Monthly Archives: October 2008

Fixing a Hole

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Well, the Sink Hole that Ate My Yard has settled down. The consensus among the usual suspects is that none of them are to blame, and I think they’re right. One opinion, that there may once have been a septic tank there, seemed absurd, but poking and prodding revealed a couple of concrete blocks way down at the bottom of the hole, so the possibility of a previous structure cannot be ruled out. It’s a hard time of year to get dirt delivered but I did get some over here this morning and then spent a hardly hour or so pitching very wet topsoil down into a very deep hole. The joys of homeownership. Arrgh.

And then the earth opened up

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Is it a sign of the apocalypse when a giant hole opens up in your yard? Or is it just a promotional gimmick for Ghostbusters III? If the latter, I wasn’t advised. It turns out it’s pretty hard to get anyone excited over a giant hole in the yard – the town was quick to check it out, but it wasn’t by the water line and hadn’t swallowed the road, so they went on their way. I knew it was near the gas line, but as it hadn’t yet exploded, that detail wasn’t too interesting to my gas provider. Once I confirmed that I could see bare gas pipe in the hole and called back with that information, I got a little bit more attention, but they still didn’t know quite what to do. After pulling some teeth, I got them to commit to looking at it. Someday.

So, if you’re walking around my yard, watch your step!

Weather: a known flip-flopper

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It’s a commonplace that the weather changes quickly around here – completely one thing one day, completely another the next. So, Friday was coldish (45) and sunny and I had the nicest cold-weather ride I can remember; yesterday was 20 degrees warmer, vastly wetter, and just miserable. Mushrooms and mold everywhere, though a good day for digging a new garden. On the plus side, I made an excellent squash soup.

The weekends are now a blur of Nutcracker rehearsals, random yardwork, and old movies on the DVR. With a stored assortment of black and white horror classics like “Cat People” and “I Walked with a Zombie” courtesy of TCM, the only thing we could agree to watch last night was “D.O.A.,” what with its “soft in the belly” and its “luminous toxin poisoning” and its desperately needy Paula. Still a fun romp, but the “reporting your own murder” angle seems a little thin now.

Another mystery solved

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Glad I didn’t go to my grave wondering about this one, which has been driving me crazy (on an every-now-and-then basis) for nigh onto 30 years. A long, long time ago, back in the dark ages when the only way to see movies was to go to a theater, our university had some great film series. Among them was a series of old black and white film from the ’30s and ’40s, not all of them classics by any means, often shown with cartoons and a Flash Gordon or Dick Tracy serial, as they were intended to be shown. And at one of these showings my already long-suffering wife-to-be and I saw an odd little film that, as memory served, featured some occultish elements, a sort of mystical little shop, and an eerie performance by Edward G. Robinson, often talking into a mirror. And for years and years I waited to see this movie somewhere again, if only to remember its title and what it was all about, but to no avail. Then, as IMDB became available, I would periodically scrounge through Robinson’s credits, but not find anything that quite fit the bill. I knew it wasn’t “Brother Orchid,” which we saw in that series as well, and the description of “Larceny Inc.” didn’t quite fit, though it did have a non-mystical luggage shop and a non-eerie Robinson performance, as we recently learned. But I still couldn’t uncover it.

Then a couple of weeks ago, as I was going through boxes of nonsense that should have been purged decades ago, I came across an odd piece of ephemera, the University Union Cinemas schedule for Spring, 1979. And on it was a title I didn’t recognize (and which these days would suggest a different kind of film entirely): “Flesh and Fantasy.” Another trip to IMDB, and sure enough – Found it! It turns out to have been a trio of loosely connected stories in a single film, and I had conflated the Edward G. Robinson part, a man who is told by a palmreader that he will commit a murder, with a segment that actually featured Bob Cummings (almost the anti-Robinson) and the shop of a mysterious mask maker.

With that, I’ve solved two major movie mysteries in 2008 (the other being the matter of the morocco endpapers), which ought to be some kind of good sign.

Frost on the pumpkin

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As they say, the frost is on the pumpkin and pretty much everything else. Three straight mornings of cold, hard frost that dampens the enthusiasm for things like bicycle riding. Take temps below 55, add a 20mph headwind to whatever else is blowing around out there, and it’s not just the pumpkin that gets frosted. The sun gives little relief, and below 55 I can’t get by without tights, and even then I need a warming embrocation to get going and keep the knees from freezing. Belgium Knee Warmers recommends an embrocation from Mad Alchemy, which I’m dying to try because I’m a little nervous about the stuff I’m currently using. There’s got to be something better than methyl salicylate.

