Monday, June 30, 2003

Thanks to my little brother for forwarding a newspaper article on adult kickball teams. Learn more at the World Adult Kickball Association's site. Alas, no teams in Capital City. I recall noting at camp a couple of summers ago that kickball is a game accessible to all kids, no matter how athletically timid.
This Saturday, Dan, Whitney, and I went to Caravatti's. Amongst the old house treasures we coveted: pink bathroom fixtures for me, a Deco Hotpoint stove for Whitney, and kitchen sinks for Dan. The kind of sink he eyed is in the background of this Lileks flotsam.

I am sad to hear we have lost Katherine Hepburn. I feel the urge to go rent "Bringing Up Baby" -- but perhaps I should broaden my horizons? Do suggest some of your favorites.

Capital City Weather: 80 degrees and clear at 8:21 a.m.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

You Goin' Straight Home?
Speaking of diners, as Bill is over at Prometheus, I was charmed to see NYC's Empire Diner appear on the TV screen (in the movie "Igby Goes Down") right under a friend's poster of the painting of said eatery. John Baeder's painting, of course, hangs around the corner at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

Barry Levinson's Diner is one of my favorite movies of all time.

My favorite diners: Miss Florence Diner, Florence, Mass.; the Triangle Diner, Winchester, Va. (Pictures from a diner website I keep bookmarked: Diner City.)

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Reality TV Confession
I have been loyal to only two reality TV programs. The first, Making the Band, tossed together a bunch of 20ish young men, who were weeded down to form a boy band. My current crush is called Last Comic Standing, and it's the same idea, only with a great cross-section of wacky people. I'm rooting for mild-mannered, off-beat Dave, from a farm in Minnesota. For his comedy, not from this house crap.

I deny even glancing at other reality TV. . . .

Capital City Weather: 90 degrees, clear, and not too humid

Sunday, June 22, 2003

Dan has an anti-summer camp tirade at The Marble Bar: please go over there and set him straight.

I tried to watch the rained out Mets – Yankees game yesterday. I had been muting the commercials and reading, but the tone of one, rhapsodizing hot dogs caught my attention and I looked back up. Lo! Said hot dogs were piled on a North Star plate! The platter, in fact. (North Star, by Salem, is one of the 2 or 3 dish patterns I admit to collecting.) It was a beer commercial, it turns out – do keep an eye out for it.

During the game, two men -- a fan of each team -- who seemed to have won a contest were in the booth with Joe Buck and Tim McCarver. "The easiest sports job in the world," asserted Mets fan Chuck, "is to be a Yankees fan."

Thursday, June 19, 2003

"Time is Relative. Lunch Time Doubly So.”
At Target, there are no clocks on the wall. If you’re standing in a check out line wondering how much time you have before you said you’d meet your friend, Target does not want to help you out. “You wanna know the time? You can buy a watch right over there, behind the handbags.”

Ukrop's Carytown has a nice big clock over by customer service. I could confirm that I was okay on time.

Does Target want us to lose our sense of time and space and shop forever? Maybe. More likely, Ukrop’s is deservedly self-assured. Our hometown grocery knows you found everything you needed and that the checkers are without peer. Ukrop’s has nothing to fear in displaying the time by the registers. They know they are that good.

“Take thy beak from out my heart”
If I had chosen the teaching path, I would use the Halloween episode of The Simpsons with “The Raven” to teach Poe – no matter what subject I was meant to be instructing. Channel 35 ran the 1990 Tree House of Horror episode tonight. Homer and the Bart-Raven make mood, tone, and even tough vocabulary (“censer”) crystal clear. We feel the tension build, we see Raven-Bart drive Homer mad. It’s brilliant.

The Simpsons Archive suggests that another good story from that show, “Hungry are the Damned,” reflects an episode of The Twilight Zone. I first encountered a story in which our heroes believe they will be served up for the feast in C.S. Lewis’s The Silver Chair (Chapter IX). Hmm, Lewis’s copyright is 1953, and the link on The Simpson Archive to a Twilight Zone site is cold. I’m not going to crack which egg came first, tonight.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Last week’s Style had an interesting cover story on the possible privatization of liquor selling. I think I lean conservative on this one. Sure, let the state take sole charge of where it locates ABC stores, how clean they are, and how well they check ages. They never fail to card me.

In regional news, the noted, much-contested Wal-Mart opened in Ashland this morning.

