the post office less than two weeks ago, was stark indeed. Today I was sweating as the sun slowly cooked me. The last time I did the same walk, on the way to the post office I could see ominous clouds to the north while the wind bit down with icy teeth. On the way back home, I was pelted by stinging hail to such an extent that I had to keep my face averted from the wind or risk damage.

Many people would think I'm crazy for preferring the hail.

This week, I've been listening to a couple of soundtracks by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. If it hadn't been for my mom, I would have been listening to something else. This is despite the fact that my mom didn't ever know that Carlos Ruiz Zafon wrote music. She only knew of him as an author, and at one point recommended him to me, and if memory serves, gave me his excellent novel "Shadow of the Wind". As I continue to sort through the books my mom left behind, I've come across this book again and again. I think I've found at least 3 or 4 copies of it so far, and 1 copy of his follow-up novel, "The Angel's Game", which I handed off to Greg. The words within have the power to transport the reader to a fictional Barcelona of a century ago, where anything is possible. Books and writing figure heavily into the plots of both novels, and the unifying element is a mysterious place called the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, where the right book will find its way into a visitor's hand at the right time. Or at the wrong time, depending on how you look at it. I can't help but think of my mom's house in a similar way. Many of the books are forgotten, resting there now in that transitory stage between owners. We've probably already donated a couple thousand of them back to the library, and given others away to friends. I've been hanging on to the Shadows of the Wind as I come across them, and handpicking who to give them to. Perhaps they'll fall into people's hands at exactly the right time.

Of course, I'm also hanging on to a lot of other books to keep for myself. I think my mom would have approved. She would have liked Mr. Zafon's music as well, especially given the fact that the music, which can be downloaded for free on his website, was composed to be soundtracks for the aforementioned books.

This Spring will be a bittersweet one, and it strikes me again and again that this is the first Spring in 71 years that my mom won't be around to enjoy. Still, other life begins anew all around us, and that is some solace, at least.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The nights are becoming warmer, and once again I find myself walking around camp at night looking for nocturnal life. The bats are back, flitting around outside the camp office, and the deer are keeping the lawn in check out front. Frogs inconspicuously dot the walkways, and the variety of moths around the lights is once again increasing. I relocated a beautiful Ceonothus Silk Moth from the walkway by the lodge last night, and at around 6:30 AM this morning, a camper brought me another one. He had found it in the bathroom, and even knew enough not to touch (and hence damage) the wings. He had coaxed it onto a paper towel so he could bring it to me, saying that he was afraid some of the other kids might freak out and try to kill it if they discovered it in the bathroom. Sadly, he was probably right about that. Thanking him, I got it to walk off the paper towel onto my finger, and relocated it to a less frequented area.

Currently listening to: Steve Von Till "If I Should Fall To The Field"

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sometimes I feel like I'm writing letters to my future self. I've been looking back through older entries in this blog, and reflecting on how much my life has changed over the last few years. My present self is reading these letters from my past self, and composing new letters for my future self to one day read. I wonder how much things will change over the next few years.

Jeanine and I went for a walk in the hills this morning, exactly six months after our first walk together. Spring is bursting out of the ground and singing in the air. A riot of flowers and butterflies greeted us around nearly every turn in the trail, and birds and bunnies ducked for cover as we passed. We paused at the highest peak in the open space area, and had a little trail lunch. On the way back to the van, a goose hissed at me, perhaps in an attempt to be more memorable than the flowers and butterflies.

Afterward, we went to a local coffee shop where Jeanine got a Chai and I bought a mystery drink which I think contained cinnamon, pepper, and nutmeg. I was quite good. I was happy to notice that the shop's sound system boasted a turntable, and that they were playing actual records. West African music. Very nice.

I'm going to a job fair on Saturday to try and land a teaching job, although I hear that districts are currently letting teachers go. We're also plugging away at the mountain of work to be done at my mom's house. More books have been boxed up, and more rooms have been at least partially cleared. There was one strange incident that happened while Jeanine and I were working in the family room. A crystal glass jumped off the top of a shelf and into a nearby chair. Neither of us were anywhere near it at the time, and when we looked at where it stood, we noticed that the base had cracked, leaving a crescent of crystal behind. Oddly though, the part of base that stayed on the shelf was the part nearest to the edge the rest of the glass had fallen off of. I can't remember if it had been cracked beforehand. We both investigated the remaining piece to see if it was somehow stuck to the shelf, but it wasn't. I joked that it was the work of a poltergeist, but then stopped and wondered... The glass was, after all, resting about ten feet from where my mother died.

