Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Things are good. Home for the holidays, with H, A, sweet B, and J the W arriving tomorrow, and friends all around. Take it away, Billie Holiday...

When we want to love we love
When we want to kiss, we kiss
With a little petting, we’re getting
Some fun out of life

When we want to work, we work
When we want to play, we play
In a happy setting, we’re getting
Some fun out of life

Maybe we do the right things
Maybe we do the wrong
Spending each day
Wending our way along

But when we want to sing, we sing
When we want to dance, we dance
You can do your betting, we’re getting
Some fun out of life

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Obvious, but nifty all the same

Here’s a cool thing that may be old hat to others but that I’d never seen before: a music review (“Top 10 Jazz Albums of 2008,” in this case) with sound clips built in.

Safely home all

Everyone’s made it to their destinations. The weather in Minnesota was closing in when I left, and the plane needed two de-icings before the pilot was satisfied to fly, but my prosaic flights were essentially hitchless. More important, The Great Trek from Rochester to Rochester was, aside from a blown and quickly-replaced windshield wiper fuse, about as smooth as 20-hours in a jam packed car on American Interstates can be. journey. Sweet B and J the W apparently were both champs.

Connecticut was white and getting whiter when I landed, and the hour-long drive home from the airport was messy. I’ve been out this morning shoveling, and now I’m inside with a mug of tea looking out at the blanketed and clothed yard and bushes. New England is a beautiful part of the world after a snowstorm.

It’s wonderful to just snuggle in here at home on a day like this. We miss our sweeties, though, and can’t wait to see them soon. B’s fifth-month birthday will be on New Year's Eve, and I think we might pour a little bubbly.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Lonely in Minnesota

Years ago I worked for a magazine that required me to travel a lot. I went to some great places met lots of interesting people, but basically I hated it. H was little then, and colleagues would joke that I started getting homesick while I was packing. They were wrong. I started getting homesick when I made my travel plans. Pathetic, I know, but there it is.

It’s now a little after 9 pm here, and I’m sitting in a depressingly empty house listening to Radio Heartland and feeling bereft. It’s not homesickness, but it’s close enough. I’m flying home tomorrow, but H’s 1994 Subaru station wagon left just about an hour ago, loaded Joad-like and carrying A1, A, H, sweet B, and Jasper the Wonderdog. They’re headed, by way of Chicago, to Rochester, New York, a 20-hour drive away. We’re hoping they sweep behind the snow storm that passed through here last night and is moving eastward. It’s a long drive, and it won’t be comfortable in the best conditions. I’ll be thinking of them and worrying about them until I hear they’re safe in that other Rochester.

All will be well again next week, when H, A, D and J the W arrive in Woodbury, bringing joy in that ratty old car.

Travel safely, my sweets.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Moving Day

It’s bitter cold out (surprise, surprise), and a small crew with a huge truck is here marking, inventorying, and shifting boxes and pieces of furniture that will fill part of the trailer and make their next appearance in Concord, New Hampshire, just after Christmas.

A’s dad (another A—let’s call him A1) arrived yesterday, and he is downstairs overseeing the work (front door wide open, of course, so house freezing) and making coffee for the guys. I am upstairs with a space heater in the master bedroom, keeping sweet B warm and occupied. Jasper the Wonderdog, very concerned that his house is being turned topsy-turvy, is up here with us, enjoying a special dispensation that allows him to curl up on the bed just this once.

A possible shuffle with H and J the W this afternoon, if schedule and this !@#$%^ weather permit, then I think we’re going out to dinner tonight. Big changes, big doings. Thanks for the mug of tea, A1!

The old pro

He’s never been one of my favorites, but the older I get the more I appreciate Tony Bennett. A perceptive and fascinating review by Ben Ratliff from this morning’s New York Times.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Radio Heartland

From Minnesota Public Radio, a very cool internet service “filled with an eclectic mix of acoustic, Americana, and roots music.” This description doesn’t do the station justice, though. A one-hour playlist gives you a better idea:

9:58 Randy Weeks - Transistor Radio
9:55 Jorma Kaukonen - Late Breaking News
9:51 Louise Taylor - Cherry Tree
9:47 Rodney Crowell - Beautiful Despair
9:43 Asleep at the Wheel - You're My Sugar
9:39 Uncle Earl - Sleepy Desert
9:36 Mahalia Jackson - Down By The Riverside
9:34 John Gorka - Satellites
9:30 Taj Mahal - Mockingbird
9:26 Ryan Adams - Goodnight Rose
9:21 Abigail Washburn and The Sparrow Quartet - A Fuller Wine
9:17 Antje Duvekot - Go Now
9:14 Louis Armstrong - Old Man Mose
9:09 James Hunter - I'll Walk Away
9:04 Karen Savoca - In The Dirt
9:00 Solas - Seven Curses

Eclectic enough for ya? When I turned it on last night, there was sweet B’s elegant friend, Fred Astaire...followed, certainly for the first time in radio history, by Lyle Lovett. You’re liable to go from Frank Sinatra to Taj Mahal. Or from Leo Kottke to Billie Holiday to Gene Autry. Later yesterday, winding astonishingly out of a largely alt folk and world music set came the voice of Doris Day singing “Que Sera, Sera.” So there’s a sense of humor here, too.