Thanks to Bill, over at Prometheus Unleashed, for setting up the Comments so they work.

Capital City weather: muggy, coolish, damp.

Monday, June 16, 2003

Y'all will warn me if I'm turning into this [Onion] guy, right?
CB gets bonus points, today! He let me know I needed to fix yesterday's links; and he didn't make fun of me for not knowing about this team. I may have to throw over the Capital City Braves!

Sunday, June 15, 2003

Two T.V. Items
How cool is this? Thanks, Mitch!
And from Doyle: Atari and other toys.

At the Byrd: Gangs of New York. Gee, the 19th century was unpleasant.

Friday, June 13, 2003

On the MHC 1988 website, do read my friend Marie's Alumnae Chapel reflection.
Catly brought me an enormous moth yesterday. I heard her push the screen door open, then I could hear her mew a little as she trotted through the kitchen. Worried that the mew signaled pain, I was nearly out of my chair when she appeared in the dining room and I could see -- good grief is that a mouse?! How do cats manage to show pride with another critter in their mouths? She dropped it on the floor, presenting it to me like an experienced farm cat (rather then the Fan apartment dweller she is). Oh, my it's a cicada . . . no, a moth. Well, at least it's clearly d. . . . *flutter flutter*. Bother. "Good girl. Thanks for bringing me that."

Thursday, June 12, 2003

Speaking of manners, as Daniel sort-of is over at The Marble Bar, I never know how to disavow someone, gently, of the impression that I am twenty years old. I know how I’m dressed is important, so to substitute for an Instructional Assistant over at Middle School B. yesterday, I wore a black businessy-skirt, knee length; a neat coral knit top, nicer than a t-shirt; stockings and black flats. Full-time teachers wore denim skirts, jumpers, t-shirt dresses and slides or sandals. (Oh, the men tended to khakis and polo shirts.)

When I entered Ms. B.’s room and introduced myself, she replied “and where are you in school?” “I, uh,” I began, then a student interrupted. She turned back and said, “or perhaps you’re getting a graduate degree?” “Well, I am applying for. . .” I began, and her phone rang. I don’t even remember how we got back there again, but I ended up laughingly saying, “Oh, I just got back from my 15th college reunion, so I’ve been out a while.” “Fifteen? Oh, my, well.” And still she called me “dear” all day. So did the other teachers I worked with, in the next building over (campus style school, you know).

Ms. B totally rocks as a special ed. teacher. I admired most her cheerful, calm, matter-of-fact tone of voice. Her demeanor told the kids they couldn’t get to her, and that she liked them. She asked the students to take out paper to draw a chart. Friday’s the last day of school, so lots of people felt they need not have carried cumbersome things like paper. “If you’ve got your paper and pencil ready, stand up. Great. You may draw only three columns – you won’t need to fill in as many facts. Everyone else, here’s a piece of paper, please make four columns.” Groans. Using a text book and a photocopied packet, they made a chart of the last 10 U.S. presidents, the dates each served, and a couple of important facts about his presidency. On the packet, poor Gerald Ford’s picture appeared adjacent to the last paragraph on Nixon: blah, blah, crook; blah, blah, Watergate; blah, blah, resigned and V.P. Ford became President. Turn page, find a thin paragraph on Ford. Naturally, at least three kids wrote “broke laws” and “Watergate” next to Ford. “I don’t think you’ve got this fact in the right place.” - “Yeh I do, see here’s his picture, and here is says ‘Watergate.’” Sigh.

Ms. C. had a good lesson to finish, too. The sixth graders had read a 19th century probate inventory and were constructing a list of the woman’s possessions. Then, they had some questions that made them conjecture things like what she might have done for a living, if she was poor or rich, etc. (sorry, that’s “&c.”). I think the inventory was marked VHS on one side – clearly part of a nice classroom packet from some local institution. A smidge less gentle than Ms. B., she still seemed a good, creative teacher, on top of history and ways that we find out about all kinds of people who lived in the past. She blew it, though, when we got to the number of beds the woman owed: “well, people kept a bed in practically every room. It had to do with taxes.” Where the hell did she get that? Because I liked her, I sat quietly. Over at R.M.S., I contradicted a teacher on something from her 1950s lesson. She hated her job, her students, the school, and it showed. She had her facts wrong. I didn’t like her. Still, I need to learn to keep my mouth shut. Maybe that’s what makes me seem twenty – not knowing when to sit still?