Monday, March 01, 2010

It has been slightly over a month now since my mom died, and life goes on for the rest of us. Willow is now 7, her birthday being celebrated on different days at her house and mine, not to mention a party the weekend before. My dad came down this Saturday, and we spent time together in the house that neither of us have lived in for years, he going through old files, and me recycling and cleaning, and we had a nice time together, despite the circumstances. Greg came down the next day, and we loaded up my van with more than a thousand books, delivering them to the Cupertino library where my mom volunteered for a good percentage of her life. After dropping Greg off at the BART station in the afternoon, I returned to the house and was met there slightly later by Jeanine. We did some more sorting and cleaning together, and it's finally starting to look like work has been done. It's an overwhelming process, dealing with all of the things my mom accumulated after living in the same house for four decades, especially when one considers how many of the things have memories attached to them, and how many interesting books my mom had. One of the neighbors has been putting out the recycling and garbage bins every week, saving me from having to make extra trips. I'm grateful for that. For the past month, the recycling bin has been filled and refilled with magazines, mostly copies of New Yorker. I'm keeping the National Geographics.

At the moment, I'm at work. The kids are in bed, and the wind gives the occasional desultory gust. More clouds are moving in, and rain is expected to moisten this corner of the world sometime before dawn. Every other day feels like Spring, but Winter isn't done with us yet. I feel like I'm getting the best of both worlds.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A startled doe leaping toward me over a low fence, side-lit by camp lights. Hooves clopping down on pebbled cement in a brief flash of sparks. The staccato sound of its passage. Disappearing into darkness.

The darkness is already filled with Spring. The frogs know it. The air smells of it. I can feel it on my skin. Despite this, it is still cold at night. The wind still howls. At times, the rain pelts down. The moon blinks on and off behind the clouds. The world heals in green. The green heals the rest of us.

It is time, as always, to think of cycles. Of endings. Of beginnings.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Occasionally I'll spend time looking through my old blog posts. It can be fun to revisit what was going through my head on the same day during previous years. Recently, I rediscovered a blow-by-blow account of a day three years ago. The day was posted on February 22nd (although it was actually the 21st that I wrote about, so I've just realized I'm one day off. Oh well), so yesterday I spent the whole day paying attention to the details of my day, writing little notes down throughout. A lot has changed in the last three years, and it is interesting (for me, at least) to compare the days. So, without further ado, here is yesterday:

6:55- I wake up and realize it's not even 7 yet, and promptly go back to sleep.

8:45- That's more like it. I wake up again, and microwave some veggie bacon and make cinnamon toast. I pour out the coffee that has been sitting in the pot since before I went to Chicago. Make new coffee. I check e-mail while having breakfast, sending e-mails to Jen (letting her know I'll pick Willow up from softball practice) and Jeanine. I also read an update from David Tibet about the upcoming Current 93 shows in London, and decide I want to go. I follow a link to the Myspace page for Lili Refrain, and decide I want to get her cd. I pause to reflect on the hidden costs of the internet.

9:30- Gather materials to pack and mail the Anathema "We Are The Bible" 7" to a guy named Ross in Australia. This will probably be the last Ebay item I sell in awhile. I think I've made over $600.00 on Ebay over the last couple of months.

9:44- Unpack, looking for receipts from the trip so I can balance my checkbook.

10:00- Sitting in front of a pile of receipts, preparing to tally them.

10:16- Checkbook balanced. $165.00 left for the month. Time for a shower.

10:41- Getting dressed.

10:50- Stopped in the middle of getting dressed to crop photos and upload them to Flickr.

10:55- Decide to just crop and choose photos now, and upload later. Back to getting dressed.

11:00- Putting away clean dishes.

11:05- I return a call to Gabriel, who is the father of one of Willow's friends from preschool. We discuss potential playdate dates for the girls. I mention elephant seals, and Gabriel relates a story about how he went to see them but was turned back by some mysterious, awful stench - he describes it as potentially lethal.

11:20- Finish getting dressed.

11:30- Leave to walk to the library, Post Office, and grocery store.

11:40- Standing in front of the library, I discover that it opens at 2:00 PM on Mondays. Walk to the post office across the street.

11:45- At the post office, discover that there are no flat rate envelopes in the usual place, and wait in line with my unpackaged record to get an envelope from an employee.

