Saturday, June 28, 2008

Dancing 'Round the World

Many thanks to H-SPO, who sent me this video to watch. It's beautiful, funny, uplifting, and silly. I love it.

Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Off To the Mountains

Spontaneous camping trip, will be back online over the weekend. Yay!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Once upon a time, on a remarkably pleasant summer evening in Durham, North Carolina, a girl and her mother went to a ballgame. They sat in the stands munching peanuts, drinking beer, cheering for the home team, and reminiscing about the good old days when the whole family, all six of them, sat in the Old Bull Park with the creaky wooden bleachers, the one they filmed Bull Durham in. Remember how the kids waited eagerly for the giant wooden bull to blow smoke out its nose and wave its tail up and down? They talked about the people they loved and their plans for the future, and what they had for dinner last night as the Bulls slugged in some home runs and that same old giant wooden bull delighted a new generation of wide-eyed children. At least they kept the old Bull when they built the newer, shinier ballpark. The fans started doing the wave, vendors shouted out about their snow cones and iced cold lemonade, and the mascot led them all in a rousing rendition of "The Old Ballgame." And as the sun set over the downtown skyline and the sky turned pink and orange, the girl and her mother sat there touching shoulders, thinking how nice it would be if neither one had to get on an airplane to spend time like this together.

Monday, June 23, 2008

I Never Thought I'd Love a Man Who Smells of Aquavelva.

I had an absolutely amazing dream the other night, that wasn't like a dream at all. It was more like a night at the movies, and I was the main character. Nothing about my life was actual true life (though it felt very real) but it was absolutely riveting. In fact, it bore a striking resemblance to the plot of a romance novel. Also, it was a commercial for Aquavelva. Strange, considering I've never even smelled it, at least not to my knowledge. But I do like the feel of saying Aquavelva. It feels posh in my mouth, and rolls smoothly off the tongue.

In the movi-- er, dream, I was a plucky young beauty struggling to protect my defenseless younger siblings from the predations of a drug lord intent on kidnapping them. The author of my dream neglected to inform me why, exactly, this drug lord had targeted my little brother and sisters, but that's sort of beside the point. It was bad enough that he'd kidnapped them and wanted to use them for drug runners and other nefarious purposes. The only man I could turn to was a cop whom I initially found less than impressive. Imagine Dennis Leary, but better looking and more muscular, and a non-smoker. Also, with darker hair, and a delightful 5 o'clock shadow. And a devilish grin. OK, so not really like Dennis Leary, at all, but I'm drawing a blank on famous people look-alikes. All in all, he was a bit of a roughneck, really, and he smelled of Aquavelva, which in my dream was the sartorial equivalent to wearing Axe body spray. In a word, cheap and disgusting. But his brave and heroic performance as he helped me defeat the drug lord and rescue my family (trust me, it was dramatic and exciting) allowed me to see past the less charming aspects of his character and fall for his heart of gold. And as the movi-- DREAM, faded to a close, I stood in his arms and said in tones of wonderment, "I never thought I'd love a man who smelled of Aquavelva." Then he kissed me. Fade to black.

Isn't that the most bizarre? I mean, Aquavelva? And I CANNOT get that line out of my head. I keep saying it over and over in my head. I never thought I'd love a man who smelled of Aquavelva. Try it out yourself. I never thought I'd love a man who smelled of Aquavelva. **sigh** Now I really want to meet an Aquavelva Man.

Off to the drug store now to find out what that stuff actually smells like.

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Really Great Story

Reading is pretty much my life. I read history books, I read historical documents, I read the news, I read some blogs, I read more history books. It used to be that I read good books for fun, but since I've begun graduate school, I've suddenly found myself in that category of people for whom reading for fun just takes too much effort. A small disclaimer: I do read romance novels to escape it all. But there's no real effort involved in that. I mean, seriously. even when the would-be lovers are stubbornly angry at each other, or one is held at gunpoint, it's kind of a no-brainer. Clearly, some third party will help mysteriously resolve the conflict, or the hero will take a bullet for the heroine, and thank god it always lodges in soft tissue only. Point is, from page one to page 354, you always know how it's going to end, more or less. The fun part is how they get there. Minimal emotional or intellectual investment required. Anyway, I'm sick of it. I want to read good books again.