Capital City Weather: muggy and 70 degrees at 8 a.m.; chance of thunderstorms.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

We also visited the mansion at Maymont last week. I'd forgotten how sumptuous it is.

I took the GREs today. I sat at a computer in an anonymous office park building in the Far West End and clicked on little ovals instead of filling them in on an answer sheet with a number two pencil. I typed the two essays. I felt pretty good about them. The verbal section peeved me: it seemed like I didn’t know at least four of the words for which I had to identify an antonym; a couple of the sentence completion seemed to have no plausible answers listed; and one reading comprehension passage made me glaze over. I didn’t take the math (aka “quantitative”) very seriously: I just relaxed and took my best guess.

In the brave new world in which we live, one no longer waits for an envelope from -- what? -- Princeton, New Jersey, containing those magic numbers. After indicating the school to which I wanted the scores sent, I had a chance to erase, to discount the test, or save it. I saved . . . and scores came right back at me. Nice ones, too. I had improved my math score by 40 over my best practice test. It was 90 points higher than the score I got when I took the test in 1990. What a laugh.

Beautiful sky over Franklin Street tonight, as I left the Y. Streaks of pink and fluffy shreds of clouds, and a hunk of moon.
A belated thanks to CB for his hospitality at the VHS last week. The small exhibition "Early Images of Virginia Indians" reminded me of one of those things that makes me twitchy when I go to pow-wows: why are all these Virginians dressed as Plains Indians? "Silver in Virginia," which sounded dull in the lobby turned out to be . . . well, shiny, of course, and interesting. Dan, you'll like it. The current jem (I don't see the title on the Website) is the Old Dominion one, which entwines landscapes, a few books, posters and other items, and the creation of romantic, pastoral notions of Virginia (and by extension, the South?).

Monday, June 09, 2003

I wonder how big the individual range is for a red-bellied woodpecker. Is the one that likes my locust tree the same as the one that frequented the oak tree near my old apartment? We have a nice dose of sunshine again today (we're getting about two days of clear skies in each rain-drenched week); the bird's red-orange head glowed in the late afternoon sun.

In other news, Mom brought me a bale (okay, not that much) of King & Queen County catnip, so anyone whose feline didn't get a handknit toy can look for one soon!

Sunday, June 08, 2003

I met my nephew today. Martin Charles Kroll arrived around 7:30 last night. He has lots of dark hair, a little bow mouth, and sleeps well. B&E seem tired, but well.

Thursday, June 05, 2003

English Goods Were Ever The Best

When I told the first-person interpreters at Colonial Williamsburg’s Peyton Randolph House that we had come into Colonial Capital City from Richmond, they wrinkled their noses and described it as a smelly backwater. Well, at least it's no longer especially pungent. Even without studying, I could make era-appropriate replies (well, except how long the trip took); I nodded and was charmed when Mrs. Randolph spoke of having been at Wilton recently. Despite the fact that all the characters expressed confusion when a 60ish gentleman in our group said he came from “Gen. Sam Houston’s great state” – he kept repeating his clever line. Could he think of no other line; did he not know that 1774 came before Houston; or did he not listen to the first woman who explained how first-person interpretation works?

We watched Jack Lord in "Story of a Patriot", visited Bruton Parish Church, the shops, the Capitol, the Randolphs, and the county courthouse. We dined at the Kings Tavern (much more affordable than I imagined, and a good meal). At the courthouse (used by the city of Williamsburg until the restoration, in the 1930s!), visitors participated in a re-enactment of a day in court. The judges accepted a letter proving that a man accused of non-attendance at church had become a Presbyterian; they ordered a North Carolina man’s horse and tack held until he changed his worthless Carolina paper into Virginia money and paid his debt to the tavern owner; and they dismissed a woman’s complaint against the unsanitary conditions in the city market.

Ten years ago, when I did a year at the College of William & Mary, Professor Tate presented an "annotated" talk on "Story of a Patriot." He was an advisor to the film, and indeed his name appears as another faux Burgess elected with Lord's character, Fry. Mr. Tate loved the use of cinemascope, especially the way the first sceen opens up to show a rolling field. As I recall, he felt the history was historically sound, and the story was clear. He pointed out at least one break in costume continuity, which I missed this time. For me, on this visit, the movie really did work to set up the day's visit and remind me of events. As I recall, we grad school geeks liked quoting the phrases "weak and pusillanimous" and "English goods were ever the best." Mr. Randolph reminded us of the latter sentiment when he mentioned that no one would wear coarse Virginia-made fabrics.