11:55- I get an envelope, stuff the record inside, hurriedly address it, and mail it. On the way out, I drop a check for my car insurance in the proper slot.

12:00- Walk across parking lot to grocery store. Buy $40 worth of groceries, including bread, burrito supplies, hummus ingredients, and ice cream for Willow's birthday.

12:12- Walk home.

12:22- Put groceries away.

12:25- Make hummus and listen to the news on my radio/I-pod dock.

12:39- Eat hummus with bread, reflecting as I do that perhaps I put in too much yogurt or not enough garbanzo beans. It's too runny to make a sandwich out of, so I simply dip the bread into it. While dipping, I check e-mail.

1:00- Digest. Do dishes.

1:11- Start uploading photos to Flickr and editing remaining photos from trip.

2:26- Decide to stop editing/uploading photos, and walk to library to straighten out current difficulties (historical note: around a month ago, 9 items that I didn't check out appeared on my account, and the library wants to charge me late fees and replacement costs) and then on to nearby store to buy Willow some birthday presents.

2:35- Talk to librarian.

2:37- Talk to librarian's supervisor. She hems and haws for a bit, first trying to give me the number of somebody at the main branch in downtown San Jose, but finally relenting and waiving the fees (due, in part, to the fact that the missing items, being in Spanish, are very dissimilar to what I usually check out). I feel a weight lifted off of me, and depart with a spring in my step to round up some birthday loot for Willow.

2:40- Walk to nearby store.

3:04 - $40 later, emerge from store with doll clothes for Willow, and a new razor for me. Walk home.

3:11- Check mail. Nothing.

3:12- Hide presents on top of closet. Sit down and contemplate having a cup of coffee. Wait for photos to finish uploading (52% complete).

3:33- Finish choosing which photos to upload next.

4:01- Still uploading and naming photos. Perhaps now I will have some coffee.

4:03- Coffee from this morning is still warm enough to drink without microwaving. Yay! I drink it black to help preserve remaining warmth.

4:20- Tallying up how much I spent today. Sadly balancing checkbook.

4:30- $93.81

4:36- Drinking water and eating dried fruit mix. Blogging (transferring travel journal to blog).

5:00- Save blog without publishing, and name some more uploaded photos.

5:10- E-mail Jeanine.

5:20- More journal transferring.

5:30- More photo uploading.

5:48- Leave to get Willow from softball practice. Listening to Sheila Chandra "Abonecronedrone" as I drive. It is a promo cassette that I've had for nearly two decades, I think. My converter that allows me to listen to my I-pod and/or cd player in the van no longer works, but I'm enjoying listening to old cassettes for the time being.

6:00- I arrive at the softball field (at Willow's school) in time for the after-practice parent meeting. Jen is there, as is Nathan. Willow has a new haircut, and it looks very cute. She can hardly contain her energy as she listens to the coach talk to the parents. Nathan comes over to me and tells me what a good job Willow did during practice.

6:15- Jen hadn't realized that I was taking Willow for dinner (in part, due to the fact that me being gone threw off our schedule a bit, and in part due to the fact that she evidently didn't read the e-mail I sent earlier) but it's fine with her. Initially, Willow wants to go home with her mom because that's where all of her new birthday presents are (her birthday isn't until Thursday, but she had a party this weekend). I tell her I brought her things from Chicago, and that more or less changes her mind. Going to Jen's van to get Willow's street shoes, we run into Sophie. Sophie wants to come to my place too, so I leave with both girls in tow. Willow tells me about her birthday party as we drive.

6:33- Arrive home.

6:40- Make quesadillas for girls and show them some pictures from my trip. Break the news that it's no TV week, and that this includes DVDs. Make quesadilla for myself, with added hot sauce.

6:45- Eat, and get frozen peas out for the girls.

6:55- Attempt to prevent Sophie from smashing frozen peas into the linoleum.

7:10- Figure out how to pull a long stream of colored paper, magician style, out of my mouth (a giveaway from the convention). Watch girls play with the paper and try to stuff it into their mouths to emulate me. I inform them it is a one-use product.

7:15- Prevent girls from watching a DVD. Listen to Sophie make up funny insults. Girls' talk degenerates into discussions and demonstrations of farting.

7:20- We put Willow's blooming rock (a rock that grows crystals when submerged in vinegar) into a bowl full of white vinegar. I explain to the girls that it doesn't bloom immediately. Sophie asks if she can drink the vinegar. I let the girls smell it. They make disgusted faces.

7:22- I give Sophie the 5 olives she asks for.