I used to LOVE book stores. Still do, actually. I guess what I mean, is, I used to walk into the fiction section and, almost instinctively be able to find good books. No longer. A few weeks ago after I emerged from my post-comprehensive exams coma, I went to the book store, walked into the fiction section, and stood there looking blankly around. I had no idea where to even start. WHYYYYYYYYYYYYY????? Why have I let myself get to this state? Totally stupid of me, because there are few things better than a really good book. You know the kind, where you slow down as you get to the end, lovingly holding on to each word in an effort to prolong the experience. And when you finally get to the last page, and finish reading the last sentence, you just sit there with the book open on your lap for a little while, wishing you could start over and read it again for the first time.

Well, I finally found a good one, thanks to my darling sister Umulu, who has been after me to read The Sunne In Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman for years. I remember when Umulu first read this book, over New Years Eve weekend in 2001. She was so hooked that when it came time to go out for the New Year celebration she totally just stayed in to read that book. I finally read it last week, and it was indeed a ripping good story. I highly recommend it. Now I'm reading One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. I've got to confess, it hasn't yet grabbed me by the short and curlies and refused to let me get up off the couch, but it's still pretty damn amazing. But what will I do when I run out of Márquez? I need more good books to read on my month of vacation before I head off to Central America!

So here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to give you all a list of some of my favorite books of all time, and I'd like you to leave suggestions in the comments for books you think I'd love. Deal?

OK, in no particular order, here are some of my favorite books of all time.

The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver
The Bean Trees, by Barbara Kingsolver. Also, anything else she's ever written.
Corelli's Mandolin, by Louis DeBernieres
Cold Sassy Tree, by Olive Ann Burns
An Instance of the Fingerpost, by Iain Pears
Mama Day, by Gloria Naylor
A trilogy by Louis DeBernieres, titled as follows:
The War of Don Emanuel's Netherparts
Señor Vivo and the Coca Lord
The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman
The Bluest Eye
, by Toni Morrison
Raney, by Clyde Edgerton
The Power of One, by Bryce Courtenay
The Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri
The In-Between World of Vikram Lall, by M.G. Vassanji

I'm sure more will pop into my head as I continue mulling over my greatest hits list, so I'll come back and update this in a day or two. Anyway, hope some of you check out at least a few of these books, because they are simply stunning. Now give me suggestions, please! Can't wait to start reading...

I'm off to No-Internet-Landia (aka The Beach) for the weekend, so I'll post again on Monday. Love to you all!

I Love This Joke, Seven.

What do you call a judge with no thumbs?

Justice Fingers.

(yuck yuck yuck.)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig.

Whew. This little piggie is worn out. I don't know what it is about the graduate school lifestyle, but in spite of all the biking, swimming, yoga and general keeping in shape I do, I am still somehow completely unprepared for the exigencies of working on the farm, helping take care of a 4-year-old boy, and maintaining sustained periods of anxiety about my Dad.

Thank God, however, the worrying about SuperDad can go on the back burner, as he's doing much better. He's even home from the hospital, finally. In an unexpectedly poetic gesture, the doctor allowed him to come home on Father's Day, a day earlier than planned. He's even up and walking around some, now, though he still has to keep his leg elevated most of the time.

So thanks again for all the phone calls, comments, and emails wishing SuperDad well. He was a little stunned when he read the blog and saw all the comments, and asked me to say thanks for him for all the thoughts and prayers.

More later, my friends, but I've got to run and take Bug to his summer camp, finish weeding the garden, and scout out places to build a treehouse. Yay!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Birthday, Fairy King!