Monday, June 02, 2003

Uncommon Women

I spent the weekend celebrating my fifteenth college reunion. I once more reveled in an intellectual atmosphere, never once hesitating to use the big word or to show how much I know. I also listened to classmates talk of staying home with their children in tones ranging from sheepishness to haughty pride. I marveled at the beauty of the campus that had been home for four years. I enjoyed myself.

No matter where I wanted to go on campus, I felt surprised that I still knew just how to get there, and which would be the prettiest way to walk. I knew just how the library stacks would smell, and the name of an obscure building. How can I get lost trying to get somewhere in metro Richmond that I have been before, yet I can still navigate a place I have visited only five times in fifteen years?

As I have experienced during quiet times at camp, just about everywhere I went at MHC I could replay an old scene or remember a snippet of conversation. LM waxing poetic about the smells of spring on Skinner Green. Ween and I carrying a box of tissues and cups of tea up the garden steps en route to J’s class. SS stopping me by the library to tell me so earnestly about her J-Term internship that I rushed off to sign up for one – at Colonial Williamsburg – myself. Who would I be if I had not fallen to S’s peer pressure and thus launched my first career in museums?

I didn’t visit only old haunts; I went on a guided tour of the new buildings on campus , too. Led by Kate ’04, the tour took us to the music building; past poor Blanchard, under renovation again; briefly to the art museum which some of the older alumnae hadn’t seen before; to MHC’s new pride, Kendade Hall; and finally to the Library. Kate gave us a good picture of how students use and live on the campus today. Her take on post-modern Kendade – which may have been the college-approved spiel – belittled Carr’s 1950ish International Style charm and suggested that the college would not hesitate to change other modern exteriors or indeed tear down buildings in the interest of achieving the same slightly spooky uniformity of the University of Richmond. Engulfing Carr labs, Kendade is a spectacular po-mo college building. It features soaring spaces, chunky details reflecting other bits of campus, and flooring worked into solar system, DNA, and neuron designs. It’s swell.

Modern wonders about elsewhere, too. All of the rooms, even in 1897’s Pearsons Hall where I lived this weekend, have all of the computer hook ups a modern student needs. Pratt features a sci-fi-ish room which, at the touch of a button, adjusts its acoustics so that you can hear yourself speak, or sing, or play as if you were in stadium, a small concert hall, or a small room – about six or eight choices in all. I took a one hour class on creating a web site in a computer lab chock full of matt black Dell computers and with the nicest set up I’ve seen for projecting the instructor’s screen so we could all click along. If I were a current student, the college would provide space for my own page; as it is, you’ll have to wait until I figure out a cheap way to do it in my current world.

Natural “wonders” caught my eye when we arrived on Thursday. It was a clearing, pleasant spring day in New England, so of course azalea, tulips, dogwood, and honeysuckle were all in bloom, together. Outrageous and fun. Friday’s weather continued to be warmer and sunnier than we’d had in Capital City in weeks, and the rain even held off until after the Alumnae Parade. Though shorter and lacking the current graduating class, the parade always stirs indescribable feelings of pride and reassurance. I feel proud to be connected to generations of educated, talented, witty (we carry signs that often convey, amongst other things, our senses of humor) women; I feel both reassured that I can make it and challenged to go out and do my very best. During the Alumane Association meeting, Class of '88 President S. did a fabulous job presenting the two-minute version of our class history.

And all too soon, it was time for S & D to take me back to the airport in Hartford, then as now remarkably similar to Capital City Airport. Indeed, Hartford’s airport seems to have been renovated in the last couple of years, too, and both now sport bold geometric designs in the flooring. The floors and those classic Eames airport chairs foster a feeling that one has just spent hours staying in the same place. But before heading out for more of the same travel experience on Sunday, the Long Islanders and I strolled Northampton, in the rain. We gleefully perused Simpsons toys and other good stuff in Faces (number one on the list at that site; I’d disagree with the card assessment: Mongrel might be a smidge better). Other stores we remembered from those glory days of the 80s still in operation numbered less than six, I’d say: Sweeties, Paul & Elizabeth’s, and Thornes Market. Like Carytown, NoHo lost its useful things: the Woolworths and the hardware store stand out in my mind. My first string of Christmas lights came from that Woolworths; my most recently-purchased ones from Garden Ridge, out by Byrd Airport – and thus we have completed the return trip.