7:30- Tickle fight!

7:35- Turn off laptop.

7:38- Sweep frozen peas off floor. Notice that there are still 4 olives in Sophie's bowl. I tell her to eat them. She ignores me.

7:40- Drink a half cup of coffee.

7:46- Finish coffee. Leave to drop of girls at their mom's house.

8:00- Drop off girls. Admire picture that Sophie painted for Willow. Head for work, still listening to Abonecronedrone.

8:20- Arrive at work.

8:25 Turn on heater to boys' cabins, and grab Night Talk board (a large foam board with explicit instructions for getting ready for bed - a visual aid for the students)to bring down to the amphitheater where the students are loudly enjoying the campfire program.

8:30- Play tarka and sing "Bats Eat Bugs" with Jellyfish, Bunny, and Falcon, then lead the cabin leaders away to have a quick meeting with them. I introduce myself and give them general advice about the nighttime routine, and give them a step by step description of what happens after the campfire programs ends. I answer some questions as well, and then we all return to the campfire.

8:50- Sing "Humble", the mellow closing song, with my aforementioned coworkers, then start the night talk. I give instructions for getting ready for bed, general advice, and answer questions. One student wants to know what would happen if an escaped robber appeares on the premises in the middle of the night. I move on from that one quickly, so other students don't start worrying about robbers too.

9:15- I dismiss students by cabin group and douse campfire with nearby hose. I arrive back at The Hub (camp office) and use the mic to remind students to walk. I realize I forgot to tell anybody about the second set of bathrooms. I use the mic to remedy this. Then, I walk around playing the tarka, using the mic tucked under my arm to amplify it.

9:25- I talk with 3 girls who got in trouble for "looking in windows", and then with a little homesick girl. After awhile, she seems to feel better, so I tell her to go get ready for bed.

9:50- I ring the 5-minute warning bell, and talk with the teachers who are signed up to do night patrol (walking around to make sure cabin lights are off and students are quiet). The homesick girl reappears and wants to talk with her teacher. They go off to talk somewhere.

9:55- I ring the final bell and wish the camp goodnight over the mic. I turn off the mic, and the teachers start the night patrol.

10:00- I plug in my alarm clock and my laptop, then meet with the teachers, introducing myself to the new ones. I recognize about half of them from last year. I then post the hopper (meal server) schedule for tomorrow's breakfast and lunch. Then, I show the teachers where the switch for the heater is located, and wish them goodnight.

10:05- Pour a steaming cup of herbal tea and check e-mail.

10:17- Upload more photos.

10:29- Two girls peek their heads in the door to ask if they can go to the bathroom. I tell them they can.

10:30- Finish uploading for now (80 more photos) and prepare to go check Riker cotton (cotton squares used for a leaf-mounting activity done later in the week) levels.

10:31- As I'm about to walk out the door, a cabin leader brings over a weeping, homesick boy. I give the boy a quick pep talk and send him back to bed.

10:38- Somebody has left the door to the old dining hall open. I go in, pick up the trash can that Raccoons have dumped, and check Riker cotton. There is enough so that I don't have to cut new squares tonight.

10:42- E-mail Jeanine.

11:13- Just spent a half hour monkeying around on the internet. I'll now go dig out my sleeping bag and prepare my place (dubbed "Crow's Nest") on the top bunk in the Hub.

11:28- Sleeping bag, pillow and blankets in place, I go out to walk around camp. I hear Raccoon noises.

11:33- Back in. There are a few frogs singing out in the darkness, and a half moon playing behind a thin layer of clouds. It is cold, although nowhere near as cold as the -51 degrees Fahrenheit reported by the broken weather gauge outside. Almost done uploading photos. Next, I'll name them.

11:37- Check online weather forecast. Rain over the next two days! Yes!

11:38- Start naming photos.

11:56- Done naming photos. Start uploading last batch.

11:58- Another walk outside while photos are uploading.

12:00- Turn off heaters to cabins (to be turned on again at 6:00 AM).

12:12- Naming photos as they upload.

12:18- Creating Twist & Shout photo set.

12:28- Done creating set. A male Great Horned Owl is hooting outside. I'm going to go out and listen to him. It's very cold outside.

12:35- I surprised a Raccoon in the process of sneaking toward the trash. He ran off. The owl is still hooting.

12:36- Turn off computer and go to bed. The heater in the Hub isn't working, so I keep my sweat jacket on. I'm still cold, but quickly warm up once under the blankets.