Well, this post is 2 days late, but Saturday was my amazing brother's 26th birthday. Many of you know that I am best known for my glamorous, sophisticated, and elegant manner of living, not to mention my acres and acres of gorgeous, shiny, bouncy hair. Well, what I am about to reveal may be something of a trade secret, and probably not in my best interests to divulge, but I'm going to do it anyway. I got all my elegant savvy from the Fairy King. (And from Crasey, but this isn't her birthday, so I'm ignoring her for today).

Ah, the Fairy King. Ignoring that brief period in high school when he walked around all goth and affected a 'devil may care' attitude toward life, has there ever been a more graceful and stylish man to walk the planet? I'll give you a moment or two to think about it.

(... thinking...)

(... thinking...)

(... thinking...)

The answer, as I'm sure you've all guessed by now, is no. The Fairy King is the most graceful and stylish man to walk the planet. Sometimes I think I'll never forgive him for getting our mother's family's long slender hands and feet, thick and bounteous eyelashes, and skin that easily tans to a nice smooth all-over brown color after 3.2 seconds in the sun. But then I think, well, whatever. One day my short stubby hands and feet will come in handy, and then won't he be sorry.

Lest you think that I love the Fairy King only for his good looks and charming manner, however, let me assure you that this is far from the truth. I love his loud laugh (LOUD LAUGH). I love that he still, at 26 years of age, runs to hide in the bathroom with comic books the minute dinner is over so he won't have to do the dishes. I love how when I'm sad, the Fairy King is the best listener in the world. I love how he can talk about cars for hours. HOURS. AND HOURS. AND MORE HOURS.

I love that when he finds a book he loves, he rereads it until the pages fall out. I've lost count of how many copies of Auntie Mame he's gone through, but it's impressive. He can recite entire passages. "Eleven o'clock in the morning? That's the Middle of the Night, darling!"

The same thing goes for movies. There is one reason and one reason only that the AmazingPants family can sing every song from The GnomeMobile, an utterly charming Disney film about, you guessed it, gnomes. And little kids who have to save them in their endangered forest from the big agro-exporting corporate bad guys. When the Fairy King was 5 or 6, he would watch nothing else for a period of 6 or 7 months.

These are some of the many reasons I love my baby brother, but even all combined, they don't add up to the biggest reason of all. Quite simply, he is totally reliable, utterly wonderful, and absolutely brilliant at just being there when you need him. Who willingly submitted himself to Insects, Nature, and Sleeping on the Ground when I needed to get out of town and hide out in the woods for a while last year? That would be the Fairy King. When Sheba died, who ran out of work (while his boss threatened to fire him) to run home and be with Mom? That would be the Fairy King. Who stayed awake all night, two nights in a row to take care of Bug while Mom sat in the hospital with SuperDad this week? That would be the Fairy King. (A note: he stayed up all night because he didn't know how to take care of a baby and was completely terrified. He told me later, in tones of disgust and disbelief, "Every time that kid even farted I woke up and ran in to make sure he was still breathing.")

Happy Birthday, Fairy King. I love you to pieces, and I think you're the tops. While the circumstances were less than ideal, I am so happy I was here for your birthday this year.

Friday, June 13, 2008

SuperDad Conquers All

Sorry for the delay in posting, but my thanks to everybody that posted, emailed, or called with well wishes for SuperDad. I got to North Carolina yesterday afternoon, and am happy to report that while Dad is still really sick, he's doing better. This is an immeasurable relief, as when I got on the plane from Austin the last report was that doctors were going to have to amputate his leg to stem the infection. Oh, yeah. Did I tell you about the infection?

Turns out the sepsis was coming from something called cellulitis, which is an infection in the skin or flesh. I think it's sort of a diffuse infection; at any rate, his foot is the size of a zeppelin, and it's making him really sick. But finally he's started to respond to antibiotics, and we're all breathing a sigh of relief. I'm off to the hospital now to visit him again and bring him snacks, treats, and girlie magazines. Just kidding about the girlie magazines. That was in the way of a scientific experiment, checking to see if Amazing Captain Mommypants is reading this. Probably not, but just in case, I wanted to give her a little heart attack.