The bonus on Radio Heartland is a morning show without screaming morons. This may now actually be illegal in the U.S., so listen soon, before they haul Connelly off to Guantanamo.

[Edit: Nope, it wasn’t alt folk and world music (you can check playlist archives), but it was “Que Sera Sera.” What can I tell you? I was falling asleep.]

Another WP app.

I’ve discovered Adobe’s web-based, collaborative (if you want it to be) word processing program, Buzzword. It is similar in many ways to Google Docs, which I’ve written about, though, to me, more attractive and welcoming (though perhaps a little slow?). As with Docs, I’m concerned about possible problems concerning web access and a lack of personal customer service to deal with them. Perhaps the solution is as simple as it is for computer-based word processing: back up, back up, back up. At home, I automatically back up daily to an external hard drive, and before coming to Minnesota, I was about to implement a second daily auto backup to web storage. If I can implement a good protocol with Buzzword, perhaps the Adobe application will be my final answer.

I’m annoyed that I’m dithering so much over this. For years I worked, if often at long distance, with people who kept up with these professionally interesting tech advances, and we’d try things out and bat them around. I think much of my problem is the lack of this informal collegial product testing. Of course, I’m older now too, and my once sparkling mind is just a little less p├ętillant.

Monday, December 15, 2008

A song for B

B sometimes wakes up hard from her naps, fussing, crying, and flailing about with her little arms. This afternoon, she gave an especially dramatic performance, and that old Neil Sedaka song, Waking Up is Hard to Do popped into my mind:

Don’t take my sleep away from me
Don’t leave my heart in misery
If you do I’ll scream at you
’Cause waking up is hard to do.

Remember when you held me tight
Made me think it still was night
Remember that I’m just brand new
Waking up is hard to do.

They say that waking up is hard to do
Now I know, I know that it’s true
Don’t say that this is the end
Instead of waking up I wish my dreams were taking up again.

I beg of you, don’t make me cry
Can’t I give my nap another try
I’m just a baby, let me start anew
’Cause waking up is hard to do.

Books make GREAT gifts

A holiday message from Authors Guild president, the very funny Roy Blount, Jr.

Yes! Support your local independent bookstore. If you don’t have one (and fewer of us do these days), let me recommend doing business on the internet or by phone with The Hickory Stick Bookshop of Washington Depot, Connecticut (where Paul works—and also the site of my most successful book-signing ever).

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Back to the arctic

A brutal little shuffle today, with H and Jasper the Wonderdog. Piercingly cold and scouringly windy. The missing piece of gear for me in these conditions was my Turtle Fur neck gaiter, which, pulled up to my eyeballs over the ear flaps of the Outdoor Research Peruvian hat that I do have with me, does the trick. H was missing a similar piece of gear. Buffs just don’t cut the Minnesota mustard. Jasper, however, was fashionably attired in a body-length wrap of naturally curly doodle fur that kept him feeling warm while looking super-cool. He did regret his lack of shades.

As of an hour or so ago, the temp here was 1°F (-17°C), with a windchill of -21°F (-29°C). Tomorrow’s high is predicted to be -1, with “windchills approaching -30.” Sweet B and I will definitely not be going out for our morning or afternoon constitutionals. Too bad, because we both really enjoy our walks, and we’ll be logy and grumpy without them. Weatherwise, it will be good to get back to balmy New England, where all they’re dealing with is a catastrophic ice storm.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Warm and busy

How nice. A warm day. After not even going out Thursday because I didn’t think I could keep sweet B warm and protected enough in the frigid temps and wind that sent the chill way below 0°F, today was above freezing, and B and I had a good jaunt to the library, to return some books at the main desk and “re-donate” a pile of paperback mysteries to the Friends used book shop.

But it wasn’t a good day for poor B. She was hungry but wouldn’t eat, tired but wouldn’t sleep. And when we finally got her down, H wasn’t about to chance loading her into the running stroller. So it was just the three of us—H, Jasper the Wonderdog, and I, on a virtually balmy shuffle around Silver Lake.

H and A have been slaving away in the evenings and all day today (with more to do tomorrow) to pack up for The Next Stage, which involves, purely as a first step, moving most of their goods and furniture to an apartment in Concord, New Hampshire, which neither of them has actually seen yet (I looked at it back in October). The moving van picks everything up this coming week, and we all, by various methods, make our way back East over the weekend.

H showed me some of the papers she was disposing of—shoe boxes full of index-carded notes and stacks of file folders full of study sheets and more notes, all used to internalize the basics she had to learn back in her first two years of med school. I’m used to being impressed by H, who takes after her mother and resembles her husband as an academic star. But wow. I was staggered by the sheer volume of material she—like all student docs—had to organize and digest.