The miles also suffer, both because I’m just not able to push myself to be that uncomfortable for more than a couple of hours, and because opportunities tend to come when I’m around the city, which means stop-and-start urban riding, rough roads, lots of traffic and other things that just slow the whole ride down. But that’s just the nature of autumn riding – you just do what you can when you can. For the last couple of years, I’ve managed to ride in every month but one (though whether it’s January or February has varied by when the thaw comes), but that doesn’t mean I make any serious miles.

Currently trying to psyche myself up to get out there this afternoon, but the current temp of 41 degrees isn’t exactly inspiring me to stuff myself into tights and freeze my toes off.

Noise in the attic

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Trying to keep up the ongoing purge of the absolutely unnecessary, the inexplicably kept, the useless detritus of the past that seems to stick like glue — I’m throwing away things I swear I’ve thrown away three or four times before. Now of course we have the modern advantage of being able to scan some of those things, old pieces of ephemera tucked into notebooks and drawers just as reminders of things we once did or the people we once were, and I’m perfectly satisfied with a digital facsimile as the original meets the fate it should have met 25 years ago. But there are still some problematic items.

Cassettes, for example. From the time I bought my first cassette tape, I was addicted to the creation of tapes. (Now people call them mix tapes, but at the time, it was just a given that if I was making a tape it wasn’t simply a copy of an entire album or a single artist.) I still have some of my earlier efforts, barely preserved on the cheapest tape available at the time, though most of those have long since been tossed, broken and unplayable. There was a time when making a tape was almost a stress reflex, something I did as a way of avoiding whatever it was I was supposed to be doing (usually schoolwork). I made dozens and dozens of these during my college years and into my twenties, usually cuing off whatever latest and greatest finds I had made at Desert Shore, my most reliable used record source. Once I had my hands on some graphics gear, even the creation of the covers became an obsession. And I still have nearly all of them, and a tape deck to play them on.

But of course in the age of iTunes and digital music, even though I will get up every twenty minutes to flip over an LP, I almost never pop a cassette in the deck. The sound quality was substandard from the start, and hasn’t gotten better over thousands of plays. So I thought maybe I could gather up the bulk of them and consign them to history. But first, at least make a copy of the covers so I could remember what was on them, maybe even duplicate a few on CD. But as I looked at the playlists, I realized that I had very little of this music digitally — almost all of it is still locked up on my LPs. If I toss these tapes that WERE my musical base for my 20s and 30s, tapes whose song order is indelibly locked in our memories, I may never really get them back. And there’s all this fun music that I just haven’t heard in years.

So, ummm, the tapes are staying. Another victory for clutter. (But I am digitizing a few of them, anyway — hang the sound quality: I don’t have the rest of my life to recreate these things the way I used to.)

Damn right I’ve got the blues!

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A couple of weeks ago there was just nothing I wanted to hear on Sirius, so I started scanning around and found the Blues channel. Rebekah asked, with surprise, “You like the blues?!” Damn right I like the blues – I’ve just been so busy ensuring my kids have a proper grounding in the essentials of rock ‘n’ roll, to the point they can spontaneously sing every single word of “Tombstone Blues,” that I’ve forgotten to expose them to any more of the blues than they get from repeated watchings of “The Blues Brothers.” But yes, there was a time when it was all blues, all the time in our house – huge quantities of John Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, “Gatemouth” Brown, the incredible John Hammond, and more. In fact, we refer to 1991 as The Year of Buddy Guy, the year this solid bluesman who had been playing for 30 years became something of an overnight sensation and was suddenly playing, it seemed, everywhere.

So, her question and seeing Buddy’s amazing performance in “Shine A Light” suddenly brought the blues back, and I’m busy ripping my blues CDs onto the computer and making room on the iPod. (I once played absolutely nothing but Small Faces for about a month, prompting a roommate to confide that she had really preferred my Left Banke period.) When I get into something, I get into it deep. so it may be before long that the family is looking back with longing at my intense Joe Cocker phase from early this summer. I’m just sayin’.