In other news, North Carolina in the summertime is absolutely gorgeous. I'm overdosing on green. And my mom's little puppy Obadiah? The cutest dog ever. In the whole world. And tomorrow is the Fairy King's 26th birthday, hoorayyyyy!!!! And when Crasey and I walked out of the hospital yesterday I made the critical error of congratulating her on not wearing her really ugly bracelets that she wears all the time. So she told the cop at the front door that I had heroin in my purse and took off running. Ha ha. Very funny, Crasey.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Prayers, Please.

Yesterday I got the kind of phone call you hope never to get, the kind where the caller doesn't say until WAY too late that the person in question isn't dead. "Um, hi, listen, I've got some bad news. So you know how hot it's been here, and Dad's been working too hard outside and his heart started racing and he got way overheated and then... (pause, pause, my stomach falls out of my body) ..."

So I feel really shaky and terrified, because even after I realized that Crasey wasn't saying that Dad was dead, she was just saying that he's in the hospital, I still can't come down off the shock and adrenaline and panic. At first they thought it was just heat stroke and exhaustion, but it's become clear that he's much much sicker than that. He's got sepsis, which is an infection that gets into the blood and totally fucking terrifying to Google. I know he's in hospital and getting good health care, but jesus christ, this is scary. Dad is never sick. He's SuperDad. And the doctors have no idea what's making him sick, so they're just running endless tests and trying to control the symptoms.

Thank God I'm with my girls right now, because when I got off the phone and started sobbing like a baby, they just sat there and hugged me and didn't try to calm me down. The wonder of old friends is that they've already seen you lose your shit, and they know how to let you do it again.

So I've cancelled my trip to Minneapolis and tomorrow I fly back to Austin, repack my bags, and head back to NC to take care of Bug and help Mom, Crasey, and the Fairy King try and keep things running smoothly. Keep us in your thoughts, please.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

I Heart My Friends

Many years ago, way back in 1996, six girls rode in a minivan on their first road trip together. They were freshmen and sophomores in college; they had met only a few months ago when they each joined the Carolina rowing team. There were many reasons they had become friends. They rowed together, ran together, went to parties together. They danced and played and whispered and hugged and watched Titanic 50 million times. They shared books and ideas and the common cold. They ate every meal together, more or less, and spent hours of their lives laughing at fart jokes and bad puns. On that first road trip along the sunny highways of North Carolina, they sang along to the Indigo Girls and fought over the map. And then in a quiet moment, one of those girls said, "Hey, you know, we're more than friends. You all are like my family." It was true, and so, laughing all the while, we divvied up the family roles amongst ourselves. I was the big sister (what a shocker). H-SPO was our dad, LJA the mother, Pony the baby, NaeRae was the absent-minded middle kid. Ski-lo was the red-headed stepchild. You'd have to know her to think that was funny, but trust me. It's funny.

As the years drifted by we've all gone our separate ways. Geographically, we're about as widely dispersed as it's possible for human beings to be and still be in the United States (Alaska, Oregon, California, New York, North Carolina, and Texas), and with that geographic separation we've developed new friend groups, new lives. But every two years (at least) we all gather somewhere to hang out for a few days, just us, and regroup. We eat, we drink (oh, do we drink), we play outside, we laugh at fart jokes and bad puns. I love these girls.

We're in Bend, Oregon right now, soaking up the sunshine and warmth -- er, make that the FREEZING COLD -- and basking in the reflective glow of a group of women who'd do anything for the others.  The only one who couldn't make it was LJA, and here's a little shout-out for you, my dear. We miss you and wish you were with us. We've been biking and hiking and sledding, and we even went exploring an ice cave in the mountains.  As I type this on the couch in a borrowed sweatshirt and fuzzy socks, the sounds of cooking and quiet laughter come from the kitchen as the girls cook breakfast. Pony's coming over with the pot of coffee to fill me up again. We're having a blast, and I want it never to end.  

