Monthly Archives: September 2004

Hurtling toward teenaged

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My bright, sweet, amazing 11-year-old is going to her first dance tomorrow night. Her first dance. Sixth grade. How could the schools allow this to happen? Don’t they understand that dances can only lead to thoughts of boys? I want her head filled with algebra, not Al. (Definitely not Al.)

She has patiently explained that this is not a dance. Dances aren’t until seventh grade (that’s more like it). It’s more like activities. But the permission slip says “dance” about 87 times. (Among the rules is one that only an enforcement bureaucrat like myself could love – no one with a “significant referral to the office” will be allowed to attend.)

Do I remember my first dance? Only like it was yesterday, baby. First song I ever heard in a darkened gym? The Raspberries, “Go All The Way.” Had no idea what that meant, by the way. Last song of the night? King Harvest, “Dancing in the Moonlight.” Price of bad orange soda in a paper dixie cup? 10 cents. Number of girls I made so much as eye contact with? Zero. Are you kidding? If one I liked had talked to me I would actually have died. (By the time I graduated from high school, I almost had it down. I could ask a girl to dance, as long as I didn’t have a crush on her or anything like that. If I did, it was, of course, impossible.)

I’m a big Raspberries fan to this day, by the way.

Cougar of Clove Road

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Great weekend. Rode 42 miles on Saturday (an unspeakably beautiful fall day), and undertook a massive window cleaning project yesterday (including scrubbing the venetian blinds – uggh). Bet you didn’t know a stepladder could be turned into a very effective blind-cleaning frame. All the women were away, which made for a strange and quiet house, so I was forced to turn the volume way the hell up on the Beta Band.

They say it’s my birthday . . . .

The Cougar of Clove Road stands among the graves of those who dared challenge him on the hills of Schodack Originally uploaded by carljohnson.

Congressional Report

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My report from Capitol Hill? You can’t get there anymore. The whole area is completely torn up. Some of it was planned renovations, some of it is the new “visitor’s center” they’re scrambling to build so they can funnel the public through a single entrance, a lot of it is security stuff, but basically the Capitol looks like one big messy construction zone, and if you have to walk from one side of it over to the other, you have to go the long way around, which is a major pain in the ass, especially on days like yesterday when it’s up over 80 and ya gets a little sweaty in the suit. Also, they’ve thrown up traffic barriers everywhere, so the whole thing has been transformed from the old Capitol that we all used to chant on the steps of to something that looks like a police state. The Iraqi prime minister (bonus points for someone who can name him without googling him) was there yesterday to address Congress, so security was hyper anyway. A few police here and there does in fact make me feel more secure; police every time you turn around makes me nervous. We’ve gone down this path without hardly a thought. On the other hand, I got through ALL metal detectors on the first try yesterday, which is a personal best.

In other Congressional news: Mary Bono. I don’t think I’ve felt that way about a member of Congress before.

Free Tyler Hamilton!

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How do I learn that Tyler Hamilton is being accused of blood doping? Not through any of my normal American news sites (though CNN’s sports section did have a thrilling story on new Ryder Cup rules. I have no idea what sport that is). Not through Velonews, though that’s my own fault — if I read the website every day, there’s not much point in reading the magazine, and I haven’t been following the Vuelta that closely since OLN isn’t carrying it this year. No, instead I pick it up while browsing LeMonde, where I occasionally try to pick through the news en francais. In fairness, the New York Times has an article today.

I do not believe that Tyler Hamilton doped his blood. He is the first person to be accused, using this new test, of what is essentially withdrawing blood and then transfusing it before a race so that you have extra red blood cells. There’s still a lot of uncertainty about this testing method, and to threaten a man’s entire career with an unproven test is insanity — but that’s the power of the World Anti-Doping Agency. (Lots of people seem to think that doping and drugging is rampant in cycling — I don’t think it is any more than any other sport, and probably less so than many, but they’re very aggressive about testing, so more of it is caught. You don’t think normal people get to the size of football players without help, do you?)

Ugh.

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Fall is here. Let the massive head colds begin!

Haven’t written because the weekend was a combination of virally influenced sloth and Mission: Organization. Rebuilt the system on the main Mac and sorted all the fonts into useable format (and, as if by a miracle, Photoshop has ceased crashing on me). Put up a new lamp in Bekah’s room. Kept making progress on the garage, thanks to a nice little Rubbermaid tool caddy that condensed about 30 linear feet of tool storage on the walls (generally inaccessible, thanks to bikes and canoes) into a couple of square feet of tool storage that can be tucked into a corner. We could put a car in the garage, if push came to shove. So, while that all sounds very energetic, Saturday was so miserable, cold, and rainy that I did absolutely nothing. Nothing. Not a thing. Hannah got a miserable cold, and I’ve got a little bit of it, so it was generally an unpleasant weekend. Much Playstation was played (though not enough by me, I must say). We ate in the living room and made popcorn while we watched “Pirates of the Caribbean,” and last night we repeated and watched “Casablanca,” still an unbelievably great movie. Today, I take my head cold to New York!

Johnny, Joey, DeeDee . . . .

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I just can’t believe it, another Ramone gone. So I filled the house with the sounds of “We’re Outta Here” and “Acid Eaters” and thought of all the times and places I got to see the Ramones — the Jabberwocky, the Landmark Theatre, a gymnasium, even a bowling alley. They rolled out on stage in Syracuse once and cried out, “Hello, Schenectady!” If they were in town, we went. The show almost never changed. It didn’t need to.