I believe she’s studying for her Boards in this shot. B obviously has some advice to convey.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Rhythm baby

Sweet B and I do music a lot. Mostly, this is music defined in its broadest possible sense...I “sing” impromptu doggerel to her as we waltz around or while I snuggle her toward sleep. But sometimes we listen to the real stuff. She likes rhythm more than melody, but she’s definitely not yet into jazz. She does like the three Glenn Miller tunes on my iPod (Benny Goodman, not so much), and today I discovered she’s a big Fred Astaire fan.

For some of our jam sessions, I lie on my back and prop her up on my knees. I hold her by her feet, sing along as best I can, make rhythm noises and whistle some. Yesterday, she especially enjoyed a recorded and essentially vocal version of this:

I sang along, of course. I’ve always gotten a special chuckle out of:

Come let’s mix where Rockerfellas,
Walk with sticks, or umberellas,
In their mitts,
Puttin on the Ritz

But a lightly drooling B was the star of our performance. No high hat or white spats, but some pretty fancy footwork. And the contrapuntal gurgling was a brilliant touch.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Tropical walking

I’ve discovered that a good walk or run keeps my reliably freezing toes and fingers much warmer for hours afterward, so I went out this morning for a solo stroll. Temp about 10°F (-12°C), with a biting wind from the east. Hundreds and hundreds of Canada geese noisily rafting together on the gradually freezing Zumbro River. Light but steady snow gently fuzzing the world. Quite lovely.

A told me last night that the record low here for December 6 is -28°F (-33°C), set back in the ’70s. So this morning was really a walk on the beach. Tomorrow: board shorts, Hawaiian shirt, and sandals, dude.

Pearl Harbor Day

Sixty-seven years ago on another Sunday. My father had a friend who was there, and remembered, even more than the fear and anger, the simple astonishment he felt seeing the planes, with their “meatball” markings flying over this safe American anchorage. Americans certainly haven’t forgotten this anniversary, but it naturally gets less attention than it used to. I’m looking forward to hearing what Obama has to say in his address on the subject today.

Friday, December 5, 2008

I protest!

Sweet B has a number of nice, warm little sleepers, which she pretty much lives in. My favorites zip up and down. Changing the baby? Zzzip!...there you are. Finished? Zzzip!...all set. The others—what I have come to think of as the silly sleepers—have snaps (poppers). Twelve of them, several of which fasten oddly at the crotch. This is insanely fussy. Changing the baby? Unsnap, unsnap, unsnap, etc., etc. etc. Finished? Snap, snap, snap...no wait, that wasn’t the right snap...unsnap, snap, snap...dammit all...unsnap, snap, etc., etc. All with the baby wiggling around and laughing derisively.

What are the people who design these garments thinking? Are they in cahoots with the infant population to make adults (probably mostly male adults...ok, probably mostly grandfathers) look ridiculous and feel inept?

I protest! I, for one, can handle the task of appearing foolish all on my own. I will not resist the obvious: it’s a snap.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Rolling togetherness

H had the afternoon off today. (Hey! I thought med school was supposed to be hard.) Toward the end of daylight, we suited up, popped sweet B for the very first time into the Chariot Cougar 1 that Aunt K gave her, and headed out (with Jasper the Wonderdog, of course) for our first three-generation shuffle.

It was a great success. The Cougar handled the slightly rough underfoot really well, B was content, Jasper frolicked in the snow, and we two adults came home rosy-cheeked and smiling. It was cold—about 10°F (-12°C) with a windchill temp below zero. But were were moving, we weren’t out for long, and B was well protected from both wind and cold. (That’s the bow of her bonnet strings under her chin, not frost!)

We project lots of Cougar running this winter and for a few years to come.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

“Speyside is heaven on earth”

So quoth a “spirit sommelier” in an article in today’s NY Times. They tasted 12-year-old single malts, and list favorites. I remain an ignoramus, so my favorites remain the first three drams I was handed at Sourlies and Kinbreak: Glen Morangie (thanks, Kev!), Highland Park (cheers, David!), and The Macallan (health, Jules!).

(If you take a look, you’ll see an apology from the author for spelling “whisky” as “whiskey.” Times copy editors have long driven me insane. The point should be to be accurate, but they never miss their chance to be merely “correct” by asserting the primacy of the style book.)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Pedestrianism and vocal improvisation

We’ve been doing a fair amount of walking since I got here, sweet B and I. But over the holiday week more of us were around, and schedules were a bit more flexible as a result. Different units went out for strolls at different times of day (and night). H and I even had a chance to run together two or three times. O Joy.

Things are more or less back to normal, and B, Jasper the Wonderdog, and I headed out on snowy sidewalks and trails this afternoon for our usual out-and-back. B seemed to get a little fussy halfway along, so I turned the stroller around and headed back before realizing she had just been trying out some new vocalizations. Pediatric scat.