I've taken more wonderful pictures than I know what to do with and I'll post those on my flickr page in a day or two, but here's a little sampling.

At the top of the sledding mountain, all the goils.

NaeRae and Pony. Two more beautiful women, inside and out, never lived.


Click to make bigger and look at everybody's faces.

Deep in the Lava Ice Cave, a mile under ground.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


I'm packing today, getting ready to leave Austin for a good long time. I'll be back for a week or so in late July, but just to relocate some boxes, re-pack my bags, and then take off for Central America for the next 6-8 months. And as I'm packing, cleaning, organizing, I keep having moments where I feel pretty blue. I don't want to leave. I don't want to leave my friends, I don't want to leave my wonderful house, I don't want to leave my sister, I don't want to leave Barton Springs and live music and biking in the hill country and breakfast tacos and my favorite yoga class.

I'm blue.

Blue like my goggles.

Blue like this picture of ShaNaeNae LaQuita, empress of the universe.

Blue like the Texas sky.

Blue like one of my favorite poems.

Blue like the giant rubber boxes I'm putting the pieces of my life into.

Just a little blue.

Bye, Austin.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Sometimes I Want One

Today was Monday, the day before I move out of my room, the day I would spend packing up mountains of accumulated shit, discarding clothes I haven't worn since the last ice age, and organizing boxes of things I will inevitably throw out when I get back from my grand adventure. Also I would clean my floor, dust the furniture, scrub the bathroom, and generally make my room pleasant for The Subleaser. Needless to say, it was sunny and hot and beautiful, and none of that shit got done. Instead, I went over to my friend JB's house to play with her and her wee man child, who happens to be more beautiful than any angel God ever even thought of. Kid you not. He's ethereally good looking. And sweet tempered. And probably, on top of it all, wildly intelligent, although it's really too early to tell. Honestly, some people get all the luck. I mean, seriously. Look at this smile.

Cute, right? But he's also completely cool. I mean, look at the way he sports my sunnies. This kid was born to be a ladykiller.

"Heya, toots, whatcha doin' after?"

I think he gets his good looks from his mom. Also, do you see that look on his face? I think he's listening to a secret inner voice telling him that he's destined for greatness.

"I hear you, O Mysterious Voice. Allow me but the time to grow, and I shall fail you not."

JB is a very good mom. So compassionate.

Well, the compassionate bit was a joke because that picture was just too funny (look at their faces!), but in all seriousness, it's amazing to see her now, and remember her then. Then, she was a normal human being who needed two hands and two arms to do everything. Now, she's amazing. I watched her singlehandedly make a bottle, bake cupcakes, and talk on the phone, all at the same time while she was holding the wee one in one arm. I bow low before such skill.

Most of the time I'm fairly content to be single, childless, free to wander. In fact, it's not a lifestyle I'd give up for just any old thing, which would explain why I routinely set new world records for "World's Shortest Relationship" and "Long Term Commitment to Fear of Commitment." But sometimes... just sometimes.... ONLY sometimes... I see something as completely adorable as this little baby, and all of the sudden I want one. I want one real bad.

Mostly, I want one so that if mine ever has a little heinie as cute and perfect as this little heinie, I can pat it and take pictures of it without feeling vaguely creepy. Look at this little heinie! JB and I laughed our pants off today when I noticed that his butt crack goes up to his waist. If his name were Reginald Quakenbush, I'd start calling him Reginald "Crack To His Shoulders" Quakenbush. If his name were Jebediah Sassafrass, I'd start calling him Jebediah "Crack Attack" Sassafrass. (Say that one out loud. It's unspeakably wonderful.)


Oh, my God, I'm dying of cuteness.