The unanswered question: Did their parents know they were Ramones?

Rote ride

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Remember how once, maybe when you were 14, 15, 16, you literally knew every inch of the streets where you lived? You walked them or biked them, went up and down them dozens of times every day, and you knew every crack, every pothole, every chip the plows had taken out of the curb. I never thought I would know anything again as well as I once knew the streets where I grew up, but I’m approaching that level of knowlege with my current standard bike loop. I know every drop-out, every hole, every crack, where the shoulder starts to pitch, where the tractor-wash spills out onto the road. I watch the slow decay of the roadkill, too — of particular interest right now is a dead frog who must have hit something, rather than being run over, because he’s just a splayed, unflattened, shrinking frog corpse, caught in mid-leap. I had assumed I would never know a place so well again, but apparently I was wrong.

Not long ago, I got to ride around my old village, too, where almost nothing has changed. Our school was turned into a condo twenty years ago, and they built apartments on the schoolyard. The main street has changed businesses, but not the look, and it still has one of the last small-town movie theaters around here (when we were growing up, it was an “art house,” sometimes showing some standard movies, but also edging over into the porn side of “art.” Proctor’s, many have forgotten, went much further over that edge for a while). All the houses are the same as they ever were, the streets the same. I forgot to look at whether the fire alarm boxes were still there. Growing up, one of the major activities was deciphering the fire codes when the horn went off up at the firehouse. Each box had a number, and the horn would blow corresponding to the number. I think our box was 42, so the horn would blow four times, then 2 times. That way the volunteers knew where to respond. For a long time, only fire department members had the cards with the codes, but through shrewd observation and an utter lack of anything to do other than ride our bikes around the village until we found out where the firetrucks were going, we were able to put our own code sheets together. Any kid worth his salt instantly knew where an alarm was. The “newer” part of the village, built out on the western edge and in fact beyond village limits, got three-digit codes. I have no idea whether this was common, or just a Scotia thing (we were also perhaps the only village in the state to have a mix of professional and volunteer firefighters, and I was stunned years later to learn that vastly larger towns and villages, including on Long Island, relied entirely on volunteers.) Anybody else have coded fireboxes?

Cultcha Cornah

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Let’s talk culture a minute, shall we? I’ve seen so many movies lately, and haven’t written a thing about them. I’ve been on this mini-crusade to share great old movies with the girls — and by “old,” I mean anything from the ’30s to the ’80s, anything that predates the girls themselves. So we all wept together watching “Pride of the Yankees,” and then laughed like crazy at Preston Sturges’s “Miracle of Morgan’s Creek,” which right in the middle of the war and the final days of the Hays Office managed to introduce a heroine who got drunk, got married to a soldier she’d never seen before, got pregnant, and completely blacked out on the whole thing. It was as hilarious as ever.

Then during vacation I had a burning desire to see, and show them, “Meatballs,” Bill Murray’s first movie and a classic of adolescent humor. It has some fairly risque moments, but they thought that movie was hilarious, too. And I was a little surprised at how many little phrases from that movie I still have in my vocabulary. One night we caught a few minutes of one of the “Back to the Future” movies, and so we borrowed the first two from the library and watched them — not bad, after all this time, not bad. I’d like to show them “Gremlins,” but haven’t found it yet. And I’m trying to remember if there was anything in “The Blues Brothers” that earned it that R rating other than the language.

Over in the adult swim, we’ve been having a little Tarantino festival. “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction” seem to be on TV every night. Bought “Jackie Brown” (couldn’t find it to rent or borrow), and expected something other than what I got, which was a thoughtful, well-acted, barely violent little caper-flick. I was really impressed with it (and Pam Grier), and can’t understand why it didn’t get more of a reception. And the theme from that was a song called “Across 110th Street,” which I half-thought Tarantino might have made up, but the next time I wandered into the DVD section at the library, there was a new “Soul Collection” DVD of a 1972 film with Yaphet Kotto and Anthony Quinn called “Across 110th Street.” You can’t imagine how fast I snatched that down from the shelf. Here, too, I expected a terrible blaxploitation flick and got something much better, a tense and bloody story of small-time crooks who hit the mob, and then there’s the race to see whether the mob or the cops get to them first. Anthony Quinn is the old-school racist detective who talks with his fists, Yaphet Kotto — and I’m down for just about anything with Yaphet Kotto in it — is the college-educated new-school detective who is put in charge of the investigation because he’s black. Very 1972, and the film-making has that gritty ’70s realism and camera work that you just don’t see any more. Quite a good film. (But I’m still dying to see a truly bad blaxploitation flick, so I’m going to have to head up to the video store on Central that actually has a blaxploitation section.)

And this weekend, the “Kill Bill” marathon. Last night, Vol. 1, to set us up for Vol. 2 tonight. Vincent Gallo, angry that nobody watches his films, called Tarantino a “collage artist” on Stern a couple of weeks ago. Well, collage is still art in the right hands, buddy, and this stuff is art. I generally can’t stomach graphic violence in films, but this is so cartoony and balletic, so much the very point of the movie, that it doesn’t create that visceral reaction. Cannot wait to see what happens in Vol. 2.

Enough rambling. It’s a beautiful day in September. As it was three years ago. This time, it’s going to stay beautiful.